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I am a writer and commentator, with a background in Indigenous sector project management and tabloid newspaper publishing. As a retired older-age Australian I use my time, and my voice, to highlight the level of social injustice that exists in this country. I seek a better, more humane, more progressive Australia. I do not limit myself to any one topic, and my writing style gives whimsy and left-field thought at least as much power as logic, fact, and reason.

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Listening to Keith Davis – #2 of the Friends Conversing on a Verandah Series

(Setting the scene: Two friends. Keith Davis, Loz Lawrey. A verandah. A conversation. This is a transcript of an audio recording, ums and ahs included. The view from the verandah was of a wonderful slow sunset over the Mapleton Ranges. The content of the interview was unscripted and in the moment. Listening to Loz Lawrey is a companion interview to this one. Note: some difficult issues, as well as some lighter issues, are discussed in this interview).

I first became aware of you Keith when you wrote an article about the job industry for The AIMN and I realised he’s someone who’s lived on both sides of the fence in the sense that he’s worked for Job Centres and he’s also been a recipient of Centrelink benefits and been unemployed and at the mercy of the system if you like. That’s when I realised what a great writer you are and I’d like to start with that. What led you to writing?

Surprisingly enough, given my background, a Nun led me to writing. Initially, this is when I was quite young, six or seven years old in the orphanage and this particular woman really did have a love of children and a love of fostering whatever nascent abilities they had and she saw in me a very curious mind, and rather than suppress it, she chose to feed it. And she introduced me initially to the joy of reading and essentially she was saying, read first, absorb, learn as much as you can. Now she did not use these exact words, it’s the feeling it evoked in me. And then, learn to speak with your own voice.

Ha, that led me down a couple of trails and I’ve been a voracious reader all my life. And I really started to take writing seriously when I had this crazy idea of publishing a hippie newspaper in the 90s and I was building a house at the time, didn’t really have a brass rahzoo and I thought, oh, why are you doing this, do you realise you are going to have to write most of the copy, I couldn’t afford to pay anyone very much.

And so I started to write articles and at that stage, the French were letting off their huge bombs in the Pacific. So I wrote about things like that and through that whole process, for various reasons, I lived a life riven with self-doubt. But I did think, hey, here’s something I love doing and at least the majority of people who’ve read what I’ve written say, you’re OK at it. So I’ve stuck with it, and I love the fact that in this modern era, small voices, our voices can get out there and this part doesn’t come from me, I’ve been assessed as having a reasonable level of intelligence, a very impaired intelligence as it happens, but intelligence nonetheless.

Impaired in what way?

Oh … childhood stuff.

And I thought, well, OK, if you can add two and two and write one sentence that makes sense, then for fuck’s sake just add two and two and write a sentence that makes sense. And that generally has been my motivation. With writing, it’s like that old trope about failure. You’ve got to fail to learn to succeed, right?

I’ll write 100 lemons of articles, but the sweet spot is when you get one that hits, one that says something that is understood, that is responded to, but apart from all that deeper stuff, writing is like woodwork for me, writing is like hobbies that other people have, writing is both a love and a hobby, you become better, you question what you write, you look at what you write, you try to improve.

I’ll never be an author type person, I’m too tangental, I get dragged off in different directions, and part of that is autism, part of it is, my mind is just so curious, it’ll focus on something for a period, but it’ll bump another issue and I’ll focus on that. So I do find when I’m writing, I have to rein myself in, I have to think, stay on topic!

So you’ve referred to having a degree of autism, when did you, when was that revealed to you or when was that concept floated?

Yes, it was confirmed for me late in life, the diagnosis was late in life. For me, as strange as it sounds, it was a joy to finally find out.

Why is that, because it helped to make sense of your experiences?

It helped to make sense of the fact that throughout my life, I did not feel that I belonged, this life felt very strange to me, I could not understand other people. I did not understand why this world appeared to work the way it does work, and to my mind, getting on is so easy, love is so easy, hate and division are hard work. And so I couldn’t understand why the prevalence of hate and division, the prevalence of it, I couldn’t understand that.

(Silence …)

Um, I know enough about self now, to know that silence is OK. Right, I have a view of the world, it is shared by a number of people, it is not shared by many. I don’t see anything wrong with that, but finally, after many, many years, finally, after some grounding psychotherapy work, I now understand that my view of the world is valid, sure it comes through a different lens, sure, I have had to counteract the rewiring of my brain from the childhood abuse. And I now, not so much understand perhaps, I simply accept, my view is OK.

So you are referring to childhood abuse, and you have mentioned being in an orphanage, can you tell us a little bit about how you came to be in the orphanage and what the impact of those years was on you?

Isn’t it funny, many people think there is single cause, either your family broke up or there was an abusive family member or things like this. Now everybody comes from a different experiential background. I ended up in a Catholic orphanage, because the Japanese, love them as I do, dropped bombs on Port Moresby Harbour in 1942, and a particular sailor on the M.V. MacDuhi happened to be my father, and the war experiences he went through, not only the bombing and sinking of the MacDuhi, but also his later war experiences with the Americans, because he drove landing craft, and the later era of that Pacific war changed him forever. He saw such horror, such inhumanity, and it changed him.

It seared out of him a softness, he lost softness and caring, he didn’t want to, but it was the result of what he saw, what he experienced, what he felt. So that in the 1950s when he had children, he could not develop the necessary sense of responsibility, so as soon as anything became a bit difficult, as it does, often does, in marital relationship, he ran away. The fact that my mother ran away, as well, completes the picture. Found myself at five years old in the orphanage.

Right, so you found yourself in an orphanage abandoned by your parents. And how many years was that period, and what were your experiences there?

Oh. (Silence …)

Do you not want to talk about any of that? It’s just that I know it’s there, so I’m bringing it up, you know, you deal with that as deep as you want to.

Yeah. Um, OK.

I was placed in the orphanage at five years old. I came out of the orphanage at 11 years old, seven years, and I didn’t know when I first took those steps on the verandah in that orphanage, what a hell of a rocket had just been shot up my arse, I didn’t have any feeling of that, I was just a lonely little kid, but I felt the rocket over the next seven years, and the experiences generally were not very good.

What do you mean by the rocket? The rocket of, you were abused?

Yeah, mental cruelty, rape, all of that was a constant, a lack of love that children need, oh there was no love, there was no love. Now I will refine that, I did feel love from one Nun, and that’s the Nun I mentioned who fostered me into reading, but as for the rest, as for the visiting priests, as for the so-called loving Catholic families we were farmed out to on holidays …

Where more abuse occurred?

Oh, yes.

Really?

Hmm, ever been locked in a chicken coop? Hmm, remember I was young, ever had a horrible old man tell you he loved you as he molested you? Now remember this is me now at 70 years old talking, yes, for most of my life all of that was a unique experience, oh god it only happened to me, I realise now how prevalent it is in our society, I wonder what is wrong with our society, that these things not only happen, continue to happen, hmm, equally you could argue a similar case for what happens to women in our society,

Yes.

Yes. But generally, as far as the orphanage goes, it shut down my spirit, it shut down my interest in life, it showed me what anger truly is, which is why in my life, I cannot express anger easily, and don’t want to.

Showed you what anger truly is. You mean your own anger or the anger you experienced from others?

It showed me the warped deviated anger of deeply frustrated and religious people.

So, in a sense, you share my dislike of religion?

I do not dislike religion, I dislike what people do with it, I mean I have never had a concept of God, I cannot understand a concept of needing a God, you know I look around, I see the planet I live on, I see the bottle brush over there, I see the beauty of the night sky, I see the Milky Way and I think well is that not enough, why do we have to attach myths to all that? There is a silly little part of me, because I have a Celtic background, that occasionally mutters nonsense like I adhere to the Celtic gods of river earth and fire, but that is just fun for me, it is not serious, okay.

So seven years in the orphanage, and you came out around the age of eleven, what followed from that, you went into foster homes I think, you went to school, and how are you feeling at this time ? You’ve just come through years of abuse and mistreatment and emotional cruelty, and how did you move on from that, and how did you, I know this is a hard question, how did you process that, and because I see in front of me a seventy year old man who is, who exudes wisdom, warmth, empathy and respect for others, and I am amazed that that is what I see when I know so much, when I know a certain amount about your history, and that kind of history often affects people negatively for the rest of their lives, would you mind sharing a bit about that, about sort of from the orphanage on, and how you process life and learn to move on and grow?

I came out of the orphanage like a deadened lump of lead, I had no feeling within myself, I had no joy, I did not know what love is or could be, I certainly knew what hate is, I knew what anger is, you know we never figured out over the years, whether my inability to read faces was caused by trauma, or whether it was simply a natural autistic trait, you know that has never been figured out, but when I left the orphanage, the simple things in life meant something to me, now as a ward of the state, you had nothing, nothing, nothing that was your own, no space that was your own, no protective space that was your own, and when I came out of the orphanage, the state gave you a little kind of cardboard port, and in that wrapped in cellophane, 1960s cellophane, there’s a pair of little sandals and a shirt and a pair of shorts, I thought I was fucking king muck, here I was, I have something that is mine.

Then I landed, you know the state organised, well in concert with the Sisters of Mercy, which is a bit of an oxymoron that one, I was placed with a foster family. They weren’t good, they weren’t bad, they were in the end perhaps maliciously indifferent, and so I came from a background where, this is not like boohoo stuff, you get over all that pretty quick, I wasn’t wanted by my parents, I was abused in the home, by people who were meant to protect you …

A betrayal?

Oh. A betrayal. We could spend some time in that space.

(Silence …)

So, I ended up in another situation where I wasn’t wanted, and all I can say about that is I wasn’t physically abused in that situation, I simply endured it, and I couldn’t wait to gain my freedom, and when I did gain my freedom, when I finished high school, and I had no idea who I was, I had no idea how damaged I was, I simply thought that life was this dark place, that was my view of how I felt, and that was probably my view of life until I reached my early 60s, when I totally fell apart. My ability to mask pain and horror, my ability to pretend to fit into this world I didn’t feel part of, finally became too much, finally my psyche collapsed.

But since leaving school you’ve had marriages and relationships, were they impacted by your previous experiences?

I think many survivors would identify with this. Every relationship experience, whether it be with my children, partners, friends, employers, were affected by my past experiences.

Just as your life was impacted by your father’s experiences?

