E quindi uscimmo a reverder le stelle
Rather than bitch about how I have had too much going on to write stuff, I am going to start. And Sarah has suggested I write about something other than her, so I start this with the above quotation from Dante, via one of the great left-wing leaders of this country, originally of the last line of the Inferno:
And thence we emerged, to see the stars again.
And as an explanation, I will point out that there has been a Federal election here, and our archaoeconservative Prime Minister John Howard is gone.
Not just gone, but electorally savaged.
Not just defeated, but defeated in a time of unparalleled economic prosperity, defeated when according to all he beleived in he should have triumphed, utterly gralloched at the polls to the extent that both he and his smirking deputy have lost their jobs and are currently scanning the relevant columns of the newspapers. Tai-otoshi'd into the grave and then that freshly turned grave danced upon by bearded stocky doctors wearing long red dresses.
And I shouldn't gloat. I know it's wrong, and self-indulgent, and selfish, and I know I shouldn't gloat, but I really really can't stop. Watching election night on Saturday was political dark chocolate, political guarana-if-guarana-actually-did-what-it-said-it-did. No, let's be honest, it's political heroin, ideological opium for your huddled masses, pure pulsing pleasure from the vein into the brain.
I am serious - this election has made a difference to things to me. I am profoundly energised. In the last week or so I have started a compost heap, ordered a rainwater tank, gone back to martial arts training. I eat summer fruit, barbecue lamb with rosemary on the verandah and read summer short stories. I have shed fat and gained muscle, and in the bedroom is joy, as those Anatrim adverts say.
I have been reading Australian poets - Robert Gray* and John Murray and Robert Drewe, I wrap my hands and bob and weave in the dusty boxing shed under the incandescent globe, I kick the bag and the shed rattles. I feel I will wake in the middle of the night, laughing.
See, I could go on for years about Howard and what how deeply things were wrong under him, but there's nothing as boring as someone else's domestic politics. So I'll try to pick one example, and explain things using that. And it's a difficult thing to get across, and it may not really get there.
Here goes. North and west of here the sea stretches pale and flat and shallow. The sea-floor slopes shallow beneath it, irukanji pulse in the warm water, dugongs drift like clouds where campfires burned fifty thousand years ago. Australian's relationship to the sea is deceptively complex, we came across it but it killed many of us, it isolates and threatens and preserves us. Waves of us struggled here, nights beneath the stars, people smugglers and illegal immigrants, First Fleet or Tampa, Botany Bay or Nauru.
How is this a metaphor for what happened to this country under Howard? There are close connections, fearful symmetrys, between our inner and outer environments, our "ideascape" and our "seascape", in the last eleven and a half years. What happened out at sea was what happened in our country, a sortof flattened out version of the hermetic doctrine, as above, so below.
In the last eleven and a half years of this government unknown numbers of shiploads of refugees either sank off our shores or struggled to some far-flung island and... vanished. They drowned or were imprisoned, our armed forces repelled them. They were returned to oppressive dictatorships, they were sent back to be treated how we would not treat a dog here. Shiploads full just... vanished.
And as much as and at the same time as and to the same extent as they vanished in the sea they disappeared without trace from our political environment, our ideascape, as completely and fatally as they would have sunk into our unforgiving, hard oceans.
Seriously, Howard's vision of Australia was one where we didn't talk about that kind of stuff. It was one where we all worked long hours paying off the mortgage, making something of yourself, decency and respect for your traditions, cricket and the Queen. Buckle down and get yourself some, but don't rock the boat because then bang, the job's gone just like that, big business knows best, Big Brother in the evenings and we've never ever had it so good.
As much as the sea covered these men and women and children and forgot them, we covered them and forgot them. We did this because - and this is a reason, not an excuse, because we have no excuse - we did do because under Howard, for all his talk of prouder and stronger, we were scared, scared all the time - scared of Asia. Scared of the future, scared of disease, scared of Islam and - ironically - scared of terror.
Anyway, this has come out all wrong. I sound like I'm hating a country I've never loved more in my life, and denigrating something of which I am fiercely, passionately proud. Anyway, off to put the final touches on the John Howard pinata and revel in the confusion of mine enemies (Conservative quote of the week: The election just showed they may like you, they may agree with what you are doing, they may respect you even if they don't vote for you). And last Saturday we showed we were better than that. Better than he hoped and better than he thought and better than him.
And last Saturday we showed we were better than that. Better than he hoped and better than he thought and better than him.
Mmm. That sound in the background is another sacred cow falling from an ivory tower.
Thaks for listening,
*Seriously, listen to this from "A kangaroo":
That hungry face moves on grass the way and artist's pencil retouches and shades
Bastard gets it right, doesn't he? And then look at this, from "A poem of not more than forty lines, on the subject of nature":
I awake to rain blown against this one room, beneath the cliffs of forest, on a slope above the valley that has welled with night.
All evening the rain riddled the lamp's beam, that stood outside as if to brace the shack. What I hear now is only the aftermath, shed thickly by the branches and settling like fishing lines through the sea, many small weights sounding separately on the tin.What do you say to that? Answer on one side of the page, please.
**Note - there's no friendly informal noun for a person of right wing beliefs, is there? Speculation as to why this is welcomed.