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Australian Exceptionalism
December 8, 2011 8:06 AM   Subscribe

Australian Exceptionalism "Let that phrase roll off your tongue... now stop laughing if you can."

We’ll often laugh at the cognitive dissonance displayed by our American cousins when they start banging on about American Exceptionalism – waxing lyrical about the assumed ascendency of their national exploits while they’re forced to take out a second mortgage to pay for a run of the mill medical procedure. That talk of exceptionalism has become little more than an exceptional disregard for the truth of their own comparative circumstances.

But in truth, we both share that common ignorance – we share a common state of denial about the hard realities of our own accomplishments compared to those of the rest of the world. While the Americans so often manifest it as a belief that they and they alone are the global benchmark for all human achievement, we simply refuse to acknowledge our own affluence and privilege – denialists of own hard won triumphs, often hysterically so.
posted by modernnomad (61 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
[Disclaimer -- I am neither Australian or American]
posted by modernnomad at 8:06 AM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seems somewhat at odds with "The Lucky Country" theme...
posted by Mad_Carew at 8:15 AM on December 8, 2011


Yay, Possum!

Possum Comitatus is an Oz political wonk- shades of an Antipodean Nate Silver. He's currently writing a blog for Crikey, one of the more interesting independent media sources in Australia.
posted by zamboni at 8:31 AM on December 8, 2011


I've said for years that every Australian I've ever met has left me with the distinct impression that the first thing they do when they wake up in the morning is thank God they're Australian, because all those other poor bastards aren't.
posted by deadmessenger at 8:37 AM on December 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


They gave us The Saints, The Apartments, The Go-betweens and The Triffids... to name a few. Australians should be very, very proud.
posted by elmono at 9:11 AM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I miss it. I miss it every day.

I'm sure my friends and adopted family are getting tired of me pointing out things that are fucking retarded about America.

I sometimes have to pull out my passport or the Australian money I carry with my everywhere just to look at something familiar. It's not until you're somewhere foreign that you treasure all these symbols you've taken for granted over the years. Even simple, procedural things like the coat of arms.

Seems somewhat at odds with "The Lucky Country" theme...

No. It's perfectly on point. When we call Australia "The Lucky Country" it's because the reason we're positioned where we are in the world isn't because we work any harder or are intrinsically smarter than any other country. It's because we were blessed with some form of luck and we should be thankful that we are where we are. It fits perfectly with egalitarian nature of Australian society.

Advance Australia Fair.
posted by Talez at 9:38 AM on December 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Very interesting stuff. Oh would that we Americans were able to consider such examples without suffering extreme insecurity at the idea of taking our cues from others.
posted by Edgewise at 10:46 AM on December 8, 2011


The first rule of Australian Exceptionalism is: you do not talk about Australian Exceptionalism.
posted by vidur at 11:10 AM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


As an Australian-American, I believe this is my moment to tell you all how much I pity everyone who isn't as exceptional as I am.
posted by COBRA! at 11:14 AM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm Australian. We do feel something of a mediocrity complex (I wouldn't say "inferiority", we're all very thankful that we're not American and therefore don't have to listen to hysterical right wingers crying about "taking their country back" from "radical socialists" whose most contentious policy involved trying to make the US medical system just a little bit more like the one we here in Australia enjoy.)

The article might read a little differently to Australian eyes than it would elsewhere. Some of the things I picked up on include all the whining one often hears from people who consider themselves "battlers", struggling to make ends meet, because they are having very little money left over each month after paying for all the expensive crap they've bought themselves.

Here in Australia, one of the core messages which all politicians broadcast at all times is that they understand the desperate plight of middle Australia, who are "doing it tough". They want to project an image as being sensitive to the fact that life for most Australians is a desperate struggle. This kind of talk has become so ingrained that many Australians actually believe that, indeed, life is a desperate struggle.

They believe this even when they're in very well paying jobs and have plenty of discretionary income which they use to purchase all the cheap TVs and stuff which fill our retail stores with bargains thanks to the very strong Australian dollar.

The article seems to be addressing that particular delusion. Despite all the self-pity, we are, in fact, one of the wealthiest countries on Earth, with stable housing and capital markets, an extremely low unemployment rate, relatively low income inequality compared to many countries, a reasonably sensible tax system, balanced budgets and low government debt.

Yet we believe all that crap about how hard it is.

