Once upon a time…

Resisting the temptation to declare that this current period of so-called governance of the nation reads and performs like the script of a Grimm Bros’ fairy tale, we have to admit…no..screw it!..it IS LIKE a fairy tale..a horrid fantasy where instead of the villains getting their just desserts, they end up like the wolves consuming the children.

There’s something badly wrong with our cultural perceptions..badly wrong..our sense of fairness has been turned upside down. All those same fairy tales, those moral insights, the Grimm Brothers..those Hans Christian Anderson anecdotes, Aesop’s fables and the rest have been trashed for the complete opposite result that is the lesson of ancient times and now anarchy and mayhem rule our days.

It truly is a bizarre turn of events, because in every moral tale told to us, to our children down the ages, at fireside or bedside..the most miserable stereotype, sniveling, vicious, narrow-eyed lying schemers are identified, chastised and given a bloody good and well-deserved walloping! Now, any one of those many mythical weaselly villains could be morphed into a Pyne. The most brutal, bullying, cold-blooded destroyer of the innocents could be at anytime ; a Dutton…the avaricious landlord or overlord, who wouldn’t hesitate to send in the bailiffs against the most sorrowful widow could unmistakably be a Murdoch…That suavo wealthy uncle, bon-vivant, amusing raconteur and apparent gentle “assistant” to the ladies…all the while slyly and slimily waiting his chance to de-flower the young maidens could easily be Turnbull (except he’s too gormless!)…any number of LNP. women can be measured up as equally vindictive nasties or cackling harridans straight from the pages of medieval folk-lore and tales warning of the evils of over indulgence and characters that stalk the innocent and unwary.

And yet..here we are with those very same ghastly beggardly representations leading the nation..voted in there by many who not only have had such dire warnings read to them as children, but to this day, most probably still read a variation exampling of such mendacious behaviour to warn off their own offspring.

So where is the “lesson”?..Where is the example?..If we cannot see the danger, why bother trying to teach our children?..why not just let the strongest in brutal aggression rule over us?…Is might right?…Murdoch obviously believes it is..Dutton does too..all their creatures have eagerly signed onto the “contract”..and it seems many of the population likes what it sees! Perhaps it is time to rewrite the fairy tales?

Perhaps it is more suitable a time for us as a nation to “courage-up” and face our own responsibilities and cease fobbing off care and international treaties to those countries less wealthy and less populated that in many cases strain that nations resources to the limit and beyond. No Nation is in isolation in a changing climate world…if we do not seek a solution to manage the trickle of refugees we currently experience..and yes..even 50,000 in a year or two is no great number for some situations and some regions..so if we refuse to negotiate our way to accept those refugees now, what are we going to do when the climate refugee situation gets really serious? For by then there will no place to hide and no impoverished country on our doorstep that we can bribe or bully to do our dirty work for us.

After all, in all our European cultures, there is an overarching theme in both history and storyline, both fact and fable, in fantasy and mythology, there is the lesson indelible of right triumphing over oppression and wrong..We base the hard lessons of our laws upon these heroic myths..we forestall tyranny by using the lessons of past history -hopefully- to give example..we start these lessons with the very young, the innocent, before they can talk or walk by reading to sleep with rising or descending inflection of voice to the children, those tender lessons of adversity, of hope, struggle and triumph in big or small measure. We read these stories with that same voice that has come down from ancient times, down to our grandparents and parents and then to fall to us the responsibility demanded by our many cultures and creeds..we talk with sweet drops of dialect into the ears of the innocents, our dreams, our aspirations and desires with all the sincerity of a whisperer’s secret.

It is our solemn duty to our inherited culture to inculcate into our children those lessons so vital to the continuity of civilized society. And if we but renege on that duty, we fail both our children and our culture..and woe betide us when either of those most important pillars of community fail.

So..do we start to practice what we preach, or do we turn our heads away in craven shame..yet continue with our children to just hypocritically and cowardly mouth those platitudes of morality and ethics to those innocents?

But my goodness..won’t our voices have changed because of it?..Now, instead of our child detecting that soft mood of courage and determination in the voice of their storyteller, they will detect most astutely..as children do..the trembling hesitancy of the spineless wimp.

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What was true in history…

Below is a passage of observation by Theodor Mommsen from his magnum opus; “The History of Rome”, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1902. This work would have been a major part of the teaching of Classics in many Universities of that era. The accrued knowledge ought to have welded itself to our culture, social science and general knowledge, and should be learned wisdom to use and reflect upon through the years. But it is not! … It is a waste of knowledge up there with the loss for millennia of the knowledge for making concrete … How many mistakes could have been avoided and lives spared if such knowledge was digested with integrity or even was taken seriously.

I, myself, am disgusted and disappointed at the lax attention to such knowledge by those who ought to know better. As a tradesman who was taught the accrued skills of my craft, accumulated over many millennia of a society working with timber and construction..applied and improved upon through the wisdom and knowledge of many times illiterate but astute artisans..I feel disappointed and let down by a clique of higher-educated “elite” who seem to prove Mommsen’s observations below to be so accurate.

However, it is neither wit nor wisdom on my part to make these observations, for I am but the messenger. It is however, on the part of those who ought to understand and know better; an utter betrayal of a fine education and a dishonourable disgrace of political knowledge. I would say that those “revered institutions” of private school education and “sandstone” tertiary education, that conduct their system of instruction of their charges under a banner of pompous and insincere Latin mottos or logos that preach such lofty aspirations but in truth are little better than the most vulgar colloquial slang spat into a gutter by an inebriated starting-price bookie after a bad day at the races.

