The Lucky Country
Politics is both fraud and vision.
A man who went to the ‘footie’ match on Saturday afternoon and played eighteen holes of golf was really doing his duty by the nation.
Fair-goes are not only for oneself, but for underdogs. Even in international sporting matches Australians have been known to switch from their own side to that of a gallant challenger. Australians love a ‘battler’, an underdog who is fighting the top dog, although their veneration for him is likely to pass if he comes out from under.
Only in sport… The qualification would seem meaningless to many Australians. What also is there that matters as much as sport. It is only in sport that many Australians express those approaches to life that are un-Australian if expressed in any other connection.
With sport went beer drinking and gambling – until recently restricted by the wowsers, but part of that code of mateship of men, that necessity constantly to demonstrate masculine sameness, which provided one of the most flattening sources of uniformity.
The desire to enjoy the games of the rich became one of the most effectively expressed moods of Australian egalitarianism.
All the same… ‘She’ll be right.’ Their combination of high hope and deep doubt can make Australians devastatingly cool-headed and wry-witted. Although most of them have not even seen their deserts, the stoicism of the desert seems to have entered their souls. When they see the face of disaster – especially when they go to the wars in Vietnam as at Anzac – they joke with it and shake its hand.
The very success of ‘mateship’ in Australia eroded individualism. In a sense mateship was a protection against individualism…it is probably one of the most characteristic folk beliefs of Australia. There is concern for the ordinariness in Australians. Consider Anzac Day again – men in their ordinary clothes, marching through the streets out of step, unpretentious; and then getting drunk in the most ordinary manner imaginable. It is a celebration of the essential ordinariness and the common human-ness of man.
Politicians cannot help being clowns. Political activity is essentially absurd. The hopes held for it can be high, the results tragic, but the political act itself must lack dignity: it can never match our ideals of how such things should be done. This is a view that offends almost all political scientists, who are often bored by politics anyway and want to get on with something more respectable.