Let’s stop for a moment and have a serious look at our culture. The Australian culture; often referred to as ‘Aussie Culture’.
It was a sunny day and there wasn’t a lot of work to do. A Clydesdale horse was running free on a beach; jumping over puddles and roughing about in the sand. Later that day when things were cooler, the Clydesdale hooked itself up to a cart with a few of his mates, and as the sun set behind them they rode off into the into the cool evening; their dust trails glowing in the sun’s warm afternoon rays.
What this image had to do with cricket or football we’ll never know. But it’s what hundreds of thousands of Australians saw in the middle of every match in the ‘70s & ‘80s.
Ever heard someone start talking about ‘Aussie Culture’? I’m sure you have. It’s supposedly the culture that is being threatened by immigrants (which have been coming to Australia for over 200 years). It’s apparently the culture that defines what it is to be ‘Australian’.
Get someone to define ‘Aussie’ or even ‘Australian’ culture, and they frequently talk about scenes of drinking beer, working hard and playing hard. Swearing, sitting around the barbeque and just generally making a dick of themselves. If you’re really lucky, they may even talk about eating a pie at the football. Oh yeah, and driving a Holden and swimming at the beach.
And then there’s ‘mateship’.
Sift through the links above for long enough and you’ll start to see certain themes emerge. Australians are all white and of Anglo decent. Only men work hard, and women are servants to those hard working blokes. Only men have fun while women are there to look good.
At the time that most of these commercials were made, Australia was largely an immigrant population formed from people that had fled the poverty and the devastation of Europe after the Second World War.
Even then the Anglos weren’t that different. Many were first generation Australians from families that had fled the oppressive poverty that had destroyed Scotland and Ireland as both of those countries became giant Industrialized soot-pits.
It is the customs and practices of this latter group that we owe a lot of what we call ‘Aussie Culture’, but we’ve even turned a blind eye to a lot of what else they brought with them too.
As it stands, our definition of our culture is largely made by how Australians ideally views themselves at play, and is mostly a by-product of people trying to flog consumables to us as we play.
This is in contrast to many other nations that are culturally defined by their religious practices and how they overcome the hardships that their nations endured. A much more self depreciating view of their world than we as Australians are often comfortable with.
It is no accident that people often define Australian culture by conjuring up the same images that we see in these commercials. They show people enjoying themselves. The make you feel good about the kind of life you live, and encourage you to reward yourself with one of their products, which makes you feel part of the community and part of Australia as a whole.
It’s how people want to feel. They don’t want to be the lonely piss-head sitting at home with the wife, watching the football on TV. The beer commercials that flash up on the screen during those football matches ensure that just sitting at home sinking a cold beer doing this, makes them feel like they are actually part of something. It makes them feel part of a community and social circle. It also makes them feel more masculine and part of the action.
If we ignore the alcohol fuelled violence & domestic abuse in our community, and the health issues that it brings along with the deaths on our roads every year caused by drink driving, we could almost see beer as a cultural icon. If it wasn’t for the fact that it is drunk in pretty much every country in the world, in almost exactly the same way.
There’s nothing Australian about beer, except for the local branding. There’s nothing distinctive about Barbeques either. Holden hasn’t been Australian since General motors bought the company and decided to use the name of one of that company’s Australian founders.
Mateship itself is quite a contentious term. There’s nothing in mateship that couldn’t be observed anywhere else, and is far from a quality that is distinctly Australian. Not even Australians buy completely into the ‘Mateship’ thing, as was famously demonstrated by Les Murry when he refused to word it into the Australian constitutional pre-amble after the Australian Prime Minister tried to have it included during a referendum.
Australians have held mateship up without challenging its virtues for some time, even though when you look past its face value, it appears to have been a justification for sending tens of thousands of young Australians to their deaths, in mud pits half a world away.
All that death they suffered just to discover mateship, just to define our culture? Bulldust.
There’s a real tragedy in all of this. There are things that we have neglected of our culture while we have embraced this commercially driven view of our society. Women and aboriginals tend to be forgotten, along with anything outside of our densely compact social microcosms.
We rarely embrace the major contribution that immigration has made on our country, and worse there are groups of people who are going out of their way to down-play the contribution on our culture by immigrants. Further more, they then attempt to marginalise immigrants in our community by claiming they don’t fit in with out culture.
So much for a ‘Fair go’.
In the pursuit of the iconifiction of beer drinking as a cultural idiom, we have neglected such things as ‘School of the air’ and ‘The flying doctor’.
While we try and paint ourselves as social, close and matesy, the reality is that much of what has defined us as Australian, has been dealing with our isolation and remoteness. These things don’t fit well into beer commercials, as no one likes the idea of being segregated and alone for much of their life. Yet we are.
Historically women have made major contributions to our community and culture. In fact, it’s in the history of Australian women that we see some of the most uniquely Australian developments in our community. All of which is neglected by our beer goggle view of our culture.
It is impossible to completely and wholly understand the part aboriginals have played in our community, but like it or not Aboriginals have made a major positive impact on the way all of us Australians live our lives every day. In our attempts to whitewash our culture over the last 100 years or so, Aboriginals have refused to go away, and are far more of an integral part of our community and culture than the some members of our anglicised community are often comfortable with or willing to accept.
To our community’s detriment, we still kick aboriginals to the kerb, only to come and seek them out when we need something from them. A shameful act that shows how little we actually understand about community in Australia
It’s time we stopped looking at our culture through the beer glass. It is time we stopped devaluing people in our community when we try to define our culture. It is time to stop telling people what our culture is, and rather start living our lives by developing and growing the culture around us.