Friday, August 28, 2009

Snobbery in Progress


Duplicity by Pants

Everyone tells me Australia is 'the smart country'. Perhaps, but it's still full of stupid people. Britain, of course is a stupid country full of smart people. America is a stupid country full of stupid people as all the smart ones went to live in Britain. At least if it's just the people who are stupid, you can simply keep your distance and hope that it's not contagious. A stupid country is much more difficult to ignore.

I, rather dumbly in retrospect, succumbed to an inadvisable whim to take up a course in visual arts at the Larrikin's End School of Fine Art and Advanced Macrame as those of you who've not yet entered a nursing home in the time it's taken me to compose a new post may recall. Incidentally, I read yesterday that regular intakes of wine help to stave off Alzheimer's. The usual 'moderation' caveat applies but I think we can agree a bottle a day covers it. Any more probably produces the reverse effect. Please do enjoy the fact that, if like me you relish a sauvignon blanc with your evening meal, you can look forward to being acutely aware of the stupidity all around you for the term of your natural life.

Where was I? Oh yes, art school. The rather grand sounding 'digital media' aspect of our course has so far managed only to equip us with the singularly pointless skill of cutting out an object from a picture and inserting it into another picture onscreen using a mouse. This is a task that takes approximately one hundred and thirty-two times as long as it would if one were to go to a shop, browse for two hours through the magazines, choose one with a suitable picture, dawdle to the stationery counter and finally select a pair of scissors after insisting on testing every pair eleven times, go on a two-week holiday to Phuket and, upon returning, forget for three monthss that you once had a notion to cut a picture from a magazine and stick it onto another picture.

Yesterday, the digital media teacher called me 'retarded'. This was just after she had gone away to get a calculator to aid her in the complex problem of dividing 210 by 3. I don't think she appreciated my suggestion that we call Wheeler Labs to see if they have a computer powerful enough to get an answer back on the same day. It's all my own fault. I could have chosen to stay on the dole and continue writing books that no one wants to read in my hermetically-sealed, stupid-free house rather than retrain for an occupation I am even worse at and spend my days with people whose livelihood depends on my achieving sustainable learning outcomes. I guess it's true what Kant said, 'A sane child put with mad children will go mad.'

Australia has recently discovered 'political correctness', although clearly it has not yet filtered down to Larrikin's End. It can be a very helpful strategy for getting out of doing hard things, especially when the old 'health and safety issues' excuse is too much of a stretch, even for the chronically daft. For example not teaching kids to read for fear that they'll be felled by lethal paper cuts mostly won't wash but shunning literacy in recognition of the damaging Anglo-centricity it imposes on our multicultural pretensions is genius. There must be some sophisticated non-elitest code of grunts we can employ instead of that crusty old English language to let each other know it's time for The Footy Show. Barney's just yelled out to me from under his rancid duvet that there is. It's called parliamentary discourse. 'Cheers Barney.' It can be highly beneficial sharing your house with an an aspirational owly-cat. Barney meets all the best people.
'Give my regards to Vlad old chap.' Did I mention the Barnster's opening a new vodka bar in Melbourne? It's to be called 'Goblet of Fire'. Barney's partial to strong drink. He fits Australia like a well-Vaselined condom.

Speaking as someone who still doesn't get why 'people of colour' is a more acceptable construct than 'coloured people', I am absolutely baffled by the semantic twist Australia has taken in reference to Aboriginal people. When I first came back here, I kept hearing talk of 'didgous' people. (Australians are not given to the mandatory pronunciation of vowels.) I eventually worked out that 'Indigenous' is the new culturally-appropriate moniker for Aboriginal people, the capitalisation creating a convenient new proper noun. Whereas 'Aboriginal' easily became an unambiguous national identity for the original owners of this colonised country by virtue of its not being in use for anything else, 'indigenous' is not quite so neatly commandeered. In countries such as England and France with big migrant populations, 'indigenous' refers to the dominant, white majority. You see how that could be confusing? It also creates a nonsense of a converse. 'Non-indigenous' is now in common use as a description for anyone who does not have Aboriginal heritage. But I, for example, must by default be an 'indigenous' Australian simply because I am not indigenous to anywhere else, even though I don't have Aboriginal ancestry. It's proved an effective and invidious diversion from real problems as the conditions in which most Aboriginal people live continue to deteriorate disastrously while academics helpfully ponder the finer points of linguistic propriety on their behalf.

This morning I listened to a radio discussion about children's sport. Whenever Australia loses at any kind of game it inflicts such a blow to the national psyche that it triggers a year-long 'conversation' about how we must do everything 'differently'. Apparently it is standard practice now to withhold the scores in children's sport to alleviate the distress of losing. That must be quite hard in tennis. How would they know when to stop playing? It's a shame if it's true as keeping score in sport must be one of the few opportunities children have left to experience active arithmetic.

Do I regret coming back to Australia? Only about five times a day and whenever I hear those anguished pleas to the collective disinterest beyond the waves for 'global recognition'. That they are still squabbling over abortion, gay marriage and whether or not to provide free and decent health and dental care is tedious beyond imagining but it must be so much worse to be an American where these things are still the dangerous hallmarks of radical socialism. I'm beyond the need for abortion and have already come to terms with the fact that I have to book my dentist three months in advance. I'm just going to have to get better at predicting toothache. Fortunately my teeth are in reasonably good nick for a woman of my advanced years. There is some health care in Australia but the system for accessing it is so complex that I think it would just be easier to avoid illness altogether. It does seem that if you are planning on having any kind of medical emergency, a motoring accident is your best bet. They hate people dying in motoring accidents here and will do their best to save you.

I have before me now several days of blissful aloneness and some warm weather forecast. If I could just remember why I thought it would be a good idea to move to the beach, I'd be in business...