Experiences. Yes. You know the idea, if you break a leg, try to explain how it feels to another human being, they can empathise, you bet they can however they still don’t know how your broken leg feels. They can’t. And so, to be a child, exposed to not one or two instances of sexual abuse and mental cruelty, but to years of it, you, not only can you not vocalise it, but you couldn’t explain to someone if you tried, and even if you managed to explain it, they wouldn’t understand, and even in my early adult years, I knew that, you know.

I started to question things like, hey Bozo, you have some intelligence, yet you cannot complete anything in the area of achievement, you come in with great enthusiasm, but then your energy just sinks and you collapse. And that has been a recurring theme throughout my life, yes, in whatever I’ve tried, whether it be marriage, whether it be in the work sphere, whether it be trying to maintain a wonderful relationship with my wonderful children, I lose the ability to communicate.

So, you hit the, you reach the age of around 60, and you hit a wall, and a breakdown happened, and how did you get through that, and you’ve obviously come through and survived that, and you’re here with us now. Do you mind talking a bit about that, and how you’ve moved on from that, or?

Hmm.

We both agreed together to do a very open/honest interview, I will not now say no.

OK. Yeah. Here we go.

You never get over it, I never handled it, and the best thing I ever did was never handle it, because it led to me falling apart. It led me into a couple of sojourns in acute mental health wards over the last two years. It led to a total demolition of self, a feeling of self.

It led then, now some psychiatrists and psychologists shouldn’t be in the job, it’s just a job for them, but boy did I meet a couple of extremely beautiful people, and as part of the legal process I went through for redress against the Catholic Church, I met a, I was flown down to Sydney to meet a leading forensic psychiatrist, wonderful man. First thing he said to me, he saw my hope, my yearning, my please change this and make me feel better. First thing he said was, I cannot heal you, you cannot be healed, but, but, and see people see that attendant but as a bad thing, and sometimes it is, but that particular but had incredible value, but I can almost guarantee you can feel happier in your life, and it was quite a big step for me to understand, accept and roll with the fact that I could not be healed, the legacies are permanent.

So a shock, a shock in one way to hear that in the end?

No, it wasn’t, in the end it was a relief, so all this striving, all this hoping, all this trying, all these weird and wonderful therapeutic ways could finally be let go, oh, okay, I can’t be healed, but what’s left, how do I live with what’s left? Rather than focusing on what is wrong with me, right, yeah.

Is that like a change from a seeing things in a negative light to a positive light, or encourage you to develop a new way of approaching things?

No. It runs a lot deeper than positive negative, yeah, it bites into that level of what truly is truth, what truly is truth, and it was truthful, right, so I’ve, and truth is always helpful, since that period I’ve been dealing in truth, been dealing with truth, through the feelings, truth about legacies, and understanding I cannot go back and change a thing.

That’s right.

There are certain aspects of how my brain works that cannot be undone, there are certain aspects of how my brain works that can be changed, and probably sounds weird, I am so glad I fell apart, I am so glad I ended up in, now I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone to do it, and I wouldn’t recommend it as a method to seek an understanding of truth, but those times in the mental health wards were invaluable, incredibly invaluable, and I’m glad it happened, you know, people regret, oh, I couldn’t have a life, I fell apart, no, I’m glad I did, because it would not have cut through, all the protections I’d thrown in front of myself, all the masking.

Oh look, here’s the happy hippie. He drives a kombi. Load of bullshit, I didn’t know what I was doing, I couldn’t feel, you know, and I often laugh about that period of my life, because I can’t smoke dope, it just brought up all the searing memories. Visually I looked the part, long blonde hair, you know, well he’s either a surfie or a hippie, he’s one of them, he’s got a kombi. But I never felt the part, it was my effort to fit in.

This is over those years before you’ll break down in your 60s?

Oh yeah this is through my 20s, 30s, and the, I just hit a period of thinking, I don’t know who I am, I just don’t know, I have no feeling of self.

Would you say that happiness is a state that’s related to our ability to accept ourselves in our past and who we are in a sense, or not, can you speak to that?

As best I can, I would say that my past has ruled the majority of my life, I’ve lived my life, and have not had the ability to live my life to the full in a sense, it was very much restricted. In fact I did not have the ability to live in the present, I lived in the past, I spent my time where I lived seeking high places to live, because that way you could see predators approaching now, I well know cognitively, part of my brain said, oh come on, seriously, most people wish you no harm, but the deep rooted stuff ruled you, and so I’ve lived my life full of fear, looking over my shoulder continuously, not even recognising the fact that there’s nothing there, it’s because the brain is such a malleable beast, there’s actually nothing wrong with my brain, very early on it learnt, I have to protect this human being I’m part of, and it protected me well in the sense that it shut me off, it made me aware, constantly aware, in fact hyper-aware, for most of my life, and, I mean ..

A human state of hyper-awareness means you’re never totally relaxed?

You’re always in fight or flight, always, it’s a perpetual state, but the human system cannot sustain that for a lifetime, eventually it crashes, which is why now I say I’m glad I crashed, I’m glad I fell apart, I’m glad I was, now, you know, maybe there should be a trigger warning at the start of this interview, but I’m glad I became suicidal, I’m glad I had to explore all that and live it, and be searched by security guards to not so much protect other people from me, but to protect me from me. It is such a juxtaposition on the one level to live such an empathetic life, to love, to be that way, and yet on a very equal and complementary level, to live your life feeling, you have no value, you have no worth, and I don’t forget you’re speaking to me at 70 years old.

How does the world look now, how is life now?

The world doesn’t look good or bad to me, it depends on the day, the day tells me what life is like, today is a good day, I’m sitting here with a friend, looking at the birds and the trees and looking at the bottle brush, so life is good.

You know, I’ve lived most of my life with a, in the old days they talked about a tape running through your head and you had to unpack the onion and get to all the different layers and you know, blah, blah, blah, all that sort of stuff, well it hasn’t quite been like that to me, I’ve simply had a 35mm film running in front of my eyes for most of my life, and it’s a replication of all the horror events, right, and see eventually, it’s not like I have to go into deep memory to dig it up, it’s always there, for a non-religious man I’m quite happy to say thank christ that after the year of intense psychotherapy, the film is gone, what a blessing, what a blessing.

So life does get better, life gets happier, the damage doesn’t go away, but your ability to deal with it improves.

The process of recovery is endless?

Oh. Umm. I have an opinion that not many people would agree with, there is no such thing as recovery, you know recovery is a false sell, no, it’s like grief …

Because you can’t undo the past, you cannot undo it, you cannot unexperience?

Yes. Exactly. Grief. I often think of the issue of grief, people tell you, oh it gets better and you move on, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, all I say to all that is bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, the grief never leaves, but you learn to deal with it a bit better, that is the truth of it, not I’ve moved on etc etc.

Let me ask you a nice question, one that you asked me. What is love?

What is love? Interesting question. I love women, I’m of that type. Love is a heart that opens up and shows itself, that’s love, You know what is hate? It is a closing of the heart and a closed heart like for whatever reason I don’t know, a closed heart seems to have a predilection for attacking an open heart. I don’t know why that is, just a appears to be the way it is. I think love is a wonderful thing, I don’t have a romantic view of love, I think love if I had to define it right down, love is truth and care combined, extended towards another human being, love can’t be manufactured. It is something we can experience, at 70 I can say it can be experienced and I am experiencing it now in my life.

Keith Davis, thank you so much.

Welcome, Loz, now it’s time for that Shiraz!

 

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Listening to Loz Lawrey – #1 of the Friends Conversing on a Verandah Series

(Setting the scene – recently two friends, Loz Lawrey and Keith Davis, sat on Keith’s verandah and recorded their conversation. They wanted to capture the ‘now’ of their interaction. That conversation, by agreement, ended up morphing into two separate and delightfully different audio interviews. Nothing was pre-planned and both friends had quite different styles of self-expression. The questions and responses were totally free-form and in the moment. Here is the transcript of Loz’s interview with Keith asking the questions and Loz responding to them … Keith’s interview will follow on Thursday.)

Loz, why music in your life, why not woodwork?

Actually Keith I do both. Look, I grew up with music. My family had a big record collection and I just have fond memories of lying on the living room floor. I received messages of all sorts from folk musicians like Peter Paul and Mary, and my parents were folk music fans at the time and they sort of passed that love on to me, and so it was listening to all those tunes and realising that music can tell stories and make you feel things, and I guess that’s where it all started.

Yes, well the other night over dinner you sang a song about India, which certainly brought up feelings/memories in my friend who had joined us for the meal (and who had travelled there). Even though I didn’t travel on that part of the hippie trail in the old days, I never got to India, your song did give me a feeling, a sense of what it was all about. Is that what you try to impart with your music, to evoke feeling in other people?

I heard my music can do that and have that impact. I don’t actually set out to do it. You write a song.You’re telling a story. Something’s triggered you to do it. Yes in my case, that song India was just remembering a road trip I’d done when I was 21 years old. I was living in London as a student and it was time to head back to Australia. And I decided I wanted to do some travelling on the way. And there was a well-known, what they called the hippie trail, a well-known route from England through the Middle East to India, that many hippies and vagabonds used to follow at the time. And I heard a lot about it while I was living in London and became more and more interested in following that route.

And at the same time I was trying to find my own place in the world and I was in a sense on a spiritual search. I’d already figured out Christianity somewhat, And I’d had an interest in other religions. I’d actually read up a bit about Buddhism and I was interested in what religions had to offer, in terms of revelations about human existence and our place on the planet and our place in the universe in a sense. And I read a book called Be Here Now, and I think I’ve told you about that, written by an American who went to India and really had his mind blown by the change in culture and the focus on spirituality that you find in countries like India, particularly in India, where it’s a greater part. It’s a much less materialistic place than the western world I’d grown up in, you know, Australia, England.

And what’s interesting, you said your family was a diplomatic family.

Yeah, that’s right.

So you’re exposed from an early age to travel, different cultures, different ways of thinking?

That’s right. That’s right in a way. We lived in Washington for three years when I was very young, when I was a baby, and we would periodically come back to Australia, but my father was posted to other countries, after Washington it was Indonesia, he was working in the embassy in Jakarta for a couple of years, and then we went back to Australia again, and then after that France for four years, and in every posting he sort of rose through the ranks in a sense. And once we’d been back from France, I had just done my first year of high school by then.

