maintain their sense of being God's own country with a manifest destiny to lead
the world to freedom and democracy. Australia has no global ambitions, and those
related to the region are for stability and economic advancement rather than dominance" - John Langmore (politician)
"I don't think of myself as either American or Australian really, I'm a true hybrid. It's a good thing for me because both of them are really good countries." -
Mel Gibson (actor)
For different reasons, both Australians and Americans are a little uncomfortable with stereotypes being used to define the characteristics of their respective cultures. However, just like the accent that each uses to speak the common language of English, there are some subtle differences that can be used to distinguish Americans as a group from Australians as a group. For example, the author of this article (an Australian) was once giving a presentation to an Australian
university class. To explain the difficulty in building a patriotic
image for a brand in Australia, he draped an Australian flag over his shoulders
and struck a pose as if looking at the sunset in an American aftershave commercial. Noting
that the class looked unimpressed, he took the flag off his shoulders and enthusiastically
polished his arse with it. The class started laughing. He then asked if anyone
was offended. A chorus of nos went up. A lone voice said that, although he wasn't
offended, he was disappointed. The lecturer, who had previously worked for the
defence forces, gave the presentation a distinction. It the same thing had been done in America, expulsion from the university would have been a distinct possibility.
It should be stressed that it was not a liberal arts class full of 18-year-olds that had an ideological opposition to everything. It was a post-graduate marketing class full of students that should have been able to appreciate the pragmatic benefits of respect, loyalty, teamwork, and constructive thinking.
Unlike Australians, Americans (like most of the world) do not find polishing one's arse with the national flag to be an act of hilarity. For Americans, not only does it show a lack of consideration to the values of others, it also shows an innability to appreciate the benefits of a group working together to achieve a common goal.
white 79.96%, black 12.85%, Asian 4.43%, Amerindian and Alaska native 0.97%, native Hawaiian and other Pacific islander 0.18%, two or more races 1.61% (July 2007 estimate)
White 92%, Asian 7%, Aboriginal and other 1%
Canada 22.2%, Mexico 12.9%, Japan 5.8%, China 5.3%, UK 4.4% (2006)
Japan 19.6%, China 12.3%, South Korea 7.5%, US 6.2%, India 5.5%, NZ 5.5%, UK 5% (2006)
From CIA World Fact Book
“Wherever, at the end of some new understanding, you see the Government of France or a man of rank in England, in the United States you will be sure to find an association…If it be proposed to advance some truth or foster some feeling of encouragement of a great example, Americans form a society.” Alexis de Tocqueville 19th century
America has always had a diversity of strong groups, and strong conflict between those groups. After Europeans became aware of the Americas in the 15th century, Spanish, French, Dutch and British colonists competed for slices of the new world. Inevitably, the countries came into conflict with each other.
At a grassroots level, conflict also occurred between citizens of each country. A group of pioneers would set off to build a new town along some river. After building a town, some kind of ideological conflict might emerge and instead of resolving it, a group would just leave the town and establish a new one further up the river. Two towns would then develop homogenous cultures that were relatively hostile to other cultures.
Towards the end of the 18th century, the various American factions united and gained independence from colonial powers. After gaining their independence, the continuation of domestic disagreements led to a continuation of domestic wars and conflict.
From all the wars and the pioneering dreams, America developed strong group identities, and individual Americans developed a strong psychology of joining groups. In some regards, America evolved into a European style union. It had lots of pockets of cultural diversity, but within those pockets lived individuals with little exposure to diversity. When needing to deal with diversity, the Americans acted like the Europeans by resorting to violence. Occasionally, individuals from the groups defused out to mix with individuals from other groups to create something new. It was these individuals who harnessed the value of America's diversity and in turn made America a strong nation.
Due to its harsh environmental conditions, Australia developed in a very different way to America. Prior to the English, Australia was discovered by Portuguese, the Dutch, the Spanish, Indonesians, and the Chinese; however, the countries looked around the barren landscape populated by nomads and decided Australia had nothing of value. When the British discovered Australia in 1772, they decided it would make a great dumping ground for criminals that they could no longer send to America. In 1788, the first load of criminals was dumped in Sydney. Convicts continued to be sent to Australia for a further 80 years. France discovered different parts of Australia, but acted like the other European countries by deciding Australia had nothing of value.
Because Britain was the only European country to show an interest in it, Australia was never a battlefield for Europeans as was America. Furthermore, because the land was poor, Australia never had pioneers setting off to build new towns along the river to escape persecution or to avoid group conflict. Instead, most Australians remained trapped in the same coastal cities that were built with Convict labour. In these cities, the main conflict was between those of Convict descent and those not tainted by criminal ancestry.
