Aussie Life

Aussie Life

5 September 2020

9:00 AM

5 September 2020

9:00 AM

Peter Scammell

There is no doubt that the corona virus pandemic is changing the way we live and think about things. Words we hadn’t used for years such as hub, cluster and social distance are common place now, and many people have learned how to spell hygiene. Even the word epidemiology has entered the lexicon of mainstream conversation. The expansion of everyone’s vocabulary has been unprecedented.

Corona reporting has not let us down with its ubiquitous usage of acronyms; the CHO, CMO, PPE, CDC and the WHO, to name just a few.

The language of the text message, with words like gr8 and lol was turning us all into monosyllabic grunters, when miraculously we discovered things like artificial intelligence and algorithms. Just as with political correctness pre-corona, words of three syllables or more are flooding back into the language: such as diversity, inclusiveness and entitlement which are these days de rigueur.

As with all conversation, colourful descriptors can be all the more effective when accompanied by appropriate facial expressions. Unfortunately, just as verbal expressions were reaching heights not seen since the days of Menzies or Whitlam and dare I mention the articulate jousting of Jim Killen and Fred Daley in federal parliament circa 1970, along came the Covid facial mask. We can no longer even exchange a pleasant smile when passing a casual acquaintance in the mall or with the check-out chick, when paying for our toilet paper etc. at the supermarket. An empathetic, grim and thin-lipped response to someone telling us that they have just lost their job is hidden by the mask. A painted on smile may not always be appropriate. The emoji may be the answer. By putting them on our smart-phone, we would simply need to tap and highlight the emotion we wish to convey.

Masks are rapidly becoming a fashion statement with colours and patterns to match the day’s outfit. Vaccine or not, could this become a permanent state of affairs? After all we are living in strange times.

Facial recognition technology is struggling but the techno-geniuses are feverishly stepping up the work to perfect a thing called periocular recognition. This is where algorithms look at a person’s eyes and eyebrows. I can see some problems with this – eyebrows are changed on a whim by some people and consider for example scanning a crowd looking for the presence of say The Lone Ranger or Batman. They may have to include algorithms for a large, starkly white horse and an incredibly fancy looking automobile in order to achieve a 100 per cent success rate. It may be a good idea to use Dame Edna as the standard test. If the algorithms can’t spot her in a crowd, even wearing a mask, then it would be back to the drawing board.

When considering a world battling with this pandemic, some positive words come to mind; words such as resilience, stoicism, ingenuity and responsibility, to name just a few. The wearing of masks also provides some relief from that soulless experience we encounter all too frequently. Our own inbuilt algorithm is, at least for the time being, protected from that facial look, commonly known as the poker face, sometimes called the po-face.

Perhaps Corona ain’t all bad.

Marita Punshon

I feel as if I am standing in a crowd of people stuck on the corner of Cuckoo and Crazy Streets in downtown La La Land.

We are waiting for the green stick figure to flash and let us cross to the other side where there might be relief from the madness of the latest trend in town.

The trend is not the newest shape in denim, or the baring of midriffs that I don’t care to see. It is the trend of what you can say and what you cannot. Of what name is okay and what name is not.

The name of this trend itself induces brain lethargy, cancel culture.

Coon cheese is no longer Coon cheese – a name apparently so culturally offensive, yet one that merely identifies the man who developed the manufacturing method required for the product. Chicos, those chewy little delights, are abhorrent to modernity.  So too the strappy teeth-moving morsels, Red Skins.  Offensive to the max.

How Colonial beer has survived the tempest is baffling – surely it should have stumbled when dealt the blow and wrath of high stakes social superiority? And yet, there it is, Colonial beer still on the shelves. Gutsy.

We are told that all these things must offend.  That they are delinquent. That they spawn a vernacular treachery towards race, gender, colour, equality and God knows what else.

To the regressive progressives, these things are more important than clean water in Africa, the rights of the Rohingyan refugees, the treatment of Uyghur minorities in China, and gosh, just the bad behaviour of China generally.

Cancel culture intends to wipe sanity from our streets and products from our shelves.

So why is it then that one brand – with perhaps the most controversial name of all – is unchallenged in this forsaken race to win the stupidity stakes?

In these pandemic days where the Coronavirus is killing hundreds of thousands of people globally, and challenging the heart and lungs of millions more, one might think that any product with a name relating to such a brute might go straight to the top of the cancel culture charts.

The product is Corona beer. Produced in Mexico and this year named the most valuable beer brand worth more than $8 billion US dollars. Heineken comes in second at $6.9 billion.

A recent report by Brand Finance indicates Corona beer has spread its wings across 120 countries, including China, the largest consumer of the beer. It seems that the sales in that country have gone down possibly because of the link between the brand name and the virus.

So why is it that a brand with a killer name remains untouched? A beer with a brand name that is wiping out economies for generations to come. A beer with a brand that is the same as The Virus.

If ever there was a brand that should have us marching in the streets, our voices hoarse with venom, this is the one.  And yet not one furrowed brow.


Because people can separate a brand name from those who say ‘boo’. The public understands branding for what it is – not the implied horror that some wish it to be.

The public knows that offence is not meant: that it is merely a name, no more, no less. A name nevertheless – like most big brands – that costs billions to create, keep afloat and have cherished in the forefronts of our minds and our memories.

Why can’t it be assumed that the beer approach can also be taken to Coon, Chicos or Red Skins? We separate Corona beer from the virus that kills.  I think we can separate a lolly from a perceived racial slur.

The confected outrage is as synthetic and contrived as the cause itself. There are more offensive things written on tee-shirts than on packaging.

The mob down on the corner of Cuckoo and Crazy Streets in downtown La La Land hear this kind of nonsense as they slosh done a cool Corona and they simply say ‘huh?’.

They cannot wait to cross the road and get to the corner of Thank God it’s Over and You Can’t Be Serious Streets.

One block down, they can see the cancel mob heading down a one-way street with blinkers on.

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