Writer’s note: I wrote this not to advocate any position, or to say anything in particular. It’s simply a collection of observations, stories, hushed chats and whispers. There’s stories in here that aren’t my own, and it’s certainly not my intention to sound like I’m advocating a position. It’s in a minor key, it’s a bundle of observations and a collection of mumbles.
Bekka’s turning 18, coming of age, party at mum and dads. Scotty spins the tunes and dad throws up the fairy lights, mum caters to fill teenage stomachs – it’ll come up in the front paddock in a few hours anyway.
Mason’s got a new truck, lifted with an LED bar light to be seen from space. He’s the first to arrive at this festive event, and his country dimples cover valleys of insecurity. Cowboy hat bent at the front, ma and pa secretly hope he’d turn his eyes towards their Bek – if only they knew.
Stace, Maria and Bree tumble out of someone’s back seat, pre-loaded. Dressed to the nines, their heels sink into soft country soil, squealing with each squelch, their lives work to snob you off.
Jase makes an entrance, circle work in his beat up ute. The joker, always the laugh. Bekka’s beau, the half bottle of cheap bourbon held by it’s neck. He’s the joker, but she’s got a creeping suspicion the joke’s on him. 20 years old, on the same an hour, with no prospects of increase.
Family comes, smiles abound. Uncle Frank and Aunt Nina, there’s grandma and gramps. Cousins of all ages. Dad playfully grabs Danny in a headlock, trying to explain that his sodomite son is merely creative, like you can try to explain the gay away. Thanks dad, but they both grieve, unable to move past recent revelations.
Raye and Chrissy sit in the tray of Mason’s ute, necking cheap vodka straight from the bottle. He could have both in a heartbeat, but his sights are set on other targets, perhaps tonight he’ll pipe up the confidence to tell her.
Dwayne sings along to the country ditties, he’s unusually talented that way. Laughing off the compliments, he wonders how life might be different if not yoked with three generations of expectation breathing down his neck. Still, he hums along, wondering, even for a second, if things were different.
Kal, as everyone agrees, is classic wife material, the mother hen of the group. She chats CWA with mum, half an eye on Danny, blissfully unaware he’ll make no woman honest. She mistakes his compliments for flirting, and the thought crosses his mind that perhaps he could fake it, until he made it.
Speeches, and mum and dad praise their perfect Bekka. She spies Jase, he’s getting amorous with Raye, and way too close to his bourbon. She pats her tummy – a week late, and she wonders how daddy will react if she breaks the news to him.
And the party continues, and the fire crackles. They all continue to live their lives together, all in secret.
Picture from https://www.google.com.au/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.lovethispic.com%2Fuploaded_images%2F108685-Bonfire-Party.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.lovethispic.com%2Fimage%2F108685%2Fbonfire-party&docid=2BomfXY3f8L2kM&tbnid=ahC-QHXakHIw-M%3A&vet=1&w=500&h=332&bih=708&biw=1517&q=teenagers%20party%20bonfire&ved=0ahUKEwiY4ePVj7_SAhVrrFQKHcKHDpgQMwhFKCMwIw&iact=mrc&uact=8#h=332&imgrc=ahC-QHXakHIw-M:&vet=1&w=500
Note: I have been thinking about this in the wake of recent events in Brussels. I wanted to capture how much I appreciate ‘my’ everyday, how much I appreciate my freedoms and liberties. I’ve been thinking about how proud I am to live in a country that shares these freedoms and liberties. I’m proud to be an Australian. I guess I just want to say that we do things for the ones we love – usually our family, and family I think is something we all agree on is pretty darn special. I’m proud of our everyday, of our differences and our diversity. I love the kaleidoscope of stories that I pass everyday on my way to work.
Every morning I weave in and out of traffic, passing hundreds on their way to work. They’re all moving forward, all contributing, all doing their bit, doing their bit for Australia.
There’s Araceli, and she’d be mid-40’s at least. The backseat of her small car holds a collection of buckets, mops, a vacuum and cleaning solutions. She’s counting the jobs she has today – 6 in total, that’s 6 x $25 per job. She doesn’t earn much, but she earns more than she would in Manila. She’s working hard, she’s moving forward, moving forward for herself, and for Australia. She turns off the highway and Cindi takes her place in the traffic.
