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Perspectives on Australia

Selected Quotes:

1. Australia's Cultural Cringe

"Cultural cringe"? Whereby value is placed on overseas institutions, people, skills and products and not on local ones. Or conversely, where insecurity about one's worth or place in the world, results in a lot of unnecessary time and effort being expended on often loudly and overtly proclaiming your value to all and sundry.   “An early example of cultural cringe was recorded by British author Anthony Trollope in 1871 as he toured the colonies: ‘You are told constantly that colonial meat and colonial wine, colonial fruit and colonial flour, colonial horses and colonial sport, are better than any ... to be found elsewhere ... It arises, as does all boasting, from a certain dread of inferiority.’ - Focus, The Weekend Australian. 30-31 Dec 2000

2. Australia's need to be loved

“If the growth of nations was comparable to that of human beings one would have to say that Australia is emerging from a difficult adolescence. Our mother country never loved us enough, no matter how many soldiers we sent to fight her wars. We never rebelled, like America or India, but this did not endear us to our distant parent. Because we were small we took to sports with a passion, intent on impressing our peers and our elders, but we were still treated with condescension. Finally, when the time came to sever our ties with “home”, we simply couldn’t do it. Australia has an urgent need to be loved and the Olympics allowed us to show our best side to the world.” - John McDonald “Hero Worship”, Spectrum, Sydney Morning Herald, 2 Dec 2000

3. Sense of belonging and identity

"So many of the grand themes of Australian history have been a search for national identity, tied up with patriotism and nationalism. 'We’ve been thrashing around with that subject for so long it seems like the obvious thing. But who imposed that as the agenda?” “... The idea of Australia as a country where we’ve been so shielded from the horrors of the world that we still live in fundamental ignorance.”  - ANU historian Peter Read, The Australian Magazine, 2-3 Dec, 2000

4. Douglas Adam's short history of Australia

"Some time around 40,000 years ago, some people arrived in boats from the north. They ate all the available food, and a lot of them died. The ones that survived learned respect for the balance of nature, man's proper place in the scheme of things, and spiders. They settled in, and spent a lot of the intervening time making up strange stories.  Then, around 200 years ago, Europeans arrived in boats from the north. More accurately, European convicts were sent, with a few deranged and stupid people in charge. They tried to plant their crops in Autumn (failing to take account of the reversal of the seasons when moving from the top half of the planet to the bottom), ate all their food, and a lot of them died. About then the sheep arrived, and have been treasured ever since. It is interesting to note here that the Europeans always consider themselves vastly superior to any other race they encounter, since they can lie, cheat, steal, and litigate (marks of a civilised culture they say) - whereas all the Aboriginals can do is happily survive being left in the middle of a vast red-hot desert, equipped with a stick.  Eventually, the new lot of people stopped being Europeans on Extended Holiday and became Australians. The changes are subtle, but deep, caused by the mind-stretching expanses of nothingness and eerie quiet, where a person can sit perfectly still and look deep inside themselves to the core of their essence, their reasons for being, and the necessity of checking inside your boots every morning for fatal surprises. They also picked up the most finely tuned sense of irony in the world, and the Aboriginal gift for making up stories. Be warned." - Extract from 'The Confusing Country' by Douglas Adams

5. Monty Python's Australia: The Bruces

Bruce: G'day, Bruce!  Bruce: Oh, Hello Bruce!  Bruce: How are you Bruce?  Bruce: A bit crook, Bruce.  Bruce: Where's Bruce?  Bruce: He's not 'ere, Bruce.  Bruce: Blimey, it's hot in here, Bruce.  Bruce: Hot enough to boil a monkey's bum!  Bruce: That's a strange expression, Bruce.  Bruce: Well Bruce, I heard the Prime Minister use it. "It's hot enough to boil a monkey's bum in here, your Majesty," he said, and she smiled quietly to herself.  Bruce: She's a good Sheila, Bruce, and not at all stuck up.  Bruce: Here! Here's the boss-fellow now! Bruce: 'Ow are you, Bruce?  Bruce: G'day, Bruce!  Bruce: Bruce.  Bruce: Hello, Bruce.  Bruce: Bruce.  Bruce: How are you, Bruce?  Bruce: G'day, Bruce.  Bruce: Gentlemen, I'd like to introduce a man from Pommyland who is joinin' us this year in the Philosophy Department at the University of Wooloomooloo . EveryBruce: G'day!  Michael Baldwin: Hello.  Bruce: Michael Baldwin, Bruce. Michael Baldwin, Bruce. Michael Baldwin, Bruce.  Bruce: Is your name not Bruce?  Michael: No, it's Michael.  Bruce: That's going to cause a little confusion.  Bruce: Mind if we call you "Bruce" to keep it clear? - Extract from Monty Python's Flying Circus segment (selected by Bruce) (Read more ...)
“In  Australia, humour is a martial art.” - Visiting American

A pleasant sort of

careless people?

" I think when you do go overseas you realise how freaky Australia  is. (Although rich, well educated and privileged).. it's a kind of a careless country ... a little bit indifferent. We call it nice names like 'laconic' and casual & relaxed, but actually we don’t give a stuff about a lot of issues - we’ve never had to. .. We’re sports people, and we are laconic .. a quite pleasant sort of careless people. Measure that against what’s happened now, all this unravelling of .. a social fabric that, since the Enlightenment, took years and years of hugely intelligent lawmaking to fix. .. And we’ve just privatised this (social welfare fabric) as though that was a little experiment we could do without." - Playwright, David Williamson ABC Radio National, Feb 2004 ‘World Class’ "The desire to be seen as 'world's best' and a world beater at everything (particularly sports) is possibly connected to not only isolation, but also the habit of transposing the map of Australia directly over that of America. A more appropriate comparison (not one based on matching geographic size alone) might be with the map of Sweden ... another small social democracy with an equally proud record of cultural and economic success. The important thing is learning to feel comfortable with yourself and not taking it all too seriously. Simply accepting yourself for what you are and do (that is truly worthy) ... is a great starting point for anyone. The 'fair go' nation needs to occasionally give itself a fair go too." - dropbearito.com