Tagged: Melbourne

18th Birthday (or the tyranny of youth)

 

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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

 

 

Disconnected!

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The phone was out of range.
There was no internet reception.
We only had each other.

We couldn’t instagram the bush tukka.
We couldn’t log into Facebook at check in with friends.
We couldn’t tweet about how amazing this place was.

We were….Disconnected!

Many people scoff when I tell them that I don’t have a phone. Well, I do have one. I share one with my wife. She has it Monday to Friday, I have it on Saturday while she’s at work. She uses it, I pay for it!

It seems that we’ve been so accustomed to sharing the ‘best bits’ of our life on social media. I’m not saying that’s good, bad or ugly. It’s just how we’ve become narcissistic in this social media age.

I truly believe that being disconnected is one of the best states we can be. When it’s just you and perhaps those around you that you love. When there’s no distractions. When you’re not tied to an electronic device that ejaculates inane crap 24/7. Don’t get me wrong – I’m quite partial to a bit of facebooking and my instagram addiction is well documented. What I’m saying is there is just something fantastic about being ‘off the radar’.

It’s hard to be disconnected in this day and age. When we are, it’s usually by technological malfunction rather than choice.

I want to know how you get ‘off the radar’, if you do. I’d love to know what you think about when you’ve got no facebook feed to check out or thought to post on twitter. When all you see is purely nature, and not a filtered photo on a small screen. Do you get scared about being disconnected? Do you relish in no one being able to contact you? No boss to ask about that project. No report to turn in. No phone calls to return. Nothing required of you, except to enjoy the moment.

How do you ‘disconnect’?

(yeah, I’m totally aware of the irony of asking about disconnection on social media, too!!)

Photo totally ripped from http://titaniumrunner.net/2011/09/disconnected/

When Ritual and Intimacy Collide

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Rituals. We all have them. Sport-stars have pre-game rituals. Lovers have intimate rituals. Families have rituals. Cultures, societies and religions all have their own rituals.

So often when we think of rituals, we think of old-fashioned, staunch practices. A boring church service at Christmas. The pomp of a military parade. The inflexible practices of yore.

Why do we have rituals? Do we have them to celebrate the past, or protect the future? Could it be both? Why do we brush our teeth? Is it so we remember our baby teeth, lost many years ago or to protect our mouths for many years to come? Certainly brushing teeth is an important, yet informal ritual. What about having dinner together as a family? The benefits of eating regular meals together are immeasurable. Do we eat meals together to remember times of old, or to set practices to keep the family together in the future?

There are some rituals that don’t seem like rituals at all. Going to your parents for dinner on a Sunday. Watching a game of football every Friday night with friends. Regular church attendance. Some rituals aren’t that exciting, some actually do seem boring and mundane. Some argue that rituals have no use – that we should be free to do what we want, when we want with scant regard to culture, religion or society.

I’d argue that a healthy ritual (and that does not always mean exciting or fun), keeps an individual strong. A strong individual will have strong relationships – strong individuals have strong family and friendship networks. He feels connected, depended upon and supported. He is a contributor for his family, a good employee or boss. Strong families mean a strong community. A strong community means it’s members contribute, understand their role and their place. A strong community keeps a country strong. Strength comes with strong rituals, from the ground up and the top down.

If rituals are the machinery that builds up, intimacy is the oil that keeps the parts moving.

Most defiantly, some rituals do feel clunky and dry. Rituals however build a framework. A framework that protects when many other things fall down. There is a security in a ritual. Something to turn to, to keep you going when everything seems to be falling apart.

What brings a ritual to life? It’s the people. The connections. The ritual is the framework. The structure. The people fill up the structure and bring it to life. The structure supports the intimacy.

I think of my family ritual of reading Bible scriptures at dinner. The ritual is the reading, the intimacy is the children choosing the story, of learning about what the Lord has done.

I think of the ritual of shaving. The ritual is a boy taking pride in his appearance. The intimacy is his father teaching him the ways of a razor.