I've always rejected that line of reasoning. I'm a financial planner and see it every day. People earn a lot, but they spend a lot. Then they hear some politician essentially go on TV and tell them that they understand how much hardship people are facing and internalise that.

Sure, we have some degree of poverty just like any country. People still find ways to go broke due to bad business, investment, personal and career decisions. But for the most part Australia's middle class are fabulously wealthy compared to most countries, including America.
posted by Mokusatsu at 11:35 AM on December 8, 2011 [13 favorites]


I'm not sure what he's talking about. Every day I see many examples in Australia of manifest density.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:38 AM on December 8, 2011


Sometimes I think Australia is what America could have been, should have been, if huge mufti-nationals and a handful of oligarchs hadn't drained it's wealth and sapped it's spirit.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 11:39 AM on December 8, 2011


Sometimes I think Australia is what America could have been, should have been, if huge mufti-nationals and a handful of oligarchs hadn't drained it's wealth and sapped it's spirit.

In the grand sweep of human culture and history, contemporary America and contemporary Australia are pretty damn similar. I mean any person who can function happily in American society could function happily in Austalian and vice versa. In fact there's probably more cultural variety within America than there is between the Australian average and the American average. I would imagine that your typical, say, Los Angeleno would feel more culture shock moving to the rural American South than they would moving to Sydney or Melbourne. When people talk about what they miss from Australia or the US on moving they're almost always pretty trivial things (leaving aside family/landscape etc.): vegemite, Tim Tams, cricket, league etc.
posted by yoink at 11:57 AM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


etc: almost total absence of religious nutbags.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:13 PM on December 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm extremely tempted to print these charts out and take them to Christmas dinner.
posted by PercyByssheShelley at 12:15 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


etc: almost total absence of religious nutbags.

Watching the unedifying debate over gay marriage currently going on in Australia doesn't give me the impression that you've quite managed to crush that particular demon.
posted by yoink at 12:28 PM on December 8, 2011


Read this last night and it made some excellent points. My only concerns regard the issues of private debt and housing costs. The graph that shows the average Australian's wealth is in the $200,000 - $300,000 range - I guess this includes their house? Does it include their house if it cost $500,000 and they've still for $470,000 owing on it? Seems like a slightly suspicious figure.

Watching the unedifying debate over gay marriage currently going on in Australia doesn't give me the impression that you've quite managed to crush that particular demon.

We don't have billboards / tv ads / entire tv news networks broadcasting completely homophobic bullshit, for one.
posted by Jimbob at 12:34 PM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also homophobia isn't purely a religious issue. Still, we have gay civil partnerships in at least a few of the seven or eight state & territory jurisdictions, and the currently ruling Labor party just voted in favour of allowing a conscience vote in Federal Parliament on gay marriage, so that's a big step.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:38 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


(What I was thinking of more specifically is that there isn't, as far as I know, any traction for the idea of writing creationism into school textbooks. More generally, "because Jebus said so" isn't an argument you hear very often in public debate; whatever nutjobs might exist aren't very organised or taken seriously as a voting bloc that strongly needs to be appeased)
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:46 PM on December 8, 2011


We have religious nutbags as well, they just don't hold much political power, or if they are in power, they don't talk about it too much.

When intelligent design was a huge thing in the US, before it largely imploded after the Dover case, we had a little bit of talk about whether it should be added to school curricula, but nothing much came of it. Academic curricula are not set by popularly elected school boards so there is little possibility of some religious group taking over a local school board and voting to put their religious ideas into the curriculum.

We have some religious politicians, but if any of them are young Earth creationists they're not speaking openly about it. If any were to come right out and claim the kind of things which are apparently compulsory for any Republican presidential candidate to claim these days, he'd be laughed off the stage.

We don't have the death penalty and few here seriously call for it. Every now and then a particularly vicious child murder or something prompts people to remark that we wish we had the death penalty, but nothing comes of that.

Our gun lobby is a meek shadow of the US one and it consists mostly of farmers and target shooters looking after their own interests, not gun nuts arguing that a minigun is an appropriate and indeed necessary tool for home protection and that attempts to regulate access to military grade rapid-firing high capacity heavy weaponry are a breach of their fundamental rights.

We have a debate going on at the moment about gay marriage, but it is overwhelmingly supported by the public. It's less well supported by politicians themselves, putting them out of touch with mainstream public opinion on the issue.

