Thursday, September 23, 2004

How to act Australian. I got an email me a few days ago from a German woman who writes for a trade mag for the makers of those naff crystal figurines and decorations for bogan brides' gowns you read about in the Sunday Hez ("Kellie wore a strapless delustred satin gown embroidered with _____ crystals"). Anyway, apparently each issue they dedicate to the workers of different countries in which the company operates, and now it's Australia's turn! Yaaaay!

But instead of, I don't know, maybe interviewing Australian employees, this woman turns to the internet and discovers my struck match of celebrity last year when I wrote that stuff about chicks in underwear promoting new forms of Australian identity. So now she sends me some questions to answer.

· Please name the first three attributes that appear on you mind when someone mentions „Australian“.
· (speaking about stereotypes) Is it anyhow possible to describe THE Australian? Could you also name some real-life situations where Australians can be seen acting Australian?
· Is there some kind of Australian way of life?
· Do Australians have certain values they believe in? Did they maybe change within the 100 years of your nation’s existence?
· National pride? Is there some sort of that?
· Do you like to be Australian? Why?

I haven't yet responded to these questions because frankly, they astound me. They're kind of designed to repel nuance of any sort. Yet being a contrary sort of person, I would also like to take the opportunity to write answers like:

Did they maybe change within the 100 years of your nation’s existence?

Since 1996, when John Howard's Liberal/National coalition government was elected, it has systematically deployed the idea of 'Australian values' to withdraw funding from health, education, indigenous groups and social services, to crush trade and student unions and generally to improve life for the richest Australians while making it grindingly difficult and humiliating for Australia's poor. The government has also used 'Australian values' to justify the demonisation of asylum seekers as 'illegals' and their indefinite imprisonment in desert jails, as well as on the territory of other nations as part of the unfortunately named "Pacific Solution".

National pride? Is there some sort of that?

Many Australians feel national pride at the international success of the country's massively overfunded and overglorified sporting teams and individuals. Others feel proud that Australia has been deemed politically important enough to participate in the unjustified invasion of sovereign nations. Still others feel proud when Australians become visible in the global culture industries as actors, musicians, directors, writers, et cetera.

Do you like to be Australian? Why?

Australia is an affluent, multicultural, secular, post-industrial country with significant natural resources, political freedom and stability and relatively little corruption, so I like being Australian more than I would like being, say, Tibetan, Sudanese, Saudi or Chechen. But most of the time, I think of myself as an individual rather than as the personification of a national identity.

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