Eyelids blink over glassy eyes. The strange looking biped was dying, separated from the Herd. Dying for a lack of sustenance. Dying for a lack of water. In this savage land,Nature was pulling the choke chain, and tens of thousands of his kind lay on the red dirt, in the vicious and inedible scrub, alongside the black roads which bear the metal beasts that roar across the land like the raging sands.
There would be no remorse from this enormous, inscrutable land. No healing rain. Not even a cloud to shade the noon-day sun which was bearing down from above, making the endless horizons shimmer and dance like a mirage. Cooking him alive - draining his vital fluids faster and faster.
But that was life. There can be no escape, not in this ancient land. Unlike the rolling hills and plains of western Europe, or the forests and woods of England or North America, or the grasslands of Africa, life was not a struggle against predators. There weren’t enough to worry about. No: here it was nature that you had to struggle against. As the kangaroo’s eyes lidded for the last time, and its shallow breath became a death rattle, it reflected (in its limited fashion) that all it ever took was a slip, a cut. A snapped bone, a little too much blood lost. Fluids lost that could never be replaced, energy that had to be conserved in the endless hunt for food - a little less distance travelled per day, a little less chance of finding the meal vital for continuing the hunt the next day.
We understood this once. The birds of prey closed in to feast, and we found it not just expedient, but utterly necessary to co-operate to survive in this utterly inhospitable landscape. The independence of the Westerner meant nothing to this implacable continent, which set about slaying them like all other life-forms who expected quarter from the patient rage of Nature in this savage corner of the world. To survive, they had to pull together. They cut clearings for what would become the great and small metropoli and towns of this nation. They drew maps and found life-giving water. They constructed farms and rail-roads. All together, because they knew that to be out of sight of another man in this inhospitable hell was to be lost forever amongst shifting red sands and unending landscapes, where the sky loomed huge overhead.
The settlements grew and became interconnected. Roads and rail linked the distant towns to the coastal ports. Working together, firstly as towns as part of separate colonies, and later as a nation, we grew strong. We threw off the British, not by war, but by the vote. We became the Federation of Australia.
The past was not entirely forgotten. The dependance on fellow man left great impressions on our character - as a culture and as individuals. Inherited from mother Britain was a strong individualism common to the nations of Western Europe, but our harsh trials as an infant nation, first as a colony and then at war, had etched deep into us all a sense of dependence on others. A strong bond between fellow Australians; mateship, as it were. A sense that we should all work together or the implacable continent would eat our bones and bury our colony beneath the oceans of red sands. It was obsolete, but it was still there, a hangover from our past and a wonderful national trait. In this climate, free health care and housing for the poor became institutionalised. Unions flourished and became strong. National initiatives made sure no one was too poor to eat, or raise a family, or own property.
We had survived. We had pulled together and defeated the vastness of the country. We now stood alone, a beacon of Western civilisation in a hostile region. We became first economically, then culturally, independent of Britain. And although we became insular and repressive on our indigenous peoples, we were a nation with distinct values, beliefs and characteristics.
I still dimly remember a time when America was an exotic thing, an other. We were us, and they were them. I wore the flannel shirt, and had the mullet. Our Prime Minister was an intrinsically Australian man, Bob Hawke. We built very ugly buildings, and made stupidly-named films. We spoke the Queen’s English, with a few unique additions.
A world away, the Berlin Wall toppled. And the Market roared with triumph, and spilled out over the globe.
The Americans, an incredibly industrious and inventive people, are the masters of production since times before they won their battle against the British and cast them back to the waves. They would come to stand astride the world like a Colossus a few short years after the decline of the Soviet Empire. No longer interested in merely selling their particular economic systems to the nations, they would dominate that system which they had managed to bring to a state of virtual monopoly in the world. The Market.
It is 2003. Australia is a deeply confused nation. Confused about what it is, and more importantly, who it is. Times have changed. Mateship is now a cringe-inducing word. People who are well-enough educated leave the country to work overseas. We have literally forgotten who we are. Ask a person on the street to sum up what Australian culture is, and chances are they’ll reply with “Diverse”.
Diverse. Why not? In this age of mass international travel, we’ve dropped our White Australia policy to adapt to the realities of a globalised world - to stay competitive. We now are home to many people from all over the world. Our media broadcasts information and productions from everywhere. Melbourne is home to the largest number of Greeks outside of Athens.
Here’s why not. National character is a shared thing between individuals - all individuals that share the trait have it individually. Diversity is not a trait that can be held by a sane individual. It is a weak answer and indicates a general lack of any kind of understanding of what makes that person an Australian. If diversity is our prime attribute as Australians, we are truly fucked as a nation. Dispersed. Lost.
We were a nation before we were ‘diverse’. There was something that made us Australian. Something that was there but now is obscured - something that we all knew deep down but forgot in the new age since the toppling of the Berlin Wall.