In some ways, the colonial conflict has never been resolved and as a result, Australia remains an individualistic nation that lacks a group psychology to conform to culture. Australia still has its "wardens" that want to flog the country, its people and any conception of community pride. Australia also has its rebels who dislike the wardens. As neither personality wants to share a group with the other, it has been difficult for individual Australians to create cultural expressions accepted by all or feel the sense of family that is usually associated with a national identity.
Americans are very patriotic people. Some of the patriotism can be attributed to the impressive array of American achievements that include landing on the moon, taking a leading role in stopping Nazi Germany, inventing the internet and winning 30 per cent of Nobel Prizes. Some of the patriotism can be attributed to American history, and the emotive rallies that were initially used to unite diverse groups into once force capable of overthrowing the English. Some of the patriotism can be attributed to American psychology, which has always fostered a strong identification with the group. The group psychology that was initially cultivated on a racial, religious, civic or state level, has now been transferred to a national level.
Although patriotism can unite Americans, it can also divide them. Each American subculture has a tendency to believe its culture is what America is about, and they will fight to preserve that culture by using the American flag as a rallying symbol. For example, many American Christians believe that America is about obeying god’s laws. Many atheists believe America is about escaping god’s laws. Texans may believe America is about the cowboy culture that refused to surrender at the Alamo. Californians may believe America is about the Hollywood dream. New Yorkers may believe America is about holding the golden lamp to the citizens of the world that want to breath free. Some Americans believe America is about self-reliance so they will oppose taxing the rich to help the needy. Other Americans believe America is able setting an example so they want to tax the rich to help the needy.
As each subculture asserts its own respective definition of American patriotism, it can come into conflict with subcultures that have a different definition. In the past, such conflicts were dealt with by simply moving up the river to found a new town or initiating a civil war. In modern times, such an option is no longer available.
For many Australians, patriotism is a negative concept. In the colonial era, patriotism was a threat to British rule and discouraged accordingly. Today, a variety of justifications are used to argue that patriotism has no place in Australia. For example, at the 2007 Sydney Big Day Out (a music festival held on Australia Day) organisers argued that the Australian flag was symbolic of racism and needed to be banned. According to promoter Ken West,
"The Australian flag was being used as gang colours. It was racism disguised as patriotism and I'm not going to tolerate it."
A cartoon created at the time of federation alluding to the Convict heritage and public drunkenness that made it a little difficult for many Australians to feel patriotic.
Americans, and the outside world, generally see America as a highly individualistic nation. Such a perception is inconsistent with a line by former president John F Kennedy, who said:
"Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."
Kennedy’s line is one of the most famous in American popular culture. Each time an American has volunteered to fight, to spread the bible, or to garner support for a political cause, they believe they are doing something for others.
Ironically, it is perhaps the expectation that individuals contribute to the greater good that results in America as a whole having a relatively weak sense of obligation to the individual, and this in turn results in a perception that Americans are selfish. For example, the lack of state-funded health care often gave non-Americans the perception that individual Americans only care for themselves.
Contrasted to America, Australia has strong popular support for government health care, and government welfare. Furthermore, Australians have a strong propensity to volunteer to guard beeches, fight fires or clean up after a disaster. With a greater sense of the social supporting the individual, some people believe that Australia appears less of an individualistic nation than America.
The diversity of accents in a country is a reflection upon the country's diverse social identities. In America, different regions and different races speak English with different accents. The northern regions speak with what is known as a general American accent. The southern regions speak with a southern American Accent. The differences in speech are believed to have originated in the American civil war.
In addition to regional variance in language, America also has racial variance. Some African Americans have a distinct dialect known as ebonics. Not only is the accent different, so is the syntax. For example, instead of saying, "there are apples" or "there is water", they will say "there be apples" and "there be water."
In Australia, there is no variation in accent according to region, race, or socio-economic class. Instead, the accent varies according to ideology and gender. Two Australians can grow up side by side but end up speaking different versions of Australian English. 10 per cent of Australians speak with what is known as a broad Australian accent (Bob Hawke.) These people usually have a positive attitude to Australia. Around 80 per cent speak with a general Australian accent (Nicole Kidman.) Around 10 per cent speak with a British received accent (Malcolm Fraser.) These people may proudly declare that they don't say "g'day". The Australian men who speak with the accent have a negative attitude to Australia.
