An Egalitarian society is one whereby every individual is treated with equality regardless of his or her wealth and status in the society. Such a community practices gender equality, communism, human rights and women’s rights among other related things. In an egalitarian society, the poor are treated with dignity and all forms of discrimination are discouraged. There are benefits of national productivity to be reaped from this practice, and employees usually have a say in the workplace regarding things that affect their well being. There is a social philosophy that advocates for the removal of economic inequalities among groups and individuals. However, this does not mean that everyone in the society has equal property and wealth (Lepowsky, 2003).
Over the years, Australia has been observed to uphold most of these virtues. For that matter, it would be safe and prudent to say that Australia is an egalitarian society. Many countries in the world try to embrace the ideology of human equality. However, none of these countries has had this concept more engrained in their culture like Australia has done. Individuals that have lived in the country even for a short period of time must have noticed how fiercely egalitarianism has been embraced in the culture. It is also easy to notice how everyone in this society strives for equality at every level. This includes the basis of race, gender, sexual preference and socio-economic level among others.
According to theory, egalitarianism in Australia originated from its founding era. This is during that period when convicts used to be treated cruelly and deprived basic human rights by relevant authorities. The superior never cared about the spiritual or material needs of the convicts, which at that time comprised the vast majority. Despite being dominant in the numerical aspect, individuals from the convict class did not have the ability of aspiring civic positions which were reserved for non-convicts (Exclusives). They protested against giving them equal rights on grounds that it would be like rewarding them for their criminal behavior. As a result, the convicts embraced the culture of egalitarianism that came to prevail in the end.
There are aspects that can be used to prove that Australia is an egalitarian society. Among them is the language that the people in the country use to converse. When compared to other English speakers, they tend to be more formal. There is usage of similar language regardless of the individuals involved in the conversation. An individual uses same language when communicating to an elderly person, a boss, rapscallion or friend. One of the famous example is when cricketer Dennis Lille met with the Queen. He just greeted her a friendly “g’day, how ya go’in” and a handshake (Thompson, 2008). To many outsiders, the nature of the country’s speech has been viewed as a sign of rudeness. This is because it entails treating individuals of high status with similar regard to garbage collectors or shoe salesmen.
Another attribute that shows the tendency of egalitarianism is the Australian English. English is the national language in the country. However, there are certain words that have come to be regarded as uniquely for Australian usage. Some of them tend to be strange for people that are citizens of the countries. Use of slang words which are usually coupled with sense of humor is characterized by irrelevance and irony. It tends to be a source of confusion for international visitors. A good example is the words in the book “Macquarie Book of Slang” (Ferraro & Andreatta, 2012). These words are well understood by Australians regardless of their class and status in the society. This is a good example of how this society embraces equality by trying to make everyone appear to be the same. If you would have a greater insight into other societies, slang words are only prevalent with the low class. The top class generally has no idea of what most of the words mean. However, this is not the case in Australia.
Educational aspects can also be used to expound on the existence of Australia as an egalitarian society. In most classrooms in European, Middle-Eastern or Asian countries, a teacher usually stands in front of class to deliver knowledge and skills to students. However, in Australia, with exception of some universities, there tends to be more group work. Classes under this context tend to be more student-centered. This means that the students are not supposed to learn much from the teachers compared to what they learn from each other. The rationale might seem to be beneficial and productive even though this is not the ultimate driving force. Teachers do not want to seem like school “masters” or dictators by telling students what to do. Furthermore, pupils are not called pupils; they are now students, which is at par with university students or mere ‘clients’ demanding service from their ‘service providers’. The preference can be attributed to defense against feelings of merciless and inferiority.
Paying the bill in areas where acquaintances and friends meet to have something together also shows attributes of egalitarianism. Previous occurrences have shown that in most Asian countries, if groups of acquaintances go out for dinner, wealthiest members among them may opt to pay for the entire meal that everyone consumed. Obviously, if a man and woman are out for dinner, regardless of whether they are lovers or friends, the man usually offers to pay. In Australia, this is not the case. When a group of friends hang out, the bill is split among all the individuals involved. It is not likely that there is an individual who will feel the obligation to pay. Moreover, no one amongst them wants to be paid for. Accepting generosity is perceived to evoke feelings of shame regarding one as somehow less worthy or is a ‘bludger’. When poor members pay their bills, it is a sign that they are not inferior and the rich do not have the ability of showing their superiority.
Despite the existence of egalitarianism in Australia, there are certain social factors that can yield unequal chances for individuals in the country. Among them is the family structure adopted despite there being the existence of an egalitarian society. In most families, the father or husband is regarded as the head of the family. He is critical in major decisions being made in the household. This leaves most women to be more of followers than equal partners. Women are usually associated with taking care of the family. They are more involved with the family that they spend most of their time in it, and some even end up giving up their jobs. Some women even tend to get married early in their life before they can attain dependence on themselves. This would be detrimental in the future as it might change how this society exists. There might not be equal life chances for both men and women (Argy, 2009). As the situation accelerates, men might be prompted to take advantage of the situation. This would make them have outmost control of women. To some extent, it might result to severe gender inequality due to the status actualized.
Another feature is the existence of different classes. Despite there being egalitarianism, there is evidence of different classes in the country. Some physical aspects that elaborate this scenario is housing structures. It is not difficult to distinguish the lower, middle and upper class. The middle class are people with professional occupation while upper class is composed of large businessmen. The lives of these people tend to be very different compared to that of the lower class. Such individuals being treated in a similar way as the lower class might not go well with them in the future. This is more so because of the global market that tends to bring people of different origins together. In the process, they share ideas and exchange some beliefs and values. The upper and middle class might be influenced in exploiting the lower class hence denying them equal chances in the society (Thompson, 2008).
Rapid increase in population would also contribute to inequality aspects. As the population increases, there would be increased pressure that would result to massive exploitation. Australia boasts of a relatively low unemployment rate which is slightly above 4%. This means that is relatively easier for individuals to attain employment irrespective of their social class. However, if the population increased rapidly, only minimal positions will be available. The middle and upper class will tend to exploit the lower class in attaining these positions due to their financial ability. This would result in provision of unequal chances in the country.
In conclusion, Australia can be regarded as an egalitarian society. This is because of the structures, systems and social life adopted in the country. They have persisted for some time, but their continuous existence in future is not certain. This is because the upper class and the middle class might be prompted to exploit the lower class as the systems in the country tend to change. This would result in provision of unequal life chances for individuals growing up in the country.
Argy, F. (2009). Where to from here?: Australian egalitarianism under threat. Crows Nest, NSW, Australia: Allen & Unwin.
Ferraro, G. P., & Andreatta, S. (2012).Cultural anthropology: an applied perspective (Ninth ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Lepowsky, M. A. (2003). Fruit of the motherland: gender in an egalitarian society. New York: Columbia University Press.
Thompson, E. (2008). Fair enough: egalitarianism in Australia. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press ;
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