Say it loud - I'm elitist and proud

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

MY SUBURB in Sydney's Inner West seems to have become a Sinn Féin stronghold. Recently I've seen, at the local supermarket or the station, the following:

* A woman wearing a Sinn Féin t-shirt.
* A man wearing a Sinn Féin polo shirt(!).
* A transsexual (or transvestite) reading An Phoblacht/Republican News.

Monday, February 17, 2003

I'VE JUST finished reading David McCullough's biography of John Adams: signer of the Declaration of Independence, American minister to London and Paris, and second President of the United States. I hadn't realised just how turbulent things were in America even after the War of Independence was won.

A Vice-President (Aaron Burr) fighting a duel with the first Secretary of the Treasury (Alexander Hamilton) and killing him: just one of the conflicts that the period saw. As a Federalist, Adams was attacked as far too pro-British - indeed, a 'monarchist'. The kind of ripe abuse that was thrown about makes Mark Latham seem mild-mannered. Adams's tortured relationship with Jefferson over issues including federalism and slavery seemed to prefigure the Civil War: there were calls for secession right from the beginning.

As President (1797-1801), Adams narrowly avoided a war with France over the XYZ affair. And the first 30 years after the end of the War of Independence culminated in the British burning Washington, DC in the War of 1812. Interesting times indeed, when it must have seemed the United States had no hope of surviving: either it would be ruined by further war, or it would break apart.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

I WAS told an interesting statistic on Friday: during their lifetimes, 80% of Australians will own a passport, while for Americans the figure is more like 12%. This, I was told, 'explains a lot'.

But how to explain this figure? It's not that Americans don't travel: it's just that they tend to travel within their own country. With more than 280,000,000 people, they can find more diversity - cultural, social, linguistic, geographic - at home than we can dream of with only 20,000,000 scattered around the edges of our continent.