Maybe it’s Us…

Remember that episode of Top Gear where they go to America and paint messages on their cars designed to cause as much offense as possible? For the uninitiated, the show’s three presenters were given a challenge (forget the obviously scripted nature of the show for a moment): write messages on each other’s cars which would make the locals damage them as much as possible. The messages proved to be too successful – after being set upon by rednecks who apparently took issue with one of the cars’ messages in support of homosexuality, a local radio station had broadcast their cars’ registration plates as a target for attack, and the crew had to wipe the messages off their cars and get out of Alabama as quickly as possible. It’s one of the most well-known scenes in Top Gear history. I thought it was hilarious.

But what the first person said in the initial confrontation was quite interesting:

person [redneck]: “Now are y’all gay looking to see how long it takes to get beat’ up in a hick town?”

This is the sort of line we’d love to ignore – something that indicates more awareness than we’d prefer her to have. Indeed, I ignored it the first time I saw the scene – I was too busy laughing with vindictive glee at the homophobes who were now getting humiliated on international television. But what she said was, I think, very telling as to the true reason for her anger. Because I don’t think she was angry about support for gays (well … not entirely at least). I think she was angry about the fact that a bunch of people who obviously thought they were better than the locals came and assumed she would be homophobic, and that she was very obviously being made fun of. In short, she was being treated as a ‘hick’. And in that context, of course she’d be angry. Wouldn’t you be angry if people spoke to you with pre-conceived notions of how you behave and think – that is, if you were being stereotyped?

Which is why I don’t understand why everyone who opposes Trump, and I do mean pretty much every single one of us, seems to think there’s nothing wrong with belittling Trump supporters, and then have the face to wonder aloud about how he manages to get so much support.

Now, don’t misunderstand me here. I do not support Trump. I, like many left-leaning people around the world (I believe the right refers to us collectively as ‘lib-tards’), support Sanders, and truly believe he can make a massive positive impact on many of the issues facing America today. And if I were forced to choose between Clinton and Trump, I would choose Clinton in less time than it takes men’s rights activists to feel sorry for themselves when watching the Ghostbusters remake (which takes a unit of time so small it can only exist in a theoretical sense). In short, Trump is, in my opinion at least, bad.

But I can’t help but hesitate when I see yet another article talking about how stupid and ignorant Trump voters are. “I just don’t understand, surely people are better than this” say the smug moderates who continue typing very obviously false attempts at exasperation and benefits of doubt in an effort to look more balanced than they really are. Well, you know what? Maybe it’s us. Maybe we’re too busy typing out our ‘I’m not that right-wing’ insecurities to realise we’re the ones pushing Trump voters away. Doubtless, if Trump does win the presidency, these same people will gleefully type pretend-lamentations of how people are stupid and that society is doomed and that dictatorships are needed, or something. I doubt even blind cave-dwelling salamanders, cut off from the outside world millions of years ago, could be more isolated from reality than these netizens.

At the moment, Trump looks set to lead the Republicans to an abysmal loss. But if we continue treating anyone with a hint of anti-Clinton views as uneducated proletarians not worth listening to, this might change. Hey, at least the smuggers will feel more energised than ever before, right?

-Z

“Well at Least I’m Better Than Americans”

“Well I just think we should have, you know, some control over our borders.”
“There’s barely any people if you compare asylum seekers to normal immigrants, the economic cost would be completely eclipsed if we started taxing Qantas, or any of the other big companies that pay zero income tax, their qualifications aren’t worth much here plus most of them aren’t allowed to work anyway so losing jobs to them isn’t really a worry, and they’d be housed if we stopped counting houses as investments for negative gearing laws so don’t even try to start about putting them ahead of homeless people.”

I’ve got him. He can’t get around the fact that there’s no reason to support offshore processing. He’s doomed, like a factual piece of information at The Daily Telegraph. Victory is near.

