What Does it Mean to Be Australian?

I don’t know. I seriously don’t know anymore.

I used to think we were a laidback country that gave everyone a fair go, supported the underdog, and were amazing at cricket that we watched on Channel 9.

It turns out that most of these things are not true, or are less true than they used to be. Aussie cricket and the channel swap fiasco aside, it certainly feels that as a country, we are not as laidback as we once were. In fact, we are becoming increasingly un-laidback, or stressed and anxious. I feel it myself, most days as I go about my general life, I sense that there is a communal angst. If you don’t believe me, head to Google and type in “Australian Outrage” and scroll through the results. Sure there are some links that are things that we should be genuinely outraged by but they are side by side with stories on sport, comedians saying un-funny things, and other subjective opinions.

Perhaps the problem is do to with the word “Outrage”. Maybe it is getting overused, or maybe we can make some changes to it to give differing levels of angst. Perhaps we can try (in order of severity):

Outannoyance

Outdisappointment

Outslightlyput

Outsocialmediaworthyanger

Outtempertantrum

Outfurioustodaybutnotcaringtomorrow

Outraging

Outofcontrol

OutAngryAnderson

But, if finding new words doesn’t solve the problem, then perhaps we can change some actions. Our journey from laidback into outrage requires that we find an enemy, someone that is truly against us and everything we do. Honestly, most of our “enemies” don’t live up to that definition and we have to fudge over those parts that we have in common to make it all the way to outrage. To overcome that and find our way back to being laidback requires an act of generosity. A conscious effort of listening to hear rather than listening to judge and condemn. It needs a wisdom that says “Agree to disagree”, meaning that we don’t have to agree with everything a person says or does to share a country of residence with them. It’s a knowledge that understands that we have more in common with people than we have differences and chooses to focus on the common ground. It is a life not borne out of fear. That is what generosity looks like and that is how we claim back our laidback mantle. Generosity overcomes outrage.

Happy Australia Day!

Happy “Aussie Battler” Day

Most call it Australia Day, some call it Invasion Day and others call it a day off work. It’s our annual day of confusion that we celebrate with BBQ’s, beach, cricket and Australian Flags draped or temporarily tattooed on sunburnt bodies.

Whichever way it is perceived and celebrated, the intention of this national public holiday is to, according to the official Australia Day website, “encourage a sense of national unity and belonging by promoting and engendering alignment with core Australian values”, whatever that means.

The core Australian values are as follows…

Respect – of self, of others, of law and the environment we all live in

Tolerance – of difference and freedom of each individual

Fair go – both in the way we act but also in providing opportunity for all

Mateship – Spirit of egalitarianism and compassion for those in need

On the face of it these are worthy values to uphold and as egalitarian Australians we like to consider that most of the time they are achieved.

Probably one of the core Australian values that isn’t mentioned on website is the mentality of being an ‘Aussie Battler’, or the underdog. This has given strength to our country over a number of decades as we have created a great nation out of some convicts and other random travellers. The flipside to this mentality is that we seem to be against those who aren’t ‘battlers’, those who are better off than we are, which actually is contradictory to the values stated above. I didn’t know what poppies were when I was growing up, but I knew that the ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ was real and I was happily part of that culture.

We find ourselves living in tension, wanting to respect, tolerate, provide opportunities and compassion for other Australians and people from all walks of life (I’m not sure if this stops at the Australian border – the website didn’t specify how far the values were to reach), but at the same time tearing down anyone who is too successful or gets too far ahead of us. We are a complicated people. In case you have ever wondered why we struggle to find quality leaders in our country, you can thank our ability to cut people down when they start to stand out. We have killed them off before they had a chance to flourish.

Australia has grown into a very different place in my lifetime and the average ‘Aussie Battler’ is earning $78,832 a year which is more than 99.7% of the rest of the world, according to globalrichlist.com. What this means is that we have become the tall poppies to over 7.2 billion other people. (To be honest, it has probably been that way for a long time, but we now have more information that tells us that).

I think it is well past the time when we forgo the underdog mentality, because we are not an underdog, and we should lose the Tall Poppy Syndrome, because we are the tall poppies. It is time to increase our focus on celebrating the success of people who are leading the way and at the same time to look for those who are struggling around us so we can lift them up. It shouldn’t be that hard, there are 7.2 billion of them around the world. How you do that is up to you. For me, it is about empowering women to work their way out of poverty through the work of Opportunity International Australia. I encourage you to join me as a way to embody respect, tolerance, a fair go and mateship.