What has come up a bit lately is climate denialism. I'm not sure what percent of the population are denialists or so-called "skeptics", but the government recently introduced a carbon tax as a prelude to a trading system and the opposition, who are historically the (slightly more) conservative party have set themselves up as opponents to it, vowing to repeal the tax while disseminating scary propaganda about how it will hurt the economy and of course further impoverish all the middle class "battlers".

There is also a rather redneck flavour to the immigration debate, at least when it comes to "boat people" who arrive via leaky vessels from Indonesia, carrying refugees from various parts of the world including the middle east and Africa. The number of people that actually arrive that way are fairly negligible (maybe 1,000 a year, at most) and yet the press (Rupert Murdoch's, of course!) whip up something of a redneck frenzy over it every time another dozen miserable souls beach themselves on some remote northern coastline and politicians vow to "stop the boats", spending such vast sums shipping them back overseas to offshore detention centers, that costs per asylum seeker run into the millions.

So we have a certain amount of crazyness, I don't feel TOO smug compared to Americans.

But certainly no party in Australian politics is as off-the-wall batshit crazy as what we've seen of the US Republicans lately!
posted by Mokusatsu at 12:50 PM on December 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


There are similarities between the US and Australia but I always think of an Australian as a Canadian that has been left out in the sun too long. Both countries share similar histories, similar political structures, and low overall population densities because of large swathes of uninhabited, resource-rich wilderness.

In that light, the article credits government policy for recent prosperity, but do high commodity prices factor into it too?
posted by cardboard at 12:59 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't miss it. I don't miss it any day. Whenever I have to pull out my passport or the dregs of Australian money from the last time I visited, I am filled with an almost existential dread. I can't tell if I'm afraid of flying, or afraid of going back there. It wasn't until I got somewhere foreign that I ever felt truly at home.

When we call Australia "The Lucky Country" it's because the reason we're positioned where we are in the world isn't because we work any harder or are intrinsically smarter than any other country. It's because we were blessed with some form of luck and we should be thankful that we are where we are.

Well... not really. Donald Horne (the coiner of the phrase) intended it as a criticism of Australian society, not a feel-good pick-me-up:
Australia is a lucky country, run by second-rate people who share its luck.
That is, his point wasn't "We should be thankful for all this!", it was "We should be ashamed that even given our various national advantages, this nation is the best we can do."

(No offence, Talez, I don't mean to pick on you specifically or dismiss your experiences or anything, just doing the point-counterpoint thing.)
posted by No-sword at 1:32 PM on December 8, 2011


In that light, the article credits government policy for recent prosperity, but do high commodity prices factor into it too?

Yeah. I have heard the global economy summed up as "Australia sells shit to China which sells it to America"

Government policy has some influence one way of another, but my impression is very much that Australia's wealth comes from selling natural resources. Finite ones at that.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:59 PM on December 8, 2011


Sydney is now, apparently, a more expensive place to live than New York. Property prices were around three times median annual earnings between the 50s and the 80s but have recently shot up to something like eight times that.
posted by moorooka at 2:05 PM on December 8, 2011


my impression is very much that Australia's wealth comes from selling natural resources. Finite ones at that.

"WELLBEING has risen even more quickly than gross domestic product, thanks to the boom in Australia's commodity export prices and big improvements in the combined knowledge of its people, according to five years of historical data from the Herald/Lateral Economics Index of Australia's Wellbeing released today [...]

While GDP grew 15 per cent from mid-2005 to mid-2010, wellbeing increased at more than double that rate [...]

The lead author of the [wellbeing] index and the chief executive of Lateral Economics, Nicholas Gruen, said the biggest surprise from the index so far was a large rise in the value of Australia's ''human capital'' - the knowhow of its people. ''It turns out the big story is we were getting a huge investment in our future wellbeing - on a scale which is not dissimilar to the mining boom - brought about by the fact that you're getting some increases in school retention rates and in tertiary qualifications.''

A World Bank report this year estimated the total value of Australia's wealth at $16 trillion, of which $12 trillion was ''intangible'' - or human - capital."
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:34 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know a butcher, a man in his seventies who came to Australian fifteen years ago, who owns a business that exports Australian meat to the US, predominantly. He came here from Austria. One day he said to me: 'There's great food in Austria, but only the rich can afford it. Life is better in Australia. In Australia the dogs eat better than the people do in Austria.'

