A short biography of a working-class warrior.
Let me present to you an image of an aged man, rather heavy-set, sitting deep in a relaxed posture in a large, plump, rounded sofa purchased ‘unused’ from an eBay seller five years ago that was gifted to this same man sitting in it from his children on Father’s day. The sofa is large and the man is content. You can see he is content by the fact that he is looking plump and relaxed with a remote control for the CD player in one hand and a stubbie of West End Draught beer in the other … there is a smile on his lips not dissimilar to that which plays on the lips of the “Mona Lisa” painting currently held in The Louvre in Paris.
Mark Price is a contented man.
Wisdom, according to the ages is a thing learned not with education, but rather accrued through pragmatic experience. That experience can be one personally lived … the most instructive method … or one witnessed with the actions or situations enacted upon others. Mark was a witness and experiencer of both methods of instruction from a young age.
Mark Price was a learned man.
But Mark Price held no trade, no profession, no specialised employable skilled base or self-employment record at all. In this world of “market-based” consumerist demand, Mark Price was never ‘in demand’. Oh, yes … he worked … at menial labouring tasks, applied when requested or required to put shoulder to the wheel for family sustenance and need … but never was he recruited for any specialised skill or trade application. And that was precisely the way he wanted it, having learned by witness at a young age just what a consumerist society really wanted from those most willing to give their precious time of life to the wheels of industry … the consumerist society did not want your intelligence, your applied skills, your hunger for promotion or “recognition”, it wanted your blood! .. pure and simple, along with the many disposable items consumed by society, the ‘market society’ wanted to consume you … for body and soul has a value to be bought and sold.
Mark Price had learned this from a young age. In high school, he would see his teachers drive in everyday with their aged cars … step out in their workaday clothes … the same ones for quite a few days … holding that same brown-leather satchel … lock the car and if chance placed them near a favourite colleague, they would flirt whilst on their usual way to the staff-room. They did not see Mark, but he saw them … he did not make a habit of deliberately watching the teachers, workers on the trains or anyone else for that matter, they were just acting out their everyday roles and Mark saw them … and in seeing them and other people and family acting out their everyday roles, he began to recognise a pattern of social behaviour … a pattern of conversation … and a pattern, eventually, of a predicted ending.
Wisdom is a learned thing … and through his growing years, Mark was being pragmatically educated by the practicalities of his impoverished upbringing. Mark was learning.
He learned the meaning of “losing with grace” from his friend at school when the friend was chastised by the station master of Brighton railway station when the friend, who was captain of the school baseball team tried to re-position some of the hopelessly inept players in the team to different positions so as to improve their chances of winning at least one game … “You are the captain, not the coach .. and I will decide who plays where!” … his friend was scolded. “But we can’t win a game,” the friend complained. “It is not all about winning”, the station master lectured, “it is also about losing with grace … one must learn that when one loses, one should show dignity.” The collector of the Sunday Catholic mass plate collections informed Mark’s friend.
Mark saw examples of “dignity in losing” amongst his family and friends as he grew.
He saw the working men down at the Seacliff Hotel drink themselves drunk on a Friday night to alleviate the aches and pains of strained muscles and arthritic joints … he saw them make fools of themselves whilst in this drunken state … trying with their limited vocabulary to explain what was missing in their lives … when what was missing all the while was that love of self that had been beaten out of them with labouring or the war so many years before … He saw the dignity in losing on the bruised face of Ruth Holmstrom around the corner of his street, after being beaten once again by her drunken husband while herself also drunk. He saw the dignity in losing in the lonely eyes of Jack Mitchell who lived out his loneliness with his old spinster sisters, the three of them sharing the same family home they all grew up together in … He saw Jack slowly drink himself to tears down at the Seacliff Hotel, always dressed in a salesmen’s suit, and tie and polished shoes … the last vestige of his respectability … Oh yes, Mark learned from witnessing others the dignity in losing. He saw a friend’s father drunk on the train coming home after the day’s work at the building site, drop his ticket and the smirking porter give the workman surreptitiously, a nudge with his knee as he struggled in his fuzzled state to bend down to pick the ticket up, sending the old bricklayer sprawling onto the floor of the carriage in front of so many laughing passengers …
Mark Price saw the lifetime of honest work be debased in the dignity of losing.
Mark Price was learning that there was something remiss with the promise told him so many years before by his school teacher that hard work and an honest forbearance was what “got a man through life with success and happiness” … Mark was learning that there was a war going on between those who had and those who needed … it was very difficult to get what was needed from the hands of those who had. There was a lie being told that was never being voiced .. a lie that was being heard but never audible, printed but never read … there were those who would be warriors and those who would remain slaves.
Mark Price saw what slavery looked like … and he didn’t like the look of it.
