notes from the road

Why be a champion when we could be mates?

Yesterday while waiting for a tram – a common past time I’ve picked up, I watched a man get into a taxi cab and was reminded of something that I read in France. It was in a book which taught English learners about different social etiquette in the English speaking world. For Australia it said that it could be offensive to sit in the back seat of a taxi if you are a single passenger. The upshot being that in the back seat you are being chauffeur driven and in the passenger seat you are mates with the taxi driver. In the US this is not the case at all, not only are you in the back of the cab, but there is a divider that you can shut so that you are in your own little cell and not really in the car with a person at all.

This then got me thinking about how we refer to our leaders – which is quite apt now that our PM is up over. It seems that it is quite appropriate when interviewing the Prime Minister to call her Julia (or Jew-liar if you are Alan Jones) like you are out at a barbie. In my time in the US I didn’t once here anyone refer to the American President in an interview as Barack, or rarely even Mr Obama. They use the title Mr President, one that he keeps even after he has lost his position. This explains why Hillary Clinton referred to Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister Rudd a few months ago.

So using these tiny points of reference I feel I can make some grand conclusions. It seems that for two countries that do have much in common there is a discrepancy in how the individual is viewed. The US celebrates personal triumph, individual achievement and readily accepts differences of importance or status of people. Whereas the Australian psyche finds it hard for an individual to be less well off than another, equality reigns. This is where the Tall poppy syndrome starts, the beating up of our successful actors begins and cannonisation of unsuccessful events and people becomes evident (Ned Kelly, Waltzing Matilda, Gallipoli).

Australia celebrates the commonality and the US the champion.

If the world were a pack of wolves, the US would chose to be the leader and Australia would chose to be the mid pack mongrel making fart jokes.



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