A Down Under Perspective

I cyber-know a guy in Australia named Tom, who probably thinks I died because I’ve owed him an email for about a month. (Though in reality, he just asks very penetrating questions that require a lot of thought and time, which is my lame excuse for not having written him back yet. But the day will come soon.)

Anyway, he recently sent an email in response to some questions I had about the influence of American culture on Australian culture. It’s quite interesting, so I’m sharing an excerpt below:

Culture. Australian culture is very heavily influenced by American stuff. Almost all of the movies we watch are American, the biggest TV shows are American. Most of the popular music is American. All the popular styles of music have come out of America. We have way too many Starbucks, Maccas (McDonald’s, I’ve heard you don’t call it Maccas), Nikes, Apple and Microsoft products. It’s hard for a country of 20 million people to be culturally independent. That’s why I call America my cultural motherland. I can’t say I’m happy with the situation, but I’m a child of American influence so I’m interested to see my “roots”.

From what I know of our history Britain used to be the biggest influence in Australia up until the World War II. But after you guys came in and won the war and saved us from the Japanese, things shifted. America’s influence in the world grew and Britain’s diminished. Plus immigration changed, post WWII we got a lot more European immigrants which watered down the British thing. Now we take immigrants from everywhere, though mostly Asia I think. There are still a few people from the old set who think of Great Britain as “home”, but generally, they’ve all moved on now. Generally we think of ourselves as Australian. Or as whatever country we came from, and that could be anywhere. I think we’re meant to be one of the most multi-cultural countries on the planet. I figure this lack of single prevailing national culture, allows for the most globally dominant culture to prevail.

Plus these days, American foreign policy has a huge influence on ours. Our current government has decided to become your staunchest ally. John does whatever George says. I guess this connection, for better or for worse, intrigues me. I guess I want to know who my country is following blindly around the world.

As far as Christian culture goes, I think we’re less influenced by you guys. Most of our big worship music is Australian, coming out of Hillsong. Or we get a bit of Soul Survivor stuff too, but that’s not American either. The Christian books we read are more likely to be American. We really get into our Phillip Yancy and Joyce Mayer here. Though the evangelical scholarship generally comes out of the UK or Australia as much as it comes from you guys. Probably partly because your definition of an Evangelical and ours is quite different. Pentecostal theology all comes from you folk.

So all this adds up to some interesting influence from you guys. What also fascinates me is (and I’ll try not to offend you here) is that you’re a massive “Christian” nation, you have much higher percentages of church attendance than Australia, yet much of the behaviour of American Christians seems incongruous which what I think are the social responsibilities of a Christian. The “moral majority” seem to have rather skewed priorities when it comes to corporate morality. Individual morality (like sexual issues, profanity, drinking and drugs) is strictly enforced, while national morality (like poverty alleviation, war, environmental stuff) seems to be more concerned with the good of the nation, rather than the adherence to the teachings of the Bible. This is the image I get of most of conservative Christian culture in the US. I am aware though that this is making broad generalisations. The whole Anglican Communion wouldn’t be getting in a tizzy about the Episcopalian ordination of gays in New Hampshire if the whole of American Christian culture was like what I just described. But I guess for me the question is “How can they get it so right and get it so wrong at the same time?” Or maybe I’m the one getting it wrong. As you may have noticed I’m a bit of a lefty. At least on the large scale issues, on an individual level I’m much more right (as opposed to left, rather than wrong J).

I think I’m also just fascinated by your culture in the many ways it’s different from ours. You guys seem to clap a lot more than we do. It’s hard to get a round of applause here, but you guys seem to throw them around willy nilly. Not that that’s a big deal. We’re a nation of cynics and poppy cutters. We don’t like anyone who takes themselves too seriously. America, from what I can see, seems to have a much higher tolerance for sentimentality and genuineness. In Australia I think in many ways we have a lot of American stuff, but we’re still more British in the way we behave. Our humour is more Monty Python than it is Robin Williams (though he might be a bad example).

Perhaps I’ll share more excerpts another day…

Published in: on July 4, 2007 at 8:55 am  Leave a Comment  

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