Friday, July 25, 2014

Tazzies in a Tizzy over Missing Island on Commonwealth-Games Speedos, Reviving Independence Talk

Tasmanians have always been separated from the other Australian states by the waters of Bass Strait, but now a wider gulf has been opened by Australia’s new Commonwealth Games uniforms, which depict a map of the continent-nation without Tasmania.  The state’s premier is furious, and some regionalist activists are even saying the time has come for independence.

Speedo International, Ltd.—the New South Wales–based swimwear company synonymous with minuscule, painfully tight swimsuit bottoms that leave nothing to the imagination of appalled, eye-averting beach-goers worldwide—recently unveiled the design for the athletic swimwear to be worn by Team Australia at the 2018 games in Gold Coast Beach, Queensland.  The suits sport a jaunty tessellation of galloping kangaroos and emus alternating with Australia’s distinctive outline.  But missing is the large island of Tasmania just south of the mainland’s southeastern corner.  (That’s the uniform above, modelled by the Australian swimmer Kotuku Ngawati, displaying her hyper-mobile elbows.)

The flag of Tasmania (the real one; see below)
Nor is this the first such snub.  When the Commonwealth Games were held in Brisbane, Queensland, in 1982, opening-ceremony dancers formed a Busby Berkeley–style map of Australia, and Australia’s smallest state was missing there too.  Thus, Andrew Nikolic, a member of Australia’s parliament representing Bass, Tasmania, calls the new Speedos a “repetitive insult” and has written in pique to the federal minister of sport, Peter Dutton.  Nikolic says Commonwealth Games authorities “should have a good, hard look at themselves.”  Another Tasmanian legislator, Jacqui Lambie, is demanding compensation in the form of an extra $5 million (Australian) in tourism funding.

Brisbane in 1982.  Hmmm ... I don’t see the Cocos Islands either ...
The outspoken Tasmanian avocational historian Reg Watson* calls the latest omission “absolutely appalling,” adding, “This is typical of how mainlanders treat Tasmania and this is why I believe in secession for Tasmania.”   But Watson’s is not usually a voice of reason: the founder of Australia’s annual Anglo–Boer War Commemorative Day, Watson is also a ufologist, a Jack the Ripper aficionado, and an angry advocate of celebrating Tasmania’s British heritage, which he complains has been shouted down by “political correctness” and the rush to please racial minorities, a conspiracy of silence he compares to Nazism and Stalinism.  Watson is even part of a movement by amateur historians to downplay or outright deny the 1804 massacre of indigenous Tasmanians at Risdon Cove.  The last full-blooded Tasmanian Aboriginal died in the late 19th century after a campaign of extermination that was one of the most thorough and pitiless genocides in modern history.

Tasmania’s premier, Will Hodgman, is more sanguine: he calls the new uniforms “utterly un-Australian” and a “disgrace” and demands an apology, but he has also said, “I’m seriously annoyed, but this doesn’t mean we’ll move to secede.”

Tazzies, take heart!  Nothing could ever be worse than
Team Scotland’s uniforms at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Aside from genocide, Tasmania is known in the northern hemisphere mainly as the birthplace of the swashbuckling film star and libertine Errol Flynn and of another Hollywood celebrity with ravenous appetites, Warner Brothers cartoons’ “Tasmanian Devil,” who looks nothing like the ratlike, garbage-scavenging Sarcophilus harrisii found throughout the island.  But, within Australia, Tasmanians have a unique identity and have mulled a split before.  Though Tasmanians voted with the largest majority of any state, to join the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901, the Great Depression of the 1930s brought a surge of separatist anger by Tazzies (as islanders tend to be known) who blamed their economic woes on mainlanders.  Tasmanian secessionism has mostly been kept in check by a realization that Tasmania gets much more from the central government in the form of programs and services than it pays in.

Perhaps Speedo-gate will fan the faint coals of Tasmanian separatism again.  If so, those who take the idea seriously will have to wade through a barrage of inevitable randy jokes: because of the island’s vaguely triangular shape, the term map of Tasmania is a slang term for a woman’s pubic hair.  After all, isn’t that supposed to be invisible on a swimsuit?

Maybe this design would mollify would-be separatists:
you can see a little bit o’ map-o’-Tazzie on this one.
* Not to be confused with the other Australian writer named Reg Watson, creator and screenwriter of the squalid 1970s lesbians-behind-bars soap-opera Prisoner, who appears to be some sort of national treasure.
“Queen Bea” and Lizzie Birdsworth stare down
“Old Vinegar-Tits” in an episode of Prisoner

[For those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with my forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Litwin Books under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar.  (That is shorter than the previous working title.)  The book, which contains 46 maps and 554 flags (or, more accurately, 554 flag images), will be on shelves and available on Amazon on March 1, 2015.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even though you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this special announcement for more information on the book.]

[Hear the author of this blog discuss the Cascadia independence movement in OregonWashington, and British Columbia in a recent interview for Seattle’s National Public Radio affiliate station KUOW-FM.  Click here to listen.]

Related articles from this blog:

“Wiradjuri Activists Raise Flag, Proclaim Newest Aboriginal Republic in Australia” (Jan. 2014)
“Lamb Island, off Australian Coast, to Vote on Becoming Republic of Nguduroodistan” (Oct. 2013)
“Hutt River’s Princess Shirley Had Irish Noble Blood, Mourners Learn” (Aug. 2013)
“Housing Estate Splits from New South Wales, Joins ‘Free State of Australia’” (July 2012)
“Founding of ‘Free State of Australia’ in New South Wales Stems from Zoning Dispute” (Nov. 2011)

[Special thanks are due to Alice Crawford and to Seaman Hornblower (not the one portrayed in film by Errol Flynn) for my education in Australian slang.]

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