Well then dear underlings, dear
stray dingoes of the brine. How fare thee in these enlightened
Here we all are basking in the eternal sunshine of the land
of the indebted, the land of the meek. Oh yes, these are great
times, the crème-de-la-crème of existence. If
we can but grasp the nettle and seize the day. The sting of
the nettle be a sweet sensation compared to being stung in so
many other ways.
I know you'd rather I spoke of sheepshanks and monkeys fists,
but have you ever wondered as time's worn on why the smiles've
been ground out of folk, that people once friendly and open won't
look you in the eye for fear of seeing a reflection of their
own misery. Living lives of quiet desperation become mute indeed.
But why oh why is it so? Well fill this tall, voluminous glass
that I just placed before ye and lend me your ears.
You may think it inconceivable of me as once 'working' ( and
I do use my terminology of the privileged few) as working under
the big flag in Canberra.
But aye it was once so. Think now as you see me swagger up
the esplanade in my Chinese work boots and Bali tee shirt, and
open smile of brotherly (and sisterly) love. That once I belonged,
indeed plotted, conspired with the dark side, to make your life
And it was a struggle believe me or not, you may snigger. Firstly
there was the climate, bracing eh what? As my chauffeur drove
me through the bleak mountain suburbs not a single coconut palm
to be spied (I know it's a real shock to you) and despite the
ministrations of my thrice awarded horticulturist, my lonesome
mango tree withered for lack of spiritual guidance, never bore
fruit, or leaves. Global warming? Not in Canberra.
So we would strut about in the finest of tailored suits and
great thick woolen coats that gave our meager souls the import
of substance. Australians? Lord no, not us! We felt European
(or some of us American, Texan, even) to our toenails as we played
our games, pretending we were real men of a place of real significance
like Geneva or some other aloof but powerful citadel of the northern
We love the cameras, the interviews, the press releases, the
statico. People hung on our every word --- interest rates need
a hike of another point two five per cent (here take this castor
oil, you'll love it) the idiots. And oh it gave the ego a sort
of Hollywood opening night extended massage. I've all my press
releases burnt to disc and I never tire to watch over and over,
say whydontcha come over tonight and we can play a coupla dozen?
But mainly they're something to leave the grandkids, you know?
What other problems you ask? Oh the woe! The endless woe!
Have you ever noticed the facial expressions of we front benchers?
We couldn't help it, a sort of smug look, like I've just soiled
my nappy, but I know you'll understand.
Well we used to get that regardless of how fresh our undergarments
were, all of us. Every time we discussed party business behind
locked doors. And that look stuck for so long, stuck like, oh
well, never mind.
Basically, it was the figures that did it to us. We all sat
there swilling our ports. But we were actually struggling.
Our arms metaphorically flailing about us. Drowning we were,
an avalanche of GST-derived cash thundering down all around us,
over us, through us. Now I know some of you old salts have weathered
some blows. But not like this.
Lesser mortals would have quickly been overwhelmed. But not
us, men of caliber, men of moral fibre, or the old guard we were
and still are. Dour men who never falter ever under such a mortal
assault as this.
Hold fast! Hold! Steady now! Wait till you see the whites
of the workers' eyes. And you know, we did, time and time again.
Saw their wide eyes flashing, witnessed their anger, their frustration,
their impotence. We knew and they knew that a little timid sabre
rattling, a charge, a meek retreat back to the suburbs, back
to work, to service the crushing debt that we had bestowed them.
Subjugated, that's the word. Still we screwed them. Still
they kept voting us in. Inexplicable we all agreed. By the
way, all those of ya that voted me in again and again. I thank
thee all, but truly, what was ya thinking? Aww don't worry,
the question's only rhetorical.
Where was I? Oh yes. The mother lode, the vein that went on
and on and on. And all we had to do was stay on top of it, stay
cool breathe deeply and have the gall to ride the avalanche.
So there, now you all know how we got 'the look'.
