An Ungrateful Australian

Gary Dean, January 2003

On Tuesday, 17 December 2002 BM wrote:

I think, on balance, that if I am to be ruled, I would much rather be ruled by complete fucking moron civilians than by clever army generals, or religious fanatics for that matter. A friend, who had been a lifelong marxist until the collapse of the Soviet Union, in a moment of possibly alcohol-induced candour, said to me once that to him a slightly corrupt, partially inept 'liberal democracy' is far preferable to a ruthlessly efficient and thoroughly honest socialist dictatorship.

Oh shit, I think I feel a polemic coming on ... Or maybe it's that dodgy rendang I ate for lunch ...

I quite agree, living under a liberal democracy is probably preferable to living under a socialist dictatorship. However your statements are loaded with some highly contentious and suspect presumptions concerning the alleged relative superiority of liberal democracy, of which Australia is a worthy representative.  You seem to be inferring that living in Australia is clearly and infinitely more preferable to living in a state governed by "clever army generals" and/or "religious fanatics".  (In the context above, you seemed to be alluding to Indonesia.)

OK, here's my argument: Australia sucks and Indonesia doesn't.  (Sorry, I'm trying to get to the point quickly.  Some of my readers have very short attention spans.)  Australia is an anal-retentive, puritanical, hyper-bureaucratic society that craves certainty from cradle to grave.  The notion we call "Australia" is in fact a highly effective dictatorship hiding behind a mask of pluralism and social democracy.  The Australian state (yes, it's a singular animal despite federal pretensions) uses political correctness, law and hyper-regulation as weapons of repression.  And woe be unto the unbelievers!

an ungrateful australian
Me being arrested for singing
a song of dubious artistic merit.
Perth, 5 December 1980.

Australia is ruled by a pseudo-meritocratic "professional" class that has absolute hegemony over political and cultural expression.  Australian pluralism co-opts and/or suffocates non-conformists in a blanket of condescending, phoney toleration and smirking supremacism.  And if that doesn't work then they can always call the cops.

three D

Australia is the land of the living dead, a bizarre Disneyland of self-deception and self-congratulation.  Not much different really from any other modern, Western or Westernised "civilisation" on the planet at this present moment.  As was said in the End of Prehistory a quarter of a century ago, we (Westerners) have succeeded in creating societies where "the possibility of dying from starvation has been replaced with the certainty of dying from boredom."

Like other Echelon Alliance states, Australia shares the spoils of economic and technological domination, and is an active participant in perpetuating the global class system that sucks the very life out of "backward", unmodernised states and regions.  And then attempts to present itself as a model of virtue and righteousness to our little brown brothers to the north.

Australians are the most annoying people on the planet (myself and present company excluded of course).  They are an embarrassment to the human species.  I go out of my way to avoid them.  Truly, I'm not exaggerating.

oz

I used to think that perhaps there was something wrong with me, perhaps I wasn't getting something.  But now I am convinced that it's Australia that's fucked, not me.  If I never go back to Australia in my life I will not feel that I have missed anything whatsoever.  Living in Australia is like death itself, the arrogant, self-satisfied culture that daily proclaims that "we have arrived, we are there", utterly and smugly impervious to criticism and non-conforming thought.

I came to Indonesia over seven years ago, following three years of deliberate and fairly intensive preparation and planning.  I rarely go back to Australia nowadays, and if I do it is a very quick trip and usually only for mercenary purposes.

garuda pancasila

People, both Western and Indonesian, sometimes say to me "You must love Indonesia."  This, I guess, is a reasonable assumption on their part.  But in fact, I don't "love" Indonesia.  I'm ambivalent, frankly.  Sure, the political sideshows here tickle certain small areas of my brain.  And certainly, culturally there is a lot that this place can teach you about humanity.  But truly, I live here because this is where I live.  And most importantly, I live here because it's not Australia.

money

The past seven years have been "interesting times" in this part of the world.  For me personally it has also been eventful.  I have seen the departure of three Indonesian presidents, witnessed several waves of severe political tumult (and seen two people killed as a consequence), been victim of a number of robberies (once even inflicted a double hernia jumping from a moving town bus whilst escaping an group of angry pickpockets), been hospitalised on two occasions for months at a time with interesting tropical diseases, witnessed numerous traffic fatalities, had my house flooded to the kneecaps twice, and have been continuously and mercilessly ripped off by corrupt immigration bureaucrats.  And currently I am in the process of being hunted down by a Chinese mafia gang in Jakarta because I threw a spanner into the works of their multi-million dollar sugar smuggling operation.

