Published daily by the Lowy Institute

The Anglosphere: A view from Europe

The Anglosphere: A view from Europe

Dr Daniel Woker is the former Swiss Ambassador to Australia and now a Senior Lecturer at the University of St Gallen.

I was amused and intrigued by the recent ruminations on Tony Abbott's stated views on what the 'Anglosphere' means (apparently something anti-Asian, in Hugh White's interpretation) or does not mean (in Sam Roggeveen's more generous interpretation). Interesting to read, too Darryl Daugherty's riposte with a Churchill quote which appears to put the great man squarely in the camp of those stressing the non-exclusionary nature of the Anglosphere.

For over 30 years I represented abroad a country that prides itself on not belonging to any one culture-based 'sphere'. So what was I doing some few years ago, as the Australian representative of the presiding country of the 'Francophonie', giving a rousing speech on the shores of Canberra's Lake Burley Griffin on Francophonie Day as the francophone flag was hoisted?

Actually, all of this was no problem for Switzerland (and shouldn't be for Tony Abbott) as La Francophonie is an international organisation of countries linked by the common use of French within their borders, rather than by common history, let alone destiny. Hence Canada, Belgium and Switzerland are full and proud members of this organisation, despite the fact that back home other languages and cultures are of course equally considered part of the national heritage and character. [fold]

Decisive is the word 'language', which clearly delineates and limits the 'ideological' content of whatever the organisation stands for. Daryl Daugherty's quote was from Churchill's A History of the English-speaking Peoples, not '...of the Anglosphere', indicating that the great man too took care to make that crucial difference.

Talking of common language rather than any sort of common history and heritage has two big advantages for Australia. First, it would probably be more in line with the real history of the country where the 'huddled masses' from many more countries than those within the Anglosphere found refuge and a new home. Second, the common use of English by all Australians cannot in any way be seen as offensive or exclusionary towards countries and people in Australia's near-abroad in the Asia Pacific.

To the contrary, one of the great (yet often overlooked because taken as a given) byproducts of today's flat world is the use of English as the global lingua franca. Why, even young Swiss from different parts of my country often converse and write in English nowadays. Alas, this is due to the growing lack of knowledge of the German, French and Italian mother tongues. On the other hand, that's probably just as well. Thus they are learning at least one language properly, without which they will forever be IT-illiterate and unable to roam freely in today's world.

Photo by Flickr user Upsilon Andromedae.

You may also be interested in