Its not often that commercials feature as a highlights of the weekend’s sporting viewing. Sam Kekovich’s rants urging us to eat plenty of ‘juicy lamb chops’ during the tennis were an exception. Apart from making me chuckle, I also pondered the cleverness of framing them as commentary, with the TV host ‘crossing to Sam’ rather than breaking the coverage. The forerunner of ads to come I suspect.
(For those who haven’t seen Sam Kekovich’s unique style of social commentary, imagine a no-holds-barred, politically incorrect, rave about stuff we all see but seldom speak. His contract with Meat and Livestock Australia condemns failure to consume large quantities of lamb as ‘unAustralian’. His signature sign-off is ‘you know it makes sense’.)
So I’m wondering about what it means to be Australian, or more broadly the role of identity – the sensation of belonging to a group or community. According to some social research I’ve read, belonging to a community or group of people is the most influential factor in changing an individual’s view of the world. We like to believe that we ‘think’ our way to new perspectives. The reality is apparently more that we get moulded by the conventional wisdom of the group of people we identify most strongly with. The group provides security both in a social sense, but also in what we believe about what is important in life.
There’s nothing wrong with this … on the contrary … its the way we find safety (in the broadest sense) in the world … by belonging. I guess the challenge is being conscious about: (i) the role of the group in shaping us, & (ii) the reality of seeing the world subjectively through the eyes of the group rather than the idea / myth of objectivity.
The danger of course is when a particular perspective is touted as absolutely true. It would be a mistake to imply that Sam’s ranting is meant to be a serious exposition of what the national identity is all about. But I am amused (embarrassed even) then that by savouring some cutlets I get a sense of national pride. I wonder how my vegetarian friends are supposed to get in on the celebration of national identity. It is a reminder though that marketing is a incredibly powerful tool, and that those with the means are able to have a big influence on the way people think.
It is an argument, I think, for intentionally exposing ourselves to the voices from the margin, those that don’t identify with the dominant view. It will continue to protect us from thinking that the loudest, most articulate and cleverest voices are not necessarily beyond question. With the impact of mass meat production on the environment, overlay-ed with the impact of climate change in Australia, there is a compelling counter argument that throwing sheep on the barbie is about the worst thing we could do for our future.
With a new wind blowing in Canberra, an apology to our indigenous population immanent, the debate about what is unAustralian could heat up. ‘Twill be interesting.