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Beach Grit

Hello Superpower! This is Australia!

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

A letter to America on the incessant romancing of a superficial stereotype… 

Dear America,

Is there any good blood in our veins? Do you really want to know? We might beat our tambourines in glory, but glory there ain’t.

For all of your romanticising of this island continent, this sparsely populated desert land with the cartoonish indigenous creatures and white sand beaches strung together for thousand of kilometres…

Australia… hates you. 

As a nation imprisoned by television, we see the USA as a land of Honey Boos and Kardashians, of Fox News and school massacres, derelict cities and a government driven into ruinous debt by the famous military industrial complex. And they’re the good bits. We grasp conspiracy theories as if they were written on ancient parchment. We worship at the feet of Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky.

America, the warlord, America the champion of terrorism finally having a mirror held up to its pockmarked face.

Yes, we are an ally in war. From the atolls of the Pacific to the mountainous ridges of Korea and the tunnels of Vietnam, the dunes of Iraq and the valleys of Afghanistan, the Australian dies for the American cause. When a trigger-happy neocon president (Jeb?) eventually strikes at China over some pointless cause like Taiwan or the Senkaku Islands, our tiny army will again climb the parapet and charge toward oblivion.

Don’t be flattered.

We died for the British cause in world wars part one and its much better sequel. Australians are like that. We tough talk about our inherent anti-establishment nature, our supposed larrikinism and mateship, but there ain’t a thing we like more than to be a bitch to the powerful and mighty, warming our little paws under your skirt and in your privates. In public we bark contemptuous; behind closed doors we moan and gasp.

Yeah, the modern version of Australia began as a penal colony for the British a couple of hundred years back. Convicts, mostly, but free settlers too. Under Governors Macquarie and, later, Bligh (yep, the same one), the European fought famine, the cruelty of 19th century justice and tamed a rough land.

We may’ve stole this hostile ancient land but that doesn’t make us unique. The American screwed the Red Indian, the Spanish did it to the Brown Indian, the New Zealander stole the Maori land (but gave it back), the Canadians, the Russians, the British, the French, the Italian… it was all part in the Imperial playbook.

What makes us unique are the advantages given to us and response to it. Because for all our geographic isolation (astonishingly difficult to invade – as experienced by the Japanese 70 years ago) and with massive stores of natural resources and the perfection of British-led democracy, and all under the long, warbling persuasiveness of eternal warmth and blossom, we’re a nation of bored, sissy bastards.

How did we get here? How about you imagine the Australian as the child of celebrity parents, the Pitts/Jolies, maybe. The Australian is gifted everything he could ever want. Money. Attention. Good looks.

But does that develop and refine his character? How can it? Character only grows in the troughs of great suffering. You’ll find more within the skin of a kid diving for pennies at a Filipino port or an ice-cream seller on the beaches of Gaza or the father of six massaging the squishy bones of Australians on Kuta Beach.

Open the door and look inside. Australia represents selfishness wrapped in a banana leaf of good times.