Mark had by now reached an age where he developed a philosophy to guide his steps through this battlefield of demands upon his time and his own needs to survive without falling into slavery … His learned experiences and the witness of others attempts at suburban security has shown him that there being so many variables that await to ambush the best laid plans of mice and men that it was almost impossible for someone like himself, with absolutely no assets available and no working skills to sell to gain material possessions without resorting to thievery or skulduggery, but seeing those who had tried and failed through no real fault of their own taught him that in most cases of making a decision one way or another, the best thing one could do was to do nothing and await fate to direct his hand. This was the most wise and fortunate philosophy someone of his position in an uncaring society could attain. In a world where “doing something” was wasted value, Mark Price succeeded most well at doing as little as possible … so that having time to see opportunities arise while others were too busy ‘achieving’, he was able to place himself in the right place at the right time. Some would call it luck, but Mark knew that it was a strategy that allowed him to move about freely to pick up many rewards that a lack of time and availability denied to so many of his friends. Mark built a network of job-sources with foremen and hiring staff of different industries so that he could always find casual employment in a menial job with local councils or a building project … he never took a job that demanded higher responsibility … Mark had no interest in contributing to the good or welfare of a society that respected only profit and materialism … he only had interest in maintaining his and his own family’s needs, for the rest, they could go to hell!
Mark learned the price and value of many things … He knew what was most valuable to himself; Time … ”You can always make money but you cannot remake time.” He would say.
Fortune smiled upon Mark in the companionship of marriage. It favoured him that his future wife knew of his behaviours before she even started going out with him. Mandy frequented the Seacliff Hotel regularly and was able to notice Mark’s more exuberant behaviour … she didn’t mind his behaviour and she accepted his invitation to accompany him. Mark was wary of marriage … he had witnessed close friends, tradesmen in the building industry marry and build the family home … several family homes in fact, for disgruntled women … unhappy wives who resented even the name “wife”, who resented the idea of being a companion to a male … who resented having to defer to the husband to make, repair and structure a home for their mutual benefit. A society that profited from the separation of the sexes more than the unity of the sexes would promote dissension between men and women, even in the case where both parties were of the same working class, the same level of struggle, the same struggle to improve their and their children’s lives … anger, dissent, distrust … these were the tools of divide and rule in the world of middle-class profiteering … two adults needing double the housing, furniture, white-goods and cars made for a more profitable bottom-line … divide and rule it will be, even if both parents be impoverished and the children denied … A happy wife is a happy life was the theory that guided many men … now it made many men despair of ever attaining such.
Mark had no intention to build many houses … he only wanted one home and fortune had placed Mandy inside his realm of satisfaction … they both were content with what they had.
And what they had improved as the years went by and children graced their table. Five healthy children grew by Mark’s table and garden shed, five healthy children grew and did in turn find partners of their own and produced grandchildren that grew by Mark’s table and garden shed … Now, secure with an aged pension, Mark could look back on a life well managed, on fortune envious of nothing and no-one, for here with the evidence of so many arrows in his quiver, could the suburban warrior arm himself against a future that would be denied some of the more industrious, worked to the bone for little gain save the bitter gall of seeing their hard-earned possessions snatched away from them when old and care-worn … to be left to rot in the ironically named “aged care” facility … to be forgotten by those children that a quarrelling world of men versus women made resentful of the feeling of being abandoned when the administration of divorce forced them to take sides. No, this was not the fate of Mark and Mandy, laugh if you will of their seemingly comical circumstance that a more ‘sophisticated’ person might spurn, but here they were and deny them you cannot, surrounded at every celebratory event by generations of caring children and grandchildren, Mark would revel in idle appreciation of fuss and touch of his tribe. The noise of laughter and delight a song of assurance for the continuing health of the family.
Mark realised the blessings of good fortune and he worshipped at fortune’s altar with suitable penance … for deep in his soul and spirit, he was sincerely grateful … Mark had the Pagan’s respect for chance.
It was Christmas day, the entire family with grandchildren … all ten grandchildren … were in the house making merry and preparing the Christmas dinner. Mark had one grandchild on his left knee as he sat deep in the club lounge chair given to him on Father’s Day by his children five years before. He sat in a contented state with a stubbie of beer in one hand and the remote for the CD player in the other … under his instructions, his grandchild that sat on his left knee had just inserted a CD of Mark’s choosing into the player and awaited Mark to select the track and press the play-button … which with great satisfaction he now did and turning up the sound so the music bellowed out over the cacophony of Christmas noise, Mark smiled his ‘Mona Lisa’ smile and wallowed in the pure saturation of Jimi Hendrix’s All along the Watchtower …
Wisdom is a thing learned not with education, but rather accrued through pragmatic experience. That experience can be one personally lived … the most instructive method … or one witnessed with the actions or situations enacted upon others. Mark was a witness and experiencer of both methods of instruction from a young age. Mark Price was now a wise man.
The Warrior feasted on his victorious bounty.
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