Cindi, or Zhang Xiu Ying as noted on her birth certificate is driving her parents to their Chinese restaurant on a busy strip in a trendy suburb. They’re arguing because she has an Australia boyfriend, and she tells them it’s love, and she tells them he’s not going anywhere. She knows things will be ok, and she knows in time all well be fine. They bicker in a combination of Mandarin and slang English, but they’re moving forward, and they’re working hard. They’re moving forward for Australia, and they pull off the highway, where Deng pulls onto it.
Deng’s dark, dark skin is offset by his fluro orange shirt, his muscular arm dangles lazily from the driver’s side window. He’s on his way to his factory job, where he’s got a nickname and he’s got his name monogrammed on his bright fluro shirt. He’s off to that hot, dusty factory where the men are rough and rude, but they’ve got his back and he’s got theirs. He’s moving forward, he’s working hard. He’s doing it for this amazing country called Australia, and he’s doing it for his family. He takes the inner-city bypass, where Khalil whizzes past on his way to a small office on the outskirts of the city.
It’s Khalil’s first day in a small law office. Six months out of law school, hundreds of application letters, dozens of interviews and handfuls of rejections later, and he’s finally got his foot in a door. It’s not a glamorous office, and the work is local conveyancing, wills and estates. He’s been itching to wear this itchy suit to his first day at the office for three years now, and he’s proudly wearing a beautiful new silk tie his wife bought him. He’s finally moving forward, and someone’s finally given him a shot. He’s moving forward in this country called Australia, and he’s moving forward for his family. He excitedly takes the exit towards the outskirts while Wendy zips past on the way to a park.
Now Wendy has an esky full of sandwiches and a furnace full of coffee. She’s got a box of surgical gloves and a bag full of bandages and antiseptic and wipes. She’s off to a shady park where a small congregation of down-and-outs are milling about. She’s there for the dispossessed, the stolen, the beaten and the broken. She’s there to make just a bit of difference to these weary souls, to move them forward, to tell them Australia still cares about them, that she still cares about them. On the other side of the park there’s Rita, juggling kids and school bags and coffee and life.
Rita’s bundling and jumbling her brood, three sets of heavy school bags, three sets of matching hats, three drink bottles, one hockey kit, one set of drumsticks, one clarinet and the gear for swimming after school. She’s racing to school, then she’s racing to work. She’s doing it all because she knows the value of education, and she knows the value it brings to a family, a community and a country. She’s pushing forward, moving forward. She’s doing the hard yards for the things, and the ones, she loves.
And then there’s me, and I’m on my bike, wrapped in my helmet and jacket. I’m moving forward, but weighed down with a heavy heart. I’m thinking about the enemies of freedom, the haters of liberty. I’m thinking of my family and the ones I love. I’m moving forward, thankful for the Araceli’s and the Cindi’s and the Deng’s of this country. I’m thinking about the Khalil’s and the Wendy’s and the Rita’s of this country. I’m thankful that we’re on this highway together, building a life, building a country. I’m hopeful that when the time comes, when our freedoms are squeeze and our liberties challenged, that we forge ahead on this highway called Australia.
I’m thankful that we’re all on this highway, all on this highway together.
Picture from: http://www.motorcycleclassics.com/~/media/Images/MCC/Editorial/Blogs/Vintage%20Motorcycle%20Auctions%20and%20Results/Rare%20Bmw%20Factory%20Racer%20And%20Vincent%20Isle%20Of%20Man%20Winner%20Added%20To%20Las%20Vegas%20Motorcycle%20Auction/1947Vincent-MortonsArchive_%20jpg.jpg?la=en
From time to time, I operate a photo-booth. I cover weddings, birthdays, school events – things like that. Recently, I attended a semi-formal event for a relatively prestigious girls’ school. These girls were around 16 years old, and many had bought a male companion as their date.