That seems as good a metric for quality of life as anything.
posted by chrisgregory at 2:36 PM on December 8, 2011


Re: Donald Horne

the original intent with the Lucky Country line is now pretty well irrelevant in a cultural sense. You're right in a literary-historic sense but not by current usage or understanding.
posted by peacay at 2:45 PM on December 8, 2011


we have gay civil partnerships in at least a few of the seven or eight state & territory jurisdictions

Correction: I thought that either Western Australia or the Northern Territory were on board, but it turns out it's only 2 states or territories, with "domestic partner registries" in 3 others, but note also the first sentence here:

In all states and territories, cohabiting same-sex couples are recognised as de facto couples, and have the same rights as cohabiting heterosexual couples under state law. Furthermore, same-sex couples have access to domestic partnership registries in New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria. Civil partnerships are performed in the Australian Capital Territory. On 30 November 2011 the Queensland State Parliament successfully passed the Civil Partnerships Act 2011 which allows for same sex couples who are Queensland residents to enter into a civil partnership.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:46 PM on December 8, 2011


I *knew* there was a Federal equivalent, too, which Rudd snuck in before xmas one year when people were too busy battling the shopping malls to pay any attention:

Since December 2008, cohabitating ("de facto") same-sex couples have access to the same federal rights that cohabitating opposite-sex couples have. In more than 100 areas of law, "de facto partner" is now defined to include both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. The rights extended to same-sex couples include, among others: joint social security and veterans' entitlements, employment entitlements, superannuation, workers' compensation, joint access to the Medicare Safety Net, hospital visitation, immigration, inheritance rights, and the ability to file a joint tax return and gain the same tax rebates as married couples.

The reforms were chiefly adopted through two Acts of Parliament introduced by the Rudd Labor Government: the Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws—Superannuation) Act 2008 which received assent on 4 December 2008 and the Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws—General Law Reform) Act 2008 which received assent on 9 December 2008.

posted by UbuRoivas at 2:51 PM on December 8, 2011


That was a fascinating read. I know we've been fortunate over the last few years compared to other places, but not quite to that extent.

Gay marriage is on its way too. If I could never hear the phrase 'stop the boats' again I'd be a very happy fellow.
posted by twirlypen at 3:30 PM on December 8, 2011


I've just returned from Australia, for the first time in five years. I was shocked at how expensive basic consumer goods are. Absolutely ridiculous prices in the supermarket. When I first moved to London prices were the same, dollar for pound when the GPB was three times the $AU, now Australian prices are twice as much and the GBP is $AU1.6. So things now cost twice as much in Australia as they do in the UK, yet wages haven't risen to the same extent - I make a third again of the wage I would make in Australia in London.

My mother said it's easy to hide being poor in Australia, if you're not working in the mines, and based on my recent trip I think that's the case.
posted by goo at 4:31 PM on December 8, 2011


My mother said it's easy to hide being poor in Australia

Note the graph showing real minimum wage rates, in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP) - OECD data.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:05 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks ubu - that's a great graph for minimum wage, not so great for people earning above minimum wage who still have the super high consumer prices plus no benefits (because they're all means-tested).
posted by goo at 5:25 PM on December 8, 2011


I'm working with a bunch of Americans (in Melbourne) at the moment. They are finding it phenomenally expensive here, which doesn't surprise me much. Last night we got talking about wage rates: yes our minimum wage is somewhere around double that of the US, but so are our real wages. Labourers here earn an amount they couldn't believe.

I would like to work overseas again at some point and I've looked at actual wages for what I do in a few places. Australia comes out a long way ahead compared to most places.

So yeah: high prices, high wages - that's Aus. It makes buying from the rest of the planet pretty cheap.

Doing it hard in Aus? For most people? Bullshit.
posted by deadwax at 6:05 PM on December 8, 2011


Absolutely ridiculous prices in the supermarket.

As far as I can tell, Aussie pricing is a result of most of the Australian economy being a series of oligopolies and oligopsonies working together to carefully avoid price-based competition (there are a few industries which are exceptions). The market power of Australian companies is huge compared to those in the US: Woolworths and Coles together control upwards of 80 per cent of the supermarket trade, Telstra and Optus control more than 80 per cent of the telecommunications market. Four banks, one and a half airlines, two logistics companies, two high-town retailers, three electronics retailers.

