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Australia, Religion, Politics … A discordant blend.

My first connection with the amalgam of religion and politics started at an early age … 1956 … Grade One at St Theresa’s Catholic School. It was late summer, I know because I remember seeing the sharp black shadow of the corner of the tuck-shop building angled across the verandah just outside the class-room door … also I suffered from an incurable blight of my birthday being on the very day school returned after the summer holidays. I have to surmise from my now advanced age and experience that the door was open to let in a cross-breeze as the heat and odour from fifty odd (that’s ‘odd’ as in generic, not psychotic … we weren’t Protestants, you know!) kiddies would be too much for even the most hardened teacher to bear.

She was a small young nun, was our teacher, Sister Mary Francis. I remember that too, because I loved her as I grew older. Well, her face at least … for it was still the days of the habit … but hang on a sec … back to topic!

Late Summer, just before noon (the shadow; remember?), when the Principal; ‘Mother’ Mary Margaret came into the room and said; “Good morning, children” … ”Good Morning–‘Mother’—Marr-grit” (automatic chorus) … and we were soon exhorted to say a Hail-Mary to the Virgin Mary so that communism wouldn’t take over the world … we all had to scramble to kneel in the aisle between desks.

It seems to have worked.

But it never cured my hives, you know; God = mysterious ways. Though I have to wonder; if greed and envy, those two driving forces of rampant capitalism and prime suspects in the list of the seven deadly sins get no mention in “prayers to stop taking over the world” … and communism, a doctrine in its purest intent (just like religion) being a plan for equality of communities on earth, yet gets canned as being “ungodly” … what gives?

This idea that there is a whole population waiting with baited breath for some god-like revelation that will fix the economy, solve climate change, steer the nation to a more moral and ethical path (that’s the end of religion, then!) and make the Liberal Party look like a reincarnation of the “Church of The Sacred Heart Chapel Choir” all singing in tune … well; it just ain’t gonna happen, so put away the banners, the prayer-books and the excuses, there never has been and there never will be divine intervention in Australian things … ask the Indigenous people! … except in your own mind and in your private dreams … best wishes and good luck to you on that!

But now we have these “fanaticised” young men sacrificing their sweet youth and future potential to the dubious reward of a heavenly after-life. Yes, the Mormon Church has a lot to answer for … as, of course do the other Abrahamic religions. I am forced to recall the dangers these impetuous youths place themselves in with the tale from one of my mates in days gone by, when he was having a face to face brawl with his wife in their housing-unit … a screaming, plate-thrower of a brawl! He, typical male, was strategically stationed by the most convenient escape route, she ‘cunning woman’, by the ‘ammunition’, when the door-bell rang … being just there he flung the door open just as the last dulcet tones of “Avon Calling!” faded away, to see two wide-eyed, smartly dressed young men (one with finger still attached to bell-button) standing there … you know them: sharp-pressed white shirt, slim tie, black suit trousers, patent leather shoes so polished you could see your soul or women’s underwear – perhaps both – in the reflection! And high Summer … one studied look up, then down and to the satchel was enough …

Ge-het f*cked!” was the most insalubrious greeting for these men of god. The door slammed and the young men turned away, but not before being heard to mutter in that distinctive American drawl; ”Well, mahey the lawwd have mershee on His soul!” Dangerous work = the work of god.

However, it is an American thing, surely, this religious-ising of politics in the West; the vacant ecclesiastical stare, the glib reference to god … it’s certainly un-Australian … for all those childhood years of Catholic indoctrination has taught me only two things; a) to never take religion seriously, and b) to always leave the Melbourne Cup sweep kitty in the hands of a nun!