In conversations with close allies, we sometimes comment on what seems to be the oppressive nature of some people groups towards some women. For example, we note in this hot Brisbane weather, the men of a particular group are free to wear what they like, where their wives and daughters are usually draped from head to toe, covered, as it was, for modesty.
At this particular semi-formal event, I was struck by the gowns and dresses these girls were wearing. What struck me was the almost overwhelming majority of semi formal outfits that to me, a conservative dad, were almost completely inappropriate clothing these girls were wearing. It was almost like it was a race for many of these girls to see who could wear the least amount of clothing. It was evidently clear by the way these girls held themselves, constantly adjusted, wriggled, moved, pushed down, pushed up and pushed their gowns that they were not comfortable in their chosen outfits. Without a word of a lie, a majority of these girls spent their evening making sure their dresses sat as they were meant to. It was painfully noticeable that the minority of girls with elegant, modest (if I dare say) gowns seemed to travel through the night without any major or regular readjustments . Interestingly, it was the boys at this event who were overdressed for a semi-formal. Yes, these gangly, pimply 16 year old boys were all in suits, had cuffs with matching tie-pins, watches and spit-shiny shoes!
I want to stress at this point that this post isn’t about body-shaming, slut-shaming, blaming the victim, being a male pig or anything like that. My libertarian leanings compel me to allow individuals to wear, do, say, act however they choose. This blog isn’t about getting anyone to dress, or not dress in a certain way. What this blog is about, being the dad of a seven year old girl and five year old son, is wondering ‘why do we keep hurting our girls’?
Why, in 2016 Australia, our girls seem to be racing to almost objectify themselves at such a young age. Why 16 year old girls feel the need to compete with each other for who can wear the least, not who can achieve the most with their brains or character. Why sixteen year old girls feel the need to dress in a way that shows gratuitous cleavage, leg and mid-drift.
Have we created an environment where dressing elegantly for an evening event is no longer in vogue? Has our society become that ‘pornified’ that 16 year old girls feel they need to show all their assets to be noticed by others, to remain in the ‘in’ group or to be accepted?
I’ve never been a 16 year old girl. I’ve never known the pressures these precious girls face.
I mentioned in the second paragraph my musings about a certain group of people and my thoughts on what seems to be oppressive attitudes and behaviors to women. It seems to me that almost wherever this group is found, the status of women is greatly diminished. Men of this particular group are permitted to have more than one wife, women have reduced voting rights (if any), baby girls routinely have their genitals mutilated, girls have access to education restricted, and the list goes on. I wanted to compare that to ‘our’ girls (if I can say that) who are entering university at higher rates, have equal voting rights, can choose to marry or divorce, have an equal voice in a court, have legal protections against discrimination. I wanted then to maybe muse that why, in 2016, these precious girls would even have to consider showing that much skin at that young age at an event that otherwise should elevate girls to the highest standard.
Again, I don’t want this to sound like I’m judging girls or women for what they wear. This isn’t about saying girls or women should cover up. What I’m musing is why, in 2016, we have created an environment where girls would choose to dress in a way that is unedifying to themselves. Why in 2016 our girls feel they still need to display more than enough skin to get noticed. Why, in 2016, we are subjecting our girls to what seems to be an absolute pornification of dress. Why, in 2016, have we sold our girls short, creating an environment where their talents, achievements, hopes and dreams are hidden behind a very short dress?
Image from http://houseofretro.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/281.png
My Pop often recalls a story of his younger years, when he joined the Air Force. Before enlisting, his Sunday School teacher gave him some sage advice. He told my Pop:
“Roy, nail your colours to the pole, and fly them high”
His Sunday School teacher was encouraging my Pop to stand fast to his faith, his morality, his beliefs. On the first night in training, surrounded by all his new mates, my Pop knelt by his bed, closed his eyes and prayed. To this day, he tells me he honestly can’t remember what he prayed for – he just prayed!
His daily prayers continued through training, his comrades got used to this routine and would respect my Pop for nailing his colours to the pole, and flying them high. In fact, one day one of his superiors was giving him a bit of stick for his faith and praying – to which his mates gathered around him and told the superior to back off!
“Nail your colours to the pole, and fly them high”.
Why do I tell this anecdote?
