Customs and Values
Shouts and rounds
The fear of inferiority
Odd facts of Australia
Important social rules
A time to be sombre and to not
Siding with the loser
Mogrels, wogs, andlarrikins
Dealing with extremists
Ugg and more
Landscape and Identity
Creativity in the kitchen
The art of science
Once were popular
Pushing the boundaries
Flogging the tall-poppy syndrome
declared, confidently, that an immense number of women were dying for his diminutive
highness, but became terribly angry, when an ugly, red-nosed publican with a hump-back,
pretended to recognize him as an organ grinder strolling about with a monkey." J.F Mortlock Experiences of a Convict-1865
The tall-poppy syndrome has meant different things to different Australians. To golfer Greg Norman, the tall-poppy syndrome meant a jealousy of success. Norman explained that if someone in America bought a sports car, then other Americans would say "nice car." However, if someone in Australia bought a sports car, other Australians would scratch it. To tennis player Lleyton Hewitt, the tall-poppy syndrome meant ignorance. After seeing his home crowd support a fellow youngster over him, Hewitt said it was the "stupidity" of the Australian public to knock the better players. To swimmer Ian Thorpe, the tall-poppy syndrome meant not conforming to traditional conceptions of Australian masculinity, which led to rumours of being gay. To scientists, the tall-poppy syndrome meant Australians were too focussed on sport, and not giving due recognition to intellectual achievement. For example, when receiving an Australian legend honour at the 2002 Australia Day Awards, a scientist named Donald Metcalf said,
"I could name 11 colleagues whose accomplishments would exceed those of our cricket 11. They haven't been entertaining people. They have been saving lives."
Perhaps the best way to think about the tall-poppy syndrome is that it reflects the diversity of values in a multicultural society. As long as a diversity of values exists, there will always be people criticizing those icons that are held up as the "model" that Australians should aspire to be like. The more diverse the society, and the less the sense of community, the more critical it will be to its "icons." Admitedly, America is also a diverse society yet celebrates its icons. The difference is that America has an over-riding ethic of patriotism that sees individual success as a positive relfection upon the nation.
A good example of cultural diversity leading to criticism can be seen in the 20 years of attacks upon Paul Hogan after he released his movie Crocodile Dundee. After being released in 1986, Crocodile Dundee went on to become the most successful Australian movie in history. Wildlife documentary makers such as Steve Irwin subsequently traded on the crocodile image to push into the American market, and tourists from all over the world travelled to Australia to experience the friendly culture and beautiful environment. Qantas alone had to increase their number of San Francisco to Sydney flights from 25 per week to 40 per week.
Although the appeal of Hogan's character was widespread, it was not universal and some concerned citizens voiced their dissent. For Geoffrey Barker of the Melbourne Herald, Hogan's character reinforced international perceptions that "Australians are gauche, provincial and philistine". Veronica Brady, an academic from the University of Western Australia, said the film was about "colonial servility, violence and a profound confusion of values".
Even though Crocodile Dundee benefited the Australian film and tourism industries, many writers and directors felt it was important to "correct" the inaccurate stereotypes. Consequently, in 1994, Stephan Elliot released Priscilla Queen of the Desert in order to denigrate Hogan's character, and the outback that Hogan had championed. As Paul Byrnes, a critic from the Sydney Morning Herald explained,
"The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert went further than any of these in attacking the Crocodile Dundee mythology of the essentially harmless heterosexual outback male. These same types of men, usually depicted in bars in Priscilla, can be suspicious, violent, vulgar and extremely intolerant, especially when confronted with alternative definitions of masculinity."
Another example of cultural diversity leading to criticism comes with the public denigration of the late Pro Hart, Australia's most commercially successful painter. According to Barry Pearce, head curator of Australian Art at the Art Gallery of NSW, comparing Hart with the artists who normally hang in the gallery was
"rather like Slim Dusty being compared to Mozart."
Likewsie, Alan Dodge, Director of Art Gallery of Western Australia, said of Hart,
"He is one of the most delightful illustrators of the Australian folk idiom, but let's not use the word art anywhere."
The criticisms of Hart were not fair. In terms of brush skills, he was superior to Sidney Nolan and Arthur Boyd. In terms of expressing human character, he was equal to Russel Dyrsdale. (Admitedly despair is usually a more popular art topic than happiness.) In terms of themes, Hart's work was more more enlightened that some of the conceptual art in Australia's galleries, art that includes an artist's name in italic letters and some vinyl records on a wall. While Hart was no Dali or Picasso, he was still superior to most other artists of his generation. As a miner, he also had one of the more unique backgrounds.
