By Marcus Honesta.
When pandemonium over the student activist Harper Nielsen broke out last week, I was inclined to dismiss it as sheer folly. That was until I started hearing the reactions across the length and breath of God’s great garden. I started wondering if there might be something more I should look into. What was all the fuss about?
I soon discovered that the reason for all the brouhaha was that she was only nine years of age and was from some reasonably well-to-do inner-city Brisbane primary school. The whole affair had therefore taken a new and more curious raison d’être. I thought to myself, I bet the politicians would like to make this girl a national treasure. For a brief moment, easily distracted twits, social media cowboys and keyboard zealots, together with the lunatic left at the ABC, were consumed by the real issues that should be occupying their fairly challenged little minds.
But back to Harper (of Ark).
I really couldn’t believe what all the fuss is about. So some bloody brat at school refused to follow the rules, defying authorities. Now that’s a surprise that never happened when I was a boy, Give her detention, counseling, re-education or whatever we do these days, and let’s get on with life— surely.
But more of that later. Digging deeper, what exactly was the burr in her saddle, the fly in her ointment and the real cause for such (a) militant anti-social behaviour?
Apparently, according to young Harper, the anthem’s (that is, Australia’s National Anthem, Advance Australia Fair) lyrics, “we are young”, supposedly marginalises the indigenous population. ‘The reason why I don’t sing it or stand is because Advance Australia Fair means advance White Australia’, Harper said.
I couldn’t help but wonder how the Sisters of Mercy might have dealt with such militant activism. In my memory was — standing would’ve become a preferred option should they’ve been involved.
However, we live in strange and troubling times.
Now, in fairness, she does have some supporters. According to Shane Howard, our national anthem, Advance Australia Fair, is racist. The former member of the band Goanna (aka Ectoplasmic Manifestation, Gordon Franklin and the Wilderness Ensemble) claims it is an ‘anthem … written for a white Australia that is irrelevant, or should be’. Howard went on to say, “This young girl deserves our utmost respect and admiration, certainly not our derision. Who is the mature thinker in all of this clatter? It’s certainly not the adults banging on about how she should be chastised. Let’s be honest. What she says is patently true and we all know it”
Howard, of course, is the writer of Australia’s unofficial anthem, Solid Rock. His love of this country, of Indigenous life and culture, and of its history of survival, dispossession, resilience and faith runs deep into the earth. Neither Mr. Howard nor any of his nom de plumes have ever really troubled the hit parade, giving rise as to whether he should really hold much standing in this budding national crisis.
Normally, the professional hand wringers reserve Australia Day for cultural iconoclasm, but it would appear that they’re getting in early this year to avoid the rush.
One Nation leader and senator Pauline Hanson labeled Harper a ‘brat’ and called for her expulsion from school.
‘Here we have a kid whose been brainwashed and I tell you what, I’d give her a kick up the backside’, the One Nation leader said.
‘This kid is headed down the wrong path and I blame the parents for it, for encouraging this’.
‘No. Take her out of the school’.
Senator Hanson further went on to say, ‘There was support for the anthem amongst the indigenous community as sporting stars regularly stood for the anthem’.
‘I’m angry about this. I’m proud of the Australian flag and the national anthem as everyone should be and so was Cathy Freeman’, she said. ‘We were all proud of her, her cultural background, the Aboriginally, and the whole fact that she carried the two flags’.
‘She stood at the podium while the national anthem was being played. Have they told this kid that?’
‘If it’s good enough for Cathy Freeman, Johnathon Thurston, and Warren Mundine to stand for the National anthem, it should be good enough for this nine-year-old brat’.
I do not know which is more ludicrous—a songwriter heralding a nine-year-old as the country’s moral conscience or a politician rousing on a young child for political activism. Whatever the case is, things have not been this ridiculous since 2009 when then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd mawkishly urged Australians to heed the urgings of ‘Little Gracie’, a six-year-old who implored that he act on climate change.
Perhaps the worst thing about Harper’s protest is that it has given the more irritating and verbose commentators an excuse to talk about themselves and how precocious their young selves were. ‘That nine year old girl you all hate,’ tweeted Jane Caro, best known for being the leading drone of ABC’s The Drum.
’She sounds just like me at the same age. I admire her courage and she will be a force to be reckoned with. You go, girl’. Talk about self-indulgence.
‘I ditched Church of England Sunday School aged around 10,’ tweeted ABC broadcaster Wendy Harmer.
‘Was read a list of who was at the Last Supper and asked, “Where are the ladies?” Out the back heating the urn? Making sandwiches …’ Fairfax writer Wendy Harmer praised the actions of Harper, effortlessly segueing to an anecdote about her nine-year-old self taking issue with scripture teachings. ‘I believe this incident made me the free thinking and self-possessed woman with a strong sense of justice I am today,’ she wrote. ‘And I applaud my young self for having the guts to do so’.
Could this self-praise be any more cringeworthy? Knowing both Caro and Harmer well, I can only believe that young Harper’s future development is at grave risk if such continued actions really lay roots that will result in a mini-me of Caro or Harmer. God forbid, surely society doesn’t need another self-righteous ignorant myopic pair of brain-dead social blowhards. Haven’t we got enough of them now?
