Thursday, May 10, 2007

Identity Crisis

The MerryWidow is on the edge of her trip to Estonia. She’s of Estonian derivation but has never been there. She has a strong cultural identity. This is shared by many 1st, 2nd and ongoing generations of Australians. I may have blogged about this before but as a white, anglo-saxon, with an English heritage, I really feel this lack of connection with any ‘culture’ or nationality. We have huge Greek, Italian, Vietnamese, Indian, Lebanese communities here and many other racial minorities all of whom embrace their Australianism (with the exception of a teensy weensy Mulsim bunch who get more press than they deserve) but all of whom retain their cultural identity through national organisations, their food, their customs, religion or language. I feel like a fish out of water sometimes.

I lack pride in my heritage. I have nothing against the English at large but the thought of our only historical claims to fame being world domination and the Morris Dance bothers me. I’ve been back there a number of times as a child and an adult. I have friends there who are fabulous, fun, good sense of humour but none have this cultural ‘connection’ that people from other nations bring to their new homes.

Australians are trying desperately to develop a cultural identity. Often it revolves around an illegible ‘ocker’ accent and the use of ‘strine’ (an equivalent to Amurkin and Oirsh). So much so, that I could write a dictionary, correcting foreigners on pronunciation. Oh, I forgot, that’s already been done.

But we are so homogenised here that there are no obvious differences even in accent, despite the country being almost the size of the US and only 20 million people spread throughout. There are those from regional areas, affectionately known as “The Bush” and the coastal dwelling towns and cities but we all sound the same, except for the odd difference on vowel pronunciation or the addition of ‘aye’ at the end of country Australian’s sentences. For the most part we dress the same and we largely think the same and I can guarantee that EVERY Australian owns a pair of thongs.

So here I sit, within a country I love but not feeling part of it. With a heritage I’m not particularly proud of although I wish I could be. I don’t talk strine, I’m very well spoken even though I might ham it up on occasion. I do use Australian colloquialisms occasionally but only for effect and I like the way CRIKEY! Looks in capitals, it speaks volumes of enthusiasm thanks to that crocodile guy.

Recent research has found that in an historically short period, Australia has become one of the most diverse and successful multicultural nations in the world.
  • Australians are free spirits who are easy going, people who like to have fun and enjoy life. They do not take themselves seriously nor do they engage in “pomp and ceremony”.
    They are open-minded, optimistic, honest, decent, down to earth, and friendly.
  • We like to help others: Australians are generous of spirit and committed to helping others by giving a “hand-up”. We also support the underdog and confront the bully. It’s important to ‘be there for your mate’.
  • Respectful of other cultures: Australians are tolerant of a range of cultures, egalitarian in nature, and embrace diversity.
  • Good Workers: innovative thinkers who engaged in team work, great competitors committed to the pursuit of excellence, and hard workers who valued reward for effort.
  • Committed to “having a go” : It doesn’t matter how hard the task, we just get on with whatever we are doing. We’ve taken the best of different cultures in our country to make a very Australian mix.
  • Mateship: Australians highly value mates and establish strong friendships based on loyalty to friends. Family and mates are the most important people our lives.
  • A Fair Go For All: Australia has become the most egalitarian society the world has ever seen and Australia’s values are a product of a deep sense of social equality.
  • Love of Country : Australians shared a genuine and intimate love of their country and a see it as a land of opportunity

Australia was characterised as religious, based upon democracy, peaceful and secure, and providing both a “good life” and “education for all”. We were also found to be a nation who liked to renovate homes, loved drinking beer and loved to entertain by holding a barbeque.

No respondents considered economic, scientific or cultural endeavour as an important aspect of national identity. Significantly, this result differs from findings in other nations where contributions to economic, scientific or cultural endeavours have been identified as an important part of their national identity. Could have something to do with the fact that our best minds, scientists, cultural identities have to move overseas to get the recognition they deserve.

Then again, we did invent:

The cardboard wine cask (Goon Bag)
The Hills Clothes Hoist
The Esky and it’s child the BYO Bottle Holder
The combine harvester
The Cochlear Implant
The Wave Piercing Catamaran (ferry)
The Differential gear
The Black Box Flight Recorder
The ‘ute’ (small pick-up)
Variable Ratio Rack and Pin Steering
The Electric Drill
Kiwi Shoe Polish (ironic)
Latex Gloves and other bits
The Two-Stroke Lawn Mower
Garage Roller Doors
Polymer Bank Notes . . . .shall I go on, and on, and on?

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