So we came back for a year to Canberra, and I went to a public school there, and then he was posted again, he got his first ambassadorial post posting to Cairo. And that’s the point where I was put into boarding school, because the advice at the time was that you don’t take your kids, you put them in boarding school. So I spent the next four years in a boarding school in Canberra.

And … Was it a secular or…?

No, well it was a Church of England boarding school, it was … what we’d now call an Anglican boarding school, and the religion was definitely part of it, I mean we had chapel every morning and evening, quite a brief session, and we had to endure an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening, every Sunday, every day of chapel, and hymn singing, and services, and listening to endless sermons and so forth. But it was just, you know, to the kids, it was just part of the wallpaper in a sense, it was just how things were done, and it wasn’t, you know… I mean I was slightly intrigued by it all, but never felt part of it.

In fact my parents were non-religious, and I actually had to go and get baptised to actually… to be accepted in the school, and I’ve never forgotten this afternoon, going to this chapel with my mother and her standing there rolling her eyes, well… well this chap threw water on me and mumbled the various things, and then declared me baptised at the end of the process, you know.

You do strike me as a secular man, perhaps a spiritual man, but not a
religious man.

I’ve always seen religion as something ultimately evil, if I dare say that, because of the way young people are brainwashed by their parents to accept a certain world view, you know, involving worshipping a deity and judging others. It’s that judgemental side of religion I really hate, we’re called non-believers, or considered lesser, or other. And I do consider myself a spiritual person because I spend a lot of my life trying to understand my own essence.

And yet I am a secular person because I do not subscribe to any creed or faith, you know. I really believe we’re all on our own search and on our own journey, and we all come to our own conclusions, and hopefully we all develop a lifestyle that reflects our core perspective, if you like. And ultimately, I just think human beings have an amazing capacity and potential to, well, I mean, I don’t understand science but I am amazed at scientists and their ability to analyse the universe.

I’m not putting this very well, but in myself, I know I’ve always wanted completion, I was obsessed with it from a young age, from leaving school, partly because I felt a bit lost. I’ve always wanted to find some sort of completion, and then over the years, through reading about Buddhism and so on, I realised there’s a concept of self-realisation that’s out there. There’s a path one can pursue to actually realise and achieve that. And I guess in my own way, I’ve been trying to do that.

What that is, I mean, I have no real vision of, does the world explode in blinding light? I don’t know. Do I become some super being? I doubt it very much. But to me, self-realisation or self-actualisation is really coming to peace with oneself, coming to know oneself, to feel an acceptance of oneself, and to banish self-doubt. I remember when Mahatma once said, I would rather have a bullet than a doubt in my mind. Because really, it’s that doubt that destroys us, our self-doubt, and the doubt that others inflict on us, through their judgement and the feedback they give us, or the criticism they use, you know.

And I guess what I aspire to in the world is to be a good person, a person who doesn’t harm others, who treats others with respect, basically.

Which leads me into another question. To you, what is love? What is your concept of what love is?

Well, that’s a big question! I grew up listening to a lot of pop songs about love, that’s for sure. And that kind of love is really about the love between men and women, or basically these days, you’d say, between two human beings. And yet, in a way, I feel like, before anyone can love, we have to learn to love ourselves. We can be love. We can feel love. Others can treat us with love, and we can feel that, and feel the warmth and the embrace of that. But I feel at the same time, we have to not love ourselves in some egotistical way, but come to understand ourselves. It’s only then we can really truly love others, and feel the love for others.

I guess, in a sense, it’s something we’re always developing a sense of, it is something we’re always working on because we’re always trying to understand each other. I’m still not defining love here. It’s a hard thing to define. We all know what it is. I really feel like they say love makes the world go round. In a way, there is something called love that is the kernel. It’s something that lies at the heart of human life, at the heart of our humanity. We have a capacity to feel love for others, to demonstrate love by how we treat them. As the song says, love is a wonderful thing. As much as we have light and dark, cold and hot, we also have love, and we have hate.

Where do you think hate comes from? What is the deep world that hate comes from?

It’s a deep well of ignorance, I believe. A black pit.

And how does hate develop in your opinion? I’ll circle back to political hate later.

It really develops through fear. Hate is really the other side of the coin to fear. Fear of others, fear of the unknown, fear of difference, the type of fear behind classic racism, that hatred of people of other appearance or skin colour, hatred of other cultures. It’s all really founded in a lack of understanding.

We hear so often about people who have a fear of immigrants, and yet when the immigrants arrive and they get to know them, they realise they’re just like us. That’s why I’ve always felt that every school curriculum should have an overseas trip as part of it. Like kids should be sent overseas as part of their school education to experience other cultures that are different to if you live in a Western culture like Australia. A school trip to India, to the Middle East, to Indonesia, to Japan, to anywhere other than here. So the children can realise that it’s not all about us and our culture, that humans exist in many forms and have many varying societies around the globe.

And yet there’s a point where we are all the same, right at the essence of all of us. And that’s, I guess that’s what anyone in the spiritual search is seeking, you know, is that kernel, that inner truth.

That if we were all exposed to different cultures, different ways of being, that the level of judgement of the other would lessen?

It would lessen. Well that’s my personal belief, maybe wrong, but there’s a broadening
advantage to try. And I feel like the fact that my parents exposed me to all these different cultures, even in boarding school once a year I’d travelled to visit them at Christmas and I would land in Cairo and I would meet Arabic people and I would, I would get some understanding of their culture. I would see our servants fasting for Ramadan and I would learn what that was. And I would, you know, and my travels through the Middle East, that experience, it taught me a lot about the warmth of many of those cultures and the hospitality visitors receive, are greeted with. And I would come back to Australia and always feel a little bit sometimes like a stranger in a strange land.

You know, I did go back and live in London for a couple of years, but since that road trip from which I returned in 1974, I’ve really been in Australia since then, but I’ve never felt fully quite part of our culture here in one way, even though I speak with an Australian accent and so forth.

You almost beg this question. What time and place do you live in? What kind of world do you live in?

Well, I try to live in the present, totally in the present. I’m very bad at planning, looking ahead, you know. And really, I’ve really had an awareness ever since I read that book Be Here Now, which really, and the message of that book really was, life happens in this moment. In fact, I wrote a song about it on my last CD called Right Now, and it’s about how this is where life happens, right now, right here, and it’s never going to happen anywhere else. And John Lennon referred to this, that life’s what happens while you’re busy making other plans. We can think about the past, but it’s gone, It’s slipped through our fingers already. And the future’s an unrevealed secret that lies ahead. But we’re here in this moment where we both are sitting now, and we’re experiencing this moment, and this is where both our lives are happening, right now.

If you had to, which you don’t have to, but I’m asking you to, if you had to pick two people who have inspired you the most, who would they be?

That’s a really tough thing, because there are many people, and to say who’s inspired me the most, I would find it very hard to identify them.

Certainly, I did spend quite a few years following Prem Rawat, who used to be called Guru Maharaji, who taught me a lot about self-awareness and meditation and self-knowledge, and showed me techniques to meditate that have brought me much peace over the years, and helped me to accept life as it unfolds and accept myself and my role in it.

Do you think that we can actually inspire ourselves?

I guess so. That’s something I’ve never really thought about. I mean, inspiration can come from so many sources, I guess, from others, from experiences we have, from movies we see, you know, from songs we hear, from stories we’re told. From living we’ve done. I find that a tough one to answer, Keith. I’ve never really thought of how that I might have inspired myself.

Okay, I’ll circle back to the earlier question about hate, specifically political hate. Where does it come from?

You mean hating our political opponents?

Yes, to define it down a bit more, why in the current era do we have so many people who hate and cannot accept political difference?

Wow! Well, I think ignorance is a big part of it. I think inadequate education is a part of it. I think there are so many things that play into this. I think social media plays into it. I think as technology evolves and we rely more and more on it, there’s a diminishment of people’s ability to think critically. There’s an acceptance of shallow perceptions that are being shared and that we inflict on each other.

The lack of critical thinking, I think, is at the core of it. Because it’s really quite an amazing skill, and if one is able to do that, it’s a life-enhancing thing. But if you can’t think critically, you’re really living a more superficial life, where it gets harder to tell good from bad and see the true value of things. I think of what’s happening in America at the moment, and it seems that right at the core of the problems there, the lack of critical thinking and the possible potential of civil war, and the total tribal division between Republicans and Democrats, the way the country is split almost in two, and the inability of the two sides to even… You know, it’s becoming harder and harder for the both sides to even communicate.

Political hate is, as you say, it’s everywhere now, and there’s a resurgence in every country and it’s quite frightening, I find. There’s the rise of fascism that seems to be occurring globally, and the rise of these really narcissistic sociopathic autocrats who have no regard for either human life or the rule of law, or a sense of decency, the sense of decency that civil society requires as its foundation. Yeah, so political hate, political hate leads to war, does nothing to unite us, and yet, as someone who’s definitely on the left side, if we’re going to talk about polarised politics, I definitely am on the left, and there is always this great temptation to hate those on the right, mainly through a frustration that I simply struggle to understand their thinking. It’s as if there are two kinds in political terms, it’s as if there’s two kinds of human beings, and some are wired one way and some are wired another. And due to that there’s two different circuitries. it’s almost impossible to find common ground, because your world views are totally different, you know what I’m saying?

Yes. As you know Loz I’m known for quite happily going off on tangents. So … what is a question that you would like to ask of yourself?

That’s too hard. Yeah. Well, there is this one. The basic one is who am I and what am I meant to be doing in this lifetime, you know? If there was a creator, what would he or she want me to be doing? How would they want me to live? I mean, at the end of the day, I think our questions are answered by our own inner feelings. So, we resolve those questions within ourselves by a basic sense of right and wrong, I believe.

I mean, I have lingering regrets of having offended people at different times in my life, and now looking back at my age, I would dearly love to meet those people. I’ve tried to contact some through Facebook even, but simply cannot find some of them. They don’t seem to be on social media, but I’d love to meet up with them and apologise for the slight I inflicted on them at the time, you know? Because that has left a lingering sense of shame.

I remember in second-year high school, I got into a fight. One of the first kids who welcomed me to the school became a mate, and for some reason, one recess, and I put this down to teenage hormones, it’s a pretty weak excuse, I know, but we ended up in a fistfight, and I kind of punched him out. And as I drove off from school on my bicycle at the end of the day, someone shouted, good fight, mate! And all I felt was this cringing sense of shame, because I knew in myself that I had done it for bad reasons. I really had no…this guy had done nothing to deserve this. And it was a seminal experience for me, because it was a life-changing moment. These are the life-changing moments, I believe, when we make a terrible mistake and hopefully learn from it and change and modify our behaviour.

