I’m not saying Australians are thick.
BUT – we have a kind of love/hate relationship with intelligence. On the one hand, we’re really not dumb. After all, we’re the country that invented the Hills Hoist!!! (here is a Hills Hoist, in case you’ve never heard of it. It’s an alternative energy source drawing on the power of sunsets). And the Cochlear Ear Implant!
On the other hand, I don’t reckon Australians like to think for FUN. Intellectual activity, like discussing the meaning of life and whether climate change is for real and what the hell is the Higgs Bosun particle, is hard work for a lot of people, not entertainment. It’s what you do when you’re on paid time.
If you’re at a barbecue here you don’t want to talk about ideas – it’s about eating sausages, and who won the match, and the best way to make Rocky Road. Nobody wants to be like the French or the Czechs, who (if you believe their films) chat about post-structuralist identity and the Lightness of Being over their cornflakes.
But I DO! Sort of. I don’t know anything about football or tennis or Rocky Road, and I LOVE talking about ideas. I will happily talk about ideas over breakfast, lunch, after sex and while buying washing machines. I’ve been known to beguile ten hour car trips with nine hour arguments about the existence of god. I SHOULD BE AN HONORARY CZECH!
Ironically – once when the Demon Ex and me were arguing about how we might weld together our respective families, he said ‘Well the thing is your kids are so different from mine – they’re not used to conducting dinner table conversation in Italian (his kids aren’t Italian, btw), or relaxing for a spot of Rachmaninov before bedtime’. No – they like Lady Gaga, and World of Warcraft! Guess it served me right, the Arrogant Intellectual being put in the Bogan Basket along with all the other beknighted aussies.
We Aussies sometimes get pissed off with Asians because, look, they come to this country, right! and THEN whaddya know, they’re sending their kids to violin lessons and Advanced Physics for Kindergarteners! It’s not fair! How come all the top university entrants are called Nguyen or Wong these days! Why don’t these people relax and let their kids watch tv after school like normal people!
As a normal Aussie parent whose kids are competing with the violin virtuosos from across the ocean, never mind the Italian-speaking Rachmaninov-imbued kids of my British ex-partner, I can’t help thinking it’s downright un-Australian to try too hard to be clever. On the other hand, if nobody does, I won’t have anyone to talk to.
I can always talk to Mr F though. A couple of nights ago my 17 year old sweetipie was having a ball trying to convince my friend that the free market was the solution to all of society’s problems. Mr F’s bedtime reading at the moment is something like ‘The A-Z of Economic Theory’ (building on a solid intellectual base of World of Warcraft). Anyway it was just lovely to watch how Mr F’s little blue eyes lit up with intellectual enjoyment as he demolished (what he saw as) my friend’s feeble objections. It was like turning the ignition key in a BMW and feeling the engine roar. It’s probably ‘intellectual arrogance’ but I like to think of it as using your brain for kicks.