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Australia Collection

There is no doubt about it … Australia is a living, breathing paradox.

Its people, just like its unique flora and fauna, have been left alone to evolve on an isolated, southern hemisphere island, far removed from the grand history and the significant global influences of the northern nation states.

On first impressions, ours appears the simple life, but that observation belies the complicated, challenging and contradictory forces that have been at work in this place for the past 240 years. These forces have shaped our national psyche which today informs the way we deal with life’s issues, including our fellow Australians and the world at large. Australians have figured out a system that works perfectly for them and that while paradoxical in operation, they are at peace. The Knols in this collection will hopefully help the people of the world understand a little better this far-away and hostile land with it’s warm and ‘down to earth’ people who share the space with a unique but rather weird wildlife.

The European settlement of Australia was primarily the result of bulging prisons in England. Australia became a solution to England’s overcrowded jails … hardly a noble start as a penal colony. Still, the generations of Australians since 1778 have turned it from penal colony to a respected nation state.

This Australia collection supplements my Knol titled “Australia” and brings together in one place the work of others who have identified things they love about the place or who have an interest in Australia that they wish to share with the world.

Enjoy.

The Australia collection of Knols

 
Image #1 – www.anbg.gov.au – Australian Coat of Arms
 

Australia is a paradox

 
 
 
Listen to a slightly different take on our national anthem HERE.
According to the thesaurus, a paradox is a contradiction in terms, an absurdity, an irony, an impossibility or an illogical practice … yep, that pretty much describes the place.
So what are some of those ironic, impossible, illogical absurdities that are for many, a contradiction in terms and that makes understanding Australia and its people a little difficult. Read on and see …
 
        • YOUNG yet OLD – for starters, while we are one of the youngest declared nations on earth, we inhabit its oldest land form and imbibe a heritage that is recognized as containing the world’s oldest living cultural history;
        • LARGE yet SMALL – also, while Australia is earth’s largest island it is actually the world’s smallest continent;
        • FLOOD yet DROUGHT – at the exact same time, a state of emergency can exist for raging floods in one part of the country and debilitating drought in another;
        • SPACE yet CONGESTED – we have a huge land of 8 million sq km on which to build our homes, yet 85% of us huddle together in the south-east corner of the map and live in urban areas located less than 50 km from the coast and taking up only 0.3% of the land mass;
        • CHAMPIONS yet UNDERDOG – we love our champions and winning sport teams yet we have a genuine soft spot for the ‘underdog‘ and will support them in every contest;
        • PROUD yet SUSPICIOUS – we are extremely proud to be Aussies yet we are inherently anti-authority , can’t understand rampant nationalism or patriotism and are suspicious of politician’s motives who promote it zealously;
        • RESPECT yet ‘BOO’ – we respect and honor our politicians when they are on the world stage yet ‘boo‘ them as a tradition, when they choose to show their face at our sacred sporting events;
        • VICTORY yet DEFEAT – our armed forced have won many gallant victories in global conflicts, yet we choose to celebrate and honor our greatest defeat – the ANZACs at Gallipoli;
        • LIKE YOU yet RIB YOU – the more we like you as a mate the more likely we are to put you down or ‘rib’ you, but, if someone who is not a mate does this to you  … we will deck him,  sorry … clobber him, you know …  ‘punch his lights out’;
        • EXAGGERATE yet UNDERSTATE – we exaggerate by understating or saying nothing. There is always more ‘between the lines’ and left unspoken, than written on the lines or included in the broadcast. On our hottest day you may well hear the question “‘So what’s with this cold snap then?”; 
        • BUSH yet CITY – our identity is indelibly linked with the legends of the bush, yet 90% of us actually live in the cities and have never lived in the bush. Our greatest bush poet, Henry Lawson, wrote most of his work from an office in the city;
        • MANY yet FEW – we call everyone mate even though we each only have a few. Some commentators reckon that this is because Australians are too lazy to remember names, and ‘mate’ is an easy way out of the dilemma. Others say it’s a public affirmation of the concept of egalitarianism which underpins the Australian way;
        • SINGLE yet MULTI – we consider Australians a single nationality, yet 20% of us were born overseas and 40% of us have mixed cultural origins;
        • IMPRESS yet NOT – the way to impress us is to not try to. Australians are born with a ‘bullshit’ meter that detects it immediately upon impact. Acceptance depends entirely on who you are, not on what you have or are about to achieve.
        • SERIOUS yet LAUGH – while we take ourselves seriously, it is each Aussie’s ‘god-given’ job (or his best mate’s) to describe with great merriment their own stupid acts.  However, it is sacrosanct to do likewise for an Aussie outside your group who is ‘down on their luck’ or someone else’s best mate. Aussie humor is not intended to be sarcastic.
        • DEMOCRACY yet MONARCHY – ‘we the people’ democratically elect our government, yet we accept the fact that the Australian Head of State is a birth determined monarch who lives in another country.
        • ONE WORD yet TWO MEANINGS – there are double meanings everywhere in our Aussie slang or language. So, you will need to know the context, to know the meaning (i.e. “Blue” can be a color, a fight, a red haired mate, a cattle dog or a mistake; “Cactus” can be a plant or saying you are exhausted just like when you’re “stuffed”, although that term has other sexual implications; “Crook” can be a thief or saying you are not feeling well; “Mickey Mouse” can be a cartoon character or meaning excellent or sometimes frivolous; a “Bastard” could be either another person’s best mate or worst enemy … again, depending on the context
        • LOSS yet WIN – two remembrance days at either end of the emotional spectrum stop the nation of Australia (1) honoring the loss of 8,000 young Australians on the beaches of Gallipoli on ANZAC day 25th April 1914 and (2) honoring the winner of a 150 year old horse race known as the Melbourne Cup which is run on the first Tuesday in November. Even Mark Twain on a visit to the Melbourne Cup in 1895 could not quite understand the hipe; “Nowhere in the world have I encountered a festival of people that has such a magnificent appeal to the whole nation. The Cup astonishes me”.
        • DELICACY yet UNEATABLE – our national culinary delicacy and icon (Vegemite)  is uneatable to most everyone else. This much craved after food is described as a black and extremely salty spread that was originally created from the dregs of brewers’ yeast from the breweries. Yet it continues to be the staple of the Australian digger serving overseas. They miss so much of home, yet a simple jar of Vegemite can bring an appeasement that few other products could.
 
