Ocker

I was too tired last night to take a cab to downtown Sydney from my suburb or Cronulla for the Mardi Gras parade, but that Sydney has a large and strong gay community is certainly a change from when I was here before in 1988.  There is an Australian word – ocker – that describes the old Australian male ethos.  On the one hand it is strong, self-deprecating, blunt, plain-speaking, and unpretentious, with a ready humor.  On the other, it also implies sexist, homophobe, coarse, pig-headed, provincial, and as anti-intellectual as any Tea Party ‘keep your government hands off my Medicare’ American.

Some original settlers here really did hunt the aboriginals for sport (see Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines for an amazing journey through the unique and complex Aboriginal culture – it is so sad that such a writer should die so early).  Later, well-meaning British colonial officials decimated the culture by taking the children away and teaching them English, as we did with many of our originals.  The situation is still tragic and egregious in both our countries.

Paul Hogan shows up a bit of Australian ocker attitude in the beginning of Crocodile Dundee, but he is well-tamed into feminist sensitivity by the end.  Australia has likewise abandoned the ocker culture to allow in the gay, the feminine, the foreign, and the sensitive.  Like America’s Wild West, it is easier to be nostalgic about it now that it is gone than it was to live through at the time.

Fortunately, the best part – the easy, blunt, sarcastic, self-deprecating humor – remains, and I am really enjoying  Australia an Australians.

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