Having all but given up on writing political commentary these last couple of years due to the real fact that no-one is listening to ACTUAL constructive criticism and most social/political blogs have gone over to a continuous rinse and repeat of puerile whinging of the “Morrison is a poo-bum” type of structural commentary, I have decided to once again enter the fray with a rant on MY favourite complaint and one that ought to get at least a degree of rational critique..and why not?
The problem we meet right from the start with most social media blogs, is that they are run or moderated by middle-class people…those very persons that Thorsten Veblen quite astutely identified with having a vested interest in the debate and would manage the direction the conversation was going through the comments sections with their and others in the cabal of a “Consciousness of kind” affiliation…so we end up where we now are with this puerile “poo-bum” intellectual discourse where agility of skewered, witty abuse is the most revered of critique.
Petty, middle-class political/social philosophy in our sphere of influence..particularly the ones affecting the working classes, reached its zenith under the leadership of Thatcher, Reagan and Howard, whose destruction of worker’s wages, rights, tertiary education for the greater population and unionism also reached the giddy heights of wrack, racism and ruin and our humanity simultaneously dived to its nadir…which examples the best description of the Excelsior position the middle-classes have been striving toward for so many decades.
For what IS the point of a middle-class?
Truly..what do they contribute toward the betterment of humanity?
Some would splutter and say ; They run mines, factories, corporations, social programs for the poor and destitute…they make the laws and jurisprudence work…they write the curricula for education across the three tiers…They frame the behaviour of social decency and parliamentary procedures and on and on and on and you tell me ONE…ONE!!..not two..just ONE of those above subjects that they haven’t constructed to most suit and benefit their own class most of all and tell us which one they also have not used and abused to profit their own class the most and again which one has NOT fell at some point in the last few years to be utterly and completely corrupted, used and abused by that same class to further their own interests?
We have seen the petty middle-class leadership, graduated in most part from those fagg-assisted private schools and colleges whose main objective seems to be inculcating an education of pederasty and bastardry in equal measure into the mindset of the most mean-spirited and obnoxious arseholes that their (personally constructed for their own use) God could ever breathe breath into!..till our business, education, Government authorities and judiciary is bulging at the seams with the graduates of those pusillanimous institutions sharing the spoils of biased and prejudiced wealth-management networks.
It is an utter, utter disgrace!
Poor Russia…Poor China…Poor Cuba..They worked so hard to rid themselves of the parasitic aristocracy with worker’s uprising and revolution..(oh yes..I know you’re going to say “organised by the middle-classes”..well fuck the middle-classes!!…they would just be shouting/pissing into the wind without the mob holding the guns…so fuck off with your middle-class..they were just the semicolon preceding the sentence!) only to be confronted on all sides with Western middle-class anxiety that this form of communist governance just may be a good thing…just may be working!…so the West drew lines under the worker’s frontiers and slammed into their own prisons any who sought to promote the slightest demand for equality, rights and fair wages…anathema to the philosophy of the middle-class whose raison d’être is for a “healthy bottom line” for their own and screw the rest!
And that fuckin’ Howard..the epitome of the most mean-spirited, penny-pinching little store-keeper class that bred the likes of those American corporate billionaire wankers like Hughes and Hilton..both of whom ran scurrilous dens of iniquity..the types that Howard licked the boots of…at least Menzies pined for a bit of royal arse!…but this latest little mongrel turns the working tradies of the nation into wanking, aspirant investors by forcing them to register as a “small business”..and our military..once the pride of ANZAC tradition, into little more than hired mercenaries for the upper middle-class corporate war-mongers and profiteers, while he also ran a side industry with them killing off those refugees who fled those very wars and managed to survive the terrors of a perilous sea crossing in leaky boats..the most notorious killing of over 300 women and children in the abandoned, sinking “Sieve X”..
Seriously..it’s gone far enough..TOO FAR EVEN..and it has got to stop..There are enough well-educated working-class people now in the field to take control and reorganise the entire system of governance and jurisprudence so as to be better placed to serve the vast majority of citizens of the nation…No more of this bullshit policing that polices only the lower echelons of society..the basic crim’s…that’s easy to do…it’s the vast acres of political and corporate corruption that needs serious investigation, but that’s never going to happen under a set of principles put in place by the middle-class…as if they are going to investigate themselves..they’ll never “see the forest of corruption for the trees of private profit” until they cut the bloody lot down!
No..it’s time consideration was given to the complete removal of those who aspire to a greater wealth than can be called fair amount. Time to call a halt on the number of properties owned and rented above one. Time to cull the middle-class from both our Parliament and judiciary, their twisted methodology and corrupt mindsets need to be sent away for “re-education”..yes..perhaps it IS time we “do a China” and re-write the constitution and re-set the ambition of this country to more suit the majority…FOR A CHANGE!..FOR A FAIR DEAL !
As a person of bronchial difficulties when a young man, James discovered that if he placed his thumbs gently into the nasal cavities and flared his nostrils with this manipulation, his inhale of breathe through the nose would be enhanced..and as a bonus, the extra air rushing through would dry the nasal discharge and alleviated the continued blowing of his nose that often resulted in a soreness and reddening of his skin there…so to allow the continued…enjoyment…of this new found discovery, he would softly scrunch pieces of facial tissue paper into a blunt, conical shape and insert these into the nostrils to hold them open…the resulting appearance gave James the look..in abstract..of a dragon with flames shooting from his nose..
“I trust you are not going to go out in public looking like THAT!” his mother admonished…
Of course he never even considered such..but this was an example of the small but important discoveries that made James’s life more comfortable…for THAT was his primary objective in life..: Comfort…or rather..: The avoidance of discomfort.
“Nov course nort” James replied with a nasal blockage tang “Nyou think I worn’t to look nstupid”.
The other discovery he stumbled upon in his younger years and continued right into old age, was the practice of when removing his clothes at night, he would NOT take the garments off in a singular manner..that is; one at a time, but rather keep them coupled by removing undershirt, shirt and jumper (in winter) in one complete batch..so to speak..and shuck them over his shoulder to sit open-throated, so to speak, ready to slip on again in the same order come morning on the floor near his bed…the same for his trousers and shoes and socks…small things, yes..but things nether the less that made for more comf….no…made for less discomfort…less discomfort…there IS a difference….and again, his mother had to be made aware of his preference for this form of dressing lest she uncaringly kick the clothing into the corner of his room with a disgusted..:
“You’ve had these same clothes on for the last week…for God’s sake, they are starting to smell!”
“Only to YOU”…James would sulkingly reply “I find them just worn in to my body shape..it takes about a week to get them just right.”
Of course, these little quirks of behaviour were the ones familiar to his young years..and even if they did roll over into his older age, there were others gathered up upon the way through life that James would apply and maintain to keep the ferocious wolves of discomfort from his door.
These “discomforts” were not only restricted to physical things, like clothing or mechanical devices like the car or power tools…particularly tape-measures which would after prolonged use break down and the inner spring that retracted the tape suddenly slip within the device and not allow the tape to go back and one would be left with the full eight metres of rattling/crackling, crinkling useless measure all a-jumble in one’s arms…a most distressing situation…solved by having at least three or four tape measures available so that the one measure was not relied upon at any one time and reduce the possibility of being left with a jumbled mess and no tape-measure…or even into things concerning food, like taste or too hot, either spicily or temperature wise…he even developed a dislike in his later years for getting wet..not to the detriment of washing oneself, but in going for a swim or when the relatives came to visit from interstate and everyone wanted to go to the beach and wade in the waters of the low tide…a youth of growing up by the sea left James with an aversion for both the smell and the salty residue on skin of sea-water…but these discomforts also extended into his emotional life, those feelings of emotional discomfort when confronted with, say, sickness or the death of a friend or family member…having to attend funeral and wake and all those moments of (sometimes) false sympathy and the lauding to the heavens of someone even disliked when living…for in James’s mind, grief was like poetry…it was best internalised and experienced within one’s own body and mind…and of course, there was James’s first marriage with a wife who embraced enthusiastically..religiously..the principles of “New Age” philosophy..to the extent she became an apostle of one American guru ridiculously re-named Joice Bleeeby…the “Joice” there to rhyme both in spelling and sound with “Voice”..as in her blurb pamphlet; “The Voice of Joice!”…and the extra “e” in her surname so as to emphasise by phonetic extension the self-importance of her presence.
This worshipping of New Age practices involved the acute discomfort to James of attending workshops where it seemed the main emphasis besides the passing from person to person of a “talking-stick” of a locally gathered tree-twig with a chook-feather attached, secured with plaited wool thread to the stick..was on turning adjectives into nouns..as in adding a “ness” to the adjective..so that “Well”, became “wellness”..and “Whole”, became “wholeness”..as with the “wholeness” of the thing….It was in the rolling off the tongue action at one workshop by this Joice Bleeeby of such “ness” words that James couldn’t help but slip in his own ness-word..
“Lochness” he blurted out before he could stop himself..the fraternity of new-age disciples all turned frowning to him..”..The monster…y’know?..I..I..just thought of it..”James mumbled…but it was clear the guru thought otherwise and after the session was seen to have a quiet chat with James’s wife.
“I am not prepared to stay in a relationship with you unless you pay more attention to what Joice is telling us”..she sternly announced after the workshop……..James had to agree with her and that was the beginning of the end of THAT marriage….actually, the relationship began to slip away with the recent moving of house and family to a suburb with a lower status postcode…it being a very difficult situation to rise in social status from a lowly postcode…from, 5153 to 5251 to 5152…you can see the difference, surely?…the lower the number, the higher the status..James’s wife harboured secret aspirations for the last of those numbered postcodes, and was prepared to sacrifice almost anything regarding their relationship to gain it!
And in truth, it was that driving ambition of James’s first wife that opened up the most sublime and ingenious insight to a philosophy that would seal the direction of his destination toward an elimination of social discomfort and solve that most complex of conundrums plaguing modern life..; decisions, decisions, decisions?…which, where or what to choose?
How many times have we asked ourselves why we did a certain action, the result of which ended up detrimental to our wellbeing…no, not wellness…wellbeing..? After the building of several family homes and the trials and tribulations from a failed marriage which resulted in the loss of accrued collateral from the division of material possessions, this question vexed the mind of James for many nights. Why, he asked himself, after fulfilling the social obligations of work, marriage, children, a home built, could things from so far outside his sphere of influence and decision making bring the whole construct crashing down without so much as a squeak of support from that very society whose “rules of engagement” he obeyed to the letter?
Chance, James decided, played a more important role in the affairs of humanity then has been given credit for..as a matter of fact, he reflected, chance is a integral part of this modern social engineered society..’yers pays yer’s money and yers takes yer chances’ the modern-day catch-cry of civilised society. This momentary diversion in his thoughts brought back an incident in his younger bachelor days when he would happily place a bet on the horses. These wagers were a “penny-punter” affair as his gambling money was a quite small amount. He would ‘study the form’ on race day, a Saturday, pick his horses and go to the Totalizer Agency and place his bets then retire to the hotel to have some beers with his mates and listen to the races. These wagers were usually unsatisfactory in a winning sense and he began to wonder on the worth of studying the form of the horses…it seemed that chance, or the machinations of “fixed races” played a bigger part then the mere record of past races of any one horse..so James decided to try a different approach, partly bought on by his laziness in continuing to try to pick a specific winner and also by a simple mathematical sum…that being that in the usual fifteen horse race, there were four chances of a payout on the ticket..: First plus place, second and third…so that made the chances of getting at least ONE payout of whatever amount a roughly one in four chance if just picking a random number. But how does one pick a random number without being influenced by the opinion of the forms or the tipsters?…simple..: one takes one suite of a deck of cards..Ace to King..that makes thirteen, throw in two jokers and you got your fifteen runners..shuffle and then turn over a card and bet on the random number that turns up..three cards for winner, second and third…of course you mark the jokers for differentiation..
While this method seem absurd and quite simplistic, it worked!…James started getting extraordinary results using the method…not only winners, but daily doubles and quinellas!…even to the point where one delightful Saturday won him enough money to purchase a cheap, second-hand car that only needed a few patches of sheet-metal pop-riveted on and “bogged” to cover the rust in the door panels..and bango! Bob’s your uncle!
This good fortune continued on for a few months, albeit in a still penny-punter way till, in an attempt to try and increase his chance of winning, James started to consult once again the form of the horses whose numbers he had randomly picked with the cards and started to change bets from those he considered hopeless to others with better form…and it was this betrayal of the God of fortune that broke his run of luck and he eventually gave gambling on the horses away completely.. acknowledging with a mea-culpa admission that his greed had let him down. .but the lesson with chance was learned..: There is considerable opinion behind the thesis that there is no pattern to chance..but in James’s conclusions, he decided that the pattern of chance is identifiable in that it HAS NO PATTERN….and THAT is the secret to managing chance…ie; you take a chance on chance.
And it was this lesson with chance that James now ruminated upon in regards that bigger gamble of fortune..: Life.
“What was the point” he mused “of planning, plotting a course, making choices regarding one’s budget and work balances to only have all those best laid plans come to nought?”…and he calculated there and then that with so many millions of other people likewise scheming, planning and choosing, and in the end being manipulated by forces so far outside their sphere of control or influence, the multitude of variables that overlap, collide and determine one’s life are so legion, so multitudinous, one might as well NOT make life-changing decisions based on a false premise that we are all on a “level playing field” and in point of fact, make it a clear objective to do the opposite of – like the horse racing form – trying to pick a winner..
The conclusion James came to and which influenced ALL future decisions in his life was to not try to pre-empt an outcome, but to actually …do nothing!……just sit tight in patience, riding out the storm of chance, waiting for the dust to settle on the fracas of life around him and then to just select the best of what remained..which, as experience of the many years that had passed since he made his fortunate discovery, was the best and most beneficial decision he could have made.
So I pass this on to you with a ; Bon voyage mes amis!
There’s an insanity sweeping unrestrained throughout the Western World, that when held against the calm discipline of certain Asiatic nations, has all the hallmarks of a system in the last days of anarchy and chaos..the only restraining factor from a complete fall into social mayhem being the inability..possibly brought on by the chaos…for the forces of sane and disciplined governance to become organised.
The Western powers display all the arrogance of a declining tyranny…the arrogance of Rome in its last days…all glitter and bling with no substance..and there is a reason for this decline, this failure to correct the slide into an abyss of self-destructive consumption..The West has all the hallmarks of the parasite in the last epoch of feeding upon its starving host.
What is it that has brought us to this terrible place?
I know what it is and how to correct the symptoms.
I have written so many times on the sickness consuming our societies, only to be mocked and rebuffed time and again..or even worse, the use of that last “big-gun” standby of those who will not listen…I…like so many history-reading augers who have placed this information before the feet of our “learned sages” in the social media fields..we are ignored…ignored to the point of being deliberately snubbed by these fools and falsely-informed stooges of their class…but I am stubborn so I will persist yet again to say to you that it is the totally corrupted middle-classes who have brought us to the very edge of the precipice and without radical alteration, will take us over and to our certain destruction…and I say the; now..at this time in history..we are but a step away from that disaster.
Since the time of the decline and fall of the Western Aristocratic powers at the end of the First WW..the middle-classes have taken control of high governance…they already had for a long time controlled the finances of the Western World and did manipulate the banking and economic destinies of their many “holdings”…these possessions were the colonies so many European Aristocratic powers had carved out of Asia, Africa, the South Pacific, South Americas and elsewhere…IF there was anywhere else TO carve!…Once the Aristocracy had mortgaged their foreign holdings to the hilt, then their domestic estates likewise to maintain a bankrupting world of magnificent estates, fanciful luxury and indolent lifestyles, the mortgagees then foreclosed on this lifestyle, bringing to an end the Aristocratic delusion of supreme confidence of their supreme power..the fine historical dust of destiny had settled upon their marble busts and portraits and the mantle of power shifted from the Aristocratic shoulder to the hip-pocket of their bankers..likewise, did the limitless plunder from those colonial “outposts of progress” so brutally set up in far away places.
Unfortunately, these “new kids on the block” lacked the cunning savvy and experience that a thousand plus years of feudal rule had taught the Aristocrats..; that skill of how to secure the holding of a colony in “savage country”…: The paying off of one toady group from that nation to viciously suppress their own people and so absenting the need (except in the occasional unfortunate uprising by the natives) for a large stationary army at great cost..a lesson learned in their home academy’s from the study of Roman History and THEIR learned lesson on how to manage a civilian population. This sudden very fruitful windfall gave licence for the now centre of power middle-classes to take matters into their own hands and the plunder and exploitation grew to immense proportions as individual moguls bid for the franchises of raw commodities and slave labour…and leaving out the predictable lineal descriptions of “what happened next”, we come to these times of endless possession wars and skirmishes to the sad and lonely place we find ourselves in now.
So..where are we now?
