An arrest, my youth, my shame.

This article is important, hopefully, it can make you laugh, maybe it might make you cry, but more importantly it may also wake you up from any apathy surrounding our current lockdowns.  Yesterday’s arrest of young pregnant mum in Ballarat was the straw that broke the camels back for me.  The current atmosphere, created by our political and bureaucratic masters within our society I believe is dangerous.

To begin, let me attempt to take you back to a period of history in Australia that seems light years away from today’s time’s, but for many Australians my age it will seem like yesterday. I can only hope many remember this little trip down memory lane as fondly as me.

I grew up in the sixties and seventies as a child and then a teenager and lived. They were interesting times with the worst taste in clothing and hair style you could imagine. I progressed to  my young adult life and my first job in the eighties. Looking back now, while there were challenges, not the least living in a family of ten children, I actually am so very grateful and feel  so very blessed to have lived throughout this period with the eighties in particular proving to be a wonderful time.

In those days when we went to school, we weren’t brainwashed into thinking we were a racist nation, that our history was something we should be ashamed of, that our climate wasn’t a threat to our survival. We could go to our sport and leave our lives and the politics of the day behind for some entertainment and relief without being deluged by woke political agendas as we are today. Amazingly back then schools also left sexual orientation and education pretty much where it belonged, in the family and out of the classroom.

In the eighties, when I first began to work you didn’t need to obtain a degree to secure a job, There was a thing called the leaving certificate when you completed year eleven that could help you find employment in plenty of places. You only did year twelve if you were serious about going to University and becoming a doctor, lawyer, architect etc.  I was smart enough to choose the University option if I had wanted to, but I was more motivated by my mates, playing sport, having fun and chasing girls. I had enough of books and school and wanted some freedom.

Due to this my various sports coaches were far greater influences on my young mind than any socialist or Marxists leaning lecturers or students that I may have encountered  at University.  We also had some great influences through our families, our work and through living in a small town where people were more like family than friends.

I was doubly lucky, as not only did I spend my young adult life in a great period of time, but I also lived through much of that time in the great country town of Bairnsdale in East Gippsland. Everybody in country towns just knew each other then, we played sport against each other, we went to parties together, we hung out together. As there was no social media or mobile phones you had to develop social skills that many of our youth today seem to lack.

I remember after getting my first car that our Saturday morning recreation was doing some “blockies”. This was where a group of three to four young men grouped together in the best car they could find to drive around the main shopping centre block of town. The purpose of which was to look for and find other mates, while also checking out what we considered the hottest girls in town.

If we came across them, we quickly parked the car and looked to initiate contact.

Yes I know, it’s nearly outlawed to talk like that today, but sorry I don’t care much for political correctness. In fact, back then a wolf whistle was considered a compliment and was taken as such, today it’s viewed as harassment.

When we did our blockies, it was a contest amongst us about who had the best car, the loudest car stereo and the best music. Looking back on it now, it was pretty comical when on some days there would be half a dozen cars circling that main street all of them with four windows down blasting out some of Australia’s greatest and worst ever music. I struggled to compete on the car and stereo front, but I am glad to say my taste in music was pretty good, or at least so I thought.

There was no x-box or play station back then, all we had was a local arcade shop with pinball machines and this new game they called “space invaders”. That’s invariably where we ended up when we got bored of driving or started to run low on fuel.

The reason we drove around the block on a Saturday morning  was because we always had our sport on Saturday afternoons with either football or cricket. There was only one type of football back then and we all played. Sometimes we substituted driving around the block by going and watching the girls playing netball and once we figured out there was more chance of meeting the fairer sex there we soon changed habit. Young men; all passion, yet little brains.

In a country town, everybody gets to know each other pretty quickly, which was both bad and good. It was bad as if you did anything stupid as everybody knew about it for a month, it was also bad if you achieved something good, as everybody, knew about it. When everybody knows you, either way you were sure to be embarrassed over it all. It was good for the comraderies it created and the knowledge that other genuinely had your back when required.

I remember one Christmas eve especially when all of us lads went to our favourite night club in town. The reason that it was our favourite night club mind you was simply because it was the only one in town, but we still we had many great nights there.

