Sunday, November 01, 2009

Threads in the Australian experience

No Sunday Essay today, Whitfield Jacarandasjust a second brief post on something that I have been mulling over.

Just to give you a few threads first.

Neil's post today, Sunday Floating Life photo 33 AND Friday poem 18, is a rather good piece of writing. It brilliantly captures one element of the Australian experience.

This photo also from Neil captures the view through the Jacaranda trees near central Railway Station in Sydney. The colour of the Jacarandas is simply spectacular.

Meantime, Marcellous has been attending the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in Shanghai. Fancy going to Shanghai to see the SSO! In fact, Marcellous was there anyway.

Meantime, I have just finished my next column for the Armidale Express, this time reflections on the death of Bruce Mitchell, my old supervisor. To quote my conclusion:

I guess that for most Armidale people, Bruce’s work on local history will be best remembered.

This is important. However, his real legacy lies in the way in which he showed generations of students from New England and far beyond that their interest in family, local and regional history was both legitimate and important.Dragon Boat Race, Clarence

Up in the Clarence, the Jacaranda Festival is on.  Lynne's partner Izzy Foreal is Emcee on one day of boats, dragons and music.

The Clarence is, by Australian standards, a seriously big river, well suited to dragon boat races. This may sound a little artificial, but the links with the Chinese go a long way back. I quote from one of my posts, The Chinese in New England 1848-1853.

In May 1852, the Phoenix sank on its way to the Clarence River with 12 Chinese on board. A thirteenth was found wandering the beach with the Aborigines. He was reportedly quite mad, although no-one knew how he had got there.

Meanwhile,  Will Owen in Deadly Vibes looks at the annual Deadly awards.

Deadly, you say? Are we talking about Australia's snakes? No, deadly is a word from Aboriginal Australian. Do visit. The YouTube clips are worth it.

In population terms, Australia is a far smaller country than the US. Yet, as these few simple examples illustrate, it is also a very diverse country.

If you walk through Westfield at Parramatta as I do every day, you will see Australia at its most polyglot. Stand there, and twenty plus different ethnic groups will pass you in five minutes. Visually, no group dominates.

Sydney's Hurstville is different. Visually, this is a mono-culture. However, that the culture is Chinese, not European.

The differences across Australia are large and growing. At a macro level, Sydney people do not think like Melbourne people. Neither thinks like Armidale or Brisbane people.

Within Sydney, the city is fragmenting into multiple almost tribal groups. Ethnicity is connected with this fragmentation, but far more important is cultural divergence. The Western Suburbs Bogan has little in common with the eastern Suburbs private school girl or the Northern Beaches

The slow, dry, laconic English of the Western Plains of New South Wales or Queensland, the cadences of Aboriginal English, are worlds removed from the fast staccato English of Sydney's inner city bars. It's not just rhythm, but also words.

Australia has become multi-lingual, but it's the English language itself that has fragmented. We may not be far off from the day when sub-titles will come into use.

The thing that is exercising my mind at the moment is the best way of presenting Australia's diversity.

Sadly, I simply do not have the linguistic skills required to present language diversity. I struggle to understand differences, let alone to write about them.Yet I think that it is very important (and very interesting) to present the differences in language and culture that we are now experiencing.                  

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