Not to mention volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, landslides, murderous traffic, air pollution, endemic corruption, political leaders of mega-moronic intellect, Islamic and ethnic terrorism, and an investment climate that has all but obliterated Indonesia from the global economic map.  Keeping in mind that I'm supposed to be an "Indonesian Investment Consultant", this last point is of considerable importance to me personally!  Very simply, no investment, no income!  Given my profession, you can probably imagine that I've been about as popular as a umm ... [insert your own hilariously witty metaphor here].

better living

But for all the above, I'm still here in Indonesia.  Why?  Once again, because it's not Australia.  At least here I know I'm alive; in Australia I can never be quite sure.  "Life" in Australia is a numbing blur of certainty, repetition and sterility.  In contrast, every moment in Indonesia requires complete attention.  Nothing can be left to chance, you cannot "cruise" within your own personal oblivion.  Anything and everything can and does happen.

When Indonesians -- or any East Asians for that matter -- think about Australia and Australians, they nearly always use words with meanings such as "arrogant", "supremacist", "racist", amongst others.  I used to think that they simply didn't understand Australians or their culture, or that they were simply victims of nationalist propaganda.  Actually, they don't understand Australians, and in fact most do simply regurgitate the bigoted propaganda that's fed to them through nationalist media.  But despite this I now consider that they have accurately described Australia and Australians.

better living

Of course, the boringly predictable Australian response to such sharp criticism is to splutter something like "well, my country is better than yours, so there!" Australians may go on to proclaim, subtly or otherwise: "we are rich, we have powerful friends, we are white, we are a tolerant multicultural society, our social system is second to none." ... To which I can only reply: "So fucking what?"

Btw, what do you think the chances are of seeing any of the opinions above published in The West Australian?  Right, zilch.  And it's not just because The West Australian is a narrow-minded, provincial, rubbish wrapper.  The fact is that very, very few Australians want to hear such opinions.  They are prisoners of their own self-deceptions and the hegemony of the ruling culture.

"As we celebrate Christmas, let us think of the incredible privilege we all have of being Australians." -- Australian Prime Minister John Howard, December 2002.

Ummm, yeah, right, thanks John for the "incredible privilege".  I am such an ungrateful sod.


 
 
----- Original Message ----- 
From: BM 
To: Gary Dean 
Sent: Tuesday, December 17, 2002 1:19 PM 
Subject: Re: picturesque ruins 
 
I think, on balance, that if I am to be ruled, I would much rather 
be ruled by complete fucking moron civilians than by clever army 
generals, or religious fanatics for that matter. 
 
A friend, who had been a lifelong marxist until the collapse of the 
Soviet Union, in a moment of possibly alcohol-induced candour, said 
to me once that to him a slightly corrupt, partially inept  'liberal 
democracy' is far preferable to a ruthlessly efficient and 
thoroughly honest socialist dictatorship. 
 
Sorry I won't be visting your neck of the woods in the foreseeable 
future. if you're ever down this way, look me up. 
 