I think of the ritual of having a coffee in the morning. The intimacy is me being able to talk to my family again after I’ve enjoyed my daily brew!

Intimacy does not have to be structured. Some of the most special times anyone can have are the unstructured times, the times that catch you by surprise. I was packing some boxes the other day when I came across a harmonica that belonged to my late Grandfather. My children were amazed at this palm-shaped musical instrument that played a strange tune. In that short time, I was able to share with my children about their great-grandfather. An everyday moment, turned special.

You can’t have stability just with intimacy. If you chase pure intimacy, at the risk of neglecting ritual, you’ll end up chasing a fleeting feeling. This is true in families, in marriages, in work, in study, on the sports field, in your faith. Feelings come and go. Many times, it’s the ritual, the practice that will keep you going. Can you imagine a sports team who chases the winning feeling, instead of practicing the rituals of fitness, teamwork and discipline? The team will surely fall apart. Can you imagine a marriage where the partners chase a feeling of closeness, rather than practice the rituals of giving, patience and gratitude? Surely the marriage will be lost in a sea of instability.

Rituals aren’t the most sexy thing to talk about. Some are doggone boring. Find healthy rituals to engage in – for yourself, your family, your faith, your relationships. Doing will often bring about ‘feeling’. When you’re doing, enjoy the closeness that comes from doing it together. The laughs that come from ‘doing’ ritual wrong. The closeness of doing something together. The strength that comes from the ritual and the closeness you find when engaging those you love in them will surely help when times of trouble come.

Picture lifted from: http://www.helenahistory.org/frontier_town.htm

Beer and Multiculturalism

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I recently read an article in Smith Journal about how the influx of international beer into Australia is evidence of the success of multiculturalism. Whilst the article was proudly sponsored by Corona, I couldn’t help but notice that proliferation of overseas brews actually demonstrated the opposite of multiculturalism in Australia.

First up, I’m quite partial to a brew. I’m always happy to try something new, but I’ll always come back my fav bitter or draught beers.

It is true that there is an influx of overseas beers – Guinness from Ireland, Carlsberg from Holland, Bin-Tang from Indonesia, Millers from the USA, Ashai from Japan. For the most part, beers are from, what we could best describe, ‘Westernised’ countries.

What we aren’t seeing is an Afghani Amber Ale. An Iranian IPA. A Sudanese Stout. A Malaysian Malt Brew. A Pakistani Pilsner. A Bahraini Bitter.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics advises that as of the year 2010, the top % of migrants to Australia were from the UK (14.5%); India 13.2%); China (10.3%), South Africa (5.8%) The Philippines, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, South Korea, Fiji & Vietnam all had between 4.5% – 1.8% share of the migrants coming to Australia.

The Australian Department of Immigration advises that the highest number of approved protection visa applicants were from Afghanistan, Iran, ‘Stateless’, Iraq, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Whilst we are not being ‘swamped’ by refugees (as some commentators argue), what we aren’t seeing is an influx of multi-cultural drinking trends or drinks into Australia. Arguments against this might be:
– Of the current migrants, drinking options (certainly for the UK migrants) are well established here in Australia
– For refugees, a majority of these are from Muslim nations where alcohol is either illegal or strongly frowned up.

Post World War Two migration saw an influx into Australia of exotic delights such as Italian food. The late 80’s and 90’s saw an increase in Indian, Vietnamese and Thai restaurants in suburban Australia. Why aren’t we seeing an influx of Northern African cuisine? Middle-eastern restaurants are still, for the most part, on the fringe of Australian dining.

A cursory glance through the beer fridge at your local bottle shop won’t tell a story of multi-cultural success. It will show that Australian Society likes to try commercial European and American beers, as well as a host of local brews. It will show an explosion of craft and boutique beers. What it won’t show is a large selection from, if I can use the term, ‘New Australians’.

