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My Sunday New York Times arrived late this morning so instead of the Times I had an opportunity to peruse the Sunday edition of the Age and try to catch up with things Aussie/Victorian/Melbourne. Most of you should remember that the “high concept” of the Letter from Melbourne was contrasting the differences between two overtly very similar cultures/societies, specifically those of Oz and the U.S. (obviously from the Yank perspective). Here’s what caught my attention.

The article (http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/rival-groups-protest-in-melbourne-cbd-20170917-gyj1vk.html) on the arrest of a man upon his refusal to remove the mask that covered his face (and identity) at the Melbourne “From Charlottesville to Melbourne” demonstration could never happen in the United States – except perhaps with the declaration of martial law. (Note there were only 300 demonstrators and only 2 people were arrested – this is such small-time stuff compared to a “normal” Oakland or Berkeley affair -- not to mention Ferguson or Charlottesville).

The man was arrested under a brand-new law passed by the Parliament just earlier in the week. I will be interested to follow whether charges will be filed and how the case will proceed in the Australian courts.

In America, one regularly sees pictures of black-clad, black masked, “Anarchist/Antifa” demonstrators, often with shields to protect themselves from the police and with weapons, mostly designed for vandalism and mayhem (though a waiter from a local Oakland restaurant had his cheekbone fractured by a hammer in attempting to prevent a vandal from smashing his restaurant’s glass front window). These young men have become part of a “central casting” scene of right vs. left violent encounters that are regular events in the “People’s Republics” of Berkeley and Oakland (and call to my mind the more violent street demonstrations of the Weimar Republic’s end before the rise of Hitler).

However, these provocateurs (on each side) have the Bill of Rights First Amendment “freedom” to express themselves in the U.S., virtually no matter how likely violence is likely to follow such free speech activities. Over and over in my country, the rights of the individual appear to trump (I wish I could avoid that word now) the rights of the collective society. You see this balance or imbalance in every walk of life. What started as a long overdue and legitimate movement of civil rights to redress the inequalities of 200 years of slavery and 100 years of Jim Crow laws has led to a fractured, extremist, individualistic, non-melting pot society.

Of course, my views must be challenged and devalued as a white, heterosexual, affluent, boomer, Jewish, urban, tennis-playing, male doctor (did I forget one?). America is post-modernism run amuck. I believe a better balance between the rights of the individual vs. society must be found if we are to all get along and survive here.

Multi-cultural Australia and Canada, whose paths towards independence from Great Britain were evolutionary, not revolutionary, seem in better balance to this aging liberal (not Liberal). Aussies and Canucks accept more government than Yanks. Government regulation may drive some Aussies crazy (and also when they pay taxes) but deep down inside I think Aussies “get” theirs, is a happier place than the U.S. these days, thanks in part to their acceptance of the State.

On the other hand I noticed this Age Comment piece today as well (http://www.theage.com.au/comment/australia-is-a-better-society-but-even-in-the-trump-era-america-still-dazzles-20170916-gyizcy.html) “Australia Is a Better Society but Even in the Trump Era America Still Dazzles,” by Josephine Tovey, a Sydney Herald reporter based in New York City for the last three years. She also notes many of the similar Weimar events I’ve just referred to, but accurately adds that America still lures many young Australians to its shores because of its risk-taking and freedom of expression opportunities.

Denise and I still listen to ABC Jazz (via Bluetooth and the web). So many Aussie jazz musicians are based in New York or Los Angeles (“If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere!”). I believe this is true not just for artists but entrepreneurs as well. And how many highly successful Oz-based Aussies in business and the arts have “spent time in the U.S.” as part of their curriculum vitae?

So, I acknowledge America’s continued opportunities for those privileged enough to take advantage of our freedoms. But as a now Medicare aged (finally) observer of the American/Ozian scenes, I believe that for most of the population (especially new immigrants) there is more opportunity and upwards mobility in Australia than in the U.S.

But I do worry for my Aussie mates about one continuing trend denoted by this piece, “Unrenovated Northcote Cottage Fetches $300,000 Above Reserve at Auction,” (https://www.domain.com.au/news/unrenovated-northcote-cottage-fetches-300000-above-reserve-at-auction-20170916-gyitcq/). I actually read two or three more articles that confirm the continuing spiraling up of home real estate prices in the Melbourne and Sydney markets.

I wrote a blog for the Huff Post about 18 months ago called, “The Construction/Real Estate Boom in Oz: Irrational Exuberance Aussie Style,” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-constructionreal-esta_b_9819312.html) in which I feared the implications for Australians in the growing disparity between the haves and the have-nots (in terms of property). In the Bay area, with the tech boom continuing, daily commutes from home to work of two and three hours in one direction are not unheard of. The impact on the individual and family life is a killer. We have the lowest percentage in the U.S. of people who work in Bay area being able to afford to buy a home near where they work.

Here, the rich get richer in any of number of ways, including using the equity in owned property to buy more on margin. Perhaps one of you can tell me what’s been happening in Oz on the federal level over the “negative gearing” issue? Income inequality is the most divisive challenge to our democratic way of life facing America today. I’ve mentioned this many times to the mates, “Australia, beware!”

Finally, a knowledgeable American on Australian life cannot end a Note without some comment on footy. With my Hawks, out of the Finals this year, I read about Week Two action – specifically no team has been eliminated as yet. I’ve decided to barrack for the Richmond Tigers, whom I gather have not won a final in decades (rather like last year’s improbable winners, the Western Bulldogs).

But did you all see Tom Stewart’s run over the weekend – freakin’ amazing! I’m hoping to catch the Final at the MCG which will play in the Bay Area on an obscure American sports cable station on Saturday, September 29th at 8:30 PM. It’s the official end of Yom Kippur for me – so after a day of fasting I hope I’m still up for it – and I’m moving to my new house two days before so I’m not sure Denise will let me escape for three hours. But I really want to be with the mates, barracking for my Tigers – see you all then!

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