Americans can get away with this sort of outlandish behaviour because they are chronically optimistic and friendly, cheery and sincere. But Australians are supposed to be laconic, ironic satirists. Supermarkets were invented by corporate America and corporate America set the policy. “Have a nice day!” we’d hear as we struggled through the queue loaded up with our groceries. Not what we wanted to hear. And it quickly became apparent that for the poor check-out chick, it was an imposition that did not add to the niceness of her day. Have a nice day. Have a nice day. Have a nice day. By the one hundredth repetition, it sounded less like a friendly injunction to happiness than a desperate plea for help. It didn’t sit well with us. “I’ll have whatever sort of day I want and whatever it is, it won’t be bloody well nice,” we muttered. It was ridiculed extensively, then, mercifully, quietly abandoned by the supermarkets. Although sometimes it was replaced by a smiley badge with the motto on it. Aaarrgh!
But since returning to Australia from abroad, I’ve noticed a replacement phrase that seems to be used in many of my small commercial transactions. It does not seem to have been ordered by management but somehow it has achieved similar levels of ubiquity.
It’s all good.
Whenever I present to the shop assistant with annoying queries, when I slowly count out the small change, protest about the wrong price, or simply pay the bill, there is a one in two chance of getting the dreaded response, “It’s all good.”
Being of a constitutionally misanthropic and pessimistic frame of mind, I hate it. Where did it come from? When did we start saying it? When will it end?
It’s not all good, I think to myself. There’s a lot of bad around. Why can’t you recognise the reality of the world? Are you completely blind?
However, during my time away, I noticed a new speech particle emerge which I think perfectly embodies the optimistic/pessimistic sensibility of Australians. Fittingly, it emerged in that field of glorious triumph and bitter disappointment – Aussie Rules Footy.
The best afield player comes off the field. Ten goals, ten marks, forty possessions. He is clearly the matchwinner, glowing with victory. Entitled to skite (an endangered Australian verb).
“You played a great game, Robbo,” says the Channel 7 boundary rider. (Substitute Willo, Jonesy, Pendles as required).
“Yeah-na, we did alright.”
Yeah-na. The glass is never completely full or empty. The victory or defeat is never complete and is always collective. It’s sorta good. It’s OK. It’s alright but not all good.
So as an antidote to the mindless optimism of the first phrase, I’ve written the chorus to a song. Once I can slap a few verses together, I reckon it’ll be a hit. Maybe. Perhaps.
It goes like this:
It’s all good
It’s all good
It’s all good