Saturday, August 30, 2008

(Biodegradable) Soapbox

WARNING: What follows is a bit of a tirade on some American habits of which I am also guilty, but being me, I prefer to crticize than examine my own beahvior. Please proceed with a caution and read with a grain of salt!

They say you can't go home again. Of course you can! All you need are frequent flyer miles and the ability to plan way ahead so you can use the one seat every 5 flights that Qantas gives to American mileage holders. That, or a gig where you can get your work to pick up some of the expensive fare. I did both of those things and thus, found myself starting this blog on top of the world...or at least the Northern hemisphere.

I'm finally finishing from OZ, as I had trouble writing this particular blog.I'm very behind so dont be upset if there is a bit of a flurry of activity here in the coming days. Mum cautioned me that if you can't say something nice, just shut it's been a challenge to write about the week on the Cape with the collection of neuroses known as the Cardozo/ Rosenblut clan.

Surely, I jest-- at least a little- but I did want to organise my thoughts to demonstrate the reverse culture shock I experienced. Oftentimes, we see so much more clearly from afar, and much of what I knew nipped at my soul about the US has become clearer, and a bit more annoying, upon my return.

I was back stateside for a bit over a fortnight (see, I can still speak Aussie) and I have to admit I noticed things from an ex-pat perspective, even whilst enjoying treats and cuisines I've missed while abroad.

Now, me being me, there is the possibility that what follows could sound, um, critical. That's because, well, it is. There is an over-arching American sensibility that I have always had a vague notion of, but now that I've taken a step away, I can see more clearly. I understand more viscerally now why America is often viewed disparagingly around the world. I'm not speaking of our Imperialistic tendencies or the acts of our government, problematic to be sure. And do keep in mind that my visit occurred mostly prior to the Palin of America, so these thoughts pre-date her, though she's not helping to be sure. Rather, I am speaking of a general attitude of entitlement and self-absorbtion, even while claiming to be concerned about the world at large. I'll give some examples.

Australians don't generally buy into Political Correctness and because of its small population any subculture is noticably quieter about their beliefs. So while there are enviro-hippies and fascist recyclers, most people just go about their daily business. But because Australia is the driest inhabited continent on Easrth, there are environmental norms in place that even the most die-hard Liberal (which is what the Conservative party here is called) practices without a thought. I've previously mentioned the dual-flush toilet. Now I can't prove that John Howard and other Bush-lite politicos like him always use the 1/2 flush appropriately, it is true that every toilet is equipped, from the diviest bar to the most-hovel-like flat. (To be fair, I did just learn that the dual-flush toilet is an Aussie invention, so there is some degree of national pride in installing them everywhere.)

Additionally, every outlet has an on-off switch, so you can stop power being sent to a power point when there is nothing drawing on that power. Further, in a grocery store here, you don't see quite the breadth of packaging options, either. If a parent wants a convenient snack size of cheerios or crackers, they buy a large box of them and put the snack size amount they want in a tupperware (easy to find since all take-away food is package in recyclable plastic containers as opposed to styrofoam!) These are but a few examples of what Oz is doing to reduce it's carbon footprint and water usage from a nation that uses much less than the US. I don't have to spell out that many in the states consume conspicuously, even while shaking their heads at the horrors of Ike or Katrina or deadly storms around the world and wish there was something they could do to help, yet still refuse to reduce their own impact if it inconvieniences them.

I'll climb down carefully off of my soapbox now (and recycle it, of course) even as Adi is shaking his head, I'm sure, at my hypocrisy. And he's right. I sometimes let the water run when I do the dishes (though I am trying to soap them beforehand) and I regularly use paper napkins as opposed to cloth. If we had a dishwasher, I'd resist rinsing them off prior to putting them in the machine but its a non-issue in our cozy, air-con-less flat. I guess the point Im making is that in Oz, people are more environmental inadvertently, without it becoming a soap box, simply because that's how it's done and the option to do otherwise isn't available.

And being away and then back in the states made it more clear to me just how entitled we all (I mean Americans, not ncessarily any of you in particular) feel we are to these tiny convieniences, be they power plugs you don't have to bend down to use, toilets that don't require a thought process or small amounts of items that come in larger sizes too.Also disposable water bottles, excessive use of air-conditioning (do I need to bring a jacket to a movie theatre?), etc. etc.

And now Ms. Palin is on the scene to make sure the world knows that we are entitled, dammit, because we're Americans and even the girls can shoot guns!

More specific details and photos about the trip itself to follow after you've all had a chance to mock my hypocrisy!

But to be fair, I do want to let you all know that I've contributed over $100 to off-set the carbon footprint of my flights to and from the states, at This is one of the highest rated non-profit carbon off-set organizations, so check it out. If you're going to use a/c and water bottles, this can alleviate a little guilt.

Did I mention that it was good to be home, to see the fam and friends and eat good Mexican food? I will next time, I promise!

1 comment:

Amy Kopkin said...

I wish you were here to commiserate with. I almost lost it the other night reading what is left of our liberal media bias and seeing what could happen if Obama is not elected. We are seriously considering New Zealand especially after my friend was here for the wedding. I know it's running away, but I just can't let myself live in a place where our freedoms are disappearing like snow in Boulder in March!