I am baffled. Flummoxed, bewildered, discombobulated.
There has never been any doubt in my mind that the Australian people are the finest and most intelligent group in all the world, but right now I sit here stunned by their behaviour, which seems more reminiscent of some of the more disreputable corners of Europe, or even Africa, than the country I have loved all my life. In fact, not since the victory of Regina "Reggie" Bird on Big Brother 2003 have I had such cause to doubt the judgment of my countrymen.
Because no matter what you may say about Australians — they’re coarse, they’re vulgar, they’re semi-literate, they wear stupid plastic shoes with holes in them — the one thing I thought you could never say was that Australians look a gift horse in the mouth.
And yet, as the world’s largest and mightiest nation prepares to clutch us to its enormous, rice-scented bosom, here we are, staring gormlessly at a set of enormous equine tonsils while we sink ever deeper into a pile of manure.
Let us recap.
China — one of the greatest nations ever to emerge upon this earth — wishes to acquire Australia in order to capitalise on its vast reserves of coal and iron ore and provide storage space for its surplus female babies.
To this end, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been tirelessly cultivating relationships with Chinese officials, promoting Chinese interests here and abroad, even going so far as to learn their comical "language" in order to ingratiate himself with our potential suitor. Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon has, of course, done his bit with his close relationship with Helen Liu, who has recently been identified by Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd as not only the chief of China’s national spy network, but also the illegitimate daughter of Mao Tse-Tung.
So here we are, the Government has done its bit, the PM has smoothed the way, Julia Gillard has bound her feet in anticipation, we’re all ready to be joyfully absorbed into a glorious Chinese future, and what do we get?
I’ll tell you what we get. We get carping. We get whining. We get a shameful display of petulant, insipid, xenophobic scaremongering that makes me wonder just what country I’m living in.
Is this the Australia that once wore its diversity proudly, on its sleeve, like a souvlaki-flavoured brooch? Is this the Australia that used to welcome foreigners with open arms and careers in fruit-picking? Is this the Australia that warmly embraces its Indigenous people, no matter what professional sport they happen to excel at?
Apparently I was misinformed. Australia is seemingly not a country of cosmopolitan maturity and multicultural sophistication. Australia is a country that feigns tolerance right up until it is about to be annexed by a gigantic nuclear-armed economic and military superpower, at which point it drops its bundle and starts squealing like a little girl about national interests and sovereignty and communists.
And frankly I’m appalled. Let’s think about this: say you are a shareholder in a small company. You hear that a massive multinational conglomerate wants to buy you out. What happens? Why, you rejoice of course. You thank God that your ship has finally come in. The share price skyrockets, you cash in on the offer and live out your life in comfort and luxury, while the company is subsumed into the greater whole and everyone stops worrying about the future and relaxes, safe in the knowledge that the conglomerate has everything covered.
This is how things work in the business world. And yet here we are, shareholders in this company called Australia, set to be taken over by China Inc, and are we rejoicing? Are we ready to cash in and relax? No, we suddenly want to hold onto our worthless shares and carry on struggling away in this dead-end business. I mean, let’s face it: this country’s going nowhere. If Australia really were a company, we’d be Coles Supermarkets: tired, despondent and with an inferior variety of hot cross buns.
What China is offering us is a way out of the crushing misery and soul-deadening despair that is 21st Century Australia. Take one example: elections. In Australia elections are a constant source of irritation and anger and stomach ulcers, as seemingly every few months we are forced once more to march down to our nearest primary school and wait in line for the privilege of filling in boxes with stubby pencils in order that we might decide which uninspiring, humourless, weasel-brained little reprobate gets to suck the public teat dry for the next few years while society continues its slow downward spiral into an irretrievable morass of violence, obesity and Natalie Bassingthwaighte.
In China, none of that’s a problem! Elections are a breeze: the party chooses the uninspiring, humourless, weasel-brained reprobates for you, saving valuable time. Obesity is taken care of through shrewdly targeted food shortages. And violence is reduced through public executions, as is Natalie Bassingthwaighte.
Yes, there’s no doubt that becoming Chinese is the smartest move any rational young person can make these days. As an Australian, don’t you wish sometimes that, just once, you could be part of a country that people are scared of? Don’t you wish that other countries, when formulating foreign policy, would say, "We’d better not make a move without considering how Australia will react", instead of "We’d better not make a move without sending Australia out to get us some coffees"? Don’t you wish that there was at least SOME chance that in your lifetime, you would be on the right team in a nuclear war?
This is what the government is trying to deliver for you. This is what Joel Fitzgibbon had in mind when he took that trip on Christmas Day, 2005. Oh sure, on the surface it seems like a simple, innocent case of an ambitious politician looking for an efficient way to let his wife know he hates her; but in reality, it was a canny ploy by a smart operator who knew that when he finally got into government, his contacts in the Chinese Government, knowledge of Party heavyweights, and promises to deploy the Australian Navy in a future invasion of Japan would stand him in good stead. Would stand us in good stead.
And yet, when we read the papers, when we watch the news, when we listen to Malcolm Turnbull, we hear nothing but complaints. "Kevin Rudd is a roving ambassador for China", the Opposition cries, as if that were a bad thing. As if trying to do the best thing for your country was somehow an act of treason. As if dreaming of a better tomorrow, where Australia was no longer an isolated minnow, drifting anchorless in the Pacific, with no distinguishing features apart from Rhonda Burchmore and melanoma, were a cardinal sin.
It’s time to stop thinking of China as the enemy, and start thinking of it as a loving parent who wants only the best for us. China is Madonna, and we are a starving African child. Let it feed us and clothe us and palm us off to an overworked nanny. Let us stop struggling against the cruel, cold world, and take this chance for security and prosperity, for if we don’t, it may pass us by. Tomorrow we might wake up and find that China has instead taken over New Zealand or Papua New Guinea, and oh the bitter regret we shall feel as we watch Port Moresby get showered with gifts every Chinese New Year.
We live in a world beset by crises — environmental, financial, political. But we can overcome them if we pull together, put our best foot forward and march lockstep into the future, chopsticks in our hands, songs in our hearts, and tanks in our driveways.
For let us never forget, the Chinese word for "crisis" is the same as that for "control of lucrative and strategic iron ore mines".
Take me, China — I’m yours!
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