Contrary to myth, Australia has no regional variance in accent. Each Australian city has roughly the same mix of the three accents. Likewise, children of migrants do not speak with ethnic accents. As for Aborigines, many continue to speak pre-colonial languages and don't speak English at all. Of those that speak English, the majority do so with Paul Hogan style broad Australian accents.
Finally, Australia does not have a socio-economic difference in speech. Billionaires born with silver spoons in their mouths are quite likely to speak with the same accent as tradesmen.
Black white conflict
Blacks of African descent in Australia have always carried a different social image to those in America. A good example of the difference was seen on the Australian gold fields in 1854. A collection of miners from a diverse range of nationalities rebelled against the British. The miners were crushed and survivors arrested. One of the men arrested was John Joseph, a black man from America. Joseph had been arrested along with other American nationals; however, because he was black, the American government did not secure his release as it did for the other American citizens. Joseph stood trial and was subsequently found not guilty by a jury of his peers. He was then was carried around the streets in a chair of triumph by over 10,000 people.
Even during the era of the White Australia Policy, an exception was made for American blacks. Such sentiments were evident in the comments of Henry Lawson, a nationalistic poet of the era. Lawson wrote an essay saying the Chinese must be kept out because they were not good colonists; however, he also said:
"The American negro is already a man and brother."
Likewise, the Australian Workers' Union specifically excluded Asians and Pacific Islanders, but extended membership to New Zealand Maoris and American Negros.
It was in the boxing ring where the respective attitude to Negros by whites of Australia and America first became a point of friction. From 1880s to the 1890s, the Australian boxing ring was dominated by Peter Jackson, a black migrant from the West Indies. Nicknamed the 'Peter the Great', he won the Australian heavyweight in 1896 and went on to prove himself against the best fighters from England and America. Unfortunately, he never got a chance to fight for the world championship because the white American champion, John Sullivan, refused to defend his title against a black man. Upon his death, Jackson was buried in Australia with great pomp. A huge tomb was erected along with the words, "this was a man. "
More conflict came in World War 2 during the infamous Battle of Brisbane, which involved between 2,000 or 5,000 soldiers American and Australian soldiers fighting each other on the streets of Brisbane. The
American army had a policy of segregation and restricted African American
soldiers to the south side of the Brisbane River.
were appalled by the segregation, and refused to support it. Local dance halls
allowed black Americans to enter, white Australian soldiers drank with black
American soldiers and white Australian women appeared as attracted to black
Americans as they were with white Americans.
These positive attitudes to black Americans inflamed
tensions between white Americans and white Australians. It also inflamed tensions
between black and white Americans. After being encouraged to see themselves as
equals, black Americans tried to cross the
and some were subsequently assaulted and killed for doing so. In the process,
the white Americans further alienated themselves from the Australian
population. Ironically, the spark that lit the powder keg was Australians coming to an aid of a drunk American soldier being beaten by the American military police.
The different attitudes to blacks can be explained by Australia’s Convict foundations. In America's founding era, whites constituted the majority of the population and were the first class citizens. Blacks were the disliked minority. On the other hand, nearly two generations into Australia's urban era, nearly 80 per cent of the population was a Convict, Emancipist, or of Convict descent. As a consequence, the majority of the population were second class-citizens, and the exclusive free settlers were the disliked minority. Race was insignificant compared to the stigma of Convict ancestry.
Billy Blue - A black Convict that became Australia's first celebrity. Billy has been honoured in the naming of many streets, pubs and landmarks in Nth Sydney.
Americans are more likely to use an ethnic classifier, such as African, Chinese or Vietnamese, when referring to non-white Americans. In Australia, the use of ethnic classifiers is rare, especially for black people. For example, Australians with African heritage, such as Marcia Hines, George Gregan and Andrew Symonds, are referred to as Australians, not African Australians.
Australia’s urban society commenced in an extremely polarised manner. On one end of the spectrum there were the "pure" settlers and on the other there were the Australians of Convict decent. Unlike Australia, America’s urban society commenced in a relatively harmonious form. Pioneers found solidarity in their church groups. With time, Australia has evolved to become relatively homogeneous while America has become extremely polarised. Although Australia has ideological divisions, these are no where near extreme as the ideological divisions in America that find expression in the Democrat and Republican Parties.