Theodore Mommsen:

“It is true that the history of past centuries ought to be the instructress of the present; but not in the vulgar sense, as if one could simply by turning over the leaves discover the conjunctures of the present in the records of the past and collect from these the symptoms for a political diagnosis and for the specifics for a prescription ; it is instructive only so far as the observation of earlier forms of culture reveals the organic conditions of civilization generally – the fundamental forces everywhere alike, and the manner of their combination everywhere different – and leads and encourages men, not to unreflecting imitation, but to independent reproduction.

In this sense the history of Caesar and of Roman Imperialism, with all the unsurpassed greatness of the master worker, with all the historical necessity of the work, is in truth a more bitter censure of modern autocracy than could be written by the hand of man. According to the same law of nature in virtue of which the smallest organism infinitely surpasses the most artistic machine, every constitution however defective which gives play to the free self-determination of a majority of citizens infinitely surpasses the most brilliant and humane absolutism ; for the former is capable of development and therefore living, the latter is what it is and therefore dead. This law of nature has verified itself in the Roman absolute military monarchy and verified itself all the more completely , that, under the impulse of its creator’s genius and in the absence of all material extraneous complications, that monarchy developed itself more purely and freely than any similar state. From Caesar’s time, as the sequel will show and Gibbon has shown long ago, the Roman system had only an external coherence and received only a mechanical extension, while internally it became even with him utterly withered and dead.

If in the early stages of the autocracy and above all in Caesar’s own soul the hopeful dream of a combination of free popular development and absolute rule was still cherished, the government of the highly-gifted emperors of the Julian house soon taught men in a terrible form how far it was possible to hold fire and water in the same vessel.” (Mommsen ; “Roman History”).

And THAT was Julius Caesar who tried and failed…and HE was a genius !…What have we in these times..: A moron!..an utter moron! And they (the LNP) are trying to pass MORE laws to restrict civil governance and restrain the equality of the masses..It’s got to a point where I am sick and tired of hearing “experts” in law or politics, or military advice or economics , from a plethora of institutions and universities who pontificate on their subject of choice , yet have either no capacity or no intention of protesting in any worthwhile physical manner against those of their similar standard of education who perpetrate this descent into bedlam that seems our fate. If these “behemoths” of learning and “influence”, cannot demonstrate either in the face of political imbecility…then I ask; What effing use are they…one might as well have a dog and bark oneself!

If we of the labouring classes have to cop the flak, the penalties of an unjust society without noticeable help from those better placed to influence, then they can go their way and we will ours..for THEY will just be another burden for us to carry.

“For your eyes only”.

There’s a phenomenon perhaps not unique to Australia, but is particularly noticeable in regional Oz..esp’ around these parts of the Mallee, where you can see the material progression of the process toward the almost inevitable “Third Generation Syndrome”, where you see the original pioneers pine and daub shanty, followed some years later after some modicum of farming success in “The New House” and then finally to the much later triple-fronted brick-veneer showpiece of the farm’s success story…
Then comes the next generation…the third generation syndrome where all that hard work gets “pissed against the wall”.
This breakdown with the family structure is jeaulously guarded from outside eyes and sometimes only the most intimate members of the family, even right up to the one parent knows of the inevitable collapse..I have heard of wives continuing on their merry way, involved in this or that community group..the bowls club, the local op-shop, even the choir group..totally unaware of the stalking of Nemisis until the fatal blow falls and then the shock of total destitution stares them and the family in the face..Some never recover their equilibrium and go on in a kind of continuous methodology of habit..like the setting of one foot in front of the other as in walking.
Many times it is not anyone’s particular fault..The produce market might collapse just when they are most vulnerable with a loan, or an accident may befall a family member or members plural..or health issues etc….But in the saddest cases, it can be gambling (perhaps even “pre-selling” of a crop) or the drink that does the most damage..and when that is the cause of the family breakdown, then truly within the group, it really is ; “For your eyes only”.
It was booze that done for the next generation of some of my family, booze mixed with the stagnation of life progress in a dying district. A district that was once a booming area with all the bountiful residuals of a virgin land cleared and cropped for several generations until…until the ground water started disappearing or becoming too saline…before the top-soil, held together for many millennia of Mallee bio-forest was clear-felled to every fence-line and then grazed almost to bedrock and the dirt-farmers became chemical farmers and that was alright while the rain was predictable and of a certain measurement…..until..
THEN…then we see the breaking spirit, the breaking health, the closing businesses and the loss of population drifting away from these “sad shires”..friends, family, networks, transport capabilities and the final straw ; the :”free-market” that destroyed many agricultural boards and guaranteed buyers..then comes the drink…
I saw it here when we purchased this property from an obscure Aunt..Obscure to me, because I had only heard of her mentioned in vague conversations…as “Aunt..X”..I never met her till we came to inspect the property that was on the market..I didn’t even know it was HER property..and when we did purchase it, we were pressed by those who bought OUR own property to move out and yet my Aunt had made no move at all to vacate her place. I had to recruit my other relatives up here to please intercede to assist the aged Aunty (their aunt as well!) to move her to her new unit in the Barossa. It was curious that there did not seem to be much enthusiasm on their part, until after I moved here and discovered some awful truths I was not supposed to know.
I won’t reveal those “truths”, as I suspect many regional families have lived their own situations that have for a short time at least wrought havoc into their lives. Sufficient to say that it was a third generation syndrome moment that resulted in extreme trauma for the family of my Aunty..may they rest in peace.
But sadly, this generational thing is exactly identifiable in the behaviour of the right-wing governments of this nation this last decade or so..We are ..what?..three generations from the second WW. , where militaristic discipline shaped social structure and obedience to such a degree that the imposed impossibilities placed on society caused the social upheaval that resulted in the huge changes in social welfare and health commitments of the preceding Labor governments..But the Liberal / National parties still cling to those perceived halcyon days of the Menzies era as the yardstick for measuring industrial , social, financial and status capacity in a world that is ploughing forward at a pace they completely fail to comprehend..and so the resulting chaos we see in day to day running of the nation could very easily be recognised as that same “Third Generation Syndrome” collapse that is going to leave the nation so vulnerable to what is akin to a family collapse.
With the by-election in New England, we are seeing a person totally incapable of viewing the big picture of the national needs and totally unsympathetic to any other electorate outside his own..If he is re-elected and given back the water portfolio, it WILL be akin to the naer-do-well son making his way to the front-bar of the local until in a drunken stupor he writes himself and the family’s future off in a wreck of his own making..The voters of New England would be wise to consider if they wish to be joined with or cast adrift from many of their “near relatives” with such selfish representation..They would be wise to consider this risk, for ; joined with a country-wide community, they could contribute with others to build the next “house”, while on their own they will, for a time flourish, but it will be by spending their accrued assets and good-will capital..a capital that is heavily invested in a person and a party that has in the recent past squandered resources and capital investments to what could be a criminal conglomerate. Look to your “house” ,New England…because WE further down the river catchment are looking at you!
So the nation must soon consider if these people now in govt’ have the honesty, the capacity and the integrity to lift the nation from one level to the next to promote community growth and prosperity, or will they do as has been done so many times in a once hard-won successful family and piss it against the wall?…and if they set about doing the latter, will WE be satisfied with standing by and witnessing the sad, long, debauching of our nation and our children’s future with the pathetic explanation to those inheritors that it was done in the interests of…
“For your eyes only”.

