Saturday, January 9, 2010

Climbing Sacred Rocks and Running From American Cultural Imperalism

I won't bash any Australian Kentucky Fried Chicken ads, but I shall bitch about THIS news. Apparently the government has decided not to ban people from climbing Uluru, despite the fact that the Anangu people do not want climbers.

This website has some information about the issue, and a variety of viewpoints. My feeling is that it's a sacred site, and cultures have various rules about their sacred site. I think it's incredibly disrespectful to disregard those rules.

The Australian government says they won't ban the climbing until it becomes less popular. I think they shall be waiting until hell freezes over them. If people are allowed to climb, they shall continue to climb. Would it be such a tragedy if they couldn't climb? Someone is quoted on the website as saying that without the climb, it wouldn't be worth all that traveling to get there. Why would you go all the way to Uluru just to climb it? If someone want to exercise, they could just climb the stairs in their hotel. Really. The world is FULL of climbing opportunities. I personally thought the whole purpose of going to Uluru was to learn about Anangu culture, and appreciate this huge sandstone thing.

The government fears that if they take away the climbing, the Northern Territory will lose their tourists. I doubt that will happen. My feeling is most people come to Uluru for other reasons besides the climbing. They come because they want to see and learn. Or they come because they want to take a photo of themselves next to something that is famous. They climb because no one has forbidden them from doing so. Some people don't know how to show respect without being given explicit and strict direction.

As for the KFC ad.....

First of all, I don't see food stereotypes as offensive. Asian people eat rice. Jewish people eat bagels and Gefilte fish. Australians eat Vegemite. African-Americans eat fried chicken. Greek people eat Feta cheese. Italians eat pasta. Who cares? I don't get it. For the most part, we all eat a variety of everything. But yeah. Certain foods are associated with certain ethnic groups.

The idea in the controversy is that Americans are assuming (because we're so ethnocentric) that all countries have our same issue about black people and fried chicken. We see ads inferring that black people like Fried Chicken and we scream racism. Basically it's a cultural misunderstanding. What's ironic is that someone (I won't mention names, but you know who you are) complained about the issue. Then he went ahead and made the assumption that Americans use the word holiday in the same way that Australians do.

Americans and Australians are very much alike. We have much more similarities than differences. But every so often you get a difference, and sometimes that difference will cause a misunderstanding.

The word cultural imperialism is frequently being thrown around regarding the American reaction to the commercial. The ironic thing to me is the commercial in question is for an AMERICAN CORPORATION!!! Kentucky Fried Chicken is American. Their headquarters are in Kentucky. I think Australians who fear this so-called American cultural Imperialism should worry less about Americans with an opinion, and worry more about the fact that so much of what they watch, eat, and buy comes from America.

I'm shocked by the amount of American TV that's on in Australia. It's crazy to me that iconic Australian foods are owned by American companies. If there are Australians who hate this American influence, I'd say they should boycott all of it! Stop eating Tim Tams and Iced Vo Vo's. Stop eating Vegemite. Encourage some rich Australian to buy out those companies! Stop watching The Simpsons and reruns of Seinfeld. Stop watching Lost and Grey's Anatomy. Stop reading Twilight and pick up a Catherine Jinks novel.

But really. You don't need to freak out about Americans worrying that a television ad may or may not be racist. I think in some ways it makes things more balanced. Australians spend MUCH more time paying attention to America than Americans spend time thinking about Australia. I see Australian opinions left and right about American politics and culture. So is it really so crazy that some Americans bitched about a commercial?

Anyway, I hope all the people furious at Americans, and worrying about cultural imperialism, will NOT be eating Vegemite on their toast for breakfast this morning. For those folks, I leave this helpful link. Aussiemite. It's like Vegemite, but it's not owned by an American corporation. In fact, I may buy me a few shipments. That way if I ever suddenly find myself in the awkward situation of being surrounded by too many Australians, I can hand out some jars of the stuff. Maybe I'll buy some Vegemite too....for those Australians who don't mind America so much. Those lovely folks might be kind enough to pass me some Matzot balls in return.