BM 
 
>>> #okusi#@#telkom.net# 17/12/2002 9:22:00 
> Do obfuscation, poor diction, muddled thought patterns, barely 
> audible mumbling, verbosity, prolixity, misplaced theatricality, 
> terminally mixed metaphor, non-sequitirs, nit-picking legaliisms, 
> inappropriate rhetorical devices, ill-considered generalisations, 
> baleful repetition, deliberate filibustering and pompous bluster 
> count as honest intentions? 
 
ahh, i see ... so it's your job to stop them looking like the 
complete fucking morons they really are?? well, i guess someone has 
to do it ... 
 
salam 
 
Gary Dean 
 

 
----- Original Message ----- 
Date: Mon, 30 Dec 2002 12:47:43 +0800 
From: Lorenz 
To: Gary Dean 
Subject: Yup 
 
Hello Gary, 
 
Ten or so years ago I would have thought your remarks re Australia 
and by extension other Western democracies a bit over the top.  But 
not now ... you just kept hitting on precisely what my experience 
tells me is true.  Like swapping dying of starvation for dying of 
boredom.  Like Australia being a dictatorship of political 
correctness, law and hyper regulation.  Etc.  I didn't disagree with 
any of it - I am surprised to say.  I piss not in thy pocket brother 
Dean - it did my heart good to read it. 
 
I didn't even disagree with what applied to the US - and I am sick 
to death of Australian criticism of the US because I am sick of 
being suffocated by a "blanket of condescending, phoney toleration 
and smirking supremacism" as you so aptly put it.  The US has its 
own suffocating blanket of hypocrisy, hegemony and 
hyper-commercialism (pick a letter, any letter and alliterate, 
alliterate, alliterate).  But that is another story and you are, 
after all, an expert on Australia being Australian and having lived 
and been arrested here.  (You sure look the part in that photo 
mate.) 
 
Your comments about the actuality of Indonesia are extremely 
helpful.  Lest anyone think the grass is greener on the 'tother side 
of the fence.  I have a similar reaction to Zimbabwe.  I am never 
bored there.  All of those things that make it fine with me if I 
never saw Australia or America again just go away.  Poof.  The 
immediate rub is that right now 7 million people are experiencing 
the alternative to Australian boredom and certainty.  That will pass 
however and I will go back there. 
 
I will say one thing for Australia right now.  It is a CHEAP AS 
CHIPS Western tyranny.  Things cost half of what they do in Heaven! 
(What? Something less than perfect in the US?)  Or the EU where you 
can get all the benefits of social democracy, multiculturalism, and 
deadly certainty at three times the price!  (Funny, my spell checker 
doesn't recognise multiculturalism - it wants to substitute 
horticulturalism - not a bad idea actually.)  SO - being SIXTY and 
having a duff shoulder, and gout, and gawd knows what other 
infirmities the prospect of staying alert for pickpockets, 
debilitating fevers, or even predatory rendangs make me think twice 
about taking up residency in the third world.  That doesn't mean I 
won't do it.  I will just do it very carefully - like you pet a 
porcupine as my rural American friends say. 
 
Unlike your friend at Hansard, I really would like to visit you in 
Indonesia again.  I can readjust my cultural myopia, pick up the 
latest in discount software, and perhaps buy a souvenir or two for 
my bored fellow inmates here in Australia - well it would be great 
to see you.  And just talk about this topic that few people would 
even recognise as such. 
 
In my experience it takes being an expatriate to destroy the 
illusions and self deceptions of ones culture.  Or perhaps the 
destruction of one's country like my Zimbabwean friends experience. 
Even my sister who has few illusions about the human condition can't 
see what I see about America from having lived overseas so long. 
Having seen through at least some of the illusion what the fuck does 
one do?  Do, that is, vaguely worthwhile - based on a 
post-illusional awareness of self and the world?  Apres Maya, autre 
Maya...sans doubte.  If you speak French. 
 
Interestingly it is easy enough to see the foibles and faults of 
other cultures while remaining blissfully unaware of one's own.  I 
think it is also fairly common for the Left to see the faults but 
miss the virtues of its own culture.  Eg, the Euros bending over 
backwards to not be 'orientalist' while their 'oriental' immigrants 
do little to reciprocate.  As a former member of the US Left I have 
had to work hard to understand why so many immigrants still come to 
the US.  In a word - opportunity.  They come and prosper - as long 
as their health holds up! 
 
