Where Are You From Part I
You’re Not From the Fucking First Fleet, You Fuckwit
I know this is a website for the young, STI-riddled, middle-class, educated modern hobo, but for the love of Pete, travel is all about modifying (hopefully expanding) the parameters within which we identify ourselves, and this little series of diatribes is all about that.
Whenever I meet somebody for the first time, the conversation either goes:
“Nice to meet you Patricia, I’m Gravy.”
“Where are you from?”
With chicks, or:
“Where are you from?”
The answer is always, “Australia.” And then the response is always:
“Yeah, but where are you really from?”
To bring you up to speed, I am a brown-skinned bogan. I was born in Australia to a father who was born in Australia and a mother who was born in South Africa, but who identifies herself as an Australian. I have never been “from” anywhere but Australia, I have lived overseas, but have never been from anywhere where I lived, and definitely do not feel I am from South Africa. I have never bloodied a diamond, killed a white, segregated a black, shot a big animal or contracted HIV.
My response to this follow up query is pretty much what I just described in the previous paragraph: “Well, my mother is from South Africa.” Then the interrogator goes either, “Oh, ok,” as if the South African portion of my DNA explains it all,* or they go, “Really? Oh, I would have said you were Maori/Pakistani/North American Injun/Samoan/Mediterranean/Anywhere where the skin tones aren’t the same as mine.” I’ve got one of those heads that could be from anywhere. I call it my head, but everyone else wants to call it the head of someone else from somewhere else that they’ve either been, or seen on movies about terrorists or war, or on The World Around Us.
What the questioner is really asking me is where I get my lovely brown skin from, and the answer that they want is one that will confirm their previously held idea as to which countries spawn skin my colour, and then they want to make some kind of an assessment as to my personality based on the stereotypes applicable to that country. Don’t get me wrong, I love stereotypes more than the next person, but I like my stereotypes to be based on a nationality that transcends aesthetics.
When people ask me that question I will sometimes ask them the same question in return. “Where are you from?” I’ll retort, and they’ll come back with, “Australia, born and bred”, and I’ll wonder if they fully know the implications of this. Like, how many generations back does one have to be to be considered Australian? Is it more than two? I know Chinese Australians who have been here for more than two generations, but would never be considered to be Australian. The cut off for being Australian is based more on how someone looks, than their actual genealogy. I’ve got a mate whose padres are both from fucking Birmingham, but he’d never be q’d further than his answer of Australia, if at all.
A lot of people tell me, with a combination of pride and shame, that they trace their genealogy all the way back to the First Fleet. I love this. All of their ancestors came from England with the first batch of deviates and miscreants, so no one belongs girt-by-sea more than them. What they don’t understand is the logistics of such a claim. If we assume that a generation comes about every 25 years (now it is more, back then it was less), there have been nine and a bit generations since the First Fleet arrived in 1787. Let’s assume that we’re the bit, and we have two parents, and four grandparents and eight great-grandparents. That’s three generations. Which means that about 75 years ago there were eight people hoisting up garters and actively swapping crotch fluids in order to make us today. Pretty rad. To get to the first fleet we simply double this number six more times. 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512. 512. In 1787 the “full blooded” Aussies had 512 ancestors taking a roll in the scurvy, licking crooked British fangs, and fingering the lice out of each other’s nethers.
Now we all know that it’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, so of those 512 ancestors half of them had to be chicks, so 256 men fucking 256 babes. On the first fleet there were over 1000 passengers, but only 192 of them were unmarried, adult sheilas, so it’s kinda impossible to be completely sprogged from the First Fleet, unless your great-to-the-power-of-nine grandma was getting plowed by more than one convict, and then the groms fucked a half-sibling. This is plausible, but it makes you the product of recent incest, so if you want to claim complete descent from the First Fleet you have to be comfortable with the fact that your mum is your dad.
It’s not very likely that you had 256 ancestral couples on the First Fleet. Maybe there were 10 that went into making the skin that now sports your Ned Kelly tattoo, maybe even 30, but you didn’t have 256. Other people came to Australia from overseas and boned their way into your DNA, so you are a dirty little bitsa mixed race bitch, by your own standards. But never fear, because chances are that this mixing happened before 1973, which means that the White Australia Policy would have ensured that they came from “favourable” European countries, the racial purity of which, or lack thereof, I’ll explore more next time.
– Coming up in part two, more bitter ramblings from a disenfranchised member of your society.
* Given my “non-African” features this response should create way more questions for my appearance-fixated questioners. In fact my mother’s South African family isn’t very African, but a mix of Malaysian and Indian, and some African, and English and Dutch and probably French and German and Arab and whatever else passed by the Cape of Good Hope between the 1500s and 1972.
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Ex-editor of Australia’s Surfing Life, current producer and host of 50 Fiestas, Barcelona resident and drinker of all the wine, every last drop of it.