The Green Hills of Tyrol.

Was watching that new program on the ABC last night about the Brits in Aden back in the sixties … and one of the characters was talking to his obviously fading father and he started to sing that old Andy Stewart standard; “There was a Soldier, A Scottish Soldier … ”, and it was about the “green hills of Tyrol”. I didn’t know that … Tyrol … that’s where my old man came from. You might have read that piece I put up about him in “Willie Wilson’s ferret”.

Anyway, the old man got homesick … and that’s what that piece about the ferrets was all about; Home … or at least that feeling of home … of a place to belong, where one could roam freely as a child and have adventures and discover things with other kids. And when grown up, could point to a geographical location and say; “That’s where I came from”. Identity … that’s what it gave you. Identity … Home.

* * * * *

Enclosure, also spelled Inclosure, the division or consolidation of communal fields, meadows, pastures, and other arable lands in western Europe into the carefully delineated and individually owned and managed farm plots of modern times.

This enclosing of public land, the locking off of access to open field and meadow to allow private property to flourish in a capitalist society is a terrible thing, a demeaning situation. This is a deliberate policy to diminish and to corral people into a crush of suburban town limits … to shut down “community” and replace it with limited access property … private property. To reduce all persons to nothing more than an identifiable commodity to be constructor, consumer, and then consumed ourselves. To take our identity away and replace our need for “national home” with some generic, jingoistic “homeland”.

The original confiscation of Indigenous land and renaming it “crown land” reduced the native peoples to allocated strips of territory and took away in one fell swoop their claim to right of wandering … all other was private property. This “right of ownership” extended to water and wildlife, so that the Indigenous peoples could not even maintain their hunting culture. It was a deliberate action designed to genocide the native population.

The same philosophy is now being actively pursued by the right-wing elite of our country to shut down any large-scale projects that would extend the politics of community … which could encourage a more inclusive social order..perhaps even socialism as a political reality itself. There is a driving imperative within the current political right to with-hold from the general populace a sense of “community belonging” … any developing coherence of neighbourhood so that a cluster of like-minded people could form a block of mutual interest that could stop speculative development. Like the “Shut the Gate” farming community … the “Stop Ardani” … and remember the “Green bans” of the seventies?

This deliberate policy of debasing community and promoting private property could be the driving force behind certain elements of racism and bigotry so apparent now in the nation. The fact that many recently arrived ethnic groups cluster together and form a community for both identity and security, much like the old Greek and Italian communities, and from within these suburbs arise those familiar community projects like a religious worship building, a club, sporting grounds with an ethnic team … and so on.

These early start communities show a natural loyalty to culture, and ethnicity that can create a suspicion of exclusion to the dominant culture..that looks like a rejection of the dominant culture, when all it is, is the desire to create a feeling of what it was like where they came from: home.

There is a distortion of public understanding of what constitutes community ownership when you have politicians like Margaret Thatcher claiming that there is no such thing as society and Ayn Rand refuting any identity in “public”, because that grouping is made up of many individuals, thereby reducing everything of value to the rights of the individual. And that includes all property, community or otherwise. The recent allocating to Packer’s group of public land for his Barangaroo casino complex, demonstrates this. Public land becomes “private property” and we are locked out of more free-space.

