the semi-lucky country
February 12, 2006 (as amended)

The main reasons I no longer live in my homeland, Australia:

-1. Racism: I wish it wasn't so -- but it is.

0. Environmental Vandals: Australia joined the USA in attempting to torpedo the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. Australia would rather deny climate change than fix it.

1. Cultural Cringe: I'm not particularly outdoorsy or sport-oriented, and I don't drink alcohol; meanwhile, Australia isn't terribly noted for its electronic music or clubscene.

2. Everywhere is a long way from everywhere else, discouraging exploration and necessitating a car - but I hate cars, and have never had a driver's license. Poorly-developed public transport systems don't help either.

3. Remote viewing only: Australia sees the world though a tunnel - a series of subsea cables and satellite links actually - this distorts the picture and screws with the sound. I'm talking about experiencing things second-hand. In Australia, everything happens somewhere else.

This is not my country:

"Indonesia has arrested or, dare I say in some cases, they've killed, but arrested and killed more terrorists than any other country outside of the Middle East," he said.

"The Indonesian government has done a very good job on counter-terrorism and a much underrated job." -- Alexander Downer, Australian Foreign Minister

The Australia I left respects the rule of law and holds human life sacrosanct. And it is dead.



4. Size of economy: 20 million people can only generate so much business. Shops are limited in number and scope for the same reason.

5. Draconian police - cowboys with high-powered cars and guns and an inflexible, intimidating attitude.

6. I don't like hot weather, or intense sunlight. It gets hot in Australia. I like nice, temperate mid-20's. I recall some days in Perth, I'd have a shower to cool off, and I'd be sweating again by the time I was dressed. This isn't pleasant. It's not an accident that kind of day - a stinker - has an unflattering name. Meanwhile, the sun is so strong that sunscreen is a necessity, and sunburn common.

7. Slowness. Everything happens in slow motion. I mean, why rush to get something done, when there's some footy on the box and a cold one in the fridge? Not much sense of urgency, no particular rush. I don't agree with this. I think there is an extremely urgent need to sort out some major shit, such as climate change, and I am bored waiting.

8. American kow-towing. America is a sick, ugly country. Why would the "lucky country" seek such foul company? Maybe it's a bit ugly too.

9. Telecommunications tyrrany - Telstra's hegemony over the communications networks produces expensive, slow and unreliable services for everybody. Two minutes' glance at the websites of Australian ISPs reveals this. Upload speeds are typically half those found in other parts of the world; tariffs are above-average, and quotas are everywhere. The sales pages openly blame Telstra for price rises and product inflexibilities, while the support pages are regularly filled with bitching about Telstra's latest obscenity - be that massive email outages, or wholesale price fixing.

10. Minimal history. There's not much of a story at all. Almost all the buildings are new. There are no apocryphal tales of ancient leaders and heroic deeds. There are no relics from the past - because there wasn't one. Yes - there is a rich indigenous history - but this was not written down, and is in part secret. It's interesting, to be sure - but it's just not the same as to be able to walk in the same room, take the same steps as some of the most famous people in history; to be able to look at what they looked at, and think the things they thought as they did.

Yes, it's got some nice things - I love the beach, and the smooth, wide footpaths, and the al-fresco cafes, and the clean air, the friendly people, and modern infrastructure.

But it also has more than a few issues, and worst of all, it doesn't seem to know that. It's too busy having a barbie and kicking back, which I find tedious, lazy, and wasteful. I don't want my life to be a blur of sun and sport and beer, frittered away in a distant corner of the universe, amongst people who barely share my values. Sure, Australia is into giving people a "fair go" - just don't mention the Magna Carta, or you'll get a blank look. This shallowness is unattractive.

Update 2016: A quick list of things that could be done to "reboot" Australia, possibly as a package. These won't fix most of the problems above - some of those problems seem unfixable - but they can form a stable, inclusive basis from which the other issues can be tackled:

  1. become a republic, with an elected head of state ("president") and no ties whatsoever to the UK, except historically
  2. change the flag - to reinforce independence from the UK, the Union Jack should be removed
  3. change the date of "Australia Day", which should be reserved for parties, and have a separate Day of Reflection on Jan 26
  4. probably dump the national anthem too - not because it's bad, but to symbolise change

So this would be a collection of things, which together represent modern Australia's rejection of 18th-Century separatism; doing this consciously and in public sends the message that Australia, as a society and nation, is ready to move past those decisions that were made for it, all those years ago, and start deciding its own path, with its own values.

This isn't about slapping the past in the face - it's about recognising past wrongs, setting those right as much as is possible, and building a new future together. Nobody wants to offend the past - but unfortunately, some things from the past do now offend the present, and it's those things which must be fixed, the sensibilities of those long-dead notwithstanding.

And, it may be the case that those now long-dead would be quietly delighted with the path modern Australia is taking, if they could see it - they may not agree, but surely they would at least be pleased that the nation they helped to create has now grown strong enough to make these decisions for itself.