Monday, January 08, 2007

One City, Two Societies

One of the luxuries of reading the local newspaper (Sydney Morning Herald in this case) in print rather than online (as I did in Buenos Aires) is being able to savour the editorials.

In the few short weeks we have been here, I've observed that most writers for this major publication, from those in the main section to food writers and restaurant reviewers in the supplement section, are an open-minded, often well-travelled lot who appreciate and celebrate the diverse and multicultural spirit that has become an integral part of Australia in the 21stC.

Even the newspapers' weekly television guide prefers excellent and less commercial programmes of our exceptional and publicly funded multicultural channel, SBS (Special Broadcasting Services) to mind-numbing junk such as The OC and Desperate Housewives. Not only are we able to view SBS' own and other foreign programmes, viewers can watch daily local news broadcast from a number of countries including Italy, Chile, Germany, France, Greece, Japna, Indonesia, China and Hong Kong.

Each day we are told by the media of our young high achievers, Australians of various ethnic descents and cultural backgrounds making us proud of our country. Fields Medal winner Terence Tao, an Australian mathematician of Asian descent, has been nominated for Australian of the Year.

On the whole, the collective culture has shifted from Anglo-Celtic to one that is uniquely Sydney. Chai Latte (Indian), Affogato (Italian), Pho (Vietnamese), Tom Ka Gai (Thai) are as commonplace these days as a meat pie.

This is the Sydney I know and love, however, there is a Sydney I've read much about in print and yet to experience in person. That is a land where one Herald contributor, Lisa Pryor, dubbed as populated by "slack-jawed, cordial-drinking, potato-gem (frozen, processed potato bites) eaters...who are less Australian and more part of a band of international rednecks...who are let's face it, losers in life."

Most Australians would agree that bigotry stems from ignorance and insecurity which explains why racism is generally more obvious in the poorer parts of the city and among the less educated sector of society.

However, that is certainly not the rule; rich and popular yet trashy Hollywood entertainer Rosie O'Donnell was certainly not shy in broadcasting her bigot humour. And we need to look no further than the little blogsphere of Buenos Aires to spot her compatriot of the same ilk.

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