little pieces

When I was small, my father went through a shameless country music phase, and as a result, so did I. Now an adult, I sometimes like to listen to those songs, permitting myself an occasional and clandestine appointment with my past. Somehow those melodies with which I was inadvertently raised can call to life the moments enjoyed by my younger self, and I’m warmed by how brightly my family burned before our fire went out.

Those songs muster images of my mother standing in a faded sundress beside an old brick barbeque in the back yard, separating a string of sausages with a blunt butter knife and tossing them onto the hot plate. My father moves between the kitchen and the picnic bench for utensils and margarine, setting the screen door banging. They laugh with one another. The air is filled with the smell of sizzling fat and flowering jasmine, and my siblings and I circle the crooked drive on dinkies, while John Williamson blasts through open windows, filtering through the fence and into the midsummer streets of suburbia.

It was within these moments that my smaller self learned what family looks like, what happiness sounds like, what togetherness feels like. But that music stopped playing when this accidental thing my parents made was broken. In the years that followed, now and again on balmy evenings my father would play his country tunes, and the older versions of our selves would cook a meal outside. But the mood was different; in our own ways we all knew where those songs belonged.

Once something breaks, it will eventually begin to crumble. Yesterday I learned that recently, my mother remarried. I stumbled upon the photographs on the internet, and saw her standing beside a man I’ve never met, voicing a new vow. It’s true she’s not the woman from my past, but her eyes, the first to ever lock with mine, remain the same. And with her in the pictures is my sister; one who used to be mistaken for my twin and who now believes these things are not for me to know. For a reason I cannot understand, she chooses to deny the inextricable link we all share and which like it or not, cannot be severed. All I can do is shrug my shoulders and refuse the sting of a mother who wanted something else and a sister who could not bear to be left behind.

Turning up the music I revisit the times before the cracks and the crumbling. Back when we were pieces that belonged together, and who were willing to share a route around warm concrete in the evenings of our childhood. Listen, sister. Remember.

 

 

Advertisements

my contempt for the sunburnt country

I hate unsubstantiated patriotism. National holidays like Australia Day seem to exist for no other reason than to incite a certain demographic to demonstrate their regard for king and country through donning the relevant flag, adorning themselves with the obligatory southern cross tattoo and drinking beyond excess. Meanwhile, they alternate between sitting, scantily clad, in a toddler’s long suffering wading pool and meandering the streets in a parade of obnoxious and deviant exhibitionism, seemingly mistaking their ignorant and racist chants and exclamations for national pride.

I am very much aware that this stance makes me entirely unpopular with the overwhelming majority, but I can’t help it; when I hear expressions of blind loyalty for the motherland, I cringe involuntarily, and if pressed, I am forced to admit that, actually, I have a lot of beefs with Australia. I can’t help but feel as if we’re being cheated somehow.

It’s quite perturbing that, whether he be the dinky die, double plugged, singlet wearing yokel in the pub, or the white collared businessman, buffing his virgin 4WD in the suburbs, the typical Australian can’t actually articulate what it is that he likes so much about the country he claims to vehemently admire. Instead, it’s somehow acceptable to simply stammer some meaningless gibberish about being ‘lucky’ and ‘free’, and as long as you make a vague references to the ‘Australian Spirit’ your efforts will be immediately met by gregarious applause and slaps on the backside. On the whole, we’re fairly eager to big up Australia, but what I’m wondering is, why should we?

Don’t misunderstand me; I am more than aware that as citizens of Australia, we’re relatively blessed. I mean, we can walk down the street at any given time and, depending on the neighbourhood in which we choose to dwell, we can expect not to be accosted by gun fire. Further, we have sewage, sanitation and clean water, and these are all good things. I also enjoy that there are supermarkets where we can purchase produce which, to all intents and purposes, appears fresh, and that the majority of us can boast having homes in which to live and cars that we can drive. Also, our stats suggest we’re better than America, and since we seem to rate them so highly, that’s got to be worth something. But ironically, it’s these exact fortunate circumstances that cause Australians to be easily amongst the most politically lethargic citizens in the world.

The truth is that the typical Australian has absolutely no interest in the political ups and downs that are shaping our country and are more informed and involved with the formation of the teams that have made it into the football grand final than the campaign leading up to any given federal election. In fact, due to a combination of ignorance and lack of interest, Australians have so little faith in the value of their vote, that they can be persuaded to exchange them for gifts. Call me a cynic, but being offered tangible goods in the lead up to voting day, screams bribery. But instead of wondering what shortfalls in the parties’ policies might have lead them to earn public support through the offering of material produce, like a child to the vacant parent who has skipped the last several access visits but comes bearing gifts, we approach them, hearts and palms open. Sure, we’ll blame them later when their bandaids prove useless against the sting of betrayal, but until the wheels fall off, we are content.

I get it that everyone can’t be described as politically lethargic. In fact, some people care very much. But why is it that, generally speaking, we couldn’t care less about our country’s leadership and the choices they make on our behalf? Why do we choose to remain uninformed? Why is it that we opt to vote above the line, simply to avoid having to spend an extra few minutes in the polling booth?

Fellow Australians: until we begin en masse to take an active interest in the decisions being made on our behalf by our government, we will be neither a free nor lucky nation. As we sit back, sipping our foreign owned, iconic Australian beers, and boasting unreservedly as to our privileged lifestyle, the cost of living is being needlessly hiked up around our armpits, our soldiers are being sent to fuel wars that are not our own, natural resources are being recklessly harvested, with no serious consideration as to their sustainability and the average wage is being reduced. Meanwhile, the decision makers and those with stakes in the big money are rewarding themselves with yet another pay rise. It may surprise you to know that the Australian ‘lifestyle’ we value so highly is amongst the most expensive in the western world. And there is no logical reason for this.

Instead of pointing an inactive finger in accusation at the government, it is time to admit some fault; it’s the laidback, lackadaisical Australian ethos that we know and love that is allowing the politicians to turn our country into their personal economy in order to satisfy their own agendas. We’ve allowed ourselves to develop such an inherent trust and obedience in authority that we don’t even think to look up once in a while to check what they’re doing with our things. It stopped being a government for the people a long time ago, but we only have ourselves to blame; we didn’t even notice.

So let’s take back the country of which you’re all so fond and transform it into something that might make us feel genuinely proud. This will not happen as a result of vague romantic sentiments that glorify the Australian spirit, but rather through our actions. To paraphrase a democrat, it really is time we started keeping them bastards honest.