And there are moments when I’ve been rude to people, and wish I could take it back now. And yet I remember those things, because there aren’t that many of them, but they’re there. And yet at the same time, these are the things I believe that help us grow and mature. And I mean, I guess I see human life as a trajectory. We’re born into the planet, we come into this light, and then we’re subjected to everything. We can be lucky, we can be grow up in a family that’s loving and considerate, or we can be really unlucky and grow up in an abusive situation. And some of those situations can persist for years.

And I have to say, I’ve been lucky in my own way, and yet I’ve had my own struggles, such as being left in boarding school, which I didn’t find easy. But I feel at the end of the day, whatever we go through, we learn from, it informs our future behaviour. And hopefully, over time, we become better people and better able to treat others with decency and respect, you know? Which I think is really what lies at the core of the human condition and what it demands that we do.

People use the word humanity, meaning empathy, meaning decency, meaning respect for others, and a desire to include others. The word humanity has wonderful connotations. We speak of inhumanity as everything bad, everything evil. People describe Putin’s war on Ukraine as an inhumane venture, and clearly it is to anyone who has a love of humanity. How can some humans treat each other so inhumanely? It makes no sense to me, but history tells us it’s always happened.

And at the core of all that aggravation and warmongering and genocidal behaviour, I believe, is a lack of understanding. I mean, I also believe religions have a lot to answer for because they basically mess with people’s heads. I think of the Crusades and other wars of religion, and the atrocities that are committed in the name of the Lord or God or modernity, and I mean, at the end of the day, how do religions thrive? They thrive on ignorance.

I just remembered … I’m supposed to be asking some questions but I was quite happily getting lost in your discourse. Loz, I did read your humorous, really humorous article on The Australian Independent Media Network about flicking spuds at a photo of the Queen. So, are you a Monarchist or a Republican?

Well, I don’t know what the best model for a Republic is. The best model for organising society, but I’m definitely not a monarchist because I really think the idea of kings and queens and people being set apart as being special in some way or superior in some way is crazy, basically. You know, I mean, we’ve always had kings and queens and emperors, and today we have one of the autocrats … it’s pretty obvious Trump’s always wanted to be a king and Putin’s behaving like he thinks he is one, and they managed to weasel themselves into positions where they nearly get away with it.

But I believe in egalitarianism. I believe in equal rights, no one is superior to anyone else. And that’s apart from all these things that give us an appearance of difference such as our level of education. At the end of the day, people are people, you know, any race, any culture, any indigenous group. We’re all part of the same human race, and we are all equal. And I wish societies around the world reflected that because most don’t. Most have social structures that put some at the bottom and some at the top and others in between. And, I mean, the very concept of middle class, governments are always trying to please the middle class, and then other more right-wing governments seem to favour the rich. I mean, there’s so much that plays into all this, our world order and the social structures that different countries have that are really a vestige of their past history, and an outcome of past events.

As a musician, as a singer, a songwriter, from your point of view, what’s the value of music in our lives?

Well, well, I think music’s a touchstone. It evokes feelings. It brings up feelings that are already latent within us, and it triggers them, hopefully good feelings often. It’s something like smell you know. Music can touch us. Songs tell stories, and we need stories. Stories are the way we share our understandings, our knowledge, our culture, whatever that is. It’s how we learn music. Music inspires dance, inspires smiles. Well, there’s just something about music. It’s another way of communicating, I believe.

Interviewers always try to have the last say but let’s turn that one on its head. The last say in this interview is your say.

Well, I’m not sure I really have any big say. I’m just another little ant on the global ant heap, you know. I guess I’d love to see more empathy in the world. I’d love to see more coming together, more unity. I hate, I just hate what people are doing to each other and what evil people are inflicting on others around the world. I hate the fact that we’re unable to solve issues of hunger and starvation in some countries.

I’m very worried about the world and about our race and our treatment of the planet. Sometimes I feel we’re on a terrible course that can, in no way, be good. I think there’s a sense, a sense at large that people have, that the world is in a terrible state. And yet we are the perpetrators and the instigators of that. What we do, everything we do, every tin can we throw out, every plastic bag we drop into the ocean does harm. And yet it’s hard to live in a way that doesn’t have those side effects, you know. I guess I just hope for a world where we get it together before it’s too late.

 

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The Flowers of Empire

(Author’s note: No doubt we all hope that this never comes to pass, and that wiser heads manage to prevail)

The Flowers of Empire

They’ll bloom those flowers will
If madness reckons ‘tis time to kill
Putin’s no great tiller of reason
As he blood-sniffs the air for start of season

Should it come the stems’ll roil high
They’ll rival the sun and rend-crack the sky
They’ll propagate and proliferate
And dog release waves of ripped-snarl hate

The winds of sigh will obliterate out
Whatever compulsive earth-heave leaves standing about
Never will become now and time will cleave
As bodies mound up, tindered and sheaved

The harvest of the Flowers of Empire
Power’s folly delivered entire
Our futures ended complete
Our shadows faintly etched onto crumbled concrete

 

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A Tale of Two Women

Death, when it comes quickly for someone we love, tends to blindside us, and drag us out of our ordered complacency.

Two women died this month. One I knew. One I did not know at all. One was famous. One was not. One attracted a staggering number of mourners, millions across the globe. The other attracted barely thirty.

The death of one generated both expressions of love, and expressions of deeply felt hate. The death of the other generated love, and deeply felt feelings for things that should have been, for things that the sometimes disorderly nature of the unfolding of life did not allow to be.

Both women shared much in common. They were daughters, they were sisters, they were mothers, they were grandmothers. Their deaths, the loss of them, was felt keenly by some members of their families. The passing of both caused change.

Both were raised under the control and influence of very powerful Institutions. One was raised and protected in the Palaces of Royalty, the other was raised and abused in the Palaces, if Orphanages could be called that, of the Catholic Church.

One was born into high privilege, the other was born into the opposite, and neither had much of a choice in the matter. Both women lived a life of service to those around them.

Elizabeth Windsor was Queen of England, and represented the Institution of the Monarchy throughout the Commonwealth. Elizabeth, according to many who knew her, was an extremely decent person, a very humane human being. The Institution she headed has never apologised willingly for the brutal inhumanity it perpetrated upon others during the era of the British Empire.

Figlia Didio, my Sister, was indeed Queen of her own domain. According to many who knew her Figlia was an extremely decent person, a very humane human being. The Institution who raised and abused her has had to be dragged kicking and screaming into making any sort of real apology for the brutal inhumanity it perpetrated upon the abandoned children placed into its care.

There are some similar themes, and some discordant themes, running through the lives of both women. That they were both decent people cannot be contested. That they will be grieved by those who closely knew them cannot be contested.

Grief, true grief, freezes and numbs the heart, it cannot be feigned, nor can it be concocted or manipulated into existence. Celebrity Grief however is a very different animal, without concoction or manipulation it could not exist at all.

One woman was buried in gilded coffin under the fanfare of regal pageantry, and she was buried with an outpouring of real grief by her immediate family and intimate friends. I do not contest the fact that some of Elizabeth’s Subjects felt a grief as real as those who truly knew her well.

I do not contest the fact that the amount of concocted and manipulated grief exhibited by many who did not know her at all was extraordinary, and quite shameful in a way because it demeaned real grief down to the level of fad and, a quickly passing, mere thing, a commodity.

One woman was buried in a coffin woven of wicker under a respectful silence, and she was buried with an outpouring of real grief by her immediate family and intimate friends. Grief as commodity was not in evidence.

Grief, true grief, freezes and numbs the heart. It lingers in feeling and memory.

Both women have one thing very much in common. They were both raised by Institutions I truly detest.

I am glad I was able to attend Figlia’s funeral. Because of Covid I was unable to attend the funeral of my other Sister, Rona. My heart is numb. My Sisters are gone.

 

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Roundheads Arise!

Is it time for us Roundheads to arise? Surely our interminable fawning over a rich, entitled, and generally fucked-up royal family is way past the used by date. Stan Grant’s Indigenous Rage about the legacies of Empire far outweighs my annoyance at the silent compliance of the Australian people over issues such as the Uluru Statement, treatment of refugees, veneration of the Monarch, and Albo’s infamous Respect for Tradition and Institutions speech in London. Stan’s article is well worth reading.

From now on I consider Australia to be a Republic, I consider it to be an independent country that has labelled forelock-tugging a crime against human dignity, and I consider all power to be invested in our Parliament, and in that Parliament I consider the section set up to represent our Indigenous Nations with the right to comment and vote on legislation (same rights as the rest of us) to be a very welcome addition. Hope reigns eternal!

But let’s revisit Albo’s speech. Firstly I admire the man, he’s certainly a Survivor, and he’s wise enough not to overdo the poor boy from the slums bit. But oh that speech, it was straight out of Merino Macarthur’s songbook, or the English version of same. Respect genocide? Respect slavery? Respect tying Indian Mutineers to the maws of cannon and blowing them to bits? Respect dumping Convicts into an early version of Island Hell-Holes and disparaging them as the refuse of a grand Empire? Nope, can’t do that.

If I took to heart and agreed with the contents of that speech then I’d also be venerating the Catholic Church, and kissing their arse, and rejoicing over … rejoicing over … well both my Sisters were raised in Catholic Orphanages (as was I) and they died unheard in their seventies … so fuck any form of veneration – royal, religious, or otherwise.

My Greens vote was strategically placed to help elect the ALP, but I did not cast that vote just to get same old same old from the ALP. I voted for strong and clear leadership. I voted for strong legislative change, and I voted for a government that despite the risk of only surviving for one term (though it might give them five) was prepared to guts-through some big changes. Hey, I’d even accept a modest little tallow candle to replace the long defunct Light On The Hill … it might cast a warm glow on that famous tree in Blackall.

I don’t believe in Referendums, I see them as manipulated stitch-ups and I blame John Howard for that. I don’t believe in our Constitution, I would believe in it if it had happened to have been written by a coalition of Indigenous People and Convicts but it wasn’t. I am glad that the Rum Corps didn’t write it though … there are enough drunken pollies in our Parliament as it is.

Back to … back to … let’s do a Basil Fawlty and definitely mention the War … ah … Republic.

