Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thoughts of Australia on Australia Day: 'Within its beuty is its terror'

I have discovered a wealth of stories lie dormant and untold in this country. People stories.
A retreat into the city has progressed right back since settler’s times which has evolved the social fabric, dynamics of politics and infrastructure development to become largely city-ccentric. I have realised since working in the ‘bush’ or ‘outback’ as us city dwellers or suburbians adoringly refer to it as, that my knowledge growing up was ignorant of the struggles and plight of those who lived off the harsh ‘outback’ land.
And that this breakdown of connection between urban and outback is not something exclusive to only this little urban lad. In Australia, we have gradually isolated (with large distance also a determining factor) our once prosperous country towns while at the same time reaping the wealth of the crops they grow and harvest. This has also followed a shift away in Australia from the secondary industries. This was evident yesterday when one of South Australia’s largest rural employers- Kimberly Clark paper and toilet tissue manufacturers announced it would be scaling back operations in the south east, meaning over 200 jobs would be lost. They cited the current hostile manufacturing conditions as one of the causes.

The majority of city dwellers pluck the fruit and vegetables from their supermarket shelves but are oblivious to the intricate art of cultivating and the process, which brought it there. However, they will feel it now as food prices in Australia are set to skyrocket with recent floods devastating farmers.

I arrived in this country at the end of what was another of it’s devastating droughts. I am lucky to be in a part of Australia that has not been drowned by floods over the last few months.
There is forever a constant cycle that is merciless in this country- it starves, it dies, it is reborn and flourishes into the most beautiful landscape you could ever witness. How I wish I could summon the adequate skills to describe to you through word how serene and majestic a sunset is across the flats of this land. From history we can conclude that the years of flooding rains are short and will be proceeded by long and relentless years of drought. From what I am told the last drought was as soul diminishing as that of the Federation drought (the worst Australia has known since settlement). Farmers told me of when they were forced to clear paddocks of malnourished, starved sheep in droves that lied dead in their paddocks. Imagine the feeling that, that farmer had when he looked on as this happened, knowing there was nothing he could do. Compare this to the feeling that would have came as the first drops of rains fell early this year. Amazing. Now consider this when farmers realised in some regions that those drops of rain would be as relentless as the drought. This unique volality in the character of this continent is best summed up by a line from poet Dorothea Mackellar- within its beuty is its terror.

80 percent of my country is rural yet over 90 percent of the population live in our capital cities. The stereotype iconic Australian that seems to have made it a popular kid on the world stage- with the Akubra hat, Crocodile Dundee harshness, the relaxed, easy going disposition- has been given to the country by those who live off the land- Those who live in the undesirable pockets of Australia whose very existence is validated by the fact that the town has a football club, a school, a petrol station and a pub. This breed of Australians are dying off along with the endearing genuine attitude and psyche that has made this country so loved around the world. Australia is maturing from this innocence and what I see emerging?- an over regulated, highly cynical, alarmingly patriotic, xenophobic, what-does-secular-mean?, populist driven democracy. The scariest part of all is that those shaping its future have no vision.

It is constantly said that Australia is faced with an identity crisis. In a multicultural, religiously secular society that looks to expand by unprecedented proportions this crisis will only become more difficult and they will only be left, I believe, with a shallow identity left over from an outdated marketing campaign. We need to reinvent ourselves. One requires identity to stand for a vision.

Although this is an issue that the broader world will face, it is one that will confuse Australia the most. When an individual becomes lost or experiences tragedy there is a tendency to subconsciously or consciously revert back to their childhood. Europe and the Americas have a childhood. Australia is a pubescent teenager who is determined to suppress its childhood, which involved one of the most brutal cullings of a culture and people in the history of humanity. Indigenous Australians walk around as black ghosts of this country, floating in a space between a mutation of European/American culture full of addictions, greed and freedoms conveniently available at your local supermarket, while they grieve for their culture that, I believe, is dying a slow and painful death. What has resulted is a welfare culture that has perpetuated over the years upon the foundations of bitterness towards Anglo-Saxon Australia, a sense that they are owed and of addictions that they cannot understand.
This government, more than any other is attempting to address these issues- especially the third world record of indigenous Australians- yet it is in the common Australian person that you will find the resentment for Indigenous Australians.

You may have found I have been quite cynical in my observations and I do not deny it. However, if the truth be known there is no where in the world I feel more at home than under the leaves of a gum tree.

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