Hey, all the other Anglo-Celts out there! What do you like about y/our culture? Don’t tell me you like how you can get sushi for lunch and kebabs for dinner. They way I see it, that’s our society, not our culture.
A few years ago I was at a conference where exactly that question was asked “what do you like about your culture”, and because it was a conference about multiculturalism, Anglo-Celtic Australians (who were, unusually, ina minority) were encouraged to speak out. I was disappointed with the response because people answered along the lines of sushi/kebabs as above.
I guess we were all put on the spot. And the wonderful diversity of Sydney is certainly something to celebrate and enjoy, so in that sense the comments were fine. But why is it so hard for us to think of things we like that belong to our own culture?
It’s not unusual to hear people – both anglo-celts & others – lamenting our lack of culture. DadaK has said that to me – although I guess compared to Ashanti culture, the A/Cs really do appear to pale into insignificance.
Is this perception of ‘no culture’ because our culture is increasingly like that of the US? Because people have rejected the stereotypical bush culture of Croc Dundee and the Man from Snowy River, but found nothing to replace it with? Because we don’t have lovely colourful festivals?
But I think it is also a symptom of how the dominant culture, while it really runs everyone’s lives, appears invisible. It’s the ‘norm’, and boring in comparison to other people’s. We have to think up things like Mardi Gras and the Biennale to add a bit of life to it. (Not that there’s anything worng with those events!)
There’s another problem – liking your own culture might feel like it’s steering dangerously close to a reactionary nationalism – parochialism and racism. But does it really make sense to throw the baby out with the bath water. Can we genuinely appreciate people from other cultures if we are busy ignoring or rejecting our own? It could appear kind of shallow and grasping – our culture’s no good, let’s have yours.
As a single parent raising a child of mixed heritage I’ve been very aware of this issue. I’ve felt a bit like I’ve had to over-compensate on the African side because he’s flooded with A/C culture every day. But I like to think I’ve also celebrated my own cultural roots.
So here’s a short list of things I like or even love about my Anglo-Celtic Australian culture:
- The Victoria sponge – light -as-a-feather sponge cake layered with good strawberry jam and real whipped cream, the top dusted with icing sugar.
- Hard bitey yellow cheddar cheese
- Sunday roast
- Lemon cordial
- The BBQ – like my Dad used to do it, on a recycled plough disc, charred steaks that are pink in the middle
- Irish and Scottish fiddle – how about Shooglenifty – celtic rock?)
- Ok, I’m struggling to think of contemporary Oz music that I like, I admit it. Well, there’s the Qantas song …
- The dry, dry humour
- Our love affair with the beach
- How my cousin used to call me Fred
- Board games, especially on rainy afternoons
- I love proverbs and probably use them more than is healthy – don’t put off today what you can do tomorrow – don’t cut off your nose to spite your face – babies and bathwater, as above, etc. etc. Actually I mostly try not to spit them out but I think them all the time.
- The story of Tam Lin – stolen by fairies and rescued by his true love, who wouldn’t let go of him even when the fairy Queen turned him into a series of fearsome monsters. Tenacity and faithfulness bring rewards.
- Our incredible curiosity. Ok, that’s had some appalling side-effects over the centuries, like colonialism and nuclear bombs, but people of my ancestry have also made wonderful contributions to the body of human knowledge. I guess – end with another proverb – that’s a double-edged sword.