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The Green Hills of Tyrol

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Andy Stewart

There was a soldier, a Scottish soldier

Who wandered far away and soldiered far away

There was none bolder with good broad shoulder

He fought many affray, and fought and won


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

Of battles glorious and deeds victorious

But now he’s sighing, his heart is crying

To leave those green hills of Tyrol


(Chorus) Because those green hills are not highland hills

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

And fair as these green foreign hills may be

They are not the hills of home …


  1. Joseph Carli

    I sincerely believe the right-wing governments of this age are either deliberately or through blind-ignorance destroying our collective sense of “belonging” right down to the very core of our beings.
    They (the right-wing) are the most dangerous political ideology to emerge in these post-modern times. Their capital-driven ideology holds no place for personal loyalty to ethnic group or nation..they have no loyalty to country or peoples..they are the most soul-less, heartless political entity to arise since the downfall of the Nazi Party of the second world war.
    If Labor gain office next election, it is an imperative such ideology be driven from the minds of this nation..that includes the expulsion of all Murdoch rags, all Murdoch trained employees from the Public Broadcaster, all IPA persons from government and all right-wing conservatives from any seat of power or decision making in the country.
    Away with all pests!…… least some of them…

  2. win jeavons

    It is our task today and beyond to rebuild community, but different and better, with less emphasis on hierarchy, more on shared concern for each other and the land we live on and which sustains us. Here and there it is starting to appear., sometimes in churches which teach the brother/ sister hood of humans and the worth of creation, our home.

  3. Miriam English

    Interesting, Joe. I partially agree, but only partially.

    I grew up in the bush. I still think of my heart belonging there, even though the bush that I grew up in no longer exists. It’s now a suburban sea of houses. It upsets me to think of it, but I don’t blame the people whose homes caused my favorite places to be bulldozed. I don’t even blame the people who bought the land and subdivided it. I wish things worked differently, but they don’t… at least not yet.

    I am extremely grateful that I live in Australia. Being born here is a wonderful accident. My life would have been totally different if my parents had instead been Palestinian, or Columbian, or Ethiopian, or Tibetan and I’d been born into one of those places. But even though I’m conscious of my good fortune in being here, I actually consider myself more a citizen of Earth than a citizen of Australia. This precious little blue marble is my home.

    Certainly you’re right, that some of the right-wing ideologues are deeply repulsive people (Dutton, Abbott, Christensen, Murdoch…) but not all conservatives are bad people. Some genuinely think they are doing the best they can for Australia. Remember that conservatives tend to be ardent nationalists. The Nazis were fanatically devoted to their motherland. Glorifying your home is not necessarily all it’s cracked up to be.

    My family has its deeper history in England, Ireland, and Scotland. We used to listen to and sing that song “A Scottish Soldier” often when I was a kid. Someone’s uploaded it to YouTube, with full lyrics:

  4. jamesss

    A consciousness shift in the population would help the realization that treasonous government is irrelevant to functioning in a happy community of responsible industrious people. Quite frankly, ignore the bastards. Create your own electricity, un-medicated drinking water, organic gardening, fish farming, healthy living equates to empty waiting rooms. I could go on but you get my drift.

  5. Matters Not

    Miriam re: genuinely think they are doing the best they can for Australia. No doubt.

    But should they be judged on intentions or outcomes? And is it sensible to talk about Australia as though we are all in the same boat? As though all Australians are equal? Have the same ‘interests’ and all that?

  6. Joseph Carli

    Miriam…What I was referring to was not necessarily the tactile touch of real estate, but rather that esoteric idea of being “in place” with what each of us feels as our “home”..certainly it can be an actually physical location pinpointed on a I said..and THAT can be the perfect solution to many people..some older folk here in this area would brag that they had never gone over the Sedan Hill to the Barossa…not in their life..they were content in their “safe harbour”..their “Camelot”..if I can put it that way..I too am here where my parents and grandparents first has a comforting feel that I can talk of this or that place, be it “Swertzy’s swamp” or “Rosies hut” or “The Seven Sisters” junction with the confidence of knowing the history of those places..I am fortunate.

