Is class a major issue in Australia? Unlike the “mother country” (England not America) where class is irrevocably needled into your forehead at birth, where you are a marvel of society if you’re dad was a chimney sweep and you’ve dusted the soot to ascend class and become a quiz show master.
Now I had a relatively comfortable up bringing, I grew up in a three bedroom house, sure it was made out of the same stuff as a caravan that would expand three square metres when temperatures exceeded 31°. But we had a car, an extraordinarily large tube television, a microwave, a broken dishwasher and a dog. For my generation we intrinsically linked our status to the size of our televisions. Ours was massive! If you had a big tele then you had luxury and with luxury you had a sense of self esteem. I didn’t know at the time that it was a radio rental, if I had, it probably would not have made any difference. It never occurred to me in my sheltered youth that there may be whole swag of people that were better off than me and what’s more who knew that were better off than the likes of yours truly.
It wasn’t until I was forced into the wider world to supposedly get a life that I started becoming aware that there was more to defining your place in the world than having a big tele. I went to university to study something or other, I can’t remember what it was now but I have been assured that it was a significant part of my education. It was during this period I started to come into regular contact with the middle class and people from other diverse backgrounds. Diversity was not something I had been accustomed to in the small rural community in which I was raised. To me and others diversity was a packet of arnold assorted biscuits, the opening of a chinese restaurant or being able to order a pizza without pineapple as one of three toppings.
It was when I started interacting with people in my new circle that I was a bit of a square peg. They spoke of things like cuisine, family holidays at the holiday house… I should note that most of them still lived at home. On occasion I was invited to these homes situated in leafy suburbs that I hadn’t heard of before in houses you couldn’t even transport on a truck, a flaw in my opinion. Their televisions were modest to say the least and they were kind of out the way and very rarely switched on. These homes were much larger than my childhood pad, the ceilings were ordained with ornate cornices. The walls were cluttered intricately crafted framed botanical drawings of rare species of bird that weren’t magpies. These drawings seemed pointless when compared to the poster sized and framed print of John Wayne that rested on the veneer wood panelled walls of my country crib.
Or were they? I started to wonder whether these non-moveable homes and the people that lived in them actually didn’t care too much about the size of the household television they seemed more concerned with the size of their house, the make of the family car which were almost always practical european sedans or monstrous four wheel drives that were passed off as “people carriers” that were used to transport children to hockey training and 2am swimming lessons.
I don’t mean to deride any of this but it was very different to what I thought I was – well off. As it turns out I’m lower or working class. The linesman salary of my father couldn’t afford an immovable house or people carrier but it didn’t disadvantage me either. I did develop a cap in hand inferiority complex for about three months but I got over it. This was over a decade ago and since then a lot has changed.
I have a sneaking suspicion that class is becoming more and more of an issue in this big wide, geologically stable land.