Richard Epstien wrote a set piece for the rights of private property; “Takings : Private property and the power of the eminent domain”, where he claimed the “owner” of private property was entitled to compensation for the “takings of lands”. But this claim seems only to be the right of those individuals who by one measure or another claimed ownership of that land..hence no recognising of compensation for indigenous peoples, but much compensation for the “fortuitous purchase” of land that could be essential for transport corridors of mining operations … (anyone we know?). And one could note that the exchange rate in value of land from the individual to the government is in marked contrast to that sale price that the government gets when certain land/utilities are transferred to private ownership.

Yes, it is the essential ingredient of right-wing policy to reduce community constructs of a feeling of belonging … of an identity with a location we can call “Home” … and the relentless displacement through transitory employment, high rental, low socio economic assistance of large swathes of the population, always on the move, seeking low-cost housing, a modicum of permanent employment … if just for a couple of years to save for a deposit on ridiculously expensive houses..that will for a long time stop many children from being able to point to a name on the map and say..as I can and many of you can. ”There! That’s where I grew up … and that’s where Willie Wilson had some ferrets …”

A SCOTTISH SOLDIER

Andy Stewart

There was a soldier, a Scottish soldier

Who wandered far away and soldiered far away

There was none bolder with good broad shoulder

He fought many affray, and fought and won

He’d seen the glory, he’d told the story

Of battles glorious and deeds victorious

But now he’s sighing, his heart is crying

To leave those green hills of Tyrol

(Chorus) Because those green hills are not highland hills

Or the island hills, they’re not my land’s hills

And fair as these green foreign hills may be

They are not the hills of home …

Sacred Site.

Ahh!…yes..I can see that you are all a tad jaded and tuckered out with the political shenanigans. I tell you what..I’ll tell you a story. It is constructed from two events..one, when a friend told me of finding a very old woomera in the cleft of a very old tree on the edge of the Simpson Desert..as told in the story below..The other was told me by a Italian brickie mate of two brothers who actually did go through the described scenario below…only difference was; they drew straws.
I hope I never have to be given such a choice..but then..there are others who have done the same.
It goes like this..:

SACRED SITE:

Two men stood side by side at the rear of the four wheel drive truck. The setting sun was behind them. Their shadows stretched out in front like long thin pencil lines over the salt-bush and stubble.

“Come over here Bob, I’ll show you something.”

Antonio stepped away at right angles to the track and fence. The desert air was cooling, and the distant horizon purpling with the coming of evening, the darkness was tumbling towards them from the east. After a short distance the first man stopped suddenly and stood with his hands in his pockets but the thumbs outside. Bob strode up next to him and gazed at where Antonio was looking, he saw nothing but one lone, long dead tree amid an expanse of desert shrubbery.

“See there?”

“What?” Bob queried.

“There at the base in that small cleft.”

At first Bob didn’t see anything unusual, but then an object took shape, a man crafted object of symmetrical design. He moved a few steps closer so he was only yards from it, in the dusk he made out clearly the shape.

“Why … it’s a woomera” he said surprised “ an … an Aboriginal woomera … but it’s old … so old”.

He spoke in awe, and indeed it was old. At least a hundred years old because the wearing of the elements on it, it had been sun- baked and sand blasted, the resin and fibres holding the spur onto the body had deteriorated and the patterns cut into the body of the woomera were now obscure. Bob leant forward as if to touch it but Tony gripped his wrist fiercely.

“No, Bob … don’t touch it, let it lie there. I haven’t touched it ever in all the years I’ve known it’s here, you’re the first I’ve ever shown it to … it must remain as it is till time takes it back to the earth … as it will take us all … as it will take Francesco.”

Antonio released Bob’s arm and straightened up still gazing at the woomera.

“Come, we will camp nearby for the night it will soon be dark.” Both men turned and walked back to the truck.

A soft fire glowed in the centre of a ring of stones, but its light seemed too frail to penetrate deep into the darkness, unable to wash into the deeper crevasses of their eye sockets and the hollows of their cheeks, so the men’s faces quivered into grotesque shadowy masks.

“Who’s Francesco?” Bob asked.

Antonio squatted, one arm on his knee with the other hand prodding a stick into the coals.

“Pass me that piece of branch, Bob..ta…Francesco was my older brother … he died a long time ago … twenty years now … or rather tomorrow.”

Bob stretched one leg out in the cool sand and made himself more comfortable.

“You never told me you had a brother” Bob remarked quietly, in a tone that suggested he was a little bit piqued that this close friend would keep such a secret from him.

Antonio didn’t look away from the flames, his eyes didn’t blink as he stared into the syrupy yellow.

“It’s why I asked you along on this trip actually,” Antonio solemnly spoke.

“Oh?”

“You’re a priest I want you to help me bury him again..”

“Who?”

“Francesco … my brother!” “…

“…You alright Tony? .. I mean; where’s the body?”

Antonio leant back and felt inside his clothes bag and swung back with a small wooden urn.

“Here …” He said quietly “His ashes!”

Bob squinted at his friend with one eye closed.

“In there?”

“In here”.

