Thursday, February 11, 2010

Northern Territory Bashing: Favorite Pastime of Australian Urbanites

This morning, like almost all mornings, I got another earful of that rather pathetic urbania past-time of running down the people of the Northern Territory. It usually happens in context with something that appeared, usually on the front page, of the Northern Territory News, which admittedly a 'rag'. But then again, so are 90% of all 'newspapers'; so what else is new?

Comments on the NT, or 'Territory'—on radio, TV or in the context of just people talking to each other—are almost always laced with mockery and contempt, most of it undisguised. Pretty much the same thing one hears in urbania about 'rednecks' in general, only this time it's amplified, because there's this notion that not only and the Territorians rednecks, but that the place is also a gathering place from dumbwit rejects and losers from all over the country. 'Race relations' are often dragged in to illustrate the Territorians' cultural, ethical, moral, racial etc degeneracy. After all, one just has to look at the pathetic state of aboriginal life in the NT, and that just about tells the story, right? Right?

I hear this crap mostly from the Queensland point of view, and especially the 'Brisbane' angle. Brisbane is, of course, pretty much of a hicktown itself, despite its size, which has by now swelled to over 2 million people. Meaning that Brisbane has a vested interest in depicting itself as superior to the remainder of 'regional' Queensland, and even more so the great Australian bashing-child, the NT—often by the mean-spirited expedient of running down other places, which by implication appears to elevate it.

But things aren't confined to Brisbane, though their acrid mockery of Territorians surely ranks among the worst Australian urbania has to offer. The ABC as well as the commercial stations, when reviewing the day's 'papers, invariably have something caustic to say about the NTN—which the paper deserves—with, equally invariably, something snide following that implicates the people living there.

By way of disclosure, I need to admit that I love the NT, and that the people there don't seem to me to be any different to the people anywhere else; though, of course, there are less intellectuals and metrosexuals about than in urbania. Darwin, where would-be-urbanites are working hard, pathetically and futilely so, to make it into a form of urbania, may have a somewhat greater proportion of typical urbanites, but overall, of the less than 250,000 people in this vast land, there are hardly any. Which to me makes it a very attractive place indeed.

I mean, my wife and I live in Queensland, and we managed to get a place that's as far out of urbania as is practical, given that I have to work for a living and that my usual occupation requires a certain proximity to 'city'. But the vast spaces of the NT and its people hold a strange attraction for me.

Admittedly, in most places the likelihood of intellectual or highly 'stimulating' conversation is very small—but then again, I have noticed that it's no different in most places; especially since I find discussions of politics anything but stimulating, and that seems to be pretty much all the 'intellectual' stuff urbanites seem to be able to come up with. So, the most stimulating conversations I have are with members of my immediate family, friends on the other sides of Skype connections; and an old friend, who, like me, has 'ruralized' himself and lives not too far away from us.

Then there's the lack of general 'culture', as some would point out. The NT isn't exactly riddled with great art galleries and theaters, or with cinema multiplexes that show the latest flicks as they come out. And, yes, I would have missed seeing Avatar in 3D, which would have been a pity. But I'd see them eventually, and most flicks present very well on a nice big LCD TV, especially now that we have BluRay.

What else have we really got in urbania that's so attractive? Shopping malls? Not exactly my natural habitat. Coffee shops? Well, there are some really good ones in Darwin and Alice Springs, and I think in Katherine, too. And I remember a really good one out in the bush on the road to King's Canyon. (Not that I drink coffee, but I appreciate a good hot chocolate.) Better hospitals? Not any better than those in Darwin, Alice Springs and even Tennant Creek. Traffic jams? Yes. Lower grocery prices? Yes, true. Better 'racial relations'? Yeah, right; mainly because there are hardly any indigenous Australians in sight around here. And I can assure you, from my days as a cabbie in Brisbane, that those who do live here are no better off than many in 'regional' Qld or the NT.

What the NT does have, is something that needs to be experienced to be understood. And it isn't just the wide open spaces and the low population density. That's a part of it, but there's more to it. As far as the favorite NT-bashin item is concerned, race relations, the Territory does have serious problems, but they are no worse than they are anywhere indigenous Australians are found. It's just that in the NT there are comparatively many, and that the problems involved with helping them are too great and the whole thing's just too 'hard' for the self-serving politicians in Canberra; who'd rather go and 'help' the 'poor' and 'disadvantaged' overseas than attend to their own citizens. But the NT itself has some admirable initiatives going that might provide a real hope for the future. And this is not something found anywhere else. So stop knocking the NT!

But such considerations aren't going to trouble the dull-witted mockers from urbania.

Surprise, surprise.

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