Monday, October 24, 2011

Just sing it.

The recent Rugby World Cup has led to the enjoyable spectacle of several international teams proudly belting out their national anthems. Unfortunately it has also led to the usual, predictable and, frankly, boring complaints about the fact that the Australian national anthem is so [insert your favourite complaint here. Choose from: incomprehensible, boring, difficult to remember, embarrassing, outdated, etc].

There is nothing more wrong with our national anthem than any other. For example, the Marseillaise is a war chant that talks about raising blood-stained flags over the mutilated bodies of women and children; the New Zealand national anthem (while I love the Maori version that goes with it) is an old European hymn that basically asks God to protect the land from all those nasty people who might sail across the Pacific to try and take their country; the Spanish national anthem doesn't even have any words; and even the Star-spangled Banner, for all its victorious chord progressions, celebrates a battle that neither side really won. I won't even discuss God Save the Queen.

The main problem with the Australian national anthem is that no-one sings it. When the French rugby players all lined up they sang the Marseillaise with lungfuls of air; the Kiwis belted out the song in both languages and then launched into their wonderful and inspiring haka; and you can't fail to be moved by a Welsh male-voice choir. Now watch the Aussies: if they sing at all, they barely move their lips and keep their eyes averted (all except Quade Cooper who doesn't sing and stares straight ahead).

I believe we're actually ashamed of singing our national song out loud for two reasons. One, we're afraid that if we do sing, people might realise that we know all the words and think we're showing off. This is ludicrous: apart from the fact we've had more than 40 years to learn it, it's not that hard to remember four lines of verse, especially considering that there's rhyme and rhythm to help you remember. Even a five-year-old can remember all the words to Superbass, so I'm pretty sure even you could recall the words of our national anthem if you wanted to.

I know you hate saying "girt", but you really can't tell me you don't know what it means any more, can you? And is it any better than having to say "God of Nations at Thy feet" like the New Zealanders?

Secondly, we're afraid that if we sing the anthem out loud, people might find out that we can sing and think we're showing off. All those nights singing karaoke at the pub or shouting along to "Am I ever gonna see your face again?", all those thousands of hopefuls lined up outside the auditions for the X Factor or Australian Idol, but ask them to have a go at their national anthem and they avert their eyes, mumble something about the word "girt" and whisper along with the tune... if they sing it at all.

What it comes down to, is that our national anthem is perfectly fine by international standards: it's a good tune and a simple rhyme. All we need to do is stop whinging about it and start singing it.

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