STREWTH! Will someone get me out of here? I'm being raped by intoxicating beauty, inconceivable tranquillity, warm hospitality and a depth of cultural and historical immersion ...
The thing is, yes, I suppose staying in a rustic 250-year-old villa in Tuscany bathed in soft light, kissed by gentle sun and grazing on heavenly food would be OK if you were a masochist constantly chasing a new level of pain. Tuscany? What a hole! I long for the bliss of watching families with skin the colour of phlegm huddled around food-court tables groaning under the weight of deep-fried food, drinking Coke out of buckets, news of gangland scrag fights and the dulcet tones of talkback callers alerting all to their inflated sense of self-importance by beginning their 15 seconds of fame with "I don't normally agree with you, Derryn, but in this case you're spot on …".
Right then. Catherine sees us as ugly, spit coloured, uncultured bogans.
No doubt Catherine believes that she is establishing her elite status - that she is separating herself from the masses - by taking this attitude. But she's wrong. Anyone can claim status this way. There's nothing special or distinctive about it; it's not linked to talent, achievement or character.
In fact, someone who really was elite probably wouldn't harbour such thoughts. They wouldn't think with the same level of emotional disturbance as Catherine Deveny. They would be more likely to consider themselves a leader within their own community, advancing their own culture in some way, rather than launching diatribes against it.
There's something else that Catherine gives away in her article. In a way, she decides in favour of the conservative and the traditional. She thinks it blissful to be immersed in the culture and history of a traditional monoculture. She shows herself to prefer, in practice, a conservative way of life.
But she would never admit this in her own country. In Australia she would furiously denounce a traditional, historic way of life as being a boring monoculture. No doubt she has a left-liberal counterpart in Italy, a Caterina di Veni, who is doing exactly that, railing against her own Italian tradition as being boring, or not sufficiently left-wing, or discriminatory or parochial.
We do not have to follow the way of Catherine Deveny. You can be a literary person and identify with the best parts of your own tradition. It's interesting, for instance, to compare Catherine Deveny's views with those of C.J. Dennis. In the 1930s, Dennis wrote a poem Green Walls in which he wrote appreciatively of the sunlit Australian countryside and of his own strong and suntanned (not phlegm coloured!) countrymen:
I love all gum-trees well. But, best of all,
I love the tough old warriors that tower
About these lawns, to make a great green wall
And guard, like sentries, this exotic bower
Of shrub and fern and flower.
These are my land's own sons, lean, straight and tall,
Where crimson parrots and grey gang-gangs call
Thro' many a sunlit hour.
My friends, these grave old veterans, scarred and stem,
Changeless throughout the changing seasons they.
But at their knees their tall sons lift and yearn -
Slim spars and saplings - prone to sport and sway
Like carefree boys at play;
Waxing in beauty when their young locks turn
To crimson, and, like beaconfires burn
To deck Spring's holiday.
I think of Anzacs when the dusk comes down
Upon the gums - of Anzacs tough and tall.
Guarding this gateway, Diggers strong and brown.
And when, thro' Winter's thunderings, sounds their call,
Like Anzacs, too, they fall ...
Their ranks grow thin upon the hill's high crown:
My sentinels! But, where those ramparts frown,
Their stout sons mend the wall.