Not to say religion hasn’t penetrated (is that the right word?) into the political life here, it’s just that in Australia, I like to believe it has followed the well-intentioned path of European Christianity via plain, run of the mill bribery and corruption … sort of like Fagan and his child army, god bless ’em … just simple down-to-earth deceit! Why, even when I was an altar boy under old Father Collins (be nice), I could see there was a degree of honest intent in the religious soul. Once, I snuck a look around the door from the altar boys into the priest’s vestry and there he was, with a small glass of the altar wine in hand and he gazing deeply into it, presumably looking for its soul (I’ve seen the same look since, with other men, before tackling a “hair of the dog” on a Sunday morn’ at the local), then softly consecrated it with; “Saint Benedict, bless my soul!” and quaffed it in one gulp, kissed the cross on the surplice and ascended into the fray! It was Pentecost … he must have needed it!

Tho’ surely, I can’t help but feel that if these radicalised young people were given a glimpse, a vision splendid, through the window of sage old age … they might be inclined to pass off all those incandescent actions and violence as nothing more than what seemed “a good idea at the time” and go a different course. Such is the impetuousness of youth, foolishness and impropriety are at their beck and call, and it can only be luck and chance that get some through the passage of youthful intensity, for there must be some truth in the “Boomer’s” cant that fitted the age like a dick-in-a-sock and served a whole generation so well … “Make love, Not war”.

On that note I remember sitting in the Darwin Hotel one balmy ‘70s afternoon with my old-time mining and travelling mate, Bernie Bandler and talking of one childhood associate; Louie Lewrouni, a keen, gangling always opened-mouthed, toothy, spikey-haired lad with coke-bottle glasses.

“I remember us two kids, the day after Guy Fawkes night,” Bernie recounted. “We had found at the park, a sky-rocket that hadn’t been used and we fired it off and kept an eye on where it landed so we could get it back.” … a sip of beer … “It landed behind the Caltex garage there on South Road and we ran like hell to get it … but we couldn’t find it … there was this old canvas hooded car there, a Whippet or Model ‘T’ or something with the big petrol tank behind the open back seat … it had no petrol cap and I said to Louie;‘ Maybe it went in the tank?’ ” … a sip of beer … ”I gave him a box of matches I had (all boys had matches … good scouts!) and he lit one and held it to the opening to look in.” The following result I will leave your knowledge to fill in, save the fact that luckily, the tank had been without cap and empty for such a long time that there was no volatile explosion but a whooshing-rush of heat and flame out of the opening that left Louie, when he looked up at Bernie in shock and surprise with his glasses falling down off his face, “he … he looked like Al Jolson in one of those minstrel shows.” Bernie laughed at the memory … ’til I asked him what in Heaven’s name made him think of doing such a stupid thing. He sipped his beer and commenced to formulate a ‘rollie’ … ”Dunno … seemed like a good idea at the time.”


  1. wam

    Welcome back, Joseph!!
    It is uncanny the closeness of our experiences.
    I got a lot of the ruler from the women and the cane from the men but they got the support from mum and aunties
    Even when one was hounded and threatened by a priest for running away with a gentle veteran from the somme. The priest ordered her, on the threat of hell, to stay with drunken basher of a husband. That was a clincher and when we moved into Adelaide. I joined dad as godless.
    The behaviour of the god of the jews, christians and muslims is enough proof that he an invention of clever men to rule society by means of indoctrination of not clever men who can thank god for killing thousands but saving one.
    I had a school mate, leon, his saying ‘they were going to call me noel but I came out backwards, he started high school a year ahead got credits in eng latin and french in the intermediate and we were in the same class got eng, french and latin again and stayed in grade 10 again. He had a protruding adam’s apple and we called the loon.
    As for guy fawkes in my matriculation year my mate had a girl madly in love with him binny-kathery and he arranged for me to go with him and her for nov 5th being innocent of girls I went I crept up to a house where we could see people and I dropped a three penny banger in the bread tin at the front door bang the door opened a we took off. We went into a shop and ordered a soda water and flogged a packet of fruchocs my mate said he didn’t like chocolate and it took me 50 years to realise he was a conservative christian who wouldn’t eat stolen fruit.
    Darwin in Jan./Feb is still magnificent.

