In 1975, we drive a car from England to India. In Tehran, the capital of Iran, I had a chance meeting with an Australian. He turned out to be the vice consul. Two days latter, he stamped ‘migrant’ visas in our passports. And so I arrived in Australia as a backpacker in 1976. They spoke English and they spoke their minds. “I’m not too keen on poms, but you’re alright.” was not uncommon. ‘Pom’ is slang for ‘Englishman’ but, with the usual mix-up, included Scottish, Welsh and perhaps the Irish.
I remember thinking that Australia was the most Christian county that I had ever visited. It wasn’t because they were going to Church, because they weren’t. It was because they believed in ‘a fair go for everybody’. There was an air of ‘Common Decency’. There was genuineness that I had not met elsewhere. If somebody said: “giday”, they meant it. I came from a country where people would sometimes say: “Pleased to meet you.” But under their breath, you could sense that they had silently added: “you stupid twat.” My home country lacked of genuineness. Australians expected straight up honesty, were free with their assistance, and were easy to be with.
In those fine days of the seventies in Australia, we left the key in the ignition of the car. You were more likely to loose your keys than your car. The front door of the house was always unlocked and open. Friends would walk straight in without knocking others would knock, you invited them in and had a cup of tea. It was almost rude and paranoid to lock a front door. Quite simply, why would you lock a front door? What would posses someone to do such a thing? When driving on country roads, one would acknowledge other drivers with a flick of the hand or a wag of the finger. We were all in this together.
There was a pervasive philosophy that required all to be good to each other, to be good to women, stand up against wrong-doing, warn others of dangers, scammers, and bad authority, and avoid greed. The philosophy expected us to embrace fairness in our dealings, sympathy to those in peril, and many other such characteristics.
Who would need a rule book when ‘Common Decency’ was the general philosophy. The penalty for breaking this unwritten code of ‘Common Decency’ was a severe ‘bollocking’ and the expectation that you would pay penance by buying the next round of beers and exercise better judgement in future. So, forgiveness was also present.
I now realise what happened was that I ‘assimilated’. I did not change my accent, but I accepted their ‘code of conduct’. And thus I was fully accepted into Australian society. The comment earlier “I’m not too keen on Poms”, would have referred to British migrants that did not bend into this superior Australian philosophy embracing ‘Common Decency’ at it’s core.
I have talked to migrants from other parts of Europe, and they agree with my train of thought. When I explain the above to them, their eyes light up and then they verbally agree that they changed their habits and started to embrace the ‘Common Decency’ characteristics of the Australian population. They embraced the concepts of fairness, compassion, empathy, and other like concepts. Tied in here is the ability to detect ‘right’ from ‘wrong’ without having to refer to a rule book. I often give the example of the car park. You drive your car into a busy car park. You have your indicators on and are about to pull into an empty bay. Someone in a small car whizzes into the spot before you get in there. We curse under our breath as they have ‘done the wrong thing’. However, there is no law against their action.
Last year, I was writing a chapter on Christianity titled: “The Philosophy of Jesus” This ‘Philosophy of Jesus’ is essentially the essence of the ‘Philosophy of Australia’. So where did this philosophy come from? It did not come from ‘going to church’. Church goers are polite to each other as they say: “Pleased to meet you.” even if they are thinking the opposite. Churchgoers seem to think they have to be nice to each other because that was the nature of Jesus. A ‘cult of niceness’ has permeated the church. Politeness and tolerance has taken a front seat. But Jesus was not like that. Jesus was a ‘hard man’ using tough words. He was a rebel. He was constantly rebuking people, particularly the Pharisees: He called the Pharisees the “offspring of serpents”. He called Herod “a fox”. He talked about ‘false teachers’ whom he called: “wolves”. He called unregenerate Gentiles: “dogs”. In this next passage he gets stuck right in:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”Matthew 23:27