There was a pause in the conversation and the fire crackled and hissed, the silence of the desert night crowded in all around them, listening.

“So what did they bury all those years ago?”

“Ashes … plain wood ashes!” Antonio smiled and leant back to place the urn into his duffle bag. Bob let out a slow, low whistle.

“You better enlighten me Tony.”

“I’ll get the billy boiled first.” Antonio dropped a palmful of tea into the boiling water. He slowly stirred the contents with a piece of stick.

“I’ll tell you Bob not as a confession, but still…maybe for Francesco’s soul!”

“How did he die?”

“He shot himself.”

“Suicide?” Bob raised his eyebrow Antonio leapt up angrily

“No! … No, … No, a thousand times no …” he strode two steps away then turned and strode back, the ball of his cupped left hand slapping onto his right fist, he shook his head empathically as he spoke. “Not suicide, … no! his was a sacrifice … yes, a sacrifice to the filthy God security!” Antonio stopped suddenly, hands frozen apart, his heavy breathing noticeable in the still desert night.

“Security,” he whispered. His shoulders slumped and he sat back down by the fire, reached over, took the billy and filled two mugs with the brew.

“Sugar, Bob?” his voice still tense.

“Please … and milk”.

“I take mine black.” Antonio leant back on his duffle bag and stretched one leg out comfortably, his boot pushed up a little mound of the red sand..

“Dammit Bob, it still upsets me after all these years.” He guffawed, “Suicide!” and he guffawed again. He took a sip of his tea and a deep breath.

“Francesco … was ten years older than me and we were partners in a building company before the recession. We started out as brickies you see, then it just grew from there “Collossus Constructions” we called ourselves and it did get colossal! Ended up flat out and just organising the other trades. We did a lot of estate housing projects in those days for those big real-estate companies. We were in it up to our necks when the recession hit and it all went bust! Oh God did it go bust! Overnight, two of our biggest contracts went into receivership and left us holding the bag. Subcontractors to be paid, contracts to finish etcetera, etcetera and it cleaned us out … or nearly …”

“Didn’t you see any signs of the impending collapse?”

“Nahl they were still signing contracts up till the day before … so someone was pulling a shonky!”

“It’s always the way” Bob chipped in.

“Anyway we were running around like scalded cats all week, cajoling this one, pacifying the other, putting someone else off till finally on the Friday night Francesco comes ’round in his ute and says to throw in a sleeping bag and the billy and let’s go bush for the weekend. I couldn’t have agreed more. Hey, isn’t it good out here in the desert? serene, peaceful. It was at this very spot that we camped … right here, the same place I come to every year since then … but this will be my last … this will be my last.”

“You look good for a few years yet Tony.”

“But I feel tired Bob, so bloody tired.”

“You been carrying some of the weight?”

“In a way … it could’ve been me … it could have been me that died.” Antonio sighed. “He found that woomera, not me, he wandered over there to go to the toilet, after a while he called out to me: ”

‘Tony … come here, have a look at this!”

“No thanks!’ I called in disgust.

“‘Nah … not that … it’s interesting.” He had found something.

When I got there he was squatted in front of the woomera staring at it.

“Hey!” I said, “that’d look great above my mantelpiece” and I reached out for it but he rapped my knuckles with a piece of branch.

“Don’t touch!” he barked. “Have respect for the dead.”

“What dead? It’s only a woomera.” I said.

“Oh he’s dead alright, after all those years, and its still his..it was probably left here by mistake.”

“Finders keepers…” I began, but Francesco wasn’t listening to anything I said, he just stared at that thing.

“He was a hunter … and he rested here … for a camp maybe … maybe he speared a ‘roo, he leant his woomera against the tree … it would have been a sapling then surely …” and Francesco went on in this quiet monotone, building up a picture of this lone Aboriginal hunter and the desert and the need for food that sent him on long journeys …I just stood there listening to him talk and it was enthralling in it’s depth of feeling. I’d never known Frank to think of these things before.” Antonio stopped and stared into the fire, it’s flickering glow so enticingly rich and comforting under the stars. When he finished, Francesco stood up, turned to me and said: “We’re still all hunters, you know,” then turned and walked back to the camp.”

“It seemed to have touched a spot in him” Bob remarked.

“I’ll say,” Tony agreed. “He went back to look at that woomera again and again over the weekend. But he said no more about it. Then on the Sunday afternoon as we were packing up he said to me:

“‘Tony … we’re done for, you know that don’t you?”

“How do you mean … financially?”

“Yes financially stuffed..but I’ve thought out a way to beat the bastards!”

“Like how?” I asked.

“You remember those insurance policies we took out on each other two years ago?”

“Yeah, in case one of us kicked off, but they’re not worth a quid yet … unless one of us dies … say! you’re not thinking of faking a death, then disappearing or something?”

“Not faking … but a death, yes.”

“What are you talking about, – you lost your marbles or something … what are you talking about …” I was shocked I can tell you. Francesco got angry.

“Grow up Tony” He yelled “Grow up, we’re finished. In less than a month they’ll have our business, our houses, our cars, … our balls … everything .”

“But Frank”

“Don’t Frank me … you know what it’s like to live in poverty? Do you? and your wife and your kids … what’re you gonna tell them … “sorry kids, sorry honey but we gotta go live in a shack and eat porridge and potatoes!” hey? you tell them that … listen, you’re too young to remember back home, but I can tell you; I remember and I don’t intend to have my family go through those times,” and he slammed his hand against the side of the ute.