We in the western sphere of capitalism are standing at a point where we either stage some sort of revolution against the middle-classes who now lack moral, ethical and capable knowledge to manage governing to step back from the fall…or we fall…there is no “third way”, for those who manage the money, now “manage” the elections. The middle-class has gorged itself for so many years on the flesh of the poor, the vulnerable and the susceptible, that it knows not how to stop..it is the addict that has passed the point of cure..the hunger for affluence reaching from the upper echelons of that class down to the lowliest citizen of the richest nations of The West so that even the most wretched of these will defend a creed that they are certain..given time..is their own tragic and pathetic vision of a life of gauche, squalid luxury on the back of borrowed capital and mortgaged youth to a old age of being literally consumed, body and soul by the last line of capitalism gone mad..; the aged-care homes of even more desperate middle-class speculators and parasites…A no more wretched picture of a society gone wrong could be drawn from the pages of a Victor Hugo novel to be placed at our feet for us to peruse at our own indolent leisure.
So, what do we do?
If we consult any number of historical tomes, from the primary sources of ancient literature, to the scholarly studies of such ancient mores and civilisations, we will read of a natural adaption of habitual behaviour that leads to the fall of such civilisations…they also have been recorded popularly as “The Seven Deadly Sins”…Greed/avarice being up there at the top…the lessons from those eras tell us that confident, central governance with a big “at arms length” bureaucracy that has firm control of both regulation of economic affairs and trade, along with solid command of the military, is the best method for strong, secure governance.
If we consult the wily Machiavelli of renaissance fame, we read his sage observations on governing a state, refer to the difficulty of restoring a republic to order and rule of law if both the ruling elite and the people become corrupt and stay so after two periods of change of leader…himself doubting if such a society COULD be brought back to good order without some degree of mayhem and bloodshed…a place we certainly do not wish to go…WE, here in Australia have had several changes of leadership under the LNP to only see the Party degenerate from silly to weak to catastrophic corruption…a slide toward that inevitable precipice…We now have a degenerate government of criminals and perverts…the women no better than the men, the poorest of them scrambling for possessions of property to equal the richest..The most intellectually inept holding centre stage with the most incompetent and all the while being stage-managed by facilitators and a media that itself is more concerned with property than propriety…with image rather than imagination…it is a catastrophic disaster that alongside the portending danger of climate change, is NOT waiting to happen, it is already upon us.
A political party that brings into its ranks more of the working trade skilled and working trade-professions who know and experience the needs and demands at the “coal-face” of our society, will be the party that can give good guidance and leadership into the future…The middle-classes must be removed from the higher positions of governance and power…the middle-class businesspeople must be held away from influencing governance and the bureaucracy allowed to manage the strings of governance without fear of interference or favour of bribery or reward..the old civil service pride must be restored and its methodology, however stodgy and meticulous, maintained.
The problem is a Entrepreneurial / Speculative middle-class that now has control of the entire mechanism of governance..a majority of whom have been coached and indoctrinated by the corrupting influence of the private school/college system so the even without direct orders from the higher echelon of power, there is an automatic “knowledge” via the “nod & wink” consciousness of kind to do as has been designated through their coddled education.. We must be rid of these parasites.
When we look to the Chinese success story, we see a nation governed safely, securely and soundly with all the appearance of steady leadership and a solid direction of ambition and goals for the people. It has to be admitted, that of all the major players upon the world stage of economics, politics, military and domestic law and order, China leads the way and while it must be also admitted that such a system may be a tad too authoritarian for a nation of our number population to follow, given WE are only 24 millions against China’s 1400 millions…there is a lesson there of curtailing those whose hubris far exceeds decency and considerate behaviour…of those who would seek reward through betrayal of one’s nation and culture and a policing force unafraid to enforce those laws that provide the most vulnerable citizens a sense of national pride WITH safety and security.
‘Twas the hour before the gloaming, when the hardest of the day’s work was done…the bulk of the fortnight’s work actually, for this day marked the winding-up of the harvest..the end of a year’s work of harrowing, ploughing, seeding and watching the crops grow..to now, the winding down of the end of the year’s worry and work…The crop was in, harvested, winnowed and bagged, the carrier contractor with his sons, was loading the last truck of sewn bags of wheat to cart to the rail-head to be shipped to the port. It had been a “paying year” for the cropping…not a bumper year like the one two years ago, but still a good year..and as far as the head of the family went, a good harvest to finish up on.
Mattheus Kreuger tipped the last bucket of hard-feed into the horse’s trough, his eye cast over the mix and texture of the feed with the experienced eye of an old horseman-farmer…Mattheus was never one to either under or over-feed his team of draught horses, knowing from bitter experience from the days of want and scarcity just how much maintained a balance of good condition in a working horse.
“Matt!” the carrier called over the yard “Matt!…we’re on our way…catch you with the receipt up at home?”
“Right you are John…be there tomorrow afternoon…catch you then”..and he gave a dismissing wave as he walked to the feed shed..the truck chassis heaved a creaking groan with the revving of the engine as it set off in a cloud of raised dust out of the farm-gate.
Home for the Kreuger family was not where they farmed these paddocks..like several Mallee Flats farmers, the main house and spread was in the hills above these drylands…in that part of the state where the grazing of fat-lambs was more reliable with the higher rainfall and better feed. But here on the flats, there was sufficient rain for good cropping which needed less than those of open pasture, so that many blocks on the flats were sown by absentee farmers who came to the paddocks with their whole family and workers with horses and equipment to stay several weeks while they worked the soil and seeded, and then when they cut and harvested the crops..There was a spacious hut built of stone on one of the paddocks that housed the women and children and where the meals were cooked and served to all the people working there…at night the women and children would sleep in the stone hut while the workmen would bunk-down in the out-buildings where the harnesses and feed-stores were kept..these outbuildings were built of rugged post and beam construction with pug and native pine infills for walls…it was rustic but warm, with the thatched roofing giving any heavy rain that soft almost silent drumming sound as it fell.
Such had been the routine for farming for so many years, that Mattheus was having troubled thoughts of handing over the reins of the farm to his sons, who were keen to adopt change to both the layout and management of the system of farming practice…for there had risen over the last few years a new technology that would render the old horse-drawn methods redundant…the age of the tractor had arrived and this new machine-driven methodology would allow twice the acreage to be worked in as much time as the old horse-drawn method..and without the tiresome attention given to the animals themselves..Mattheus was well informed of these positives by his two sons on any given moment if a favourable ear was turned their way…Mattheus was suspicious of any talk of “making life easier”, as time had worked its abrasive grit onto both patience of mind and callous of hand..but then, he recalled, so had he persuaded his father of the benefits of the mechanical stripper over the old stooking and threshing method of harvesting..so he was willing to give his sons the blessing of his elder respect.
But today was the end of harvest and the entire family would sit to dinner this evening with the conscious relief that this marked the end of the repetitious rounds of up at dawn and crack-on till sunset work-cycle of harvest time. Magdalena, Mattheus’s wife of forty years, would serve the last full family meal for the harvest and along with the food would be the end of harvest prayer of thanksgiving and health which Magdalena would lead from the foot of the long trestle table..which would be followed by a loud and solemn ; “Amen” from Mattheus at the head of the table.
This was the ritual that finished the end of harvest every year since the family had bought and come to the Mallee Flats to crop the land. This was the ritual that bound every member to the home and hearth of family consciousness. This was the ritual that was repeated in many of those sturdy pioneer gatherings across the length and breadth of what was known as “Breakheart Country”. This was the “glue” that formed the tie to community and church and from there to each other, this familiarity and consciousness of like-habits and required procedure…this..was the culture of a community.
And what food there was!..so much gathered from the farm vegetable garden, home produce that bore the skilled hands of the growers, makers and preparers, recipes for cured meats and cheeses handed down generations…sauces and spices made from the smallest measures of condiments that extracted the richest of flavours, cuts of meat from farm-grown stock, placed in large cooking dishes and pushed to that certain place in the large wood-fired vault oven at the rear of the hut…a “hut” whose proportions were of such space in height, length and breadth to take the whole family with children and workers at one long trestle table set groaning every night with frugal but sumptuous fare..for this was not the banquet of a gluttonous merchant, but the necessary food for hard working people..and as such would give each and every person fair share of the products of their own labour from both field and garden, with loaves of fresh-baked breads to the steaming potatoes from the garden…all was good, all was well and at the completion of the meal, when an air of sighing satisfaction was perceived, it was time for the head of the family to make a speech.
Mattheus rapped the wooden serving-spoon from the plate of vegetables onto his plate…
“My usual position when at this point of the evening, is to be standing here at the head of the table, cup of good cheer in hand, giving a thank-you speech and congratulating us all on a job well done…but tonight, I will remain seated..not out of a sense of indolence nor disrespect…for I doubt there is a person in this room does not know of my nature by now..But tonight I remain seated so as to talk to you on the same level…no longer as “Th’ Boss”…nor now as head of the work-team, for tonight I hand the reins…if only figuratively..over to my sons ; Peter and Christian..for it is they who will now take the family farm onto the next chapter of its evolution with the full blessing of myself and Magdalena..and it is that evolution that will change the entire work practices..as we have talked of these last several years..from the old one of horse and harness to the new of tractor and steel couplings…Myself, having reached both God’s and Nature’s allotted time of years allowed a man..; “Three-score and Ten”..I am like the proverbial old dog and new tricks…I cannot change and I have no right to stand in its way.
But tonight, I want to talk about another thing and I hope give both my sons, their wives and children..our grandchildren..both warning of consequence and also to top up the cup of cheer with the measure of hope..
Nature has lent its hand to us…she has given us soil..water..and sustenance..From time immemorial we have harnessed her beasts for the field..with the strength of these fellow toilers, these mute companions of our labours, we have turned the soil, harrowed the earth and seeded our crops..from the time when my father and mother first set foot on this strange country and drew our section of land and marked the dimensions of their home on the soil, to now when their children sup at the table of their dreams and promise, it has all been done with eyes firm set on that measure of a man’s worth..the measure of a woman’s worth..on the measure of home and family..on a measure of hope..My parents, our forebears built an empire out here upon a new country..not an empire of imperial conquest, nor an empire of expansive proportions, but rather an empire of hope and dreams..their backs bent to the chores of that ambition, without doubt, without fail and with high faith in their mission to succeed…indeed, succeed they must or perish in the trying.
The greatest treasures of a parent is their children..it is the children who will carry the future to further horizons that can be dreamed of by a parent and it is the safety of those children that exercises the most concern for the parent..What measure of gold is the equal to the harvest of seed that gives new life in every season to a garden? What reward of contentment can equal that of a full stomach, a clear mind and the love in one’s heart for what greets them on the start of a full day of productive and rewarding toil?…Why would a man get out of bed if not to fulfill the promise and reap the bounty of a life of hope…that measure of hope that is the right of every person born under Nature’s sky and God’s heaven?
When I gazed tonight upon the healthy meal that my loving wife, Magdalena, set before me, I saw the fair measure of meat…of potatoes..of pumpkin grown so prolifically over the old composting stable heaps..it’s tendrils seeking distant promise like an arm reaching for distant fruits..a wonderful meal..and all in good measure..and it is that measure that I now talk of to each and every one of my children and their families to heed and be watchful that envy and greed do not cast a shadow over future ambitions.
A long life..a hard life taught our parents the creed of what is fair measure for one to aspire to..what is just reward for one’s labour..and there is no sense of satisfaction in the shirking of one’s fair share of labour..for there is a measure in nature in this world where each person is allotted a share of labour and where one person shirks their share, it falls to the shoulders of another to carry that extra load..and THAT..in anyone’s sense of justice is a failure of duty toward our brothers and sisters.
I hear talk of the new mechanics of farming having the means of “making life easier”..and I have to admit that after a bad day with horses, harness and machinery, such a phrase would even make my eyebrows lift in inquisitiveness and bring a smile of delightful possibility to my lips…”To make life easier”…now isn’t that a hope and dream to aspire to?…to make life easier…but then I have to ask..; “easier from what?”..certainly, if one was held in slavery..or imprisoned unfairly..or driven to extreme by brutal Master and Lord, one would wish for life to be easier..for those conditions are un-natural to both nature and humanity..and I would trust to all of us here in this room..let no man proclaim ownership over another’s life, lest he too be one day given like punishment.
But no..here and now, on these paddocks..on this farm..in this part of the world, what measure of life can be claimed to be better for the making of it easier? Will the vegetables grow faster, the sheep more wool?…Will the ache of work be less assuaged with a full stein of beer at day’s end?..and what of THIS day..this end of harvest celebration..will such a thing exist once the mechanics of it takes away the comeraderie of shared, shoulder to shoulder labour?…and what of the table of food like we see here in front of us..where waste from the stables goes to the heaps of compost and thence to the garden from whence comes the vegetables to our table…where will the waste from the tractor go? Will it give nourishment to the soil or will it make waste of the soil and thence make life less easier for those who must clean up such waste?..Will there be need for such a gathering of family to give thanks for the blood, sweat and tears of a year of toil when less folk are needed for the harvest?…Will the making of life easier also mean the lessening of the rewarded pleasures for the job’s end , for is there anyone among us who does not breathe a sigh of relief at hard work’s end..but then also be content and the soul fulfilled with satisfaction of a job well done?..Does not that also feel so good?..And I wonder on the lessening of the need for hired labour to attend the many chores for maintaining the draught horses…the harness repairer, the farrier, the smithy..and if they go, what of the town band..and the church choir..and then the bakery and grocer?…and our neighbours who cannot afford to tool-up to this new mechanics..are they to become a sacrifice to a new world order of an “easier life”..
No..I cannot stand in the way of progress, but I do give notice to you, my children, that you use caution with this new method of farming..do not let it steal your skills..do not to let it take control of YOU..I know you will have to go to the bank to up-grade to the tractors and new machinery it uses..be warned about the banks..they have no friend but compound interest, no mercy save the court of bankruptcy and no soul save that traded with the devil.
No..I cannot stand in the way of progress, so I will leave the farm in the steady hands of our children and wish them well while myself and Magdalena seek retirement in Tanunda and I will perfect my arm at bowls and my ear at listening to the idle chatter of the town.
So let us raise our cups to give thanks for the measure of hope that has been promised and now fulfilled…”
The following morning, while the sun was yet low and the breezes mild in the Mallee trees, the trappings of the hut and camp were packed up, the women and children were driven back to the farmhouse in the car and Mattheus and his sons led the horses down the track in the direction toward home.
You’d be right to ask what radio broadcasters, Cambridge Analytica, Lord Haw Haw and “received pronunciation” all had in common and perhaps be not a little surprised if I tell you it was to win political approval and/or elections.
“Received Pronunciation”…now, I have been around for a good many years, but I had never heard that expression before…perhaps, although it is no secret code or anything, it is an expression more familiar within the circles of radio broadcasting and English language pronunciation..being once the “preferred accent” for radio broadcasting on both the BBC and our own ABC. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Received_Pronunciation . One such popular program presenter..: Arch McKirdy went on to become a voice trainer and mentor to many well-known presenters on the ABC..:
Which brings us to Lord Haw Haw and his Nazi propaganda broadcasts in WW2..: “ Joseph Goebbels, German propaganda minister, called the radio the “eighth great power”, noting the influence of radio in promoting the Third Reich. Goebbels approved a mandate in which millions of cheap radio sets were subsidized by the government and distributed to citizens (Oh dear!…shades of school computers? ). Germans also delivered their messages to occupied territories and enemy states. One of their main targets was the United Kingdom where William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw) regularly broadcasted. In the United States, there were Robert Henry Best and Mildred Gillars (Axis Sally).” (Wikipedia). Of course, the tone and accent of the voice the Irishman William Joyce (aka; Lord Haw Haw) used was pure “received pronunciation… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yI3IjZ5Ut9g .
“For he (Lord Haw Haw) was something new in the history of the world. Never before had people known the voice of one they had never seen as well as if he had been a husband or brother or close friend….and there was a rasping yet rich quality about his voice which made it difficult to not go on listening, and he was nearly convincing in his assurance. . . “ (Rebecca West : “The Meaning of Treason”
For this is the “secret” of propaganda…that it is done with a tonal quality of voice so reassuringly familiar to the listener so that the natural suspicions that come with botched pronunciation that tells us the approximate birth-nation of the speaker and creates instant caution to any truth in their words…after all, haven’t we all been warned to be wary of “the stranger”?…so along with the attachment to the comforting accent of spoken word, comes the added security (at least for the broadcaster) of anonymity..for how could one be expected to have confidence in a person that was not of at least one’s own “skin”…be it colour, definition of form and /or familiar characteristic gesticulations.
Which continues our journey into the known with that nefarious group named “Cambridge Analytica” and this delving into the propaganda importance of anonymity.
In an age of social media, where one’s name and face can be projected as one desires over many platforms of social connection, so it would seem that anonymity is the last thing on most people’s mind..yet here was this group gathering personal information from people’s social media pages and anonymously collating profiles on millions to use as a propaganda disinformation tool in elections…AND itself choosing to be ABSOLUTELY anonymous in its activities. So we have to ask the question as to whom benefited from their activities?..and the names of several right-wing govt’s leap off the page.
