Saturday, 17 January 2015

A View from Afar

Mission Beach - taken a few years ago on our way to the Tablelands

One of my 5 Platoon mates emailed this. (H/T Dave).

I thought it was worth sharing.

There's a lot to admire about Australia, if you're a visiting American, says David Mason.

More often than you might expect, Australian friends
patiently listening to me enthuse about their country
have said,
''We need outsiders like you to remind us
what we have.''
So here it is - a small presumptuous
list of what one foreigner admires in Oz.

1. Health care.
I know the controversies, but basic national health
care is a gift.
In America , medical expenses are a
leading cause of bankruptcy.
The drug companies
dominate politics and advertising. Obama is being
crucified for taking halting baby steps towards sanity.

You can't turn on the telly without hours of drug
advertisements - something I have never yet seen here.

And your emphasis on prevention - making cigarettes
less accessible, for one - is a model.

2. Food.
Yes, we have great food in America too, especially
in the big cities. But your bread is less sweet, your
lamb is cheaper, and your supermarket vegetables
and fruits are fresher than ours. Too often in my country
America , an apple is a ball of pulp as big as your face.
The dainty Pink Lady apples of Oz are the juiciest I've had.

And don't get me started on coffee. In American small
towns it tastes like water flavoured with burnt dirt,
but the smallest shop in the smallest town in Oz can
make a first-rate latte. I love your ubiquitous bakeries,
and your hot-cross buns. Shall I go on?

3. Language.
How do you do it?
The rhyming slang and Aboriginal place names are
like magic spells. Words that seem vaguely English
yet also resemble an argot from another planet.
I love the way institutional names get turned
into diminutives - Vinnie's and Salvos - and
absolutely nothing's sacred. Everything is an
opportunity for word games and everyone has
a nickname. Lingo makes the world go round.
It's the spontaneous wit of the people that tickles
me most. Late one night at a barbie my new mate
Suds remarked: ''Nothing's the same since 24-7.''
Amen to that.

4. Free-to-air TV.

In Oz, you buy a TV, plug it in and watch some
of the best programming I've ever seen - uncensored.
In America , you can't get diddly-squat without
paying a cable or satellite company heavy fees.
In Oz a few channels make it hard to choose.

In America , you've got 400 channels
and nothing to watch.

5. Small shops.
Outside the big cities in America corporations
have nearly erased them. Identical malls with
identical restaurants serving inferior food.
Except for geography, it's hard to tell one American
town from another. The ''take-away'' culture here
in Australia is wonderful. The human encounters
are real - people love to stir, and stories get told.
The curries here are to die for. And you don't
have to tip!

6. Free camping.

We used to have this too, and I guess it's still free
when you backpack miles away from the roads.
But I love the fact that in Oz everyone owns the
shoreline and in many places you can pull up a
camper van and stare at the sea for weeks. I love
the ''primitive'' and independent camp-grounds,
the life out-of-doors. The few idiots who leave
their stubbies and rubbish behind in these
pristine places ought to be transported in chains
to the penal colonies.

7. Religion.

In America , it's everywhere - especially where it's not
supposed to be, like politics. I imagine you have your
Pharisees too, making a big public show of devotion,
but I have yet to meet one here.

8. Roads.

Peak hour aside, I've found travel on your roads pure
heaven. My country's ''Freeways'' are crowded,
crumbling, insanely knotted with looping overpasses - it's
like racing homicidal maniacs on fraying spaghetti! I've
driven the Hume Highway without stress, and I love
the Princes Highway when it's two lanes. Ninety minutes
south of Bateman's Bay I was sorry to see one billboard
for a McDonald's. It's blocking a lovely paddock view
Someone should remove the MacDonald's Billboard

9. Real multiculturalism.

I know there are tensions, just like anywhere else,
but I love the distinctiveness of your communities
and the way you publicly acknowledge the Aboriginal
past. Recently, too, I spent quality time with the
Melbourne Greeks, and was gratified both by their
devotion to their own great language and culture and
their openness to an Afghan lunch.

10. Fewer guns.

You had Port Arthur in 1996 and got real in response.
America replicates such massacres several times a year
and nothing changes.
Why? Our religion of individual
rights makes the good of the community an impossible
dream. Instead of mateship we have ''It's mine and
nobody else's''. We talk a great game about freedom,
but too often live in fear. There's more to say - your
kaleidoscopic birds, your perfumed bush in springtime,
your vast beaches. These are just a few of the blessings
that make Australia a rarity. Of course, it's not paradise -
nowhere is - but I love it here. No need to wave flags like
the Americans, and add to the world's windiness.

Just value in Australia what you have here
and don't give it away.

A Pinch of Common Sense

Courtesy I found this posted in Facebook a few weeks ago, when the faux outrage about mandated vaccination first began to ...