Midnight Oil

[Powderworks] Music and patriotism

Rhonda kayak@sympatico.ca
Wed, 14 Aug 2002 17:42:12 -0400

Sharon wrote:

> I'm from the US and one of the things that's always interested me
> about Midnight Oil is its up-front presentation of itself as an 'Australian
> band'. In some of the interviews on the discs and tapes that I've seen, Rob
> or someone talks about making Australian music, loving Australia, what a
> great country it is, etc.  I've heard plenty of critical comments about
> Pauline or other people/situations in Australia, but always this great love for
> the country.
> I've tried to think before about American musicians/bands that have a
> similar connection with the US and for some reason I have trouble.
> Bruce Springsteen comes to mind, not just for "Born in the USA" (one of the
> few Springsteen songs I really don't like) but for a lot of his other
> music that takes blue collar life and issues in the US seriously.  And we have
> lots of overtly 'patriotic' country music (but that's another beast all
> together).


The only one that popped into my mind as a possibility would be John
Mellencamp...lots of songs revolving around growing up in small-town
America, but I can't recall anything that deals specifically with the
land or the country itself.  

> I've always thought it somewhat ironic that I'm this person who is
> profoundly uncomfortable with patriotism who's real musical passion is
> this band that is actually very patriotic about their own country.  LOL.
> Would you all think of or describe the Oils that way (particularly you
> Aussies)?

I grew up in the US and moved to Canada exactly 10 years ago today, and
am now a dual citizen.  I have a lot of conflicted/mixed feelings about
the US and patriotism in general; Canadians are reputed to be quite
laid-back & not as flag-waving patriotic as Americans....to some, it
appears as if the term "Canadian patriotism" is an oxymoron because
we're usually pretty low-key about it.  But if you drive down any street
around here, there will be a good number of Canadian flags posted by the
house or garage....we just don't have them in bumper stickers all over
our cars.  Having lived on both sides of the border, (and preferring
Canada), my feeling is for the country itself....the land, the pines,
the lakes, HOCKEY (!), Tim Hortons, Molson commercials, This Hour Has 22
Minutes, just weird little things I miss when I'm Stateside visiting
family.  It's not something explained easily....we have the same disgust
for our politicians that the Oils seem to have for theirs, but I get the
feeling that the love for the land itself is the same.  It's not the
figurehead of government that one misses, it's the country behind it
that endures in your heart.  When they are touring abroad, I bet it's
the simple little things that are "Australia" to them are what they
miss....the red dirt, the familiar accent, the taste of the food, the
names of the towns and streets (who knows, maybe even Vegemite! hehe). 
I know I'm not explaining this very well but the feeling is difficult to
put into words.  In that way, I think they're intensely patriotic, the
same way I am about Canada.  It's the feeling of "home" when you've
found 'your place', you would do anything to protect it from harm, and
lament its shortcomings and when things go wrong - like they do in their music.

I left the US partially because I was uncomfortable with the US' global
image of the often "bossy big brother," and no longer wanted to be a
part of it or identified with it.  But sometimes Canadian policy is
almost as bad, because we're the "little brother' that tags along (or
gets dragged along) with nearly everything the US says/does.  I'm aware
that Canada's not perfect  - treatment of the aboriginal peoples of this
country is just as rotten as that in the US, both historically and
present-day.  We've got issues that need addressing in many areas. 
Guess now I'm twice as conflicted as I was before moving!!  ;-)  Anyway,
apologies for my rambling, if anyone can put their finger on this this
more precisely, I'd breathe a sigh of relief!