A difference of cultures in crisis

Helping a community in crisis

 Hope Lives Here Video from the Courier Mail, featuring another former Aussie Expat, Jodie.

On the surface, Australia and America seem to be very similar. It’s only when you really spend some time in each place, you start to see some of the differences. Eventually, you get used to them. Neither culture is right or wrong, they’re just different.

This week, watching the flood footage coming through from Australia, I am reminded of some of those differences, and some of the similarites.

People always tell me, “Texas is just like Australia, right?” and I ask, “What part?” However, when it comes to the spirit of the people, Texans really are like Australians. Much more so than other parts of the US. Maybe that’s why I like it so much here.

When Hurricane Katrina and then Rita wiped New Orleans off the map, I couldn’t understand why they didn’t rebuild. Why even now, most parts are still uninhabitable. Mississippi and Alabama were equally devastated by the hurricanes. In many areas, even more so. They were however primarily middle class towns and people there, much like the people in Australia, and got on with it and rebuilt. Meanwhile, Texas offered as much assistance to it’s neighbours in Louisiana as possible. Texas took in thousands of “refugees”; many of whom have never left. The abandoned mall near my house was turned into a shelter. (It’s now the Rackspace building) Many businesses along that street closed down because of all the theft after the “refugees” arrived. When your local Target closes because of that reason, it’s pretty dramatic.

Years later, they still do documentaries on New Orleans. How it’s still a mess. How the Govt failed them, etc. I still get people begging me for money, saying they are “Katrina Victims”. Of course, nobody does any documentaries showing the people in Alabama and Mississippi and how they’ve managed just fine.

Then I see the footage from Floods in Australia. I see neighbours, friends, strangers, people from all walks of life, lending each other a hand. They’re out cleaning up the mess, the next day. They’re helping people they don’t know. They’re cleaning the dirt and mud before it turns to toxic mold. They’re getting the stuff out on the streets, and I’m sure the govt will do a great job cleaning up those streets.

If only we could teach our cousins in Louisiana about Mateship. Because that’s what it really is. That’s what most Aussie Expats miss the most. (Besides Vegemite and Bundy Rum) It’s the ability to turn to turn to a mate and have them lend you a hand, without you having to ask.

Australia and America were founded differently. America was pioneered on a loner spirit. People rushed out and grabbed land. They had to make do by themselves. Aussie’s on the other hand worked together  to get through the hard times. That legacy has carried on through the generations.  While Americans like those at the top, those that single themselves out and make something of themselves, Aussie’s still have tall poppy syndrome and will take the “Little Aussie Battler” over the big entrepreneur anyday. Both have their plusses and minuses. If you’re looking to really make something of yourself, you’re probably better off in the US. If you’re in a flood, you’re better off in Oz…

Now many States in the US are not like Louisiana. New Orleans has a very large poor population. Many people live on welfare. They live in Section 8 housing. (Like Housing Commission)They use food stamps. They have entitlement problems. They live generation to generation on welfare and don’t look for a way out. When the Hurricane happened, they didn’t bother to get out. They expected someone else to move them. Many people blame George W. Bush for Katrina. Actually, legally he couldn’t do anything until the Governor of Louisiana asked for help. The Govenor didn’t. Eventually, GWB stepped in and superseeced that ruling and helped out. That whole thing was a mess. Then, when people did get evacuated, there was many horror stories of how people were acting. A group of Australian tourists had to be escorted out under the care of the National Guard because of threats of sexual assault against them in the dome. Red Cross workers were treated badly. “Refugees” thought they were in a hotel, and the Red Cross workers were their maids. Looters were everywhere.  When people got their $2000 cards to get food and clothing, there were reports of people using them to buy Louis Vuitton handbags or getting lap dances at strip clubs… When people were provided trailers to live in, they sued the Govt because the trailers were “toxic”.

Everything about Katrina victims showed the absolute worst of American society.  The victim mentality, the entitlement issues, the bad management.

Hopefully, with the Floods in Australia, we will continue to see the Best of people in Australia. The banding together to help each other out. The mateship. The cleanup. The massive amounts of donations. The way people just get along with it and make it better instead of sitting around waiting for someone else to do it for them.

It’s in those moments that I’m so proud to be an Australian. I wish I could be over there with my gumboots on, broom in hand, helping you clean up.

I hope that next time something big happens over here, I’ll be able to spread a little of the Aussie spirit around, and make it better, the way we would in Oz.

If you can’t be there to help out a mate with the floods in Queensland, NSW and now Victoria, help out with a cash donation instead.