Very soon, elections will be held to decide on the key world issues facing Australians. Will you have a voice? Actually, you won’t even have a vote. The elections in question are in the United States.
American politics is everywhere. If we were American we could actually vote on who will be the president, rather than be exposed to the ins and outs of the campaign but ultimately wield no power over the result. And Rupert Murdoch could come home to Adelaide.
If we were formally part of the United States, we’d be a pretty big player. We’d come in third, below California, at 33 million people and Texas at 20, our 19 million just pipping New York state at 18. In terms of GDP we’d slip down to fourth, oil-rich Texas beating us by a wide margin.
What kind of say would that give us on November 2?
In America’s tortuous presidential election system it would get us about thirty seats among the 538 of the electoral college. Candidates would make a play for us. TV networks would get more advertising cash from campaigns — we might even end up like Florida, a key battleground on which the fate of the presidency is decided.
So who’s for signing up to become the 51st state?
We are. Sometimes, you know, geez it would be nice to be a yank.
Just the other night, watching Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, it certainly seemed that way.
As straight guy Dewayne or Grosvenor Jr — or whatever his name was — entered his new kitchen, fresh haircut held in place by ‘product’, he exclaimed in his Californian twang: ‘Awesome! Dudes! You guys totally rock!’
Usually, we’d just wince at the horrible Americanisms, at the mincemeat being made of our language. But when we thought about it the other night, if we were American we could relax, be part of Dewayne’s world, and just get on with things. Stop worrying and learn to love the Empire. If Australia was part of the United States we wouldn’t care when our teenagers sprinkle their sentences with the word ‘like’. We could just listen to what they are saying.
Instead, over here in the pseudo 51st state, we live life in a sort of twilight zone. We reap the bounty that comes from hitching ourselves to the Empire’s political wagon, but still valiantly try to forge our own independent place and culture in the wider world.
If we see a good Hollywood movie we enjoy it, sure. At the same time we’re always careful to remind ourselves that the glamorous lifestyles and questionable values portrayed are American lifestyles and values, not Australian ones. What a pointless waste of time. Why not give in, and get with the strength?
America, with just 4.6% of the world’s population, produces 33% of global output. It accounts for a full one-third of global defence spending, 40% of global spending on R&D, and takes over 80% of global box office revenues every year. We can’t beat that, so why not join it?
We’re halfway there already. Courtesy of John Howard, we’ve got a free trade agreement. And he’s going all the way. His government’s entire foreign policy is a South Pacific extension of America’s. Even the way he celebrates national holidays seems to have come out of the US State Department: George W spends Anzac Day in Baghdad, John W spends Thanksgiving in Baghdad. Or was it the other way around?
Perhaps Mark Latham should follow this example. Think of how much easier it would be to admit his speeches are drafted by the American Democratic Party, rather than trying to convince us he finds them on google or whatever.
The writers of the US constitution eloquently framed the problem that faces us today:
‘When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another … a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.’
Human events do make it necessary for us to dissolve the ‘political bands’, but not the ones that join us, the ones that divide us. We need to come together more, and do it on a global basis. Australia’s elections are a local affair, too local. The world is bigger, crazier, more dangerous and more engaging than our federal democracy admits. When it comes to the big wide world, Australians — like the six billion other people sharing the planet — appreciate ‘a decent respect to the opinions of mankind’. Give us a voice, a role, a real say in things.
Maybe the answer would be a world government. A beefed up UN. The yanks won’t like that, and John W won’t be a big fan either. But the twenty-first century has some big global problems, that will only be solved by big global solutions, and we can’t afford to be held back by little men in big boots.
The nation state is frayed. Australians, with our global diaspora, should be among the first to recognise that fact. We should really push the boundaries towards making the world a better place.
Sometimes, though, it would just be sweet relief to surrender. And take our rightful place, somewhere in the shadow of Texas:
‘Dewayne, we’re with you, dude.’
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