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When did we get so lazy?

Wrapping herself in the flag doesn't make Pauline Hanson a fair dinkum Australian

Pauline Hanson: her laziness disguised in the Australian flag

When did Australians get so lazy? I don’t mean doing less demanding jobs, taking more sickies, walking less, being TV couch potatoes or even getting other people to do our thinking for us.

I mean, when did we change from being independent, problem solving, effort admiring, go-out-of-our-way-to-help-people people?

We still bask in the rosy glow of bush heroes portrayed in movies starring Chips Rafferty and Jack Thompson, Hugh “Australia” Jackman and even Paul “Crocodile Dundee” Hogan; men – and women – who suffered, coped, grew and won through against the worst this vast and savage continent could unleash against them. They confronted adversity and found solutions themselves, helped their mates and were (generally) kind to everyone, however alien or incomprehensible.

They were stoic.

Even as recently as the 1970s Australians travelled the world to learn about other people, fought for freedom in two world wars and Korea, made things out of nothing, led by example rather than followed and were global leaders in fairness and friendliness.

None of this was ever easy, but Australians were proud of the effort, sacrifice and achievements, especially if they were hard-won. Admittedly, not all Australians lived up to this ridgy-didge, fair dinkum stereotype, but we all admired and aspired to it.

So where did all that go?

How did we find ourselves a nation of whingers and whiners, of me-firsters, of stand-back-and-let-others-do-the-hard-yards people?

When did we get so timorous, fearful and so full of funk we expect other people – anyone but us – to solve our problems? Question: Drug abuse? Answer: Police. Car won’t start? NRMA. The sick and mentally ill? Health workers. Dirt? Migrant cleaners. Boat people desperate to become cleaners? Border guards and gulags.

Increasingly, for every problem we Australians find someone else to solve it.

They say fish stinks from the head and recent events around the world would suggest a lot of people feel let down by their leaders, the people they pay to look after them and make sense of this ever expanding and thus more frightening world.

But it’s we who are to blame; not just because we allowed ourselves to pick poor politicians or buy from shonky advertisers but because we expect them to do our work for us, to make our choices and to solve our problems.

Donald Trump promises to fix everything that’s broken in America. Phew! That stops me having to do anything myself. Create more American jobs? Yessiree! I’ll be here when you make one for me. Fearful of Mexicans and Syrians? Build a wall, get men in black shirts to keep them out. Afraid of your dark-skinned neighbours? Get someone else to lock them up or kick them. Someone with a mental illness in your street? Pay someone to move them on, move them to someone – anyone – else’s street.

And while the media daily let us down by not digging beneath the surface of this superficiality, by not exposing the lies beneath the marketing, it’s we watchers and social media butterflies who are the real culprits, flitting from lie to lie as if manufactured news is nectar and not some soporific spin, some cultural Kool-Aid.

It’s a disease besetting large tracts of the western world; are we any different in Australia or are we worse?

Americans began losing their ability to suffer, make-do and mend in the middle of the 19th Century, when The West was finally won, at a time when Australian farmers could still wait a week for a doctor to show up or a month for the mail truck.

Why did Australians still have a global reputation for health, hard work, harmony and humour till the 1970s? Partly because nations like America abandoned it, capitalism had replaced capability. America’s rugged individualism rotted into dependency long before ours did – but it’s happening to us too nonetheless.

No, it’s not happening to us; it’s being self-inflicted by all of us who can’t take time and effort to find the best solution to a problem, who won’t make sacrifices that actually hurt, who think bans and barriers are the solution for everything and that other people – increasingly those in uniform – should impose and erect them for us.

And the greatest irony of all is that those who most readily lay claim to being “real Australians”, who wrap themselves in the Australian Flag and despise those who don’t conform are the ones who have most lost the Australian qualities of hard work, sacrifice, steadfastness, helpfulness, resilience and innovation. The Pauline Hansons of this world – to name only the most high-profile of this un-Australian package of ratbaggery – want the rest of the world to fall at their feet, to do the things they’re too lazy or incompetent to do themselves.

Rather than tackle poverty, crime or mental illness, they fob the problem off to “the authorities” – then criticise them for failing. Rather than turn our air conditioners down to prevent global catastrophe we expect the Chinese and Indians to do the hard yards in their last century lives. Rather than deal with their fear of difference, they call on “the authorities” (again) to keep people who are different in line or kick them out. Rather than try to understand their Muslim neighbour here and oversees, they demand the neighbour changes to look, behave and pray like them. Rather than deal with their own very real and reasonable fear of a purposeless life in an uncaring universe, they call on churches to provide a reason for existence and then to whip everyone in line to prove they’re right. Rather than make some small effort, some minor sacrifice to understand, they react selfishly, blame someone else and get “the authorities” to “do something”.

Chips Rafferty? He’d be appalled by them all.

Written by

David Ingram has worked as a journalist, educator or media manager most of his adult life, in Britain, Australia and the Pacific. He now works as a media and management consultant based in Sydney and is publisher of The News Manual Online, a professional resource for journalists and the media.

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