Australia became less polarised because it introduced political measures that made it difficult for extremists to gain political representation. Compulsory voting was one such measure. In America, voluntary voting means that the extremists are great assets to a political campaign. It is the extremists that get out to vote, and convince others to vote as well. To keep the extremists happy, the American political parties must pander to their interests, and this can result in a polarised society. In Australia; however, the extremists are not really important at all. The political party that they have chosen can simply take them for granted and ignore them. The party can then devote its resources on the swinging voters that will decide the election. As a consequence, it is the moderates from the middle-ground that need to be kept happy. Consequently, both parties position themselves as moderates.
Preferential voting is another innovation that keeps extremists out of Australian parliament. The system forces voters to rank candidates in order of preference. When the ballots are collectively tallied, it is the candidate that is the least hated, rather than most liked, that represents the people. In the 1990s, the system kept the extremist Pauline Hanson out of parliament even though she won the most votes in her electorate.
Indigenous conflict with colonists
While America developed a Cowboy and Indian culture that was expressed in comic books, movies, paintings, novels and children’s games, Australia never developed a similar Stockmen and Aboriginal culture. Instead of developing culture based on conflict with Aborigines, Australian colonists developed a culture that built its credentials by associating itself with Aborigines. For example, most Australian paintings depicting Aborigines and whites show them acting in quite a friendly manner. In regards to song, Waltzing Matilda, (a song of nationalism from the 19th century) used Aboriginal words like billabong, jumbuck and coolibah. Most of rural Australia was named using Aboriginal words like Canberra, Wollongong, or Ulladullah.
Cultural reflections - Cowboy battles Indian for America. Convict escapes and lives with Aborigines
The different outcome can be attributed to different environmental influences. Australia's poor soils and frequent droughts made the land unsuited to high-density farming communities. As a consequence, most colonial farmers lived an isolated existence with only sporadic contact with nomadic Aborigines for human company. It would have been unwise for these farmers to pick a fight with Aborigines when they didn't have strong communities to back them up. Furthermore, the Aborigines offered these farmers their best hope for some friends, sexual partners, or farm hands. Friendship was more in their interests than conflict.
Kangaroo and buffalo - One herds and is therefore easy to kill on mass. One is not.
As well as not being conducive to high-density farming communities, the Australian environment also contained a host of native animals that increased as a result of farming. The kangaroo was one such animal. The farmer's dams gave kangaroos permanent water supplies that helped them survive drought. Likewise, the cutting down of trees increased available pasture that kangaroos could graze upon. Even though farmers wanted to kill the kangaroos as pests, or build fences to keep them out, the kangaroos simply jumped the fences, drank the water, ate the grass, and then hopped back into the bush where they remained a valuable food source for Aborigines. Consequently, the colonists and natives never had to fight over food as they did in America.
Even though there was relative little conflict between colonists and Aborigines, modern white historians, such as Henry Reynolds, Robert Manne and Lyndall Ryan, have fabricated evidence of conflict. The fabrication of history can be partly attributed to the continuation of ideological conflict that commenced in the penal era. By portraying Australian colonial society as awash with violence against Aborigines, the likes of Henry Reynolds, Robert Manne and Lyndall Ryan can portray themselves as moral custodians of an enlightened state of being.
Aside from being seen in the fabrication of Aboriginal history, the conflicting ideologies can be seen in two movies dealing with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal relations in modern society. In Crocodile Dundee (1986), an Australian male speaking with a broad Australian accent built his cultural creditability by giving Aborigines respect and being accepted by them. In Priscilla Queen of the Desert (1994), three gays built their cultural credibility by stereotyping Aborigines as victims of Crocodile Dundee characters. When exposed to gay culture, the victimised Aborigines cheer it on as if they are testimonials in a sales campaign.
Corroboree 1) Crocodile Dundee (1986)- Outback man gains status by becoming Aboriginal and by showing respect for tribal culture.
Corroboree 2) Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) - Aborigines are stereotyped as social outcasts like homosexuals. The homosexuals perform a dance and Aborigines clap them on like testimonials in a sales campaign. The homosexuals' status comes from assimilating the Aborigines to their lifestyle.
Political correctness is mostly confined to the world’s immigrant nations. Of these nations, America is by far the most politically correct. The political correctness is so extreme that McDonalds restaurants don’t sell "white coffee" or "black coffee." They sell "coffee with cream" and "coffee without cream."
American political correctness can be attributed to well developed Jewish, black and migrant lobbies that jump on anything that even remotely damages their interests. With the lobbies always ready to pounce, many Americans have become quite timid in regards to what they are prepared to say. The political correctness even extends to how Americans may talk about Australians (who don't even have a lobby in America.) For example, the CIA World Fact Book makes no mention of Convicts when talking about Australian history. Presumably, the authors were scared about offending Australians if they mentioned the truth.