  2. Joseph Carli

    Yes..I liked Darwin the best in those months..the wet season gave one the feeling of closeness and comfort..plus there was not so many tourists and the beer somehow tasted better!
    Ah!…those nuns….they used to beat the shit out of the boys and molly-coddle the girls, because ; “Girls wouldn’t do those sort of things”..and the girls would mimic that saying in the school yard to piss us boys off!

    When a catholic priest goes to a convent to hear the confessions of the nuns there, it is said he goes to ;”Dust the Lillies”….the lillies, of course, being the ;”Lillies of the fields”…: The nuns.

    “Dusting the lillies”.

    Wither goest thou, Father John,
    On such a splendid day?
    Do you follow whimsy’s course,
    A carefree wanderer…say?
    A laugh, a smile, pause a while..
    Then, cautious answer, yea..
    “I go toward yonder gate,
    Under stately blue-gum tree.
    There, (with blessings of God)..
    I go to ‘dust the lillies’.
    To dust the lillies gently,
    Lest such petals fade and die.
    I’ll embrace their hips,
    Kiss their lips,
    And whisper a little white lie!”

  3. Joseph Carli

    So “anti-intellectualism” is the new catch-phrase for those who obviously presume THEY are firmly ensconced on the “smart-team”….
    You gotta laugh!
    Talk about 100 monkeys typing..A guild of self-assessing intellectualism that holds the monopoly on learned knowledge, but is more like the Emperor with no clothes. A class that leans on it’s qualifications for a kind of group-think legitimacy of what to believe and what constitutes ought to be believed!

  4. helvityni

    There seem to be many churchy members on the Coalition side ( I don’t know about the Greens or Labor…)

    Yet they seem to be totally lacking compassion, caring and LOVE for their fellow men/women , most un-godly methinks…

    Plenty of self-love by looks of it.

    If I were a believer, they would put me off anything to do with religion..

  5. Joseph Carli

    Yes, helvi’..they see themselves as “The Gatekeepers” of the faith..and they all come from the same demographic..the same class..In the olden times, they controlled who learned what and how through their management of the scripted word…but the invention of the printing press, which they tried to suppress, destroyed their monopoly and translations of the text gave many more the opportunity to question what had once been accepted without tolerance and patience..In the 14th century, Boccaccio satirised their pomposity with his “Decameron”…in these post-modern times, when there is still a attempt at a monopoly to control and deliver knowledge, we have those who have separated themselves from the greater mass of “The Public” via measured and certificated degrees of qualification..They label themselves as ; “The Intelligensia” and deliver their sacred texts to the masses via “tablets” of technology and “commandments” of ordained authority…But in the end, they are the same old “Gatekeepers”.

    From ;Thorsten Veblen:
    ” The recondite element in learning is still, as it has been in all ages, a very attractive and effective element for the purpose of impressing, or even imposing upon, the unlearned; and the standing of the savant in the mind of the altogether unlettered is in great measure rated in terms of intimacy with the occult forces. So, for instance, as a typical case, even so late as the middle of this century, the Norwegian peasants have instinctively formulated their sense of the superior erudition of such doctors of divinity as Luther, Malanchthon, Peder Dass, and even so late a scholar in divinity as Grundtvig, in terms of the Black Art.”

    And this :
    “Learning, then, set out by being in some sense a by-product of the priestly vicarious leisure class; and, at least until a recent date, the higher learning has since remained in some sense a by-product or by-occupation of the priestly classes. As the body of systematized knowledge increased, there presently arose a distinction, traceable very far back in the history of education, between esoteric and exoteric knowledge, the former—so far as there is a substantial difference between the two—comprising such knowledge as is primarily of no economic or industrial effect, and the latter comprising chiefly knowledge of industrial processes and of natural phenomena which were habitually turned to account for the material purposes of life. This line of demarcation has in time become, at least in popular apprehension, the normal line between the higher learning and the lower. “

  6. wam

    There are 4 jesuit colleges in Australia and when shorten was elected leader in 2013 abbott, hockey, pyne, joyce and shorten were all graduates of the jesuits
    ‘To find God in all things’ was the aim of St Ignatius Loyola and his Jesuit companions’
    (we could throw in a short tern jesuit boy bullock recruited to get rid of the antichrist pratt but he wasn’t strong enough to find god in canberra and skulked back to the west which allowed Patrick, a strong Aborigine, into parliament :))

    Pollies like albo, Andrews, and heaps of others were private school educated by the nuns and brothers of the pope.
    ps dinatali lapsed and empty converted.

