Say it loud - I'm elitist and proud

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

BOK GOES BARMY. Richard Calland, a South African, complains about Australia no longer being the land of 'she'll be right, mate':

Australia appears intent on surpassing the United States in a quest for self-control...

Since my last visit in 1994, Australia seems to have turned its collective head from Britain and Europe emphatically towards the US. The desire to put distance between Australia's compelling modernity and its colonial heritage is understandable. What is not is the apparent new deference to the contemporary imperial power.
Actually we've been looking towards America since at least 1941.
It is also a product as much as a cause of the nation's confidence and competence, both of which ave become clear to the rest of the world and to anyone who follows sport, given Australian success in so many sporting arenas in the past decade. Discussing the baffling furore around Steve Waugh's future, former skipper Mark Taylor captured the essence of the modern Australian ethos: "Our cricket is run like a business now; it is utterly ruthless." The lack of sentiment over Waugh, his legendary status notwithstanding, is not baffling to Australians. Proficiency comes naturally now - welcome to the Switzerland of the south.

But it's also the sign of a highly developed society that has lost a sense of proportion. Australians have shed the skin of their stereotype; the jocularity eclipsed now by a dogged pursuit of perfection in everything. Leaving the ground on Saturday I overhead the following charming exchange. "I come here to watch the cricket. All you lot do is sing all day. I don't understand it," a tall, earnest Australian inquired of a member of the Barmy Army. "Well," she replied, "it just goes to show: you're jolly good at cricket and we're jolly good at singing."
But is any of this really new? Geoffey Blainey argued in A Shorter History of Australia (1994) that, while excellence hadn't been encouraged in industry, it was always expected in sport. There has been a lot of sentimental talk about how Australians allegedly prefer 'heroic failures' (Gallipoli and all that) to unambiguous winners.

But there has never been a heroic failure captaining a losing Australian cricket team - just a failure. Bill Woodfull may not have succeeded against bodyline, but it was unsportsmanlike - he was a victim, not a failure, so it was all right.

The only people who really like heroic failures are journalists, because they're usually such unheroic failures themselves.

But even the Americans aren't always that efficient. I originally entered this post (and the last one) yesterday, and they were promptly chewed up by Blogger. Good thing I had copies.

THE NEW WTC. Thanks to Iain Murray for this link to Norman Foster's design for the new World Trade Center. (It's the last of 37 slides giving a detailed view of how it would look.) I must say, it's more graceful than the original. But it also incorporates the 'footprints' of the twin towers as memorials.