Why I Am Glad I Am Not Australian

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The problem implied in the title of this essay is not as academic as it might seem. The fact that I get to meander happily though sneezily1 in the piney woods of North Carolina these days, rather than walking on my head2 amongst the kangaroos and wallabies, is a lesson in history.

Back in the 17th Century, when my lot ended up over here, the English3 had a simple solution to most social problems: export. Quakers who drove everybody nuts with their theeing and thouing, supernumerary Scotsmen, mad Irishmen...on the boat, all of ye, and don't let the trade winds hit you on the way out.

Let loose upon this continent, the Quakers did what Quakers do best: built, traded, and talked everybody's ears off. You had to go to Meeting to get any peace and quiet. The Scots-Irish stayed true to type, as well, being mostly involved in drinking and fighting, not necessarily in that order.

I am perversely proud of my however-many-great-uncles, who were the first domestic terrorists in America. They burnt down a colonial courthouse. That'll teach the tax-collector, say I.

Now, come the Revolution4, the British5 saw no reason to give up the sensible practice of removing the odd6 troublemaker with a simple boat ticket. One-way, no returns.

The Founding Fathers7 thought otherwise. Mr Benjamin Franklin - farsighted philosopher to us, terrorist to some - opined openly that if the British thought they were going to keep sending us convicts, we'd just send them rattlesnakes by return post. Sooner or later, somebody got the point.

Thus can I point with further pride to the key role played by the American Revolution8 in the founding of modern Australia.

The Australians must be descended from an altogether superior kind of criminal. Other than the odd outlaw, which is only to be expected wherever English is spoken natively, they've hardly made a blip on the crime scene since they landed.

Maybe it's something in the water.

The Aussies seem to spend most of their time dodging sharks and engaging in the ritual immolation of shellfish. They used to send us nothing more harmful than the occasional bottle of beer and Paul Hogan. I like Paul Hogan, and secretly hope most Australians are like him. I suspect they might not be, but think this is probably their loss.

I say they used to send us nothing particularly harmful, for lately they have taken to exporting vast numbers of not-particularly-talented actors, including one who is a real menace: Mr Mel Gibson.

Mr Gibson does a great deal to erode our previous respect for the Land Down Under, in that he belligerently falsifies other people's history books. As most of us are capable of doing that all on our own, such movies as The Patriot and Braveheart merely add insult to injury.

If we cancel all his parking tickets, could somebody please come take the man home?

It must be said that, by and large, the Australians have done the world little harm. (We will forgive them for writing 'Waltzing Matilda'. Somebody had to do it.)

So why is it that I am glad I am not an Australian?

That's easy - because I am an ornery, stubborn sort of cuss who would rather go hide up a red-clay mountainside than go metric.

I'll bet all those marsupials are nice, though.

An Australian outback cowboy
1Allergies. Lots of 'em.2Antipodes, you know...no? Oh, never mind, then.3Not British, there were no British in 1682, so there.4I know, I know, it wasn't one, but tell that to the history teachers.5Now they were the British.6Sometimes very odd.7That's what we call them, they were all fellas, and most of them had kids.8Yeah, yeah. But we call it that.

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