January 20, 2004

KINDNESS NOTED

Australia isnít a fuming pit of ignorant racism after all, according to Indian journalist Soumya Bhattacharya:

In my few months in this country, I have - perhaps I have been more fortunate than most because of the circles I have moved in - been at the receiving end of only kindness, helpfulness and hospitality. Yes, there was one occasion when a reasonably inebriated old man in front of the members' bar at the SCG pushed me aside rather too roughly and sniggered as I steadied myself on the edge of a seat, but no sooner had he gone a step than a group of sober old men standing watching the cricket offered to trip up the bozo for me.

And that is only part of the story. A few weeks ago, in the sport pages of this newspaper, I wrote a column in which I had patronised the Australian sporting fans' patronising attitude towards the Indian cricket team. I had expected hate mail. What I got instead was more than a hundred messages - and not one of them was abusive; not one of them failed to catch the irony and the sense of introspection with which I had written the article.

Australians are, I have found, ready to laugh at themselves if they think that the joke is funny and the humour not ill-directed. And the ability to be self-deprecating is the mark of confidence; it is, as much as anything else, the yardstick by which a society measures how tolerant and self-assured it is.

This sounds close to exactly right.

Posted by Tim Blair at January 20, 2004 12:43 AM
Comments

Any way we can trade Soumya for Phil Adams?

Posted by: gaz at January 20, 2004 at 12:45 AM

This piece touches on something I also have noticed about Australians; it's why I like them, to wit, their self-confidence. They don't have all the weird complexes and feelings of inferiority that I find in Canadians, Kiwis and Frenchmen (ugh!), to mention a few. Aussies laugh at themselves; love their country but will joke about it even with a foreigner; don't mind adopting something from another country if it works; and aren't all worried (with unfortunate exceptions on the nutter left) about their culture getting wiped out by foreign trade, investment and tourists (for a contrast talk to a Canadian -- my God!) They also have a kick-ass military - no flash, no public relations, but you don't want them on the other side (again, compare with Kiwis or Canadians on that score) and as an American I am delighted to be on their side.

Posted by: Lewis at January 20, 2004 at 01:35 AM

What Lewis said. In my experience, most Americans feel this way about both the Canadians and the Australians.

Posted by: KevinV at January 20, 2004 at 01:47 AM

And it is, I think, one reason for the congeniality between Americans and Australians-- both are happy to laugh at themselves, or short of that, at the pompous twits (society, academia, wherever) who can't laugh at themselves...

Posted by: Mike G at January 20, 2004 at 02:01 AM

It's a little unfair to compare Canadians to Ozzies. Most of the none-nutters are quite a lot like average Americans, and as Soumya described them. On the other hand some Canadians apparently feel an inferiority comlex from living in such close proximity to such a big nation (and, of course, they have Quebec, which almost makes France look normal). I kind of doubt that the Ozzies would be quite so angst-ridden were Australia just off the California coast, say. They're too busy being Ozzies to worry about becoming Yanks.

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at January 20, 2004 at 02:09 AM

Lewis I can only assume that your opinion of Canada comes from the noisy minority in Toronto and southern Onatario, an area which has long suffered penis envy of the U.S. But you would find that the rest of Canada is vastly different. Mostly we are pro-American, independent and hard working. The silent majority backs the U.S. As for our army, they have long been under equipped, and largely ignored by the government. But I would still put them up against any army in the world based on the fact they do an excellent job with very little help. Finally I suggest you visit the Atlantic Provinces or out West if you think people cant laugh at themselves. We are much more like Aussies than you think.

Posted by: Mike at January 20, 2004 at 03:32 AM

Yes, Mike, I have a Newfie friend, and he tells great Newfie jokes. Plus, I learned to enjoy some Newfie music. It's those suckholes in Toronto and Montreal who get the press.

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at January 20, 2004 at 04:05 AM

I agree with much that is said about Australians and their level of confidence an lack of inferiorty complex etc etc. The only blind spot I think we have in dealing with people overseas is with the English (but don't let me get started on the bloody poms). I live in NZ and at times the kiwis do seem a bit chippy although really they have no reason to be.

Posted by: Mike at January 20, 2004 at 04:05 AM

As a suckhole from Toronto, I'd just like to say that your ignorant comments show how truly awful you all are.

I do, however, hope you will still like me.

Posted by: Dave at January 20, 2004 at 04:56 AM

In the mid '80s I spent three months in Australia hitchhiking around with a backpack and picking up work here and there. The thing I remember most was the friendly, outgoing nature and humor of most Aussies. I had lots of conversations and debate about the U.S. but seldom ran into the type of strident hostility towards American politics and culture that is so common in Europe.

European power and culture has diminished drastically since WWII and it has left many Europeans with a growing sense of anger, jealousy, and powerlessness. The Aussies, on the other hand, seem perfectly happy with their place in the world and don't feel inferior to anyone.

Posted by: Randal Robinson at January 20, 2004 at 06:06 AM

Well, we actually act as a sort of proto-US in the pacific, with New Zealand as a sort of proto-Canada.

Alot of stereotypical Canadian complaints about the US (arrogant, rich, dumb, racist, pollutin' sons of bitches) are the same views certain sections of New Zealand hold about their giant neighbour to the west.

Posted by: Quentin George at January 20, 2004 at 06:24 AM

So why do they come over and live off our dole then?

Posted by: Jake D at January 20, 2004 at 08:31 AM

;) Just kidding my sheep-loving cousins! ;)

Posted by: Jake D at January 20, 2004 at 08:32 AM

Jake D,
The Kiwis who come over here, and stay, aren't the one's who complain about Oz. And go easy on the "sheep loving cousins" - after 30 yrs in Oz I've heard every sheep joke going ;).

