We Australians are not great at ceremony. A few weeks ago, I attended my daughter Lucy’s university graduation at UTS in Sydney. We waited in the venue until a voiceover asked us to stand for the academic procession and the national anthem. Out of the speakers erupted a fully orchestrated soundtrack that could only be described as corporate-aspirational, with harp glissandi, multiple key changes and thumping tribal drums. It suggested either war or horses. I expected the professors to either dance up the aisle smeared in blue paint or ride wildly around the hall on horseback in a tribute to The Man from Snowy River.
Once they got there, something even more depressing took place. The playing of the national anthem. By contrast, this sounded like it had been orchestrated on an old 1980s Casio keyboard, a slightly pinched female voice sang the one verse and chorus, the academics fresh from their grand entrance mouthed whatever words they could remember, and the rest of us mostly stood in silence. No great joyous celebration of Australia, more a mumbling embarrassment. Can you imagine this happening in the US? You see sports stadiums there full of people proudly belting out their national anthem, negotiating the awkward leaps of The Star-Spangled Banner with gusto.