Sometimes it’s an interesting experiment to look on your own country as though from a distance. I personally think that what we’re like – not just in Australia, but everywhere – is often best captured by foreigners, because the perspective is so different and so clear-eyed. I often feel like an observer of Australians as well as obviously being an Australian myself; perhaps it’s come of having lived overseas for a period of years, of perhaps it’s because of the writing, but either way I often catch myself thinking wow, these people are funny, look at the way they do such-and-such, and of course, they’re my own people.
The Olympics are an excellent example of what I’m talking about. Specifically, Olympics coverage. Olympics coverage in Australia exemplifies the Small Country Big Swagger complex I recently discussed with Tanalee, a North American friend-of-a-friend who works for Associated Press and who recently moved to Australia for l-u-u-u-r-v-e.
“Nothing happens here,” she said, not unkindly. “There’s very little news that’s of any interest whatsoever to anyone outside Australia.”
“Yeah,” I said, “except we’re in total denial about that. We think we’re much more important on the world stage than we are.”
“What’s with that? That’s so true! Why? Why??”
“I don’t know… it’s partly thanks to Howard sucking Dubya’s dick for all those long years. By the end of it, he wasn’t the only one in Australia who believed we were best buds with the States. Reflected glory and all that. But personally I got the picture when I was travelling through Europe at the beginning of 1999. The Australian dollar didn’t appear on a single exchange board and I thought whoah, we just don’t register at all.”
But then as we kept talking, something else occurred to me: “I guess it’s also because we’re like a fully operational, multinational, multicultural, first world democracy. I think Australians quite reasonably look around and think, well, this is it, isn’t it, this is the model the rest of the world is trying to find. If it’s not this, then what is it? We’re like exhibit A of a functional democracy, so I think that affects our thinking about ourselves too. In many ways, Australia works. It’s a Western success story, so perhaps that inflates our sense of self-importance too.”
And then there’s the sport. Oh god, the sport. Talk about propaganda. I have come to despise TV in this country – the news is appalling and sensationalised, the majority of the content is dumber than dumb, and when it comes to sports, we are nigh on North Korean in our blinkered bleat bleat bleating of nationalistic baloney. Try finding out how some OTHER country is faring in Beijing. All the coverage here rests solely on events in which Australia is represented, and I don’t know about you, but I’d kind of like to see the big picture. The world’s best are in Beijing, not just Australia’s best, and I for one would appreciate being able to take a gander at them doing their thing. Instead, the coverage will take me inside the thrilling world of… what, archery, or maybe dressage, or (yawn) shooting if that’s where the Aussies are. What else is on right now, I always wonder. What is the rest of the world watching?