Today is election day. It’s the incumbent Labor Party v the opposing Liberal Party. I’ve tried to muster some sort of interest in the parties’ platforms – in the differences between the two candidates – but have been too preoccupied with school and friends to care. Every now and then I catch a commercial on TV bashing one party or the other. They seem quite irreverent to me – unlike American standards of political correctness and conservatism, the candidates here have little constraints in what they can and can’t say on TV. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been known to say things like “There is a real risk that Tony Abbott will end up as prime minister” and “if you want someone to run a marathon, you want Tony Abbott. If you want someone to run the country, then that’s me”. We all know bluntness and honesty are always a go for me, but sometimes it seems the candidates focus too much on telling the public why the other is wrong for the job instead of why he or she is right.
Australian politics also differ from ours in that voting is compulsory here. As in, you are fined if you are an Australian citizen and don’t vote. There are loopholes, as one might expect, but otherwise it is simply mandatory to cast a ballot. The system is a true democracy, unlike ours, but for some reason the idea of being forced to vote instead of feeling it is your right to do so rubs me the wrong way.
Who’s to say if the government here is more or less effective, better or worse, than in the US? I know I’m not qualified to pass judgment. I will say, though, it seems many Australians are just as apathetic as the Americans when it comes to politics. Well…Australians come off as apathetic about most things. It’s that distinctive Aussie “laid-back” attitude they are known for. As my Aussie friend, Tim, explained to me one day, this attitude is apparent even in the way Australians speak. The tendency to turn even factual statements and exclamations into questions by way of intonation allows Australians to consistently come off as non-threatening. Meanwhile, us amuricans speak with hard “r’s” and falling intonation on statements, conveying a sense of “sureness” and dominance. Maybe Tim (and me by extension) was reading into the accent thing a little much, but I think it’s worth noting.
And now, presenting…Americanism through Australian eyes as observed by an American
The Aussie attitude about Americans and Americanism is a paradox: pure disgust coexisting with utter jealousy and adoration. The Australians think Americans are rude and loud (and I can vouch for the latter – we tend to get boisterous when put in the same room) and wasteful. They think the way we dress is “dodgy,” especially American college-aged boys, and that we are overweight and selfish. But at the same time, they all want to come to America. They see America as a place with more freedom. In America, you don’t have to pay for internet by KB. You are allowed to own a gun, you are allowed to own an SUV. You have summer camp and Greek life on college campuses. I’ve met at least three Australian uni students on their way to America to study abroad. My Aussie friend, Josh, claims the American South is where he belongs. Furthermore, I think any Australian would be willing to admit, even if Americans can be wasteful and selfish, at least we have an identity. Australia has been stuck somewhere in between the UK, the US, and Asia on the identity front. Maybe this is a Sydney thing, because this city is so rich in ethnic diversity, but there is certainly a lack of clear cultural identity here.
The other night, my Tulane friends, Shelby, Rebecca and I got dressed up to go to a “white trash” themed party. Preya and I voiced our wariness at publicly representing such a demeaning American stereotype. I know they have these parties back at home too, but I just think it’s an awful theme. We got caught up pregaming for 3 hours and ended up missing the party, but we made our way to Kelly’s for karaoke instead, which turned out to be a splendid idea. Preya and I sang R Kelly’s “Ignition” and Richard performed a moving version of “Wonderwall”, which he passionately dedicated to Preya and Shrey from his perch at the microphone.
Last night, after hanging out with Casey and her American/Canberra Uni friends, Jordan and Josh took me to a spot on a cliff overlooking the ocean. It was about 3 am so the stars were very clear. Saw a shooting one. It was lovely and made me wish I lived near the ocean back at home.
Apologies for such a serious blog post. I figured it was time to change it up a little and felt inspired by the whole election thing.
Hi Mishvo –
You can’t own an SUV in Australia? Is that some sort of conservation thing? And no guns…so gun related death rate must be pretty low. That seems pretty sensible to me! Just in case you are missing some Amurkan news, the media is all abuzz about the proposed construction of a mosque near Ground Zero. A poll was taken and one in 5 people think Obama is Muslim. As far as politics here is concerned, character assassination is a staple of any good campaign!
Wonderwall seems to be a recurring theme…
<3 (that's a heart), Mom
Correction – As far as politics here ARE concerned…
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