Australia’s obvious problem: Disrespecting our guests

Yesterday’s abhorrent treatment of novelist Roxane Gay proves one thing: we treat guests in our country appallingly.





To quote a wordy terrorist: “There’s something terribly wrong with this country.”

Precisely, in how we treat our guests. The genius import.

Which is puzzling, as we’re great exporters of characters: Dame Edna, Paul Hogan, Hugh Jackman. But when the tables shift, and it’s our own turn to set the good china, something goes horribly awry. Perhaps we’re uncomfortable with these people in our space, so perhaps we fortify ourselves before dinner and end up making complete tits of ourselves. However, as it’s our house, invariably they’re the ones who have to leave, mumbling excuses of beating traffic, as tuck into our just desserts.

Yesterday, we jotted another lurid paragraph into the national(ist) fanfic we’re carving, with the abhorrent treatment of writer Roxane Gay, who has been touring to plug her body memoir, Hunger. Now I won’t say which publication was responsible (but it’s a stereotypical Italian statement of shock), but it involved a rather lurid introduction that looked to promote her stoic drive and character in the face of a society that has turned its back on her, all for the vicious uncrime of being overweight. Roxane was the victim, and they looked to support her. Alas, the introduction was cobbled together with private requests that were made to the publication in question.

For posterity, the intro lies below.

Oh dear. The path to hell, paved with the best of intentions, and all that. Now, this has been analysed by far greater and more appropriate minds than mine, so I’ll leave the formative damage of the episode to the person most affected, who closed the issue with this tweet:

Now, turning back the pages of our tome; the magazine clippings lovingly sticky-taped within tell the tale: Malcolm Turnbull’s dog was set on Johnny Depp’s dogs, which was (somehow by virtue of their owner’s acts in his marriage) deemed a victory of sorts. Barnaby wins – animality. So it went with fellow canine-soubriqueted, walking cone-piece Snoop Dogg/Lion, who bore the ire of Australian customs for the unforgivable crime of being Snoop. That, and perhaps they took umbrage with his method of entry, refusing the vanilla option of entering by plane, in favour of soaring over the Pacific solely powered by the contents of his blunt. And indeed, the man of teeth and science, Brian Cox, who literally had to hold up a piece of paper to prove to an elected official that climate change exists. We laughed, because it wasn’t funny, like the drunk uncle at Christmas lunch who has lost inhibition and has discovered the back catalogue of Susan Boyle, sharing his Newton enthusiasm at the top of his voice. We laughed to drown out Malcolm Roberts, to make him stop.

Look at Brian’s puzzled little face.

Sah embarrassing. Now, we could (rightly) say that these people don’t represent us. We could explain that not every Australian is a Malcolm Roberts, or Barnaby Joyce or Mia Freedman. But, sadly, they are. Sadly, they do. The consensus is in: the rest of the world doesn’t care for our noble empathetic anonymous existence. Strangers form an opinion based on what they hear, not from what they don’t. It’s the same as assuming that every American loves tits, guns and screaming eagles, and yeehaws their way to climax over the second amendment. It’s an unfair assumption, but their national stereotype emboldened by the acts of the few in the name of the many. Like electing Trump.

Back to the question of ours. It seems whichever way we cut it, whether we hide behind laws, spurious evidence or whether we trample on feminism, the message is clear: whoever you are, we don’t like your kind ’round here. Those fellow citizens I’ve quizzed on this particular issue are desperate to shake the bicentennial cliché of the half stung, half sunburnt, half smile welcome of a country where the shrimp is half done. If we flay the cerebral gymnasts of this world with the same brand of well-meaning but slurred attempts at intelligence, it’s fairly safe to assume that the best and brightest will avoid the ultraviolet, moronic glare of the land down under, and perhaps, when we seek the guidance of Craig Lowndes on matters of international difference regarding two disparate parties (he did, after all, drive for Holden and Ford) perhaps then we’ll know what we’ve done.

Australia, where the bloody hell are ya manners?


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