It has now been four years (but who’s counting) since I published my treatise The Bogan Delusion. I admit I suffered from the centuries-old problem exposed, with levity and no little wit, by Paul Fussell in his remarkable essay Being Reviewed, which explores aspects of the “comic-pathetic dynamics” of authors and their expectations of glory. What was I thinking? Well, I thought my logic was going to kill an elitist myth!
Imagine my great surprise when my sturdy little book did not lead to questions in parliament, marching in the street or even changes in habits of the great unwashed.
People kept using that word – bogan – over and over, in different ways – all of them thinking they knew, but none of them actually knowing, what it meant.
To a certain degree, I consoled myself, this proved my point. Australia – particularly middle class Australia – “needs” to have a thing called a bogan, which it can poke fun at, expressing its own unease every step of the way. It doesn’t really matter that it’s such a cipher; or rather, that’s the point of it. The bogan is just a bogey.
The biggest bogan
I’ve never been to the scenic town of Nyngan until this morning, when I went there in Google Maps.
Along Pangee Street travelling west, just as it becomes the Mitchell Highway and heads for Bourke, there’s a patch of ground on your left bounded by Nyngan Street, Cobar Street, the highway and the Bogan River.
It is here that the Bogan Shire council plans to erect its Big Bogan (smart placement – it’s the last thing you’ll see on the way out of town). A 3.6 metre high statue “cut out of steel plate with a natural rusted surface” (says the council) with thongs, an esky and a fishing rod “for tourists to be photographed beside”.
What kind of bogan is that?
OK, all good. The fishing rod I have to say is a bit of a sleight of hand – isn’t the bogan supposed to be a racist, overspending Liberal-voting television-gobbling tramp-stamped happily undereducated stop-the-boats buck-toothed yokel?
Or wait, isn’t he meant to be a hard-rockin’ throwback white trash rapist? (Yes, he’s meant to be all that and more.)
Of course he – it’s always he, except when it’s she – rocks a four wheel drive vehicle, but he never gets it dirty outside his gas-guzzling suburban sprawl tarmac desert. (That’s about the only similarity he has with the Greens voters he so despises – he never leaves the city).
Oh, wait! Maybe you’re talking about that bogan who lives in small country towns, loves nothing more than that pub crawl that involves walking round the block and back into his local every two hours, has five kids with five different mothers and is too clueless to appreciate that he has simply adopted every cliché attached to country people since, well, pretty much since ancient Athens.
But that’s not the point: where in the script has it ever said that bogans go fishing? Seems way too active and indeed proactive an act for any bogan I’ve ever heard of.
Kylie Mole’s a bogan you know (actually she’s not – that was her frenemy Amanda – but let’s not get bogged down in detail).
Sam Worthington’s one too, and he’s got a kid called Rocket Zot to prove it. Julia Gillard’s one as well, just listen to the way she speaks.
The things is, I have never heard of any of those bogans going fishing. It’s a plot to deny the bogan his core vapidity, and to pretend he would have a reason to visit the Bogan River.
Meanwhile, in Nyngan
But who knows what smart footwork goes on around the table in the Bogan Shire council chambers. (It’s probably made of corrugated iron, lol, just tipped a little so if their stubbies fall over it just drains down to one end).
No doubt they sit around in their blue singlets pontificating (not that they’d know that word) until someone pipes up with a bright idea to get the shire going again.
In this case, apparently, it was the Reverend Graham McLeod who suggested the Big Bogan and that Nyngan should do it before the Queensland city of Logan got up in that shizzle.
Don’t worry, the Australia commentariat are on the case. One Nynganite reposted the original report regarding this proposal hoping “this doesn’t give visitors the wrong impression of Nyngan bringing an unwanted element”.
Another wittily added that the statue design “left out the packet of Winnie Blues …”.
A third opined with feeling, “Oh please don’t legitimise them, they’ll breed like rabbits!”
Nah, they probably won’t. In fact I have it on good authority the bogan is just about to die out completely. This sanitised, life-be-in-it version is just one more chink in its armour. All we have to do now is wait.