we are reaching the end of the australia day weekend, so here are a few of my own thoughts on australia, a country and a people that (overall) i actually quite like. i have never lived anywhere else, so i can’t begin to comment on anywhere else, but i have traveled enough to have some perspective. most of these offerings are not highly original, but that’s not encouraged here anyway (snap).
- the herd is venerated and most people really want to be a part of it. tall poppy syndrome exists here because individuality is often misconstrued as arrogance, and if you’re going to be successful, you have to admit you’re one lucky bastard and still espouse the values of the everyman.
- the vast majority of the media here both reflects, feeds and then perpetuates the herd mentality. for the most part, there are not enough people, across this sparsely populated, absolutely massive country, to financially warrant alternative/niche content being disseminated on any significant scale. so, the lowest-common-denominator rules here much more than it might in a country with a). neighbors or b). enough people to justify diversity.
- australians are exceedingly insecure about our place in the world. we have to have our own version of everything, particularly culturally, but it invariably feels a little bit second-rate and a little bit like a cheap, listless simulation.
- the concept of ‘classiness’ is something to which most australians aspire. the term, a corruption of the english concept, which does carry some meaning, has come to embody the middle-class nouveau riche and their pursuit of gold class movie tickets, or a cocktail at a lounge with a marble bar. ‘classiness’, so call it, does not exist in australia beyond this tawdry pantomime, because if it did, it would be construed as arrogance, and thusly violate the rules of the herd.
- the australian concept of masculinity informs all men’s understanding of success and therefore, at least half of society’s. we are conditioned by sport from a young age - being a team player, not a superstar; getting the job done, not acting up, and being the bloke who’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. the archetypal aussie male is the salt-of-the-earth extension of this - and subsequently, our understanding of the value of a man is in accordance with these values (as opposed to say, america, where it is more related to income/net worth).
- there is a seething undercurrent of racism, both within the bounds of the ‘cosmopolitan’ cities and particularly, beyond. in the same way that a lot of baby boomers repress their true feelings about homosexuals, so do a lot of white australians about racial issues - both in reference to aborigines and migrants. most people who aren’t racist are burdened by a huge amount of guilt regarding the treatment of both the aborigines and the immigrants. i know i felt a very real sense of guilt as i wandered down swanston street in melbourne on saturday morning, past a deliberately ‘multi-cultural’ australia day parade, only to reach the end of the street barricades and find a group of drunk aborigines yelling at each other outside the hungry jacks. it was an image that has stayed with me, and prompted me to write this piece.
- nationalism or patriotism sits quite uncomfortably with a lot of australians. it’s a bit like when a city creates a new sporting team in a pre-existing league, and some people in that city immediately get really behind the team, because it’s in their city and that’s what people are supposed to do, but everyone else assumes they’re being ironic.one (pretty much universal) element of patriotism that people do agree on is honoring the diggers, but that’s about it.
evidently the points i’ve made here are mostly on the negative end of the spectrum, but i do like australia and no doubt we will improve on most, if not all of these fronts. there are plenty more issues to be discussed but that’s a discourse that some far more informed historians, social commentators and anthropologists can (and frequently do) generate.
agree or disagree, feedback is encouraged!
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- finosj said: Spot on.
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