After a night out one of the great things we had in Bairnsdale was a place called George’s burgers shop.  They seriously made the best burgers I have ever tasted to this day and apparently still do. After a night on the town, this was where you headed before going home. Seriously, the congregations of young men and women at this burger spot was legendary,  and scenes weren’t unlike those you saw at Arnold’s restaurant in the famous American sitcom, Happy Days.

The only difference between the two was that we didn’t sit in the diner to eat; we sat in the nature street in the middle of Main street in Bairnsdale. This was no normal nature strip by the way, if you ever get the chance you should visit them, they are massive and magnificent.

Anyway, this burger shop was directly across from the famous St Mary’s catholic church in Bairnsdale. Like the nature strips if you have never been there you should visit it, the artwork throughout that building is amazing. So there I was with my mates scoffing down some great tasting burgers with stomach full of beer fifteen minutes before midnight on Christmas Eve when one of the boys suggested we should go to midnight mass. After all what could go wrong; right?

My mind immediately thought of one situation. I was raised in a pretty devout Catholic household so I was pretty hesitant to go along for the fear of my mum actually attending. Ultimately I was convinced by my  “mates”  that there was little chance of that happening so really I only had one answer, “why not this could be fun”. After all as the boys pointed out my Mum would go the next day and not to a midnight service which was always packed to the rafters.  Remember, young men; all passion, yet little brains.

Sure enough, when we entered the church that night it seemed everybody from town was in attendance and we had to make our way to the only space available in the upstairs pews at the rear of the church.

What I was unaware at that time, but was soon to discover to my detriment,  was that  through St Mary’s the massive height of the church’s amazing ceiling which I discovered was fantastic forit produced fantastic acoustics. What you should also know is I was the ninth of ten children in my family and this sadly ensured I developed a high pitch voice as  through my youth you had to raise your voice considerably  just to be heard in my household. My other undoing is that when I had too much to drink, like I had that night, I am a very, very, happy drunk, not to mention loud. That normally is a good thing, not so much on this occasion

That night a combination of too many beers, too many mates egging me onto mischievous deeds and my own loud drunken voice, combined with the church acoustics led me to one of those embarrassing nights that people didn’t let you live down for some time.  I had never been much for singing hymns; I thought they were a little nerdy, so I never sang them when going to church. The one exemption if there was any was at Christmas. Like so many other singing carols was different, especially with your mates and especially after a few beers and you are in the festive mood.

So there we were a half a dozen drunken mates all in their early twenties  having the time of our lives singing hymns, cracking jokes, being just a bit more boisterous than we should have been for a church service while giggling, laughing and being told off the more serious in the congregation.

Once the service had finished though and we had made our way outside, most people couldn’t make their way to us quickly enough to thank us for what they thought was great, this even included the Parish priest. He thought we were great fun and couldn’t help but to come over to participate in some fun at our expense. Afterwards we all shared our taxi’s home and I slept in late that Christmas morning until my younger brother woke me to come and get me for some breakfast that mum was cooking up.

This was a surprise to me as he was based in the army at Puckapunyal at that time, but he had made a surprise visit home, that I either hadn’t been told about or had forgotten to remember. Looking at him his sly grin hinted that something was up.

At this stage, I was sleeping in the bungalow  in the rear yard of my parents’ house, so we had to walk into the main house to get to the kitchen and some food and I was thinking whether I should tell Mum that I had been to midnight mass, or whether I just suck it up and go to mass that day with her.

After all Mum, being the devout catholic she was would insist we attend church at least o at Easter and Christmas and I would have felt a little guilty not going with her on Christmas day.

I need not have worried too much because as soon as I sat down for some bacon and eggs Mum said, “you sang beautifully at church last night son”.  Mum was on to me!

All I could say is “you were there? I didn’t see you” to which Mum replied, “no we didn’t see you either but we could pick you voice a mile away and it carried beautifully in the church, I didn’t think you liked singing hymns?”.  Fortunately mum thought it was hilarious, though she wasn’t impressed with our giggling and laughter. Dad just grumbled something about “idiots”, which I had no argument for.