So why all this use of such tools of propaganda by what seems exclusively – in the West – right-wing political parties?..after all, was not the original plummy accent of “received propaganda” derived from the talk of a very low percentage of English speakers of the Aristocracy…a now defunct demographic of social privilege?…and why did it make it’s way to Australia to be used as preferred-speak on our radio broadcasts and if memory serves me well, it just happens that Sir Robert Menzies used that same tonal quality, if with the homely touch of Aust’ vernacular in his radio broadcasts..: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9NHrVlLzxE ..I suspect the use of “received pronunciation” as the base familiarity for the broadcast of false, misleading and demoralising news and information, along with the anonymity ( no facial identification alongside the voice) when broadcasting allows the use of such propaganda tools to have maximum effect when wanting to persuade or at least confuse the listeners to bring them around to one’s particular point of view without the intruding identification of facial expression, colour or any other distraction..and I would claim that broadcasters like John Laws and Alan Jones would have had much shorter careers had they been on public television rather than behind the security of the radio microphone..after all, does not “familiarity breed contempt”?
After all, how many times have YOU been frustrated and flummoxed when trying to convince close friend or relative of a fact in conversation and they refuse to believe you and you hear yourself shouting or at least pleading in a plaintive voice all to no avail?…something you rarely if ever hear from a trained speaker of “received pronunciation” and THOSE speakers seem all the more convincing for it!
So when we hear of such and such a politician or their party maintaining their popularity with the voting public of certain demographics, think NOT on so much as what is detrimental about their policies or person, but rather on the dulcet tones the few favourable things that they deliver to the populace is served across airwave and social media platform in the shape of that familiar voice that. . .:
“. . . Never before had people known the voice of one they had never seen as well as if he had been a husband or brother or close friend….and there was a rasping yet rich quality about his voice which made it difficult to not go on listening, and he was nearly convincing in his assurance. . . “
“. . . teaching them not only how to speak with the received pronunciation of standard English but how to speak naturally “in groups of words, breathing and pausing naturally” and speak to their audience as if they were talking to a personal friend.”
An Introduction to a longer yarn..I will add to it as I go…if you want the whole story, you can save it and add to it too..or you can just let it go..what the hell!..it’s only a few written words in the merest point of time…
Now, I can’t be certain of this, but as much as I am certain of other uncertainties, I am pretty certain of this.
I am going to tell you a story..it is going to be the last story…I am going to write it into a book..it is going to be the last book..oh, others will write more stories and books, but THIS will be the last book of that era, for the story has ended, the time is past and the players are of no influence now in this new world rising..a new world where hope is a one minute wonder and love can seem a speculative opportunity..it is finished…if one could but have the vanity of a thousand souls I still would not brag of a complete understanding of what has been lost to my history.
This story has been seventy years in the making, but this book has been over two thousand years in the telling. It finished with the death several years ago of my mother and with her ; the last generation of that whole era..but it started in The West with the creation of the first major nation state of The Roman Empire….it started with “The Twelve Caesars”.
They rolled across the flatlands of the Murray River plains like an unstoppable force of nature..for surely that would best describe their tenacious persistence to forge a new Silesia..a new Posen a new homeland in this strange and distant place…a new life they saw as gifted to them from God that with their twisted version of a Christian Faith allowed no deviation from the written word and little forgiveness for those who slacked off in their expected commitment to both community and pastor, and the churches were quickly and proficiently built on land that still held the scent of the wild animals hunted by the indigenous peoples that were driven at bullet point from their hunting grounds and living sites along river and stream.
The Germanic settlers had arrived…themselves forced from their homelands by a brutal military government that despised both their cultural independence and their version of Protestantism, they arrived on the shores of the newly formed province of South Australia with all the determination of a desperate people with little or nothing to lose, and so the English governors of the day used them to push open that wild country to the northeast of the capital…pushed them into the wild hunting grounds of the indigenous peoples to force a confrontation and so “justify” a brutal retaliation by such renegade militia that the powers that be could muster together…a collection of criminals and prospectors for gain seeking any excuse to break agreement of the Letters Patent that guaranteed cultural and land rights to those indigenous people…a cruel betrayal of both the English governors own King and Parliament and the people who came under their physical power.
But the central government underestimated the determination and perseverance of these new settlers..These peoples, mostly Slavic in ancestry were compelled to Germanise their names, religion and culture as part of the new Republic of Germany or suffer the consequences..hence the migration of entire villages replete with Pastor to Australia in the 1840’s onwards to the end of the century. These eastern Europeans were known mostly to themselves as Wends or Sorbs. And unlike the other two waves of Germanic migration; The persecuted Middle-class from the German cities who settled and brought culture to Adelaide and the proletariat industrial workers from the cities, who brought trade and industrial skills to the state, they held their culture and themselves to themselves and their Pastors. Hence the close-knit settlements around the Barossa Valley and Kapunda / St Kitts / Steinfeld areas of Sth. Aust’…and right up to the late 1950’s, English in their homes was a second language.
I have noted the many unrecorded efforts of many of those families while they battled with George Fife Angas’s use of their hard labour and their dedicated to family attempts to hold onto their impossible to farm successfully; hopelessly small plots of land and were in many cases left destitute and broken by what must be a deliberate plan to use them to clear-fell those sections of the mallee most suitable for cropping…for as with any families who have lost everything and then been granted by fortune or fate a second grab at life, they took no prisoners in either social or pragmatic concerns..They ghettoed and they clustered together for their own protection…small hamlets under one pastor..a collection of families working together to form a community…land leased from a tyrannical landlord ; The South Australian Company, a fascist corporation that formed a corporate government even before the word “Fascist” was properly defined in its meaning..their sole objective being running a state on speculation and entrepreneurship using cheap labour of the new Germanic migrants to farm the cleared land stolen from the first peoples..; The Kaurna, the Ngarrindjeri, further northern tribes and clans driven from and massacred by the advanced arms imported without restraint from America…carbines replaced the old black-powder muskets that needed close-quarter contact with the indigenous warriors who then had distance enough to use their accurate spear throwing skills to at least fight back…and from then on it was like shooting fish in a barrel.
Once these new hamlets grew with more children and then to become towns and then the farmlands started producing profits, The German peoples started organising local civil governance..town councils organised in conjunction with their church and pastor would liaison with the central governance of the state…but then also at arm’s length…for these settlers were still suspicious of the ultimate intent of the English landlords…after all, they too felt the hard hand of a ruling class that had little use for alternative culture and would cast adrift any group that lay hindering their path toward capital domination…so suspicion ruled operation and little was done via civil intrusion into the running or health of these strange Germanic clusters with their own schools, their unpronounceable names and inflexible natures…they were by and large watched with suspicion but left to their own devices..so that when disease swept through the clans, the central administration did what they did to the indigenous peoples…they left them to rot.
Many made their way north to the lower Flinders Rangers..to places like Hammond, Craddock, Gordon, Farina and others even more lost in the sands of time..“Rain will follow the plough” they told the settlers who established themselves in those first good seasons, then the drought set in and it all went to hell…the land collapsed, the farms went dry as dust, the people walked off their properties and the towns collapsed back into rubble and then sunk back into the earth they so wearily rose from.
“Rain will follow the plough”, they said and so the ploughs went back south ..to Stonefield, Sandelton and Sedan..hard mallee country..with a slender top-soil and below, a layer of “calcrete” so hard every vibrating crowbar strike would ring ; “Gibraltar!” and so they drained and farmed the swamps and the hilltops and the stoney flats..picking up the stones by hand and throwing them into piles from the back of the dray..they farmed them with wood and iron and steel ploughs till the tynes and shares were worn to a slither or blunt as a gibber…They farmed the wind-blown flats till their families died with the diphtheria or in harrowing births gone wrong, attended only by young girls too frightened by the ghastly complications of childbirth to do little but cry in shock of what could very soon be their own fate…or they died in fires and accidents too frequent to collate in a doctors surgery, too far from a doctors assistance and left buried in sad, lonely cemeteries, serenaded only through the fall of time by sighing sheoaks around the perimeter of the church yard.
But again, the central government underestimated the determination and perseverance of these new settlers..and while the cemeteries filled with their children and vulnerable, so that you can see at one settlement of “Peter’s Hill” pioneer cemetery, just under the lee of Marschall’s hut where there is interred around sixty eight souls, forty two of them are children…and I cannot help but believe that the death of a child then was of just as much grief as now, so that when the count became so high, so intolerable, the settlers moved from what was considered an unholy site to disperse over the flat lands of the Murray River Plains and still you can read of those same families names spread like summer chaff place to place..Dutton to Stienfeld to Sandelton to Sedan…they were driven by a courage unstoppable and a faith inviolate.
And even there, after successive droughts and, yes, floods, some moved on even further to the Adelaide Hills, to Lobethal and Hahndorf to join an already flourishing German community…some travelled further east to Hamilton in Victoria to set up anew their Lutheran Faith and churches and settled on more rich and promising soil…but they were still the same tenacious pioneers who stepped off ship with all the stern determination of a surviving peoples.
But that all ended with the second world war, for once the soldiers had returned and the community got back to normal, the technological gains that the machine of war had developed into machines of sowing and harvest, the glue of combined manual labour and community reliance on that labour intensive population that held a district together and could prosper from such, fell victim to the culture of the individual…families that once relied on more children, could no longer carry so many inheritors of the one property, families broke up…districts that relied on populated towns now lost their labourers and the shops closed down, the surviving farms that shifted from draught horse to mechanical tractors needed to borrow from the banks to tool-up so they too became victim of capital/compound interest…the end of a whole era drew to a close.
The passing of the amateur.
If I consult this little pencilled in book of a shopping bill from a Mr. D. Lambert & Son, general store and victuals supplier of Towitta, for the fortnight in February 1936, I see that a packet of Yo-Yo biscuits was a mere 7 pence, and while the entire shopping for that bill was a total of 1/14/7 (one pound fourteen shillings and seven pence) there was deducted for 4 dozen eggs and 6 pounds of butter as barter exchange for a total of 9 /6 pence taken off the bill….and then Mr. Lambert would continue on his way in his horse and sulky delivery wagon to the next family farm to repeat the procedure…a round trip he did once a fortnight to deliver the grocery list and pick up bartered exchanged produce. A congenial and fruitful arrangement of the times.
These casual trades between shop-keeper and households were common fare in the times…there is also record of an Indian dry-goods trader used to do the rounds, selling or trading cloth and haberdashery goods, staying at this or that farm for a day or so then moving on. Of course, many of us from the boomer generations remember the “milky” with his plodding horse drawn cart running from house to house with billy-can and scoop…the ice-man and baker…of course, who could forget Mr. Hahn, the green-grocer, parked up in the suburban side street with a clutch of housewives at the back of his truck while he proudly showed them his cluster of fine fresh chokos!
All this was done in the most amateurish manner, the local trader, the (mostly) women of the house, the common supply of goods and the casual chiaking between them all….I remember staying at my auntys in Sedan and her delivery of groceries from the local store included one single biscuit..”Oh look…that silly man…just because I wrote ; biscuits / one…instead of a packet he sends me one biscuit!…silly man!” …such were the frivolous back and forth of trading in those times.
The same could be said for the male side of the farm in the cropping and upkeep of animals and equipment. The farm blacksmith shop an integral component of farming practice, needed to repair or invent parts required for harness and wagon…sheds and homesteads…the entire structure, social and practical a continuity of the self-sufficient amateur application…local women as midwives…local apothecaries with their huge tomes of folk medicine and a head full of experience and old-wives tales and “cures” that must have cost as many lives as they saved..possibly an average equally contested by some modern medical practices and could compete with the traffic causalities of these times.
But what stands out most is the skilled amateurism of those times. The time-lapsed photographs for the post and beam “pioneer hut” to the cut-slab and thatch sheds of the first settlement to “The new house” bracketed the obvious faults of the DIY constructs of the first to prefer the hired trades to build the second…and it was the pause in between the original claiming of the property and the sweat and tears that built up the family fortune enough to bring in the tradesmen to make the growing family’s life more comfortable and life in general more liveable…for the burden of home life of the times fell solidly upon the shoulders of the women. Whilst on the farm, developments in agricultural machinery remained pretty static right up until the second world war…the cumbersome stump jump plough the major improvement while all else was structured for application to horse-drawn machinery and it’s risky use, for horses could be prone to fright and flight, taking chains, harness, equipment and handler on a wild unrestrained gallop across lumpy, ploughed paddocks and straight through fences toward the home stable…a most unsettling experience.
And it was about this time that with the advanced development of mechanical tractors that all this came to an abrupt end…and with that sudden killing off of a labour intensive era, was the decline of community connection, for the mechanic and his garage has become the “go-to” person for both fuel and expertise of machine maintenance. No more saddler, blacksmith/iron monger..no more farrier and horse doctor of even the exchange of local knowledge on animal husbandry and with the demise of intensive labour farming, went the families to the city or elsewhere and with them went the town choir, the town band, the town baker, bank, church and assorted community businesses..and in the end in some cases, the town itself…for the once “family farm” being bulldozed and the property held in the portfolio of an Agri-corp absentee owner.
Now we only have echoes of what once was..A ruined settlement, crumbling huts and houses, one or two surviving members of a once dominant local family, clinging to their marginal farmland in hope of a better time to come, Memories of lost opportunity and relatives, a cluster of plastic flowers falling from a broken vase on the lichen covered marble of a grave. What was once THE dominant culture now peppered with a desperate overflow from the cities and regional towns seeking cheap rentals and having little interest in joining the local community.
It was into that once thriving community between the world wars that my Cornish / Irish ancestors stepped with faltering feet just as the great depression bit into the soul of the nation….and like those early German pioneers, they were on their own.
There is a direct correlation between the two time periods…not solely through any genetic or ethnic association, but rather; that with the passing of my mother’s generation, there ended that last epoch of casual anonymity. For much of their lives, over that entire history, many, many people had little or no individual documentation..they were lucky in the early days to even have a birth certificate, or at least a real one, never mind the plethora of personal information each of us has available to information gathers now!..and so it was from the earliest times…one only had the word of the giver that he or she was whom they said they were..no drivers licence, or ID. card or banking card at all..just the word of the giver..just their honest word; “I am Jack, the son of Jack the elder, the son of Jack the eldest “and so on and on..and women barely figured at all..
I do not use my own mother from any sort of filial loyalty, but rather as the best example I know of that generation and that social class who struggled from absolute poverty and obscurity to hunger for a modicum of self- respect and independence in a world saturated and suffocated under the blanket of obsessive middle-class materialistic banality..and also being hamstrung by obligatory religious adherence. She failed and died in absolute obscurity..but oh how she hungered to be able to express her desires into the written word..
And so we have the word of the first Caesar ; Julius..and HIS wars and HIS adventures..even the histories others have written of him are soaked in doubts and mystery…oh, we have a ”definitive history” of the man, as much as two thousand years of telling cannot but help to develop into Chinese whispers!…But HE being a bullshit artist as well, it is close enough, our own experiences and accrued living knowledge informs us of both the capability and limitations of one persons actions in one persons lifetime…the rest is conjecture…beautiful confected conjecture.
“Now at last I am free!
Off through the scrub I run
Where sheep tracks only are seen
Nothing but bush and sun
Till all of a sudden I come
Out where an axe swings free.
Cutting, for love and money
The axe bites deep in a tree…”
A passing moment does not a lifetime make, but a moment’s passion can be a lifetime’s mistake. A life brought into being by the strangest union in the most unusual chances and circumstances one could imagine. He from the north of Italy, in the Dolomites, she from the ‘heartbreak country’ of the Murray Mallee in Australia..
They met on the banks of the Murray River, He there to collect a truck-load of water for the charcoal burning camp where himself, along with a dozen or so fellow countrymen were interned as “enemy aliens”, cutting mallee trees to burn to charcoal for the war effort..she on an evening ambulation from the riverside sheep station where she worked as a servant girl.
He being able to speak barely a word of English, she not being able to understand a single word of Italian..But they met and exchanged pleasantries as only such ethnically diverse strangers could.
He asked (in Italian) if they ate well at the big house…
She replied ( in English) that the evening light spread a certain calm over the waters of the river, didn’t he think?
He was a stone-mason by trade.
She desired to be a poet.
They got on well.
Indeed, They eventually wed..the youthful composer of the above doggerel ; Tess Thomas and the refugee Italian ; Enrico Corradini (whom she would call; “Ricky”). And as she describes her running through the scrub to meet with her lover, I can now ask, knowing the ending of her story ; Was she running to embrace life, or running from a destructive lifestyle?..And Enrico, the refugee , HE we know was running from hunger and war, but did he realise then as he surely did later, what and where was he running to?
