Why is Australia an Earthly Paradise?

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By Anastasios M. Tamis*

Australia, mutatis mutandis and with specific restrictions, remains, perhaps uniquely, an earthly paradise, a shining example of human cohabitation of cultures; a model of peaceful coexistence of nationalities whose metropolis countries are torn apart by inhuman wars.

Australia remains a model of stable democracy, where dictatorships, movements, insurgencies, and uprisings are absent. Australia is a safe haven for refugees and exiles, a remarkable case of a peaceful country where crime remains under control, and the masked men, the anarchists, the squatters, the so-called fan violence are absent (this is also a pretext for the weak state to control the safety of its citizens with laws and safeguards). Australia is a peaceful, most liveable (without romances and idealisations) country, a microcosm of what the planet could be afflicted by the illusions and the tricks of the ruthless and hyper-ambitious leaders who rule our world.

The big challenge is how can the various peoples, races, nationalities, as well as the bearers of various religions and cultures and ideologies coexist, cohabit, cooperate, collaborate, sympathise or co-act in Australia, while around them the planet is torn apart by constant irredentist, religious, political wars in Asia, Africa and South America?

The great lesson, the great truth, is that if in Australia various peoples and religious groups can live together and go hand in hand, why are their brothers and sisters in the countries from which they came from slaughtered mercilessly and for no real reason, just for a shirt, for ‘a Helen’ as Seferis said?

The great lesson and the great truth, then, is that people can function together, as in Australia, live without their differences, as in Australia, have a common homeland for all of them, without their nationalist outbursts and incompatible and heretical ideologies. Australia is showing the way to the peoples of the earth. It gives them the model of coexistence, a coexistence that is tried, harmonised, without deviations and setbacks.

Australia is a model of coexistence, politically recognising a sovereign country, a polity, without their religions having much weight (religion is a private way of life, has no place in the public space, beyond its apostolic and spiritual role). Australia tolerates and encourages cultural events, promotes and enhances the diversity of culture and language. It tolerates and promotes diversity, to the extent that social cohesion is not affected.

Although freedom is a political value, it is utopian to believe that we can be completely free simply because we humans cannot be completely free. We are free by convention and through myriad restrictions. However, in Australia you feel the virtue and value of being free to express your opinion, even when what you express often goes beyond accepting the other’s diversity.

Greece is a nation-country, with racial and ethnic homogeneity, a common language and religion, history, common customs and a single cultural heritage.  Australia is a country of immigrants, with heterogeneous cultural events, with different languages, multiracial, multiethnic, multicultural. However, socially and politically, Australia is more solid, more unbreakable, more compact and less divided. This is an oxymoron, which generates in Australia unity and a feeling that all heterogeneous citizens belong to this country.

In Greece, you often feel like a “foreigner” in your homeland, and you cannot recognise the gaps caused by the inability of the modern Greek citizen to define what is important and essential in their life.  This social inability of the Greek to distinguish what will “fill” his life as a value, has essentially relaxed family education and family tradition, and has given birth to a disinterest adolescence with delinquency and violence. It has also given birth to a lack of moderation and worthiness, and instead of self-criticism, the Greek attempts to discover the cause of national decline in external factors.

In Australia there is also crime and misconduct, but there is also the rule of law, there is police, the bodies that ensure the safety of citizens, the bodies that enforce the law. Once upon a time in Greece, children played in the streets and the elderly took walks. Now out are the knives, the flares, the poles, the broken marbles, the stones, the Albanian mafia, the Romanian, the Bulgarian and, of course, the Greek mafia, of night and drugs. You’re afraid to go around, you’re terrified until your child comes home.

On Vouliagmeni Avenue the irrational youth run at 200 kilometres per hour when the limit is 50 kilometres; on the highways they speed at 240 per hour and boast to their friends, without the nemesis ever coming to cut off heads. Greece lost more of its citizens on the asphalt than during the war. Dishonest, unruly, bullies and dumb dudes ignore the laws and insult the police, whom they eventually beg to offer them safety. In Australia, infringements are detected spontaneously. On its comfortable road network, with its freeways and wide roads, the speed limit is rarely 110 p.h., in cities 40 to 60, with the number of victims being less than one-sixth of the number of our small country.

In Greece of ours, where we all get sick if we do not visit it, in our homeland where our love is given in the form of self-denial and self-sacrifice, after two months of pleasant stay (in the form of pilgrimage), we feel tired, and we want to return to Australia. What is it that tires and traumatises us every time we leave Greece to return to Australia. It is a multitude of causes. Causes that make life in Australia calm, comfortable, safe, unscrupulous and qualitatively rebaptised and sustainable.

For years now, Australian cities have been included in the top five most liveable cities in the world, because they provide basic social virtues, safety, cleanliness, easy access and high-quality public services. In Australia, what we call “civil conscience” operates to a high degree (it is a derivative of the education and the way of upbringing offered). Students wear their school uniforms, carry the emblem of their school in their bags and jacket. They learn not to be private individuals, not to take care of their skin, to show solidarity and not bullying to their classmates. They learn to be sensitive citizens, through sports and competition. The education system emphasises learning rather than teaching. At school, they follow sports activities, learn to respect friendship, mateship, so when they enter adolescence and later integrate into society, the majority of them are distinguished by self-respect and a social mildness and sensitivity. They learn to respect the state and the laws, to participate in public events.

Learning is not limited to school teaching, students participate in social rescue, firefighting, sports teams. In most independent schools there are special departments of military training, cadetships, scouting, participation by membership in social solidarity organizations. Young people learn to participate in the events of the society in which they are participating.

In the next issue, I will refer to other facts that make Australia the earthly paradise. I have deliberately taken care not to mention economic issues, because monetary comparisons cannot stand or justify the aims of these articles.

*Professor Anastasios M. Tamis taught at Universities in Australia and abroad, was the creator and founding director of the Dardalis Archives of the Hellenic Diaspora and is currently the President of the Australian Institute of Macedonian Studies (AIMS).

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