Whilst researching this article, reading whatever I could find and generally thinking about the real issues that matter, I came across possibly one of the finest conservative responses to the Harper Nielsen sham. It was penned by my old mate, the Mocker. Here it is in part:
You have to wonder what the response would be from our self-styled progressives had Harper been an activist of the conservative persuasion. For example, let’s just consider the hypothetical case of Tabitha, a confident nine-year-old who attends school in inner-city Melbourne. We begin with a note from her teacher to Tabitha’s parents.
Dear Mr and Ms. Smith,
Just letting you know of a minor hiccup today involving Tabitha which I am sure we’ll be able to work through. It took place at the school’s ‘welcome to country’ ceremony. As you know it is customary to invite the traditional custodians of the land each year for the school’s opening ceremony. Unfortunately this was marred by Tabitha asking the elders whether they had a commercial arrangement with the Department of Education for providing these ceremonies. Furthermore, she cast doubt on this ceremony being an ancient custom, instead claiming the practice was ‘invented’ by Ernie Dingo in the 1970s. I have also had to remind Tabitha not to roll her eyes when class begins each day with an acknowledgement of country.
I am confident that by working together we can guide Tabitha down the learning path towards mutual respect and showing tolerance for all.
Ms. Di Sky Hunting-Smyth
B.A. (Hons) Dip Ed.
Coordinator of School Multi Cultural Events
Dear Mr and Ms. Smith
Regrettably there has been another lapse in Tabitha’s behaviour. It began innocuously enough with an assignment the fourth grade was given on the subject of indigenous studies. The students were asked to write about what life was like for indigenous people prior to the British invasion. All the students wrote positively about this romantic lifestyle — all except for Tabitha. In her research she cited the alleged observations of a First Fleet officer, Watkin Tench, who claimed that indigenous men treated women with a ‘savage barbarity’. I informed Tabitha this was grossly offensive, and that in any event truth is a relative concept. Also, Tench was a white male and thus his views are irrelevant. Her response was to make an acidic remark about logical fallacies and first peoples sitting around a fire singing ‘Kumbaya’.
Dear Mr and Ms Smith
Tabitha’s behaviour has become intolerable. In class today we discussed the many ways in which conservative governments and media demonise asylum-seekers who flee persecution and seek refuge on our shores. She responded by claiming many of these unfortunates were ‘opportunistic economic migrants’. I took issue with this and reminded her that it is not an offence to seek asylum, but she instead referred me to the Migration Act 1958, saying it was unlawful for non-citizens to arrive without a visa. Her attitude is causing disruption among her fellow students, some of whom have even said she has a point.
Dear Mr and Ms. Smith
I’ve just about had it with your daughter. This was a simple assignment: draw what you think is the future for Australia’s energy needs. Not hard. We’re talking wind turbines, solar panels, anything in the way of renewables. But no, not Tabitha. Oh no. She had to draw a nuclear reactor. I reminded her of the Fukushima disaster, whereupon she eyed me disdainfully and told me that — geographically — we live in the most stable continent and have an abundance of uranium. I asked her how she proposed to curb carbon emissions and she facetiously said we could cut this by 50 per cent today simply by banning David Suzuki and Tim Flannery from flying to international gabfests. Her attitude leaves much to be desired.
Dear Mr and Ms. Smith
Make that ‘Your daughter’s attitude really sucks’. You know what she said today when I talked about binary pronouns and how poorly they reflect the fluidity of gender? She insisted there were only two genders. When I asked her why she was so prejudiced she flippantly said ‘Don’t you believe in biology, Miss?’ Getting *this* close, I warn you.
Dear Mr and Ms. Smith
I never thought I’d say this but — BRING BACK CORPORAL PUNISHMENT IN THE CLASSROOM! Here I am trying to educate the class about the religion of peace, and your daughter bursts out laughing derisively. I remonstrated with her about Islamophobia and hate speech, and she responded by saying “Miss, these are vacuous and meaningless labels created by censors under the guise of tolerance to manipulate the gullible.” I’m absolutely beside myself at the thought of what she might say when the Race Discrimination Commissioner presents at Harmony Day tomorrow.
Just imagine the outcry if Tabitha were for real. Tolerance tartars would be insisting her parents were indoctrinating her. Local social workers would create a file with her name on it, along with a big red flag, and some imbecilic Greens politician would be asking whether the state, as opposed to the mother and the father, should be the primary carers of the child.
So absurd has our society become that without question, I can well believe the scenario that our friend, the Mocker, has just described.
When it comes down to the most simplistic of facts, like it or not, Harper Nielsen is just another schoolchild who has decided she’ll not follow school rules. Dress it up in whatever noble cause you choose, turn her into Joan of Arc if you wish, but the bottom line is simple—she’s breaking the rules. Society cannot exist without the rule of law. Hell, I disagree with many of the rules. I hate paying tax because I believe they’re just wasting the money I’m paying them. But that does not preclude my obligation to follow the law.
If you break the law, there are consequences. The most important lesson that Harper could learn is that when she breaks the rules, there are repercussions. She would be best served by the community at large, noting her protest, acknowledging she is entitled to her view. But this is not a free pass to then break the rules. She should stand for the national anthem as others do, as a sign of respect for the nation she is a part of. If she doesn’t, then let the punishment fit the crime, and she should be prepared to face whatever penalty is appropriate. Having said all this lets all get on with our lives.
As much as an entertaining distraction Harper has been, surely there are more important things for our nation to focus on.