Bits and Pieces

Sunday, October 10, 2004

The Land Down Under

Both Grewhawk at the Mudville Gazette and Glenn Reynolds remark that John Howard's election victory whispered quietly through the US media in recent days. Surprised? Not a chance. The election was battling against two very strong traditions.

The first, possibly fallacious, reason is that the US media doesn't give over that many column inches to the rest of the world (with the exception, of course, of nations such as Iraq). Pre-9/11 it was an old joke that any foreigner visiting the US could perform a magic trick - open a newspaper and see your home country vanish. It's not so true today, as the world has sort of forced itself on America. I think it may still be fair to say that US newspapers don't often feature news from too many peaceful, quiet and faraway nations.

The second reason - and this one it certainly true - is that nobody knows an awful lot about Australia. It's just one of those things. For the vast majority of us the doings of Australia has no appreciable effect on our everyday lives. Before John Howard committed troops to Iraq I could have made a good living from betting that a randomly selected person couldn't name the Australian Prime Minister - or, in fact, the Australian capital city (it's Sydney, right?).

The reason nobody cares about Australia is that they don't do anything to make us care. They don't threaten us with nuclear and biological weapons, they don't slaughter their countrymen with abandon, and they aren't ruled by a murderous dictator. They just get on with life happily and, above all, quietly, God bless 'em.

Australia is far and away my favourite nation. I've spent many a happy day walking the streets of Melbourne, and many a happy evening stumbling drunkenly back down those same streets (admittedly with a few wrong turns and piss breaks). It's a wonderful country, from the beaches of the Gold Coast to the skyscrapers of Sydney to the bohemian suburbs of Melbourne to the majesty of Uluru. However, I don't blame anyone for not losing sleep over the election.

It's Canberra, by the way.
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