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"Snobs and whingers: the new Australia"

Opinion - Tim Napper

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-08-24/napper-snobs-and-whingers-the-new-australia/2853464

I am filled with rage. My spleen swells to explosive proportions and it must be vented.

It's been building for a while, this anger. It grows as I see a New Australia growing, a nation increasingly snobbish and prone to complaining. First it irked, then it grated, but now I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore.

The tipping point came last week in an article I read in Crikey (*an independent online Australian news source), in a piece that represented everything to me about just how pathetic we are. And it was an innocuous article for all that: a light fluff piece by a 17-year-old student about a trip to Canberra. The main focus of the article was how difficult it was for the author to find a good coffee. She was especially confronted it seemed, at how difficult it was to find a quality macchiato, and shocked to find a 'charcoal chicken' outlet in the city. "What is this"? You can hear her thinking, "the nation's capital or South Detroit?".

Yeah, you heard it right, a 17-year-old complaining about the scarcity of some boutique coffee choice and the horror of an unsophisticated food shop. And it was published.

I remember when being 'stuck up' or 'up yourself' wasn't good at all. It was the ultimate put-down. I remember at high-school that while you would be made fun of for a lot of things, most would soon be forgiven and forgotten by your peers. But being considered 'up-yourself' was an unforgivable sin, warranting an immediate (and deserved) excommunication from the company of other teenagers. Now it seems we've come full circle. Now being poor, or down-to-earth, or insufficiently educated on different varieties of Colombian coffee beans is something to be derided. Now we call instant coffee drinkers 'bogans'.

And tell me something else - can a breakfast in a cafe be uncomplicated anymore? Does every dish we eat have to be insufferably pretentious? You can't sit down for breakfast without being confronted with choices like 'Madagascan vanilla quinoa porridge with a side of flambéed quinces'. Can't I just eat some eggs on toast please? You know things are getting bad when you need a working knowledge of French and an advanced diploma in food science before deciding on an inner-city breakfast.

To really understand how pissant Australians have become, just have a think about the environmental movement. On the one hand, an overwhelming majority of Australians think something has to be done to preserve the environment and cut down on carbon pollution. Fair enough. But on the other hand those same people are shocked and appalled when you suggest they have to make some sacrifices and take some personal responsibility. Sacrifice? Responsibility? You say this to an Australian these days and they look at you like you've just spat in their eggs Florentine.

I'm even willing to put a price on the threshold level for the average Australian whinge: three dollars. Why? Well, because this is the extra price we are not willing to pay on airfares. Three bucks extra on a domestic airfare - that's what a price on carbon will cost you. Three dollars doesn't even buy you a coffee - hell, it buys you half of one of those much-vaunted macchiatos. But this is front page news. The media works itself into a frenzy, howling at the moon at the thought of such an economic injustice. Three dollars extra for your dirty weekend up at the Gold Coast - the sky is falling! Socialism! The tourism industry will be destroyed!

Well, I'm past giving a sh*t. Your electricity bill is going up? Don't live in a McMansion with six bedrooms, a rumpus room and a home theatre. Bananas expensive? Buy an apple. Soy-milk Chai latte not flavourful enough? Give yourself an uppercut.

Our media is complicit in this nonsense, with its shrill headlines and me-too philosophy. They have fed the beast of this New Australian culture of entitlement. They're the ones leading the charge, complaining bitterly when people earning more than $150,000 a year are not given more hand-outs. We've had it so good for so long, that when the last budget came down and the Government decided not to increase some of the giveaways, the Murdoch press nearly had an embolism. "Class War" they cried, indignant at the creeping threat of communism evident in cutting people off welfare at $150,000. Call me crazy, but my assumption was that not everyone was entitled to welfare. I thought, you know, that poor people were the ones who got the assistance. But oh good god no - in Australia today, everyone is entitled. And don't get me started on billionaires paying 2 per cent or less tax while having billion-dollar government subsidies for their businesses, just don't get me started.

What happened to the stoic Aussie? The laconic digger? The 'she'll be right mate' attitude? We'll that's all as dead and buried as Ian Thorpe's swimming career. We're not stoic, we're like one of those European soccer players flopping around on the field in convulsions at the slightest touch (or perceived touch). We're not laconic, we bleat on endlessly about a thousand petty grievances; it's not "she'll be right mate" anymore, it's "she'll be right when I get my tax cut and belly-rub". And of course there's the voice of Alan Jones always there in the background to stroke that sense of entitlement and misplaced self-pity. We are becoming a silver-spoon nation of whingers.