A myth surrounding their meeting and courtship arose in the family circle..It seems the erstwhile Enrico was out hunting rabbits one day and he got lost..only to stumble onto the dusty bush camp where, coincidently, the young Tess was in attendance to her mother ; Grace Thomas, who was expecting her fifth child. Tess’s father, having difficulty understanding the gesticulating “eyetalian”, instructed Tess to show him the track leading to the presumed wood-cutters camp from whence he came.
A week or so later, Enrico turned up again, gun in hand and lost again..the same procedure as last time was followed and that was that, until again..another week later Enrico shows up again, lost and hunting rabbits…this time, as Tess is leading the gentleman away, Richard Thomas scratched the back of his head in thought…he turned to his wife..:
“You know..that eyetie must be the worst shot in the world…he’s never got one single bunny!”
But it was a lie..they lied..we all lie..you lie, I lie, all our loved ones lie..soft lies, lies to protect reputations, to enhance the myth..the whole of history is a lie..a comfortable lie, a necessary lie..admit it!..we love the lie.
But wait!..Richard and Grace Thomas have their own story of their courtship to tell..is it too another myth?
It goes like this.:
“Now, for the love of Love and her soft hours, let us not confound the time with her conference harsh. There’s not a minute of our lives should stretch without some pleasure…”
It is the year of 1926.
Both of them were unknown to each other and were travelling on the same ship from Adelaide to Sydney. He for escape from a detested blacksmith occupation in the Moonta mines, she to join a nunnery.
When the ship berthed at the quay in Sydney, they were both meandering aimlessly on the wharf, she expecting to be collected by a couple of sisters from the convent, he just rubbernecking at the surroundings , neither looking where they were going and they bumped into each other. After apologies and pleasantries were exchanged, Richard Thomas invited Grace for a cuppa at a nearby café while she waited.
It was here she confessed her ambition to join the nunnery as a novice in preparation to take holy orders. Richard was shocked, as he had by now decided that here was the girl of his dreams and had already resolved that she would be his future wife. He tried to dissuade Grace from so final a decision, but her mind was made up…the reason being (and she poured her tale out to the sympathetic Richard who gasped and sorrowed for her in all the right places) that she was broken-hearted by a broken promise from the man she loved and followed from her home in Bandon City, County Cork, Ireland to this end of the Earth in expectation of marriage…only to discover that in the time of his arrival in Australia some ten months before her recent arrival, he had found and married another woman. Grace was heartbroken. It was the cloistered life for her!
“He would lean down from his police horse and whisper to me” ( Gracie confided tearfully) ; “ ‘Gracie..you’re my angel of grace’..and I’d stand on my tip-toes and turn my face to his lips…” and she faltered and gulped. Richard blushed for her and his heart melted.
She at least had divulged the name of the convent to Richard before saying goodbye and finally departing with the two nuns…Richard fixed that name in his memory, he underlined that name in his mind and went to find some digs as close to the convent as convention would allow!
From this vantage point, Richard Thomas set out every day to sit upon a flat rock right outside the convent gates of the “ The Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart” , patiently trying to catch a glimpse of the woman he had designs to marry . This devotion of patience and diligence was the first and last time he exhibited such dedication to another person in his entire life..and after three weeks of stoic sentinel waiting, feeding solely on apples plucked from a low, overhanging branch over the convent wall, he was rewarded.
The Mother Superior, becoming concerned at the attention this handsome young man by the gate was gaining amongst her bevy of novices, called a recently admitted novice; Grace Johnson (who admitted a passing knowledge of the young man) into her office and addressed her thus:
“Sister..while there are those of us who are called to serve the will of our Lord Jesus in these cloistered environs, we must accept that there are those who are better suited to serve His wishes in the world of man…May I suggest you relinquish both your temporal vows and habit as a novice and go out into that world and attend to this young man and his relationship with yourself.. and should you wish to return after it has been sorted out ..you will be more than welcome…”
Grace Johnson and Richard Thomas were wed three months later by one : Father McCarthy in a small chapel in Surry Hills with a stranger dragged off the street as witness…Neither had a birth certificate on hand to validate their identity, but seeing as Father McCarthy had just the day before taken their confession as devout Catholics…he knew he could trust them.
That..is the family story of how Richard and Grace met, courted and married. It has a certain romantic ‘ring’ to it, does it not?…it sounds good to me!…but I have doubts it could hold up under even a light forensic examination…for instance:
Let us start with Grace’s point of departure from Ireland in the year of Our Lord 1923..:
Bandon City in County Cork, was one of the most murderous places in the British Isles at that time. There was a civil war in progress between the Irish Republicans which were predominately Catholic and the British Loyalists, who rejoiced in the Protestant Church of Ireland. The name ; Johnson is a primary giveaway and the fact that two of Grace’s uncles were killed by the IRA. because of the suspicion of their working with the “Black and Tans” militant terrorists against the IRA., leans her to the Loyalist / Orangemen side of politics and religion. Her parents were very middle-class merchants and solid Church of Ireland.
So why suddenly become a Catholic in Australia? And given that the order she chose already had a large following and capital city headquarters in Adelaide, why go to Sydney to join?
I have heard three different versions of why Grace left Ireland from three of her children..all assuring me that they were told by herself.
Richard, having almost no education worthy to read or write save to sign his name, having little knowledge of the world of literature or of scholarship, his life was one of inquisitive discovery, while Grace’s life ,ironically, well-read and well-educated in her father’s office, was one of hiding and forgetting.
These two comparative strangers to each other, so recently married and now after a year of living in Sydney, set out to return to South Australia with a four month old baby girl, no money, no prospects but all the passion and determination of a conquering Caesar!..except on the trip back, a damn sight rougher than the trip over, Grace was extremely seasick and the baby, according to legend, not being able to be breast-fed, had to be sustained on brandy and water for the duration..
There is not one letter extant, if one ever did exist, neither love letter or note, nothing of any subject at all from Richard Thomas…all memories of their early years comes from Grace and only from Grace…make of that what you will, but as history is always written by the victors, the inscription on the gravestone of the couple (Grace preceded) demonstrates the influence Grace had on her children ;
“In loving memory of;
Grace Mary Thomas.
Devoted wife of Richard Thomas.
Beloved mother of Tess, Maggie, Rosaline, John and Daniel.
Born 1898, Died 1980.
Native of County Cork , Ireland.
And of Richard , chiseled on the headstone below Grace’s :
“In Memory of ;
Loved husband of the above”.
To say that it was a surprise when Richard Thomas returned to his home town of Moonta unannounced and dropped into his family one evening at dinner time unannounced and introduced his wife and child that he had failed in both cases to inform his parents of , would be a Chapel Choir Stopper of unprecedented shock and understatement. Then Richard’s next announcement that their only son had converted from Wesleyan Methodist to Catholic to do so was a resounding thunderclap that raised the roof.
After his mother was revived by her bevy of daughters, the recriminations began! Exile was the only recourse and the young couple set out bent-backed and penniless to make their way in a cold cruel world just as the Great Depression opened it’s doors to a view of hell for the poor and unemployed…of which Richard was one of it’s best examples.
To look through the eyes of deep poverty, is to see cold charity as the slap of condemnation, to see pity as the scorn of patronizing and the government dole as a Judas payment for betrayal of social responsibility…but the one thing that is seen for what it truly is and is never hidden, is the pitiless hatred and cruelty of the “haves” for the “have-not”. It is the cold, scornful disdain from those born into security and property or just plain comfortably well-off toward those in the depression years who were made and kept homeless and itinerant..; ”the sussos”.
Richard and Grace Thomas made for the Riverland of South Australia..Their choice made from the knowledge that there was the best chance for Richard to ply his skill of “tinker” with the growing irrigation agriculture and the fact that water was free along with a plentiful supply of fresh rabbits. So armed with a .22 calibre rifle, canvas groundsheets and a dutch-oven cooking pot. the Thomas family settled down to a makeshift life of itinerancy, sustenance(‘susso’) dole, living in abandoned hovels and tents of Richard’s unique manufacture from wheat-bags and wood and another child on the way to at least ten years of frightening existence on the edge of calamity.
While the well established and addressed may mark moments of family history with mirth and sentimental tears, the grossly impoverished mark their “progress” through time with memories of near escapes, disasters and hurried departures that..may in time be recalled in conversation as ‘funny moments’, or ‘phew! moments’ , they are mostly moments one shudders to recall at all or if ever mentioned, are accompanied with a deep groan of remorse or regret. These latter are the hallmarks of the Thomas family album…very few photos are extant that show the depression years with a smile or look of contented well-being.
With the arrival of the second child; Mary, Richard was well established in the riverland district doing the rounds of country towns to both collect the susso-dole and ply his trade. There are stories in the family vault that paint over the horror of those years with a humourous gloss that is only the thinnest of skins deep. There is the story of swapping their home-made tent for a small open boat into which they loaded all their possessions along with their two children and rowed up-river on The Murray from Renmark to Mildura looking for work and then back to take up seasonal work in Renmark..six weeks up two back, living off rabbits and god knows what else along the way…sounds like the romantic holiday… https://freefall852.wordpress.com/2017/08/26/renmark-to-mildura-in-a-rowboat/ but you picture it in the wild bush of those days, with two children under five sleeping under the stars with the mozzies and flies and snakes and no reliable food and the risk of drowning the lot of them in the days before the locks were completed.
And there is the story of the birth of the third child..in a punt..on the river..while Richard and the midwife argued the toss over who should get the five pound baby endowment payment…sounds hilarious, he and she squabbling, the midwife refusing to attend to Grace, about to go into labour, and he throwing the oars down in the punt refusing to get them off the river until she does and then the child not waiting for anyone and being born in the bottom of the punt crowded with the three of them and the bilge-water floating down the Murray River…you can just picture the hilarity !
And the time the whole family was over the river at a big annual fair and my mother told the chuckling story of how she bought and wore a dress exactly the same as an aboriginal girl there and they laughed and roamed around the fair arm in arm innocently telling everyone they met that they were twins , to the laughs and pointing guffaws of many, all the while their tent, along with many other ‘sussos’ in a depression camp along the bank of the river were being burnt down with a suspiciously started fire that satisfied the secret desires of the old families and townies of the area…they lost everything but what they had on their person that day and it marked my mother with a fear of fire the rest of her life.
And there is the story of Richard and Grace going to the nearby town to do the weekly shop with the next youngest addition to the family , leaving the girls home and the stranger who called around from out of the bush and asked where their parents were and they silly, telling him and he slunk away and was planning something while he watched and they were fortunate young Robert Kruger was there with them , for when the stranger rushed for the cottage, they were able to get inside and bolt the door..but Rose, remembering she left her little dog outside rushed out to rescue him and only got back as the man lunged for her..he then grabbed the axe and proceeded to hack into the door and if not for the quick-thinking Robert, who in a just too loud voice called to Maggie to get her dad’s gun and he’ll “shoot the bugger through the door” (there was no gun) ….The man ran away and the police later caught him as a wanted rapist from the city.
The poverty, the fear, the uncertainty …week in , week out mark the personalities of the adults carrying the responsibility and they in turn nurture the children with that same doubt and fear…it shaped the family and cast the mould for the shape of the families to come.
Richard and Grace raised their children in the worst time of chaos, carrying their own ghosts and demons. They were not able to stabilize their family structures to bring order and prosperity to their ‘House”. Neither were able to leave much of an impression on their existence on this planet, even in advanced age, when a secure pension should have granted them a modicum of financial certainty, their long-term poverty was so ingrained that they could not plan much farther than the next pension cheque. Grace, to give her credit was the more astute of them both, securing a tenuous hold on what was to be her only solid piece of owned real-estate…her grave.
Grace, for all her education and skills at writing with the most beautiful script one could see, carried the shame of her penury to that grave, coming from a once wealthy middle-class life to finish in abject poverty, leaving her worldly possessions to her daughters . The kitchen furniture and utensils to the eldest, the bedroom furniture to the youngest and the rest ( of a list of such dismal value to be too embarrassing to mention here!) to the middle child…of the two boys, one died in a motor accident as a young man and the other she disowned through a reason only Grace would ever know.
Richard, with barely an education and no record of letters or documentation, left no will or anything of value, and lived his remaining days after Grace’s death in a state of unbelieving dismay, so far and so many years from the original convent gate..in a small caravan in the bush to eventually die in a aged-care institution in an advanced state of sometimes violent dementia…but he did leave one thing :
He left a toy. A tinker’s toy. A windmill ..or wind-pump as some would call it…designed, scaled and made by himself, soldered together, cut and shaped out of old tin cans and wire. It pumps water when placed into the wind, through two troughs into a sleeve-valve of his own design. You will find these singular toys throughout Australia and even a few overseas..in Europe, England and America…he must have made hundreds of them.
The marriage of the eldest daughter of Richard and Grace Thomas to an Italian cemented more than a covert engagement that took place over a couple of years of secret meetings and assignations, it legitimized and sealed the relationship between new and old Catholicism.
It must be agreed that the late convert to this or that religion is in the main so much more strident in their belief than the person nurtured in that same religion from childhood . I cannot speak with confidence of the other two Abrahamic religions, but I can reassure you that the Catholic convert, of which Grace Thomas was a excellent example, inculcated robust pious devotion in both their own person and their children’s devotions. However, it was a faith awry with the distorted values and priorities of the fervent convert. Richard Thomas, despite his conversion to “the faith” in able to marry Grace, did not have a religious bone in his body, neither for the Wesleyan Methodist nor the Catholic faith. Indeed, his major belief in life centred in himself and next toward Grace as a kind of “supporting act”..his behaviour toward his children over the long-term was as an “invisible father.”
Enrico Corridini had been raised in the shadow of the state religion from birth that became, through it’s total amplitude in the village ; a kind of background white-noise that was absorbed into the daily activities and became an almost automatic reflex of habit of duty rather than a devotion to a singular creed..indeed, it could be said that in Italy, in some districts, the state religion had to compete with an age-old pagan belief in “the evil eye” and other superstitions and all the ramifications. Whatever the understanding in these “old religion” countries, the stringent adherence to doctrine is taken far less seriously than the intense devotion of the convert.
This unwavering devotion became a bone of contention in the Corridini household over the years, affecting the relationship between husband and wife and also their children. But the more damaging unwavering devotion of Tess was to her mother..a devotion nurtured into the very skin of all Grace’s children. It was as if drawn with an indelible pencil onto the soul of her girls..for the boys hearts were, naturally , drawn toward the charms and attractions of other women…” Your son is your son till he finds a wife, but your daughter is your daughter for all your life.” The elder son unfortunately died in a motor accident while quite young and the surviving son went his own way to marry a woman disliked by Grace..so much that she never even went to the wedding.
Richard Thomas carried this burden of motherly devotion to their children with a fatalistic narcissism…I remember him walking past me one day, he walked past with his signature limp and helping stick.he paused just then, turned to me and in a passing thought said to me..:
“ You know…Irish women make good mothers, but terrible wives.”..and he turned and walked on.
The marriage of Enrico and Tess was followed swiftly by the birth of their first child, just inside the “legitimate” time-line of acceptance. It has been noticed within the immediate family blood-line, that all the women run very close to breaking that “contract of legitimacy “..But it must be acknowledged as a proverb of truth that grew into tradition in the Murray Mallee district in those days that ; “with marriage and childbirth, one could never be sure of the first-born, as they could come at any time, but the next ones always took nine months”.
After the first child, there followed three others in quick succession so that there were four children in the first five years. Then there was a break, perhaps due to weariness and helped along with the length of time spent breast-feeding the last child..a period of three years..in an attempt to slow or stop the breeding program..But there were two known miscarriages between the forth and the fifth child. It was after the first of these miscarriages that Richard and Grace Thomas came from the bush to live in the Corridini house to assist their daughter look after the young children. They stayed for ten years and were an added irritation to Enrico Corridini, who, coming from a tradition of builders and labourers of the Dolomites , would find it somewhat “difficult” to come home at sunset, weary from a hard day at a building site, to see Richard fiddling at his motorcycle and side-car whilst whistling a serene tune as if life was one big bowl of cherries..
“Boia che Boia!!” he would cry in desperation to his Italian workmates when telling them of his home situation…he would smack the balls of his hands against the sides of his forehead as he did so…his eyes pinched in frustration as if to shut the image of the blasphemy of idleness of Richard Thomas out of his mind.
It was during this period of difficulty, that Enrico took to drink.
I have been persistent in my advice through the years to anyone contemplating immigration as a solution (unless in life or death situations) to their dire poverty, to reconsider..as I do not believe that the economic advantage outweighs the loss of cultural stability. I concluded this from observation of the elderly Enrico, who in later life would, come a Sunday morning, retire amongst the fruit trees and vegetables down the garden, with transistor radio, small chair and a glass of sweet sherry to listen in peace and quiet to his radio program. I do not recall it’s name, but it opened and closed with it’s theme song..; “Arrivaderci Roma”.
