By Dr George Venturini
6. Terminal adolescents
There is something infantile about most Australians – certainly about Englanders and their ‘leaders’.
As a nation, Australians are unsure of themselves – like this: “Welcome to Australia, Traveller. Is this the first time here? What do you think of our country?” They are prone to noisy bouts of bragging, followed by sulky silence. They have never ‘lionised’ their history – for a very simple reason: “history is not useful.” Practicality and experience are preferred; or so John Winston Howard, O.M., A.C. and Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, KCMG taught them.
One would search in vain for a Thomas Paine, Samuel Johnson – let alone a Georges Jacques Danton. Say that again? Well, there was a Whitlam, but John Falstaff and Elizabeth Battenberg got rid of him!
Instead, Australian have a Queen. And she has a large ‘Family’ – rather ‘a Firm’.
In Australia, not only is there Queen’s Land, but also Victoria, named after the other long-living queen, who reigned long enough (1837-1901) to give birth, as it were, to Australia.
There is a lot left in Australia which could be called Victorian in the sense of a place characterised by a distinctive mixture of domestic prudery, pietism, and moral zeal/fanaticism.
A ‘liberalising’ personal attitude of some, still profoundly offensive to a public fastidiousness in morals, may be mistaken for tolerance, ‘reform’. Respect – never!
The place has remained deeply Philistine and hypocritical, as one may see in the occasional episode of ‘public hell’ which is intended to punish the non-conformist. Or, for that matters, the parliaments – of which there are too many, but all suffering from the same condition: foreign formality, local crudity.
It would offend Australian vaunted egalitarianism to have someone ‘in the top job’ who had strong opinions about things, or whims or – heaven forbid – principles. And displayed them in public!
There is already a Queen by whom all that those matters are left to a huge entourage of advisers, counsellors, attendants, retainers, companions, aides, henchmen, followers, ladies-in-waiting, or ladies of the bedchamber, and spokespersons. Most of them are courtiers, sycophants, ruffians, toadies, minions – but always ‘nobles.’
From the outside one may believe that Elizabeth II would have been happier attending to her horses, surrounded possibly by all her corgis – venturing perhaps, when it comes to speculating, as to who ‘arrived’ first: the Cardigan Welsh Corgi or the Pembroke Welsh Corgi. One can very well see Charlie’s mind being occupied in that profound meditation.
One could view both activities as harmless eccentricity, a piece of lovable (reconstructed) Englishness and a symbol of their ‘aristocratic’ heritage.
Australians on the other end and side of the world, only expect Elizabeth II to wave – so they may cheer.
Come to think of it, ‘the Firm’ is so big that there is always someone to fantasise for.
So, Australians may not know what it means, but sure enough, they like the saying: carpe diem! The day of a ‘visitation’.
Every visitor from ‘the Firm’, whether close or far to the Queen, old or new – even if recently ‘elevated’ like the Duchess of Sussex – is an occasion for the display of the national infantilism.
The secret of the ‘popularity’ of Queen Elizabeth II is in her ability to reveal nothing – whether it is the conferral of a title to a new joiner, a formal banquet, or the delivery of messages expected by ‘her subjects’ on the standard occasions when the Capo must speak to the Plebs. She is, after all, Fidei defensatrix, Defender of the Faith.
And by that one means the Anglican Faith, which is shared by 13.3 per cent of Englanders. But Australians do not know that, and probably if they knew would not care.
She is the Queen! Magic! (T. Nairn, The enchanted glass, Britain and its Monarchy, Picador, London, 1988).
She might not have said anything memorable since her succession: 6 February 1952, or coronation: 2 June 1953. Before?
And in that, well: “She is like me!” would claim every ‘real’ Australian. She is like the solidest of a suburban Australian, more concerned with such duties as dog breeding and horse-riding than matters cultural, ‘political’.
“By Jove, is She ever like me?!” Only better dressed, of course, but that is understandable.
The average Australian house-wife – if one is ever to be forgiven for the appellation – would not dream of dressing in shining, almost phosphorescent attire. But none such must be visible from, say, five kilometres distance, emitting light as a substance without combustion or perceptible heat.
And yet, most of the time, the Queen prefers dressing in what Englanders everywhere would prefer: ‘normalcy.’ That – ‘normalcy’ – along with a mask of endurance is what pleases Englanders in Australia. She would hardly be a ‘battler’, but – again – “She is one of us.”
