Saturday, April 21, 2007

Aussie Circa 2007 : Cynical, Lacking In Empathy, Obsessed With Money And Property

Is This Really Australia Today? Or Just Sydney?

As is traditional, an Australian author has scored an English release for his new novel, so it's time to piss all over the homeland for the amusement of the Brits, many of whom still don't like the idea that "the worst of the worst" of England's prison ships built something close to paradise over the past two centuries in this sun-drenched land so far away.

Well, if not paradise, then something far less grim than most of England on a wet, misty winter's day, when the sun sets at 4pm, and nothing else to do but fuck, dance and drink.

The Australian author in question here is Richard Flanagan, who wrote a fairly interesting novel The Unknown Terrorist. It's one of the few novels to look at the effect of terrorism and the 'War On Terror' in Australia. But the true terror for Flanagan seems to be what he found on the streets and in the hearts of Sydneysiders when he decamped from his tree-crowded Tasmanian home to Sydney to write the novel.

Actually, Flanagan does make some valid, but troubling, points about what occupies the minds of many Sydneysiders today, and, as he explains in the quotes below, the new Australian exemplified by money-obsessed, property-focused Sydneyites, is the antithesis of the creature that once passed as the typical Aussie.

Blame John Howard? No, says Flanagan, we did it to ourselves :

"I wanted to make a mirror to what I felt Australia had become. I think it is a pretty bleak country at the moment. It was a land of such hope and possibility when I was younger, and in the past couple of years, like a lot of Australians, I've ended up feeling ashamed of what it had become. But we can't blame governments or parties or politicians; we have to accept in the end it was we as a people who happily went along with this.

"There was a loss of empathy. I don't know where that comes from. We're a migrant nation made up of people who've been torn out of other worlds, and you'd think we would have some compassion."

On laying blame :

" my country, they're blaming Howard, but that's such an absurd and easy option. There is a crisis that is not political - an epidemic of loneliness, of sadness - and we're completely unequal to dealing with it. We're obsessed these days with believing that the answer is always individual, that it lies in ourselves. This takes every form of madness from self-help manuals to step aerobics, and is always about improving yourself. But the reality is, it lies in other people and making connections with them, yet it is a world where it's ever harder to make those connections."

The limits of truth :

"In Australia....we have a whole spectrum of media commentators who consistently argue that things like national security demand that individual freedoms be truncated, and we're also constantly told there are needs and necessities of the nation that mean there are limits on the truth. But there can be no limits on the truth. If there are limits on the truth, you've opened up the road to tyranny."

On David Hicks :

"To train with al-Qaida prior to 2001 is a different thing than to go and train with them now. One can understand how people like him might end up there. You don't have to agree with them, and I don't. I have a friend who died in the Bali bombing. I don't support the murder of innocent people anywhere by anyone, but what really matters is truth and individual freedom, and when those things start coming under such heavy attack as they have in recent times, then people should be very disturbed....there is nothing higher than individual freedom."

On terrorism :

"Terrorism is simply murder. What is it we dislike? We dislike murder and the use of murder to try to impose a repressive regime. But it's murder, that's what it is. The word terrorism has been misused for so long that it clouds our understanding of what happens. After the Bali bombing, you can make a lot of criticisms of the Indonesian authorities, but they treated it as a crime and they tracked down those people. That's what it was - a crime. The Americans saw September 11 as an attack on their national honour, and it led them into a madness that the world is now paying for".

The Full Story Here is a worth a read. As is Flanagan's novel.

Philip Adams : Australia Has Become Another Country....Almost