Fortunately, most people work for one of these oligop-entities or for a government, and so the carefully structured non-competition works. It's just very embarrassing when an Aussie company attempts an overseas adventure and gets eaten alive, or does something like myFind (still selling just one cooking appliance!).

When someone rocks the boat and tries to price things in a competitive way, or when outside forces threaten to dismantle the non-competition structure, that's when we get amusing parliamentary inquiries determined to find ways to reinstate protectionism without naming it as such, or Gerry Harvey hyperventilating on national TV. It will be interesting to see how long this arrangement can continue in to the future, and what happens when it breaks down.

earning above minimum wage who still have the super high consumer prices plus no benefits (because they're all means-tested)

A full time minimum wage job earns a bit less than $31k a year. There are plenty of benefits you will receive no matter how much you earn - Medicare, Private Health Insurance rebate and Child Care rebate if you have children. There are some that benefit you more the more wealth you have such as superannuation concessions or negative gearing on investment properties. If you have one child, you can claim Family Tax Benefit Part A up to earning as a farming $100k pre-tax a year, and with it the Education Tax Refund and Medicare Teen Dental, and probably most of FTB-B too.

it's easy to hide being poor in Australia, if you're not working in the mines

I don't understand - could you explain this further, please?
posted by kithrater at 6:13 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


This handy graph of 2009 IMF figures shows that Australia & the UK are in the same bracket for Purchasing Power Parity (in this case based on per capita GDP).

If you zoom in, depending on whether you use IMF, World Bank or CIA figures:

- Australia ranges from 10th - 13th in the world, at approx US$40K PPP
- the UK ranges from 20th - 27th, at approx US$35K PPP

That's only using per capita figures, though. Income distribution might skew that somewhat, for example, causing things like an underclass of people to go rioting & looting for weeks on end.

Let's see...if we look at the very recent OECD report on income inequality, there's this tidbit: "Income inequality among working-age persons has risen faster in the United Kingdom than in any other OECD country since 1975." The UK's Gini Coefficient of Income Inequality (higher = more inequality) is about 0.345, whereas Australia's is lower at just above 0.32. For comparison, the US is around 0.37.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:14 PM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Interesting, though unrelated, anecdote: When I toured Freemantle Prison last year the guide told the story of the convicts that built the prison - their own prison. They would essentially be set free in the morning to go work and return at night to be locked up by the authorities.

I could not think of a better metaphor for the overall Australian psyche - we think of ourselves as larrikins and rebels, but at the end of the day the majority of us are conservative and conformist in nature and will always happily return to "the prison" at night.
posted by smithsmith at 6:26 PM on December 8, 2011


Goo, that's an interesting anecdote but that doesn't jibe with the reality outlined here, which shows how over your five year time span, the majority of costs have either gone down, or stayed the same. Indeed, out of all costs, the only one that's risen more than 5% is Housing costs.

Kithrater, I know it's super popular to bash coles and woolies, and yet if you like at their annual reports going back several years, you'll see annual profit is around 5% for a long time, I think - not really robber baron territory. There are for more banks than grocery chains on the other hand, and I can't remember the last time one of them posted something like 5% profit...

I do agree with you more broadly about protectionist throw-backs and lack of market diversity, however. Let the record reflect, it's not just Aussie companies, though: multinationals are more than happy to stiff Australians and Australian distributors (e.g. iTunes prices here and OS).

Interesting piece by poss, while I think it functions well as a kind of cri de couer against "gusty battler" syndrome and the preponderance of middle class welfare, I think it elides a more nuanced view, both of our public discourses, the role of the media etc, and what it really means to be a "loser" in Australia. I question whether the majority feeling hard-done-by is at all exclusive to Australia, or a new thing at all.
posted by smoke at 6:41 PM on December 8, 2011


They would essentially be set free in the morning to go work and return at night to be locked up by the authorities.

Where were they locked up, if the prison hadn't been built yet?
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:44 PM on December 8, 2011


Apologies, I can see how that was confusing. They built their own prison. Subsequently [after the prison was built] they would be released to work in the town of Freemantle and then return to prison at night.
posted by smithsmith at 6:47 PM on December 8, 2011


Well, Freo's a nice place. I can understand their point of view.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:49 PM on December 8, 2011


not really robber baron territory

I'm not suggesting robber-baron type behaviour, or at least, not individual-robber-baron behaviour. Woolies and Coles screw me on the price of milk, but the union screws them in the wages they have to pay the workers, who in turn get screwed by the prices Telstra charges them for their phone service, and so on. It's a gentlemanly agreement that everyone's going to get screwed just enough so that no one really has to engage in competition for their profit.