    But there are those who are kept in a state of continual uncertainty of even such an address..homeless in both heart and place..always seeking safe refuge…so many homeless older women now too, it seems. A tragedy that should be addressed by a more sympathetic government, rather than this band of Robber-Barons now in power. I have a location, the knowledge and a feel for this “home”..I am fortunate.

    Here is a section of the preface to Eric Knight’s book of short stories ; “Sam Small Flies Again”…it is most telling.
    “…When a man has little else to rely on, I think he falls back on his blood and background. And so, curiously enough, nearly all of these stories were written five and six thousand miles away from my native Yorkshire. It was mostly being homesick, I think.
    I like to feel that these stories are original with me, but to be truthful they were created by my blood and background. For they are just the same kind of stories that Yorkshire people have made up to tell for who knows how many generations.
    The Yorkshire people, as you may gather from these tales, are a very wonderful lot. (So are Texans and Nova Scotians and so on—but I’m Yorkshire.) Yorkshire people are truly full of fine, strong virtues. Life is often hard for them, so they cling to those virtues—courage, patience, truth, sticking it out as best you may—and they pass them on to their children by example and precept—and by story.”

    It is sad, tragic situation when so many Australian citizens are cut off from the security of having that feeling of home in this their own country, just to appease the insatiable greed of the likes of the right-wing.

    (yes..I know of the song..a brave tune..if I can say it like that)

  7. helvityni

    It watched the artist and academic, Debra Hanrahan, being interviewed by Jane Hutcheon, Debra suffers of Dwarfism and gets abused, bullied, laughed at, ridiculed etc., every time she goes out….

    The only time she felt just like another ordinary person in the crowd,when no one stared at her,and she felt dignified, was in Italy…

    With her art she is trying to educate people to be more accepting of peoples’ differences…. A hard task in the place where even the PM uses abusive language when deferring to the Leader of Opposition..

  8. townsvilleblog

    Joe, I agree wholeheartedly with every word you have written on this page. When we have a situation where 8 individuals own as much wealth as the bottom 50% of world population you don’t have to be an Einstein to work out that working people are being screwed over completely, but sadly the Labor Party to governed by their right wing, so a Labor government will never deliver a great deal of fairness.

  9. townsvilleblog

    Miriam English Some of my ancestry is Irish/English and as a child I also sang the Scottish soldier, though in reality that is as much in common that I have with your post. The reality is that multinational corporations in Australia (and probably worldwide) pay little (5%) or no tax on their incomes. We working people ‘do’ pay tax in exchange for government services like electricity, water etc . The conservatives do not want government services and are ‘privatizing’ as much of every government ‘service’ as possible while retaining the facade of services like ‘Medicare’ they want to privatize it along with the small amount of services left. It was the ALP who privatized the Commonwealth Bank under the right wing Keating, no friend of working people was he.

    These days I vote for The Greens for want of a genuine political party to vote for, I have never trusted the LNP ever since I was able to vote, (40 years) and seeing what Labor has NOT done in office I no longer trust them either (that’s not to say that the Labor Party does not have some good people in it) but having been a member and seen how the right wing dominates the party in every way I can no longer vote for them. The Greens are the only ones left, and so my vote goes there as first preference with Labor second preference and the tories in last place.

    I really appreciate all comments as I can learn by reading what others think. I have grown to be a hard Left bloke through my experiences over my 62 year period.

  10. wam

    I am on a boat listening to the country and western southern drawl whining steel guitar, over and over slogan-like lyrics so love by my fellow travellers. I played the green hills bagpipes and the squeals of ‘turn that shit off’ were expected from these rabbottians. But I marched around the boat to the pipes and bugger them.
    If I really want to annoy them I put the TV onto the ABC or maybe play vivaldi or mozart.

  11. helvityni

    Good on ya, wam, Vivaldi and Mozart should give you some respite from the Abbottians…

    I watch the BBC show Endevour: Young Morse… on Friday nights, beautiful music, excellent acting, old Oxford buildings…heavenly…. 🙂

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