“What … what do you intend to do”

“Better you don’t know.” But I knew.

“Frank … no … be reasonable … Stefania … the kids …”

“It’s them I’m thinking of “ he said softly, then; “Listen Tony, I’m fifty eight, been working in building since I was a kid in shorts..what’ve I got; ten, fifteen years left, what of it? Fifteen years of nothing for me and my family, or else … I’ll never have more than I got now, never, I’ve reached my peak and I don’t want to go down into the depths, it’d kill me anyway.”

“We argued back and forth and I followed him around the ute talking to his back, but he was stubborn.

“Listen,’ he said “You wanna go live in a ditch you go live in a ditch. What do you think the old people suffered in their lives for? So you could have it easy and to hell with your kids? Every comfort has its price, Antonio, what do you want your kids to be? tramps? bums? No, … I don’t want my kids to battle out of a poverty trap like the old people had to. If there’s a price in it I’m prepared to pay everyone pays sometime … it seems my time is now.”

“But me, Frank, what would you have me do, sit by and see you knock yourself off and then reap the reward .. what sort of man do you consider me?! No, we’re both of us in this together, I won’t let you take it on your own …”

“It’s the only way Tony, you’re ten years younger, you’re family’s younger.”

“Give me a risk on it … toss a coin Frank, you always like to toss a coin for a decision, toss a coin now and we’ll take equal risk!” …

“Alright” He relented. “We’ll toss … and the winner loses!” He grimaced at his own joke.

He pulled a few coins from his pocket and picked out a twenty cent piece.

“I’ll call, since it was my idea” he said and he flipped the coin.

“Heads!” he cried.

Bob..Bob, have you ever been so scared that your stomach was just one big knot wrenching your innards together so they just ached? Well, that’s how mine were. Don’t ask me why I agreed to that madness but I knew the loser wouldn’t back out. The more I think of it, the more I refute it, but strangely, strangely the quick fix of the idea attracted me then and I loved my family enough to kill anyone that would hurt them, so why not kill myself to save them from hurt?! … all those kind of thoughts went through my mind in the split seconds of that toss as that coin flickered in the light. Of course it came down heads and Frank bent down and picked up the coin. He slapped his hand on my shoulder and said.

“Now, it’s decided. let’s not talk about it on the way home. Who knows, maybe I won’t have to go through with it after all,” and we packed up and left.

“On the Monday afternoon I was in the office when I got a call from the insurance agent.”

“Mr Gustoni?’ the agent asked.

“Yes” I replied, thinking it was me he was after.

“Yes..I was right, I inquired into the policy agreement and yes, your accident indemnity does cover accidental death outside the working site and hours.”

I went weak at the knees … and almost speechless. I could just mutter into the receiver

” Oh..right..thanks..thanks” and I hung up and raced out of the office and drove to Frank’s place.

“Oh mother of God! mother of God!” I prayed as I drove through that endless traffic. I didn’t think it would be now not straight away! Give it a bit more time please! Please!

Stefania, his wife, was there.

“He’s gone out Tony he said to give you this contract to look at …’”she handed me a fat manilla envelope, then I knew it was too late.

“Is there anything wrong?” women they’re so sharp.

“No more than usual,” I remarked and quickly left in case I betrayed my feelings.

“He didn’t give me a chance to say goodbye, Bob, not a chance, not a chance. “Why?” I asked myself…He made it look like an accident..like the gun went off as he was climbing through the fence…”

“In the envelope there was a goodbye note and a few items he wanted buried with him and – also this …!” Tony tossed a coin to Bob’s feet. Bob picked it up examined it and turned it over.

“Why … it’s a double headed twenty cent piece, it’s been cut and another face glued on to make one coin! …”

“The cunning bastard … I always wondered how he won all those tosses, and you see that nick on the edge, that’s how he picked it out amongst others with his fingers.” Bob snorted and tossed it back.

“Well he did go through with it and in the note he asked that I somehow get his ashes and bury them with the few other personal items next to that woomera up here.”

“And did you tell Stefania of it all?” Bob asked.

“What do you tell the women? : Frank knocked himself off so we can pay our bills? What did that hunter tell his people if he came home without any tucker ‘I lost my woomera’? ..’left it somewhere’ ? No Bob, Frank was right, we’re all hunters and each must guard his secrets. No, I didn’t tell them, but she’d guess, women have their damned intuition.”

“Why didn’t you bury him, then?”

“I couldn’t bring myself to put an end to it all, I didn’t understand the connection between that hunter’s primitive woomera and our own highly complicated lives, that is till now. Now I know what Frank realised that weekend twenty years ago. That woomera over there is a totem of men’s responsibilities, the women bear the children, the men provide, that is the base line of our cultural life. Some women die in chldbirth some men die in the seeking of provisions. I’ve been on building sites myself where workmen have been either killed or badly injured. They’re taken away and another fills his place. No-one can shirk his responsibilities, we all take our risks. So the hunter’s woomera left here by accident must have wrought danger to that whole family’s existence so was that recession the calamity that befell our family’s existence … The insurance policy was just another means to provide … at a price, everything changes, but nothing is changed. The immortality of all things mortal … ashes to ashes, dust to dust. He lost his fear of death.”

Antonio sighed.

