Watch Stan Grant's speech here: Australia Day in the age of anger: it's a fight with myself that I can't possibly win

Below is Stan Grant’s speech at AustCham’s Australia Day Lunch 2018

I am Australian. There is no other place on earth from where I could come. I could only have been created here.

My DNA traces the very history of this land. I am both ancient and modern. My bloodline connects me to the first footprints on this continent. Countless millions of sunrises have put me here.

My name — Grant — was shipped here in chains; John Grant, an Irish rebel banished forever from his home, transported to this penalcolony.

He left behind a new family: Aboriginal and Irish.

Before we called this place Australia, an Australian family was born.

This is my history. It lives in me.

We are all of this

I am Australian. I have Australian memories: sun scorched days at the pool; sticky orange ice blocks; backyard cricket; broken bicycle chains; hot chips and vinegar; warm milk at recess; ink wells; wet wool jumpers; frost-cracked fingers.

I am Australian. I have Australian history: Captain Cook; the first fleet; convicts; Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth; Burke and Wills; merino sheep; the gold rush; Gallipoli; the Great Depression; Menzies and Gough.

The age of anger

Australia Day feels angrier. It is a defiant flag in a window and a flag on fire at a protest.

We look to what divides us; define ourselves in opposition to each other.

Indian economist and philosopher Amartya Sen has warned against what hecalls "solitarist" identities.

He says it can be a good way of misunderstanding nearly everyone in the world.

When we divide ourselves, he writes "our shared humanity gets savagely challenged".

History is the breeding ground of the politics of identity. It is history as betrayal; a narrative of loss and inheritance robbed.

It is feeding the resurgence of global populism from Donald Trump's "make America great again" to Vladimir Putin's lament for the Soviet empire or Xi Jinping reminding the Chinese people of the hundred years of humiliation by foreign powers.

Burdens of the past

It has been said that looking at history takes one's breath away.

I admit to the choking feeling of living with the burden of the past. For toolong it was a past denied or silenced.

But no longer. As uncomfortable as it is we are reckoning with our history.

On January 26, no Australian can really look away.

In his 2017 book In Praise of Forgetting, journalist and philosopher David Rieff warns "thinking about history is far more likely to paralyse than encourage".

He says we risk turning it into a "formula for unending grievance and vendetta".

These are the hard questions we ask on Australia Day.What does it mean to call ourselves a nation?

As the 19th century French historian Ernest Renan wrote, a nation is a "daily referendum".

There are those who want the date changed, others who wish to keep it and some who want Australia Day abolished entirely.

At a time when we yell from the fringes it is worth remembering the words of the great philosopher of liberty, John Stuart Mill, who looked for an elusive centre to be made from "softening the extreme forms and filling up the intervals between them".

Watch the speech (with Q&A) on our YouTube channel:

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