Since the Enlightenment we’ve held that scientific proof is necessary to accept facts as true. Then Postmodernism crept up on us and declared science dead. But my parents alone are proof that intelligent people can believe in the virtues of science in their professions (my mother is a Psychologist, my father was a Maths teacher) and yet concurrently hold the strangest, weirdest of theories. While they would present to you as completely rational people, they do hold weird ideas, and I’ve found they are not alone…
An Anthropologist Professor warned me that weird theories are also alive and well in America, centering around Aliens, Colonel Saunders and the Ku Klux Klan. So in the interests of cross cultural exploration, I thought I would let you in on some weird theories some Australians hold.
#1: Strange beliefs about “the other side of the world”…
These aren’t unique to Australians, as even in the Greco-Roman era there were voyages to “the other side of the world”. Since then, however our topology (mapping systems) and tracking have greatly improved, and thus holding to weird theories about the world is inexcusable. For those in Sydney, confusion is understandable – especially given how “the other side of the world” is commonly portrayed. For example, at Christmas in the shops there is an excessive amount of snow – despite the fact Australians are happily eating watermelon, prawns (what we call shrimp) and sitting on the beach. Theories some Australians actually believe is that the temperature of the sides of the world are linked, and opposite; proven by a skype conversation with my mother yesterday from L.A. It went as follows:
Me: Well, I guess that this sudden Spring Sydney weather disproves our theory that the weather on the other side of the world is the direct opposite – we’re both wearing Summer clothes right now.
Mum: we’ll see, we’ll see.
I guess by December my mother expects to see me sitting by a log fire, knee-deep in snow here in California … something the Los Angelos promise me will not happen. The truth is, while the names of the seasons are opposite within our language (while it is ‘Fall’ here in L.A., it’s ‘Spring’ in Sydney), there is no connection between the temperature of Sydney and the opposite side of the world… in fact, Sydney does not even have four distinct seasons in the same way Europe does. Here is a link to view the characteristics of six seasons identified by Indigenous Australians: http://www.bom.gov.au/iwk/dharawal/index.shtml
There are other weird beliefs originating from elsewhere. When I was a little child eating morning cereal, my grandfather used to say, “…with that spoon you could eventually dig to China”. Now, I don’t know if you’ve seen a map of the world recently, but the coördinates of Sydney are not favorable for this type of excavation. One could theoretically dig to China by way of the Pacific Ocean, but not via the center of the world, which what he meant at that time. Should you dig from Sydney and take a bit of an angle, you may emerge in Senegal, Africa – the nearest landmass. Or, most disappointingly if you dug straight, you could end up floating in the Atlantic Ocean.
#2: The Daddy Longlegs is the most poisonous of spiders but its teeth cannot pierce human skin
Ok this one makes sense that it’s an urban legend. Who is actually going to sit there and allow a spider the size of a Daddy Longlegs (picture attached for Americans) to gnaw at their arm? Obviously this is outside legal guidelines for ethics approval… I suggest you don’t try to disprove the theory. What we do know, however, is that the venom of Daddy Longlegs is less poisonous than other spiders, most importantly the ferocious Australian Funnel Web Spider – may it reign uncontested.
#3 Vegemite is banned from entry into the U.S. due to folate.
Now you have to understand, there are only a few foods which are a patriotic right for Australians. One of these is Vegemite, made from the edible byproduct of beer (another Australian right). Apparently 9 out of 10 Aussie homes have Vegemite in them – I cannot think of a home that doesn’t – but I have heard once, “we’re all out and haven’t had time to go to the shops”. This may be due to the fact I have never seen ‘off Vegemite’. I think that stuff would survive a nuclear attack. Today, when researching Australian foods for “cultural dinner” tonight, I found a group of Australians were led to believe that the U.S. Government under George Bush had placed import restrictions upon Vegemite. They were furious… and sent multiple letters to the White House. And, a couple of months ago, The Sydney Morning Herald reported Vegemite as banned in Denmark, forcing the Danish Government to deny the vicious rumours and welcome Aussies to submit the paperwork required for a special permit for foods ‘fortified with vitamins’. In true Aussie style, we’re too lazy to put in the paperwork, but the petitions abound on the internet …
Check out the poor Danish Government’s thoughts on the matter here: http://www.uk.foedevarestyrelsen.dk/ImportExport/Legislation_on_import_of_food/Marmite_not_banned_in-Denmark.htm
Anyways, that’s all for today … apologies again for posting so irregularly on my wordpress site during my PhD. Feel free to sign up your email address so you don’t miss posts in between my random facebook paraphenia – especially as we get close to the launch of my new, first, solo album. SUPER excited… might have to go eat some Vegemite, which I got through customs to the U.S. just fine.