Abroad and Aghast

I’ve been in Australia for about two months studying abroad, and being so far removed from the states while still in an English-speaking country has really added perspective on how we live our lives. In any non-English speaking country, the huge cultural rifts between the people I’m surrounded by and myself are more palatable, as the entire culture is so drastically different. Australia, however, is a different story altogether. It’s kind of like the two countries are twins separated at birth, like that movie that Arnold made with Danny Devito. Australia is the big hulking softy, and the US is the fat short bastard. The reality of the situation is not as polarized, but it may as well be. The States was started by a fanatical cult of Englishmen who were so crazy that they felt England was so sinful a country that they had to leave and start their own, devoid of wine, dancing or fun of any sort. Imagine that. England. The most stuck up, prude country in the world, was just too wild and crazy. No wonder we’re all supposed to pretend we don’t have reproductive organs until we get married and have sex through a sheet. Convicts colonized Australia. Not necessarily hardcore criminals (the Aussies contend that everyone sent over had merely stolen a loaf of bread), but not choirboys. They were the ones England thought were too wild, or too poor, so they sent them off to the land before time. The Australian continent. So, on one side of the world you have America. We went about having a 400 years-long romp with defeating Satan, be he in the form of the British crown, witches, communists, poor inner city youth or crazy Arab terrorists. America, A country founded on two principles: religious fanaticism and greed. The U.S. demands the right to be as pious and boring as possible, and refuse to pay for anything. Socialized medicine? Why, that’s the Soviet devil talking. Welfare? That’s the lazy Black devil talking. Laws against blowjobs? Now you’re on the right track, Christian soldier, keep up the good work! On the other end of the globe you have a slightly kinder younger brother, not entirely separated from our beliefs (after all, that brother, too, is “founded” by the English), but a bit softer. If you’re sick, you should be able to go to the hospital. If you want to learn, you can get subsidies to go to school. Australians are fully aware that they were founded by those “huddled masses” the statue of liberty refers to, and for that they have no problem with assisting someone when he/she is down. The idea of a safety net is a real life practice here, not a theory. I don’t mean to polarize both countries to make America seem evil and Australia a perfect society, but there is a major ideological difference between us. For example, one-third of all people in homeless shelters in New York City have fulltime jobs. They just can’t live off minimum wage with two kids, no partner and an unforgiving government. In Australia, tipping as a practice does not exist, because even if you work at McDonald’s, you can still expect to earn 13 or 14 bucks an hour. Everyone is provided with what is needed to survive. In America, if you’re poor, you have done something wrong. If you’re a child, you should have picked parents that are more responsible. Taxes in the U.S. are some of the lowest in the western world yet the dregs of society are voted into political office because they promise to make sure we have to share even less. Now, the Australian continent has its share of political blunders, too; the joining of Bush II’s coalition of the willing is a perfect recent example, but the basic fiber of the society runs on a different energy source than ours. While the American Empire seeks to gain the most for the fewest by using the poor as fossil fuel, Australia is at least partially trying to go green. That said, I truly miss America. I long to go to a diner and get a portion big enough for a whole family. I can’t wait to stop all this walking I’m doing and drive everywhere in a really big SUV. As soon as I step back onto American soil, I’m going to step over the homeless; I’m going to throw away things that could be reused; I’m going to feel totally horrible about the fact that I didn’t save myself for marriage; and I’ll love every minute of it.