NOTE: Apologies for any typos or incoherent bits in the following. I ran out of time to edit it, because I had to watch the tele.
As I sit here waiting to watch the next episode of ‘Upper Middle Bogan’, I thought I should take the time to share a couple of quotes I’ve come across this week that relate to the space the show explores: the space between the educated, cosmopolitan inner city and the bogan ‘burbs.
The first is from Christos Tsiolkas in his article in this month’s ‘Monthly’ about asylum seekers. One of his contentions is that asylum seekers are actually collateral damage in the culture wars – ie the battle between those with goat’s cheese in their fridges and those who don’t.
‘The reality is that there isn’t “one nation” that makes up Australia, only competing notions of “nationhood”. There is the cosmopolitan educated nation of the inner cities and the parochial, anxious communities of the urban fringes and the bush. Asylum seeker rights are easily understood and supported by cosmopolitan Australians. We are well-travelled, we are not suspicious of multiculturalism and we are confident of processing and adjusting to change. At the same time, we rubbish their McMansions while gentrification makes the inner city unaffordable, and we castigate them for their cashed-up lack of generosity while it is in fact their kids mixing with the kids of refugees…
..when Australians are asked about the issues that affect daily life most significantly, asylum seekers have never made it into the top 20. Fixating on the treatment of asylum seekers, currently the most destitute class among our body politic, is the easiest way for those anxious and sceptical of globalisation to get to their real target: us, the cosmopolitans. The asylum seekers are collateral damage. We’re really the ones they want to blame.’
The second is from journalist and social commentator Craig McGregor, who spent much of his early career critiquing the work of artists and intellectuals who, like Barry Humphreys, made a career out of ridiculing parochial, suburban Australia. I came across the quote in an interview between McGregor and Phillip Adams on Late Night Live, but it is actually a quote from one of his books that Adams read out.
‘Ordinary people tend to use well-tried habitual patterns of speaking which cover up a range of reactions, emotions and attitudes. It is a fatal mistake, usually made by the narrowest of snobs and the most dangerous of right wing reactionaries, to equate what people say with what they think and feel. I have seen too much of this attempt to denigrate inarticulate people as idiots and morons to feel comfortable about the hidden attitudes of those who indulge in it.’
In the discussion following the reading of this quote McGregor suggested that he has always felt that there was something ‘sacred about ordinary life’, and Adams, following a reference to his grandfather ( ‘a very simple man, and yet the best and noblest man I’ve ever met’) said that he has always preferred ‘goodness to intellectuality and sophistication.’
I’m not sure if ‘Upper Middle Bogan’ is going to singlehandedly heal our divided nation, I doubt that anyone in the ‘bogan’ half will even be watching (especially given that it is in the same timeslot as ‘The Footy Show’), but with our political parties playing on these divisions rather than finding a vision that will draw out the goodness, compassion and decency that could yet unite us, I guess a BMW driving doctor striving to come to terms with her bogan roots may well be the best we have.