I read in todays local rag that our Council will be flying the Rainbow Flag on top of the City Council building. For the un-initiated, the Rainbow Flag is a calling point for Gay, Lesbian, Queer, Transexual, Bisexual (essentially, non-hetrosexual) people. This lobby have ‘pressured’ the Council to fly this flag on the Council building to mark International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. The story tells that our Lord Mayor resisted similar calls last year, but has relented this year.
I believe a city, a state and a nation should rally around the flag. It should be a unifying point. A rallying point.
Here me out – this blog isn’t against any particular sexual identity, it’s not a stand against tolerance or understanding. I’m not anti-inclusiveness.
Here in Australia, specifically New South Wales and Queensland, we have a ‘State of Origin’ football match. Traditionally, the losing state flies the winning states flag on either the Sydney Harbour Bridge or Story Bridge for a day after the final game. It’s a bit of fun, it shows friendly rivalry and lumps a heap of shame upon the losing team!
When an army invades territory, it plants a flag, indicating the territory has been overtaken. We are seeing this almost every day in the Middle East, with the evil empire ISIS stomping across that barren land.
When I see any group (a sexual identity, a religious group, a group of supposed victims) fly their flag on a Government building, the flag that is flying becomes a point of division, not a point of unity.
It tells me that, in this case, the Government is NOT nailing their own colours to the pole and they are NOT flying them high. It’s siding with a particular group, a particular cause, a particular people – not the whole electorate they have sworn to represent.
You might not ‘agree’ with the Flag. Our own Australian flag holds the insignia of the United Kingdom. Many terrible things have happened under our flag, but many great things have happened, too.
I don’t often agree with the decisions our government makes (from both sides of the spectrum), but I do believe in Australia. I believe in Queensland (the Promised Land!!). I love Brisbane. But I’m proud that our Government buildings fly their respective flags. You might scoff, but the Government is responsible for the decisions it makes under the flag. Are ‘designated victim groups’ responsible for Government decisions made in Government buildings? Not on your nelly!
This silly business of flying the Rainbow Flag on a Government Building does not promote a cause. It promotes a victim mentality and waves a flag of exclusiveness, not inclusiveness. A cause may be noble and good, but it’s no excuse to fly an alternative flag on a Government building.
It might start with a Rainbow Flag, but when will the next ‘designated victim group’ want to fly their flag on our Government buildings?
In Australia, we still have some free speech available. If you want to fly a Rainbow Flag (or an ISIS Flag, or a Swastika, or a foreign national flag), you’re free to do that on your own. Push your own barrel.
Don’t waste my Governments time on ‘symbolic’ gestures, wasting resources on your own cause.
I’m proud of my country, my state and my cities flag. That’s the only one I want flying on my Government buildings. I want it flying high, and I want it flying proud.
I had to pop out at lunch today to get my birthday present. You see, I work in town, and the only place that sold this particular present was in town, and my wife was in the suburbs and it’s an effort to get into town with two kids to get one present. She called up the store, asked them to wrap it for me and I just went and picked it up.
It’s particularly hot in town today. Very hot, actually, and I’m wearing heavy cotton pants. I wear them because they are good for riding my bike, Sweet Ramona.
So I walked in the heat to this particular shop, noticing a significant build up of sweat in my crotchal region.
I’m thankful for my sweaty crotch. Here’s why:
I’m thankful that today, I had to pop out at lunch to get my present. I’m thankful, because this means I have a job that allows me to pop out at lunch. Do you know that it’s harder to get a job now, almost more than ever? I’m thankful that I have a job.
I’m thankful that today, it was hot enough for my crotch to actually get sweaty. I’m thankful because we’ve had lots of rain lately, and this rain has reached some of the agricultural land in the west. I’m thankful for the rain and the sun, because it helps the farmers, and God knows they need all the help they can get.
I’m thankful today for my sweaty crotch, because it means the weather is delightfully warm, and after work, I can relax in a pair of cool shorts and drink a refreshingly cold drink, and it will seem all the more refreshing and cool after being in the sun.
