Saturday, January 15, 2011

Luckiest People on Earth  great article on the spirit and humor of Queenslanders.  Just so you know I'm not the only one impressed. 

Damon and the kids at the beach on January 2
Once again I am torn between wanting to tell the entire world how unbelievably fantastic my new country is and wanting to keep it a secret for those few of us fortunate enough to be here.

But since Oprah's broadcasts from Sydney air this week (here at least) I guess the secret is out. (No hard feelings Oprah, since my guess is you'll throw some fundraising towards the relief effort in there as well. Thanks for that.)

Australia has 20 million people spread out on a continent the same size as the continental USA as opposed to 300 million in that same area in the USA. That's about the same as the population of Beijing alone. It's a quarter of Germany, which would just be a blip on the Queensland map. The vast majority of us live near three urban centers on the east coast but, as the world is learning on TV, that is still a huge area.

And I'm trying to figure out why people really do seem to be so much happier here.    (I was going to say 'why things are so much better here' but I am really really trying to be objective.  Fairly miserably, I realize, but doing my darndest.)

A while back Newsweek listed the best countries to live in in terms of quality of life. They used criteria such as health care, education and job opportunities, access to shops and conveniences as well as general contentment. Let's face it, all of the developed countries scored in the top 20. But the top of the list were the Scandinavian countries. I believe Denmarkwas # 1. They also have that adorable Prince Frederick and Princess Mary, a former Aussie, who are living the perfect fairy tale life...happily ever after, still in love, and with four kids in five years.

The secret, according to Newsweek, was a relatively small population with comparatively large natural resources. (Mary's secret is a hot prince for those cold, Scandinavian nights but.....)

These countries can afford to take care of their citizens.

Australia is very very similar. We are a tiny, tiny, tiny country in terms of population. And we sit on a continent rich in natural resources. (How these will be used responsibly and sustainably – Australia is the world's largest exporter of wood chips even though it is less forested than any other continent except Antarctica – is another issue.) We have issues – the upcoming Australia Day celebrating James Cook's discovery of the continent, is called Invasion Day by indigenous Australians – and the indigenous life-expectancy is half of that of the non-indigenous population.

But, for the most part, Australians feel lucky to be here. Low-unemployment, good health care and schooling, and a beautiful climate.

Australians know how to work together. They are kind to one another. Even more so than Americans.

Are they this nice and laid back because their government is working or is the government working because it is being managed by people who know how to work together?

Proud Queenslanders in front of their capitol city, preflood.

What I'd like to show over the next couple of days:

1.Show they are this compassionate and considerate even before the flood disaster.

2.Show how the school environment, the P and C, was already working impressively as a mini-example of citizens and government.

3.Show how the disaster response has been led by the government and by individual relief groups, organized, prepared and WORKING TOGETHER, even BEFORE the waters receded. (What the heck happened to the federal govt after Katrina?)

4.Show the spirit of Queenslanders, who still feel lucky despite having lost their homes and possessions, compassionate to others under circumstances that would have Americans feeling sorry for themselves.

5.Show that a sense of humor, and a certain joie-de-vive, doesn't mean that Australians aren't able to mobilize and get things done.

Let's face it, Australians are lucky to have an infrastructure that will allow them to rebuild quickly. (Compared to Malaysia or even Brazil.) We have things going for us that makes it easier for us than folks in New Orleans. New Orleans was an unexpected, quick, catastrophe. Parts of New Orleans were destroyed. People died and were in shock. We have a smaller population, but also a population able to help themselves and able to expect help from an unbelievably coordinated and responsive government.

No wonder people are smiling despite the massive clean-up effort now in progress. The sun is out. The barbies are up and running. As long as the beer holds out – and the footy gets going again – we'll be all right. And that mates is how a sense of humor gets the job done.

And why Queenslanders really DO feel like the luckiest people on earth. Even as they rebuild.
Koala we saw today on the banks of the river.  He ambled right past us, unaware of the debris around him.  Neighbors stopped their clean-up efforts to watch him.  Honestly, it doesn't get any better than this!

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