There's gold in them thar hills of Canberra n it all comes from
the sweating lowlands, the burbs-of-Australia. You think a robber's
a criminal? He's pointing a gun at you? At least his intent
is honest. It pales into insignificance compared to our schemes
and stunts, free trade, oil-parity-pricing, tax cuts, war on
terrorism. We wanted to introduce GST so we engendered a belief
that once introduced, you lot would have NO income tax. Now you've
got both. We used to laugh ourselves to tears. We had competitions
to see who could come up with the most outlandish, shame-faced
ways of raising revenue, to be howled down by our comrades They'll
never swallow that! But incredibly, you always did.
We now know that with the tools that we have at our disposal.
The newspapers, the radio, and the most mind-stupefying tool
.. the tv! We could sell you anything. On any given
day we could sell you the harbour bridge AND the tunnel underneath
it! But in fact we are, with the tolls we're extracting from
you, we sell it to you every day --- But the catch is you'll
never have ownership. How sweet it is! Win-win for us, lose-lose
for you. Yes mates we have psychologists and linguists full
time on staff. Their job is to work up the correct rhetoric
-- It's all about sales - Hurry act now or you'll miss out!
Pick any country on the globe, I dare you. Our boys will come
up with a sales pitch that will have you salivating to invade
it, bomb it, generally abuse its people and then give them 'democracy.'
It's a global market and we are expanding. Join us or get out
of the way (or dig a sturdy bomb shelter).
Our boys are pushing your buttons even while you sleep. Wake
up with an idea that's original? Think again, but why bother,
you'll only get a headache.
So if you combine all the known unknowns with the knowns that
time reveals was in fact an unknown. Don't worry we've factored
it all in. We know it all.
Now, you simple sailor-folk of the salty tropical marshlands
may still not get it all. But don't worry, you've done wonderfully
well considering the gene pool you've had to work with.
I'm not here to talk down to ye, no, not me. I've come amongst
you, to be one of you. And you're hospitality is underwhelming.
Just think of it all this way if it'll make it any easier.
You're the Master, the Captain of the
grandest triple-masted schooner ever conceived. Surging majestically,
tirelessly before an eternal tradewind under a billowing cloud
of perfectly set sails (a lot like my boat come to think of
it). With each surge down those gigantic clean ocean swells,
she touches twenty knots. It cannot be denied, all this timber,
the planking, the spars have come alive. This timber was once
of the forest, now reborn, transcended, come to a better life,
a prouder one. And the rigging hums, yes it does. This ship
is not merely sailing. No, behold! She makes love to the ocean
and the ocean is grateful, compliant. A lover now strokes her
the way she's always wanted, hungered for. All is in a swoon
of perfection. Imagine all this, and you are the master. Does
not your heart thunder in your chest? Does not your mind say,
So this is being a man? You are very large in the frame of
your life, and now, that frame dissolves
. ALIVE. Your world is all the world and naught
"Hey, Charlie, top this up, will ye? Thanks, mate!"
To think in another life I was a world ranging, respected, ship's
captain of the line, and now in this 'carnation I've got thee
'children overboard' to tinker with. From a great sword fish
to a single sardine. "Sheesh! This stuff's strong! Charlie,
you been doctorin' the brew again?" Mmmmm. Afraid I was
starting to wax lyrical there. Forgive me, gentle reader, and
stay with me.
Do you not think it grand, fellow way-farer, that this timber,
canvas, copper, brass and hemp, should come together? Fashioned
by human hands! A living thing to carve this furrow lovingly
across the trackless, untrammeled ocean. To fetch to us, a destination
that exists only in our dreams. Did you not feel the timbers
shiver, just then? She never tires, gleefully she works and
only asks for more.
Oh, sorry! There I go again. Mind this drink, matey, I'm just
gonna duck off for a cold salt water shower. Ever since me darlin'
lady bosun moved back ashore for a saner life (And I never saw
any demonstrated there after a lifetime of careful observation)
I've felt well
. Deprived, and prone to over-excitement.