In some regards, failing to mention Convicts is polite because there are some Australians who are very uncomfortable with their Convict heritage. According to American author Bill Bryson,
"I can personally affirm
that to stand before an audience of beaming Australians and make even the mildest
quip about a convict past is to feel the feel the air conditioning immediately
Although the Convict heritage is a lag for some Australians, it is liberating for others. Status can only be stripped from people who have it. Consequently, those who accept that Convict heritage denies them status are able to speak quite freely without fear that they have anything to lose.
The liberating effect of a criminal stigma can be seen in the elevation of true-life criminal Chopper Reid to icon status. Chopper only spent 13 months out of prison between the ages of 20 to 38. After his release, he sold 500,000 books, had a movie made about his life, appeared in TV commercials, had his name put on a beer, and had a character based on his story in a TV comedy series. As a man who has spent a lifetime dealing with ice-picks, death threats and negative community attitudes, Chopper doesn't find breaking taboos of political correctness to be as intimidating as do other members of society. Consequently, Chopper has always been free to say whatever he wants, how he wants, and where he wants. His freedom to speak his mind has in turn appealed to other Australians who have made a hero out of him, and subsequently followed his lead.
Chopper Reid character in the Ronnie Burns half-hour
Another interesting side-effect of not having status is that many Australians are more happy with people who they can see as mutual scum. A story told in the Australian Slanguage, by Bill Horndage, illustrates the point:
"Professor Michio Ochi...related an incident which happened when he visited the New South Wales town of Young:
'My wife and I were standing beside the car. A young boy walked past and sang 'Ching-Chong Chinaman'. I didn't want to ignore this, I had to make a decision on the spot so I called back to him 'You bloody Aussie bastard'. "
In an paradoxical kind of way, the actions of Professor Ochi would probably have endeared him to the boy, and all those Australians who have heard of the story. To return an insult with interest has a strange way of making many Australians feel comfortable. As noted in one American book on Australia,
"If you are teased, you are expected to reply in kind, with good humor. Such self-confidence will increase an Australian's respect for you. They do not admire a subservient attitude. "
Although the lack of political correctness might be a Convict trait, it is equally likely that it is an Aboriginal trait. The writings of a colonial military officer, Watkin Tench, record the sense of humour of an Aborigine known as Arabanoo:
"If the slightest insult were offered to him, he would return it with interest. At retaliation of merriment he was often happy; and frequently turned the laugh against his antagonist. "
The origins of the word Moomba, the name for a Melbourne cultural festival, also illustrates how Aborigines liked to make politically incorrect jokes about the new arrivals. When Melbourne's founding fathers were looking for a name for their festival, they asked Aborigines for a suitable word, and were subsequently told that 'moomba' means, 'lets get together and have fun.' In hindsight, the founding fathers should have been suspicious that 'lets get together and have fun' could have been expressed in two syllables. In reality, 'moom' means 'bum', 'buttocks', or 'anus', while the suffix 'ba' means 'in', 'at' or 'on'. It seems then, the local tribes got together and had fun as they laughed the whitefella's 'in the bum' festival.
Racism is not always easy to define. In fact, both Americans and Australians would agree that the other is a racist nation. Ironically, while both nations would accuse the other of racism, and would concede racism exists in their country, there is very little racist intent in either country. The best evidence of the lack of intent is the media of both countries. The media can be seen as a mirror of its readers. If a media outlet is criticising racism then it is a fair sign that their audiences identify themselves as not being racist. Of course, the media may promote policies that cause racism, but intent and outcome are not always the same. Neither the Australian media, nor the American media, has journalists stating that racism is good.
A good example of the different approaches to racial relationships came in a 2009 skit on the Australian television show, Hey Hey its Saturday. A multi-racial group of Australians from non-English speaking backgrounds performed a tribute to the Jackson five. The tribute involved painting their faces and dancing around like buffoons. The performance was well within Australian cultural sensibilities to not take oneself, one’s social group, or any social group, too seriously.
One of the judges of the skit was American Harry Connick Jr, who found it deeply offensive. For Connick Jr, it referenced the Black and White Minstrels and the days where black people were made to look like buffoons. However, because Australia never had the Black and White Minstrels, and always had people making themselves look like buffoons, the act was one of equality.
The failure to predict that Connick Jr would be offended could be traced to Australian egalitaianism. Australians are in the habit of treating everyone the same, which often means they fail to learn about the cultural differences of people from other nations. In other words, the producers of the show just treated Connick Jr as they would an Australian without considering the fact that he was not.
