31 January 2008

human league

I like listening to radio when you hear someone mention "the human condition." It's a sure sign you're tuned to Radio National. A process check, if you like.

Anyway we got that this morning en route from the mildly poo-infested suburbs of Rocky to the stridently industrial surrounds of beautiful downtown Gladstone. I was glad to be tuned to the graceful cadences of Ramona Koval, which were very much in sync with the small undulations of that piece of road, sitting on a very steady 100 kph, the song of the mighty Toyota Camry motor wheezing in the background. It was an interview with some US writer whose name escapes me, but the book is called Pontoon and if you Amazon (there's a nice neologism for you) I'm sure you'll find it.

Like all the very earnest people whose graceful tones emanate from Radio Communism, Ramona was at pains to elicit some discussion on the human condition and with a cooperative subject, whose name still escapes me, it was actually a nice piece of work. Death, angels, fundamentalism, people's hidden lives and the pretences or faces that we show to the world.

In fact it formed a useful framework in which I could digest my experience yesterday, which was a last minute dash to Emerald to (allegedly) help out with our organisation's efforts there. I haven't been exposed to people who have been through disaster and its associated trauma before, and this was a real eye-opener.

The situation of the small claims holders, the miners who live out in the gem fields around Anakie and so on, was quite dire but their reactions even more pronounced, for these are people to whom their house literally is their castle, because their mining lease is their livving and their life. So to lose everything and have to contemplate strangers on your territory is anathema, leading to some very strong emotions.

What mainly got me thinking - and it was evident that to people who do or experience this sort of thing more regularly it wasn't a surprise - was how country people react. How people who are by nature very independent, resourceful and proud, cope with needing assistance.

Which in turn got me thinking about how the west - sorry, the bush - got settled, for want of a better term, in the first place. I never did history as a separate subject in high school, only did Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson and the Human Hovell in primary school. Names, dates, routes. No causes, reasons, analysis or stories attached that I can recall. And nothing about the settlers.

Without any sort of knowledge from which to work, then, I guess I simply left it as an open question - what were the factors, the things that drove establishment of settlements, towns and villages. Gold, sheep, and so on with railways as an early link and forming the critical mass - sorry about that - in certain places where routes intersected.

And somehow out of all that we got some sense of Australianness, a country of country dwellers who react in certain ways, hold certain things dear and so on. So when a (probably) typical urban blight like looting hits a place like Emerald, it hits deeper and the reaction is stronger, more vehement. Wouldn't like to be those families, eh?

So with Ramona and whatisname prattling in the background, the hills sliding by, I thought about this great brown land of ours and the people in it. I didn't come to any blinding insights as you probably guessed about 3 paragraphs ago or, in the case of regular readers of this blog, at about the second line of my first posting.

Doesn't matter, mate. We all just need, I think, to occasionally sit back in the fabulously proportioned armchairs of a Toyota Camry, a packet of Minties (how come some Minties are nice and hard and other packets are all gooey? whatever happened to quality control?) on the passenger's seat, the road rolling underneath our wheels, and think about Australia.

You bloody beauty.

So up the old red rooster and sink more piss.

No idea where that came from.

As if.

Back to work, then.


JahTeh said...

Real looting, Phil, or just looking for food to tide them over?
I ask because this was one of the problems after Hurricane Katrina where looking for food could get you shot and no questions asked. I found myself wondering what I would do.

phil said...

The TV footage showed what looked clearly like 'wanton' vandalism. There was food available eslewhere in town. Guilty as charged, your honour is, I suspect, the name of the game.

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