The announcement that Prime Minister Abbott is reinstating knights and dames made me feel more positive about Australia than I have in many years. We reacted in a quintessentially Aussie way: we took the piss.
Hundreds of people called themselves ‘Dame’ on Twitter, newspaper front pages mocked the announcement, Labor senator Sam Dastyari gave a speech filled with puns on the Senate floor. It was on for young and old, and it still is.
That’s the Australia I know. Not this easily outraged, pious, moralistic bunch of la-di-das that currently dominate public debate. When I was a kid, if someone like Andrew Bolt or Chris Kenny had spent years spitting hate at basically everyone who crossed their paths and then declared they were the real victims, they would have been laughed out of town.
If we’re as keen to embrace good old fashioned Australian values as our politicians keep telling us we are, then surely being a nation of piss-takers is what we’re aiming for.
Piss-takers are not racists. They’re not bigots. They’re people who thumb their noses at authority. And in the current Australian environment, refusing to be a bigot or a racist is the biggest ‘up yours’ to authority you can give.
Perhaps we shy away from our natural desire to mock authority because many of us have a fear of being called working class or bogan. Everyone wants to be terribly bourgeois and cultivated these days. Everyone wants to cook like a Masterchef and live in a Grand Designs home. We all want replica Eames furniture, high-fashion clothing and we think that civil disobedience means refusing to wax our pubic hair.
We need to shake things up a bit and stop being so boring.
While March in March was a lovely idea, it didn’t particularly resonate with the rest of Australia. This is because for all of its genuine concerns, it was difficult to figure out its purpose beyond helping people with particular political beliefs feel like they’re not alone. That’s a completely legitimate thing to do, but it’s not the start of a revolution. It’s depressing that we’ve got to a point where well-meaning people think that it is.
Our obsession with bourgeois niceties has led to feminism disappearing up its own arse as well. It’s been taken over by arguments that focus on body image, fashion, television and who said what on the internet. It’s removed from the way that many women live and means nothing to anyone who doesn’t know how to torrent the latest HBO series.
Working class women, disadvantaged women, elderly women, single mothers, and women with English as a second language are left out in the cold. If you ask any of those women what they thought of the subtext in the latest episode of Girls, they’d likely respond with “Do I look like I have either the time or inclination to sit around pondering that shit?”
Perhaps what irritates me the most is the smug celebration by many of us in the wake of the International Court of Justice declaring that Japan’s whale cull is not scientific. Aren’t we a lovely, civilised country for wanting to save the whales?
Never mind the fact that we continue to defend our ‘right’ to send cattle to other countries to be slaughtered in incredibly cruel ways. Never mind that just a few months ago we were admonishing those silly Greenpeace people for getting themselves arrested in Russian waters. Never mind that Australia has been hauled before international tribunals for our treatment of asylum seekers a number of times and we ignore the recommendations. Never mind that when the international scientific community tells us over and over again that climate change is real, we keep complaining that the carbon tax is killing us. None of that matters. We like whales.
Get your hand off it, people. You either respect the views of international courts, tribunals and committees as a whole, or you don’t.
The more piss-taking and mocking of ourselves, the better. But we need to drop the sanctimony. Before you jump into the comments section to declare “I’m not a part of this ‘Australia’ you’re talking about! I voted for the other guys!”, take a good hard look at yourself. Are you getting out there and trying to change the status quo? Or are you simply sitting online all day saying “It’s not my fault”?
Voting for the other party isn’t political activism. Turning off your lights for a bit during Earth Hour doesn’t make you an environmental defender. Abusing racists on Facebook doesn’t make you a human rights advocate.
Sign the petitions, talk to your friends, volunteer your time or skills, donate if you can afford it, go on rallies that protest specific issues and demand certain changes. And take the piss: look for hypocrisy in both your own actions and the actions of others and mercilessly tear it apart.
And for god’s sake, stop calling everyone else names.
Not everyone who lives in a western suburb is racist. Not everyone who lives in the inner city is a wanker. Not everyone with a degree is an elite and not everyone who left school at 15 is stupid. I’m guessing most of the people who look down their noses at so-called ‘bogans’ have never spent time with one. Good hearts don’t know incomes or postcodes. Good hearts can be found anywhere.
Take the piss, Australia. Enough with the hand-wringing and sniping, it isn’t getting us anywhere.
More about this from the hoopla.
*Corinne Grant is a stand-up comedian, MC, presenter, writer and broadcaster and has performed both nationally and internationally. In addition to her years on Rove Live and The Glasshouse, she has appeared on everything from Spicks and Specks to Dancing With The Stars to Good News Week. She has co-hosted successful national radio shows, performed countless solo live shows and appeared everywhere from the Sydney Opera House to the Kalgoorlie Arts Centre. Corinne’s first book, Lessons In Letting Go: Confessions of a Hoarder (Allen and Unwin) was released in September 2010 and went into reprint just months after its release. You can follow her on Twitter @corinne_grant.