Beer drinkin’ is a long-standing pastime of many Australians. Rightly or wrongly, it’s a part of our national psyche. A ‘thing we do’. You don’t seem to see many ‘New Australians’ in a bottle shop – to the contrary – some ‘New Australian’ communities inflict punishments for those caught drinking alcohol.

Don’t get me wrong – alcohol brings a stack load of problems. Drink driving. Domestic violence. Alcohol fuelled violence. I think as Australians we could probably do ourselves a lot of good by easing back on the booze.

So is beer a good gauge of the success (or lack thereof) of current multiculturalism? Of course. We aren’t seeing new refugees or non Anglo-Saxon migrants enjoying beer. We aren’t seeing brews from their country of origin lining the already overstocked fridges of bottle shops.

Multicultural success to me is being open to a new culture – that of the host and that of the new arrival. It’s about enjoying the best bits of both. The food. The drink. New expressions. New ways of thinking. New ways to express individualism. You can argue that this essay is pro assimilation. You could argue that I’m looking at non-Western cultures through ‘white eyes’, and I totally get that.

I don’t know about you, but I’d love to sit down with one of my new Australian friends over a beer and find out about his culture. About his old country. His family. His hopes and dreams now he is here in Australia.

I’d love to sit down and have a beer with him. I wonder if he would want to do the same with me?

All this business about free speech.

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My grandparents came to Australia fleeing the terrors of Communism in Europe. My grandmother tells of her shock when the Communist Party of Australia was gaining political traction and wondered out loud why the Government didn’t ban the CPA. Her neighbour gave her wise counsel:
“Olga, if you ban these groups, they go underground, the consolidate, they grow in power. The only way to expose these groups is to allow them, to highlight them, to publicly critique and converse with them. Then the truth will come out and people will surely see the CPA for what they are”

In Australia, there is a lot of talk about a certain Act limiting free speech, especially in relation to Racial Discrimination. The ‘Left’ of politics are claiming that restrictions on free speech are required, lest differing groups are offended, insulted or miffed in some way. They claim that restrictions are required to prevent bigotry, racism and negative stereotyping. The ‘Right’ of politics claim that any restrictions on free speech is a slippery slope – legislation with noble intent used to muffle genuine free speech and freedom of expression.

Martin Luther King Jnr famously and excellently dreamed:

I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

My thoughts? Like the counsel that was given my grandmother many moons ago, I think we should encourage free speech, not limit it. Working in the Public Service, I’ve found you can’t legislate against stupidity. If someone want’s to bang on about a religion, a lifestyle, a race, a thought, a brand of car, a football team, a cheese – what ever it is, let them bang on about it. If you don’t agree with it, speak up. Let’s bring out these ideas, challenge them openly.

I’m totally against discrimination – both positive and negative. I’ve written about my thoughts on racism in Australia and truly believe that Australian’s are welcoming and open, not ‘racist rednecks’ as some would suppose.

You can’t legislate against racism. You might be able to legislate against a behaviour, but not a thought, a motivation, a belief, a desire. Yeah, you might be able to stop someone from saying something terribly offensive like nigger, chinky-chonk or dune-coon. What you can’t stop is a bunch of disenfranchised group of people organising, petitioning, forming a voting block and punching back twice as hard when election time comes around.

If someone is being racist, call it out. If someone is the victim of racism, come to their aid. If someone is doing their people a dis-service by mis-representing them, correct them.

Limiting free speech limits critique and dialogue. Guess what? There will be idiots who abuse free speech, who will say terrible things, who will think terrible things. The last thing we want is for these ideas to go underground. We want to bring them to the light, shine a mirror on discrimination and racism and show it for the evil that it is.

We live in the age of information. Pretty much anyone these days can publish their views – on line, in print, standing on the street corner. Never before has there been such a free-flow of information, ideas and thoughts. We are constantly being challenged, informed, encouraged. Let’s not limit that precious flow of information.

Picture lifted from http://www.futurescopes.com/advice/104/why-men-dont-listen-women