Hey Hey it's Saturday and the Jackson Jive
Praise the lord
Americans tend to be very complimentary people. They may praise others for their artwork, sporting ability, ideas or their country’s achievements. Although the American’s willingness to praise others could be seen as a sign that Americans are easily impressed, at times it is difficult to believe the sincerity of their praise. For example, American golfer Tiger Woods once expressed his admiration for Australian Adam Scott, and said that he wasn’t as good as Scott was at the same age. Such a view would seem unlikely considering that Tiger is arguably the greatest golfer of all time, and was a star from an early age, while Scott is merely an honest toiler.
As a nation, Americans have an outstanding record of achievement and surely the achievements of people from other countries would seem diminutive in comparison. Perhaps Americans have decided that being polite is superior to being honest. Alternatively, perhaps they have become so accustomed to hearing compliments that they just can't stop themselves from being complimnetary as well.
Australians are quite different from Americans in the praise regard. In Australia, you are far more likely to get a criticism than a compliment. Even if Australians are impressed, they often keep their admiration to themselves. Accoding to one website on Australian business culture:
are very difficult to impress; even if you do manage to impress them, they may
not openly admit it."
In 2006, numerous churches across Australia displayed the slogan:
"Jesus loves Osama."
After the slogan appeared, talkback radio received a few calls from concerned citizens, but otherwise nothing happened. In America, religion is so intertwined with politics that if a Church said that Jesus loves Osama, the Church would have more than just a few concerned citizens on talkback radio to contend with.
The anti-institution element of Australian Christianity can be traced to the days of the penal colony. Whereas American Christian leaders were firmly on the side of the general population, Australia's Christian leaders were very much against them. Instead of looking at the Convicts as humans to be helped, the Christians looked at them as sinners to be punished. In response, the Convicts returned the hostility.
An early example of the mutual hostility can be seen in the rein of Governor Hunter. Hunter was a morals crusader who frequently ordered Convicts be flogged for petty crimes. Although the Convicts were able to put up with the floggings, they were pushed to breaking point when they were ordered to attend Church on Sundays. They responded by burning the Church to the ground.
More anti-institutional sentiment could be seen in the scorn for Samuel Marsden – a reverend of the colonial era. In New Zealand, Marsden is celebrated as a great man who brought the gospel to the Maori. In Australia, he is remembered as the "flogging parson". The Convict men said of him:
"He prays for our souls on Sunday, and takes it out of bodies during the rest of the week."
a world of excellence
In the past 100
years, no country achieved as much as America. It has put a man on the moon. It
has been a production line of phenomenal athletes in tennis, golf, athletics and
it even surpasses Australia in swimming. It has invented computers, the internet
and built the first aeroplane. It is the undisputed world leader in the entertainment industries.
In almost every field of research, be it psychology, computers or mathematics,
America has been at the forefront of thought and innovation. While it may have
300 million people, it has been punching above its weight in terms of what it
America is a country set up
to allow talent to rise to the surface. Myths such as the American dream propose
that everyone can succeed; be they an immigrant, a pauper, or a religious weirdo.
The myth is not just a fable and Americans have worked hard to ensure that it
has an element of truth. Some of this hard work is reflected in the constitution
that protects liberties. Some of it is reflected in the university scholarship
system, which ensures that anyone with talent can go to university and cultivate
their talent. Some of it is reflected in the general thinking of the average American
who is very supportive of their compatriots that aim high.
the downside, talent is rare and some people really shouldn't be encouraged to
believe that they have any. Furthermore, dreams fail for 99 per cent of the population.
When their dream fails, some Americans have a tendency to become neurotic and stressed
about their failure. Perhaps as a result, an abnormally high number of Americans
have therapists or feel the need to see psychiatrists.