Hart's sin was that he portrayed the outback in a positive way. This was confronting for the the urban art market, which wanted to the outback portrayed with Dysdale's ruins, Boyd's racial confusion or Albert Tucker's desolation. It didn't want an uneducated miner showing an appreciation for nature and the egalitarian dream. Such characteristics showed the outback/working class in a positive light and made the inner-city intellentisia less superior by comparison.
Pro Hart: Perhaps being a miner helped Hart form an appreciation for nature. After toiling below the surface where everything was dead and without colour, he may have become more aware of the insects, the colour, and the beauty of the world above ground.
The only solution to the tall-poppy syndrome is a reconciliation between different sections of white society that really don’t like each other. Such a reconciliation would be difficult because the scabs have been forming for more than 200 years, and each generation has been keen to pick at them, causing them to bled once more.
Activity 1 - The Tall-poppy Syndrome Explained
from Social Psychology
Einstein once said:
relativity is proved right the Germans will call me a German, the Swiss call me
a Swiss citizen, and the French will call me a great scientist. If relativity
is proved wrong the French will call me a Swiss, the Swiss will call me a German,
and the Germans will call me a Jew.'
Some social psychologists developed a theory known as self-categorization theory (Turner, Hogg, Oakes, Reicher & Wetherell, 1987) which they use to explain
Einstein's predictions. The theory proposes that people change their concept of
the self in order to associate themselves with prestige and/or distance themselves
1) Using self-categorization theory, explain why people might be criticising a tall poppy in Australia
2) Use self-categorisation theory, explain how tall-poppies could overcome the criticism of them.
Activity 2 - Value of criticism
Purpose - Is criticism helpful?
Read the following and make an opinion in response:
"Criticism is needed in any society, but the criticism needs to be wisely directed. In Australia, it needs to be directed at the underachievers, so that they can identify their flaws and improve themselves. It does not need to be directed at the leaders of an industry, who demonstrate how things should be done and/or bring a new market to the industry and help the industry gain a positive reputation."
Activity 3 - The Tall-Poppy Syndrome explained from Australia's Political System
Activity purpose - Does criticism flow from the structure of Australian politics
Read the following and answer the questions
Britain, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada are all believed to have a tall-poppy syndrome. America does not. The political system is the main differences between America and the other English-speaking countries. Unlike the others, America is a republic with a democratically elected president.
The difference in political systems produces a very different kind of leader. In Britain, New Zealand, Australia and Canada, the prime minister holds the most influential position. To become prime minister, an individual must succeed in the adversarial climate of the parliamentary chamber. Here, they are subjected to criticism, which they not only must deflect, but return with interest. They must also be good deal makers, and allocate resources in a way that divides the opposition. Once elected, they need to govern for their party, and their electorates. Ex-Australian prime minister Paul Keating was a classic example of the type of person the system produces. Keating was skilled in the acid tongue and a master of dividing people with policy. As a result of his rein, Australia's divisions were enhanced.
Unlike the leaders of the Constitutional Monarchies, the leader of America does not need to be skilled in debating or belittling. He just needs to be a great orator, or have some kind of charisma that voters can relate to. Admittedly they can be idiots that never back up great speeches with great policy, but their speeches still demonstrate how a leader is meant to act and they still inspire people to want to heap praise. It's a case of Monkey see, monkey do, as American's follow their leader's example. Americans have a tendency to be extremely complimentary, even at times when a criticism is more warranted and deserving.
Evidence of monkey see and monkey do can be seen in Australian business culture. For example, a study on Australian business culture found
that Australian managers are more domineering and assertive than their British
or US counterparts (1). Basically, Australian managers "tell"
their employees what to do. This cultural trait is ironic as Australia is the
very place where ordering is lest likely to work. Another
study found that American supervisors (those entrusted with implementing orders)
are 100 percent more likely to consider themselves on the side of managers than
do Australian supervisors. (2)As a result, Australian workforces
have a much greater sense of disconnection between managers and employees than
do American workforces.
Would-be icon builders
are often in this poor leadership category. For example, some scientists believe
that the best way to increase admiration for their scientific compatriots is to
insult the achievements of cricket players. Likewise, some movie directors believe the best way to improve the popularity of gays is to insult heterosexual males. Perhaps both need to reconsider their methods of persuasian.
1 (T.J Larkin "Employee
Behaviour" Chapter 5 Customer Service)
2 (T.J Larkin
"Employee Behaviour" Chapter 5 Customer Service)
1) What are the main differences between the the type of leadership America produces versus thsoe produced by countries that are constitutional monarchies?
2)Would you advocate Australia becoming a less critical society by changing its political system?
Complaints about cultural comparisons
Emotion & innovation
Group vs individual
Tradition & change
Cults of multiculturalism
Warden & Convicts
Thinkers and Drinkers
Immigration and emmigration
Samurai & Convicts
Convicts vs Do gooders
Papua New Guinea
Chiefs and Elites
Kaffirs and Convicts