What does complicity mean to you?

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While writing an article some time ago, I needed to find a synonym for “partnership”. It’s like the type of word every Australian instinctively understands. And I thought I did too. But when I had to explain it, I made a blank.

After racking my brains for a while, I opted for “camaraderie,” which felt close to me, but still a little too genteel. To me, the mateship conjures up grainy images of soldiers crouching in the muddy trenches of Gallipoli, or vaguely cartoonish notions of dudes crowded around beers in the pub and slapping each other on the back with a little too much enthusiasm. Was all this correct? I would not know how to say it.

It turns out that I’m not the only one who struggled to define union. A group of researchers who recently conducted a study of what Australians think of the term found that people were struggling to agree on a definition.

By interviewing nearly 600 Australians, they found that while some people thought friendship was basically the same as friendship, others thought it was a deeper connection, something more. close to a “sworn friend”. Still others said it was less about individual connection and more of a community spirit, helping each other or even just being friendly and respectful to everyone.

A slim majority (52%) thought it was more important in Australia than in other countries, believing it to be a ‘unique Australian way of making social inclusion’ or ‘the sub-link. unique underlying between people who share values ​​”. But others saw it as “just being a good human and treating people with respect.” This is not unique “or” a nebulous social myth “.

The concept is popular in part because it’s hard to define, according to Benjamin Jones, a historian at Central Queensland University and one of the study’s authors, and “it can mean whatever the person wants. it signifies “.

It’s a complicated and often contested word that has evolved along with Australia’s values, he said. During World Wars I and II, it flourished as a way to describe ideas of “white male solidarity.”

But then the second half of the 20th century brought second wave feminism and the replacement of white Australian politics with multiculturalism. “You would think it was the death knell for union. But he has been remarkably successful in reinventing himself as an inclusive ideal that includes people of color and includes women, ”he said.

Now it looks like more Australians are identifying with the concept.

The investigation, Dr Jones said, showed that men who emigrated to Australia or had parents who did, tied to the concept of conjugation as strongly, if not more strongly than other Australians – “and maybe it’s part of their almost ritualistic self-initiation, where they think marriage is a really common thing in Australia and they say “I want to be part of this.”

And more women than men think marriage is a key feature of Australia’s national identity – 70 percent versus 60 percent. Another study found that younger women tend to adopt the word “sailor” to refer to friends of any gender, while older women are more likely to view the word as sexist.

But, in part because of the history of the word, Australians are wary when politicians attempt to exploit it. Only 39 percent of survey respondents said they would support the immortality of marriage in the Constitution. And only 45 percent agreed politicians should invoke it in Australia Day and ANZAC Day speeches.

People generally see mateship as something above politics, Dr Jones said, but “when it becomes politicized it ceases to be that thing above politics and it becomes stamped with political baggage. the user”.

“Even though Australians can generally have a positive view of friendship,” he said, “it’s still not something that politicians will start to exploit, it’s not something that will be printed. on our coins or banknotes or in our Constitution, because the ghosts of the past still haunt him.

What do you think of the complicity? Write to us at [email protected]

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