Many years ago, in a pensive moment, I thought to myself: “This country is the most Christian country that I have ever visited.” This wasn’t because they went to church — because they didn’t. There was something special about the way people dealt with each other — something very ‘decent’. Australians appeared to live with a philosophy of ‘Common Decency’. One dealt with others with ‘Common Decency’ and one expected ‘Common Decency’ in return. This is the same ‘Common Decency’ that lies at the core of Christianity. People weren’t just superficially nice with their welcomes, there was a genuineness about their interest in how I was settling in to my new home nation and whether I was gaining success in my endeavours.
In 1975, I co-drove a car from England to India and then onto Nepal. From there, we backpacked through South-East Asia to Australia. And so I arrived in Australia as a backpacker in 1976. They spoke English and they spoke their minds. I looked for work, and within ten days I was teaching mathematics and science in a high school. My new found locals demonstrated a genuine resect for anybody prepared to ‘give it a go’. My ‘foreign-ness’ and lack of local knowledge was of no issue, provided I was ‘giving it a go’, to use the local idiom.
There was an expectation of ‘Common Decency’, given and received. There was a common attitude of ‘a fair go for everybody’. There was an air of ‘Common Purpose’. There was genuineness that I had not met elsewhere. If somebody said: “Giday”, they meant it. I came from a country where people would sometimes say: “Pleased to meet you.” But under their breath, you could sense that they had silently added: “you stupid twat.” My home country or England lacked genuineness. Australians expected straight up honesty, were free with their assistance, and were easy to be with.
In those fine days of the seventies in Australia, we left the key in the ignition of the car. You were more likely to loose your keys than your car. The front door of the house was always unlocked and open. To do otherwise was ‘paranoiac’. Friends would walk straight in without knocking. Others would knock, then you invited them in and had a cup of tea. It was almost rude to lock a front door. Quite simply, why would you lock a front door? What would posses someone to do such a thing? When driving on country roads, one would acknowledge other drivers with a flick of the hand or a wag of the finger. We were all in this together. We all live in the same society and we all contribute to making it a better society. Part of this ‘Common Purpose’ was a belief in ‘Australia’ — Australia as a great small nation — a great place to live — the best place to live — a belief in the ‘Australian Battler’ willing to toil for a better life
There was a pervasive philosophy in Australia that required all:
- To be good to each other.
- To be good to women.
- To stand up against wrong-doing.
- To warn others of dangers, scammers, and bad authority.
- To avoid greed.
The philosophy expected us to embrace:
- fairness in our dealings.
- sympathy to those in peril.
- and many other such characteristics.
It is like Christmas, which also has a philosophy. Christmas has a message of: ‘Goodwill to all mankind’. We don’t say: “Are you Christian, if so: ‘Merry Christmas’.” And if not: “Go get stuffed”. Christmas is suggesting that we should have a benevolent attitude to all peoples, irrespective of their religion. Contrary to my brother-in-law claiming that “Australia has no culture.”, we have a culture of ‘Common Decency’ rarely rivalled.
Who would need a rule book when ‘Common Decency’ was the general philosophy. The penalty for breaking this unwritten code of ‘Common Decency’ was a severe ‘bollocking’ and the expectation that you would pay penance by buying the next round of beers and to exercise better judgement in future. So, forgiveness was also present.
I now realise what happened was that I ‘assimilated’. I did not change my accent, but I accepted the prevailing ‘Code of Conduct’. And thus I was fully accepted into Australian society. I had not realised it until more recently, but Australia changed me. I embraced the Australian concept of ‘Common Decency’.
I have talked to migrants from other parts of Europe, and they agree with my train of thought. When I explain the above to them, their eyes light up and then they verbally agree that they changed their habits and started to embrace the ‘Common Decency’ characteristics of the Australian population. They embraced the concepts of fairness, compassion, empathy, and other like concepts. Tied in here is the ability to detect ‘right’ from ‘wrong’ without having to refer to a rule book. I often give the example of the car park. You drive your car into a busy car park. You have your indicators on and are about to pull into an empty parking bay. Someone in a small car whizzes into the spot before you move into the bay. We curse under our breath as they have ‘done the wrong thing’. However, there is no law against their action. I am often out with large groups of young people. Sitting around a table, one might say: “I don’t believe in all this God shit.” Then one describes the action of some person and says: “That’s wrong!” They are not referring to a rule-book. They are referring to an un-written rule book. Australians distinguish right from wrong without using a rule book. To be Australian is is necessary to follow this unwritten book-of-rules. This ‘book of rules’ is simply to work out the rules by following the concepts of fairness, common decency, compassion and empathy. To break the rules is ‘un-Australian’.
Last year, I was writing a chapter on Christianity titled: “The Philosophy of Jesus” This ‘Philosophy of Jesus’ is essentially the essence of the ‘Philosophy of Australia’. So where did this philosophy come from? It did not come from ‘going to church’. Church goers are polite to each other as they say: “Pleased to meet you.” even if they are thinking the opposite. Churchgoers seem to think they have to be nice to each other because that was the nature of Jesus. A ‘cult of niceness’ has permeated the Church. Politeness and tolerance has taken a front seat. But Jesus was not like that. Jesus was neither polite nor tolerant. Jesus was a ‘hard man’ using tough words. He was a rebel. He told people what he thought of them straight to their face — and is was not nice. He was totally intolerant of people that were doing ‘the wrong thing’. He was constantly rebuking people, particularly the Pharisees: He called the Pharisees the “offspring of serpents”. He called Herod “a fox”. “Go and tell that fox for me . . .” He talked about ‘false teachers’ whom he called: “wolves”. “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Gospel of Matthew 7:15, King James Version). He called unregenerate  Gentiles: “dogs”. In this next passage, Jesus gets stuck right in:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”Matthew 23:27
So, Australians follow a ‘real’ Christianity, not by going to Church but by being good to others. Many Australians have an aversion to ‘organised’ religion. Going to Church on Sunday is not something on the weekly diary. We may be supportive of the ethos of Christmas. We would object to the cancellation of Easter, when ‘the poor bastard got nailed to a scaffold by the authorities’. We like listening to ‘Father Bob’ when he rants on about the ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ in our society.
A coupe of Decembers past, I visited Hong Kong. I travel a lot and I get into the spirit of the places I visit. The Christmas decorations stood out and the spirit of Christmas was noticeable, but Hong Kong is not Christian. The Christmas street decorations are flamboyant. Christmas is about ‘goodwill’ to all mankind. It is a guide on how we should live our lives for the rest of the year. This is one of the special characteristics of Christianity — ‘Goodwill to others’.
The next characteristic of Christianity is that the young are brought up in the ‘image of Jesus’. The young, particularly the young males, are brought up using Jesus as a role model. Some mothers may say: “Like Jesus”, but others just emphasise characteristics that match the character of Jesus. – not reforming or showing repentance; obstinately wrong or bad.