I don’t believe we need a Head of State at all. Why are we being fed the line from all sides that we need one? Aren’t there enough Mayors and Premiers and Federal Pollies out there on the public purse to conduct whatever Ceremonial Occasions we deem necessary, like opening Fetes and Flower Shows and welcoming International Leaders whether despotic or democratic? Having a Head of State is just another example of the elites and their toadies guzzling at the trough of public largesse and patting us on the head now and then. Our Republic does not need regal personages.

I know I’ll be labelled a Cromwellian Roundhead with the views I hold, so be it, in my view that’s better than prancing about in fine lace with a ridiculous feather sticking sideways out of my preposterous Cavalier Hat. I’m quite aware also that many fine professors and constitutional law experts will have much to say about the establishment of an Australian Republic and it will make for interesting reading.

I also well realise that we would have to Boston Tea Party our Constitution to the deep before my Model for a Republic has even a snowball’s chance .. but here’s my Model anyway ..

  1. The Uluru Statement becomes the Foundation Document of the new Republic of Australia.
  2. A Bill of Rights is enshrined by legislation.
  3. The old Constitution is excised from living and historical memory.
  4. A Bloc of Federal Parliamentary Seats is permanently reserved for Indigenous Representatives elected by Indigenous People. Indigenous People will have dual voting rights – the right to vote for any Representative standing in their local Federal Seat, and the right to vote for their chosen representative in an Indigenous Bloc Seat.
  5. The power of the people is represented by Parliament.
  6. All Regal positions of authority and power are abolished.
  7. The People alone are the Heads of State.
  8. Australia is deemed to be a Secular Nation.

… this could go on and on .. I’m pretty sure the readers could add many more points and probably slide some of mine out the back door … democracy is a good thing when and where it exists.

As for a Legislative Agenda for this new Republic of Australia …

  1. Bring back the CES. Get rid of Private Training Companies that gorge on the federal dollar and flow those saved funds into a resurgence of our TAFES and Universities. Legislate out of existence the Federal Unemployment Industry that demeans and targets the Unemployed.
  2. Abolish private Labour Hire Companies that exploit apprentices and lower paid workers. Reinstate indentured apprenticeships to ensure tenure through to trade qualification is guaranteed.
  3. Legislate that any Political Party seeking to have Representatives elected at the federal level must evidence a mandatory gender equality balance in their Candidate pool.
  4. Seek full membership of ASEAN.
  5. Start what will be a very painful process (especially for Pensioners like me) and begin the spiralling up of taxes, duties, and fees on ICE vehicles.
  6. Legislate to allow all Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse to appeal to have Unsatisfactory Settlements set aside and to have their cases re-assessed. (I would say that … bloody oath I would).
  7. Make gender-based wage inequality a punishable crime.
  8. Deem domestic violence to be an act of terrorism … fund efforts and resources at that level to diminish the high rate of DV.
  9. Mandate that where obviously possible with regard to climate or geographical placement all new Developer-Supplied/Constructed Suburbs must be energy and water self sufficient.
  10. Nationalise the supply of electricity.

… on and on … I wonder what would be on your legislative list?

So. When politicians say, especially when politicians say, that now is not the appropriate time to mention the Republic, even the Celtic Gods would have a bit of a chortle at political hypocrisy and thunderously exclaim, as they tend to do, that right now is the oh so most appropriate and most sweet sweet spot in time to mention away. I reckon Basil would agree.

 

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My Mental Illness – A Survivor’s View

Trigger Warning: this article goes where my brain chooses to take it. I’m along for the ride just as much as you are ..(Image from Pixabay. No attribution required)

I’ve never felt particularly stigmatised by others because of my mental illness, largely because part of me has always known that my mental illness wasn’t caused organically. Not by lesion, not by a basic malfunctioning, and not because of a traumatic physical injury to my brain. My mental illness was introduced/imposed by others. I’ve certainly felt judged, but then, has not everyone?

The trouble for me, and possibly for some other Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse as well, is that there is nothing much wrong with my brain at all. It has done the job it was designed to do at a reasonably high level. It has ensured my survival well into my 70th year.

So good on you brain. I salute you and your capabilities and all that. What an amazingly resilient thing you are. There is not a breath of cynicism in that statement. I mean it.

But why am I choosing to write about mental illness right now? My own mental illness right now? Why not politics? Why not love? Why not some quirky matter that my writer’s muse is often attracted to pursue simply for the fun of it? Fact is I’m writing about mental illness in this moment simply because I want to.

Trauma. Abuse. The malicious withdrawal of love by designated care-givers. Mental illness. The possibility of self-harm or suicide. An inevitable connectivity runs through all those words.

Childhood and trauma. Young brain/minds. Opening up to the wonders of this world, large-eyed with curiosity. Dependent on adults for love and nurturing. Betrayed. Abused.

Childhood Traumas did not implode my brain at the time. Because of repeated unwanted experiences my brain was re-wired so successfully back then that it has been stuck in survival mode for the last six decades. My brain did not know it was stuck in survival mode, and since my brain is me, neither did I until fairly recently. I’m supposed to have a modicum of intelligence, thoughts of such stuckness never entered my mind.

This stuck in survival mode thing largely explains why I always try to live at elevation, on the top of hills. I love to have a bird’s high view of things. That’s not just about having great views, bonus that they are, but it is also about having a clear view of the paths predators might take. Yes, part of me knows full well that there are no wizened dirty old priests clambering up the slopes intent on their intentions, but with my brain stuck in survival mode such clarity rarely gets a look in. Probably explains why I don’t like curtains as well.

Might go a long way to explaining also why I never physically turn my back on people. Why corners feel so attractive. Why I could not trust the fact that most people meant me no harm. What annoys me about that one is that it robbed me of the ability to turn my back in scorn on a number of particular politicians I have met. I’ve seen a number of people do the scorn-turn thing and I imagine it must feel delightful to express oneself in such a succinct way.

Also, some people, diagnostic type people, posit that my inability to clearly read emotions and signals on the faces of other people (that one always seems to get me into generally forgiven trouble with the appreciated female friends in my life) is possibly one of my, in their view, born with autistic traits.

Maybe so. Maybe their observation of the working of my brain is clearer than my brain’s understanding of itself. However, even in survival mode, my brain thinks that this trait was imposed, something to do with the fact that the perpetrators who abused my child-self always started with smiles and god-rapture on their faces. Perhaps my brain learned, as part of the re-wiring, that it could not any longer trust what it saw, and therefore it chose the survival mechanism of no longer bothering to look.

My mental illness feels like riding a bucking horse bareback. Sitting on the horse of living without the stability of saddle or stirrup or rein to forge a coherent path. Getting triggered, spooked, jittered, blind-sided, and continually bucked back into ptsd, depression, poor me boo-hoo mode, and other sadnesses and addictions, and the overwhelming need to simply do what it takes to simply just survive. That’s what the brain does to a person when the brain is stuck in survival mode.

Over the last few years, and especially over the last year or so, some pretty good technicians (psychiatrists and psychologists) did their best to map out the existing wiring diagram of my brain, and therefore of me. They and I fully understood that my brain had finally made a conscious decision to fry all circuits and pull the plug on itself .. that’s called suicide in non-wiring terms.

So they tested various circuits and found, surprise surprise, that the survival circuit was stuck in hyper-vigilance mode and had been performing so uber fast for the last six decades that the over-heating had reached a point of .. well, a supernova comes to mind. Big explosion and then a quick balloon-fart down to nothing.

Amazing technicians that those people are, they dug around in their tool box and came up with and applied the remedial tool of Talk Psychotherapy. The experience of that year long psychotherapy was like having an OBD2 Scanner plugged into my brain (one of those electronic on-board diagnostic things that mechanics plug into your car’s computer to diagnose and hopefully re-code annoying faults).

Of course nothing is just purely singular and it took a lot of effort from a number of directions to get any sort of remedial re-wiring happening inside the circuits of my brain. I turned up once a week for a year despite the it is all too hard excuse that can be used to simply run away, and the psychiatrist turned up every week and the psychologist once every month despite possibly their own human reasons for occasionally needing to run away too from all the raw revelations.

In other words psychotherapy does not just magically happen. It is hard graft, hard work, uncomfortable, and it takes a long time, a very long time, and total commitment from all concerned. A couple of visits to a psychologist and all’s good doesn’t come remotely close.

My brain cannot tell the reader or another Survivor why the process of psychotherapy changed some of the wiring circuitry. All it can say is that a dab of solder here, and a bit of a bend in the Survival Wire over there, and a lot of internal sweat and toil and realisations and acceptances, did something. I’d say praise the lord for all that but it would sound silly coming from an atheist.

My brain well recognises that since the psychotherapy finished I have consciously, and for how long I do not know, stepped back from Survivor activism on my own behalf. Serenity has appeared in the paddock and I see no harm in taking that particular horse for a bit of an extended canter in whatever direction it chooses to take.

Regrets. Interesting word that one. Some regrets are well earned, much can be learned from having them. Some other regrets though are just so much maudlin mush, but they, always seen in retrospect, contain the far greater lessons.

By my rough reckoning it was six years ago that I found the oomph to stand up and find my voice as a Survivor. It set me on a path, a journey. I spoke about Survivor matters. I wrote about Survivor matters. I self-identified publicly as a Survivor and held aloft in shaky hands the banner of Survivorhood. I published a book called JAGGED. Ha .. it was all so bloody scary .. had no idea what I was doing, or why I was doing it, and I assuredly had no idea what the future would bring.

Sure, I sought acknowledgement from an abusive institution. I sought an apology, a suitable level of compensation, a public statement that I was a good fellow wronged, I wanted to be repaired. I also wanted to see a small measure of revenge realised .. why not, at the time I felt that such revenge was deserved. The beauty of life, the most wondrous thing about life, is that it sometimes seems to accidentally protect us from our greatest follies,

I thought that one of the biggest mistakes in my life was to enter into civil litigation against the Catholic Church. I realised none of my objectives to any great extent. The process broke my will over a number of years. It dragged me to the depths of, and exposed the breadth of, my mental illness. It is hard to claim ownership of an imposed mental illness. I ended up in mental health wards under suicide watch on a number of occasions. I curled up into fetal balls. I stared at walls. I didn’t become a caricature of the mentally unwell, I was the real deal. Gosh – doom gloom and darkness and hopelessness and self-pity reigned in my land.