My biggest fear though was forget Mum, if she knew how many others did as well?

Sure enough, the answer to that question was pretty much everybody. This wasn’t helped by my so called “mates” spreading word about town about my singing exploits. You see what I didn’t realise at the time, was that their humour was directed at my singing exploits as I was the only one singing, I just didn’t realise it at the time.

I didn’t live that one down for a while, but it gave everybody a great laugh, so I looked at it as my community service.

There were a thousand stories growing up like that in those times and in that country town. You don’t appreciate them at the time and you always take them for granted when they happen, or at least I did until yesterday.

Yesterday, I saw a young family with two young kids in another country town so similar to Bairnsdale. It brought back some memories of a time when we grew up in our country town, when we all had each other’s backs and while we had our differences and our arguments it never amounted to much. Then if you got into trouble with the police, most times you were given a clip over the ear and sent off with a warning, especially if was a minor incident.

We didn’t have the thought police or the woke brigade on our backs. Unlike today, people pretty much took you as you came, in fact,  it was rude back then to dig into people’s lives, not like today when people seem obliged to broadcast every detail to everybody.

That was a time we still watched major film releases at the drive-in where we took turns hiding in the boot so we could pay a little less collectively. It was actually a major development when a cinema opened in town and the VHS machine was introduced into our lives for the first time.

When I left school, computers were just becoming a thing. When I started work at the bank we worked from ledgers and passbooks, not keyboards and the internet.

On a hot summers night after a game of cricket on a Saturday, I remember sitting in our whites at our favourite bar playing peanut Olympics, a game where you dropped your peanut in your beer and the last peanut to hit the bottom of glass led to that person skulling a beer and being given a fitness exercise to endure. Sounds simple but try that after throwing down several beers. The sights and fun we had watching somebody incapable of doing a certain exercise kept us all amused until the following Saturday.

Living in the country we had some amazing parties and Sunday barbeques in amazing places. At the footy club, in a national park, on the beach or at a farm, even on a tennis court. We did some crazy and yes some stupid things, but it was all with good humour and great youthful Aussie spirit.

It was a good life back then, a way of life I still miss and something today’s generation could only dream of. It wasn’t all beer and skittles, we had our losses, deaths to car accidents mostly, but looking back at least they had a chance to live a life when times were as good as they could be and we came together to help each other get over it.

We were carefree, we were happy and if you wanted to say we were privileged back then you can say that, but not in the way that word is used today.

One of the more tragic events for me was after leaving for Melbourne was learning of the loss of some of those mates to the scourge that is suicide. One of them was one of those mates who had drunk alongside me before our escapade in the upper pews of St Mary’s church on Christmas eve. As mates go you could not get a better one. We played cricket and  football together, we even worked together at or local Commonwealth bank. Most importantly though we shared some wonderful times in our best years together before drifting apart when I shifted to Melbourne.

A few years after that move to Melbourne he took his own life. His Mum was a devout catholic and suicide was frowned upon even back then. Due to this we had no church service, no burial to attend, no chance to say goodbye to a person who was not just a friend, but somebody I considered family. It impacted me for quite a while.

That thought, those memories came to mind when I was thinking of people across the country currently taking their lives and family and friends denied the ability to attend funeral for whatever reason to pay their respects and say goodbye.  All through what I consider a self-inflicted crisis, as opposed to the virus inflicted one.

Sadly, virus or no virus we have lost much of carefree youth I was so fortunate to have enjoyed in my youth and many of the things that we did then would be frowned upon today.

I don’t think today’s youth are any worse or better, but I do worry for them as they seem to be under the microscope twenty-four hours a day, every day. They are bombarded with negative messaging about their country, about its past, its present their parents, their grandparents, their skin colour, their culture, the way they behave the way they think and the opinions they have.

We had none of that, the only time we gave serious thought to serious events in our world was probably around election time and even then, the way you voted was up to you and nobody else. In between elections we didn’t particularly care about polls or politics, we were legitimately a band of brothers enjoying life. That changeg a great deal in my initial years in Melbourne, It was busier and I did not have the family and friends alongside me that I had grown up with. I adjusted and moved on and then enjoyed many similar experiences, but it was never quite the same.