I think what both of us have done is start with the Left - I used to 
say I was an anarchist when I was about 19 - and seen through the 
Left as well as our original cultural adaptation.  Your insight into 
the ALP is very parallel to my own slow recognition that American 
liberalism is full of contradictions and hypocrisies.  Somewhat like 
you I have moved into a position that is based on a trans cultural 
awareness - not some alternative within my primary culture.  A lot 
of people think I am a conservative because I like to tweak what I 
think of as liberal hypocrisies - like holier than thou 
multiculturalism.  But I am not ... I am just confused most of the 
time. Your 'polemic' was really helpful to that confusion and there 
isn't much of that sort of awareness available. 
 
Best regards, 
 
Lorenz  
 

 
Date: 27 Jan 2003 
From: ABC News 
 
The Governor-General [Peter Hollingworth] has used his speech to  
try to reassure Australians, acknowledging we live in uncertain times. 
 
He spoke of the threatening international outlook and his hopes for a 
peaceful resolution. 
 
But he says Australians have fought magnificently in the theatre of  
war in the past, and will  do so again if required. 
 

 
----- Original Message ----- 
Date: Tue, 28 Jan 2003 10:31:03 +0800 
From: BM 
To: Gary Dean  
Subject: Re: picturesque ruins 
 
>>> #okusi#@telkom.net# 30/12/2002 9:27:36 
>On Tuesday, 17 December 2002 BM wrote: 
>> I think, on balance, that if I am to be ruled, I would much rather be 
>> ruled by complete fucking moron civilians than by clever army generals, 
>> or religious fanatics for that matter. 
>> A friend, who had been a lifelong marxist until the collapse of the 
>> Soviet Union, in a moment of possibly alcohol-induced candour, said to 
>> me once that to him a slightly corrupt, partially inept  'liberal 
>> democracy' is far preferable to a ruthlessly efficient and thoroughly 
>> honest socialist dictatorship. 
      
>       Oh shit, I think I feel a polemic coming on ... Or maybe it's 
> that dodgy rendang I ate for lunch ... 
      
      [snip slogans and cliches] 
 
Note the use of the first person singular in the above statement - each 
to his own. I did not refer to any country at all - just to part of the 
range of possible alternatives to what I have now. - I could probably 
add the republican oil lobby to the list, just to even things out.  By 
placing a nationalist inference on it, you are building a straw man 
argument. 
 
You obviously enjoy the 'interesting times' you described - good luck 
to you. I do not. 
         
> Btw, what do you think the chances are of seeing any of the 
> opinions above published in The West Australian? Right, zilch. And it's 
> not just because The West Australian is a narrow-minded, provincial, 
> rubbish wrapper.  
 
No - it's mainly because they are cliched, blindingly obvious, banal, 
hackneyed and commonplace. I for one am sick of hearing such things. 
Over the last three decades i have heard such sentiment expressed by 
eminent university professors, politicians of all persuasions, punks in 
the street and unemployed timberworkers in the Quinninup tavern. I know 
it all off by heart. Generations of mouthing it off do not seem to have 
made much of a difference. Tell me something I don't already know. 
 
We all live in the world. 
 
 
B. 

 
----- Original Message ----- 
Date: Tue, 28 Jan 2003 11:24:34 +0800 
To: Gary Dean 
From: Paul  
Subject: Re: picturesque ruins 
 
hi Gary ... just a quick hello to say I've been enjoying (& of course 
agree with), much of the messages you've shared... so though not keenly  
glued to the computer these days (other worlds open up in consequence...)  
 
do hope to keep connecting. I'm today gearing up for my last semester  
here, a few more writing projects linger... and looking forward to getting  
back to Java more (if the world isn't total chaos first).... life is  
unspeakably more real and vital in Java than here; you are too right.  
I'd much rather grow old and die there (as I would know life more fully  
in the process)... 
 
but meanwhile life leads otherwise, see you sometime; meanwhile thanks  
for keeping me in the loop with your quirky messages. cheers! P. 

ladang mistik