Monday, 18 February 2013

The Cultural Cringe


Alecia Simmonds, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald on the weekend, wrote this fascinating article on a curious phenomenon we have in this country called "The Cultural Cringe".

It ponders on why people both those who live here and some of those who visit here, seem to feel that our culture is inferior to, say, European culture. It's not as though we don't have any top scientists or any good filmmakers here. And let's face it, an Australian artist just won the 2012 Grammy award for the Record of the Year (Goyte). There are some manifestations of the culture however that are a little less than impressive (see Alan Jones, Ray Hadley or anything on The Anti-Bogan for proof), but by and large we have a deep, rich and varied culture that is wholly unique, despite its origins.

Australians, as I see it, when they're not flag-waving and being nationalistic, do at times think that local product is inferior to the overseas one. We've seen this for years. The Bee Gees, The Seekers, The Saints, The Go-Betweens, The Triffids, Nick Cave and The Birthday Party were all homegrown acts who all needed to go overseas to be noticed and respected, before anyone here took notice. In the mid-1980s, the "Buy Australian" campaign had to remind us that we do actually have a manufacturing sector in this country and that we do produce good products, instead of opting for the cheaper Chinese imported version.

Unfortunately, the cultural cringe has manifested itself at an institutional level. Commercial radio won't touch Australian music as most of it "doesn't fit the format". Australian support acts on big concert bills get little attention from audiences. Australian TV stations won't invest in locally produced content, aside from news, morning shows and soap operas. With this in mind, what incentive is there for the punters to support it?

Culture needs to develop by local content being produced and media outlets supporting it. It's cyclical - one feeds the other and everyone benefits. By incorporating our own voices with the best of overseas, we could be a more vibrant culture than ever.

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