Monday, 4 March 2013

Becoming a non-immigrant culture

Australia's culture is mostly either imported or adaptations of other cultural elements, comparatively little of it is homegrown. Some of its also assimilated from the Aborigines, like didgeridoos or bush foods. The  major reasons for this is both constant contact with the west (the cultural homeland) and the other is continuous migration. These elements reinforce each other; Britain was only recently replaced by New Zealand as the main source of immigrants and since the core of their culture is also British it had little if any effect on our cultural development. Both of these elements are going to be impacted by Overshoot, and a more native culture will develop.

The end of significant migration will be twofold. The breakdown of airborne and maritime travel coupled with Australia's isolation will hinder international travel of all kinds, both to Australia and away from it. Therefore, migration will be reduced and what does occur will be on average over shorter distances, in Melbourne’s case mostly interstate or routed through other states. Then there's the lack of excess carrying capacity that will develop and the inability for the population to increase, or in other words, every immigrant needs to push a native out. Typically, this is met with resistance and the natives push back, see Russia's violent response to Hitler's Lebensraum (living space) or the precursor of current violence by Greece's Golden Dawn party. The only successful significant migrations have been either after disease wiped out 90%+ of the natives or Industrial nations colonized Islands, South Africa's population is only 9% white so its not a significant immigration (not compared to the USA or Australia). More common is what happened to sections of the Roman empire after its collapse .The invaders were to few in numbers (typically tens of thousands) compared to the native populations (typically a few million) so they conquered politically and socially but not genetically. That's unlikely to happen here, no likely invaders exist and modern western militaries (which we have) are only beaten when their on the offensive, not defensive.

The links to America and Europe will also weaken considerably. America's culture dominates, like most empires, because being the top power gives it a unique charm. However once it starts losing prestige its cultural grip will begin disappearing and unlike Rome's culture, America's culture of consumption posse's little staying power for after its empire collapses. Both Czar and Kaiser come from Caesar, nothing like that will remain of America's empire. Europe's hold will weaken for the same reason, and given how bad Britain’s situation is becoming it could happen with startling quickness. Then there is the collapse of regular communication that will isolate Australia from the rest of the world and most cultural imports. Transport's decline, while it'll mainly affect immigration, will slow the exchange of cultural artifacts, everything from wines, books and artworks etc. Isolation until transport is restored will make our culture evolve separately at least along the lines of physical objects.

Future Australian cultures will evolve out of the current European dominated one, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they'll be close to either current or future European cultures. Ancient Greek and Achaemend Persian cultural origins were both Indo-European and linguistically this shows up in the modern Iranian languages, like Farsi, being closer to English than Arabic or Hebrew, but they didn't recognize each other as similar cultures. The Persians turned to horse and bow while the Greeks went with ships and hoplites. What they didn't do however, was become culturally like the surrounding Semitic people, the Iranians are not Arabs (As one said "I'd be insulted to be mistaken for a primitive Arab'). The differences in geography and ecology alone assure that, unlike Greece, Italy, or England, none of our major cities is land-locked, Rome, Sparta, and London aren't on the coast but on Rivers. While the main crops and animals are likely to stay the same (wheat, sheep, chickens, pigs, potatoes etc), flavorings and secondary foods aren't e.g. mountain pepper (Tasmanian), lemon myrtle, Kangaroo, Emus, Eucalypt Vodka (yes, that is a real drink, don't try it), Alpacas, various honeys, and all the other bush foods, and in WA I tried a new local whiskey. So culinary tastes will certainly diverge and are already starting to, and since Australia lacks any land based power centre’s the sea will have a bigger place than in European culture .Then there's the multiculturalism, currently Asians are the new cultural group but Africans are becoming more common, and the fact that very few of the minorities (which is almost all the cultural ethnic groups here since the two largest are 30% each, English and Australian) are isolated in their own little enclaves, so mixing will likely happen. The European minorities have been integrated already and it’s mostly the African and Asian ones that need to be integrated here now, most likely, they'll follow the same trajectory as those from before and change the subcultures they belong to as much as they change Australia's overall culture.

Language is one cultural area that that typically changes during a collapse phase, but at the moment Australia's situation is unique. I'm talking about the fact that everyone in Australia speaks English and their are virtually no other languages that a significant amount of the population speaks, the second largest language, Italian is spoken by only 316,000 people (slightly over 1%). Note this is the entire population, instead of just the middle or upper class and it is an everyday language instead of it being used like Latin was in Europe after Rome’s fall. In China, it’s apparently different, a friend who migrated from there recently mentioned that each province has its own language or very different dialect; I assume Europe is also different with more local and regional languages. To give you an idea of how unique this is, think of the various native languages of the British Isles (Cornish, welsh, English etc.) and how small England’s population was then. Normally when a language was spoken across a country, the peasants (70-90% of the population) would speak their own regional dialects and it was the middle, upper and urban classes who spoke a similar language. This isn't the only case of a language dominating a large area, but it is unique in how comprehensive it is. Since evolution requires diversity and this is lacking, language is less likely to diverge as wildly in Australia as it has done under other collapse phases.

Looking at the east-west divide and you can see the likely shape of Australia's cultural groups. The desert and North coast will be home to an almost insignificant proportion of the population, but they'll have a distinct culture as (potentially) hunter-gatherers, camel based nomads or heavily Asianized (Darwin) for example. The west coast will be the minor of the two city based cultures, however it'll be the meeting point for the Australian cultures and the European and African cultures. The east coast is the major cultural centre (based of size), and it will likely be the most insular.


  1. Hey Leo. It is crazy hot this week.

    Your observation about languages is fairly astute and I had never thought of it that way before. The cultural links to the UK and Europe are already weakened. When I was younger, the ABC used to recycle a huge quantity of BBC TV series.

    Greece's Golden Dawn party is winning over support simply by feeding people. It is a very cheap strategy. Youth and general unemployment in Europe is a scary issue that no one wants to tackle.

    I didn't know that about Iranians but it makes sense.

    Did you know that mountain pepper plants are native up this way at between 900m and 1,000m above sea level? Man, they're hot.

    Hope you are enjoying Uni.


  2. The crisis hitting Europe will get rid of the last links, it'll open up a lot of things.

    The guy running Golden Dawn knows what he's doing, also some medical and employment stuff. A key part of it is restricting it to Greeks, increased nationalism and support the government is refusing to provide. All it has to do is provide those services. And allow democracy to take place, remember when they were going to have a referendum on the debt.

    First saw mountain pepper at an organic WA farm, they grew Australian plants for condiments mainly. I expect native flavours to take off at some point.

    Unis going fine, very different from school.