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02/08/2014

I am reading the 2013 book, The Sweet Spot: How Australia made its own luck and could now throw it all away. The book is written by Sydney Morning Herald reporter Peter Hartcher.

I haven’t yet arrived at the critical juncture when Australia could throw it all away but I have quite enjoyed several insights Hartcher gives into Australia’s (at times quite unjust history) but also into the culture and psyche of Australians. Australians preoccupation with sporting prowess is well known and as I entered adulthood I have found myself more enamoured with the Aussie sporting culture (this would have felt like sacrilege growing up, as kiwis we typically supported New Zealand and anyone playing Australia). New Zealanders typically stereotype ockers as brash and arrogant but Hartcher suggests the fascination with sport reflects an inbuilt inferiority complex:

 History shows that Australians developed their outsized pride and enthusiasm for sport partly as a national consolation prize. The country might not have been able to compete with its colonial master, Britain, for wealth or artistic accomplishment, or with its great and powerful friend, America, for prosperity or power, but it could always walk tall on the sporting field. For most of the last century, the Aussies could reliably thrash the poms at cricket or rugby and make the Americans sweat for their prizes in tennis or swimming.

Of course, I must add that the All Blacks are pretty good at thrashing the Aussies when it comes to the rugby which our blokes have nearly always played with more skill and style, but the essence of the point is interesting. More remarkable is the context of Hartcher’s reflection which is that in 2008 Australia had in fact surpassed the USA’s income per head of population yet it scarcely rated a mention (no official medal ceremony of course). A quick look at the World Bank’s figures (here) reveals Australia is still ahead, in 2013 Australia’s income per capita was $67,468 but the USA’s was only $53,143.

Just one measure besides sport where the Aussie battler marks their place on the world stage.

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