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Down Under

Together, we can help the light to shine again

Submitted by Lindsay Coker, Melbourne Australia

It's funny writing from down under, because our heads point upwards - just the same as yours. Anyway, if we were to approach this blue globe from space, 'on top' and 'under' wouldn't mean a thing. It's not until we're a bit closer we can differentiate the land masses and feel pangs of homesickness, look in wonder at the other bits, and see it as a whole. For a while there it's just a blob, and the life on it no more than a fungus - yet we are conditioned to dissect that life into good and bad, friendly and not, helpful and inimical.

So, because we're mostly friends, I'm sure you won't mind me doing a little comparing, putting a shibboleth or two to the test, raising a little ire.

The USA and Australia have about the same land area, one of the few geographic similarities. You have broad rivers, high mountains, wide, productive lands. We're stuck with an uninhabitable centre, deficient rainfall, tiny rivers, and a productive eastern edge. You have a frigid north, we a tropical one, not far from the equator. You have how many millions? Do you know? We have 23, and that may be beyond our capacity to sustain. Yep, we've got minerals like you've never seen, but they ain't vittles. So size is irrelevant. It's the ability to nourish that's vital.

So, in many ways we're different, yet we have so much in common. Both nearly became French, were settled by the British, built our nations with the peoples of the world, fought for and embraced democracy, and became prosperous. Free settlers and those fleeing religious persecution went to North America, while a bit later Blighty sent its convicts and guardian soldiers to this great south land. The colonists in North America were mighty glad to stay in their new, bountiful home, while the soldiers in this god-forsaken land hankered for a return to mother England as soon as possible. The convicts simply wanted to be out from under the yoke of the British, and soon learnt to either despise their guards and attempt to escape, or to utilize their skills to help build a new colony.

In both cases our forebears wanted to achieve independence and a decent life. You got started more than 100 years before us, fought a war to get rid of a 'we-know-best' regime, which we never did, so our obsequious kowtows to the throne are still in place. Not that that is all bad, but part of our collective psyche yearns to be as you, out from under the thumb. There's a real push to become a republic, and it may well happen within the foreseeable future.

There's one major difference in our collective outlooks, however. You pushed the British army and the government behind it into the sea. The memorials to this are all around you, and they rightly remind you of the birth of the great nation you have become. We fought for the British. We helped win their wars, and got the same consideration they gave you. A big smile, condescension, and a decreased market. We came to hate the idea of fighting someone else's war. Our memorials are to the bravery of our soldiers - which has been proven over and over - and not to the glories of war. You have the battle hymn of the Republic. We had Rule Britannia.

Yet other battles continue, this time inescapable. The battles to fight for the common good, reestablish true democracy where we all may be treated equally and take equal responsibility for our acts. A time when hope is not hype, decency is not degeneration, truth is not spin, and accountability is real. In this our two nations have new leaders, a new commitment, and new possibilities. Amid all the doom and gloom there is a light, coming not from power but from heart and soul, and from something no one can do without - friendship. We've got lots of friends in the USA, you've got lots here - but let's get that comradeship bubbling, for it's synergetic.

Together, we can help the light to shine again.

Peace, from downunder.


Read Past Downunder Columns by Lindsay Coker