I can recall him lamenting to a visitor ; Guido Passardi, who had travelled several times back to the “old country” , that he wished he could go back to sit under the olive tree in the square and talk with the other old men…Guido quickly threw cold water on this fancy by informing him that most of their old acquaintances back in the village were either dead, gravely ill or suffering senile dementia.
Of the four children born in quick succession, Christopher was the youngest . Being the last of that first group, he was the one kept on the breast for three years..a situation he was in later life to describe as “a learning curve” but which the other siblings saw as spoilt..and did tease and trick the child at every opportunity driving him more to seek the protection and comfort of his mother . A situation that could have developed into a nasty little psychosis save for the resumption of the birthing program when Christopher was but seven years old and securely bundled into the sadistic arms of the ironically named ; Sisters Of Mercy convent school.
Here begun an education runneth over with all the scheming machinations of an organization extremely well practiced in the arts of subliminal subversion to religious fetishism. It was a pity that more time was not spent on teaching actual scholarly education, rather than the fire and brimstone of sin and repentance! The nuts and bolts of academic learning were omitted for slide-shows of the most gory tortures of saints and sinners, from a clunky projector eagerly manned by a young, weedy-looking, lip-licking “brother”, followed by regular genuflections before “The Stations of The Cross” in the big church out the back of the school.
To the point that when the teacher of mathematics, on one of the first days at the state high school, handed out the slim, yellow covered volume of the three coloured volume set of ; Mathematics (red), Geometry (green) and Algebra, the young Christopher looked down in eye-watering dismay at the hieroglyphics of algebraic symbols on the page…and when the teacher commanded the class to turn to page five to tackle some of the simpler algebraic problems …a situation those students coming from the state primary schools seemed at least familiar with …but to young Chris’ were as mystifying as the giggling of girls..but even more perplexing , because he had never before seen or heard of such twisted logic in those years of religious instruction and simple arithmetic…and for one whose passing scholarly marks reflected more his commanding knowledge of the lives and the suffering deaths of the saints and martyrs of Catholicism, this was “all Greek” to him..
“Owlgebra!”…he cried in a just too loud voice so that the whole class turned toward him to gaze..”…how long’s this been going on?”
You’d be on solid ground to ask, as I have many times since myself ; what sort of adults would turn their children over to the care of a bunch of lunatics? For that is what those “inmates of Christ” were..contemplate the situation for a moment..: You have a cloister of healthy women, all who have sworn to maintain a chaste, childless life in the service of an “unknown”..You have a likewise mob of males, all once and perhaps still testosterone driven to submit their desires to the will of their God..yet..yet we know..we know only too well that under those cowls, under those habits there beat the heart and temperament of a human being, with all the wanton vices and desires of the human body. Along with the ‘call to serve the Lord’, was a certain resentment in how they were expected to serve..how it could sometimes seem as all give and no receive on the earthly side of things..and here they were left in charge of herding and corralling all these offspring of lascivious copulation..all these screaming, demanding sprays of semen and ovulation flowing over the school-yard and into the classrooms…and here they were having to wipe the bottoms and the noses of the little grommets..all day , every day till the parents…those incorrigible sinners and fuckers, those “Sunday Saints” came to collect their moments of flailing desire and nocturnal fornications…these running, jumping, yelling , one singular spermatozoon success story amongst volumes of body-fluids and menstrual waste…But not for the holy “Sister” or “Brother” or “Father”..not for those incestuously suggestive relations of God the rhythmic caress of deep sexual contact..to see but never to touch, to feel the desire but never to consummate..nothing save furtive self-fondling in the dark silence of their cell, all resulting evidence flushed down to the septic tank or burned in the lighting-up of the morning cooking fire in the communal kitchen, a sigh of both release and simultaneous regret at both “getting away with something shameful” and in quick succession the knowledge of getting away with nothing at all., for here they still were and here they will stay..and the hunger never go away.
“Please, Jesus, please Jesus, please Jesus!..drive out this sin of lust from my body…mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa…”.
The body of Christ amen.
But He doesn’t , He never can…for how can one but believe, if one does believe, in one’s heart of hearts, that it was He; that creator , that omnipotent God , who put it there! And could the question just as easy be put; If the sin of lust could result in the creation of bastard life in the human body…what was the Sin of God that caused Him to create such bastard life in the celestial body : Earth?
Such theological questions were beyond the imagination of the small cluster of children herded to pray and genuflect before the Stations of the Cross during their weekly prayer lessons in the big church out the back of the school. Indeed, such questions were not even considered by the parents of Christopher as they signed their children over to the care and education of such a bunch of crazed lunatics that inhabited that five acres of ecclesiastical asylum near the railway station.
The one question, the imperative answer to which sealed the decision of a young Tess to marry a man twenty years older than herself, was one she put to the old German herder whilst waiting to board the station ferry to cross the Murray River. Tess Thomas grew up by the river. She worked as a house-maid at both Punyelroo and Portee stations near Swan Reach and Blanchetown. Many times she was called to accompany the lady of the house to cross the river on a flat-topped ferry, used for ferrying supplies across the river there at the station. Tess had ambitions to be a poet, an ambition way above her educated status but not above her desires and day-dreams…This ambition was nurtured within her youthful imaginations as she went about her daily chores as servant girl to the Esaus on their stations on the banks of the Murray River. It was first borne as a distinct possibility upon her purchase of several books at the nearest regional town of Truro on the edge of the Adelaide hills that led onto the Murray Flats where upon a day out with her sisters, she walked into a secondhand bookshop whilst her sisters giggled their time away in the haberdashery store…it was there Tess fell in love with Adam Lindsay Gordon’s poetry..
I give the story to you…
The Collected Poems of Adam Lindsay Gordon.
Once upon a time, out in the deep Mallee forest near the Murray River there lived three sisters, aged sixteen, fourteen and thirteen…for as was common in those days, children came in quick succession. Their names being..from the eldest : Tess, Maggie and Rose. It was the years of post-Great Depression and the second world war raged another world away…in the deep Mallee where the sisters lived, the war was only a policy inconvenience, or in their case an opportunity for their father and mother to gain steady employment at a charcoal burning camp as he; a mechanic, and she ; as cook to around a dozen men who cut the mallee wood to burn in the pits to make charcoal. The two younger girls helped their mother with the preparation of the food, while, Tess, the eldest worked not far away at Portee Station, a cattle and sheep station on the rim of the Murray River.
Being of a family that by necessity throughout the Great Depression had to make their living moving from town to town, seasonal crop to seasonal crop for work, the girls were schooled at home by their mother who was fortunate back in her native Ireland to have had an excellent education because of her middle-class family…coming to this country to be suddenly married and a mother of three girls at the start of the worst set-back for the nation’s economy in its short history while moving around seeking casual employment left her to make do on her own capabilities.
A long time back she had abandoned her middle-class sensibilities to the practical bent of survival..another thing that she had abandoned was her Protestant religion to swing to Catholicism…and she embraced that faith with all the fervour of the religious convert…she was unbending and unyielding in her reverence toward the belief and standards of that faith…and as such would not tolerate her daughters becoming corrupted by such a deviant subjects like romantic novels or poetry, herself having a long time before cast out such publications from her possessions till the only tome of any literature in her domestic enclave…which by frugal providence was a hand-stitched, split wheat-bag tent of her husband’s own design, for rarely was there a actual house over or around them…was her large, prized edition of The Bible (with illustrations).
So when her eldest daughter brought home a second-hand book of poetry, “The Collected Poems of Adam Lindsay Gordon”, accompanied by Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights”, her lips pinched, her eyes narrowed and her heart hardened and at first opportunity, she cast both editions out of the tent-flap with an admonishing chastisement and appropriate irony considering their present establishment to her daughter that such wanton literature will not be tolerated under HER roof while she yet lives!
This did not deter Tess from pursuing her secret inner desire to one day become a poet herself…she dreamed of lines of absolute beauty written with the most delightful script on pages of soft paper..Her favourite poem from the book she now held most dear to herself was “Thora’s Song”..her romantic heart ached for the chance to just feel the same emotions Thora felt for her lover…and Tess would dream of one day meeting just such a poetic soul as herself to be able to exchange that similar felt emotion in tender moments of love…As such a time had not yet come, Tess would stroll to the river’s edge on her evening off perambulations and there under the fading light of an afternoon’s umbra shine, read softly out to the air the works of Adam Lindsay Gordon, taking particular care on that most loved poem “Thora’s Song”, her lilting Irish falsetto matching tune with the many river birds calls and warbles there so that the lingua franca of the evening on the river’s edge was a song in itself..a melody of harmonies that lay a hymn of sound floating just above those primrose-lit waters of the soft flowing Murray River.
To this dream of poet, Tess would, in between chores in the kitchen of the riverside station where she worked, take time to compose poems of her own hand. Most of these crude attempts she screwed up and burnt in the big kitchen stove…some..a few she felt happier with she placed between the pages of a school exercise book she used for her home school lessons that she taught to her younger siblings when she went home for two days a week to the charcoal camp where her family lived.…Tess would sometimes read these poems out to the giggling frivolity of her siblings who had little interest in literature and more in ribbons and hats.
Now the world of that district held to habit and routine and the celebration of “Empire Day” was one of fan-fair, parade and concert in the main town institute, where a repertoire of songs and short skits of plays and dances by locals were encouraged. So that when Tess arrived at her parent’s tent on the Friday afternoon, her sisters excitedly greeted her with the news that they were going with old Eddy in the truck to Truro to audition as sailors in a skit dancing The Sailor’s Hornpipe…and surely Tess would come along to watch!…Of course Tess was as excited and delighted and went to sleep that night formulating a desire to approach Miss. Josie Rudge, the organising person, on the morrow to see if she could perform a poetic recitation at the event.
The dour Miss Rudge, school teacher and choralist for the Truro Congregational Church, was a disciplinarian type who “took no prisoners”, as she was want to say whenever the children got out of hand…
”In line! In line!”..she’d demand “and no fooling around…I’ll take no prisoners if I see anyone mucking about!…you there!..back in line..watch the markers on the floor…in line!”
But yes, They were seeking appropriate recitations for the “in-betweens” of the songs and dance routines and Miss Rudge gave Tess a time that afternoon for a reading. The piece Miss Rudge picked was a short poem that tested the elocution of the reader..more suited to one of the preferred young ladies from a “good family” of the district who were favoured with an exclusive schooled education in Adelaide and spoke the “King’s English” with just a little bit of plummy accent. Of course, Tess, coming from the Mallee bush with the hint of brogue of her Irish mother slipping off her lips like a syrup of Sligo was hard pressed to wrap those words around her tongue and she stumbled in quite a few places with the desired entrapment placed there by the cunning Miss Rudge.
And as she finished the reading from the elevated stage, Tess, who had prided herself on her practiced poetry was somewhat shy and reticent of her chances..The stern Miss Rudge did not dismiss Tess there and then, but rather encouraged her to practice when at home and she will be notified of her placement within the fortnight.
Tess felt encouraged by that short advice and regardless of a faint feeling of caution, spent the following days at and after work bending her spoken language to deliver to the best of her capability those immortal words of her beloved bard ; Adam Lindsay Gordon, and his poem ; “Thora’s Song”.
Unbeknownst to Tess, from the first introduction of herself to Miss Josie Rudge, she hadn’t a chance of stepping out on that stage at Empire Day to deliver any thing at all, as her family situation was already known and scorned by the stern protestant Miss Rudge, who despised anything Catholic entering within her perimeter of “England forever”..and after Tess and her sisters departed, she was heard to say to her assistant most viciously..:
“The nerve!..to think I would allow the daughter of that Irish Catholic woman to stumble and ramble with her atrocious interpretation of the good King’s English upon my stage…On Empire Day of all times..The poor child threw out more “Haiches” from her mouth than Clem Highett would dud hen’s from his hatchery!…and that mother of hers!.a face the map of Ireland…”As Catholic as Connaugh” they would say..No, I won’t have it..I will send a letter to her this week or so..don’t want to break the poor kitchen maid’s heart here and now…I’ll let her sisters dance The Hornpipe though…don’t want to appear too officious…do we?”
Unaware of the futility of her ambitions, Tess kept softly practicing her recitation whenever she had time..so that the Lady of Portee Station..Margaret Esau, would smile to herself when she heard her young servant girl softly reciting poems on the back verandah of the Portee Station Homestead on many a quiet evening.
Margaret Esau encouraged Tess to work on her pronunciations, for she was well aware of Tess’s poetical ambitions which were innocently and proudly confessed when Margret first interviewed Tess for the position of kitchen maid… an ambition that made Tess’s eyes shine with delight when she said it and brought a sympathetic smile to Margaret’s lips..for she could see that while the ambition was worthy, the letter Tess had written and the language of her spoken words displayed a working class accent with less than ready education. And so Margaret would sensitively correct any of the more exaggerated mistakes of interpretation when Tess served at the table… even promising Tess a day off so as to be able to attend to rehearsals when required. So it was a rather worried Margaret Esau that heard the gentle sobbing on the back verandah outside the kitchen one evening…Upon enquiry, she was shown the letter of rejection from Miss Josie Rudge of the Empire Day Hall Committee, citing (dishonestly) a lack of space within the program for Tess’s poetry recitation. Margaret comforted the sad Tess and taking the letter from her hands, Margaret said she would see if she could persuade Miss Rudge to find space for Tess’s reading.
This reassurance did little to comfort Tess’s unease, for she had read something unsettling in the tone of Miss Rudge’s letter..a more than hint of slighting tone of voice..even the opening address of “Dear Child” felt like a dismissal of her as a working girl with a place in the household of a large station..a position of responsibility that Tess wore with some degree of pride…And even though the wording was seemingly polite and respectful, Tess (as did Margaret when she read the letter ) could feel her eyes burn with indignation when the writer had consoled her with the expression that “. . .regardless of this lost opportunity to recite with those fine young ladies from the Adelaide private finishing schools, she was sure to use her accrued skills learned at the kitchen table to further herself in the arts of scullery maid or another hand trade”.
This example of passive snobbery on Miss Rudge’s part did not go un-noticed by Margaret Esau and while Tess wept for the burning insult, Margaret’s lips pinched together in anger for the presumption of Miss Rudge’s to insult her ; Margaret’s young study, with such language reserved for that middle-class to use against one of their own…”She has no right to presume” Margaret hissed and took it upon herself to sort Miss Rudge out by putting HER back in HER place in the order of status in the district.
Tess had gone to that spot on the banks of the Murray River where she felt most private and secure, she took with her that tome of poetry of Adam Lindsay Gordon’s that she felt in kinship with and began to read out loud that most private of her favourites ;
“We severed in autumn early,
Ere the earth was torn by the plough;
The wheat and the oats and the barley
Are ripe for the harvest now.
We sunder’d one misty morning,
Ere the hills were dimm’d by the rain,
Through the flowers those hills adorning —
Thou comest not back again.
My heart is heavy and weary
With the weight of a weary soul;
The mid-day glare grows dreary,
And dreary the midnight scroll.
The corn-stalks sigh for the sickle,
‘Neath the load of the golden grain;
I sigh for a mate more fickle —
Thou comest not back again. . . . ”
The soft lilting of her voice now pitched less high as a sadness weighed down upon her soul..that gentle wash of the Irish brogue inserted from her mother’s talk and homeland as sweet as the honeyed air of summer skies.. Her Irish tongue a whisper of angels in the voice when saddened enough to sing a lament to her own destiny. for there was growing in her heart a dread that her ambition to aspire for a poet was but a pipe dream…the words of her mother damning such heathen verse to Sheol and the tittering laughter of her sisters when she tried to share with them her love for the written word in rhyme and metre and now that letter from Miss Rudge, a teacher at the Truro school no less, that gave more than hint of Tess’s incompetence with the language, all buffering down on her spirit and telling her that she was just being a silly girl to try to reach for a place above her station in life..the life of a servant girl and workhorse for her betters and nothing more..her dreams of one day writing poetry that sang with the spirits of the Gods of air, fire and water…a dream of smoke and mirrors..a will o the wisp that will vanish with the first puff of wind…silly person…silly girl.
Tess stood and straightened her skirt and turned to go…she had noticed the silence of the birds as she read her verse..and she sensed that even they were in accord with her sombre mood and were wont to intrude too cheerfully upon her mood there…Tess stopped for just that moment in her departure and,turned to address The River….
“Goodnight” she said.
A few days later, Tess was called to the telephone to receive a call from Miss Rudge of the Empire Day Concert Committee..the short of the conversation..for it was short and terse..was that, yes, there now appeared a place in the program for her to recite some poetry and it was imperative that she MOST PROMPTLY attend to rehearsals on the fifth of the month ten am SHARP..at the Civic Hall Truro..and report to her, Miss Rudge. And the telephone went dead at that demand. Tess was beside herself with joy and handed the receiver back to Margaret who smiled in kind.
“Did you….?” Tess asked and then stopped.