”And this is where you come in, Bob … would you mind … a simple ceremony …?”

The dawn laid silver sheets across the sky as the two men stood before the tree that held the woomera in its cleft. Tony gave the wooden urn to Bob who lay it in a shallow hole near the woomera. Then he gave Bob a flick-knife with a carved ivory handle.
“He bought that in Italy years before, and you see that carving … here, give it to me for a sec … this carving of a woman, he’d sometimes take the knife out amongst a group of us men and he’d rub the ball of his thumb over the tiny breast there and he’d sigh and say, ‘Ah, my Stefania, she once had breasts like this,’ and then he’d press this button here, like so: “

Swish! the silvered blade of the flick-knife shot out of the handle so it made Bob jump.

“And Francesco would sigh sadly again and nodding his head say: ‘And me, my cock once sprung up like that!’..he’d always get a laugh.” Tony smiled and folded the blade away and gave the knife to Bob.

“And last of all this” sneered Antonio as he flung the double headed coin into the hole.

Bob pushed the sand over the urn and knife and coin. He stood up and spoke in a clear concise voice:

“Let this site remain sacred to the memory of Francesco Gustoni …”

“Could you say the prayer in Latin Bob, he preferred Latin.” Bob nodded and began:

“In nome il Padre e Filio e Spirito Santo …”

A State of Failure.

When John Howard made the statement :

” Most famously, in 1996 Howard wanted Australians to be comfortable in their own skins. When pressed aggressively by Four Corners reporter Liz Jackson about his ambitions for Australia in the year 2000, Howard simply said he wanted Australians to be “comfortable and relaxed” about their past, present and future. As for himself, Howard said he was proud to be seen as “an average Australian bloke”. “( The Drum ; Terry Barnes).

Howard transferred the responsibility of The State to show civil respect and leadership onto the rag-tag shoulders of every bigot and racist hooligan with an axe to grind and a vulnerable victim to grind it upon. He had , in effect handed that section of the constitution that pledges protection and the shielding hand of civil respect to the mob. Not the act of a Statesman, but rather that of the despot. For if The State is willing to relinquish the responsibility for civil obedience onto what was even then a racist minority, then it is not a State of civil union, but rather ; a failed State.

Mark well the warnings of Titus Livius..:

“… Here it is to be noted that many times actions that appear merciful, and which cannot be reasonably condemned, may become cruel, and very dangerous to a Republic if not corrected at the proper time. And to discuss this matter in more detail, I say that a Republic cannot exist without citizens of repute, nor govern itself well in any way. On the other hand, the reputation of such citizens is the cause of tyranny in Republics. And in order to regulate this thing, it [the Republic] needs to be so organized, that the reputation of citizens be based on the benefits it gives to the nation and not on any harm to it and its liberty. And, therefore, the methods with which they assume reputation ought to be examined, and these, in effect, are two, either public or private. The public methods are when one acquires reputation by counselling well and acting well for the common benefit. The way to such honours ought to be opened to every citizen, and rewards proposed for their good counsels and good works, so that they may obtain honours and be satisfied: and when such reputation is obtained through these pure and simple ways, it will never be dangerous: but when it is obtained through a private way (which is the other method mentioned) it is most dangerous and wholly harmful…” (Machiavelli ; Discourses)

The current trend toward violent and vicious attacks upon vulnerable groups and individuals is, I accuse, precisely because of Howard’s and the current LNP administration giving too much voice and freedom of action to the far-right and fascist movements in Australia. Howard cunningly let slip those dogs of war to divide the community..The Murdoch press responded and upped the ante with its unrelenting howl of confected outrage against every single person that challenged their stereotype they could vilify or make victim or claim as an act of aggression against a blameless “Alt-right” movement.

The speechless mass-shootings we see on a regular basis in the USA reflect an act of insane desperation by some of those very people in that State given too much freedom to be “comfortable in their own skin”..We all know or at least realise by the time we reach adult-hood that one is compelled or expected to act in a civil manner to one’s fellow citizens or place at risk the social contract of our own respect. We learn these things in the playground of primary school, where we make a group of friends or when we play in a sport team in our teenage years..We learn to yield to the folly of deliberately hurting others while we frequent the taverns and clubs of our twenties, so that by the time we reach maturity, like the age when John Howard made the above comment, we ought to be more astute as to how freely we counsel our own children..Yes..truly , we ought to advise them that they ought to feel comfortable in their own skin..BUT!..and this is the part that the devious fool; Howard left out..: but we must respect those others of our society who, while their “skin colour” is of a different complexion and their “skin culture” is of a different, more complex matrix, it is the duty of any citizen of the nation to allow space for ALL OTHERS to “feel comfortable” next to each other’s “skin”.

But Howard didn’t want this to happen..HIS intent was not to unite the nation under one social contract. There was instead intent and then deed to divide and rule with vicious impunity by the one ”skin” the one creed, the one political ideology..an ideology of ; Rule by fear. Rule by force. Rule by fascist intent! By his own words, we can see it is obviously NOT directed to those indigenous or ethnic groups whose past was vandalised, whose present is tenuous and whose future is a thing of doubtful hope..No!..those he was wishing such comfort upon were those of his own matrix.. his own prejudices. HIS words were not merciful, NOT reasonable, NOT all-encompassing..those were the words of an ache for white supremacy, Anglo-centric, Christian-centric conservative governance with no place for radical dissent.

