By Elisha Hammond
I was scrolling through my news feed back in October last year when an article caught my eye; ‘Vice Co-Founder Roasts The Project’s Waleed Aly For Condemning Trump,’ the headline screamed.
Intrigued, I read on.
The article addressed a video created by Gavin McInnes, a Canadian Libertarian and ‘right wing provocateur.’ Over nine very long minutes, McInnes rips into Australia’s Waleed Aly for his damning coverage of a derogatory conversation about women between Billy Bush and Donald Trump. McInnes consistently crosses the line, launching into his tirade against Aly by calling him an ‘East Indian virgin’ and a ‘retard’ in an attempt to make his perspective appear logical.
But there was one backhand comment from this video that really got me thinking. “Check out hot Canada, aka Australia,” he guffaws.
The video goes on to talk about a supposed war on masculinity that originates from commentary on Trump’s locker-room talk, but what really hit me was the idea that Australia is merely ‘hot Canada.’
Funny as this this throwaway phrase sounds, it wasn’t intended as a nicety and I’ve never stopped wondering why this comparison was drawn.
Why ‘Hot Canada?’
Don’t get me wrong, I think Canada is great; they have maple bacon, ice hockey and the McLobster (not to mention a very good looking Prime Minister) but I still feel like Australia is an incredible, individual nation in its own right.
(Hot) Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Spurred on by this small comment, I started to do a lot of thinking about how Australia is perceived, particularly by Americans. Did a lot of people believe we were simply playing second fiddle to such an influential nation? And worse yet, were there fears that we would now follow in America’s footsteps now Donald Trump has come to power and is starting to shake up the political order?
It didn’t take much googling to realise that people believe this is a plausible theory, somewhat understandable after reports of tense phone conversations between our respective country’s leaders earlier this year. The hostile conversation lasted only 25 minutes of the intended hour and was focussed on a refugee deal involving Manus Island and Nauru; certainly not starting diplomatic relations on the right foot.
It also doesn’t help that Australia is perceived to eagerly follow America down the war path. “John Howard and Tony Abbott just couldn’t wait to throw themselves into Afghanistan, Iraq – wherever America led,” says Mungo MacCallum, political Journalist for the ABC. “Even before Washington gave the order, they were pawing at the ground, panting, and slavering to unleash their own pups of war.”
Additionally, ideas surrounding Australia’s similarity to the US are not new. In a speech at the White House, former President Barack Obama spoke about the need for a change in gun laws, referencing Australia’s legislation as an example of effective gun control and our parallels to the United States.
Yet Michael Pascoe of the Sydney Morning Herald notes that Obama got one thing wrong: we aren’t like America. “Unlike Australia, the US is at war with itself, strongly divided on racial, religious, political and social lines,” he points out. “We decided to grow up instead and become a more reasonable, rational society that explicitly values human life and prefers to think the best of people, rather than the worst.”
We’re very privileged to live in a country where acceptance of different cultures is promoted by our government. We have a lot going for us despite being a small, vastly scattered population with a strong identity; there’s a lot to be proud of when it comes to our country. Contrary to what some would believe, Australia is so much more than a tropical version of a democratic country with a sexy PM.
Amidst fears that we might just follow in America’s footsteps, it’s good to know that we have a lot of positive features that can keep us from electing a leader similar to Trump in the near future. So next time someone suggests that Australia is a much lesser nation than our American counterparts, destined to follow in its footsteps, remember that we’re so much more than just a country of happy little Vegemites.