Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Two Evils

Picture courtesy The Guardian

I don’t know which is worse - the behaviour of some ADF cowboy/s who flew a flag with a swastika in Afghanistan, or the pile-on from the media in response. I'm not entirely sure which is the lesser of two evils.

The appearance of that symbol on an ADF vehicle is pathetic. Some developmentally challenged juvenile/s who ended up in uniform in an operational theatre demonstrated classical attention seeking behaviours. In other words, the episode was childish. 

He/they were obviously sprung, and you’d assume given a well deserved boot up the backside/s,

In addition, there are drop kicks who collect Nazi memorabilia because they think it looks cool. Clearly, a few of these have ended up in the ADF.

Perhaps the ADF needs to screen its recruits more carefully, if idiots like this end up in the ranks. My understanding is that this is a work in progress.

Certainly, thousands of diggers (including my late father) fought against the tyranny symbolised by this flag, and many died in the process.

But I doubt that the drop-kick who attached the flag to the vehicle had any appreciation of that history, or any understanding of the proud traditions of the service he was part of. He/they probably wouldn't know his arse from his elbow. 

The incident has been blown out of all proportion. The media is adept at using imagery, and they had a very striking image available, so they used it.

My recollection of National Service are that there were always a few of these two-bob lairs (as my dad would have called them) in every unit. They were thick, usually all mouth and trousers and typically went to water at the first sign of trouble..

They were best ignored, or avoided. Anyone stupid enough to fly a Nazi flag has obviously no thought for anyone or anything besides his own obsessions and would have been a bad risk in a contact.

So let’s not draw any more attention to stupidity. The chorus of outrage about the fact that this episode is being condemned is also ridiculous. To hear that because they were commandos excuses them from disciplined behaviour, is, to put it simply, crap. They are/were subject to the same code of conduct as everyone else in the ADF.

The other frequent defense is that we need ruthless tough individuals to keep us safe, and that excuses all manner of things. In the first place, I doubt that what the ADF is doing in Afghanistan is "keeping us safe". Perhaps it's keeping some Afghans safe - if so, that's great, but we are under no existential threat from the Taliban.

To believe that we have to reduce our behaviour to the level of that of our most brutal enemies to effectivelly fight tyranny has never been part of our national ethos, and I hope it never is.

In the meantime, let’s ease off on the cries of outrage. It doesn't help the morale of the majority of ADF personnel who aren't as thick as two short planks.

The other issues that are under investigation at the moment are of much greater consequence.

One of the strongest impressions I was left with after returning to Vietnam a couple of times was the respect the locals in Phouc Tuy maintain for Australians.

That respect is an absolute consequence of the behaviour of the diggers who fought there all those years ago.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Tonsley Park Reflections

This week I spent some time in Adelaide visiting one of my sons. I stayed in a pub at Tonsley Park because it’s close to where he lives.
I also hired a car, a Toyota Yaris, which was subsequently upgraded to the Mitsubishi ASX illustrated.

Adelaide always turns on extremes of weather when I visit, and this trip was no exception. It was wet, bleak, and the sun largely absent. This was in stark contrast to my last visit in February when it was 42 degrees. It topped out at 15 this trip.

The ASX reminded me of Mitsubishi Outlanders that were provided to me when I was working out west. It felt the same, smelled the same, and was equally unexciting. These days, Mitsubishi sells lugubrious looking cars - well engineered, but very conservative. It’s best feature was Apple CarPlay which helped me find my way around.

Many years ago, we owned a Mitsubishi Magna (1989) which provided reliable safe and comfortable transport for our growing family.
Back then, Mitsubishi weren’t afraid to innovate.

Sadly, no more cars are made at Tonsley Park.

But the reminders are there if you look properly. Chrysler and Mitsubishi once partnered in Australia.

(Blogged on the iPad).

Tuesday, 5 June 2018


Today is the 50th anniversary of Bobby Kennedy's assasination.

I remember it well, because it happened on my 21st birthday. At the time I was in my first year of teaching at Goondiwindi State School, with my year 5 class of 44 students.