Well now, that's much better. Now where was I? My advice is
don't' drink Charlie's brew. Venomous it is. Even to one of
such great mental alacrity as yours truly.
My mind is full of visions of this magnificent schooner, on
the perfect day, surging through a perfect ocean with deeply
spiritual ( sexual?) connotations.
But I promise not to wax lyrical and the Captain's word is good-as.
I just lost my train of thought and wished I'd made the bitter
I was using it as a life's metaphor, that's it, to carry the
less mentally-endowed with the rest of us.
You're the master of this schooner, you
have the finest of everything. The food, the wine, the women,
and a bit of song. The holds are stuffed to the gunnels with
uncountable treasure. You could never spend it all, even if
you were a Buddhist with multiple personalities bound to eternal
reincarnation. Always a distant exotic port to allure you on,
and endless chain of islands just like Hayman, only this time
you can afford it. But the most incredible thing, simply inexplicable,
are the crew. Cheerful to work watches round the clock for next
to nothing, requiring no medical care, no insurance, no superannuation
no long-term plan at all. One expires or breaks a limb? Give
them or their families nothing, shovel them aside and miraculously
another appears to take their place, just like in the Whitsundays.
So there you are, as you slowly strut from stem to stern, the
warm beech deck underfoot, cat-'o-ninetails dripping claret from
your hand, and everywhere the crew smiling back. Begging to
be whipped. A sadist's or politician's fantasy. Here have some
rock salt to rub into the wound, shipmate, I'll put it on your
And that's the way it was. Not so very
long ago men roamed free upon the globe. Incredible but true.
They lived by their achievements or died quickly with their
dishonour. But how times have changed me hearties! Now we've
made dishonour an art form. We've perfected it down on those
cold heartless hills of Canberra and from there our web stretches
coast to coast as the banks spread our insidious deceit. Workers
were once kept submissive by levelling a blunderbuss at their
genitals. But now this bright new millenium loomed and presented
its own problems. Emancipated times. How to keep the masses
enslaved? Easy, we found.
Stamp out millions of small rectangular cards with numbers embossed
onto them. Let them rain down from the sky and as the simple
folk stoop to pick them up they're quickly ensnared
life, returning to work each Monday in a depressive pique.
It's exactly the same principal as laying ten-eighty baits from
a plane, and just as effective.
So there you have it, mates, we've distilled the mojo, the wanderlust
from ye veins, rendered it down like so much whale-blubber and
store it in great oaken casks deep in the hills of Canberra.
We love to pat those barrels and think sweetly what we took
from ye. It makes our small dark hearts glow, it doth!
There are very few free men left now, we're bombing them in
various parts of our fair globe. And here in Australia, we're
on their tails, we have their boat rego numbers, soon they'll
all be eradicated. Easier than rabbits.
You will all be battery hens, emasculated, kept on low grade
feed, and yet every day without fail, you lay us a golden egg.
You got the truth outa ye old captain and I feel better for
it. But are youse worth it? 'Cuz I've broken the Code of the
Conservatives and you should never underestimate their malice.
My ex-cohorts won't be happy. I've withdrawn my consciousness
outa my own rearend and come into the light and eh what, it's
bright out here! But they have ways and means of quieting sods
like me. They can make you suffer and their ways, as I've shown,
are more devious than the devil.
They could force you to sail a wharram cat continuously till
you painfully died of boredom, exposure, grotesque mutated solar
Maybe youse'll see your old captain's carcass squashed wafer-thin
on the road amongst the likewise canetoads, or mysteriously sucked
up into a midwinter cyclone. Or perhaps a simple caption in one
of their newspapers " WRECKAGE OF SV CHILDREN OVERBOARD
FOUND. CAPTAIN RUDDER PRESUMED LOST WHILST ROUNDING THE HORN."
Well then, shipmates, youse'll work it out, even tho' you're
as thick as a besser-block outhouse. If that happens, well then
raise a toast to the captain and remember me fairly. In the meantime,
fill this glass again, will ye? I feel like I just sailed a
boat down the Canning Stock Route!