Monday, January 19, 2015


Somehow, when I compiled my list of countries, I managed to forget Australia. I included Australasia and New Zealand, but somehow managed to forget Australia. I included the Antarctic, and several pieces of the Pacific which belong to Australia, but somehow managed to forget Australia. I am looking for a way to say sorry, but I am far from certain that I am sorry. There are things about Australia which remind me of the things I most dislike about America, only more so - especially the obsession of the Australian male with drinking beer, hitting or kicking balls around fields, speaking derogatively of women, and supporting those who would keep non-whites from immigrating. The continuing poor treatment, too, of what are still known as "aboriginals", when the correct term, in a country that likes to claim high standards on human rights, is "human beings" - why, for example, does the country's major art gallery have a section labelled "Australian Art", and a separate section labelled "Aboriginal Art"? Is "Aboriginal Art" not Australian? Are those pseudo-European imitations actually Australian Art at all? A country built by European immigrants on the backs of conquered and oppressed natives, which turns back asylum seekers from Asia (92% of Australians are white, only 6% Asian, the other 2% are "aboriginals"), and especially Moslems, is a country still beset by fundamental existential issues tantamount to an identity-crisis; and so, no, I don't think I am going to apologise for being so forgetful.

Having said which, if convicted to be sent somewhere on this Earth, to live out the rest of my days there as a punishment for my lack of penitence, there are far worse countries than the Commonwealth of Australia to be transported to - about 174 countries, to be approximate. Australia has some of the highest indices in the world, for per capita income (the world’s twelfth largest economy, with the fifth highest per capita income), for education and medical care, even for civil rights. And to be fair, they are pretty good at most ball games. The issue is simply, when we talk about “high standards of living”, what do we actually mean by “standards”?

Why Australia is still a Commonwealth, and still officially ruled by the Queen in England, is another statement of the country's immaturity. Little children need mummy; big children leave home and start their adult lives, their grown-up lives, on their own two feet. And yes, it is always nice to have mummy come and visit, or to go to mummy's house for dinner, and relations are obviously not broken off, and grandchildren will need baby-sitting, and of course it is very nice to bestow knighthoods on people who are already Dukes back home...but 55% of the electorate voted against becoming a Republic last time they held a referendum, and this is alarming. 55% of the population of Scotland also voted against independence, but Scotland is physically still umbilicalled to England, and the coercive tactics of London politicians applied huge pressures; whereas Australia is ten thousand miles from England, and no one in London could care a jar of ashes if Australia became fully independent.

The other thing that has always perplexed me about Australia is the way they continue to hug the shoreline, as though they are scared to go and explore the hinterland for fear of finding something there - something "aboriginal" most likely, as evidenced by Patrick White's remarkable novel "Voss" (White is both the best author Australia has yet produced, the only one of world stature, and also the writer most hated by most Australians, probably because he represents high culture, which does not equate with ball games, racism and misogyny). Other than a carefully arranged tourist visit to Ayres Rock (the Great Barrier Reef doesn't count - it too is on the coast), no Australian lives more than fifty miles inland, nor ever travels there, unless travelling over it, by aeroplane. I strongly suspect that this fear of the hinterland is also the reason why they hate Patrick White, whose books explore the psychological, the emotional, the intellectual hinterlands which they fear as well, and why they stick to ball-games, and why they cannot bring themselves to leave mummy either. Hugging the shore is a bit like arriving in a new country and taking up permanent residence at an airport hotel.

And speaking of airport hotels. There is also Peter Lik, who seems to live in them all over the world, and who gains Australia several marks (what do you mean, you’ve never heard of Peter Lik? There was Louis Daguerre, then Man Ray, and now there is Peter Lik - the photo at the top of this page is one of his); Peter Carey and David Malouf gain a few fractions of a mark as well, as do Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush, or they might, were they not using the airport hotels as a constant departure rather than an arrivals point – have you noticed how many Australians have to leave Australia to do anything of value in the world? Who knew, for instance, that Errol Flynn was an Australian?

Australia is really an island, but it is called a continent because it is considered to be too large to be considered a mere island. This is bizarre. Australia, in terms of land mass, is smaller than Russia, Canada, China, the United States and even Brazil, but none of them are considered continents. Islands are little things and continents big ones; when Australia grows up enough to become a Republic, when they start to acknowledge "aboriginals" as human beings by helping them get out of the permanent cycle of unemployment and drug and alcohol abuse which four centuries of oppression have inflicted, when their pro-Asian economic policies become transformed into a more welcoming acceptance of Asian people, and when they move on from childish ball-games to adult culture, Australia will become big enough to call itself a continent.

Do Australians appreciate satire? Apparently they do. Bonus marks to Australia for "The Shovel", its version of Charlie Hebdo, and especially for this response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre:

Three Islamic terrorists who had expected to be welcomed to the afterlife by 72 virgins and everlasting paradise, were instead greeted with a special edition of Charlie Hebdo, mocking them. “We got a few days head start on them,” a spokesperson of the Charlie Hebdo group said from the afterlife. It is believed the new magazine will be published every week until the end of time.

Marks For: 5

Marks Against: 7

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