Australia is very different from America in this regard. Publicly, an Australian
may joke about "going for bronze" or "striving for mediocrity in a world
of excellence." They might not really be setting their sights low, but their
lofty ambitions are kept private. Australia is not a country where talent is nutured
by the community around it. This lack of community support has led to many great Australian inventions being
lost to Australia. In 1894, Lawrence Hargrave made the world's first powered
flight. If he had had community support to refine his ideas he would have invented
sustained and controlled powered flight at least a decade before the Wright
Australians have been at
finest when, as an underdog, they have wanted to cut down a tall poppy. (At the
very least, Australians seem most proud of an achievement when a tall poppy has
been lopped.) In cricket, Don Bradman was a freak of nature. In no international
sport has one athlete been so statistically ahead of all others around him. Bradman's
motivation seemed to be to humiliate the pompous English. He once said:
you play test cricket, you don't give the Englishmen an inch. Play it tough, all
the way. Grind them into the dust"
more cases of an underdog emerging triumphant, in World War II at Tobruk, Australians
were the first nation to inflict a defeat on General Rommel. In the Kokoda
campaign, Australians broke the spell of invinciability that the Japanese had
woven over the Allied nations. In 1983, the yacht "Australia II"
ended the Americans 132 year dominance of the America's cup. At the 2000
Olympics, Australia became the first ever nation to defeat America's 4 X 100 freestyle
thinking not leading to a puritanical outcome
2004, a Quantum/AustraliaSCAN found that more than 60 per cent of Australians
were "permissive" about sexual mores, with only one in 10 espousing a more "restrictive"
approach. By contrast, only four in 10 Americans were "permissive". Almost the
same number were puritanical in their desire for more restriction.
being less puritanical in thinking, Australia seems to be more puritanical in
outcome. The rate of HIV infection in Australia is 1.2 per 100,000 population;
almost 1/12th the American rate of 14.7 (Avert.org). Australia's divorce
rate is 2.7 per 1,000 population; significantly lower than the United States'
rate of 4.3 (Australian Bureau of Statistics). In Australia, there are
0.25 paternity tests for every 1,000 people; almost 1/5th the U.S rate of 1.2
tests per 1,000 people (Professor Michael Gilding, Swinburne University of
Technology). Australia's murder rate is 1.7 per 100 000 population; almost
1/4 of the American rate of 6.3 (Australian Government Institute of Criminology.)
America's higher rate of puritanical thinking is in response to social ills caused
by the devil's greater focus on their country. Alternatively, perhaps America's
puritanical thinking is part of the cause of the social ills. Either way, it seems
there are more prayers going unanswered in America than there are in Australia.
The insular world
Whenever there is injustice
in the world, it is America that is asked to help. When Christians were persecuted
in Egypt, it was the Americans who answered their call. When the Koreans were
faced with execution at the hands of a communist invasion from the north, it was the Americans
who gave them a fighting chance. When mainland China threatened to invade Taiwan,
it was the Americans who let the mainland know that such a use of force would
not be tolerated.
While America's good
deeds have won it some admiration, it has also made it many enemies. The Islamic
world sees it as meddlesome, or only after its oil reserves. South Koreans see
America as responsible for keeping their nation divided. The Vietnamese see Americans
as muderers. Many Africans minorities, who America hasn't helped, accuse America
of forgetting about them.
policy, whether it be motivated by money or a genuine desire to help, has now
seen Americans soundly disliked the world over. Not surprisingly, most Americans
have no desire to leave America and experience the condemnation that most countries
have for them.
Because Australia has only involved itself in foreign issues to show
support for a major power like Britain or America, it has been sparred most of
the hostility directed at Americans. (*Facilitating the independence of East Timor
from Indonesia is perhaps a minor exception. As a result of the facilitation,
many Indonesians now hate Australia. Even some East Timorese hate Australia on
the grounds that Australia didn't come soon enough, or it only did it to gain
a better deal for its resources.) Because Australia has generally lacked the power
to interfere in other country's affairs, Australians are not as disliked as Americans.
As a result, they are far more comfortable leaving Australia to travel the world.
Language of deception
A culture is reflected in
its language. The difference between American and Australian cultures is reflected
in the pronunciation of English, and the purpose English is used for. In regards
to pronunciation, Americans are more throaty. Their deep voice has an air of authority
like a sheriff, pastor or cowboy. On the other hand, Australians tend to be a little
higher pitched, almost as if they are having a joint or their testicals are being
held in a vice.
Americans are prone to
use English for persuasive purposes. This is reflected in their use of analogies
and relatively simple words that the majority of the population can understand.
Australians are more likely to use language to be funny, to deceive or to cut
down a tall poppy. These purposes are reflected in the high number of colourful
in the top paddock, mad as a gum tree full of galahs, about as useful as a ashtray
on a motor bike, is a duck's arse water tight?
It is also reflected in the high number of idioms and rhyming slang which ensures
no one can understand what an Australians are talking about. In Australia, being
clichéd is frowned upon. Even G'day mate is rejected by many parts of the
population. Even though it is a very positive greeting, because it is stereotyped
it may stifle the unpredictability that many Australians crave.
Activity 1 - Comment on what others think
Activity purpose – to determine whether myths and stereotypes can also become self-fulfilling prophecies because people may selectively search for what they want to find
Look at the comments made below. For each one you agree or agree with, find evidence in America and Australian culture to support your position.
