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Home » Australia » JEAN SHEPHERD–Travel–Australia, part 8

JEAN SHEPHERD–Travel–Australia, part 8

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I was in Australia—and sort of drinking it in as much as I could.  I take large numbers of notes, I hear little snatches of conversation, I’ve got a whole notebook full of strange comments I heard people make.  In fact, I’m sitting in a living room with a group Australians, and these were “hip” Australians.  You might say, in any society there’s a certain group of people who are on top of it, who run the television stations, the big wheels in a society.  I happened to fall in with a little group that day.  Now don’t assume that that’s where Shepherd spent his time and they aren’t the real people.  I spent a whole day in a supermarket, running around talking to the little people.  In fact, they were so little that I got a crick in my back bending over talking to them.  And living with them too.

However, this particular group was discussing a national election.  There was a candidate who proposed upping the defense budget.  He said, “World conditions mean that we have to do this—Indonesia is looking with big eyes at us.”  One of the guys I’m talking with is very mad.  He says, “I think that guy’s out of his mind.  He’s an idiot, raising the defense budget like that!  I say we’ve got taxes enough and I think what we ought to do is let the Americans defend us.”

Let the Americans defend us!  The guy who said that is a top commentator on Australian television who is an Australian. The rest of the group agreed with him wholeheartedly.   I’m not saying that is a universal experience.  It is one experience—and a curious one, isn’t it?

On the other hand, it’s a wonderful country.  It’s an exciting country.  And every minute you’re there you feel all kinds of paradoxes.  You’ve heard that expression so many times.  They describe every ridiculous country you visit as a study in paradox.  Well, I submit to you that mankind is a study in paradoxes.  Because every country in the world is paradoxical.  It’s all paradox everywhere.

But very few places, from the standpoint of an English-speaking country that I ever visited—is more paradoxical, obviously and outwardly than Australia.  It’s a fantastic country for that.  On the one hand they are very, very Victorian.  Very Victorian  in their morality code.  They’re constantly banning books there.  On the other hand, here they’ve got a nightlife center that features truly obscene shows.  Openly and completely.  And grandmothers go to see it.  Now, what is it?  Which is it?  You don’t know.

Everywhere I went, the Australians did not like the English.  That’s an experience I had.  They love Americans by and large, but most Australians I talked to have a great anti-English feeling.  I suppose it’s the kid brother feeling.  After all, they were members of the Empire and the Commonwealth.  And this is a thing you hear all over Australia, from Darwin to Sydney and over to Melbourne—the great pride thay have is that almost all of them are descended from prisoners.  It was originally a penal colony.  Their comment is, “Of course, you realize, our population was selected by some of the greatest judges in England.”

australian convictsFirst Australian Immigrants

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That’s what Australia is fighting.  They want to be a modern, big, industrial nation.  Now, right below that article, is another to show you an idea of what really happens.  The nuttiness that happens all over the world happens in Australia too:

Naked Man Stops Traffic in Kings Cross Road

Traffic came to a standstill and crowds formed on the footpath when

a naked man walked nearly five-hundred yards down the white line

in the middle of Bayswater Road, Kings Cross last night.

As he walked down the road he gesticulated wildly.

Reactions were mixed.  Some watched in silent wonder

and others laughed and pointed,

and most of the women quickly turned away.

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I’m reading this clipping from the front page of a daily Australian paper.  It says:

kangaroo-laying5The Kangaroo is Out

“The kangaroo image of the Australian economy is out,” the Australian Secretary Roland Wilson assured the prospective U. S. investors yesterday. “Contrary to the impressions of many outside our shores, Australia does not consist exclusively either of water-less deserts peopled by wandering tribes of Aborigines tossing chunks of gold or iron ore at kangaroos, or of lush oases of green grass on which muscular young men and women pursue a small rubber ball with contrivances made of sheep’s intestines,” Sir Roland told his laughing audience.  “True, we have sheep and we owe a great deal to the intestines of the men who raise and sheer them, but the kangaroo is out.”

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“It’s an exciting country.  And every minute you’re there

you feel all kinds of paradoxes.  You’ve heard that

expression so many times.  They describe every

ridiculous country you visit as a study in paradox.

Well, I submit to you that

mankind is a study in paradoxes.

Because every country in the world is paradoxical.

It’s all paradox everywhere.”

–Jean Shepherd

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