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Letter to a friend

Dear …

I place this piece to you and your readers as a separate post as I am sure my too regular presence on your newer posts must by now be somewhat tiring to see … I apologise for my intrusion on your blog … It’s just that I am a chatty person … perhaps some would call me “mouthy” … I have to wear it, and will try to reduce my verbosity in future … But I did want to say this and see if you … or any others who may read it … have any thoughts on the subject, seeing as how you too have written so many words on such a familiar subject as the human condition.

Out here in the Murray Mallee where I live, between the eastern face of the Adelaide Hills and the Murray River, on what is called “The Murray Flats” … or “Break-heart country” … at the end of the second world war, there was a distinctive “cut” in a cultural tie with the methodology of farming … particularly in regards to the older families of the pioneer Germanic farmers in the area.

Before the 2nd World War, and indeed right to the end of the war, horse-drawn implements were the most common form of ploughing, seeding and harvesting … perhaps in some locations tractors had been introduced, but they were such cumbersome technology, that it was a risky and expensive proposition to do a major “tooling-up” in cost and farm layout to change over. But it did happen, and with that event, there was not only a “cut” in ties from old technology, there was also a severing with the connection between the farmer and his soil … between “Man and his touch to Earth” …

Where once, with the horse era, the connection between philosophy of mind, religion of heart, to callous of hand was a real and tactile thing. The farmer rose in the early morning, praised his God, saw to and fed the animals, groomed and attended to the health of both himself and his beasts of burden … the harness of leather and steel, the equipment of cast metal and timber … the feel of earth under foot and hoof … was it soft, hard, moist or too parched … the entire process was “of the senses, of the touch”.

Then, in almost the blink of an eye … it was gone … all that old expertise … redundant, along with an entire generation of horsemen farmers … the sound and scent of preparation and harnessing … of horse-feed, stabling and manure was gone … no longer were these hardy pioneers “dirt farmers”, they had now needed to graduate to become “chemical farmers”.

And so that was the end of something.

Another thing I believe has ended – right now – with an older generation is the understanding and/or sympathy in the writings of a younger generation for the reality of the human condition … not to be confused with the living standard … or material comforts … or the trysts of social relationship … but rather; that uncertain something that gets us out of bed in the morning to give touch to the start of the day … the hunger of physical contact however slight or intense with our fellows … our (female in my case) opposites … the moment of embrace to start the day … a gentle; “Good morning, did you sleep well?”

The haste of the post-modern lifestyle, that celebrates the “individual” rather than the couple to fulfil those material needs, driving many to fore-go that moment of space necessary for human contact and relationships to co-exist. After all, we can only fill one pair of shoes at a particular time, or stand on one patch of soil underfoot … it is our mood that makes us, and I feel there is a mistaken association with the sweeping mood of “instant” communication technology via the internet or mobile phone hook-up that is making, shaping and dominating and in the end; replacing the mood of so many people so that the above understanding of the making of the Human condition from another age … another generation of post war people, is being lost or thrown aside for a new-fashioned personality that has little time to look into either the eyes or the soul of humanity … and like those post war farmers who adopted the new technology to up-the-ante in both speed of the deeds of farming and the output for profit that resulted in the further decimation of an already fragile environment, so too will a past generation’s experience of the pain and what is gained from that pain, will be shunted aside for a more “profitably expedient” if tactile poorer outcome in human relations.

And that too, I fear, will be the end of something.

I make this claim because after years of writing story and tale, essays and poems on example after example of situation, devastation and humiliation of so many good folk and their moments of life, I have to conclude that it has to the greater extent been to no avail and the grinding of those most vulnerable underfoot has continued almost unabated … and this saddens me … not to the point of actual depression, but rather in that way where one has to sit by and watch a drama unfold and yet not be able to do a thing to stop it … like the proverbial train wreck in slow motion.

And there were our grandparents and parents who saw it, lived it and told oral story after story about those times which we, of a better educated generation … perhaps the best educated generation of an eon of years, has put down in word on page those lives … and yet the carnage goes on. Perhaps, like that generational change from horse-power to tractor, it cannot be stopped and the maxim of “Live for the moment” … better suits the times than the old “Work like you are going to live forever and pray like you are going to die tomorrow” … which is … like this author … just too wordy to be called out of a swiftly passing window.

