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THE COMING AUSTRALIAN.
We have it on the most ancient and reputable authority that the prophet has no honour in his own country, and centuries of experience have proved very satisfactorily that this biblical proverb is more literally true than the generality of proverbs. In all ages and countries, the philanthropic gentleman, wrapped in the inspired mantle of prophecy, and warning the gay and giddy throng of certain rocks ahead, has always been badly treated. But history furnishes us with many examples of eminent men, whose predictions founded on diligent study and close observation, were sneered and laughed at by thoughtless short-sighted contemporaries, and yet, many of these latter had the mortification to see verified in old age what had excited their laughter in youth. It is thus quite possible that an Australian writer, who, attempting a glimpse into the future, has the assurance to draw a pen-and-ink sketch of the future inhabitant of this continent, will receive more censures than compliments in the present; but, twenty years hence, people may be wondering how he could have drawn so faithful a portrait from so shadowy a subject. The time seems opportune for such a forecast, and, even at the risk of incurring the ordinary fate of prophets, I mean to attempt it. In twenty years from this date, very few of the thousands whom the golden magnet attracted from all parts of the world to Australia will be left. Their sons and daughters, born on Australian soil, will occupy their places, and form a new type of humanity. Is it possible to arrive at a fairly accurate estimate of what that type will be by studying the Australian native under his present conditions ? I think so, and if it be true that “the child is father of the man,” then one who has been engaged for more than a decade in the work of educating Young Australia in the public school may be presumed to be able to impart a little information concerning the Coming Man.
The three main characteristics of the native Australian appear to me to be the following:
1. An inordinate love of field-sports.
2. A very decided disinclination to recognise the authority of parents and superiors.
3. A grievous dislike to mental effort.
If the first of these characteristic features be regarded as a defect of character, there can be no doubt that climatic influences must form an important factor in determining the degree of fault. The native Australian lives in a sunny land, inhales a balmy air, and gazes on cheerful skies. His parents' conception of a genuine Christmas is far different to his. Their recollections of the great social event of the year are associated with bleak winds and wintry storms, falling snow, an immense fire in the biggest chimney, the entire family clustering round and listening to blood-curdling stories. Your native Australian cannot understand or appreciate such a Christmas. The only Christmas with which he is acquainted is one celebrated with all the joyous excitement of external freedom; an annual event signalised by delightful réunions in the parks and gardens, healthful excursions into the country, or boating expeditions down the river. And not at Christmas alone, or any other great festival in particular, is this preference for external life, as distinguished from internal, manifested by the native Australian. It exhibits itself throughout the year, and all contemporary evidence points to the conclusion that coming generations will gradually assimilate their mode of life to that of countries in the northern hemisphere with corresponding climatic conditions. In other words, the coming Australian will transact most of the business of life in the open air. Even now, when the native element is only just beginning to assert itself, we see how easy it is to congregate fifteen or twenty thousand young persons in one of the city reserves. In England, the most important cricket or football match will not attract more than a few thousand interested spectators ; here, at the antipodes, with an incomparably smaller population, everyone is an enthusiastic admirer of the noble games, and the mere announcement of a trial of strength between Melbourne and Jolimont in cricket, or Geelong and Carlton in football, will draw an immense concourse to the scene of action. The fact that in all the leading Australian journals there is now a regular department for the reporting of field-sports shows very plainly what a strong hold they have acquired on the popular mind.
It is no exaggeration to say that out of every ten native Australians nine spend all their leisure in the practice of either cricket or football. Now this, I contend, is carrying things to an undesirable extreme. Field sports, after all, are only a recreation, not a business; and it is a mistake to allow them to occupy the thoughts to the exclusion of other and more important considerations. There can be no objection advanced against them as muscular exercises, but the evil is, that of late years they have assumed a prominence out of all proportion to their relative place. The influence of climate, as I have already mentioned, induces this ardent devotion to field sports in the breasts of Australian natives, but it is a passion that must be kept in check, and not allowed to clash with more material interests. If permitted to run riot, as at present, the inevitable consequences must necessarily ensue, and they will prejudicially affect the Australian national character. Of course, it may be argued that this inordinate devotion to muscular exercises is only the exuberance of youth; that when young Australians grow older and enter upon the serious business of life, they will be less ardent in their attachment to the sports of the field. This may be true, hut, even if we admit its truth, is it not a serious matter that the spring-time of life, the vigour of early manhood, should be practically wasted by this excessive indulgence in physical pleasures at the expense of mental cultivation, for that is, what it really means. In the sunny south there must ever be a sympathetic interest in all that pertains to manly sports, and so long as that interest is confined within reasonable bounds, the Australian native will be served and improved; but if the present policy is to be permanent, if the arena of muscle is to be the only arena in which the young Australian means to shine, if excellence in cricket or fooball is to be the summit of the Australian native's ambition, then it is pretty safe to predict, that the Coming Man will suffer considerably by comparison with his ancestors.