My teaching colleagues had taken me to one of the local pubs and shouted me many beers. In those days, drinking in pubs was not allowed until age 21, so these were my first legal drinks.

The news of the assasination came as I was dealing with my first real hangover. It shocked me into alert sobriety immediately, and also into deep sadness.

Bobby Kennedy was for me, a symbol of hope and optimism. I knew enough about US politics at the time, to harbour the hope that if Kennedy got into the White House, maybe my impending national service would not eventuate.

I had already been called up in my second year at Kedron Park Teachers' College. As a teacher in training at the time, I had been deferred to allow the completion of one year of teaching. I had plenty of time to contemplate American politics and how they were likely to effect my future. The letter from the Department of Labour and National Service said I had a "liability to serve", wording that I found completely bizarre. Looking back on it, they were pretty bizarre times.

Kennedy had just won the Californian primary, and was gathering momentum over the establishment Democrat nominee, Hubert Humphrey. Nixon went on the win the election in 1968 after Humphrey became the Democrat nominee when the Chicago convention imploded..

Jack Newfield, writing in Robert Kennedy : A Memoir. (1969) believed RFK had the potential to create a different future -

He was 42 when he was killed. He was just finding his own voice... I think he would have been elected in '68. And I think Robert Kennedy in the White House, instead of Richard Nixon, is day and night. We would not have had years more of death in Southeast Asia. We would not have had  Watergate. We would not have had a crook as vice president, like [Spiro] Agnew. We would not have overthrown the democratically elected government of Chile. The world would have been very different, if not for the veto of a gunman.

And maybe 200 Australian Nashos wouldn't have died in Vietnam.

With Kennedy, died the hope and optimism of a generation of Americans and the future of many young Australians.

Compare the grace, dignity and compassion of  Bobby Kennedy with the behaviour of the current incumbent in the White House. 

We will not see his like again.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

The Crushing

The first ten years of my life, gentle reader,  were spent in cane country.

Hearing the Go-Betweens performing Cattle and Cane takes me back. 

On the rare occasions these days when I return north during the crushing, the smell of the cane fires, bagasse and rotting mangoes instantly transports me back to my boyhood.. (It’s well known that the olfactory sense is most closely associated with memory).

Sugar prices are low, so the 2018 Crushing isn’t getting off to a stellar start.

Whatever - growing up west of Mackay* in a sugar town was an amazing experience.

The crushing was the drum-beat of the rhythm of life back then. The mill, with its noise, smoke and steam was at the end of the road that went past our place. Cane grew on two sides of our house, and cane was carted up and down the road daily during the crushing.

We would chase the blackened cinders from the spectacular fires - not always a good idea. I ran backwards into the tankstand doing this once. Only once. By the time the gash in the back of my head healed, I'd understood that my eyes were at the front of my head for a reason.

My best mate came off a very large cane farm, and every now and again I would be allowed to spend a few days with him. We gave the farm machinery a pretty fair workout - but survived.

His dad owned a an Essex Super Six. It wasn't road registered, so we drove it all over the farm. I learned to drive that thing at age 10. My parents had no idea.....

The vivid colours, the energetic growth created by the rainfall and heat, and the Maltese, Italian and Kanaka kids that I went to school with conspired to create an environment unique in this country. 

The lyrics of the song put it better than I can -

I recall a schoolboy coming home

through fields of cane

to a house of tin and timber

and in the sky

a rain of falling cinders

from time to time

the waste memory-wastes

I recall a boy in bigger pants

like everyone

just waiting for a chance

his father's watch

he left it in the showers

from time to time

the waste memory-wastes

I recall a bigger brighter world

a world of books

and silent times in thought

and then the railroad

the railroad takes him home

through fields of cattle

through fields of cane

from time to time

the waste memory-wastes

the waste memory-wastes

further, longer, higher, older

The railroad didn't take me home.
Instead it took me 1000kms south to boarding school in 1961.
My parents moved south, and I never returned to live in cane country.
My heart, gentle reader, is still there......

*The locals use the Scottish pronunciation.

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