As for the iTunes case, yes, it's interesting to see how international companies react: some hike their prices to get their seat at the table of gentlemanly-mutual-screwing, some offer competition.
posted by kithrater at 6:51 PM on December 8, 2011


I question whether the majority feeling hard-done-by is at all exclusive to Australia, or a new thing at all.

Indeed. It is neither exclusive to Australia, nor a new thing. I have witnessed similar feelings being expressed by financially well-off folks in India and Russia. The difference is that such well-off folks do not comprise a majority in India/Russia. As a result, these feelings form a much larger part of public discourse in Australia than over there.
posted by vidur at 7:06 PM on December 8, 2011


Living in Australia all my life, I guess I'm used to the rip-offs. Where I really noticed it happening, though, were the years I lived in Darwin, where the whole economy is based on overpaid government workers, the defense force, and people paid huge amounts of money to move up there for a few years to service them all. A friend moved up there with her husband while we were living there - he was a junior manager at Westpac, if I recall. They paid him much much more than he got paid back in Adelaide to move there, and they threw in his stunning house at Sandy Bay for free. Meanwhile, for those of us not lucky enough to be in the defence force / Commonwealth government / mining / banking industries...well, the retail and housing prices were tuned to them, and it was bitterly painful. We quit and headed for Hobart once the lease was up on our run-down pool-less post-cyclone house at Wulagi, and they wanted $460 a week for us to continue to stay there.

4 years later, we're still struggling to pay off the debt we accrued just trying to survive in Darwin. Of course, to be fair, we still had things better off than the blackfellas living in the long grass...

Oh shit I've turned this into another whingy middle-class Australian bitch session. Sorry. I'll try not to be so much of a battler in future.
posted by Jimbob at 7:19 PM on December 8, 2011


Not Sandy Bay...that's in Hobart. Fannie Bay. Same kinda vibe, though. Full of people doing it too tough for the Government to dare suggesting means-testing the private health insurance rebate...
posted by Jimbob at 7:24 PM on December 8, 2011


No-sword, I think I might recognise you.
posted by Wantok at 7:26 PM on December 8, 2011


What I really hate is Sandy Fannie Bay, that place is the worst. So hard to get out.
posted by smoke at 7:31 PM on December 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Thinking about Poss's post a bit more, I felt there was a gaping hole left in his post, namely: politics. Not the politics of parties, but more broad definition of politics which is to say power relations between groups. He fails to address *why* so many Australians feel hard done by, and *how* those feelings are transferred into actions, preferences etc. I can't help but feel in the end that his post is written and reflects his professional biases (economist); and I think a more, dare I say, sociological analysis would be richer than a simple complaint that Australians are in the main selfish, deluded and aggrieved.

I'm sure he would argue that this is the only kind of response the nonsense we see from special interest groups - who have successfully co-opted this mentality - and the general public dignifies, but doing so I think buys into the simple binaries that contribute to the "problem".

The other danger of his post is that his posits his *own* position as in the main apolitical. Such an anemic version of political life is truly depressing to me; his position is inherently political and there should be little supra-political legitimacy to be gained from pointing to a host of figures etc. Certainly, it's better than *no* facts - as Abbott daily demonstrates - but facts are not above politics; they are part of it.
posted by smoke at 9:26 PM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Honestly, Wantok, was it necessary to insult me just for not wanting to live in Australia? This is MetaFilter, not the YouTube comments section. If you want to engage with what I say, at least grant me the courtesy of assuming that I'm a human being, just like you, and not a grotesque caricature.
posted by No-sword at 10:38 PM on December 8, 2011


Honestly, No-sword, was it necessary to barge into a thread about Australian perceptions and drop a turd about how you hate the place and are terrified of coming back because you're scared of your passport or the money or something?
posted by coriolisdave at 10:53 PM on December 8, 2011


