If not the Bush then what?

These four quotes from our Whizzbangs collection suggest that, while the Bush may have made us, we’ve moved on to drier country. We ignite Whizzbangs in our monthly newsletters.

Before. ‘It is easy enough to see why men went to the [Great] war. In most minds, there could be no loyalty to Australia without loyalty to the British throne, and duty was a byword of such loyalty. To not go was to forfeit a place among the exalted, to be deemed of a less manly cast, to be a shirker. Men went to answer the call of their king, to protect the honour of the empire and their family, and because their friends did, or to escape their fathers, or as redemption for misdeeds, or for the adventure, or for the money.’ (Don Watson, The Bush, 2014)

After. ‘After the [First World War] you had a range of societies which were pretty much exhausted, and they tended to turn inwards. In a society like Australia, which had a poorly formed image of itself, where there was no intellectual underpinning, the image of the soldier replaced everything else as a national identity.’ (John F. Williams, Australian photographer-historian, 1993)

Cradle? ‘The Australian bush is both real and imaginary. Real, in that it grows in various unmistakable bush-like ways, and dies, rots, burns and grows into the bush again; real, in harbouring life. Imaginary, in that among the life it harbours is the life of the Australian mind. It is, by many accounts, the source of the nation’s idea of itself. The bush is everything from a gum tree to any of the creatures that live in it or shelter beneath it, and it is the womb and inspiration of the national character.’ (Don Watson, The Bush, 2014)

Hollowed out? ‘Only about 15 per cent of Australians now live outside the cities and the essentially suburban coastal corridor. The country has taken on the character of a gum tree, a critic wrote a few years ago: the heartwood dead and crumbling, all the life in the sapwood of self-obsessing suburbia. And the liveliest of those suburbs are home not to the descendants of drovers and Anzacs, but to ambitious migrants from Asia and the Middle East, with no taste for rural life, and no appetite for sagas of male bonding in shearing sheds and creek beds under Banjo Paterson’s everlasting stars.’ (Don Watson, The Bush, 2014)

31 July 2015

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