And perhaps in that ‘ordinariness’ lies the key to her popularity in Australia. People who lived through the tragedy of the Whitlam Royal Ambush without understanding anything of it, often without caring, because “Whitlam did not play by the rules” – as they would say – feel transported back to a world lost forever, of the famous 50s and 60s.
That false humility of the Queen – scarves and rubber boots, while in Scotland – brings Australians back to the happy times of bumper wool prices. And that those fabulous prices were reached in exchange for poorcrists sent to die in Korea, or to be slaughtered in Vietnam matters not. On the ‘One day of the year,’ everybody is a patriot: for Queen and Country.
There may be some ‘buts’, but – so long as She keeps her mouth shut – Australians believe that “She’ll do”, or better still.
Above all, average Australians – and certainly all threads of Australian society – the schools, the ‘politics’, the ‘leading’ élites – do not seem to like very much thinking people.
There is always a danger if one is a ‘thinky’. And the minimum risk is ostracism. No one, anyway, likes when someone tells how one should be thinking.
So, one can see Charlie just around the corner. Waiting …
For the time being, anyone from ‘the Firm’, no matter how initially ‘removed’, will do.
After all, Meghan Markle arrived to Buckingham Palace as a ‘byracial American from Hollywood’ and was transformed into the Duchess of Sussex, by the grace of the very Queen.
To assist in this escape from reality, the work of commercial radio-television services would go a very long way, supplemented, of course, by the periodical ‘women’s press’ and glossy magazines.
That very same Australian admirer of ‘everything royal’ is not likely to have even a summary picture of the state of her/his country. No worries. Wouldn’t know, wouldn’t care!
What is probably the last of the ATM governments would tell a distracted elector that things are fine, and the economy is in great shape. Figures indicate otherwise, but that is ‘politics’.
Well, there may be some problems – but they will be ‘fixed’.
Still, by mid-December 2018 there were 3.05 million people living in poverty – including 739,000 children.
Homelessness had increased by 14 per cent between the 2011 and 2016 censuses, with 116,427 people now thought to have no permanent home.
The Australian Medical Association, and everyone else, are warning about the crisis in aged care.
Closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage targets related to life expectancy, employment, literacy and numeracy, and school attendance are not on track to being met. Indigenous adults are thirteen times more likely to be imprisoned in Australia than non-Indigenous counterparts.
Comparative educational standards are declining and preschool attendance is comparatively low.
Less than half of all working Australians have a permanent full-time job with leave entitlements, with insecure work becoming the new normal.
In March 2018 gross household debt had reached $2.34 trillion and gross household debt relative to disposable income had reached 190.1 per cent – ranked the second-highest in the world.
Despite record company profits, Australia’s private-sector workers are enduring their sixth straight year of minimal real wage rises with incomes growing by 0.5 per cent or less a year since 2013 – the arrival of the ATM.
Four million Australians experience mental illness every year and around 3,000 people die from suicide.
Waiting times in emergency wards for elective surgery or dental work are increasing.
The other area where the Australian government will tell Australians that they are doing well is national security.
They have “stopped the boats” from landing on Australian shores, in part by holding thousands of people, including children, hostage for years and subjecting them to indescribable torment. Tens of thousands more suffer the uncertainty of temporary visas which can be revoked at the whim of a minister who sees as his main function that of deporting people.
Dog-whistling is encouraged with Muslims, Africans, Lebanese and Chinese – all targeted by politicians who want to blame migration for everything from crime to traffic congestion.
Draconian counterterrorism laws in response to the threat of “home-grown terrorism” are undermining what is left of civil rights, privacy and cyber-security.
Despite continuous growth, since 2013, in cumulative terms, the Australian foreign aid budget has been cut by over 30 per cent.
New travel warnings have been issued to Australians going to Indonesia due to protest activity in Jakarta about Prime Minister Morrison’s ‘brilliant’, but now deferred, project to move the embassy to Jerusalem.
The greatest real threat to Australia’s national security, and every other aspect of its existence – climate change, rather earth warming up – is not only being ignored, but Australian enterprise is actively pursuing policies to increase emissions, hence exacerbating and prolonging the damage. And the historical abuse of, and modern discrimination against, women continues to be a punctum dolens. (Thank you, Kaye Lee, ‘The legacy of the ATM government – we now know what misandrist means,’ theaimn.com, 19 December 2018).
Continued Wednesday – Terminal adolescents (part 2)
Previous instalment – Comedy without art (part 15)
Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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