i consider myself to be a humble canadian. endlessly proud of where i come from, how i was raised. the great white north; the land of the free.
we are a likeable people – simple yet robust. old world heritage but new aged in thanks to our multiculturalism and technological developments. we are said to have a quiet confidence but we will boldly boast about hockey, the toque, poutine and yes, maple syrup. we are polite, embrace strangers and will help anyone in need. we have a history of peacekeeping yet we could be ever more present on today’s global stage. and whilst we identify ourselves as being distinctively different from our southern sister, the united states, we share mutual characteristics in what makes us north american.
living in australia for nearly a year now there is an ego in my native continent that separates us from the rest of the world – perhaps almost a realm of elitism that makes us subconsciously ignorant to other cultures, other ways to live in the world, other perceptions on values, quality of life and what it is to be a truly modest people.
i will attempt to explain:
in north america, more so in the united states, we are raised on the premise to praise the individual in the land of the free. opportunity is plentiful. everyday joe can become bill gates. everyone has a dream and everyone (if they work hard enough) will live that dream. but by focusing on the individual we evolve into a greedy, selfish society. a competitive society. we celebrate the rich but neglect the poor. no on questions a bank making money but a single mother of three has a hard time securing a profitable, secure job. our lives revolve around celebrity and sensationalism. human interest stories are nearly an urban myth. and philanthropy is no longer an act of goodwill but a mere business transaction. the north american empire, ruled by regimes of capitalist heirs, is shifting and i think this is a good thing.
now, i understand that some people reading this may say that i am being cynical or even anti-american. but i am not either. maple leaf blood runs through my veins. i have had a life filled with universal healthcare, accessible education, safe streets and accountable government. i am appreciative of my good fortunes but since living abroad there is a cultural quality i have come to realize that we, as a world leading continent, no longer promote or prioritize to be something that each transcends generations.
and that is mateship.
according to cutlure.gov.au, in australia, a ‘mate’ is more than just a friend. it is a term that implies a sense of shared experience, a mutual respect and unconditional assistance. embedded in the country’s history – from social values to corporate hierarchy to charitable giving – the essence of mateship runs strong, extremely deep.
let’s think about it: mateship. it is an eloquently simple concept. as henry lawson writes, “the greatest pleasure i have ever known is when my eyes meet the eyes of a mate over the top of two foaming glasses of beer.” australians are a no fuss, no shit kind of folk. don’t complicate things – check your ego at the door because inside the social sanctuary otherwise known as a pub everyone bloke and bird is equal. perhaps described best by bill gammage’s depiction of ANZAC soldier in his book ‘the broken years’ (1974), mateship was a particular Australian virtue, a creed, almost a religion.
mateship. a virtue. a creed. a social religion. call it what you will but whatever it is it should definitely be embraced the world over.