We used to get this question a lot when we lived further North. Most people in our little English village couldn’t comprehend why we would choose their damp (and gorgeously lush and green) little village over living an hour away from a beautiful sandy beach in Australia.
In London we don’t get this question very often. London is after all crawling with expat’s. Here in our building alone we have an Aussie living in the flat above us, a Russian couple below us, a French woman across the hall, a Japanese family in the building next to ours and a variety of accents I can’t always pick can be heard climbing the stairs each morning. I have to giggle at Brisbane spouting it’s “Multiculturalism” now that I know better. During Black History Month last year each of the boys classes at school got the children to share where their family hails from. Master 5’s class alone has children from France, Australia, South Africa, Hungary, Hong Kong and Jamaica. Walk the streets of London for a day and then try and tell me sleepy Brisbane is really Multicultural.
Back to the point of this post. Recently I’ve started to question my lack of loyalty to my home country. Is there’s something a little off about me that I have zero desire to move back to Australia? Have I got a few screws loose? Where’s my national pride, feelings of nostalgia and any sense of loyalty to my homeland?
Yes I’m the kind of person who pictures climate change as impending doom. My desire to get a British Passport is greatly influenced by how it opens up all of the U.K and Europe to our family so that if the crazy weather in Australia continues to worsen in years to come we will always have somewhere to live that is hopefully safe. I don’t think that’s the reason. Concerns about climate change are only a part of my disloyalty to Australia.
When I moved to the U.K my eyes were opened to how repressed I was living in Australia. When you move away from family influences (as awesome as your family may be) , from the sights and sounds of your entire life from childhood to now, something changes. When you get away from facts of life that were so integral to daily life that you didn’t even notice they existed you start to reassess yourself and your environment. You can’t get perspective when all your friends, colleagues and family share the same kinds of views. When conversations are always along similar lines and skewed by a shared history and belief system.
True perspective is hard to achieve without travelling and experiencing a whole new environment.
Despite how much easier life would be with family around to support us in raising our children I would not consider moving back to Australia. The bottom line for me is that with my new found perspective I will not willingly raise my kids in a nation that is so driven by religion and prejudice. I will not raise my children in a fascist country where our government believes its people need to be coddled and have their freedom stripped away under the guise of protecting the children and maintaining society’s moral compass. A country that will stand by whilst the government makes plans to censor our Internet. A nation where we sit back and occasionally having a grumble in the privacy of our own homes but do nothing to stand up for our rights. A nation that allows homophobic ad campaigns such as these…
Click the above image for the back story.
The last three images are from a Christian activist running a Queensland Election Prayer Rally Tour.
All this homophobic propaganda distributed under the guise of protecting children and maintaining what religion deems a family should be. There are intolerant people everywhere but when your political parties are bullied by these people there is something oh so very wrong.
I once sat in a church congregation and had a member of Family’s First (a christian political party) briefly speak in front of us during a church service. I’ve heard on another occasion the pastor of the church during a sermon mention that god had spoken to him about the coming election. He spoke of an impending fork in the road, “If this political party wins then great things will happen in Jesus’s name, if the other is elected then dark times lie ahead for us all“. I was 18 years old at the time having grown up in a christian family and was attending Brisbane’s version of a Mega Church (a Hillsong wannabe). Even as part of that church something about the pastor feeling compelled to share this revelation that huge church full of eagerly listening Christian voters felt a little off. Wasn’t this church? What’s with this political crap?
How can I conscience free raise my children in a country where their freedom only exists if a 2000 year old book deems it okay? Where does the church’s interference in our lives begin and end? The stereotype of Aussie’s being “laid-back” is spot on. Unfortunately that laid back nature applies to laying down and letting the churches trample all over our freedom. For the most part unless you are the minority being oppressed OR someone charismatic at church has compelled you to act then Aussie’s just sit back and relax. “She’ll be right, mate!”.