“I think Miss Rudge looked into her heart and reconsidered” Margaret cut any further conversation on the subject short…”I always say, Tess…that The River has ways of letting a poor man live like a king and in turn making the wise man look like an ass!…You know..I wasn’t always the wife of Mr, John Esau…”
It was after Tess had left to walk to the river that evening on receiving the letter, that Margaret Esau placed a call through to Miss Josie Rudge’s residence…there was a controlled anger in Margaret’s voice as she explained that it would be a pity for herself and her husband John, who were quite generous to the school and hall committees, to make the trip to Truro for the concert only to find that her house-maid, Tess was being denied a chance to recite a most favoured poem that she had been practicing assiduously for the last few weeks…
“Oh but really, Mrs Esau..the girl is totally unsuitable to recite on stage” Josie Rudge complained “She is almost illiterate and her elocution is as deep and broad as an Irish bog!”…Margaret let a long silence hang in the air before she answered..
“I have been coaching her, Miss Rudge.”
There was a sharp intake of breath at the other end of the line..then a new tack was tried..
“Well, the McBain twins have come back for the holidays from their finishing school in Adelaide and I have promised them a quartet of songs with piano accompaniment in the program”…
“Yes, we are well acquainted with the McBains of Anna Creek Station…quite well acquainted and I can assure you that they will not mind if you reduce their girls to a triplet of songs and make shift to place young Tess into the repertoire.” This last with the stern voice of the Lady of the Manor…of course, Miss Rudge complied with Margaret’s wishes and a telephone call was put through several days later to tell Tess the good news.
Tess walked out onto the stage of the Truro Civic Hall on the evening of the Empire Day Concert and stood proud to recite her favourite poem..;
“From the collected poems of Adam Lindsay Gordon.” She spoke in a clear and precise voice..the hint of Irish brogue adding a lilt of delightful colour to her words..
“Thora’s Song” Tess announced..and she began the recital.
And when Tess had finished the poem, and a suitable round of applause rent the high ceilings of the hall, she surprised everyone to announce that she . . .
“ . . . would now like to do a short poem of my own hand in recognition of our benefactor Mrs Margaret Esau of Portee station…on a theme gratefully borrowed from Mr Henry Wadsworth Longfellow .. ; “Hiawatha”…and Tess began ;
“On the shores of the mighty Murray,
By its calm and tranquil waters,
Stood the halls of Portee Station . . . “
John Esau leaned over to whisper into Margaret’s ear..
“Be blowed if she hasn’t stolen some of the thunder of Mr Longfellow”..and he chuckled.
“I suspect Mr Longfellow can spare a bit” Margaret smiled.
“The cheek of the girl” John smirked.
“Yes” Margaret agreed “marvellous isn’t it?”
There is an announcement in the regional newspaper of the times of the proceedings of that Empire Day evening..it reads thus:
“ Items that were particularly well received were “The Flag Makers”, a patriotic tableau presented by grades VI and VII . A nautical song ; All Over the Place by Pauline Harris assisted by the senior girls who danced The Sailor’s Hornpipe.
Films were also shown on the school’s projector, interesting and instructive films in keeping with the observance of Empire Day. They were entitled “Battle for France” the “Evacuation of Dunkirk” and the fall of France (two years ago) and “The Navy at Work”.
A variety of songs and poetry recitals were given by the young ladies of the district..Of particular appeal was the recital of a poem “Thora’s Song” from The Collected Poems of Adam Lindsay Gordon, by Miss Tess Jones of Portee Station.
The dancing and other items were arranged by Miss Josie Rudge and Mrs I. Richards was the pianist for the evening..A grand time was had by all!”
Tess had been “engaged” to Enrico for nearly a year , while she still worked at the big station on the Murray River..Enrico and Tess met every few days when he would come to the river to collect a truck-load of water for the wood-cutting camp where he worked and lived during the war years. Enrico had “popped the question” a while back and while she had cautiously consented, she had yet to make her final decision.
She told of an old German hand there at Portee who, whenever he had to cross the river, would pick up a small stone, a pebble, carry it across the river and place it on the other side..Rosaline asked him why he did it…he was at first reluctant to tell her..but she persisted..
“Well, girlie..it is my own little thing…I think of the small stone as my soul,…you see, I cannot swim..and so I take the stone, carry it, and if or when I reach safely the solid ground on the other side, I leave it dzair….when I come back, I do the same”
“What would happen if the ferry starts to sink?” Rosaline asked.
“Dzen I will try to throw it with all my might, to the other side….and I think if it reaches there , then I feel I too will reach there…”
“And if it doesn’t?”
“Dzen, I think I vill be lost in the waters of the river…”
It was the thought, the visual imagination of that thrown pebble, desperate, hopeless and valueless, falling into the waters of the river and a life lost as a consequence of that one little pebble…
What was her life to be ? Would it be lost in a desperate gamble with a married life on the edge of the river…a dirt farmer’s wife in the ‘heartbreak country’ of the mallee? Uneducated, in poverty, her family property-less and impoverished…
She was decided.
Christopher stood as instructed before the first small icon of the Stations of the Cross The pictures were at some height above his tiny frame, he craned his neck to see it. Sister Mary Joseph placed one arm around his slender child body and in a secretive whisper described the goings on in the painting..she did this to each child in turn , from one station stop to the next, with each station becoming more and more intense with the humiliation and torment of The Christ, her voice too grew in intensity and anger..
‘Look!” she’d say, “look how they laugh and mock our lord Jesus……..” and the children’s eyes all wide and staring at the horror of the gore and blood on the crown of thorns and the leering faces of the torturers. The children’s hands clasping and wringing in fear and horror…several of the little girls clung to the habit of the squatting sister as she related the means of cruelty inflicted on the body of the Son of God as “He suffered for our sins here on Earth…He suffered for us..” her eyes alight also with the self-inflicted emotional pain of the scenes she described.
The young nun then proceeded to instruct the small group of children in the ritual of the journey through The Stations of the Cross..she would say the Leaders chant :
“We adore thee O Christ, and bless thee.”
Then she would ask the children to repeat after her..:
“By your holy cross Thou has redeemed the world”.
Then she would gather the little cluster of children around her and softly tell them a little maxim of life ; “As a child, we sometimes feel alone..sometimes others do not stand up for me when I am picked on and afraid..so help me Jesus to be strong and protect me in thy light”.
The chant was repeated at every Station, along with the repeated response and then another little homily on the lessons of life through the eyes of reverence for Jesus. “ As a child, I sometimes repeat stories that are unclean and disrespectful..Help me to keep myself pure and clean…” All while standing before another frame of the torment or torture of Our Lord Jesus Christ. These lurid paintings left nothing to the imagination, from the first of the condemming to death before Pontius Pilate to the meeting of his mother and the women of Jerusalem on the road to crucifixion and the stripping away of his garments to the hammering in of the nails to his hands and feet and the sinking in of the spear into the side of his body…
These chants, prayers and visuals were displayed in graphic intensity to the ears and gaze of those five year old children, fresh from the comforts and protection of Mother , Father and the safety of home..To Christopher, they were a shocking assault on his quiet nature..He had never seen someone so deliberately hurt..He had never seen someone held down and tortured, He had never seen a person stripped, beaten, speared , gored and nailed to a wooden cross…Yet here was Sister Mary Joseph explaining it all with the soft, gentle, assured voice of a confident adult…it must be so.
But strangely, the terror didn’t bite into young Christopher. Those carefully designed pictures, those beguiling, persuasive homilies and all the Sister’s gently pitched whispers into his child ears were to be of no avail…for even as a child, Christopher was more of a “touching” child..he was more interested in the tactile nature of things..on the habit of Sister Joseph, he would touch to feel the heavy-starched white cloth parts of her cowl as she cooed , as with a lover’s breath, the corrupting words of indoctrination into his ear, wondering why it was so sharp…he would stand by her side and feel the heavy wooden beads of the Rosary belt that wrapped around her waist then dangled down the side of her habit-skirt..He would be mesmerized at the large, pendulating black cross that swung against her breast as she leant down to him.His was the world of touch, sights and sounds, the child’s world of wonder , when the wind told stories to his ears..alike to the animal kingdom.. windy days telling hurried stories of trees and hills, grasses and ferns, of white-capped ocean waves and gliding sea-gulls under drifts of wind-blown clouds scattered over azure skies. A childs ears and innocence tuned to that elusive pitch and timbre that becomes dulled and destroyed by adulthood and those wailing whispers on the wind are seldom heard again.
What is lost in the eyes of the child, when such macabre icons are drawn to their gaze..The innocence that must be destroyed so guilt can be created, hatred infused before a depraved love constructed, fear before security, doubt in place of certainty, death before life. What is religion that would need to do such to a child..for it is surely children to which all it’s cunning indoctrination are delivered…as the adult convert must be a relatively low number in proportion, so it is the child that must be coaxed out of it’s dreamy cocoon into the adult world of conditioned certainty..where “trigger words” or scenarios are imbedded into the vernacular to be drawn upon when needed by civic state or religion..for they do work fist in glove in collusion with each other..how else could it be explained or excused, for what were these series of cameos of horror and degradation but in reality a kind of ecclesiastical pornography pushed into the subliminal thoughts of the children’s minds, a “sleeper” awaiting the right moment to respond.
After the last Station was reflected upon, the last homily spoke, the last humiliation imbedded into their child minds..the children were lined up and marched back single-file to the classroom near the row of huge old pine trees..Christopher looked at the radiating branches ascending high up into the depth of the foliage..
“ Wow! what a great place for a tree-house “ he was thinking.
This was the beginning of a long period of stability for Tess and the Corridini House..both social and economic. The home they had built near the southern coast of Adelaide was to remain her home till the death of them both.
It was a long period of stability for many migrant families, but by the end of the decade, it was already too late..their world of authority was fast unraveling…the next generation would relinquish their cultural ties and become more enamored to their new country..but they didn’t know it yet although before too many more years had passed, it was to come upon them like a clap of thunder, for except for a minor skirmish in Korea that would kick off a long festering sore of “the cold war” on two fronts, there was a kind of “Pax Australiana” in place where the demand economy was creating the need for a larger labour force which was filled by mass immigration from Europe and then England.
The adults who made this epic journey were pushed out in the main to the rough, largely un-serviced outer suburbs..some of which had neither mains water , sewerage or even electricity at the start!…this created ghettos not only of migrant families from all corners of Europe, but also the less well-off of Anglo-Australians. The mix of ethnicities made strange bedfellows of the children of those families…so that Christopher found friendship through the primary school with Dutch, Latvian, Scottish, German, Irish and some of dubious parentage altogether!…but they became ‘fellow travelers’ in the poverty enriched neighbourhoods in the foothills on the edge of the sea.
By a coincidental twist of fate, while the adults, survivors of a world war, in some cases two wars, an economic depression that impoverished so many, were a motley collection of spiritually broken , in many cases physically broken individuals, who were subjected to the corrupting influence of conservative thinking and propaganda that drove a wedge of fear into their susceptible hearts, their “multi-mix” children, with an improved diet of high protein, clean water, fresh air and unsupervised, unregulated freedom on the wide beaches of the gulf, grew into wild free-spirited youths, who found rebellion against the restraints of conservative lifestyle as easy as diving off “sharkey rock” into a crystal- clear , cool ocean. The name of that rock lent its moniker the a young boy of the area..his name was Kevin, but a continuous conflict between his alcoholic parents drove him to seek the solitude of that rock whose geological shape of stone gave the impression of a shark’s fin..I knew of Ruth Holmstrom from my youngest years, but she died before I was old enough to work out what domestic violence meant… I have to tell you the story (as I know it) of Ruth Holmstrom. I have to give her a bit of longevity in this world lest she be forgotten altogether, for the little I know of her as a child of around six or seven years is through my one clear memory of meeting her on the footpath at her letterbox as I was making my way to the beach one summer day.. She looked down to me and smiled weakly.
The Holmstroms lived on Jervois Tce. About halfway between our house and Rowland’s Deli’ at the top of the hill-slope to the beach there by Mrs. Fookes Fish & Chip shop.. The house was of red-brick, plain frontage, with dull, dark-green painted doors and windows. The blinds were always drawn. There was a low red-brick front fence with a small white gate. Mrs. Holmstrom grew watermelons out the back yard that didn’t have a side fence to the road , and so the ripe melons were subject to some young boys stealing one or two..to which Ruth would give chase when she could, yelling and cursing at them…young Potter was a main culprit and he was swift of foot..to his credit, he did share the booty amongst us other kids.
There were three children with Vernon and Ruth Holmstrom…the oldest was a girl whose name slips my memory a tad..I’ve got it written down somewhere..just a tic an’ I’ll find it….ah, yes..Julie..and then there was Kevin and Trevor. I knew the two boys better because they joined the other local boys down the beach.. They were known by their nick-names of ; “Sharkey” (Kevin) and “Porpoise” ( the younger Trevor)..there is a large diving-off rock there at the Marino Rocks beach called “Sharkey” and I thought and still do think it was a given name for the older Holmstrom boy as he could be so often sitting there alone on the rock.
The one time I remember Mrs.Holmstrom was the summer day I was walking down the path to the beach..I had my towel over my shoulder and I was jumping over the lines of tiny ants that I had noticed had made a right-angled track every so often regularly across the path…I was jumping one of these tracks when I bumped into Ruth Holmstrom at her letterbox there by the gate , collecting her mail…She was a big blowsy sort of woman with a wavey, ruffled mass of shortish dark hair and she had on a loose, floaty, white cotton dress with large red flower prints on it..neither she nor I said a word..she just looked down at me and smiled weakly and it was then I noticed one side of her face was swollen and marked by a large bruise along with a black-eye. She just smiled at me, glanced nervously around and then quickly made her way back inside the house.
Potter lived just a couple of houses up from the Holmstroms and I asked him recently about Ruth and Vernon and told of my memory..and he remarked that he wasn’t surprised, because he witnessed Vernon hit Ruth in the face with a full, closed fist once when he was there with the boys..he said the sound was like a crunching whack!, and he fled out the back door. Vernon was a violent man, extremely violent..he could be heard up and down the street yelling and threatening all the family..he would not stop short of striking the children as swiftly and as viciously as he did his wife..yet he was never reported to the police and the community kept quiet, as was the custom..or shall we say ; “culture” in those days when it came to domestic violence.
When My sister was here over Christmas I spoke to her too about this recurring memory and she told me that yes, Mrs. Holmstrom had come to our mother several times to complain about Vernon’s drunken violence…but my mother had told her to try and keep the peace and hold the family together for the sake of the children.. Ruth, along with her husband was also an alcoholic…so there was that too.
But it was not long after the meeting at the letter-box , when our mother was getting the bath ready for us kids one night that she matter-of-fact quietly informed us that Mrs. Holmstrom had died that week and she had died because she had slipped in the bath and chipped the bone in her elbow and that small chip had worked it’s way up to her heart and she had died from a heart attack because of the bone chip…so you see..you have to be careful not to muck around while having a bath otherwise you could fall over and chip your elbow and die like Ruth Holmstrom.
But I no longer believe a word of that story.
The young men and women that grew from such a healthy outdoors environment , grew bodies that glowed with a shimmering water-silvered endowment that drew the jealousy of the gods! The sea –water that ran from their bodies when re-alighting onto ‘sharkey rock’ after a dive revealed all the beauty that nature could encompass in desire and comeliness in a youthful human form…their hungry eyes rejoiced in each other with a pagan worship of mother nature’s creation.
Having no money and no capacity to travel far, all the children congregated in a tribal-like conglomerate on the beaches . There was nothing in the stultifying doctrine of Catholicism or the Protestant work ethic that could not be laughed off under the pagan influence of sun , sea and surf and the merciful salvation of Fookes’s Fish and Chip Shop.
Ahh!..Mrs. Fookes..never did she know how much she helped create a revolution in her own small way, by her unconnected generosity to the local kids. From behind the counter of that unique fish and chippery, she contributed to the making of “baby-boomer” revolutionaries. She had a stride like a parade-ground Sergeant Major, and a voice to match..but her heart was of pure gold. She wasn’t like “Aunt Mary”, the railway porter on the train station who would line the kids up and threaten any delinquents that she would cut their heads off and put a cabbage in it’s place if’n she had any more cheek!
