Bogan is as bogan does

So, yesterday, me and two of my Things Bogans Like comrades, pseudonymously known as Hunter and Intravenus, spoke at the Williamstown literary festival, debating against an august collection of academics and performers over whether or not the bogan actually exists.

I thought it may be of interest to some to see what I said, so here is my speech in full.

The Bogan is real, and it matters

I’d like to open by quoting a couple of newspaper articles from the past couple of months, if you’ll indulge me. First, from the Adelaide Advertiser:

“HARD-WORKING double-income families are now discovering that once their gross household income reaches $150,000, they qualify for as much welfare as a billionaire – nothing.”

And then, from an article in the venerable Australian, entitled ‘Every time we get ahead, they hit us again’:

“SHAUN and Kylie Richards are angry they stand to lose their private health insurance rebate under the deal brokered in federal parliament yesterday.

The couple, who own a commercial flooring business in Adelaide, earn a combined income of more than $258,000.

Mr Richards, an ironman triathlete, regularly uses his cover to pay for physiotherapy, and Josh has dental braces.

“We chose not to go through the public system so we don’t have to put any strain on it, but because we try to do the right thing, they penalise us,” Ms Richards said.

These people felt that earning somewhere between $150-$250k each year justified dipping into the public purse for some assistance. These are not the working class, stubby wearing, Kingswood-owning, ACDC-listening bogans of yore. They have money, property, a sense of status and a belief that their hard work entitles them to everything they need. Today’s bogan is still very real, but decades of prosperity has left them pampered, unselfaware, biblically selfish and deeply, deeply entitled.

Let’s come at this slightly differently.

If you weren’t hiding under a rock in a cave on Saturn this week, you probably heard that the Reserve Bank lowered the cash rate by 50 basis points, or half a per cent, this week. Then, with stunning predictability, the media, Swanny and innumerable others who really should have better things to do with their time began ‘calling on the banks to pass on the cut’.

Because bogans understand economics. And they know that there is only one true measure of economic performance: interest rates. Interest rates are everything – the alpha and omega.

Not only do bogans want everything they’re entitled to, they want it NOW. These heavily indebted bogans’ entire sense of financial wellbeing hinges on interest rates. Hence, the only indication of a strong economy is when they are at RECORD LOWS.

Thus, we had headlines dominated for two days by discussions of how important it is that homeowners might save about $40 a week, and whether the banks would be kind enough to bump it up to an even $50. Bear in mind a report came out this week suggesting that the average Australian household is $224 a week better off after inflation than in 1984.

Still, the treasurer of the freaking country, standing in front of cameras at a time when Australians, in real terms, have never been wealthier, have never had larger homes or televisions, or smaller families and computers, telling them that he feels their pain. That he knows they’re Doing It Tough.

Welcome to the world that the bogan hath wrought. The world that you live in. Every day.

Hunter and Intravenus before me have carefully laid out our case about the existence of the bogan. This is not about one person, or a group of people. This ain’t about Broady. This ain’t about Parramatta. This ain’t even about Cronulla! Well, it’s a little bit about Cronulla, but I’ll get to that.

This is more about Brunswick St on a Saturday night, or Queen St in the city, for that matter. And I tell you what, those people inhaling any number of drinks named after incendiary devices, strutting around dressed in clothes branded with either Ultimate Fighting or Playboy paraphernalia before collapsing into the gutter in a cloud of vomit, blood and indignity come from all over town.

You can’t point to someone and say ‘this person is a bogan’ any more than you can point to someone and say ‘this person is an idiot’ or ‘this person is a legend’. You may CALL someone an idiot, but what you’re really saying is that you see them behaving in idiotic ways.

Bogan is as bogan does. And Australian does bogan particularly well.

The bogan complains every day about its taxpayer dollars being wasted on cushy accommodation for illegal immigrants, for Aborigines, for handouts to welfare recipients. But it expects those same taxpayer dollars – your dollars too, I should add – to come flying back to them in the form of those juicy, juicy bogan bribes that we see every election year.

The baby bonus. The first homeowners’ grant. The private health insurance rebate. Funding for private schools. Negative gearing. Negative. Effing. Gearing. The entire political process in Australia is effectively a cash delivery vector for bogans upset they can’t afford to send Taylah (with an ‘H’), Jaxxon (with two ‘x’s) and Rhyleeh (with two ‘h’s) to Scotch College.

Why? Bogans vote. They vote with their vote, sure. But there’s more. You’re saturated in boganity every day because they elect our politicians, read our papers, and text in weekly to nominate our Masters Chef. Or Chefs Master. Or something.

More importantly, they vote with their bogan bucks. They’re mortgaged to the hilt. They’re doing it tough. And they won’t shut up about it. You’ve heard about the wine glut? Well, we’re experiencing a whine glut. Bogans can whine more often, for less, than ever before.

Bogans are a slice of Australia – a massive slice of Australia – who, told from birth that they are a special snowflake that can be anything they want, refuse to look up to people of accomplishment. The pursuit of knowledge is diminished. The bogan worships at the altar of mediocrity. The result is that, without any philosophy, or mental framework to apply to any decision, the bogan can only approach politics through the prism of ‘what’s in it for me?’.

And we see it again and again and again.

So what do we call all of these things? For a great many of us, the word is bogan.

The point is that THIS STUFF MATTERS. The ignorance, selfishness and crassness of this glorious slice of Australia MUST be mocked. This is the majority, and in the absence of a cheeky jibe, the majority can fall under the impression that it is ‘normal’. Ipso facto, anything unlike them is ‘abnormal’ (or perhaps ‘unAustralian?’, hence something to be feared or rejected. The result? Cronulla beach.

Those opposite are, in effect, asking us to ban a word. The word is there, it’s going to be directed at someone – it’s a quintessential modern Australian jibe. Let’s not make it a dirty word, let’s make it a useful one! Your jetski killing dolphins? Bogan. Suiting up for the Melbourne Cup before losing $300 on the horse with the dirtiest name then defecating in the car park? Bogan.

Borrowing $800,000 for a 5 million sq house situated 40kms from the nearest decent amenities, but boasting a breakfast room, home theatre and parent’s retreat? Bogan.  Complaining to your new local council because there is no school and no public transport near your new home? Bogan.

Likewise, borrowing $800,000 to move into a plush inner-city townhouse because of the ‘nightlife’ then complaining about the noise of the bands at the pub over the back fence? Bogan. We could also say ‘fuckwit’, but that’s rude.

So, sure. If you want to pretend that we’ve been saying for three years that bogans are fat blokes in wife beaters living in Doveton sinking near-lethal quantities of VB, leering at women passing by while calling their wives ‘Shazza’, then yes, there is no such thing as a bogan.

But this near-mythical slice of middle Australia that yearns for the validation of Kyle Sandilands, Bryan McFadden and Danni Minogue, that spends its disposable income on conspicuous consumption of the most egregious kind, and that ensures that our refugee policy is determined by the xenophobia of a landlocked electorate 80kms from the NSW coast needs a name. And as far as we can tell, that name is bogan.