And then my brain woke up …

One of the best things I have done in my life was to enter into civil litigation against the Catholic Church. That process broke down the old me to the extent that all I seemed to have left was my mental illness. All of the coping mechanisms, and maskings, and other desperate strategies to simply get through life were gone, totally shattered by the litigation process and the aftermath of that. It led me to observing my own mental illness. It led me to observing and owning my own mental illness. It led me to an understanding that, though imposed, my mental illness was mine to deal with. It also led me to asking those three most esoteric questions that self can ask self. Who is doing the observing? Who am I? What do I want?

Navel-gazing and narcissism are luxuries that have no place when one seeks to find what remains of self. Either stay splattered on the floor or get up and do something about it. Either stay wallowing in the imposed crap or find a way to cut through. Do something, drop pride, ask for professional help. I’m talking about real shit here.

As it turned out, I did not have to ask for professional help, it was offered to me before I could ask. Psychotherapy, and much more, was offered to me. Ha .. I now know with surety what people mean when they say that person is a basket case .. I was a big cane one, leaky as a sieve, had no idea what my purpose as a basket was supposed to be .. never let it be said that the mentally ill are bereft of humour!

I’ve already spoken about the benefits of the psychotherapy, and the resultant re-re-wiring. All that came about because I fell apart and someone offered real help. On the surface it appeared to be a simple thing – throw a psychiatrist and a basket case into a room for a year, throw in a psychologist once a month as well, stir vigorously, ha .. stand well back and hope for the best!

In my opinion the best was achieved, the best that could possibly be achieved was achieved. I learned much about self, and much about, and from, those who were helping me.

The last six years have been quite a journey. They have taken me to deeper depths and greater heights than I ever thought I was capable of experiencing.

I cannot provide advice to any other Survivor. The decision to litigate or not, to seek redress or not, or to choose to do nothing at all, is a decision that only you can take responsibility for. With love I say to you that we all create our own future journeys.

So, do I consider myself to still carry an imposed mental illness? Do I consider myself to be fully healed? Good questions.

I can give those questions only one answer.

To my brain a mental illness imposed in childhood has at least one similarity with the type of grief that is imposed when a loved one dies. Both concern the loss of love. Both create a hole in the heart/spirit. Over time the hole can manage to partly self-heal, or can allow itself to be helped to partly self-heal, and life can move forward and be lived. But any hole within birthed by either the unexpected loss of love, or the malicious and deliberate withdrawal of love, never fully heals or goes away and remains part of the overall fabric of who we are. None of that means that we cannot go on to experience happiness and love, because we can.

 

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The vote of Citizen K

There will be many uncast votes on 21 May. There will be many voices silenced because those aged 70 or over represent 83% of the growing Covid deaths in Australia. Lest we forget.

I am in my 70th year. An achievement in some ways. My vote, and that of my companions, will not decide this election. This election will be decided not by the Some, the old and the poor and the unemployed and the disadvantaged, it will be decided by the Many, those who through their vote decide the future of this Nation, and who also decide the legislated future of all of us who comprise the invisible Some.

No political party is perfect, none of them have perfect answers. They are all a mix of visionary, and atrocious, ideas. They are all ego-driven, survival-minded, and once every three years they connive to bribe or buy our votes. $250 did not buy mine.

In my own electorate, Fairfax, I am presented with a range of choices – the usual duopoly of the Coalition and the ALP, the Greens, lunatic fringe parties like One Nation and Palmer’s latest iteration of the UAP, the Great Australia Party, Animal Justice, and some Independents who may be Teal or who may merely be stooges for the duopoly.

I will not vote for the Coalition. After they politically assassinated some of their best and brightest, like Malcolm Turnbull, and after the rest of their best and brightest jumped ship out of sheer frustration, like Julie Bishop, we were left over the last three years with sub-par LNP politicians who have presided over the most politically corrupt period in recent Australian history.

It is not hyperbolic to state that the Coalition has happy-clapped the Australian people to the depths of division and discord. The current Australian Prime Minister is not a good man for our times, and the party he leads is morally bankrupt, and has become the greatest threat to the future prosperity and security of the nation we call Australia. Their defense options have blown billions of dollars and their continual outsourcing of integral government services to ‘mates’, and their incessant monetary pandering to their base in marginal electorates, combined with the opaqueness of their no-tender granting of government contracts and projects shows them up for what they really are – criminally corrupt. It is no accident that they oppose the establishment of a full-bore Federal ICAC.

So much for the publicly evident Coalition of the Liberals and Nationals. But there is another Coalition in play, that of the ALP and the Greens. It is not a publicly stated coalition and both parties seem hell-bent on sledging their opposite number to electoral oblivion, and that is such a childish waste of time. According to Antony Green the ALP was languishing in second place on primary votes in 10 seats at the 2019 election, and only skidded over the line due to Green preferences. In your average election gaining 10 extra seats could well secure Government. To my mind the Greens are not traitors to the ALP cause and the ALP are not the be all and end all of everything good. Wouldn’t hurt the ALP to thank the Greens.

To my mind also, after many years of the ALP dodging and weaving on the issue of the raising of Newstart, their absolute refusal to consider any sort of raise of Newstart is a public betrayal of the disadvantaged and a public betrayal of their own founding social justice principles. Coupling that with their timid acquiescence, their very mirroring, of the Coalition’s draconian punishment of innocent refugees leaves me flailing slightly adrift from the great Party of Curtin, Hawke, and Keating.

Thoughts of coalitions, whether they be publicly stated or not, leads to an issue that makes our democracy undemocratic in my eyes. The National Party secured 4.89% of the national primary vote in 2019 and secured Ministerial positions in the Government, the Greens secured 10.04% of the national primary vote (and in doing so greatly aided the ALP) and did not receive one Shadow Ministerial Position in the Opposition. Where the unstated coalition is concerned it reeks of unfairness and ingratitude. Other minor parties who secured at least a reasonable percentage of the primary vote may well have their own opinion on this issue. And it does bring up the vexed notion of the appointment to Ministerial or Shadow Ministerial Positions of gifted but unelected to a seat candidates in any given election (with the Greens in mind) – but that is a vexed notion that I have no cogent answer to.

According to Sky News and the Murdoch Press I’ll either be voting for Scott Morrison or Anthony Albanese on election day. Well, I’ll not be voting for either of them. Neither of them are Candidates in my seat of Fairfax in Queensland. Neither of them are on my ballot paper. I’ll be voting for someone who is standing in my seat. I’ll be hoping that they mean what they say, what they promise, and that once they are elected I’ll be hoping that they don’t suddenly revert to becoming a brainless parrot echoing the Party Line.

But is this election just about the candidates we elect? Is it as simple as that or will it be a judgement day as well of the mindset and wants of a collective that is far larger than that represented by the politically aspirant pool of potential electees?

On the 21st of May the collective will of the Australian people will be on display. Who we truly are as a Nation, our ethics and principles, our intent for the future, our hopes, dreams, fears, hatreds, and what really resides in our hearts will be on display.

As a collective, even allowing for many dissenting voices, we damned ourselves at the 2019 election. Australia became less safe, the venality of our wallets reigned supreme, political lies were paramount, the old were discarded to death as collateral damage on the road to economic resurgence, the young were further removed from the ownership of shelter, corruption publicly flourished, and the Uluru Statement From The Heart did not become what it should have become – the Foundation Document of a fairer, more just, and more inclusive Australia.

On the 21st May I am weighing everything up, and I am accepting of the fact that every political entity, even those I am going to vote for, are not perfect and have many failings. I will only get one chance at this and I have looked within and questioned my principles and my hopes for the future of this Nation.

I don’t want the promise of change. I don’t want just words. I want real change.

I am voting ALP in the House of Representatives and GREENS in the Senate.

 

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My friend LISA

Who truly gives a bugger about how women who do not attract national attention are treated?

Sure, we have academic female feminists who sprout erudite thoughts on how things could improve. Believe me, there is nothing wrong with their thoughts. Their thoughts are good. Thoughts and wonderful peer-reviewed papers are all well and good. Abusive men don’t read them.

Supportive men, and there are many, say all the right things. But when the DV shit hits the fan … whoops … where are the men when you really need them?

My friend Lisa needed those feminists and those supportive men. To say the least, both cohorts were totally thin on the ground when she was abused and discarded and raped and abused.

Lisa is a wonderful woman who has had to live a life blighted by the stroke she experienced in her mid thirties. Since then she has been used and abused by her partners and her tenants. She has had her arm broken. She has had her face punched and mutilated. She has been raped and physically traumatised. She appealed to the police. Her appeals fell on deaf ears.

The ongoing treatment of women in Australia is appalling. The treatment of my friend has been appalling. OK … I am a tall 70-ish streak of an old man … but no matter what … I will support my friend Lisa.

My question to you is this … whether you be male or female … are you prepared to dive into the hard shit and be supportive of your female friend? Are you prepared to put your own physical safety on the line to protect your friend … I have done so and sometimes I had to close my eyes and hope for the best. I hope your answer is yes. Your stance may be the beginning of real change.

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Appeasement: The West and Russia

What possible connection could there be between Georgia and Austria, the Donbass Region and the Ruhr, the Crimea and Czechoslovakia, the Ukraine and Poland?

When that harried British politician waved that piece of paper aloft and declared Peace In Our Time he contributed to the biggest propaganda fail of the last century, Appeasement, and what followed gifted the world the death of millions upon millions of innocent people.

Here in The West we cherish and enjoy our freedom. We, however, never had to fight in a World War for that freedom. People of our grandparents’ generation fought and died for a collection of values that they believed in, and as a result most of us, and our children and grandchildren, have largely enjoyed relative peace in our time and the enjoyment of a notable level of freedom.

In the next short period we will learn of the possible fate of Ukraine, and we hope for the best. The response of The West to this Russian provocation, which the Russians say is their response to the provocative expansion of NATO, is quite informative.

On the quiet level we have been shipping ammunition and missiles to not only the NATO countries that border Ukraine, but also to Ukraine itself. We are also stationing a couple of thousand US soldiers in the near region as an underwhelming show of supportive strength … underwhelming from the Ukrainian point of view that is. All of that implies that Ukraine will be left standing alone, and should the unthinkable happen, Ukraine will be left to defend itself.

On the overt level, the level where we truly show our determination and intent to defend the freedoms that we so cherish, The West has threatened to target Russia with sanctions. Well, North Korea, Iran, and Russia itself, still happily exist despite the soft weapon of sanctions that The West has rather hopefully lobbed their way.

