Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fantastic Country

So, it’s Australia Day today…and that’s pretty cool, especially for those that aren’t actually Australian since they tend to get more festive about this holiday than some of us actual Australians who, at times, take it for granted. My genetic cocktail is a simple one: Nine hundred and fifty millilitres of Australian with a dash of Maltese. I was born here and have never really left, with that said, I’ve never been overly patriotic when it comes to being Australian. I have always felt that Australian patriotism is one of those things that goes without saying, and therefore, is almost always over-stated. Also, I’ve felt that true patriotism has sort of been lost in this country, especially on days like today. Unfortunately, we have these people who walk around with clichéd Australian insignias like the Southern Cross and the Australian flag tattooed on their skin, people say rubbish like ‘Australian pride for life’ and any other sound bite they stole off the last guy, and these people think that makes them an appreciator, but let me tell you a little something about those who boisterously make themselves known as proud Australians, their patriotism is as fake as those Australian flag tattoos they stick to their faces. They wave our flag around, incessantly beep their horns and get absolutely faced on the twenty-sixth of January every year because it's easy - someone with a learning disorder can do any of that - however, the moment you ask these people any basic questions regarding our founding settlers and the indigenous people of Australia or ask them to recite the second verse of the Australian anthem even, they flinch; I don’t even know that verse and this is my birth place. Not only that, but the moment an actual full-blooded Australian does something wrong, these faux-patriots immediately retreat back to their native origins. Whenever a crowd of Australians attack a Middle Eastern looking man at Cronulla Beach or something, suddenly whatever foreign blood sitting in their line becomes the place where their pride disappears to while they call us names for a few weeks. My point is that I don't appreciate faux-patriotism and this somewhat appreciative post is not in the same spirit.

So, at the risk of sounding like an Australian patriot myself, despite having the right to be, here's a conflict that I have been battling. Ever since I was young, I have watched American sitcoms and I’ve been in love with the lifestyle depicted in those shows ever since, namely ones that are set in New York. Watching them has fuelled my desire to one day live in New York City, but there are things that I know I will miss about Australia if I did actually go through with moving overseas, things that might essentially keep me here:

An Economy with Biceps
With the recent economic recession that waned on the minds of every CEO in the world, the country you lived in really defined how much the recession affected you. Here in Australia, thanks to former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his party, the recession hardly even put a dent in the way we lived. The Australian public and Rudd’s own party seem to have forgotten what sort of role Rudd played in protecting this country, and that thinking is what lost him the role of Prime Minister. The guy essentially saved Australia from the crisis by keeping us spending. He managed to set up an array of different incentives, from the student bonus to the first home owners grant, and as a result of that, he saved a lot of jobs and saved this country from the turmoil which plagued US spending. Sure, we’ll all pay it back eventually with taxes and such, but what the hell, we can’t expect to be spared a recession for free. The fact that this country had a Prime Minister which followed a great idea in the worst of economic times and that his successors now have an example to follow in terms of handling our economy is something that I will need when in hot pursuit of a career. Would I have that same security overseas in some places? Not everywhere.

Freedom and a Warless Soil
Freedom - what more could you ask for in a country? We had Saddam ordering the slaughter of people in Iraq, we have the Chinese government pulling wool over its people’s eyes and then there's the Taliban stoning adulterers to death in the Middle East. Here we can cheat on anybody we like, we can do a Google search without government intervention, we don’t need to worry about being bombed and we can pretty much do whatever we like, so long as it remains within Australian law which is a more than reasonable one. Sure, we totally screwed the Aborigines on the whole freedom deal, but hey, if you’re a white Australian like me, life in Australia is spent grudge-free. There are also no wars on our soil and no major terrorist attack in our history. The living conditions here are pretty close to ideal; makes it hard to leave.

Free Medical
This is one of the biggest things putting me off living in the US. When I was younger, I was pretty naïve to the fact that Medicare was more of a privileged gift from our government than a human right. Personally, I think that every human being should have access to socialised medicine, especially in civilised countries, because it rules…seriously. When I have a tooth ache or something, I avoid the dentist at any cost, and that’s because I have to pay for dental; I’m not paying a hundred dollars for a pain that might go away in a week! It’s that same thinking that would stop people from calling the ambulance if we had no public option, because, believe it or not, not many people are willing to spend money on a maybe. Chest pains? Not worth the cost for doctors and nurses, especially on top of the ambulance fees you get charged for now with the Medicare system. Cut your hand? Wrap a bandage around it and hope for the best? I just think that it’s amazing that in this country, you could be in a hospital for weeks, you’ll have a nurse and a doctor, both being paid, the latter being paid well; if you have surgery, there are heaps of people in that damn theatre, they all have to be paid. Then your sheets are being changed, you’re getting juice and biscuits brought to you, meals too, and you’ve got that television, and it’s not in front of you either, it’s hanging from the ceiling, and you don't have to pay for any of it! Moreover, the reason you’re there is because you’re not well, and when you’re not feeling your best, the last thing you want to be thinking about is money. What a service this country does for the unwell.

The Government aren’t Barbarians
I’ve never been for capital punishment. The only benefit of capital punishment that I can see is…ah, gotchya! There is none. Australia isn’t a supporter of capital punishment, and I couldn’t be happier about that. I personally feel that nowhere in the world should be giving anybody a death sentence until the day that we have a machine that can read people’s thoughts, and even then, I don’t know if I would support it. For a world where anybody can be bought, and I mean anybody, be it leaders and members of the judicial system, for a world where people can be wrong and for a world which, in some parts, have judicial proceedings which end on the simple word from a jury of people, the concept of capital punishment shouldn’t be embraced by anybody. Besides, seeing someone rot in gaol for the rest of their lives without the option for bail is enough for me. This maybe the result of over a decade of catholic schooling, but, the same way that no one has the right to murder, nobody should have that right to sentence someone to death, no matter who you are. I could go further on a political tangent, but I’ll save it, this isn’t the place.

We Dig Refunds
Up until recently, overseas refunds were another thing that I was naïve about. In this country, there is an unspoken leniency when it comes to refunding a product that has already been purchased. Ordinarily you would think that companies would feel uneasy about having to hand money back to the consumer, but we do, and we do it with virtually no questions asked. What I never realised is that in some countries, that unspoken leniency doesn’t exist, they don’t have that same obligation that stores here have to their shoppers. It’s strange, but I get it. It’s all about different cultures and their attitudes toward things, but I used to just figure that it would be the same in any full-fledged capitalist country. I recently bought something from a company based in the UAE for a hundred and fifty Australian dollars, none the wiser to the fact that if I wasn’t happy with the product I wouldn’t be able to return it with the same ease that I would be met with if the company was based here. Long story short, I fought and fought, but never ended up getting my money back. So, I’m just happy that I am able to take comfort in that I could hurl an Australian-bought iPhone down a flight of stairs and still get my money back; it’s awesome.

Alright now - time for me to graze in the sun over a barbeque and, hopefully, someone brings some beers, because today is maybe one of the only days that I will drink it. Anyway, to celebrate a country cannot be done out of some half-arsed boast, it needs to be done out of appreciation, because you’re privy to that fact that there are things here that cannot be found elsewhere. Not only do we have public health care and freedom, but we have so much: Sydney Harbour, with the bridge and the Opera House, the Great Barrier Reef, Ayers Rock, great beaches and fantastic cities. Travelling is something I have always wanted to do, and the same goes for living overseas, but Australia’s shoes are hard ones to fill, that’s all. Happy Australia Day.