The second head of our subject embodies a very serious defect in the young Australian's character-his decided disinclination to recognise the authority of parents and superiors. One of the most keen-sighted critics in the southern hemisphere—Dr. Moorhouse, Anglican Bishop of Melbourne—was quick to discern this ugly spot, and his feelings prompted him to give utterance to some scathing remarks on what he characterised as the “want of reverence” manifested by young colonials. Whatever may be the reason, it is undoubtedly a fact that the native Australian acquires a feeling of
independence at a far earlier age than is the case in older lands, and parental government in the colonies certainly does not exercise that wholesome restraining influence which should be its main ingredient. As a necessary consequence, this indifference to domestic authority inevitably leads to a similar disrespect for national authority; for, where the laws of the household are not regarded, the laws of the State, by a sure process, must come to be disregarded also. Hence it is that in the colonies, and more especially in Victoria, the percentage of juvenile crime is so abnormally large as to cause serious misgivings for the future. It has recently been officially reported that, in the chief penal establishment of this colony, there never were so many young culprits confined as at present—that, in point of fact, they constitute the great majority of the prisoners ; and one of our most experienced police magistrates, a short time ago, speaking from the bench of the Melbourne City Police Court, publicly expressed his surprise and regret at seeing so many young persons brought before him day after day. “I tremble for the rising gederation,” was the sorrowful remark of Dr. Perry, the predecessor of the present Anglican Bishop of Melbourne, and no one can doubt that the right reverend prelate's fears were amply justified. To such an extent has youthful misconduct become an institution amongst us, that some ingenious individual coined a very expressive word as a distinguishing term for it; and this word, notwithstanding the reproach it contains on the fair fame of the colony, has been generally accepted and is now in quite common use. enterprising Australian publisher issue an English dictionary, he would be in honour bound to include in it two analogous words of native growth, viz., the noun “larrikinism” (to which I have just referred), and the verb to "stonewall," an antipodean term that it should delight us to know is now freely quoted and practically exemplified in the classic halls of Westminister.
This pretty general indifference to, or “want of reverence” for, authority I attribute to the defective early education of most young Australians. The State does too much for the people in the colonies. The State here, in a measure, usurps parental rights, and insists on children being educated in accordance with Government routine. Such a military style of education may have its advantages, but it has likewise some very serious disadvantages, and not the least serious is that it engenders a feeling of apathy in regard to the noble work of home-training. And then, another element of the evil is the senseless policy of misplaced gentleness
that obtains in our public schools. If in any land the good old precept of “Spare the rod and spoil the child” should be acted upon, it is in this southern land of ours, where children so readily acquire a dangerous feeling of independence. And yet, strange to say, here it is enacted that corporal punishment in schools must practically cease; for, when the conditions under which it may be administered are examined, this is what the Victorian Ministerial regulation virtually means. As the future men and women of the land are now in the school-room, the moulding-place of their character, it is fervently to be hoped that this most unwise humanitarian experiment will speedily be discontinued.
Young Australia's third defect of character I have described as a grievous dislike to mental effort.” Is it not exceedingly strange that, whilst the most eager interest is manifested in the doings of the Australian cricketers in England, the utmost indifference is shown towards the triumphs of Australian genius in other and more ennobling spheres? Not long ago, the unknown reporter of a Victorian provincial journal, confident in his own powers, proceeded to London and published a work of such striking originality that he was immediately assigned a place in the front rank of English novelists. This gentleman-Mr. B. L. Farjeon—is now generally regarded as the only legitimate disciple of Charles Dickens, the only living writer whose name is at all worthy of association with that of the great master of modern fiction. Yet how many Australians have read “Grif," "Joshua Marvel,” or “ London's Heart?" Does one Australian native out of ten even know the name of this man of genius, who laboured unknown in their midst for years, and is now a man of mark in the world's metropolis? And is this the extent of our boasted “civilisation” and “enlightenment?” Trickett, the rower, and Murdoch, the cricketer, who achieve nothing more than what an ignorant South-sea islander could do if he wished, are to be cheered and lauded, their portraits submitted for our admiration, and their glorious deeds enthusiastically described in the newspapers, whilst men of brains like Farjeon are to be treated with cold neglect. The more one thinks, the more one is convinced of the absolute truth of the Chelsea philosopher's cynical remark regarding the inhabitants of this mundane spherethat they are “mostly fools." Take another illustration of this Australian contempt for the triumphs of mind. Victoria had once in her midst a painter of genius, who certainly did not receive that place of honour amongst us to which his artistic merit entitled him. He, too,