It is irrelevant whether this moment in time is a piece of grand geo-political theatre on Putin’s part. If he can gain what he wants through diplomacy or threat or ominous theatre then we would be silly to think that he would then quieten down and not want more.

If he ultimately decides to invade Ukraine then the precedents of Georgia, the Crimea, the Donbass Region, the ever tightening control of Belarus, and the growing fear in Latvia and Estonia of over-spill consequences should Ukraine be invaded, would simply inform Putin that Russia might well get away with it if he unleashes the tanks.

Have we in The West lost the ability to think the unthinkable? Have we fallen into the trap of thinking that our freedoms, our values, our lifestyles, our societal processes and institutions, and our various forms of Democracy, will forever go on seriously unchallenged?

Last century two powers, one European and one Asian, plunged our planet into World War. Initially we appeased them. It did not work.

It was only a few days ago, in our century and in our time, that a power on the European landmass and a power from Asia stood together and stared down The West. Over the last decade we have chosen to appease them both.

War is our last resort, it always has been for most of us the last resort, we do not want it. Appeasement, however, almost guarantees that we will ultimately get what we definitely do not want.

The West is right to want to avoid all out war, that is our peaceful aim, but we are wrong to think that we will manage to retain our values and freedoms with only words and soft diplomacy and economic sanctions.

The West needs to quickly find a firmer form of solidarity, we need to plan for the unthinkable and therefore hopefully, eventually avoid it. Standing back and simply hoping for the best will not ensure that the freedoms we enjoy will be passed on to our children and grandchildren.

 

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The Omicron Murders?

So who will speak on behalf of the dead?

Will they ever lie as forgotten sacrifices in the putrid side gutters of the golden path to profit and mindless economic growth?

Who decided to let a sickness reign unfettered across our land? Was it a collective decision? Did the People agree? Or did one person grab the power and decide to unleash the tide?

Who decided that profit is more precious than life?

Death by accident is accidental death not planned. Death by murder is a crime. But death by Government Policy?

Political fingers at a deniable remove. It wasn’t us. No overt signs of blood on their grabbing strangling hands.

It wasn’t Corporate us. Without growing profit, nothing will trickle down to where nothing ever has or will. We deserve our rewards.

It wasn’t little old Investor us. Who cares if that’s another grandmother, or grandfather, or mother, or father, or child, or stranger, gone. We’ve six houses and we want more. Open things up. Give us our freedoms.

We voted for them. But it wasn’t us. They cater to us because we vote for them. Give us money, more tax breaks, feed our avaricious aspirations. But it wasn’t us, we are just voters. Not killers at all.

Culpability. Hard to define. Hard to pin in place.

The Old and Sick are quietly expendable. More deaths today. More tomorrow.

Government Policy. Who decides it? Who supports it? Who profits by it? Who are these proxies?

Because murder by proxy is still murder indeed.

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The Highway of Hope

I’ve been on a journey. I’ve wandered many trails. I’ve lost my way, then found my way, and then lost and found my way again. My feet have felt the red earth and my eyes have gazed at the stars, and the road trip to Self has sent me down many dead ends, many circular exits from unmarked paths, and many halting steps forward into uncomfortable unknowns. Such are the conditions when one consciously chooses to cast one’s being on the entry ramp to the Highway of Hope.

Some time ago I wrote a book called JAGGED. It was written by an untreated man. It was written by a man who was desperate to escape depression, addiction, and strong feelings of inner inadequacy and hopelessness. It was written by a man buffeted by a maelstrom of storms within. It was written by a man who was unknowingly preparing himself to embrace the ending of all things for all time.

The book contained a hellish description of the damage, the legacies, and the pain contained within the mind of one Survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I do not regret writing the book and I never will. Prior to writing it I had thought that my journey to that date had been far too much for any human being to have to bear, but looking back I now see the book as the necessary catalyst that was needed to throw me far deeper into the abyss than I had thought possible. There are depths beyond depths below the bottom of the abyss, and on one of those levels I glimpsed in my plummeting a tiny little signpost pointing vaguely in the general direction of the Highway of Hope. I could have so easily missed that little sign.

In August 2020 I ended up in a mental health ward for a period and I had no idea how I had arrived there, I had totally lost any sense of self. Because of the nihilistic state of my mind, and perhaps because the mental health professionals there recognised that I had carried my maladies and legacies and PTSD for sixty two untreated years they took a bit of a gamble, and they offered me a year’s worth of weekly psychotherapy sessions with a Psychiatric Registrar. I say that it was a gamble on their part because my mindscape was so fractured that there was no assurance that I would even turn up.

It doesn’t hurt to occasionally have a laugh at one’s own hubris. When I was discharged from the mental health unit I though that I was well on the path to recovery and that my life was finally on some sort of healthy track. What actually happened is that I fell further apart at an ever accelerating rate. Hubris always comes back to bite you on the arse.

It took four long months for the psychotherapy to be organised. It took that long because the right kind of Psychiatric Registrar had to be found, one who could deal with an untreated Survivor of multiple instances of extreme abuse and rape. During the search for the right person I lost my love for writing, I felt that I had nothing to say and nothing to comment on, and I had lost touch with the person who used to write about so many whimsical and quirky things. The feel for writing, as of January 2022 is slowly coming back, but it has been preceded by quite a roller-coaster of ups and downs.

And so to the psychotherapy … I have about three weekly sessions to go, the year of treatment is almost up.

Psychotherapy is hard work, very hard work, there are no magic bullets or miracles or easy gains. Even the smallest of changes have to be fought for, and re-fought for. Setbacks are legion, and the exposure of past events and emotions and the dissection of legacies is very difficult. It was one thing to write JAGGED in the safety of my own room, it is altogether another thing to unpeel such content face to face with another person.

At first I could not open up, I could not trust the Psychiatric Registrar. It took months to establish real trust. It took so long because I had to learn to trust, I had to learn that in a general sense there really wasn’t a predator creeping up silently behind me with horrible things in mind.

Trying to unpack multiple instances of childhood trauma is no easy task. When I was a child I could not process the first instance of abuse, let alone process the multiple instances of abuse that followed. So it was difficult to define a clear starting point for the therapy. My past, the events and the emotions of my past existed in my present. My thoughts erratically jumped between events as though they were being experienced in real time – and so it had always been.

The only answer to all of that was to disconnect myself from my past to an extent. Not easy to do. Instead of nurturing the Child Within (which seems to work for many people) I had to choose a different path. I killed off the child within, which took some time – he was irretrievably damaged and his presence mired me continually in the morass. I am glad he has his freedom from me, and I am glad that I have my freedom from him. My past experiences are no longer like a film running on re-loop in my mind, they are more like a photo that I can pick up if I so choose, and then put down and away if I so choose. There’s a sense of freedom in finally having a choice.

During the psychotherapy I didn’t much concern myself with the Catholic Church. Apart from sending a well deserved rocket up the arses of two Brisbane Bishops I was happy to let my attentions focus on the psychotherapy.

September 2021 was a landmark month. The psychotherapy had been progressing slowly but well. Out of the blue I mentally collapsed and ended up in the mental health ward for another two weeks. It ended up being a seminal moment in the life of this black duck because Change, Real Change, stood up and asked how about you give me a solid go for a change?

It all came about in an unexpected way. While I was in the ward they conducted all sorts of health checks and it was discovered that I had a lesion on my, shock horror, very swollen prostate – ah well, old man stuff and all that. After a few ultra-sound sessions and an interesting trip into the bowels of an MRI I was placed on the Cat 1 Waiting List for urgent surgery within 30 days. As an aside it is interesting to note that Health Department spin merchants crow about how Cat 1 Waiting Lists are largely up to date … mmm … I’m about to hit 90 days. However in this matter things are looking up. Tomorrow I’m going in for the pre-anaesthetic appointment, and on the 11th I’m scheduled for the surgery … a biopsy of the lesion and a re-bore of the prostate … makes me feel like an old car whose engine is about to get a makeover.

However, the seminal moment I was talking about has to do with a different matter, and all of you who have a prostate are probably going to wince a bit while reading this paragraph. Having a swollen prostate means that peeing is not the absolute joy that it used to be, and that means, you guessed it, the entrance so to speak of the dreaded Catheter. Now the insertion of a Catheter is a pretty straight forward procedure in the vast majority of cases. In my case there were, um, blockages, and the prostate was so swollen the poor tube didn’t stand a chance. The nurses had a few goes, a urology doctor had many many goes, the head of the urology department, finally after 3.5 hours got the pesky thing in. The pain was unrelenting and atrocious and somewhere amongst all that arrived the seminal moment …

It is pretty well known that some Survivors of extreme or multiple instances of trauma have trouble re-integrating mind and body. The pain was such that I had no choice but to be in the present. Thinking about the past simply flew out the window as my body and mind shook hands and agreed to work together – bear the pain, don’t move, focus solidly on one thing for 3.5 hours (not that I knew it would take that long). When I eventually collapsed back on the bed the film in my head had stopped running. There was no Flicker, Flicker of the film frames. I’ll leave you to muse on how such a thing could come to be. Was it a forced re-integration of mind and body, was it the eight months of psychotherapy prior to the catheterisation, was it simply going to happen anyway? Who knows? I don’t, but I’m sure happy with the change.

So what are the words that are about to come out of a man who has been solidly helped by a year’s worth of psychotherapy.

My therapist (the Psychiatric Registrar) and I met and entered into an agreement together. She and I both committed to a year long process no matter what lay ahead of us – the pain, the re-living, the gains the failures, the fear and the joy, the excruciatingly uncomfortable moments, the shredding of comfort zones, the separation of current fact from emotional memory, the facing of fear, the embrace of change, and the many lettings go.

Psychotherapy is a long process, and both participants are deeply changed by the experience. Thank you Dr. H – a heartfelt thank you. I suppose I should also thank JAGGED, it belongs back then but it did help to lead to now.

I can only speak for myself. There are things about me that will never change. I carry some legacies that will always be with me and I embrace that fact.

I now know that there is nothing wrong with my brain. It reacted in a very normal manner to the trauma that it saw and experienced. It sought to protect me and it succeeded in that role for a very long time – but it had to unlearn many things and had to realise that the circumstances that led to the need for protection ceased to exist well over 62 years ago.