  7. Joseph Carli

    Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (SJ) was one of their “naughty boys” who was exiled to communist China in the hope, I suspect, that the commies would do what the society no longer was allowed to do!…As for those scurrilous crew above..I suspect they, unlike Gogarty’s “Stephen Daedalus”, were all injected up the right way!

    wam..I would appreciate your opinion on my above comments…without fear or favour!

  8. wam

    Wow, I thought that having some admiration of the jesuits because they were the most science minded of the god botherers and some loathing of jesuits for the same reason was bad enough but did I get so old without ever hearing of chardin or gogarty?

    We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience is an elegant an expression of god as ‘then do not shudder at the knife that Death’s indifferent hand drives home,’ describes death as painless
    A gentle look over the last couple of hours tells me the former is desperately clinging to life with jesus and the latter justifying death but both Aeternae lucis Redditor.

    As for daedalus???
    joyce flies well above my understanding as does chardin lie beyond the canberra papists

    ps was gillard an Arria?

    too tired to be rational but I shall try chardin’s china hopefully for many more years before gog’s dolet.

    pps excitable brains love a shot from you, joseph and I have had to resort to port to get a sleep.

  9. Joseph Carli

    ” I have had to resort to port to get a sleep.”….I trust not : “Poor man’s”…

    I like the Australian cultural habit of telling yarns..and general bullshitting…There is a certain skill in attitude, demeanour and voice-timing to get a good story across..Of course, the oral tradition is the best way for such a personality to tell a yarn..but with the loss of the front-bar culture, where working people would gather and the bullshit would fly, those days of the casual yarn are over. But I would like to share a couple of those characters with you if I may…just for the fun of it.

    Glen and Mrs. Wright.

    Did I ever tell you about Mrs. Wright and Glenn?..no?..Well, they were two “locals” down at the Seacliff Hotel…back in the old days, some of the last of that “war generation” that were retired or on the point of when we younger folk came along and taught them how to drink!

    Mrs. Wright was a widower, retired teacher who drove what I reckon was one of the last registered Humber Super Snipes…A big black beast she parked in her “reserved ” spot just out the front of “the ‘Cliff” when she went for a quiet drink at night…almost every night…looking back on it, and her being a local, I wonder if she bought that Humber off the deceased estate of Mrs. Herreen…now THERE was a tartar…a wealthy widow who lived opposite the Primary school I went to…I know she was a widow because she always wore black and wealthy because she was chauffeured around in a big black Humber Snipe…She donated large sums to the convent school I attended and in return, she was sometimes given “control” of a class for an afternoon…she would stalk up and down the aisles of us fifty-odd kids swishing a cane into her cupped hand and looking threatening…she had the physique of Hatty Jaques and the eyes of Myra Hindley….but I’m getting off the subject…

    Glenn was a council employee, whose job for the last years of his working life was seated on the council’s ride-on lawnmower…all day every day…out in the sun, which is why he got such a ruddy complection..and more melanomas cut off his face so he looked like a pottery thumb-paste-up sculpture..though there was a rumour that it was all to do with his affection for “poor-man’s port”..he was a very tall bloke who developed a kind of stoop which some tall people get from leaning down to people and perhaps a self-conscious compensation to not look too obvious…

    Now, you wouldn’t think two such diverse characters would meet and become a “unit”, but they did..it happened like this…

    There came to pass that Don Dunstan put a tax on beer which raised the price of a ‘pony’ glass beyond what Mrs. Wright (we’ll call her Betty!) could budget in her retirement…BUT!..there was salvation..Ron, the barman, informed her that there was no extra tax on wine, therefore the price of a “hock, lime and lemon” was now cheaper than the “pony” of beer she was used to having…

    “Righto”, she decided “I’ll give it a try”….the first drink was “on the house” said Ron…a kindly chap…and she liked it and would have another thank you very muchly!

