'American Cultural Imperialism' and 'Americanisation' are words you often hear bandied about in places like Australia, Europe, and Canada. It's an easy enough idea to understand... because of America's omnipresent place in our media and entertainment, and because of its political and economic influence, many Australians feel that we're in danger of losing our national identity and becoming the '51st state'. (Note for Australians: There are indeed fifty states, not fifty-two. I seem to recall having this argument with a couple of Australians once, just before I moved here. (See, those silly Americans are not the only occasionally ignorant people.) Count the stars if you don't trust me. Hawaii and Alaska were 49 and 50, not 51 and 52. Unless Guam and Puerto Rico have been granted statehood behind my back, there are fifty states.)

It's an understandable fear/complaint, especially given Australia's generally pessimistic, cynical, "things are getting worse" mindset... but it ain't gonna happen. For one thing, one culture can't be completely absorbed and obliterated by another... unless every member of a particular group is wiped out, it will always retain something of what it is. Two cultures existing together will end up at some sort of comprimise. Look at the Poms, for example... at various times the island of Britain has been invaded and settled by Celts, Romans, Germanic barbarian groups (Anglo-Saxons, for one) and French Vikings. Even faced with complete takeovers and domination, the people ended up blending the various cultural influences into one uniquely English culture. The 'subjugated' peoples of the British Isles, they also retained their culture, and are still essentially 'Welsh' or 'Scottish', as the case may be.
Of course, unless the geopolitial landscape changes pretty drastically, the Yanks aren't going to be marching across the Sydney Harbour Bridge anytime soon, so the question of how a culture survives and adapts to complete domination is really not relevant.

The more relevant issue is America's huge influence in Australian media, its economy and politics, and whether this is having the effect of assimilating or even destroying Australian culture. I used to think like this, and I've heard other people of all ages talk about this. I've seen newspaper editorials lamenting things like the trend of kids are wearing large pants and baseball caps, (for the Americans: These things are seen as typically 'American') and listening to that godawful rap 'music'... and claiming that all this is a sign of the coming 'Americanisation' of Australia. I think what they're reacting to is a more universal thing, a generation gap. Cultures change and evolve over time. The Australia of 20 years ago was a different place... it was more isolated, territorial, racist, and (according to some people) more 'Australian'. These people look around these days, and they see kids wearing American clothes and watching American TV, and using American slang, and they think "Hmm. Things are different now. There's lots of American stuff around. Must be those Imperialist Yanks infecting our culture." Some also blame immigrants, but that's a whole other rant...

To that I say 'bollocks'. (Something a Yank wouldn't say, incidentally) I've lived in both places, and let me assure you that there is no real danger of Australia becoming American. Yes, the USA and Australia are very similar on the surface; we're both free, western, English-speaking beaurocratic capitalist republics (or 'democracies', if you like. Granted Australia's not technically a republic yet, but we basically function as one), and we share a lot of ground in many other ways, but I don't think that's a cause for alarm. There are destinct differences that will never really change.

We're not becoming the 51st state and we are not going to be overrun by Asian immigrants. Australia will always be Australian. Australia isn't its (mostly foreign owned) corporations, we aren't the (American) music kids listen to, and we aren't our (foreign market dependent) economy or our politics. Australia is not the (Fast) food it eats or the (American) TV it watches. We're not even our beer. Many of those things have become quite Americanised, but that doesn't mean that we're losing our national identity.

So what is it that makes us Australian? What is it that sets us apart from America and the rest of the world? What is it that is important and fundamental to our national identity and can't be destroyed by 'Cultural Imperialism'? I think it's something that runs deeper than 'cultural influences', something that might be described as the 'Australian character'. Everyone probably has different opinions as to just what this is, because what is 'Australian' is such a subjective thing to try to define... but here's my attempt:

It's our world-view and our general dislike and distrust of those with power, wealth, success or authority (the 'tall poppy' syndrome... probably comes from the convict mentality). It's our natural cynicism, our sarcastic wit and our dry sense of humour. It's our pessimistic belief that life is always better somewhere else and is getting worse at home, but at the same time, the knowledge that we do live in a priveliged corner of the world despite the pessimistic bitching about how bad things are getting. It's our obsession with sports and rivalry with New Zealand. It's our hunger for outside recognition, praise, and attention. It's our version of the English Language (which is still unique, and always will be, no matter how much Yank slang gets introduced). It's simultaneously being friendly and rude, giving your friends a hard time and generally taking the piss. It's apathy, and love of an argument. It's the belief in a 'fair go'. These are some unchangable aspects of the Aussie mindset, the Aussie character, as I see it... these sorts of things are the important things about 'Australian culture', and they're the things that 'Cultural Imperialism' will never alter. For better or worse, they will never be changed by any amount of McDonalds, Nike, foreign ownership and Seinfeld reruns.

So all you pessimists who think Australia is losing its way and its unique culture: Quit your bloody whining and look around you. What do you see? You're bloody Australian, they're bloody Australian, you're all bloody Australian! (Even the immigrants, the Tasmanians, the One Nation Party and John Howard) So drink that Coke, eat that 'ethnic' food, and wear that baseball cap. In the important ways, we're still Australia. (Cue Patriotic music)

I'm sure aspects of this can be applied equally to other parts of the world, but I can only really speak from my own experience, which is of Australia and the United States.

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