Australians have a tendency to
be loud and obnoxious when they are beered up, which in my experience, is much
of the time. They're descendants from pockets and cut purses, and as we all know,
the acorn doesn't fall far from the tree. Michael Carey - American
a result of all this hardship, dirt, thirst, and wombats, you would expect Australians
to be a dour lot. Instead, they are genial, jolly, cheerful, and always willing
to share a kind word with a stranger, unless they are an American. Douglas
Adams - English
feels as grotesque as The Day of the Locust. Theres no sense of a high culture
anywhere, and extreme characters abound. TV ads are often leeringly sexual "These
are the only balls youll see at our health club," says an ad for a
womens workout center, focusing on some tennis balls Phillip
There is something
of the cowboy in every American, but a little bit of the sheep station in most
Australians Matthew Parris - English
They are not a nation of snobs like
the English or of extravagant boasters like the Americans or of reckless profligates
like the French, they are simply a nation of drunkards Marcus
Clark - English
The first thing
you notice about Australian culture is that its pathetically thin..... The
thinness means that modern Australia has fallen for American culture in a way
that no one else could....Mimicry is a point of pride." Philip
Weiss - American
I can personally affirm
that to stand before an audience of beaming Australians and make even the mildest
quip about a convict past is to feel the feel the air conditioning immediately
elevated. Bill Bryson - American
love an underdog. We love people who are humble, down to earth, almost embarrassed
by their own successes. We love Ian Thorpe, who is not only a decent young
man, but who can just get on with the job without all the pomp and ceremony that
Americans love to employ. We love Susie O'Neil, sweet, quiet, hard-working. Michael
Diamond - could you possibly see a more humble person than this?
don't boo Yanks because we think they are better than us. We boo yanks because
they think they are better than us. Nicole
Beatty - Australian
maintain their sense of being God's own country with a manifest destiny to lead
the world to freedom and democracy. Australia has no global ambitions, and those
related to the region are for stability and economic advancement rather than dominance" - John Langmore (Australian politician)
"I don't think of myself as either American or Australian really, I'm a true hybrid. It's a good thing for me because both of them are really good countries." - Mel Gibson (actor)
This is a true republic, the truest, as I take it, in
the world. In
average man feels he is inferior, in
that he is superior: In
Australia he feels that he is equal. " Francis Adams - minister to
Britain (1861-68) and son of American president John Quincy Adams.
" Australian settlements ... had been formed out of the crucible of British social ferment. Australian colonization followed the Industrial Revolution in Britain and reflected many of the social innovations which it had made. The development of large-scale enterprise, the deplorable conditions of work in the factories and mines, and the high tariff on the import of grain had created a class which, if it did not fundamentally repudiate the liberal philosophy, at least desired a radical transformation of the theory of liberalism in the direction of greater social and political justice."(Professor Richard Rosecrance of the University of California)
Activity 2 – Re-thinking American cultural imperialism
Activity purpose – Understanding why some Australians don’t like Americans
Some Australians get a bit worked up about American cultural imperialism. For example, they get bothered by seeing a fellow Australian using the American spelling of colour (color). It is an odd thing to get worked up about considering that irrespective of whether it is spelt colour or color, the word, from an Australian perspective, it is still foreign in origin.
Make a list of American made or designed products that you use on a daily basis (e.g, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, jeans.) Try to go for one week without using the products.
Make a list of foreign (non-American) made or designed products that you use on a daily basis (e.g, Japanese cars, Italian coffee). Try to go for a week without using the products.
Make a list of Australian made or designed products that you use on a daily basis (e.g, Home and Away, wireless internet). Try to go for a week without using the products.
Have you noticed a difference between American products and those from other countries?
Do you think it is possible to be more selective about separating the “good” American culture from the “bad”? For example, take Facebook but not an American spell check used in Facebook or take American movies but not the baseball caps worn in American movies?
Activity 3 - An American painting
Abstract expressionism is an American style of painting that evolved out of European abstraction. It has been called the Big Mac of the painting genre because it the style is accessible to most people and finds its way into hotel rooms around the world due to its non-offensive nature.
Look at Blue Poles (below) by Jackson Pollock; a painting estimated to be worth $100 million and hanging in the National Gallery of Australia. Get a canvas and try to make a painting in the same style?
It has been said that Pollock’s paintings can be done by anyone. Do you agree?
Discuss. Do you associate Blue Poles with Whitlam or the CIA?