Sunday, April 7, 2013

Aussies & Free Thought

The more I've thought about it, the more I have come to realise how sheep-like most Australians are.

Tucked away down here in the Pacific, Australia has often had an identity crisis - it stems from being a fundamentally immigration-based population, despite the chagrin and denial from our deeply embedded racist elements.

It's a land of contradiction.

An 'aspirational' Australian is an Australian whom plans to follow in his or her parents' footsteps by following the 'Great Australian Dream' and looking up to the grand idea of owning their own home.

This is despite the fact that today a 'home' is more of a personalised miniature bank that one temporarily lives in; you effectively live in your own little bank, and you glue yourself to the television every time the Reserve Bank of Australia announces interest rate cuts or rises, as announced by hyperventilating economists in bad glasses.

Having to pay a mortgage, contradictorily, is also part of the Great Australian Gripe.

Many times on the news where there has been layoffs at a factory, a journalist will go mercilessly hunting for the following soundbite:

"I have to pay me mortgage! What now?!"

Shock horror ensues, as it echoes with the other vigilant and aspirational Australians who also have to pay their mortgage, striking fear into their very hearts of not being able to fund the interest to live in the bank's house.

Owning your own home for one thing is mostly a post-World War II idea. For instance, my grandparents lived in state housing on a very large block with big front & back yards for decades; paying a mortgage was never a concern, and they focused more on making it a home.

I'm not going to debate whether owning a home vs. renting is better, I'm merely using it as an example that there are other ways to skin a cat, namely of having a secure roof over your head, although the argument can also be made that the former can be a good idea.

With house prices now however, it makes even less sense than it did during the Baby Boomer era.

But today, there is no choice. In modern Australia, there is either only choice A) or choice B), with the 'B' option always being the wrong one, and one to denounce, ridicule, and make fun of.

We get all hot and bothered on repetitive social issues, such as gay marriage, and using it as an example, no one ever proposes (if you'll excuse the pun) that one might not want to be married in the first place.

Oh, the horror!

The middle class Baby Boomer's homosexual offspring merely want to follow in their parents' footsteps with a big expensive wedding, and a big expensive divorce at the end of it - and I have no issue with that.

As a matter of fact, nothing is stopping gay couples from having a wedding party; it's just that the state doesn't recognise their union.

Hopefully when they can be legally married, they will be able to equally divide up the sale of their house with minimal legal expenses.

But I digress.

As with many western nations, Australians are also big fans of conspicuous consumption, which is embodied in home ownership, adhering to the maxim of 'bigger is better'.

We in this country are wary of admitting that we have a socioeconomic class system, but we do; it is only that it is displayed and reinforced by our level of conspicuous consumption, meaning that the more 'stuff' you have than the other bloke, the better off you must therefore be.

This is why the term 'cashed up bogan' is so often used.

They may indeed have their palms greased with cash, but they spend most of it as disposable income in the vain hope of climbing the invisible class ladder - Bazza might go for a new ute, and Shazza might spring for a new Commo, despite the fact that both vehicles rapidly depreciate in value while they pay the interest over several years.

A debt cycle is established, as you need to pay for your shiny new toys that will do nothing but lose value - not a very efficient way of climbing the ladder, but your mates will think it's cool.

Celebrity culture also has a part to play, namely the fact that Australia imports most of its celebrity rubbish from the United States, so naturally we try to emulate the 'American Dream' as well.

See what I mean about our identity crisis? What's the 'Australian Dream' again... owning a home?

How insipid, so let's add in some good old fashioned promiscuity in there as well, some botox injections, competitive weight loss, 'get rich quick' talent shows, Zumba classes, and bada bing, bada boom, modern Australian culture is born!

It has also infected our political processes somewhat.

Having a baby? No worries, here's a few thousand dollars, go buy yourself a big screen telly.

Have some kids in school? Not a problem, here's a few thousand dollars, go buy yourself a beer.

Need some childcare? Not a problem, we'll help pay for that, too, so you can *drum roll*

... pay your mortgage!

Heaven forbid we would allow the cashed up bogan to sacrifice anything out of their income to pay for their own offspring; that wouldn't make the government look like a good guy, would it?

Oh, and I've known a family that did actually use the baby bonus to pay for a new big screen TV - it does happen, and I would dare say it's rather prolific.

All the more to encourage a consumer-based society, I would say.

Freethinking is perhaps difficult when the government has already made the choice for you.

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