Our economy is the envy of the world. European bankers turn green with envy when they see our economic data; American bankers would do the same if they ever looked at a country outside America. We've got almost no unemployment, a stable, well-regulated financial sector, solid economic growth and resilience enough to ride out the catastrophic financial mistakes of the US. The OECD ranks us as one of the strongest economies on the planet.

And we've got it bloody good when you compare us to other rich countries: let's not forget the people who really deserve a whinge - the starving kid in Somalia, the Thai sex-trafficking victim pimped out to a Chinese businessman, the family who has been sitting in a squalid refugee camp on the border of Afghanistan for 10 years. These people should be the ones complaining - not some middle class private school girl with a macchiato fetish, not some professional on $200,000 a year living in North Sydney and driving a Range Rover, not some self-funded retiree squandering their life savings on a yacht and Botox treatments. I'm sorry, but you don't get to lament and gnash your teeth. You get to shut up and be thankful for how you good you got it.

Our whinging puts the poms to shame. We are getting soft. We stubbed our toe in the global economic crisis. America had its legs cut off and Iceland was drawn, quartered and fed to starving dogs. So stop whinging. This is the lucky country.

Don't believe me? Well, it doesn't matter. Someone in the media will be along presently to pat you on the head and tell you how tough you got it. They will be there to stoke that burning sense of entitlement you feel down deep in your belly. So think what you want to think, and whatever happens, try not to choke on your next latte.

Tim Napper is an international aid worker and occasional poker player.

ACTIVITIES

Questions are framed to target unit content dot points in ATAR and General English courses. Suggest using sections selectively depending on lesson focus rather than as one activity.

Tim Napper provides his opinion on the opinions of a 17 year old female student on a trip to Canberra who complains about how difficult she found getting a good coffee.

Reading for meaning

  1. What reasons does the writer provide for being "filled with rage"?
  2. What does he mean when he talks about "how pissant Australians have become"?
  3. How is the media seen to be complicit in Australians developing certain attitudes?
  4. Research the term "the lucky country". Is this a criticism or a compliment of Australia and Australians?

Context

  1. Does your own context (your age, gender, where you live, your education and social standing etc) influence your attitude to the 17 year old girl's opinions? If so, how?
  2. Does your context influence your response to the writer's criticisms of the girl and of Australians in general?Explain briefly.
  3. Why do you think the author has added "and occasional poker player" to his background information at the end of the article?
  4. In the second paragraph the writer states: " I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore". View this YouTube clip from the 1976 film Network, which won Peter Finch an Oscar for this performance when as a newscaster he literally "gets mad" in a television news broadcast.
    • What is it that Tim Napper is as mad as hell about and why isn't he going to take it anymore?

Content and style

  1. Is the headline effective? If so why, if not why not?
  2. The writer establishes a tone to his opinion piece in the first few sentences that suggests he is being somewhat light-hearted, even though he says he is angry. Support this reading with some evidence and explanation.
  3. Find three examples where Napper uses language that suggests he is being light-hearted and explain what is about his use of language that communicates this attitude to the reader.
  4. Identify where Napper uses colloquial language and suggest why he does this.
  5. An interesting technique that Napper uses is question and answer. Identify three examples and explain the effect of this on the reader.
  6. Look up a definition of sarcasm. Identify an example of this in the paragraph commencing "I'm even willing to put a price on the threshold level..."or "Well, I'm past giving.."
  7. The tone of this article becomes more serious from the paragraph commencing "Our media is complicit in this nonsense, with its shrill headlines and me-too philosophy..". What is it about the writer's style that suggests this? (Consider the difference between opinions and facts.)
  8. Consider the sentence structure in the last three paragraphs. How has the writer varied his sentence length, use of punctuation, descriptive, concrete language (note how he uses adjectives) to engage/interest/inform/ entertain the reader? (Pick any of these.)

Point of view, ideas, attitudes and values

  1. In this opinion piece Napper is speaking to the reader as though having a conversation. Where in this article is this sense of voice most persuasive and convincing for you? Explain briefly.
  2. Explain what you believe are the writer's attitudes to people who complain about small things. Support with evidence.
  3. What values do you think are important to Napper?
  4. Who do you think is Napper's intended audience and do you think he has achieved his purpose in writing this article?

Creating texts

  1. Option 1: Although light-hearted in places, the article runs quite a detailed and well-supported argument. Copy Napper's style and write a brief opinion piece about any subject of your choice. Be sure to research your subject and provide the reader with some convincing (supported) argument as well as an entertaining style to persuade them to support your perspective on some issue dear to you.
  2. Option 2: Write the article that Napper refers to in his second pargraph in which you construct the persona of the type of person that Napper loves to hate and in which you offer a very different perspective on life.

 


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