So what do I want? Acceptance of myself as I am now. I want a simple and happy life. I don’t care how tentative my footsteps are along the Highway of Hope, I’m simply glad that I’ve learned enough to take them.

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The Bishops of Brisbane …

This could have been a poem. But it is not.

I want to live down in the fucking dirt of truth and reality.

I want the truth of childhood sexual abuse exposed and explored and damned.

I want the red dirt of this land sifting between my toes. I want to start to feel again.

Fuck your Catholic abuse. Fuck you for squeezing down my life.

Fuck you for your nice public Catholic words and fuck you for the damage you do when you think that the public is not seeing what you really do behind the scenes to people like me.

I will not genuflect. I will not forelock tug. I will not bow to the likes of Coleridge and his ilk.

Fuck you for the sickness you still hold within your hearts.

It was a close run thing. I’m still here. I’m still alive. I survived. I can now say that I truly am a Survivor.

I’m still breathing. I feel. I see light ahead. I sense the meaning of the word freedom.

This could have been a poem. But it is not.

This is a fucking indictment of the lifelong effects felt by children when they are abused.

 

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In The Third Person

THE WRITER sits down in front of his keyboard and muses over what subject to weave words around. He temporarily comes up blank. He stands up, goes to the kitchen, and makes a coffee. Sipping it he stares out the window and looks down the valley to the ocean in the far distance. He imagines diving into the cold surf. In the background the presenters on ABC News Breakfast explore the poorly handled vaccination rollout. The phone rings.

Thirty kilometres away, within earshot of the surf, Denise holds the phone to her ear with one hand and kneads a sourdough loaf with the other. She wonders if Keith is home and whether he is in hermit or open-to-chat mode. She wonders how his psychotherapy is progressing.

The writer accepts the call on his smartphone.

As old friends do they chat happily for twenty minutes. They disconnect from the call.

The writer rolls a cigarette. He lights it and puffs contentedly away and thinks how stupid it is to fill his lungs with cancerous tar. He reminds himself to buy another packet of tobacco next time he goes shopping. He thinks how nice it was to be called.

Upstairs the landlady fires up her new toy, a Dyson Vacuum that emits a banshee howl. The writer wonders if the Virgin Hyperloop would make a similar sound as it scoots up the tube.

Meanwhile, Scott Morrison pops up on the television. He says nothing new which is nothing new. The writer blocks out the PM’s droning.

Unknown to the writer, at that exact moment the early-morning Mapleton Bus starts to descend the very steep range road to the coast. Two aged men on the bus joke warmly with each other about how dementia is starting to noticeably affect their memories. They laugh at the fact that they both regularly forget what it is that they are meant to be doing. One of the men relates a little story about when he was meant to go to the kitchen and get a band aid for his wife who had cut her toe. He happily went to the kitchen, forgot why he was there, so made himself a vegemite sandwich and sat on the back stairs in the sun. The other man said that he was equally forgetful. The passengers on the bus smiled at the way the men gently supported each other, they looked out of the window at the steep drop-off on the left side of the road, and also wished that one of the men, the bus driver, did not forget that he was meant to put his foot on the brake now and then.

The writer had a coffee with a friend two days later. The friend was on the early-morning bus. They all got safely to their destinations. As he stands staring out of the window, second coffee in hand and third fag in gob, the writer is not thinking about the story. He hasn’t heard it yet.

What he does think about is ‘Muse, Muse, where art thou, Muse?’

He considers writing about Coal Workers. About how long will it take before those workers turn with a vengeance on Conservative Governments who continue to sell them the lie of a rosy future for their industry for endless decades to come simply to secure their vote? Will it take another decade before the Coal Workers realise that all the transition jobs into renewables, which should have been rightfully theirs, were snapped up a decade earlier by other workers who did not swallow the grand lie? He wonders why the Government is not scheduling the construction of vast solar farms right now in coal mining areas. But he lets that idea slip away … he needs to do more research on that subject matter.

The thought of the Hyperloop sound upstairs comes back to him. He thinks about how if the Hyperloop does become an eventual reality it will kill off any desire for Very Fast Trains, and withdraw from Australian politicians at least one promise that they have never had any intention of delivering on, and how the Hyperloop may well lead to the demise of domestic air travel (if you could get from Brisbane to Townsville in one hour then why on earth would you bother to fly?) and how, multiple technical difficulties aside, how the Hyperloop could possibly lead to the eventual creation of a workable Space Elevator. He pushes that idea aside too … do that one next week perhaps?

He thinks about how the Conservatives treat the unemployed. About how they demean and demonise the unemployed. He considers the old 80/20 unemployment rule which says that 80% of the unemployed desperately want a job and 20% are a bit diffident about it all so why are we wasting billions of dollars annually on profit-taking JobNetwork orgs who gleefully graze on the federal dollar (our dollars) and dismally fail to place people in meaningful and lasting jobs? He thinks about the Private Training Orgs who shower useless Cert 111’s on all comers while our world class TAFEs and Universities are continually dud-funded by our Governments. Nah … I’ve written about that before he thinks.

The thought of psychotherapy enters his head. There’s much going on there. Bob Dylan comes to mind. That crusty old sage once remarked that the point of life is not to find oneself, the point of life is to create oneself. The writer thinks about sitting on a mountain top deep in meditative contemplation of self … he realises that the best that can come out of that sort of navel gazing in his own case is a pointless understanding of the amount of lint that has gathered in his belly button. Psychotherapy is a good thing he thinks … it is teaching him to trust other human beings. Maybe he will write about the experience of psychotherapy one day he thinks … but not today.

He thinks about Denise’s sourdough bread and how good it is.

The writer puffs away. The Muse does not alight. No writing today. He decides to catch the late-morning bus down to the coast, visit Denise, and go for a swim in the surf. On the bus he enjoys all of the precipitous scenery. There’s only one old bloke on the bus this trip. No gentle stories are told about dementia. Nobody has a reason to create a gentle smile, nobody has a reason to shat their pants either, the writer will not know about such things for two days yet.

Even though he wrote nothing at all this day the writer ended up having a wonderful time. The surf was cold and bracing … it cleared his head … he thought about a couple of things to possibly write about!

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A grand love affair …

I’m not a royal commentator or biographer. I’m a Republican. I have next to nix interest in the British Royal Family. The passing of a Duke resonates on a very low level with me … however … the passing of a man who loved and appreciated his partner over the course of his long lifetime does resonate at a very high level.

Over the next day or so the mainstream media is going to gush and gush everything royal. Commentators are going to wax lyrical about the Royals and how the passing of a Duke is not only the end of an era but also a good enough reason for all of us to drop our flags to half mast and abjectly fall into a period of national mourning and flower laying.

The death of any human being (with the exception of the Hitlers of this world) is a sad thing. The death of Philip is a sad thing.

But what a legacy he leaves behind!

As far as I am concerned Elizabeth and Philip were/are two ordinary human beings who met and fell in love, and that love endured over the course of their very long lifetimes. Their story greatly transcends the fact that they were protected elites sitting atop the baubles of an irrelevant crown-based power. The power of their story would be as strong had they been a couple who lived their lives unseen in the outer reaches of Dagsville.

In one way Elizabeth and Philip remind me of every other old couple we occasionally spot wobbling their way through a park hand in hand. Their story reminds me that, in this era when relationships have temporary tenure, and when too many men treat far too many women atrociously, there still does exist a thing called enduring unconditional love.

I’m not going to falsely eulogise Elizabeth and Philip, it is a given that they would have had their ups and downs together. However, they stuck with and supported each other until they reached very old age, and it only ended because one of them died.

So I salute Philip and Elizabeth. Two ordinary human beings. I salute the long life they shared. As a Republican who salutes no royal standard, I do salute the fact that they did show that the only enduring thing of value in this life is friendship and love.

I pay tribute to the power of love.

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RAPE – the view of a quiet ‘voice’

Much lucid commentary on the treatment of women has appeared in the media over the last month and a half, and rightfully so. Largely I have stayed out of saying anything on the issue because all the stories that are being aired, all the stories about rape, sexual assault, inappropriate behaviour, careers diminished, objectification and powerlessness, and all the expressed opinions on such matters, can have such a powerful triggering affect on an older person like me, and on so many other older women and men who are like me.

The last few months has not been the time to try to fully re-raise our older voices, the voices of aged childhood sexual abuse survivors, but I do believe that the time will soon come when our voices, and the many things they have to say, will begin to be fully heard and truly listened to by society, or at least that is my hope.

Human beings like Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins and others like them, to me, represent a young vanguard of fearless articulate women who are not just politely requesting change of real substance, they are out there putting their lives and reputations on the line as they confront the protected bastions of male power. I note that their focus is not just entirely upon themselves and their own terrible experiences, I note that they are standing on the shoulders of their own experiences and calling for societal-wide change.

I think that many aged survivors have simply kept quiet, and tried to deal with their own maelstrom of triggered feelings, while the legitimate rage of women has found a powerful collective voice, a collective voice that I believe will enable real change not only in the way that Parliament treats women, but also in the way that society treats women.

I have a very deeply held belief, a belief that is not necessarily shared by all. I believe that the most pervasive form of violence in our society is the level of violence directed at, and experienced by, women. I believe that unless society truly addresses the level of violence directed at women first, then we as a society have very little chance of starting to address all the other forms of sexual violence and misuse of power that exists out there in our suburbs, and in our care institutions.

Some older survivors of childhood sexual abuse are right now treading a delicate path where the issue of ‘voice’ is concerned. I certainly am. Right now is not the safest of times for our feelings and for our hopes. Social media is a brutal swipe-fest and any older survivor trying to raise legitimate concerns in the current climate are likely to be attacked as diversionists or deflectors or whataboutists, so little wonder that so many of us have stayed quiet because we not only do not deserve the rage, we have no wish to attract it.

Violence in our society is disproportionately genderised and women are the main recipients, and my own experiences as a male recipient of childhood rape and violence does not diminish that unassailable fact.

I know what being the recipient of rape feels like. I know what powerlessness feels like. I know what being punched and controlled feels like. I know the legacies that such events can impose on the life of human beings. I know that now is the time for men to stand against other men and stand with women.

Empathy cannot be taught. If it does not exist within it does not exist at all. The current politician who has been sent for empathy training is nothing less than a smokescreen to protect a parliamentary majority that is whittling itself away day by day.

Our Parliament is a cesspit of male misogyny, as is our society, it is beyond time for real change.

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