“Haha, at least we’re not in America! They’re gonna elect a guy who’s gonna build a fence to stop Mexicans and “make them pay for it” haha! Bernie Sanders is the only guy who knows what’s up and he’s gonna lose!”

trump

Time to make excuses great again. image taken from businessinsider.com

Everyone has a laugh. All is well again.

What the hell just happened?

Time and again I meet people who use the ‘at least I’m better than Americans’ line to get themselves out of trouble, or just to feel better about themselves. I thought it was just a university student thing, like feeling ‘nostalgia’ for Catdog, or thinking our opinions matter, but it’s not. Fully grown, fully intelligent people still use this line. And other people agree with it. Everyone agrees with it. Hell, American tourists, worried about not fitting in here, agree with it. Forget global warming, forget nuclear de-armament, this line will be the thing that unites the peoples of this planet and bring about world peace. And, frankly, it makes no fucking sense.

refugees

We, the nation keeping refugees in indefinite detention, in order to evade international law, with bipartisan support, are laughing at Trump’s wall. Okay. image taken from looppng.com

Let’s go with this example. Let’s compare illegal immigrants in America with our offshore processing policy. Ignoring the fact that illegal immigrants aren’t refugees, which already invalidates his argument, the number of illegal immigrants in America dwarfs any statistic related to boat people in Australia. According to reasonably reliable estimates, there are as many as 11 million illegal immigrants in America, 8 million of whom are employed, in a nation with 22 million unemployed people. Even if we scale this down by a factor of 15 for Australia’s population, we still end up with ~730,000 people. We in Australia do not and have never had anything even remotely approaching this number of asylum seekers. And in America, it’s actually considered controversial if illegal immigrants are deported, whereas we don’t bat an eye when a student who’s overstayed their visa here gets the same treatment. We are, quite objectively, far worse in this area.

But does that matter? Do people actually care what the facts are when it comes to America? I don’t think they do. No one seems to know or care that America spends proportionally more on medicine than Australia, or that their news programs are required to hire with diversity in mind (have you seen Australian news that isn’t SBS – it’s like looking at a freaking salt lake), or that they recently made gay marriage legal, or any of the (many) other things which suggest that, actually, America is quite a progressive society. We even have the bare-faced cheek to talk about oppression of black people there, when we have the Stolen Generation, a ten-year difference in life expectancy for Indigenous Australians, sub-40% home ownership rates, 1300% higher homelessness rates, and a broad public perception that they complain too much, leading to very little action to solve the issue. None of this matters. They base their view of America on news outlets which I can only assume have their entire foreign crew based in the dodgiest town of Texas, cultivating some sort of hick story so far removed from the rest of the nation it shouldn’t even qualify as a caricature. And they’ve been doing this for years now, conservatives and liberals alike. It’s become a part of our culture, like Vegemite or pretending to watch and/or care about soccer. I don’t think I’m exaggerating here when I say it’s become politically correct to hate America.

bad living conditions

‘Well at least I’m better than Americans!’ image taken from pub209healthcultureandsociety.wikispaces.com

Now, hopefully, you’ll see that this is bad. Hating a nation is getting woefully close to xenophobia. But it gets worse. You see, people have started justifying their terribly callous views to themselves by using this phrase. Want cuts to Medicare? ‘Well at least I’m better than Americans!’ Want to support offshore processing? ‘Well at least I’m better than Americans!’ Want to stop paying unemployed Indigenous Australians Newstart, the only thing keeping them (barely) alive, unless they move to a town where no one’s going to hire them anyway? ‘Well at least I’m better than Americans!’ Love the tax cut that gives $80,000-$87,000-a-year families, far above the average income, more money, whilst introducing work for the dole at $4 an hour? ‘Well. Well.’ By using this extreme-right non-existent nation as an excuse, we’ve been slowly sucked towards the right, telling ourselves that as long as it’s better than ‘America’, it’s okay.

What I’m really saying is that we should all move to America. They’re, ironically, the only ones unaffected by this nonsense, and it’s actually a pretty cool place too.

-Z