As I get older I have an increasing yearning for Europe. This, no doubt, was planted within me by my Maltese parents. Nonetheless, once here I am eternally grateful that they had the courage to immigrate to Australia. And yet…….
As a tourist it’s possible to skim the surface and just enjoy all the beauty: the buildings, the music, the natural scenery, the food, the art galleries and museums. But after a time my curious observer eye turns to watching the quality of relationships and everyday life.
Malta seems to have lost its slap dash approach to life. There is a desperateness for sales that I can’t remember being there before, and then joy when a purchase if made. Paris, of course, is still beautiful but everyone seems a little shabbier than I expected. And a not uncommon sight was families making their home under a shop awning. Salzburg has a tent city outside the police station full of refugees. In all these countries (I haven’t got to Italy yet) the impact of both refugees and the global economic downturn has had a huge impact.
In comparison our economic and refugee problems are trivial. I feel deeply ashamed of our solutions to these problems, and more shamed by the questions posed by Europeans as they try to understand our harsh stand. Many to whom I have spoken have been to Australia and our sink or swim policies – literally in the case of refugees – don’t resonate with an Australia they remember.
How did we become so mean spirited?
Whether we’re dealing with mothers, refugees, education, health or welfare it feels like we have variations of the same solution – give nobody nothing!
Whilst lying in the sun I’ve been pondering this and Humberto Maturana’s ideas about cultural change have been floating in and out. Especially his statement – that for cultural change to occur you need a change in emotioning.
Is our new age religion of economic rationalism responsible for this mean spirited emotioning shift? The belief that more for less, under the guise of growth, is the answer of all of life’s problems. The belief that we can consume our way to heaven, is very seductive.
On the plane on the way over I started reading Don Watson’s ‘The Bush’ which I bought as a gift for my sister. As I read I became fascinated with what I think is going to be his central philosophy. I’m only a quarter of the way through, but I think he might be hypothesizing that we haven’t had an emotioning shift at all. That harsh heartlessness is the core of who Australians are. Consequently economic rationalism is a perfect cultural emotioning match. Grab what you can regardless of the destruction and heartache caused along the way.
This ripples across all aspects of our lives and would certainly explain the distress of those of us employed in health and welfare. No wonder pleading for resources for the troubled falls on deaf ears.
With this in mind maybe Gough Whitlam was the anomaly. He tried to change the cultural emotioning of Australia and failed. Those of us who are more matristically orientated grieve for those humane times. Everything he had put into place has gradually been eroded away.
I’ll just stick with refugee management as a symbol of cultural emotioning. Despite Europe’s problems in many areas, from my limited research, an Australian style solution would not be popular.
In Europe The Madonna is ever present – a tribute to love and the value of mothering or nurturing. Maybe they understand the potential impact of gains made at the expense of another in a way Australians, with our geographical isolation, don’t.
The matristic emotioning of gratefulness for what the world gives seems to sit more easily in Europe than the patriarchal pride of getting what you can preferably for nothing that underpins the Australian psyche. And yet… I love our quality of life. A double bind, I think!