I’m thankful for my sweaty crotch and my heavy cotton pants, because it means I am blessed to have a wardrobe of clean, fitting clothes (despite my roundish figure!). It means I have been blessed to be able to clothe myself and my family. I’m blessed that in this country, we have a choice on what we can buy or not buy.
I’m thankful for my sweaty crotch which I got from walking into town. I know that it means I’ve been able to walk down the street in the city I live without fear of some crazy nutjob blowing themselves up, drop a bomb on the city or do something terrible to my fellow countrymen. I’m so thankful that, for the most part, I am protected by a wonderful group of dedicated police who are committed to keeping us all safe.
I’m thankful that my crotch is sweaty in these heavy cotton pants, because it means that I have a reliable and cheap form of transport on my bike, Sweet Ramona. I’m thankful that Sweet Ramona takes me to a job I’m thankful for, and home to a family that loves me.
I’m thankful today that my crotch is sweaty in these heavy cotton pants, because I know that if I was not wearing them, I would probably be wearing jeans, and that means I would be catching the bus, and that takes three times as long to get to work and three times as long to get home to the people I love.
I’m thankful that my crotch is sweaty today, because I had to get a present for myself. I’m thankful because it means my wife has taken much time and effort to think of a present for me for my birthday, and I love surprises.
I’m thankful because this also means I’m a year older, and, arguably wiser. I’m thankful that I’ve had another year to love my wife and children. I’m thankful that it’s another year that they have put up with my hijinx and tomfoolery.
I’m thankful because I’ve survived being 32. I’m thankful that, on the current trajectory, I’ll survive 33. Those ‘in the know’ will know that 33 holds special significance for me and I’ve been worried about turning 33 since I was about 6.
I’m thankful not for my sweaty crotch, but thankful for what it represents.
Life is full of small annoyances. Some call them first world problems. Call them what you want, but ultimately, they are blessings in disguise.
Your kids wake up early and wake you up? Annoying, yes, but you can also be thankful that you’ve got kids.
Your work is boring or not rewarding? Tedious, yes, but you can be thankful that you’ve got a job.
The government is making bad decisions or are nincompoops? Frustrating, yes, but be thankful that in our democracy, we can vote them out for a new group of turkeys.
Rounding out 2014, what annoyances are you thankful for? What do these mean in your life?
Only a few months ago, I lived in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood. In the townhouse I lived in, there were 45 dwellings. Of that, there were five ‘white’ Australian families. The rest were a mixture of Afgani, Sudaneese, Somalian, Pakistani, Islander, Indian, Bangladeshi, Iranian and Iraqis. Most were first or second generation refugees to Australia. With one or two exceptions, they all attended the local mosque.
For the most part, they kept to themselves and we kept to ourselves. Some were very friendly, inviting us over for tea, others would not even say hello. We met some wonderful people – hardworking, family orientated, friendly and engaging. Some were only too happy to talk to me about their faith, about the rumblings they had about the atrocities done in the name of their faith and take pride on how they had incorporated themselves into Australian society.
We were happy in Kuraby, although we felt very out of place.
Late last year, you may have read about it, there was a ‘brawl’ between two bike gangs on the Gold Coast. One of the bikies who was charged came from Kuraby, and was a prominent member of the local Muslim community. It was after that, we thought that it would take one ‘incident’ (such as an AFP / ASIO terror raid or something similar) and that would be the sign for us to move.
As it happened, we were broken in the very next day. We were broken in by people who we went out of our way to help, who we let into our house and extended hospitality to. That was all the motivation we needed to move. Shortly after that, our house was listed for sale and sold.
When we lived in Kuraby, my wife and I would often talk about the implications of living in that neighborhood. Not many people know this, but under Australia’s anti-terror laws, it’s possible for the relevant authorities to ‘lock down’ entire suburbs, should the risk arise. After every incident that occurred with terrorism abroad (think the London train bombings, the Bali bombings and Madrid bombings, not to mention a swathe of occurrences though the Middle East), we would wonder if there would be any local repercussions.
