Ah, as we approach Straya Day, give thanks for Nick Cater, last of the ten pound poms. Yesterday, the BBC/Essex Uni sociology graduate turned his attention to Strayan culture, adopting the royal "we" for his adopted homeland, and digging deep into Strayan culture, to wit A.A. Phillips' influential essay "The Cultural Cringe".
He should have dug a little deeper. Cater has Phillips identifying the cultural cringe in 1958. No, he used the phrase in 1950, in a Meanjin essay (collected in book form in 1958), when it was part of a vigorous post-war debate about future directions for Australia -- a debate that had somewhat ebbed away by 1958. First howler. Second howler: "these are denaturalized intellectuals, the group identified by [Phillips] as the unhappy victims of the cultural cringe, isolated and alienated from their own country". No, actually, that's the exact opposite of Phillips' intervention, and of the purpose of Meanjin at the time. Meanjin, founded in 1940-1, was part of a left-nationalist movement of intellectuals, who aimed squarely at the mass general populace, and their willingness to accept British high culture domination and US mass culture domination. It was these left intellectuals -- inside and outside the Communist Party -- who revived half-forgotten writers from the 1890s, changed high school curricula to include Australian history and Aboriginal history, made us all sing "click go the bloody shears", created the Ned Kelly myth, etc. Indeed, the Jindyworobak movement that Meanjin sprang from was part of a radical re-orientation to the idea of Australia being an Aboriginal continent, and spruiked the idea that a deracinated white Australia needed to re-infuse itself with the Aboriginal life spirit, to escape the deadness of European settlement. A.D. Hope's Australia is influenced by the Jindyworobak spirit (though not form -- they were terrible poets), when it proclaims: