New Perceptions: What I learnt about Australia whilst Travelling in Europe.

In the year 2015, I spent a year travelling Europe instead of completing my final year of my degree in International Business. The year really changed my perception of not only how I see my future but also of how I see my home, Australia. It really did open my eyes to a lot of great things about Australia, but unfortunately also many things that didn’t make me so proud to call Australia home.

“Unfortunately, the great land down under seems to have lost its raw, mateship morals and instead is adopting the ignorant, self rightness attitudes of its big, fat step-father, Mr USA”

2015 saw the largest European migrant crisis since the second world war. People, families left homeless and scared from the 4 year long civil war in Syria were seeking a life for their children free of religious extremism, fascist dictatorships and Western military air strikes. These people braved overstocked, shabby, old, splintered vessels to cross the Adriatic sea to Kos, or alternatively, hundreds of kilometres of terrain to reach more kilometre long Razor wire fences on the border of Bulgaria. These people did not risk the often deadly journeys because they wanted our precious Western ideals: fame, wealth, fortune. They risked it so that their children could live long enough to have children of their own.

Living in Australia, perceptions of ‘illegal immigrants’  equate to those bloody boat people coming to take our land and jobs. However, in contrast, the attitudes towards the Syrian migrants all over Europe are passionately welcoming. ‘Fuck off we’re full’ T-shirts replaced with white shirts with big bold text reading ‘migrants welcome’. These are worn not only by deadlocked hippies but by students, businessmen, children in prams, and grandmothers, although in one case the latter could have benefited from also wearing a bra, but back to the point, Europeans give a fuck. I found it astounding that the vast majority, especially in Germany, have offered opportunities to 800 000 refugees and still want to keep helping.

Australian media of late, seemingly predictably, has decided to hop on the international bandwagon of portraying these refugees in a similar light to that of Europe. Of course, these heart felt snippets on 60 Minutes mean fuck all when the next broadcast channel shows Tony Abbott bragging about how his parliament has ‘stopped the boat people’ (which somehow in Australia is a huge vote generator) and in the same breath spitting about how Australia has launched their first air strikes in Syria.

Unfortunately, the great land down under seems to have lost its raw, mateship morals and instead is adopting the ignorant, self rightness attitudes of its big, fat step-father, Mr USA, who unannounced barges through the front door at 3 am, reeking of bourbon and accidentally spitting his cigarette whilst shouting incoherent babble about the necessity of war. Australia, an island with a land mass equating to nearly the size of Europe, has recently stated that they will take 12 thousand Syrian refugees. This means however that only refugees who are wealthy enough to have adequate identity documents, or those lucky enough to not have their houses blown up by our air strikes are allowed in. Perhaps Tony Abbott and his parliament watched the shitty 60 minutes special on the “migrant crisis” and realised that the dramatic music and shocking footage might influence the perception of the Australian masses (at least those who are stupid enough to watch such a program) and he could play on the possibility of gaining votes for being such a good Samaritan. Although 12 000 is a miserable number, it is quite a lot more than those of the “boat people” allowed in Australia. This blatant hypocrisy by the Australian government, who spend millions in detention centres and measures to keep people in need out, rather than dedicating funds to helping, is not missed by the rest of the world.

The perception of Australia by the majority of people who I have met is changing. The good old land down under, where women glow and men plunder, is now being perceived, thanks to our ignorance combined with a wanker of a government, as an unwelcoming and racist Island ready to do the bidding of the United States at any cost. It makes me sad because I see the beauty Australians have to offer, and yet I’ve come to feel ashamed of what I am representing.

Australian views of sustainability are also prehistoric. My Swiss friends couldn’t believe that we have no incentive to recycle our waste or even sort it. We still get our slabs of VB in a big cardboard box, along with the 24 glass stubbies we managed to down on Friday night which get thrown in the bin the following day, without a second thought. In Switzerland, Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, all of Scandinavia and countless other countries, beer comes in plastic crates. After you have finished with your beers, the empty bottles get placed back inside the crate, which you then return to your closest supermarket, where you are reimbursed for your empty bottles and your crate. To think this simple policy isn’t implemented in what we call a first world country is mind blowing. Just imagine how happy an aussie would be to trade his empties in for more beer money! Examples like this seem to really highlight the backwardness of our sustainability policies and our general attitude towards keeping Australia alive.

“The thing is, we live in a world where everything is for profit. In a world like that, the world never comes first.”

Just look at what we have: tropical rainforests, flowing rivers, rich bushland, red deserts, snow topped mountains… And yet we pump millions of tonnes of coal and oil from underneath us, blindly expecting the scenario to be like yanking a table cloth from a set table, but in reality yanking the entire fucking table to fall, the country and its people smashing onto the tiles. We do this instead of even considering environmentally sustainable options, because no one wants to pay more for their electricity bills.

My time spent in an Australian university studying business really opened my eyes to how the world works, unfortunately. It has also showed me exactly the person I don’t want to become.

The words ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ are introduced to an undergraduate fairly early in his business education. These words, fresh in a students mind, are taught to represent modern business, one in which every company has a responsibility for the earth, the people and the economy. A great topic which really gives hope to students. However as your degree progresses, you learn quite quickly that these responsibilities aren’t implemented because corporations care about the world. You learn how to market and portray corporate policy and action as being ‘Socially Responsible’, because hey, it is a great seller. An organisation who makes their cereal from ‘all Australian wheat’ are sacrificing their low cost international import opportunities to capitalise on the amount of customers who will decide to buy their product at a higher price based on that fact. This is calculated vigorously prior to making the decision, and if it proves that the decision to be ‘Socially Responsible’ doesn’t pay as much in the long term as the decision to not be, then, fuck it, they’ll import from chemically sprayed farms in Afghanistan operated by farmers paid next to nothing. The thing is, we live in a world where everything is for profit. In a world like that, the world never comes first.

We live in a crazy time. There is war, destruction, death, famine, and on the other side of the border there are luxury cars, pina coladas, 4k televisions and Calvin Klein suits. To be on side of the border with the pina coladas and expensive suits you have to have been born there. If not, and you try to get to the other side you are labelled ‘illegal’. An illegal human being. Australia may have its flaws, but it is not too late to change. As a powerful, wealthy country we shouldn’t be straggling behind countries only just in the last century recovering from near total destruction of the second world war, we should be leading. We should be implementing and teaching the world our core values of mateship and equality. The beauty in which we’re immersed should remind us to protect it. We should be teaching our students that profit isn’t the end goal, the sustainability and survival of our world and our race as one is.