Still perhaps the greatest irony or paradox is that, if you come to Australia with a criminal record these days, you won’t get in … but, not too many years ago, it was a prerequisite! 
 
 
Now, you would think that there is enough here to keep the world’s psychiatrist busy for a millennium, but not so …  see Aussies that have grown up in all this are totally comfortable in a world stuffed with paradoxes … it’s the rest of the planet that we think, don’t quite ‘get it’.
 
 
Hopefully this Australia collection of Knols will provide some clarity for the inquisitive, in a paradoxical kind of way.
 
 
 

 


They just don’t get it … do they!

I copied the following questions and answers from an Australian tourist website. They claim to be questions asked by inquisitive people from around the world but I question the authenticity of the claim. However no matter how the questions were formed, there is no doubt that the answers have been supplied by an Aussie, but more for the enjoyment of other Aussies, I suspect. So, for this reason I think it is worth presenting here because it provides a good example of the laconic Australian sense of humor.  

 
While these answers are not meant to offend, take it from me as a cafe proprietor during the 2000 Olympics and beyond … these are the types of questions we continually get asked from tourists whose perception of Australia is of a rather insignificant, primative and backward land. 
 
So, instead of being offended at the implications of these perceptions, we have come to employ our own unique brand of laconic humour that helps us deal with this ignorance … and here they are (Note: Kings Cross is the ‘Red Light’ centre of Australia);
 
 The world asks …  … and the Aussie answers
 

Does it ever get windy in Australia? I have never seen it rain on TV, so how do the plants grow?

A: We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around watching them die. 
 

Will I be able to see kangaroos in the street?

A: Depends how much you’ve been drinking
 

I want to walk from Perth to Sydney – can I follow the railroad tracks? (Sweden)

A: Sure, it’s only three thousand miles, but take lots of water 
 

Is it safe to run around in the bushes in Australia? (Sweden) 

A: So its true what they say about Swedes. 
 

It is imperative that I find the names and addresses of places to contact for a stuffed porpoise. (Italy)

A: Let’s not touch this one. 
 

Are there any ATMs (cash machines) in Australia? Can you send me a list of them in Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville and Hervey Bay?

A: What did your last slave die of? 
 

Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Australia?

A: A-fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe. Aus- tra-lia is that big island in the middle of the pacific which does 

not … oh forget it. Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Kings Cross. Come naked. 

 

Which direction is North in Australia?

A: Face south and then turn 90 degrees. Contact us when you get here and we’ll send the rest of the directions.
 

Can I bring cutlery into Australia?

A: Why? Just use your fingers like we do. 

 

Can you send me the Vienna Boys’ Choir schedule?

A: Aus-tri-a is that quaint little country bordering Ger-man-y, which is…oh forget it. Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday night in Kings Cross, straight after the hippo races. Come naked. 
 

Do you have perfume in Australia? (France) 

 A: No, WE don’t stink. 
 

I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth. Can you tell me where I can sell it in Australia

A: Anywhere a significant numbers of Americans gather. 
 

Can I wear high heels in Australia?

A: You are a British politician, right? 
 

Can you tell me the regions in Tasmania where the female population is smaller than the male population? (Italy). 

A: Yes, gay nightclubs. 
 

Do you celebrate Christmas in Australia? (France) 

 A: Only at Christmas. 
 

Are there supermarkets in Sydney and is milk available all year round? (Germany) 

A: No, we are a peaceful civilisation of vegan hunter gatherers and milk is illegal. 
 

Please send a list of all doctors in Australia who can dispense rattlesnake serum.

A: Rattlesnakes live in A-meri-ca which is where YOU come from. All Australian snakes are perfectly harmless, can be safely handled and make good pets. 
 

I was in Australia in 1969 on R+R, and I want to contact the girl I dated while I was staying in Kings Cross. Can you help?

A: Sure, but you will still have to pay her by the hour. 

 

Will I be able to speak English most places I go?

A: Yes, but you may have to learn it first.
 
Still if you are into literature, you might find the following Knol of ‘Poems of the Australian Bush‘ of some value.
 
Then again … if you were wondering about the size of this place, then feast you eyes on this!!
 
 

About the author

 
 
 

Peter Baskerville was born in Australia and has lived the vast majority of his life in the country of his birth apart from a few years in Fiji and New Zealand pursuing business interests. Despite imbibing the inherent non-nationalistic attitude that naturally comes with being an Aussie, we just can’t help loving this place called Australia – its vast open spaces, its pristine beaches, its unspoiled outback landscapes, its melting pot of immigrants, its ancient heritage of the First Australians, its Anzac spirit, it mateship creed, it hard working, positive yet carefree attitude to life … yes, and even its perils, dangers and strife – we love it all. It is a long way to come, but I’m sure you will find it well worth the visit, even better, come join us … the people of the land ‘down-under’.

 

Image attribution

Image #2 – http://www.znanje.org/i/i19/99iv09/99iv0925/HISTORY.html – Aboriginal Dance Troupe