When Cristina met Kev

cfk-and-ruddster

Here you see Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on the receiving end of some of Cristina Kirchner’s famous French-polished hand gestures during the G20 summit. What ever can they be talking about?

Maybe Cristina is asking Rudd the question so many Argentines ask when they meet an Australian: Why is it that the two countries – both of them young, with vast resource-rich territories and a small, urbanised and educated population – have met with such distinct destinies?

How did a former penal colony that never even had the gumption to boot out its colonisers, whose people don’t even know how to build a decent barbecue, make a fortune on farming and mining while Argentina, with its sophisticated folk, its beautiful capital whose Hausmann-esque boulevards are lined with beaux-art palaces, go from one of the world’s richest countries in the early 20th century to one of its most dependable basket cases?

I’ve never known quite what to say when taxi drivers have asked me this, which is lucky, because taxi drivers in Buenos Aires don’t want to hear your theories – they want you to hear theirs.

It’s because Australia is full of English people! English people are much, much better than Spaniards and Italians! Did you know – the English tried to invade Buenos Aires in the 1800s and what did the Argentines do? Stepped onto their balconies and poured boiling oil on the heads of the passing soldiers! We’ve never stopped regretting it!

I have heard this sorry tale of self-loathing in at least ten taxis.

Argentina is a long way from Australia. It’s unlikely Kevin spends much time studying the vagaries of its crazy political scene run by shameless crooks, mediocre opportunists and unrepentant bullies, with a pathetic opposition shouting weakly from the sidelines. If he did, though, it’d probably remind him a lot of New South Wales.

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