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I am a colonial boy

Paul G. Dellit and James Moylan have written some outstanding political articles for The AIMN. Their skills, however, run far deeper, as their latest offerings reveal.


The Grand Panacea Panjandrum Poobah (or How Malcolm Misplaced His Mojo) – by Paul G. Dellit

Tony and Peta – you’ve heard all the talk:
She was sleepy, he was hungry, she fed him with her fork,
and Margie was reduced to a non-speaking extra,
and then those wise words from the clever Mark Textor:

Yes, who wrote the script for this tale of dysfunction?
– Not the author of three-word extreme haughty unction –
No, those pimply-faced kiddies, IPA’s ingenues,
watching Submarine LNP submerge beneath pooh.

Enters from stage left, the man of the hour,
Malcolm Malvolio, brimming with power,
a phoenix rising from Tony’s cremation,
the path-finding enabler of disruptive innovation!

But as Tony once said, cremation’s not enough,
and Tony’s not dead, nor buried like Brough,
and he’s gathering forces from the right-thinking Right,
to smite Mal’s program with all of their might.

And we all thought Mal so astute and urbane –
the panache he displayed on tram and on train,
the intelligent discussions, the far-sighted agenda –
bullied to death by that crass banana-bender.

So it seems that Mal is just like Tony,
Bravura promises – but a coward and a phoney,
Many words spoken, but the truth always missing,
There he stands in the wind, naked emperor, pissing.


Pavlov’s dog and postcolonial angst – by James Moylan

I am a child kneeling on the backseat of a Holden on a hot summer’s day, staring as a plume of bulldust billows into the air behind a trip into town. The rolling bare New England hillsides are clad in a late summer brown and the passing barbed wire fences and lonely gum trees all dance in a heat shimmer. There is no true horizon, just an indistinct haze in the middle distance. The car stinks of vinyl, tobacco, and grease.

We are bound for the Bonshaw Pub where the kids will play on the shady veranda and drink ice-cold seven ounce glasses of squash, the menfolk will sit in the bar drinking beer and discussing the serious magic of farming. The mothers and sisters will be absent.

The ways of seeing the world I learnt whilst staring out the back window of that Holden are still with me. The common sense I absorbed as I watched the bulldust rise is the common sense I employ today. Those trips into town in the back of a Holden, with a gruff Uncle driving and a dangerous cousin by my side, are my Holden Car Dreaming.

I am a colonial boy.

When a colonial boy encounters a raw washaway along a creek gully, with the ragged remains of a barbed wire fence suspended and strained across it, it is not ‘ecological damage’. It’s ‘home’. The colonial boy has walked a hundred miles along these same gullies into the late evening setting steel-jawed rabbit traps. And most mornings he will scurry back along the same trap line in the cold pre-dawn gloom, harried along by the sound of a distant rabbit screaming in agony.

Sensitivity is not a colonial virtue. Any child of the land knows a farmer’s relationship with the earth is rarely sentimental. Settlers ‘battle’ and ‘clear’ bush. ‘They ‘fight’ the elements. This is ‘progress.’ Raw bush is simply unworked and so wasted ground. When you turn the soil you scar mother earth and kill wildlife, there is no room for sentiment.

When gutting, pairing, and hanging rabbits along a fence in the early dawn, I would often watch hawks and eagles gather at the end of the paddock, waiting for an early morning treat. So now even the birds are complicit. The sight of an eagle sitting on a fence evokes the red stink of blood in my nostrils and a concomitant surge of guilt.

Cleared, burnt, fenced, turned, and planted ground is a colonial landscape and I am a colonial boy. Thirty years later history imbues my vision with an overlay of colonial anticipation, and grief. I forever expect to see a denuded paddock and hear a rabbit in the far distance screaming in exquisite agony.

I am the colonial boy. I am coloniser and colonised, simultaneously. My very gaze imposes anguish and extinguishes contingency – at once – unconsciously – incessantly. I know there is a different Australia but my knowledge is not my vision. My own eyes will always betray what I know and believe. Every time I look to the land I will always first see my own history and then hear the distant echoes of the tortured bunnies of my youth.

When younger this rhetoric of guilt was inaccessible, it was experienced as an undifferentiated fog of regret, a passing timeless moment in which present and past merged in melancholia. Now, as an adult, I can articulate my angst for country, dead trees, extinct wildlife, murdered blacks, lost knowledge, and even my own brutally mutilated vision.

Yet still Pavlov’s dog howls in my night.



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  1. Paul G. Dellit

    Beautifully written, James. The lateness of our colonial seizure of land from an indigenous people, and our scaring of such a fragile topography within the living memories of ancestors, the subject of remembered conversations, place us in a unique colonial context. You allowed me to remember things that I had almost forgotten. Thank you.

  2. Sir Scotchmistery

    I am Gaia

    I speak the words of the Earth Mother in this place
    For if I don’t speak she has no voice.
    I am of the four elements.
    I am of the land but my ancestors were invaders.

    Hear the voice of the wind in the trees
    Hear the hum and buzz of mozzie and dragonfly
    They are the voice of the two elements air and water.

    In your journey on this land, honour the Earth Mother.
    Leave nothing but footprints take nothing but memories.

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