Indifferent and lazy, that’s what we are. I’m as guilty as the next Australian. Nothing bad has ever happened so it never will, right? The same goes for climate change. Floods? Tropical Cyclone’s that wipe out towns and crops? pfft…the big ones were over a year ago and nothing bad is happening right now so clearly we’re in the clear. Pollute away my friends.
The U.K is not perfect but at least their politicians are expected to keep religion out of the equation when making decisions. I also surprisingly found in the move here that despite the stereotype that the English are prudes, compared to Australians they are actually far more liberated when it comes to sex and their bodies. They are far less ashamed about nudity and discussing sex.
Just watch a bit of telly over here and it becomes blatantly obvious how repressed Australians are by comparison. Here in the U.K contextual nudity (i.e medical programs) on free to air channels are a regular thing. Check out http://www.channel4.com/programmes/tags/health-and-wellbeing in particular the Embarrassing Bodies series. People willingly having their bits examined by a doctor whilst being filmed is just normal and deemed educational. Watching a middle-aged man having his haemaroids examined was a little off-putting but he wasn’t ashamed of his body. As a woman who has had three kids I’ve been there, done that and can completely sympathise with the man. Our bodies aren’t always pretty but they are still ours and nothing to be ashamed of. We all have embarrassing medical conditions at some point in our lives and dropping our pants and being examined by a doctor is sometimes part of life. Educating the general public without hang ups about nudity being outright inappropriate is a wonderful thing. I know embarrassing bodies is aired late at night in Australia but I dare say making an Australian version of it would never be on the cards. The Christian Lobby Groups would probably be up in arms at how inappropriate Australians being filmed uncensored whilst being examined is. They’d particularly object to the ones where the doctor’s examine teen’s who think they may have an STD or have questions about sex. Sure teens are having sex but the churches stance is that it is wrong, let’s not encourage pre-marital sex by actually talking to teens openly about their bodies, sex, contraception and getting tested for STD’s openly on television.
From personal experience, I think of all those hours wasted being told over and over not to have pre-marital sex and it makes me a little angry but mostly amused. What a wasted opportunity for those teachers to talk honestly and openly to a room full of teens who were clearly either already having or soon to be having sex. Yes, it was a christian school so a lone few did wait until they were married but they were the minority not the norm even in a closed community like my high school. Why were there never any discussions about self respect and self esteem during those sex talks? You really want to stop a teenage girl sleeping around? Give her an alternative view point, build up her self-esteem and tell her that sex isn’t the only way to make yourself feel wanted and beautiful. Teach teens that sex can be a wonderful thing if you are doing it for the right reasons and an ugly thing that will haunt you if not. You would think these Christian teachers and youth leaders had never been teens themselves and hadn’t had a good lay in years (probably hit the nail on the head there).
That brings me to another hang up I have with my upbringing in Australia. The shame about our bodies. It turns out Aussies are prude’s about nudity and sex and I think it comes mainly down to religion.
Generations of Australians teaching their children to be ashamed of their bodies, teaching them that sex is a dirty little secret and to repress their needs and urges or else they’ll be judged and found evil and wrong. Most importantly generations of Australians have been teaching their kids that homosexuality is wrong and unnatural. I know there are wonderful parents out there that teach their kids about the real world but I feel like mainstream media in Australia shelters our kids and sweeps uncomfortable topics under the rug. Why is sharing information and knowledge with our children considered so wrong by religion? You are perfectly comfortable telling a child that homosexuality is an abomination but having homosexuality taught as a factual part of sex-ed offends you?
Programs about sex are on a bit later at night here but are still ever present and completely open and honest. Boobs, bottoms, vagina’s and penis’ openly on display but lo and behold it’s NOT PORN. I honestly think religion has skewed our views of nudity to the point where nakedness automatically must equal sex. These programs have normal (i.e non porn star) people and professional’s talking openly about their sex lives. It’s refreshing and liberating to see people so unashamed of their bodies and sex lives. These people aren’t perfectly proportioned porn stars, they are real people with wobbly bits, stretch marks and average sized penises.