Mrs. Fookes saw how so many were scrawny kids hungry for a decent bit of daytime tucker, scrounging around for empty cool-drink bottles to cash in for a bob’s worth of chips..one of the kids would go inside with a few bottles at threepence each return deposit and Mrs Fookes would dish out more than a shillings chips and sometimes throw in a piece of fish that “was just laying around waiting for a mouth to eat “…and there’s a couple extra chips or a “ potato pattie for your little plump friend there at the door…he looks hungrier than the rest of you!” and the booty was all shared around amongst many..right down to greasy fingers dabbing up even the last salt grains..’all for one, one for all’…till she worked out a way to legitimise her care by pointing one day to some large empty glass jars in an alcove by the counter..”Listen you kids” she said in her commanding voice, “I want some interesting shells and things to make a sea-side display for the customers to look at while they wait..if you bring me something interesting or curious from the sea, I will give you some fish and chips in return…but it’s gotta be interesting, mind!” and she wagged a finger in warning to not try any silly buggers with her..and she meant it!..and she stuck to her word…The kids would bring their little treasures from Neptunes hoard and she’d exchange for tucker…Did anyone then realise what this meant, this system of barter ?..It meant freedom!..liberated from going home during the day for food..No longer under the parents watchful eyes the children were free to create their own sea-side society from morning to late afternoon,without oversight or consultation with adults!..God bless Mrs. Fookes!..and may a warm fire be forever burning in her hearth and warm slippers handy on a cold night…God bless her.
Mind you, she had to have a pretty tough hide to handle her fisherman husband ; Edgar Gordon Fookes…a stone-cutter by trade, fisherman by choice and garrulous old bastard by nature. Edgar and his sons had a fishers camp on the Yorke Peninsula, where they would set out to their secret fishing grounds and catch choice fish to clean and put on ice which Edgar would deliver straight back to the shop..never were fresher fish, more delicious fish and chips served to a long queue of faithful customers..five or more deep at the counter till a ticketing system had to be introduced.
Edgar would deliver his catch and then lean against the end of the counter smoking his big, fat meerschaum pipe and observing what he called ‘the idle rich” customers coming and going. He was a garrulous old bloke and the kids held their distance when he was around, saving their moments to barter with the kindly Mrs. Fookes when he was away.
One day , on a quiet afternoon, Edgar was “resting” on his arm at the end of the counter watching a matronly looking lady in heavy fur coat peruse with concerned expression and a pair of prinz nez opera glasses the trays of select fish in the display fridge…after several sweeps in this manner, Edgar could be observed huffing and puffing in an agitated way on his pipe..Edgar prided himself on the freshness and quality of his catch..Finally, the matron straightened up and dropping her glasses to her bosom, addressed Mrs. Fookes behind the counter.
“ Madam, “ she spoke in a ‘Toorak Gardens’ dialect , “Are these fish frrrrresh?”.
This was too much for Edgar to take lying down! He swiftly sidled up to the lady and taking his pipe with a sudden but measured movement from his mouth , he looked her square in the eye and informed her in a mocking emulation of the lady’s own accent;
“Madam!…if they were any frrrrresher…they’d be indecent!” and he turned abruptly away to resume his place at the end of the counter..huffing and puffing at his pipe.
These long, hot, glorious days of summer, over the growing years of all those children developed a naturalism in their hearts that far outweighed the confected indoctrination from the adult world of conservative ritual and religious corruption..even the memories of corporal punishment metered out with summary judgement by Sister Laurence, the playground “enforcer”, armed not with swish or cane like the other nuns, but rather with a fore-arm’s length of stout jarrah wood that she came bearing down on young Christopher who was playing marbles in a “forbidden area” with Brian Hurley , her habit and cloak billowing in the wind with a scowl on her face and the lump of jarrah raised in her claw-like hand looking for all the world like a Valkrie descending…and to this day, Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkries” conjures the exact picture of that moment for Christopher.
Christopher coasted through those years of primary schooling..The rudimentary academic education barely sufficient to claim a place in a lower stream of the state high school, while the totally useless religious indoctrination was, presumably necessary to keep him “in the faith” for the more important Catholic principle of saving his eternal soul. Never was a more futile project implemented by more tragic adherents to a faith never more doomed to ethical and moral disintergration..thankfully, such is the inevitable fate of all religion…curse them, curse them and cast them all to the rubbish-bin of history!
But there were traitors in the camp..is there anything easier to find than a traitor?..There were those, born too close to the end of the war that would align themselves too readily with the conservative ambitions of their parents and teachers. These were the one’s given and eagerly accepting the roles of “prefect” or “house captain”..These traitors were the sleepers that were groomed like the ‘domestic steer’ to give example to and lead the next generation on the similar path to their elders..curse their souls to perdition! Keen as mustard for the ‘glittering prize’ of financial reward or recognised kudos, their eyes keen for advantage over their neighbour, fellow worker, brother or sister, they easily absorbed the tactics and strategy of their social masters, well fitted and suited to a Judas class.
But these quislings were to give themselves away by their keen association with appointed positioning by authority..They were the ones quick to grasp the baton to lead the house marches around the parade ground at the end of the sports day in the St. Josephs school . The O’Connell’s, the Vort-Ronald’s, the Van Der Lindens et al, high-stepping to the thumping piano tunes of Mrs.Gilchrist as she belted out a Sousa march on the old upright piano near the corner of the tennis courts by the front gate of the school, while behind those “creatures” in desultory obedience under threat of Sister Laurence’s jarrah whacker, the rest of the school kids swung their arms in militaristic style to the foreboding tunes and the House banners…Mercy / blue..Rosary / red..Lourdes / green and Fatima / yellow…around and around they would march until Mrs. Gilchrist’s piano thumped its last note and the “battalion” was bought to a stumbling, colliding , comical halt in place for Father Collins to deliver his gospel of the day in the syrupy dulcet tones of his West Ireland brogue..
Which would best describe the final year of Christopher’s primary education.
There are any number of artistic tomes of literature, any number of operatic, musical or plays of, about but rarely FOR the benefit of working-class cultural advancement..for it is sadly mostly the middle-class that takes opportunity to utilise the situations dramatic, comical or banal inherent in the lives of the working-class to draw audiences and profit from such situations…and again, sadly, it has to be admitted that rarely do working-class people indulge their artistic senses within the pages of writers from their own demographic..Is it the fact that the openings of opportunity for publishing / display of creative works are more reserved for and in the realm of middle-class networks and cognoscenti?
Why is this so?
In my own humble experience as a purveyor of representations of a working-class life, I have searched for but found few..no…have found NONE from the working-classes that have pursued deep and thoughtful representations over a long period of authorship to transfer to written stories or tales their life lived in the strata of physical “working for a living”. Certainly there are those who have used their experiences to write of them so as to hopefully gain the glittering prizes judiciously and jealously dished out by the middle-class and have strived to “rise above their humble origins” to embrace the aspired middle-class lifestyle…but once “discovered”, few remain faithful to their background over a long period of time..this is in spite of the obvious evolution of so many examples of working-class art in both personal pursuits all levels of artistic pursuit and even in housing design evolution..
In past “Golden Age” periods of story writing, there were any number of working-class writers who engaged us with delightful or dramatic stories..but that was in the age of hard-copy printing and many magazines were hungry for tales that drew readership to their pages…indeed, most weekly magazines competed in their front pages with the latest works from many amateur writers…but that was before “Glam-Mags” and fashionista preferences removed light entertainment from the pages to be replaced with gossip pics and paparazzi scandals centered around the “beautiful people” of upper or middle-class society.
Now, one is reduced to placing one’s writing up on social media blog-sites, many of which are just another platform for middle-class sensibilities, identity politics and echo-chamber opinions of an outraged middle-class uninterested in sensitive tale or cameo of emotional content..there is only ONE opinion that matters on social media and THAT is ONE’S OWN OPINION!….Though I do contend that the current one here where my pieces are thankfully accepted is a working-class blog, high cut above the general dross of middle-class blog-mullock that passes for current political opinion and commentary.
So what can be done to elevate working-class art to its rightful position at the head of representation of life lived by the vast majority of people?
The problem that I see is the one of so many blue-collar workers having a disdain for their working-class origins or position in society and are in constant struggle to aspire to a more affluent (read “effluent”) lifestyle through the false Gods of materialism and Neo-Liberal economics…the empty-headed spiel of a swindling middle-class. It is this mistaken belief that always portends the defeat of working-class politics..this belief that one must “aspire” to a “higher social status”…I ask..: What higher status?….The role of a speculating, entrepreneurial class that seeks any and every opportunity to take down family, friend and neighbour at any given chance?…that class of lying, conniving cruds that will snatch and grab at any chance of public moneys given in mistaken grants to “improve employment opportunities” …to ; “enhance business opportunities”…so as to – again – improve employment opportunities ? Yet in the same shameful breath will demean and deny a decent living standard for so many of the working poor and vulnerable…will even cheat the aged of a respected retirement in any number of thieving “aged-care” homes…Why have these lying crooks been “elevated” to represent a type of citizen the working people must aspire to?…I’ll tell you why..because they have been “manufacturing” their lies and false image for over a hundred years through both the govt’ public schools via stooges employed there..and those Machiavellian private schools whose sole objective is to inculcate bastardry and tyranny into the heads and hearts of their youthful charges, whilst grooming them to take what they consider their “rightful by inherited” place in leadership of all and every position of influence in The State.
F#CK ‘EM !…I say…
Time for the working people of this country to grow up, accept and be proud…yes f#cking PROUD of one’s working-class roots and situation…be proud of the fact that you..and YOU ALONE are willing and capable of supporting through your own labour, yourself and / or your loved ones and family. That you and YOU ALONE have accrued skills, be they in craft or trade or semi / professional work that can bring you within the circumferences of a local – regional – statewide – nationwide – global international network of similar placed, similar minded and similar sympathetic working communities…the widest, biggest representative community in the world!
And it is through our art via stories or audio/visual communication that our common goals of fair and equitable societies can be achieved..The working-class has the highest creative imagination, the ultimate power, the maximum voice and the majority of people to either vote out or throw out those tyrannical morons of the middle-classes who are little more than a non-producing weight on our shoulders that we are expected to carry as a burden through life and whose degenerate lifestyles are a blight on any fair-minded member of the wider community.
Martin Menzell was getting old. Martin was of the generation from the era before the war when horse power was the major means of farming production..before tractors became more efficient and the horse era was brought to a sudden and inglorious end..who could have foreseen that the development of those brutal machines of war, would make for the development of the tractor to become the machine for farming that would completely, in such a short space of time, sideline the draught-horse as the work-horse of agriculture. Gone in an instant was all those allied trades and skills that supported and surrounded the horse industry for uncounted millenia…all the experts in breeding, breaking and training horses in so many communities..gone also were the farriers, blacksmiths, saddlers and harness makers and repairers…and the conversations at store and hotel moved from muscle and hoof to the mechanics of this or that machinery.
An era of companionship in leisure and labour between horse and man, that had stood for uncountable millennia had passed.
Martin Menzell watched with concerned eye this passing of an era..He first had an inkling of it when old Glastonbury retired and on-sold one of the first cumbersome tractors that came to the district..a great lump of a thing called ; “A Lanz Bulldog”…sure, it could pull its weight on the plough and then some, but it was a beast of a thing to get started and the noise , and the smell and the fuel it needed was filthy and most distressingly..it scared the horses!….But when old man Glastonbury retired, young Rosenswietz made a lunge to buy that tractor quick-smart that demonstrated an eagerness for this new age of machine driven farming that gave warning to Martin Menzell that here was a thing whose moment had come..and it was coming to stay.
Martin was worried.
Martin loved his horses.
But Martin was getting old.
There were still several horses that he kept as personal companions that connected him to a passed age. He had relinquished the running of the farm several years before to his two daughters, his only children for he had no son…after his wife passed away.. The daughters too had an affinity for horses, but in a more “sport-horse” capacity…that is, they worked and trained them for equestrian competition like dressage or Hacking events…an occupation that Martin scorned as frivolous and undignified for serious horse breeding and working.
Martin kept his skills and observing eye to himself regarding what HE thought would make for a good breed of horse…and on that matter, he had his eye on a mare of his own that he had for some time considered good brood stock for a likely stallion. Many times he could be seen leaning over the rails of the mare’s yard watching her movements closely…Her stepping movements. The muscular frame of her body..strength of the forequarter and hindquarter…the swing in her trot or canter..that shimmer of her coat…but most of all was this instinct for the whole picture of the mare..an instinct cultivated over so many years of handling, breaking and grooming of those beasts..yes…he was thinking..there is a good brood mare…and he knew just the right stallion he would want to mate her with.
Another old friend from the days of serious horse farming, Charlie Kruger had just the stallion Martin had in mind…Charlie had paid a tidy sum for him back in the day and was charging more than Martin could afford for a mare servicing..but that was then…Similar health problems coming with ageing were troubling Charlie Kruger now and Martin heard that Charlie’s stallion ; “Nobleman” would soon be put up for sale.. Martin approached his old friend and made him an offer that Charlie accepted with the rider that any foal could not be signed off on a breed certificate as a progeny of “Nobleman”, as the mare had no breeding papers….and the pair of horses were left in a yard to “go about their business” once the mare came on season.
The mating was successful and in due course, fortune came forward and a colt was born.. and what a fine colt he was…and once weaned, the colt’s body and frame started to really develop into a fine figure of a future stallion…and he named this stallion ; “Ctesephon”, pronounced ; Tesephon..after the ancient capital of Persia…yes…he thought..a noble name for a noble beast…A dark Bay coloured horse with black lower legs without blotch nor blemish…and just a splotch of white on its forehead..a beautiful beast.
Martin knew he no longer had the physical strength to break the stallion, so when Ctesephon was two years old, he called in a local young man that he knew was up to the job… Gary Sommer…and under Martin’s tutelage and Gary’s skilled nerve, they gradually brought Ctesephon under the control of bridle, bit and saddle without breaking that glorious strut, trot and canter of the beast…he truly was a magnificent animal..and once he was good enough for Martin to lunge, they would go to the Round Yard and Martin would put Ctesephon through his paces, developing his frame and balancing his movements, so that when he trotted or cantered, it was with an unfaltering stride and with his head in perfect symmetry to his pushing steps…Martin would never tire of admiring that marvellous beast and he felt more than a little proud that his breeding judgement was proven so sound with this fine example of equine purity..
Martin held the lunge rope and put Ctesephon into a fast trot, holding him in the frame so he could study the stride and pitch of the body..
He was as a butterfly in a flock of moths. He bounced on his hooves with all the grace of a prancing pony, circling, lifting, dipping, feinting. He floated in the air at times with what seemed all four hooves off the ground and Martin found he could time Ctesephon’s strides with a snap of his fingers…Snap! Snap! Snap! Snap!…and the horse’s muscles flexed and pumped out shimmering waves of his coat with a combination of controlled speed and controlled step like some boxing greats.
“He’s like a Panther with a pretty face.” Said Gary as he watched from the rails….Yes..Martin agreed he’s almost like a big cat stalking around the yard…beautiful.
Martin would spend hours training and grooming his steed over many months..
But Martin was getting old.
One day, one of the daughters found Martin laying on the couch in his “Granny flat” in a frozen immovable state…he had suffered a stroke…and for a long time, he was at death’s door…then came the struggle in convalescence and then in rehabilitation, for Martin had lost much of his capacity to move around or speak and even to comprehend what was being spoken to him..so it was a good nine months before he could ask or be told of events down on the property.
When Martin did finally get the chance to lucidly put words together, it was to ask of Ctesephon..
“Fine..He’s fine..” said his eldest daughter, Fiona…” He’s down the back paddock fattening up on the new growth grass there..he’s just fine..”
Fiona was the more authoritative of Martin’s two daughters…it was she who managed the property once Martin relinquished it to his daughters…and it was Fiona who changed the business model from an agricultural system to primarily an equestrian centre with indoor arena, where the more affluent of the district would congregate and take lessons or agist their horses…the younger daughter, Kaylene, was more of the party animal type and though she too was keen on the equestrian side , she had little to do with the management of the business and followed..albeit insubordinately…her older sister’s instructions.
“Is he being worked? “ Martin mumbled out…There was a pause before Fiona answered.
“ He’s ….resting..” she cautiously replied.
“Better get young Gary to keep working him…it won’t be good to leave off with the training at this young age..”
Fiona stopped folding some items she had brought there for Martin and sat gingerly on the edge of the bed…she clasped her hands together on her lap and spoke..
“Gary doesn’t come to the farm anymore….I had to let him go.”
“Why?…he’s a strapping young lad..I’d think he’d be quite useful to do the heavy lifting there on the farm.”
Fiona averted her eyes and replied..
“That’s the problem…he was a bit too much of the “strapping young lad” at least as far as Kaylene was concerned….He’s too much of a distraction for her and the other girls working there..”
“What girls..they’re all grown women!” Martin exclaimed. “Kay’ must be..oh, twenty eight by now..that’s a grown woman in my book..your mother was younger when we married…mind you, I was much older than her..but she had you two by the time she was twenty five!…would’ve had more but for Kaylene’s difficult pregnancy!”
“ That was then, dad…now, thirty is the new twenty..and Kay’ still acts like a young teenager..Look ( and Fiona stood up from the bed and with hands on her hips, she confronted her father with her explanation )….if you are so convinced that Kaylene is the grown woman I’ll tell you about her.. I was walking past the feed room a while back and I heard a noise from inside and while the door was shut, I could see through that hole where the old lock was ..and there was Kaylene flat-strap on her back on the lucerne bales with her ankles up by her ears and with Gary giving her a lot of what YOUR generation so crudely calls ‘ ‘ow’s yer father’ …so there’s your “grown woman”..
