Backlash Is Our National Gesture

By today, every Australian gifted of electricity can recognise the term “pink carpet”.

(For a prized handful of international readers: This does not refer to anything lewd. You could be partly forgiven for thinking that “pink carpet” was the sort of thing you could only buy from shady online stores.

However. I’d thank you to get your mind right out of that gutter.  I’m a lady for fuck’s sake.)

Pink carpet is the textile that was laid at the feet of a Brave Young Australian this past Saturday.  Jessica Watson, just 17, returned in a boat that carried her personal dreams, our national hopes and the logos for at least two dozen companies after circumnavigating the globe.

Even before the young lady’s ambition was realised, all sorts of people tut-tutted just as you’d expect.  Dozens of opinion columnists and talk radio hosts did what they do best: viz. crapped on the fancies of the young in a way that sounded terribly practical.  “She’ll cost the country millions in search-and-rescue!” they said.  “How could her parents allow it?” they wanted to know.

Well, how could they not? Perhaps I am abnormal among adults in having a very clear recollection of what it feels like to be 16.  I recall that I had the strength, stubbornness and the conviction to do whatever the fuck I wanted.

I never wanted to sail around the world.  I just wanted to go and see New Order play in Sydney, have sex with a hot Jewish boy and smoke hydroponic weed until I passed out. And so, I did.  In that order. All in one evening.

Short of hiring an experienced team of prison wardens, there is nothing my parents could have done to stop me.  I was unstoppable. Within most 16-year-old women, there is a force that’d warm the world for a century if diverted from pursuit of hot Jewish boys and into the grids of the world.

So, in short. Let up on Ma and Pa Watson.  In all likelihood, they etched “no” a thousand times in reinforced steel and thwacked it on their teenage daughter’s head.  She said, “I’m going anyway” and set herself free from her moorings just as surely as I did when I boarded that Greyhound bus to a future of weed, depressing post-punk music and hot Jews.

New Order were a bit shit, by the way. I loved them on record then as I do now; but live, they were as dull as three weeks on a diet of lamb shanks in a boat on the Indian Ocean.

Anyhoo. In typical Australian mien, our critique has continued and veered. Now that we’ve done phoning in our worries to the Welfare people, we’re going on and on about the social and actual cost of Jessica’s civic reception.

Shut the fuck up. It was lovely.  I didn’t even mind the pink carpet.

I appreciate writer Dom Knight’s delicate mockery as he asks for the efforts of asylum seekers to be similarly applauded.  Granted, the celebration became a schmaltzy medium onto which political messages and sundry forms of branding were inscribed. However, at the centre of the hoopla were the slight contours of a young woman who was neither Princess Mary nor Paris Hilton.  Personally, I was glad for the fuss.

Watson is the only young woman who has been significantly honoured in this nation for anything other than marrying a prince or being fucked on a video in as long as I can remember.  That her endurance and not her appearance was the focus of our appreciation was, in short, just a bit of a relief.

We’re a country full of miserable shits who won’t be happy until poor Jessica is shot on grainy video by an unwholesome opportunist in a Gold Coast motel.  And then we can all say, “See.  Sailing around the world was a terrible idea. It can only end in public copulation with the ex-manager of Australia’s all-girl band Bardot as Matt Newton does lines of charlie off your arse. If only her parents had stepped in. If only we hadn’t spent all that money on her reception.”

In Australia, backlash is our national gesture.  It’s no wonder that the only pursuit in which we excel is sport. We get all that exercise from recoiling in revulsion at ourselves.

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