This obviously isn’t just a few television programs it is part of the culture. At the gym in the U.K people strip out of their gym clothes, shower and get dressed out in the open (not everyone but the majority). It’s no big deal. Again, Aussie culture has this weird skew where nudity is shameful because it must and always does equal sex. Even as a child in Australia I always got changed in a private changing room because being naked in front of other people was rude and shameful. I remember going to a public bath in Japan as a teenager and being shocked that everyone was just okay with stripping nude in front of each other. I ended up refusing to go in, too ashamed of my body to be seen by anyone.
The body-image and sexual repression thing has been a big eye opener but ultimately the censoring of the Internet and the strong and purposeful efforts by the church to stop same-sex marriage in Australia have been the final straws for me.
Yes I am an atheist but honestly if religion was just religion and not something being forced on those that don’t share their faith then I couldn’t give a rats arse. Believe what you want to believe but please don’t force it on me and my children. Even when I was a Christian I couldn’t comprehend why we as Christians were trying to force our “rules” on outsiders. I questioned it constantly. Don’t get me wrong I was as brainwashed as the rest of them and believed so many things just because “the bible told me so”. Actually no, scrap that…”because that guy speaking up on the podium says the bible tells me so”!
I was ashamed of being one of the sheep for years but now I’ve started to appreciate the background it has given me. I understand why Christian’s are so adamant about the truth of their beliefs. I get why they think they need to save everyone they meet. Understanding something doesn’t mean I agree with it but I think it gives me a well-rounded view.
You can often tell a previously religious Atheist apart from the rest (be it that they themselves were religious or even if they had it crammed down their throat at school or by their parents). Just compare Tim Minchin to Richard Dawkins. Yes, obviously their medium’s of expression are different but there’s also a slightly bitter edge to Minchin’s work. I’m not on the purely logical end of the scale I still hold a lot of bitterness towards the religion of my youth. The lies I was told, the group manipulation, the facts (science, anyone?) I was never exposed to, the false emotions they manipulated me into feeling.
The world is so much bigger than religion leads us to believe. The world is so rich and full of wonder and religion wasted so much of my potential at a young age. The guilt, the shame, the feelings of unworthiness, the lack of belief in your own abilities, logic and brain power.
The answers were always in that one book or books written by people that believe in the “Good Book”. We were taught not to look around us with open minds, question, experiment and learn for ourselves. The message about how we were born imperfect and sinful and the constant hammering home that we are worthless and nothing without god. How is that any way to raise the future generation? In a wealthy western nation the possibilities for a child should be almost endless but instead we were told we should be good, kind, godly, humble and oh by the way you shouldn’t aim to be too wealthy because that’s evil and wrong (naturally feel free to donate any wealth you do accumulate to the chuch, god likes that A LOT). Don’t get me started on “Science”.
Am I being a little too dramatic here? Maybe, but ultimately I have a responsibility to raise my children the best way I know how. Yes there are wonderful parents in Australia who raise wonderful open-minded children. I’m not saying there aren’t positive aspects of my homeland. The warm weather can be glorious, I miss all that sunshine whilst suffering through the endlessly dull winters here. Sometimes the red tape and bureaucracy here starts to do my head in and I long for a bit of laid back Australia. For my children though I choose something different to my upbringing. The U.K I believe gives them a more well-rounded education and the media here encourages freedom of thought, religion and sexuality. I can’t say the same for Australia so for us it will be a holiday destination as we raise our children, not Home.
Here’s Wikipedia Article on Internet Censorship by Country, (note Australia has been classed as a Country Under Surveillance by Reporter’s Without Borders).
The main article on Internet Censorship in Australia.
The Australian Marriage Equality website for all current news stories.
This is where I get my angry on when I hear about the latest nutty homophobic adverts – the Gay Marriage Rights in Australia Facebook Page.