Yesterday I found those memories came flooding back when I saw what was happening to the young mum in Ballarat and her  young family.  I don’t care about your politics or where you sit with lockdowns, for me watching a young mum being handcuffed, arrested and embarrassed in front of her young partner and her young kids made for the first time it to feel ashamed of my country, in particular my government, my politicians and even the police force itself.

It also brought me to be ashamed of myself that it had all come to this.

I saw that young couple and instantly saw my mates from my younger days. I lived in houses like that, in towns like that, I shared properties with young people like that., I don’t see them as conspiracy theorists, I don’t see them as bat-shit crazy, they are not tinfoil hat-wearing crazy people in my eyes unlike our police chiefs. All I see is good honest decent young Aussies who that we should all embrace whether you agree or disagree with their opinions or politics.

I simply could not believe what my eyes were seeing; I had to watch it several times.

This mum wasn’t dealing drugs, she wasn’t assaulting people, she hadn’t stolen anything, she had shared a post about an event she had helped to organise. An event not only promoting freedoms and patriotism but one that contained the now familiar social distancing and face masking formalities that we have become accustomed to.  How can that be a crime?

The other image I had was of  the young boys and girls I have coached in my years here in Melbourne. Many of them are this young woman’s age now, they are also settling down with a partner, starting a young family, looking to make their lives better. The more I thought about this the angrier I became, what if this was one of those young kids I had coached?  It didn’t help that she also bore a resemblance to one of them.

So I looked up her Facebook page to discover what she was doing with her life rather than rely on what the media or government may tell me.  What I uncovered was a young person that appears to be a happy loving Mum with some gorgeous kids with another one on the way and she appears to have a happy and dotting partner.  She has and loves her own pets and was a housekeeper and cleaner but now has her own little business in the same trade.

Isn’t this what the Aussie dream is all about for many?  Having kids, starting a family, running a business? Isn’t that like so many young people I know and have known throughout my life. Would I consider them a criminal or a patriot? You can guess my answer.

I don’t know her politics, her opinions, her platform’s and policy points of view and I don’t particularly as we all have our differences. At her core she seems a decent person.

Yet here she is being handcuffed and arrested like a common criminal while many in the media and even some of her fellow citizens cheer it on. Have we been so conditioned that we don’t realise fascism when we see it? For those who don’t know its definition, here it is straight from the Cambridge dictionary.

“a political system based on a very powerful leaderstate control, and being extremely proud of country and race, and in which political opposition is not allowed

Taking out the part about being proud of country and race, as I don’t believe many within our government are, isn’t that the situation we have now?

It appears so many are so blind that they cannot see or possibly don’t want to see where we are as a country. I see these actions and I see fascism, I see this young mum and I see better times from my youth, I see my silence and I hang my head in shame.

My shame comes from not speaking out in whatever small manner I could, making what small difference that I was capable of making. I stood by despite witnessing things I knew in my heart and soul were wrong, I stood by where others fought, I hesitated as I didn’t want to be labelled or targeted. I didn’t want family or friends angry or upset with me for expressing an opinion.

I look at this young mum and I also see somebody who I wasn’t, a person prepared to stand for what she believed was right. It was immaterial whether I agreed with her or not after I had read her Facebook wall and once more watched her being handcuffed, I felt shamed even further.

Surely one of our greatest rights we can embrace is the right to be able to express our views and opinions unhindered without the threat of arrest, without the threat of the cancel culture coming after us and without the fear of losing friendships and loved ones over a bloody opinion.

I saw that with this arrest and realised I had stood by and allowed it to happen without the objections I was capable of making. How could I have stood by when this country has given me so much in my youth, and through my life,  how could it have come to this?

The reality is it has come to this through our collective silence. You can disagree with me as much as you like and I will disagree with you, argue with you, but then I will respect and embrace you as my fellow patriot and fight furiously from this point on for your to disagree with me or anybody else as much as you like.

My most important decision now; is to be silent no more.

 

“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”

– Benjamin Franklin