Well, coriolisdave, in retrospect I regret making that post and while we're derailing I may as well apologize for it. I reacted poorly to Talez's post and wanted to provide another perspective, which really wasn't necessary. But given that I went out of my way to indicate that I wasn't attacking him personally, I think it's pretty poor form to react by attacking me personally rather than, for example, just telling me to shut up and stop threadshitting (which would have been a fair cop).
posted by No-sword at 11:13 PM on December 8, 2011


coriolisdave, No-sword's allowed to have and voice their opinion. I'd rather hear the harsh summations than have them hidden out of some perverse belief that they shouldn't be expressed for fear of hurting feelings or because of trumped up "respect" or the polysuch. Disagree with them by all means but let's allow them to be aired.
posted by peacay at 11:20 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Aside from that, Lovecraft in Brooklyn is taking an extended smoko, so we need somebody to stir the shit a bit.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:22 PM on December 8, 2011


Also, it's such a stock-standard response to any article that compares Australia with the rest of the world, that it would feel wrong having a thread without an expat showing up to say how much they hate the place.

Every single time there's a story in the Age or the Sydney Morning Herald with the latest international ranking of whatever, guaranteed there'll be somebody awake at their computer in the middle of the night on the other side of the world, eagerly scanning the Australian news sites for an opportunity to say how glad they are to be elsewhere, how the football & beer are much superior, taxes lower, how there's more culture than an ocean of Yakult, and so many lucrative opportunities for whatever nichey niche of science or engineering they happened to study.

By nature, it's obviously a selection-biased viewpoint: since nobody in a developed country actually needs to emigrate out of necessity, expats are by definition people who (for one reason or another) have chosen that route for themselves, meaning that - again by definition - their preference for their expat home of choice must be greater than their desire to live in Australia.

Since their point of view is therefore known before they even open their mouths, there should be a convenient shorthand for it - say "we are not keen ever (to) repatriate soon" - or some suitable acronym.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:43 PM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


In a funny coincidence, Joe in Australia posted this in another thread a few days ago:
In a funny coincidence, the BBC has been running a series on British people giving up on life in Australia, with some former migrants engaging in healthy self criticism. Apparently Australia is "harder and very consumption-oriented while people are more tense and noticeably less optimistic. There is also a wider social divide ...
posted by Jimbob at 1:24 AM on December 9, 2011


meaning that - again by definition - their preference for their expat home of choice must be greater than their desire to live in Australia.

That's too broad. A lot of people feel forced to move for career reasons, despite preferring to stay. I don't know that that really counts as preferring the expat home.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:30 AM on December 9, 2011


Yeah, they're the ones who say Australia's a total engineering or scientific backwater: "I did a PhD in phytoplasmophotovoltaic spectometry & the Swiss are willing to pay me bucketloads but I couldn't even get a job in Australia!" - that's why I said "for one reason or another"; career opportunities being one amongst many possible factors. Ultimately, people with mobility choose to live where they feel their circumstances are best.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:45 AM on December 9, 2011


Yet we believe all that crap about how hard it is.

Thanks for that perspective. It helps me make some sense out of a few of my Australian online acquaintances, who I simply assumed were crazy.

(But then I think about Rick Perry, and how not only is he running for President but the people of Texas actually elected him Governor, and I think maybe Australians are not the crazy ones.)
posted by Foosnark at 8:11 AM on December 9, 2011


Australian Whinger of the Year. Nominations now open.
posted by Wolof at 6:33 PM on December 9, 2011


Talez: "...I'm sure my friends and adopted family are getting tired of me pointing out things that are fucking retarded about America... When we call Australia "The Lucky Country" it's because the reason we're positioned where we are in the world isn't because we work any harder or are intrinsically smarter than any other country. It's because we were blessed with some form of luck and we should be thankful that we are where we are. It fits perfectly with egalitarian nature of Australian society."

Please don't use the word "retarded" as an insult. It isn't egalitarian.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:47 PM on December 10, 2011


I certainly don't whinge about Australia (well, except for whingeing about Brisbane's humidity, but that's just evil), and I would happily live there again should circumstances move that way. My comment about the prices was precipitated by paying $23 (£14) for a tin of baby formula, where here I pay £7. Paying $9.50 (£6.10) for breakfast at McDonalds, where here I pay £3. Paying $7 for a bus ticket into town, where here I pay £1.20. Perhaps these prices are compensated for by cheaper prices in utilities and housing etc, things I wouldn't know now as a visitor, but I was shocked as it used to be the other way.
posted by goo at 5:25 PM on December 23, 2011


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