If you are of a certain age and attended a primary school in Victoria, then you will remember saying this every Monday morning, come hail or shine, standing out in the quadrangle under the Australian flag. We stood to attention with our right hand over our heart as the flag was hoisted up the pole and we chanted in the sing-song fashion of children.
I love God and my country, I will honour the flag, I will serve the Queen and cheerfully obey my parents, teachers and the law.
It was evidently called the Patriotic Declaration and has since disappeared into history.
What a way to start the week at primary school and, on reflection, what an amazing piece of indoctrination and social engineering. I cannot imagine any school today trying to make children say this, let alone be allowed to. Political correctness would bash this idea on the head.
The republicans among us would scream that the Queen should not be our sovereign, though the nationalists might quite quietly be in favour of the patriotism evoked in the words. The atheists would be appalled at the religious fervour, but the teachers would wish if only it were true and the little tackers would show a bit more respect. They would even omit the “cheerfully” bit just to get some acquiescence. Parents, of course, would think they were living in heaven.
I remember it took me years to understand what we were saying, on many levels. First, I thought we were meant to say “chiefly” when all along the word was “cheerfully” – a subtle difference in meaning. Second, the concepts of honour and law hardly fell within the purview of a six-year-old, but we muttered them loudly by rote, waiting for one day when their meaning would crystallise.
I wonder how much this not-so-subtle indoctrination has affected us over our journey through life?
The bit about the law is what fascinates me. Today, we are seeing people flagrantly breaking the law, driving halfway to Timbuktu for a hamburger or screaming about their sovereign rights at poor Bunnings employees because they don’t feel the need to wear a mask or obey laws they see as arbitrary and not applicable to them. Clearly, this woman is too young to have mouthed our declaration every Monday and maybe she should have. She might then at least have some inkling as to what sovereign means.
We see people who clearly don’t believe that quarantine applies to them, but to some mysterious ‘others’ out in the community. I assume they believe, though, that the healthcare workers will be there at their local hospital to look after them if they happen to get sick, from whatever affliction.
Have we replaced this noble declaration with a range of statements and ideas promulgated through social media? Ideas that find a support base unheard of in my day. If we had dared to refuse to chant the words on a cold, drizzly Melbourne morning, the chances were your hands would be hot from getting the strap a few hours later.
So, as a group of baby boomers, have we taken any of these ideas to heart? Have we all behaved ourselves and been good citizens over our lifetime, which I assume the words were attempting to generate? Have we obeyed the laws, especially in these taxing, social-distancing times?
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