He, personally failed, being found out to be a devious, lying little rodent, but his creatures follow on, chivvied and guided by the Murdoch Media and its imitators. There will have to be a Parliamentary Inquiry and perhaps a rolling tribunal to bring those media players before a panel to be judged for their actions against their fellow citizens. Let it be known as :”The Citizens Tribunal”…and THERE they will make their case and woe betide those who come up wanting!

For the Adoration of Atheism.

Or: I was an Altar boy once.

“I was an altar boy once!”..I have a habit of dropping that statement into any conversation about religious beliefs that I am involved with. Of course, it is just a distraction, a sort of “blind-alley” comment that steers the talk down a different path, a (as that “smear of excrement” that was once our LNP, Prime Minister a few years ago called ) ;”… bbq. stopper”.

And I have done it again here, stealing the conversation away from “belief” to religion!

Of course, belief and believing has nothing at all to do with religion. I sometimes would follow up on my above comment with ;”The Catholic Church is not a ‘religion’ , but an institution!”….one does not need books, tracts and pamphlets to believe, one only needs to wake and feel the weather on one’s skin. One does not need images and icons. One only needs imagination. Does a child need to be taught fantasy, imagery, imagination?..no, but there are those who strongly, fiercely believe a child needs to be taught to believe in the unbelievable!

And I will state my opinion categorically, here and now, backed by every notion of accepted measure of sanity that ALL religion is a human construct..ALL a human invention..there is no supreme being, no omnipotent God…those descriptions alone betray a need, a hunger for an authority to command. “Human, all too human”. And I and any rational human being who has above capacity and dexterity to peel a boiled egg knows it and believes it…even if they do not practice it. If there is one bit of “wisdom” learned early, used universally and passed down with signalled dexterity through the eons of time, it is that the general MOB of humanity is best controlled and corralled with the dispersion and corruption of religo-politico adoration.

But hey…seriously..you’d have to be a mug…

I recall when my own children came to the age of schooling and we were shopping around for what we considered the “best” school system for them. One such system, The Steiner System, seemed to offer a new approach, a gentler curriculum. I never liked the idea of forcing a child to “grow up” before they are ready. I was not ready for primary school at exactly the age of five years. So we attended a talk on the subject. The lady who gave the talk was very sensitive, very convincing with references to the gentle awakening of the child’s sensibilities and the action of guiding them through and down paths of least disturbance of their childhood years…opening one door and closing another as they made their way through the labyrinth of awakening to the world.…very gently explained, as if in a sort of trance…that and the fact that she grew up just down the road from where I grew up gave substance to the yarn(her brother was forever stealing our grapes!).

We took it…it worked out well for the primary years. Good result…”I believe”.
But!…Now, when I reflect on that talk, our perceptions, the lady’s demeanour, OUR DEMEANOUR…our ambition , the lady’s ambition…I wonder; was it really about the children, or about ourselves as adults?…..As I said above, a child doesn’t NEED belief, it has it in spades..but we adults presume the child REQUIRES indoctrination TOWARD a belief!……and that’s where the quip;”I was an altar boy once” comes in…after all, who, with a rational mind, would freely volunteer for such a position!?

The sad thing is that “belief and believing” is an adult concept that masks a deep insecurity within the human condition. So we strengthen ourselves with delusions of many and varied forms…call them “Beliefs”, call them “Religion”..after all, is it not the most craven individuals that arm themselves most aggressively? So we have institutions even in this day and age utilising schools to “groom” the children with their variation of “spiritual corruption”.

But I would promote the idea of a “worship” of atheism. Not substituting Godhead or Gaia or even rough “Mother Nature”, let them alone..they will float along without our assistance. I would emphasise the belief in casual observance of the world around oneself. Step out of a morning and feel the wash of sunrise pour its ambrosia over the body like a soothing balm..or stand transfixed at the noon of the day and hark to the frenzied activity of life at full throttle..then again sit or lay comfortably in the velvet cloak of evening and let slip from your grip those worries and concerns accumulated throughout the working day, let them fall into the miasma of shadows of the coming night..for night is the metaphor of life’s ending..and finally let morphia’d sleep cleanse the mind and wash with dreams away this impertinence of temporal existence.

Atheism is neither a “belief” , nor a “way of life”..I see it more as a shedding of clumsy armour, the relaxing of futile defence against a non-existing fear. For if there has ever been a power more condemning, more controlling and exacting of behaviour so that even natural human activity can draw cruel conviction, it is religious / canon law. There are ample and sensible civil laws legislated by sanity, put in place by unanimous consent and obeyed by the majority that do not require ecclesiastical condescension. So if we have laws to guide us, common sense to inform us and a wide world of wonder to both awe and amuse us, why waste time and temper on another useless chore like bowing and scraping to false Gods?

You know, whenever I see those photographs of the Earth taken from outer-space and they show this cool, beautiful, green/ blue/ sometimes cloudy orb suspended serenely in the silence of space..it revitalises a belief within me that we are duty-bound and committed to extend ourselves to maintain and revitalise this luscious but lonely garden of delight! We can do no worse thing with indoctrinated discourse, than to deliberately lead the child (and the “child” within ourselves) from a world of innocent wonder, a world of curious discovery to a mendaciously manufactured shadow world of adult doubt and insecurity…. through a prism distorted…through a glass, darkly….