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A Tale of Two Colonies

A few generations ago Britain was the most powerful and influential country on earth. Through technological advances, forward-thinking and brute force we cooperated, colonised and conquered leaving legacies both positive and negative.

Two world wars and one world cup later and the direct influence from Britain has waned and been replaced by the prodigal son: the USA. Normally when a child outstrips its parent, the parent feels some resentment. When it comes to America, however Britain has a tendency to behave more like an obedient puppy than an assertive parent. Perhaps it’s because America, by waging the war of independence took the metaphorical route of childhood emancipation. Maybe Britain is trying to make up for past offences by being overly servile.

The old saying goes that when America sneezes the world catches a cold. In Britain’s case the metaphor extends to infection from all of America’s culture, language and traditions. Unfortunately this slavish devotion seems to be ingrained in government policy. For years successive governments have been hell-bent on following every American policy whether it is good or bad. Despite the dreadful social inequality and poverty that result from following the profit motive in America in areas like health-care and education it seems that UK governments are much more likely to adopt these ideas rather than ones that actually work.

Maybe there’s a better lost child of the empire to follow. Instead of the one that rejected us how about giving Australia, the child we sent to the naughty step, a try? Australia is far from perfect- it’s treatment of its indigenous people and other minorities is as appalling as the USA’s. It has more deadly creatures than any other country and worst of all- it gave us the Ugg boot. But it has contributed much to the world and if we are going to construct public policy based on that of another country, let’s at least choose one that has a  superior standard of life to the US: Australia has four entries in the top-ten cities of the world to live in compared to USA’s zero.

Hold on! I’ve just remembered we’ve got an office in Australia- I’ll go and check it out and report back soon…

…I’m back from a fact-finding trip to Australia to see whether its ethos is one that Britain should be copying rather than chasing the American ‘dream’.

Good news! Many people enjoy an amazing standard of living and live in lovely houses. There is so much space that the houses and gardens are often immense. Even people in the less affluent areas have a sizable front and back garden. That is not always the case in the USA.

Bad news! It cost me £20 for two pints in an ordinary bar.

Good news! Public sector workers are really well paid and highly regarded. In Western Australia graduate teachers start on £37,000, which is six grand more than our basic class teachers finish on! Their salaries also improve impressively with service. That is not the case in the USA.

Bad news! It really did cost me £20 for two pints in an ordinary bar.

Good news- they’ve got some amazing animals. Australia was cut off from the rest of the world 100 million years ago and has developed flora and fauna found no-where else. What’s curious however is the similarity between totally unrelated species as animals independently evolved with convergent characteristics) – this is the echidna, an Australian version of a hedgehog. The US has great animals too though.

Bad news- They also had a marsupial wolf called a Tasmanian tiger but a farmer shot the last one in the1930s. And, I kid you not, it cost me £20 for two pints in an ordinary bar.

The conclusion of my fact finding mission is that up until relatively recently, possibly because of its relative remoteness, Australia acted in ways that it perceived were in its citizens’ best interests. Sometimes this was disastrous and sometimes well intentioned. Lately, however, with the increase in globalisation and the power wielded by the big companies Australia has started to buckle and suffer the same gradual Americanisation that we have. Good ideas are getting scuppered by the interests of big business as Australia slowly succumbs to the biggest cultural imperial force since…well, us. And it cost £20 for two beers. In an ordinary pub.

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