    Of course, wine is a very different alcoholic beast than beer, and so by the twitching hour of ten o’clock, Betty was seen sitting, glazed eyed on the bar -stool, a cheroot-cigar stub hanging loose in her fingers..eye-witness accounts state that the cheroot first slipped from her fingers, did several somersaults to the bar-step in a spray of sparks…a close acquaintance stooped to pick it up , but was stopped in his action by a “teacher’s command” to “LEAVE-IT !!”…which were the last words she spoke that evening as she then slid ever so gracefully off the stool, gathering her heavy skirts modestly around herself and sunk to the floor…

    Ron; the barman witnessing this,to him so familiar ; “float to oblivion”, leapt across the bar in what must be termed “the Barman’s Flop” for it was equal to an Olympian effort and calling for assistance carried her “wheelbarrow style” out to place her on the back seat of her Humber to sleep it off…it must be mentioned that Ron took her arms while the only other sober-able bodied man in the front bar ; Glenn took her legs…”In a kindly and gentlemanly way” as Betty later assured all who would doubt otherwise.

    When Glenn retired, they sold up their respective houses and moved to Kangaroo Island…Betty drove with the Humber and a huge trailer of their possessions to take the ferry across..Glenn, waving goodbye to all his mates, set sail in his lovingly restored clinker-built fishing boat to “chug-along” to the island…it was a long afternoon in the front-bar while he said his farewells..it was a long “goodbye” drinking toasts to all the good times…and it was noticed that one particular old mate..little Johnny, the SP. bookie, in a teary moment, slipped a ruddy flagon of “Rovalley Rich (poor-man’s)Port” into the prow of the boat before he set off…”in case it gets a tad chilly in ‘the passage’ (Backstair’s Passage)” he comforted…then Glenn set off for Kangaroo Island..a delightful island just off the coast of Flerieu Peninsula, approx. 100 miles long facing the mainland..you can’t miss it….

    It DID get chilly out on the water….Glenn DID consume the entire flagon and fell asleep on the bottom of the boat and was swept through Backstairs Passage, where the tide goes out like a river…and missed Kangaroo Island, to end up on “The Pages”..last stop between Sth Aust’ and Antarctica…but that’s another story.

  10. Joseph Carli

    Article: “An affectation of Intellectualism.” (coming soon near YOU)

    You know, it had to come to this … this point in our conversations over the past year or so. We had to work our way here like trekkers toward the once avoidable peak .. knowing at some point there had to be a confrontation between the “tribal” and the “sophisticate” as to which of us would scale the last obstacle to gain that peak.
    Well, here it is : The scholarly educated intellectual versus the life educated practical. Who is more fitted for leadership of the requirements of modern national governance?

    And I have to thank Roswell for the inspiration..:
    “Where at first I picked that you were stirring people, I now, however, detect a bit of angst .”

    A guild of self-assessing intellectuals that hold the monopoly on learned knowledge, but is more like an Emperor with no clothes. A class that leans on it’s qualifications for a kind of group-think legitimacy of what to believe.

    Watch this space!

  11. Joseph Carli

    Joe Carli
    ‏ @JAYSEE423
    2m2 minutes ago

    To “change the rules” we must change the class of governance..change from educated middle-class, to educated working-class..change the rules ; change the class.

  12. etnorb

    Another great collection of your thoughts Joseph! I have never understood why religion should hold so much sway over people, especially in the good old USA! It seems if you do not “believe” in god or the church, you are damned to hell & will never be a good person, or something! Effing religious “maniacs” have in most cases been the cause of most of our wars or conflicts, since the year dot, it seems. I think we do not “need” religion, especially when it is rammed down our throats that if we do not we are damned to hell in a hand basket! Good to hear you were able to go unmolested etc through your school years, pity so many other poor buggers did not. But, it was all in the name of effing “religion”, so that MUST have made it all right?

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