Twirling towards freedom

Culture of Complaint (refrain)

Before the country relaxed into a four-day weekend there was some complaining to do. Best to get it out of the way before the Easter break to free up a bit of time to whinge about bottleshops not being open on Good Friday. Complaint is a long-celebrated national pastime, but this past week we dedicated ourselves to it more passionately than the opening of AFL season.

The whingeing began on Monday night, when Leigh Sales interviewed Julia Gillard on 7.30. Sales artfully grilled the Prime Minister in the same manner that won her a Walkley Award for her interview with Tony Abbott last year, posing and re-posing questions to Gillard about Labor’s cabinet reshuffle until satisfactory answers were provided. The chorus of complaint on Twitter about Sales having been too tough on Gillard eventually grew so loud that cartoonist Jon Kudelka was prompted to tweet, “Did @LeighSales just bite the heads off a sack full of kittens on national television or something?”

To round out the week, Gillard refused to rule out the possibility of imposing a tax on the superannuation earnings of the wealthy, prompting former chief whip Joel Fitzgibbon to voice concern that Labor might ruin things for everyone by mistakenly defining how much a “wealthy Australian” earns. Fitzgibbon whined that, ''In Sydney's west you can be on a quarter of a million dollars family income a year and you're still struggling.”

Both major parties have tried to make the Aussie Battler their totem at various times, but knocking that icon into the $250k income bracket is more than a little rich.

I’ve been in the United States for the past few weeks, and I’ve been confronted by my own weird reverse racism. I flew here for the first time fully expecting Americans to be the greedy, selfish caricature we Australians are so fond of drawing of them, but it feels very much the opposite. During the dark nadir of the Bush administration an anti-American sentiment rose throughout the world, and became de rigueur in the leftish circles I spun in. A piece of folk wisdom was that ‘Americans are the new Brits’, a country of insular, spoiled imperialists, completely unaware of their status in, or impact upon, the world.

The longer I spend out of the country, watching as Abbott’s one-note-samba of disingenuous economic negativity grinds the Labor Party into oblivion, the clearer it becomes that actually, after all, Australians are the new Brits. A hysterical media covers phantom leadership spills and fluctuations in interest rates the way another country might report changes to their constitution. We bemoan the state of our economy and the cost of living in the most uniquely privileged place in the world.

Granted, rather than being faced with the likely prospect of Tony Abbott becoming Prime Minister in six months time, the United States are in the enviable political position of relaxing into Obama’s second term. Still, it’d be nice if instead of grumbling about how Labor has destroyed our economy, we cast our eyes elsewhere for some real perspective. 



Michaela McGuire

Michaela McGuire is a journalist and the author of Last Bets: A True Story of Gambling, Morality and the Law and the Penguin Special A Story of Grief. Visit her blog, Twirling Towards Freedom.


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