To forget who you are as a people is a deeply distressing and dire thing. As humans we are social animals, and what makes us social is the bond we share between ourselves and other humans. To belong to a nation is to have a bond between yourself and everyone else in that nation - the national identity. With that gone, you become “Diverse”, and you float around until you are snatched up by another community to belong to. This leads to a strange uprooting - a sense that you are not anchored anywhere. A longing to belong to something, anything.
This is the fate of any colonised people. Their heritage is stripped away by the colonial power, their language desecrated, their beliefs and values and traditions replaced by those of the ruling power. Until they assimilate into the ruling power, they are alien in their own land.
Globalisation is the second colonisation. It is the cultural colonisation of the world by the markets of the United States of America. By using their dominance of the global Markets of practically every known commodity, and their inventiveness and ingenuity, they have Americanised the world. They put their colossal boot on our chests and pour American export culture onto us.
The Global American Cultural Product is a strange and dangerous thing. There's something about the food that doesn't taste right - something about the music that doesn't sound right. Sure, it'll fulfil your needs. It'll sustain you - but there's nothing about The Product that really satisfies. It is a vile, light mustard coloured paste that, applied liberally, will fill in every cultural crevice your country can throw at it. You'll go off to work one day, thinking you're an Australian, and you'll come home and find that there's a McDonalds in your backyard, your children are all listening to Eminem and you'll find yourself wondering which out of Pepsi or Coke is the choice of the Australian generation?
And so it happened. As the Berlin Wall fell down, and America turned its gaze to monopolising the Market, all markets, we found our nation, like virtually all others, invaded with this strange, smooth tide of semi-solid goop. It enveloped our cinemas, engulfed our televisions and radios. They absorbed the children with new sounds and tastes. They eroded our sense of who we were by being everywhere. On television American sit-com actors and American reporters redefined who we were and what we liked. Our markets became flooded with American goods. We had never industrialised enough in our own right to build the new sorts of equipment that was coming into demand - certainly not at the rates required by our technology-hungry populace. So it all came from America and her allies, and with it came their culture.
So on this day, as I type, looking out of my second-floor apartment, I see a city that no longer understands who or what it is. And why should it? We are approaching a point on near-total cultural dissolution. The intelligent ones amongst us should be just able to begin to understand the horrors that faced the Aborigines conquered by the British. We are losing our identity, bit by bit, amongst the incredible amount of America that pervades our everyday lives.
The intelligent ones that are old enough to remember are like the ancient warriors who fought the British here and the Yankees in America. But it doesn’t matter. The young and the foolish buy the American Product wholeheartedly. They listen to the music, they eat the food, they watch the television. They speak with American accents. They write in their language. The old will eventually die out, and the young who are Americanised will eventually become the majority.
There is no other choice for them. The old have become confused and detached from Australia, and the young have known no other real way of being. The spread of computer technology, centred in America, has allowed the destruction of our language through the young - word processors which only allow an American dictionary, which auto-corrects “incorrect” spelling. Organisation becomes organization, flavour becomes flavor. We are no longer free to write in our own language without going through tremendous difficulty and education in order to do so. It is easier simply to go with the flow. It doesn’t help, of course, that Australian history is barely even taught in schools.
The impending death of our mother tongue marks the bottom of the slide into cultural oblivion. Language is of vital importance to any culture - stories, place names, beliefs and values are usually virtually untranslatable into any other language. They lose meaning. And although American English is still easily understandable to anyone who can read and write in Australian or British English, the language that we speak is still of vital symbolic importance. If we allow the American language to overcome ours so easily, it signifies that we see no value in our past or our beliefs - or our nation. Our “diversity” which we value so highly will allow us only two options - to become a citizen of a glorified American outpost, or to leave the nation and wander the Earth.
We must retake our identity and our language. Our sad mantra of “diversity”, pushed on us by cash-hungry governments and American Markets, must be abandoned. That is not to say that there is no worth in diversity, but only that it is important for any culture to be able to identify and enjoy that which is different while celebrating that which is uniquely theirs.
We must find once again what it is that made us Australia once, and we must re-establish a balance with the overwhelming American influence. We - all Australian citizens - must educate our young on all aspects of our national history: colonialist, migrant and Aboriginal. We must ensure that our young learn our national language and customs. We have to write books, create films, retake television and radio. We have to learn to be ourselves again.
Above all, we must learn to distinguish that which is American as foreign and therefore Other - to be enjoyed and celebrated, but definitely to be held apart from our culture. Removing their presence from national media and breaking their strangle-hold on our markets will likely facilitate this end.
In the end, it matters not to the bleak land and the odd animals which populate it. To this ancient and patient island, it will be but a blink of time before we and our culture are buried beneath the sands. But it is this land which was the key to creating what we were, and what we must become. If we allow ourselves to be dominated by outside cultures, we will be strangers in our own cities and towns, and will increasingly find little reason to inhabit this harsh continent.