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An Aussie boy

By Greg Lees - posted Monday, 23 April 2007

Why is it that we, more than any other nation are so endearing of our nickname, “Aussies”? In the papers, in the parliament, on the pavement, Aussie gets equal time with Australian.

It is a nickname, self ascribed and it is another reflection of our immaturity, our long permanent state of national adolescence.

Ask any 20-something or even 30-something male, “What does it mean to be a man”, and you will likely get silence. It is a question, he has not faced before. It is an element of his identity that he has not pondered, a social reflection he has not observed.


He doesn't see himself as a man, because it is a role society has not conferred on him. He may be toasted at his 18th party, but the next day, he'll be the same youth as he was before. Apart from the clink of a glass and the predictable homilies, he'll receive no wise words, instruction, story or parable either to signify or to aid his transition to adulthood.

How different from his childhood where he was indulged by educators: pampered by parents, well by mum at least; likely driven to school; programs planned for him by the planners; worried over by the worriers; nannied by all; but by late adolescence he becomes less important and finds his way as best he can in company with his peers who are also adrift.

And time moves on but they don't become men: it is not a destination. These young fellows would be more comfortable seeing themselves as “one of the boys” and that's where it ends. Quite unlike women on the other hand who are wholly embracing of being “a woman”. Girls are led to anticipate this state as part of their identity well before they become a woman.

And as we “nether men” remain in a state of immaturity, this bears forth this predilection for nick names. Nick names are part of the emotional shallowness of a child's world. In the much idealised, but selfish, world of the child other people hold no great importance except for what they can provide “me”.

As an adolescent his mates might be Johnno and Robbo, but this is more an association with his fellows, again largely perceived as just other's, who are not “me”. Everyone else is simply the other, for one aspect of immaturity is characterised by a lack of empathy.

As the boy becomes an adult, but still emotionally a boy, rather than have friends he will have mates and call them Thommo or Butch. This immaturity is commensurate with a lack of intimacy.


It is one thing to say, “How's the wife, Johnno?” compared to saying “How's Karen, John?”. The latter enquiry cannot be construed jokey or insincere, for it is a real question that demands an equally genuine response. It can only be meaningful if the enquirer has developed an intimacy with his friend and this intimacy can only come about through a depth of feeling and empathy arrived at by the maturity of experience, awareness and compassion that is completely lacking in the childish self.

Children do not care about the wellbeing of others, whether it is people close to them or a captured butterfly or someone's letterbox on cracker night in days past. Compassion is something that has to be learnt. Compassion and empathy are aspects of emotional maturity that come through the emotional development of boy into man.

So what has this to do with Aussie? It is the same immaturity expressed on the national level of consciousness.

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About the Author

Greg Lees was born in Bendigo and educated there, majoring in Environmental Studies and Philosophy. He is now retired and 'settled' in Melbourne for the last four years, after much travelling in this country and overseas.

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