More seriously, I think you will find among Kiwis in NZ a much greater regard for Aust than appears in the NZ press. Of course that goodwill evaporates on the sportsfield when the fervent wish of every Kiwi is that the Aussies sould DIE. (just joking - well, half-joking).

I can't comment on the present state of the NZ army but, contrary to what Lewis implies, I think NZ can be proud of the contribution the country has made to the preservation of freedom. Like Australia, NZ's casualties in WW1 and WW2 were, taking into account the size of our populations, among the highest in the Allies. Also our 2 countries had a very high proportion of their populations in the armed forces.

Posted by: John Elliot at January 20, 2004 at 09:50 AM

Nice little illustration from Texan Wallace Craig on US-Oz relations as experienced by a fellow Midlander who visited the roughest town in Australia, Coober Pedy.
"He said he made it to CP last year....and wasn't there for 4 hours before he got into a fight at a bar [imagine that]. Said after he and the Coober Pedian beat on each for a while, they bought each other a beer."
Timely lesson there: 1) They don't have bouncers in Coober Pedy bars; and
2) It's difficult to get thrown out of an underground bar.

Posted by: slatts at January 20, 2004 at 10:56 AM

Nice little illustration from Texan Wallace Craig on US-Oz relations as experienced by a fellow Midlander who visited the roughest town in Australia, Coober Pedy.
"He said he made it to CP last year....and wasn't there for 4 hours before he got into a fight at a bar [imagine that]. Said after he and the Coober Pedian beat on each for a while, they bought each other a beer."
Timely lesson there: 1) They don't have bouncers in Coober Pedy bars; and
2) It's difficult to get thrown out of an underground bar.

Posted by: slatts at January 20, 2004 at 10:57 AM

Didn't mean to deride or make light of Kiwi and Canadian contribution to freeing the world of past bad guys. Both nations have very proud military traditions. Both nations, however, now have military establishments which have been destroyed by an extremely politically correct, almost "feminized" or Mother Teresa approach to the world. Both those militaries went from being truly "righteous dudes" to being tools for the UN and other dismal causes. The same can be said for their foreign policies over the past several years. The political elites of Canada and New Zealand have turned their countries into major Whine Producers. The Aussies, in contrast, have remained realists about our dangerous world and about what is needed to preserve their great country and the West's tradition of freedom.

Posted by: Lewis at January 20, 2004 at 01:46 PM

;-) Thanks John! Record time response that! I'm only mostly kidding, suprised you didn't refute the dole comment.

I ride with a Kiwi and for the most part he's fine, but being quicker than me loses him big points!

Look, not to be offensive but can someone tell the NZ PM to get her bloody teeth done?! I mean really! Yeeeaaachhhh!

Posted by: Jake D at January 20, 2004 at 03:12 PM

"Any way we can trade Soumya for Phil Adams?"

Shame on you, gaz. We should not be dumping our toxic waste in developing countries such as India.

Posted by: wv at January 20, 2004 at 04:46 PM

you know when I mentioned the kiwis earlier I wasnt just thinking of their attitude to the aussies...they also seem more anti-american than australians are and even greatet pom bashers..the latter being quite a change from thieir old reputation as engliand's most loyal colony.

Posted by: Mike at January 20, 2004 at 06:10 PM

So why do they come over and live off our dole then?

That little loop-hole has been fixed.
Australians and NZers still have reciprocal rights to live and work in each others' countries.
However, since 26/5/2001 NZers cannot get the dole (Newstart Allowance), or other Social Security benefits,
unless they become citizens,
OR get a permanent resident visa,
AND wait 2 years.

Posted by: Peggy Sue at January 20, 2004 at 07:33 PM

Jake D,

I am disgusted by the way you stoop to the hoary old lie that *no* sheep is safe from the amorous attentions of our Kiwi brothers.

When a country has as many sheep as New Zealand does, only the good looking ones need to be nervous.

Posted by: Bob Bunnett at January 20, 2004 at 09:36 PM

Bob, I stand corrected. Good looking sheep only, gotcha!

Posted by: Jake D at January 21, 2004 at 07:47 AM
As a suckhole from Toronto, I'd just like to say that your ignorant comments show how truly awful you all are.

I do, however, hope you will still like me.

Damn do I hate the shorthand description of Canada's problems as though they were all borne out of Toronto (and Montreal). Does that sort of passing of the buck not come off as cheap as the attitudes being bitched about?

Damn, it's so freakin' self-involved. Go out, build a business. Lets also get together and build a viable opposition to the Liberals. And stop being so goddamn defeatist about "The Man" (in Ontario) holding you back. That's what I'm busy doing instead of whining how someone in a faraway place is grinding me down.

Only difference in the whining between here and Alberta, is that hereabouts, the common "wisdom" (in scare-quotes) is that "The Man" is purported to be related to Uncle Sam. In Alberta, holey-moley, it's some anonymous MPP in Scarborough, apparently.

Truth be told, I'd be pretty embarrassed if I was feeling unduly put upon by someone as lightweight as a Toronto politician. Or does Mel Lastman project more gravitas-rays than I've been able to catch in over a decade of grimacing exposure? But hey, the whiners are painting the picture - not me.

In short, stop pissing on my home town, and I'll promise not to bring up the point that it sounds only about nine-tenths as pathetic as it really is. You love the real Canada? Yeah, I'm livin' it too in this purported "Heart of Darkness."

-Vic

Posted by: Vic at January 21, 2004 at 01:34 PM