Lost for words

by ericknight

Words, not ideas, have got in the way of our latest political train wreck.  The Australian heartland, I would suggest, has the same generous idea about our nation’s future. Semantics, however, have gotten us into a terrible mess.

It was John Howard who first made the distinction between the words “multi-cultural” and “multi-ethnic”. His point was that a people are one, but their countries of origin are many. People as different as Cory Bernardi and Chris Bowen would agree with that statement. But it was a clumsy distinction. Chris Bowen’s speech this week was a deliberate attempt to revive this semantic ghost for political effect. It worked. Scott Morison has been tripping all over the place ever since.

My advice, for what it’s worth, is to leave language to poets. Qantas has made famous the words of two of our great song-writers, Bruce Woodley and Dobe Newton. It’s aired every time we step onto a Qantas aircraft because it expresses perfectly and beautifully what we all think.

We are one, but we are many
And from all the lands on earth we come
We share a dream and sing with one voice:
I am, you are, we are Australian

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Prashan Paramanathan February 23, 2011 at 3:33 am

Eric, interesting take on the subject. I think Scott Morrison was tripping all over himself last December, well before Bowen said anything, by the way. He seems apt enough at misdirecting everyone on his own team – or atleast trying unsuccessfully to – without any help from Bowen. The most sensible take on the situation though was an article in today’s SMH by none other than George Brandis – worth a read: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/politicans-must-defend-the-multicultural-project-20110222-1b400.html

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ericknight February 23, 2011 at 9:17 am

Great link, thanks Para. George Brandis is a great writer.

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