Right now, the Islamic State is butchering its way through Syria and Iraq, savagely murdering anyone who wont ‘convert’ to their brand of Islam. Sitting in Brisbane, Australia, it’s easy to think ‘that’s terrible’ and continue to drink my morning coffee…
Today’s headlines told me that the Australian Federal Police have executed warrants and made arrests on an Islamic bookshop in Underwood, the next suburb over, and arrested two individuals, one who lived in the next street over to our old townhouse in Kuraby. As soon as I read the headlines, I called my wife up, who was at the Underwood shops at the time. We are both so thankful that we moved out of that neighborhood, away from that scene.
As terrible as this sounds, it was easier to ‘ignore’ terror when it was in another continent. You try not to believe that there are people that you probably crossed paths with, caught the train with, shopped with that subscribe to such an evil ideology. When these incidents occur, however, it makes it all seem just that step closer.
I know it might be easy to get cynical and think that these arrests are of a political nature, aimed to whip up fear, to divide and rule, to demonise a minority or to try to lurch Australia ‘to the Right’. I guess in rebuttal, you only need to see what IS are doing through Syria & Iraq that they are already doing a fine job of creating an environment of fear – a much better job then any Aussie pollie or bureaucrat could cook up!
So I guess what I’m asking is how do you respond to terror? This is the dilemma that I am facing now. I’ve long believed that you can’t bomb an ideology away. You can raise a city with an A-bomb, but you can’t nuke a faith, a belief or ideology. Do I reconcile this with thinking that in Australia, it’s a simple law-and-order issue, and trust the police and courts to prosecute crimes against Australia and Australians? I know it’s a long bow to draw, but just look at Rotherham to see how well it happened there. Do you fight fire with fire and attack this ideology with a stronger ideology?
How do you love your neighbor in this situation? How does a libertarian, such as myself, trust the individual to make decisions for himself when those decisions he is making are the polar opposite of freedom and liberty?
How do you deal with terrorism, especially when it’s evil ideology is sleeping in your neighborhood, waiting for a violent rousing?
Image from http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/two-held-after-raids-face-charges-of-recruiting-funding-syria-fighters/story-e6frg6nf-1227053842612
Tattoos. They’re everywhere. On building sites. In discothèques. In offices. Universities. Churches. The ‘acceptance’ of tattoos certainly seems to have increased over the last ten years.
Both guys and gals are getting them. And not just the fat and ugly girls either, although goodness knows that’s bad enough. Yes, pretty young things are permanently etching their skin with large, colourful motifs.
My wife works in the bridal industry, fitting wedding dresses to brides of all ages. She will often comment on how many brides want to cover up their once-loved tattoos.
First up, I don’t have any problem with tatts. Let’s get that clear. What I do err on is teenagers – old kids essentially getting huge, visible tattoos.
I like to think I’m pretty open minded (in a conservative kinda way!). I still can’t just get past the idea that being heavily tattooed still has a ‘stigma’ about it. It’s like the person is hiding behind something. Like they aren’t comfortable in their own skin, so they need excessive permanent markers all over their body.
I heard some sage advice about tattoos once. The advice was if you want a tattoo, put a picture of the tattoo next to your bed, so it’s the first thing you see every morning when you wake up and the last thing you see when you go to sleep. If you still absolutely love it after a year, then get the tattoo.
My daughter goes to a pretty middle-class Christian independent school. There is an after-school dance studio that runs in the school. One assembly, the dance teachers came and performed a dancing routine for the primary-school children. One of the girl teachers was heavily tattooed. Now the dancing was not salacious, nor the music inappropriate. I know that as Christians, we should strive to be non-judgemental, loving and accepting. I just could not get past my own prejudices that this heavily tattooed dancer just brought the whole tone of the dance troupe down. Does that make sense? I was just – well- miffed that someone heavily tattooed was put in the limelight that contradicted my internal values system.
Is it just me that thinks heavily tattooed people still have a ‘stigma’ about them? It’s a shame, like judging a book by it’s cover. I’m not doubting that many tattoos can be intricate, artistic and super cool. Many of them can be.
What do you think? Am I being an old fuddy-duddy? Too conservative? Or does someone who is heavily tattooed still have a ‘stigma’ in the wider community? I’d love to hear your opinions and I’m eager for mine to be challenged.