Thursday, May 16, 2013

Why Australia is America twenty years ago with a tan and an accent

I'm not sure how my Australian friends will take this post or my American friends for that matter.  But in the short time I've been here I feel a connection and honestly feel the need to try and help.  Not that me writing a post will do much but here I am writing it anyway.

You see I've noticed a pattern lately.  I made an off-hand remark the other day to my husband. Something made me laugh and say, "Ha, it's like Australia is America twenty years ago."  We both stopped and looked at each other.  Yeah, that's exactly like what it is. And then we moved on because seriously it wasn't that dramatic of a moment as I'm making it.

But that got me thinking and noticing.  Americans, do you remember what it was like in early 1990? Bill Clinton was campaigning to be President. The Iraqis had yet to invade Kuwait (that happens in August of that year).  The country was trying to pull out of a recession highlighted by the Black Monday stock market crash in 1987.  Rich people were rich but it still felt like there was a middle class. There was little to no fear of "terrorism".  The first real liability case that I can vividly remember happens in 1994 when a lady sued McDonald's because her coffee was too hot.  She won and our new litigious society emerges leaving us with warnings and disclaimers on everything from milk to diapers. Things always seem worse when you are going through them but looking back if you asked the average American their feelings on the 90's I think they would take them back in a heartbeat.

Flash forward to 2013 in Australia.  The current market is buoyed by a surplus of natural resources like iron ore and gold so it's a good time for rich people making more money.  People are moving in from everywhere and things seem really "good".  They have no real issues about safety and have never had an attack that can be labeled as terrorist on their shores.  The Americans know how your views on safety can change with just a couple of planes and bad guys that don't care if they die for their cause.  And yet, Australia is about to vote out the current labor party government and move in a more conservation direction.  I can't help comparing Tony Abbott to George W. Bush; big ears and all.

Australia has so many people wanting to get here that they are now having to seriously think about changing immigration and border policies.  People are dying every week on boats fleeing from oppression and heartache.  They long for the freedom of Australia. Sound familiar?

Then I hear about an Adelaide woman who is suing McDonald's over, you guessed it, her coffee.  It seems like they didn't put the lid on firmly so it spilled on her lap going through the drive-thru.  Does this suck?  Yes.  Really bad.  What a slippery slope Australia now finds itself on.  Up to this point they have embodied their "fair go" attitude and everyone is responsible for themselves. They have dismissed frivolous lawsuits for exactly what they are, frivolous.  I love it.  I don't find myself being warned about anything because, well, you should know better.  If people start winning lawsuits, and more importantly, people see other people getting money through lawsuits, look out!

But it's not just lawsuits and government, it's culture.  More Australians are becoming overweight.  Reality shows are dominating TV.  Australians with one breath dismiss American culture and with the next deeply inhale and soak it in.  I can't quite put a finger on it but Australia still has a sense of innocence.  This creeps into everything you do and is something that you don't really notice until you take a step back.  Australia can still make fun of themselves and have fun doing it.

America has become serious. Too serious in my opinion.  Everything is politically correct and you can't say what you really feel without offending somebody.  We need to just get over it already.  Humble ourselves and realize that we need to pull up the sleeves and just get to it.  Stop blaming and start doing something.

Below is a video of the beginning scene in Newsroom.  It features one of my favorite writers, Aaron Sorkin, and sums up my thoughts succinctly.  Please be aware that the video clip contains strong language.  I do not encourage the use of vulgar language but as we learned from Boston Red Sox player David Ortiz recently, never underestimate the power of a well placed "f" word.  Hang in there with the clip.  It gets really good about halfway through!

I really feel like America has reached a point where parents should no longer be striving to create a world where their kids have a life better than them but instead, a life equally great as theirs. It's alright for you to acknowledge that things are pretty good.  It's called gratitude.  We need to be teaching our kids that they may not be the greatest, smartest, most wonderful person in the world but they are that and more in YOUR world.  And they can make a difference in the lives of others and this is way more important than getting a trophy for only participating in something.  It is okay to lose.  You learn more when you lose anyway.  That doesn't mean that you don't keep striving to win.  It actually makes it better when you do win.

For the bulk of its citizens, the "American Dream" has changed.  The groundwork has been laid by our ancestors.  Be grateful.  It is now our turn to carry on the tradition by making sure that things stay great.  Not everyone will make more money or have better jobs and that is okay.  I can think of no better job than a plumber who helps a family in need in the middle of the night because their water heater just broke. We need plumbers and janitors and trash men and hair stylists and mechanics.

Yes, continue to strive to be better but understand that this is not a right.  In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote, "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."  The 'pursuit' of happiness.  Find happiness in the journey and understand that if you are living in the United States, you probably have it really good. If you are feeling bad find a book on the Great Depression. I'm sure it will make you feel a little better. Look at pictures from that time and see the determination in their faces.  Look at them sleeping on a dirt floor struggling to find their next meal.  Their resolve made things like cell phones possible.  Don't waste your breath complaining about your signal strength.

Picture from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Americans, you are not owed anything.  Australians, learn from the Americans.  Both of you, it's okay to look at the rest of world to figure out new ways to do things.  Finland is ranked number one in education. What are they doing that makes them great?  Australia has effectively eliminated gun massacres (none in the last 17 years since the ban) while still allowing people in the bush and hunters and collectors to have guns. How did they go about this? (Aside: this is an entirely different post in and of itself but regulation can be a great thing folks. Especially in urban areas.)  Japan has the highest life expectancy at birth. How can we apply these ideas to the United States?

Anyway, the result of all of this leaves me feeling like I'm back living in a bizarro version of the United States in the 1990's.  And I'm happy about it.  Please, Australia, you have a chance to make a difference in your future.  Don't try to change things that don't really need to be fixed.  You have it good.  Enjoy and take pride in it and find ways to tweak things.  Learn from America's mistakes and be better for it.  It's okay to say that you are kinda like America.  Especially if you take the steps necessary to restore the things that make you Australia and make you great! It's much harder to change things once they've been set in motion.  Just ask your brother, 'Merica.

If you're still with me, thanks for indulging me.  It feels good to rant every once and a while.

1 comment:

  1. kudos! not only am I in agreement with your "rant," but I am impressed by your tenacity in the ranting