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  1. helvityni

    Lovely contemplation on changing times, something gained, but also plenty lost….

    I witnessed many changes on my father’s farm, he was a progressive man, who welcomed and valued many new ways of doing things, but also enjoyed the closeness to neighbours, and many friendships with both old and young, and keeping many of the old ways… he loved both reading and having a friendly chat…

    He expected his children on school or uni holidays to give him a helping hand ,but he never over-worked anyone; a gentle boss….he saw the education as a door to a better future…

    His love of the land was also expressed in our beautiful large garden, maybe that was one of the things we inherited from him: love of gardening, anything green and flowering….

    According to him not every bit of land ought to be used for farming, beauty also mattered….

  2. Jack Russell

    The contemplation time in that space between cause, and effect … where understanding is found. Too fast and we lose, or never develop, what we need most … clarity and empathy.

    Thanks Joe, your ‘letter’ made that bob up to my surface so I could sort it out from the background hum.

  3. Shaun Newman

    helvityni Your Dad sounds like a very wise man. A great shame we don’t have many more like him. The author of this article would have a terrific conversation with your Dad, if he has not passed.

  4. Joseph Carli

    ” The author of this article would have a terrific conversation with your Dad, if he has not passed.”…….I’m still here, Shaun!…I’m still here!!

  5. Joseph Carli

    Things changed so radically after the 2ndWW…… developements in mechanical technology crossed many boundaries and thrust an age of mechanisation on us whether we wanted it or not…The upgrading to mechanical farming was very expensive and involved borrowing heavily from the banks using the old farm as collateral…this drove many smaller holdings into deep debt that they could not recover from and they folded…but this is where the social damage to the community came in..: In losing their farm, they also lost their status in the community…being no longer land owners and in the eyes of their religion ; “Stewards of God’s gift”…and so “having fallen from grace” many also left with their fanilies from the district..thereby breaking up the social cohesion of the community..
    The end of something.

  6. Joseph Carli

    The Tide.
    Like a sailor old, who watches the tide,
    Life’s many moods I do abide…and still I watch,
    For there comes a wash of the river flow,
    That carries the ebb, what comes and goes.
    That “tide in men’s lives” that carries their thoughts,
    Like flotsam swept before a wave wild wrought
    By wind and storm or by deceiving calm they be brought,
    To wreck upon Charybdis rocks or wash up on rugged tor.
    Fortune for that sailor who with astute eye,
    Will risk the temper of mood and tide,
    And call the exact moment makes best to ride.
    He casts the ropes that hold him belay,
    All wind and storm be no delay,
    Yet I and thee, chained to life’s fickle destiny,
    Can but watch as the vessel sails away from we,
    While idly biding…
    Like empty shells scattered on a wide, broad shore,
    Awaiting tide and waves also, to move us ever-more…”

  7. Joseph Carli

    There is an integral ingredient missing from the Australian story…and it is the awakening of a mythology for us newcomers to this land to hold as a kind of stabilising talisman to give us security of purpose and a direction toward the future…much like the Ancient Greeks held their mythology close to their lives as lessons of greater or lesser ethical or moral observation.
    The Indegineous peoples have theirs solidly fixed to their skin…there are many whites who want to “sew” that ancient mythology to their own cloth…it may be a comfort, but surely it is a cold comfort in that the obvious differences of tribe or clan or ancient bloodline just cannot be compared.
    But no…we settlers have been in this land for over two hundred years now, and it just may be time to take those first child-like steps to weave our own tapestry…and certainly it must be crossed and interwoven with those first peoples, because we have dragged them struggling and under restraint into our story-line…I am certain they are on the cusp of breaking free and resuming their own mythological destiny..but we too must commence to write the song-lines that willl tie us to this country..and secure for our children’s childrens future as secure a sense of “belonging” as those long-lived first peoples…

    I have an idea!

  8. Bronte ALLAN

    Please do not even contemplate stopping or slowing down your always excellent comments etc on life & the world around us Joseph! I enjoy reading your almost daily comments etc & just hope you will continue to delight, & sometime madden us, etc with your very thoughtful & always timely think pieces.

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