“Oh…” Martin mumbled..” Did you confront her about it ?”
“I did..and I said that I saw what she and Gary were up to in the feed room…but the only reply I got was a casual..”Did you dear?”…and with a slap of her riding crop on her jodhpurs, she walked away..Well, I told Gary I didn’t need him there any more and I paid him off”.
“The cheeky little sprite!” and Martin chuckled “ Oh well..your mother and I were no better behaved when we were young….I remember one time after a local dance….”
“I don’t want to know!” Fiona quickly and sharply interjected..and she gathered her purse and things to go..
“Well, you better think of getting him back to do some work on Ctesephon..because I won’t be back on line for quite a while and you can’t let a stallion stand idle…they’re troublesome…like young strapping lads..” and he gave Fiona a wink on her parting.
It was several weeks before Martin could get back to his home on the property and then only move about the granny-flat with the help of a walking frame or a stick on some days…His speech had almost completely restored, but his left side leg and arm were only partially useful..but he still insisted on doing for himself as much as possible…the only fly in the ointment at this juncture was his concern for Ctesephon and the lack of training he was getting…he decided to ring Gary himself and get him to come over.
“ Oh..hello, Martin” Gary answered the phone “How you getting on?…You home yet?”
“Yeah, I’m home and I’m still ratshit!…can only get around with this bloody frame… or a stick…it’s shithouse…say..how about you coming over an’ helping me?”
“What for…changing the nappy?” and he laughed.
“Don’t be a smart-arse, young whipper-snapper…I’m talking about Ctesephon…he needs working.”
“Don’t you know I’m banned…?”
“That’s your fault…don’t you know not to take your honey where you make your money?…and anyway..I’m unbanning you..I need your help with Ctesephon.”
“Why..the girls can manage him now..can’t they?”
“NO they can’t!” Martin yelled into the phone “I saw him drag Fiona about the yard just yesterday..he’s too much of a handful for her.”
“Hrumph!” Gary grunted..” I suppose he’s still pissed off with them”…There was a silence from Martin’s end of the line and a cold fear came over him.
“What do you mean ;’pissed off’ ?” He asked…Gary twigged that he hadn’t been told…and while he regretted ever giving hint, it was too late now to avoid the issue…Martin would find out soon anyway.
“ They had him gelded”…there was a silence..so he continued..” about six months ago…didn’t they tell you?”….Gary could hear his own breathing…” They didn’t know if you were going to survive..and he was too much for any of the women to handle…and one day he broke out of his yard and there was all sorts of havoc…Fiona had to call me over to get him back into a yard…she was shitting herself he would get into the mare’s paddock”…there was silence on the line..then it went dead.
That night when he sat to dinner with Fiona, half way through his meal, Martin carefully put his knife and fork down and sat up straight in his chair…never one to beat about the bush he straight up asked his daughter..
“When did you think you would tell me about gelding Ctesephon?”…Fiona stopped eating and with cutlery in hand paused while she cogitated on her answer.
“Soon…very soon…..Look…I had no choice…I suppose you got the news from Gary?”
“Yeah…I got the news from Gary…said you couldn’t handle him”. Martin spoke sarcastically…Fiona placed her cutlery on the table..
“You heard of the break-out then..I was at wits end how to manage him”
“And THAT’S the crux of it all…YOU couldn’t “manage” the stallion…like YOU couldn’t “manage” Gary with Kaylene..so you bent both situations to YOUR will…your control..you gelded both situations.” Martin wiped his lips and flung the napkin to the table.
“That’s right!” Fiona, now angry also..shouted ..” I couldn’t manage him…NONE of us women could..he was too fierce…too strong…the vet had to tranquilise him with a gun just to get near him!”
“What did you expect..He was a solid built stallion..NOT some poncy, prancing pony…You should’ve called Gary in…HE could manage him”
“ Oh yes!..’get Gary’…’Get Martin’….’Get the men in to help the girls manage a situation’…I COULD manage it…just NOT in the way YOU would let me…”…Fiona shouted across the table…Martin pshawwed the comment..Fiona continued ” Yes..and while we’re at it, perhaps YOU can tell me what else I am supposed to do with a stallion that no-one except your ‘darlin’ Gary’ could ride..a stallion no-one would want the foal from seeing as it has no breeding history save a stallion from some MATE of yours and bloody “Stumpy the mare”…” all this with Fiona stabbing her finger in the air and making inverted comma signs with her hands..
“He was a bloody perfect breed…you could see it in his frame, his stride, his movement, his muscle structure…a beautiful boy ..you don’t need any PAPERS to tell you that.”
“Yes…he’s a beautiful boy alright..a stunner…but not worth a red-cent as far as people in the industry go…There is no-one in this era that has use for an idle stallion that has no breeding heritage and no re-sale value save for a school horse..anybody with the amount of cash needed and willing to pay the big-bickies for a bred horse in this game will want their bloodline papers to show breeding that goes back to William The Conqueror!!…It’s all show-pony now, Dad..There’s no horse-drawn ploughs any more…there’s no milk-oh wagons plodding the streets either…and no-one has a sulky or cart that needs a horse in harness…”…and here Fiona softened her voice…” . . . and seriously..we didn’t know if you were even going to survive the stroke…or if you did you’d perhaps be a vegetable…I had to make a decision and that breakout made it for me.”
“ That’s the trouble, isn’t it…that’s EXACTLY the trouble…there’s no use even for such a beautiful example of a beast of nature just to admire…a perfect specimen…save for what can be got from it…if it can’t be “managed”, it can’t be of any value…it’s no wonder they can’t even sing a decent song anymore”…and Martin got up and left the table and hobbled with his walking frame back to his flat.
It was the early hours of the very next morning, with the wind bustling the branches and leaves of the low trees about the property, that Martin opened the door of his flat and with a long bag slung over his shoulder and his weakened body being supported by a walking frame, Martin made his way cautiously to the horse yard where Ctesephon was held…upon arrival at the rails, he pulled out some cut carrots from his coat pocket..and motioning toward Ctesephon, he called him to the rails..
Ctesephon recognised his master and also saw the carrots and he came to the rails..
“Ah, yes…can’t resist a carrot, eh, “Tessi”…Martin crooned…”My goodness, you’re still a fine looking boy..if one can call you a “boy” any more…they called men who had their balls cut off ; ‘Castrati’ back in the days when they did such things to humans…what am I to call you?..hmm…my beautiful fellow…my beautiful boy…yes…you’re still my beautiful boy..”and dropping several carrots onto the ground in front of him, so that the gelded stallion bent his head to pick at the reward..Martin caressingly stroked Ctesephon’s face…and then, lifting the long bag there that he had prepared before he came down to the yard, Martin unzipped the end and reaching his arm into the bag to cradle the trigger of the twelve-gauge shotgun loaded with a solid-slug 12-bore shell, he lifted bag and all so as not to alarm the horse to point it to the correct place on the gelded stallion’s head..and with a final “Goodbye old mate”….he pulled the trigger..
The most concerning conundrum post election is the question of why working/vulnerable people voted against their own interests to help return a right-wing government that then goes on to bust them economically and socially…and not just in this country, but with Brexit and Trumpism too, there were strange forces at play to shift opinion away from sane rationality to vociferous anger.
Why is it so?
I believe I can see an answer in the word ; “Clustering”…ie; getting hold of groups of vulnerable voters and using certain cultural fears to unite/corral them against what could be seen as a long-time enemy..and then letting the natural suspicions and gossiping innuendo do the hard work of : “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”, and so bring another group of indecisive voters into the tent.
I would describe “clustering” as that action of where one central identifiable position of authority or person of power, through self-interest, raises opposition to a principle or ideal and because of their/its credible standing in a group or the community, can gather others around itself and using those people then up the ante in opposition to a principle or ideal and create a “cluster” of persons of credibility that acts like a magnet, drawing those undecided to what is seen as the most attractive position of strength. It is the attraction of strength that pulls in the undecided voters to throw their lot in with those they see as best supporting THEIR personal interests as against the wider communities interests..Using this methodology, smaller, more localised groups can be targeted with a “Cambridge Analytica” style concentration on most vulnerable seats or even ballot-box areas…with military precision to divide the electorate into smaller, easily managed groups.
Most of us of a certain experience in life have witnessed or even suffered such a phenomenon involving team sports, committees, work meetings etc..it is not nice and worse of all, after time and experience, one can see quite clearly when such a thing is evolving right in front of one’s eyes…Anyone watching “Insiders” last Sunday (14/02 ) could see the journos’ there join in a “pile-on” against Daniel Andrews and his decision to lockdown Victoria…and then there was the discussion about low-income, casualised workers (Uber / Food delivery riders etc) getting decent conditions, with the “Newscorp genuflector” at one point giving clue to the future direction of his treasonous group in saying that (wtte) “these pizza delivery people are mostly migrants and overseas students who many people would see as lesser workers”…implying a sense of racist interpretation in the general community…….and sadly, going by recent events…he just may be correct…and there we see the possibility of the LNP playing a “cluster card” of one vulnerable working group – Australian local casualised workforce against an imported “457” cheap-labour section of the community…just as Howard played the “lower caste” refugees with his “children overboard” racism against the settled, secured Australian community…never mind that so many of that settled community were multi cultural already…it was the “do we want such disreputable people infecting our lovely country?” debate that won the day.
The last Federal election was also played on such grounds..the franking credits issue touched also the heart-strings of other self funded retirees..so many of whom were working people who benefitted from long term permanent employment, cheaper house prices when they bought and a solid superannuation scheme to allow them to invest or speculate on shares or property to harvest extra income to boost their retirement…indeed, some were heavily reliant on such investments as their aged pension could have been severely cut because of their superannuation amount and income from investment..this created a cluster of self-interest among retirees that was inflamed by Tim Wilson’s geriatric Big-top circus up and down the East Coast.
Then there was The Greens “Adani Convoy”, where either through deliberate incitement or gormless political blundering, Bob Brown’s mob created another “cluster” of mining community members completely dropping Labor off their vote slips to insert the f#cking harridan Hanson on!…in a deluded opinion that they were protecting their long-term interests…again..clustering toward what was seen as a position of strength.
Add to the above a continual division on climate change, carbon sequestration and environmental challenges and you have a well-spring of clusters to manipulate… and with a now totally corrupt to the point of criminality Gov’t, the Sky-Channel is their limit!
There must be some psychological term to describe this clustering effect in groups, but I won’t go looking for it, satisfied as I am that I can see it in action among many bloggers and social media posters…on Twitter for instance, it is not an uncommon thing for groups to cluster to “pile on” singular identities to bludgeon them off the board…we see such moments as the “cancel culture” groups…the anti this or that groups…we saw it in spades against individuals like J.K.Rowling…right or wrong, it became an avalanche of trolling…it can verge on bullying when it becomes a concentrated force.
I personally witnessed it on another social media platform some years back where a moderator, backed by a “rising star” poster on the site combined forces to attack another person and then by “magnetic attraction” others who had no part in the discussion, joined in their cooperative attack to add their infantile opinions as little more than a background shout of noise to what became the collective howling down of any opposition…
This strange yet powerful attraction of the insecure individual to join forces with those they see as a more powerful voice that will give them, vicariously, added importance to an otherwise insignificant mumble of their own, makes for a cluster of individually weak, but collectively strong voting bloc of the undecided voters that in an election won or lost on a one-seat majority is a much sought out number.
Be warned..the next election is already being ‘war-gamed’ on what that slime-bag of newscorp pustulance ; Campbell, gave away last Sunday…the playing against each other of Australian worker to immigrant worker/student..making note of the Chinese/Indian ethnicity…then the playing against trade-workers in building to cheap labour-hire imported workers, not to mention that old standby..the “overpaid indigenous community” against the long-suffering suburban white community..particularly in these times of “jobkeeper/Seeker”..and then of course, we have those others mentioned above…
It may become an adage worthy in replacing the old ; “In numbers there is strength” ..with ; “In clusters, there is an election win”.
“We are to consider some of the practices of a virile race of some five hundred millions of people who have an unimpaired inheritance moving with the momentum acquired through four thousand years; a people morally and intellectually strong, mechanically capable, who are awakening to a utilization of all the possibilities which science and invention during recent years have brought to western nations; and a people who have long dearly loved peace but who can and will fight in self defense if compelled to do so.
We had long desired to stand face to face with Chinese and Japanese farmers; to walk through their fields and to learn by seeing some of their methods, appliances and practices which centuries of stress and experience have led these oldest farmers in the world to adopt. We desired to learn how it is possible, after twenty and perhaps thirty or even forty centuries, for their soils to be made to produce sufficiently for the maintenance of such dense populations as are living now in these three countries . . . “ ( Farmers of Forty Centuries..F.H.King .. pub’. 1911 )
This is not a panegyric for China…after all, I am a nobody as far as ANY social influence goes and for a person such as myself to wax flattery about a nation of around 1.5 billion people, would be presumption of the most crass and vulgar kind, they certainly can and do speak for themselves.
No…I come not to praise China, but rather to perhaps persuade others here to “listen up” to what ought to be obvious regarding the reality of this mega-populated nation to the north of us..and if we read the above portion of the preface to a book by an American, published in 1911 of the skills and traditions of agriculture of those peoples from forty centuries ago until that said date of publishing, you will appreciate a civilisation well versed in knowledge, frugality and perseverance…and other characteristics mentioned above…truly a nation of people to be, if not possibly emulated, then at the very least respected as capable and culturally cohesive.
The incessant anti-China propaganda dribbling out from ALL our media that seeks and finds every and any means to vilify and demean China via direct accusation or implied innuendo reeks of the old days of anti-Soviet “Red Menace” publications…Of course, these days the “Bolshevism schlock” is a damn sight more sophisticated, but none the less crude in its enactment by certain authorities and media outlets.
But what is the real feeling of what and where China is going with its social and economic expansion?
One Belt – One Road. …Surely a bold and courageous initiative that ought to hold the attention of the world and inspire it to examine it as more than just a “communist plot” by China to grab power..
“The stated objectives are “to construct a unified large market and make full use of both international and domestic markets, through cultural exchange and integration, to enhance mutual understanding and trust of member nations, ending up in an innovative pattern with capital inflows, talent pool, and technology database.” The Belt and Road Initiative addresses an “infrastructure gap” and thus has potential to accelerate economic growth across the Asia Pacific area, Africa and Central and Eastern Europe. A report from the World Pensions Council (WPC) estimates that Asia, excluding China, requires up to US$900 billion of infrastructure investments per year over the next decade, mostly in debt instruments, 50% above current infrastructure spending rates. The gaping need for long term capital explains why many Asian and Eastern European heads of state “gladly expressed their interest to join this new international financial institution focusing solely on ‘real assets’ and infrastructure-driven economic growth”. ( Wikipedia)
Surely this would benefit Australia and open up entirely new markets for agricultural produce and manufacturing?..What could possibly be the downside to wholeheartedly joining in such an enterprise, except that certain “players” who like to control and corner geographical areas of the world trade map may find their “private back yard” of controlled and policed countries shrinking and abandoning their “protection racket” methodologies.
We have seen just recently, many Pacific Nations being approached with investment opportunities by China that would be of more benefit to those nations than the patronising pseudo-colonising by “certain western nations” that have kept them under obligation to a cold-as-charity system of “foreign aid” and exploitation…Having their revered cultures displayed as tourist entertainment for a few shekels tossed at their feet..or worse, being used as a penal colony for payment for their debts. Who can blame them for considering a changing of the guard?
And what about us?..What have we as a nation gained from this brave new world of neo-liberal, free-market philosophy?…A gig economy of casualised, part-time work, flat-lined shit wages and conditions…shit healthcare, inequality in education and a racist attitude toward multi-culturalism…retirement to a world of poverty and lack of decent care…a coterie of gangster LNP politicians who if they cannot steal the nations treasures to add to their already bulging property portfolios, they then flog it off at fire-sale prices to their mates and have sent everything of quality off-shore including our good name and honour…and there’s no point asking that old chestnut ; “what have we got to lose”, because we have already lost it!
What would be lost for Australians to hitch their wagon to the One Belt – One Road Initiative? We see and hear the agricultural sector bitterly complaining of a lack of workers, surely if there was a wider market ready to pick up our produce, good wages and conditions could be paid to lure workers to their farms…if there was a greater population calling out for quality produce, then all the better for pricing and maintaining healthy agriculture practices?…If there was a wider market for the shipping of goods, then there would surely be space for quality manufacturing and value-adding to the products we make?
Someone tell me the downside?…and if we continue to clamour that Australia is a “market driven” economy that runs on the entrepreneurial inventiveness of its best and brightest, then surely the chance to join in one of the most imaginative enterprises of this twenty first century has to be a once in a lifetime opportunity!