HAVEN’T SQUANDERED MY RESISTANCE

11 Apr

I was born with much luck, early sufferings – actually surfeit of said luck – had convinced me otherwise, so much so that I squandered many an opportunity to advance higher in the socio-economic pyramid. You have to start at the bottom of the ladder.

My grandfather’s people came here in the nineteenth century when Australia was, as Eric Hobsbawm put it, a paradise of labour. They prospered and became part of that most Corinthian of columns in the Sydney Establishment: the prosperous Irish, products of the excellence of Catholic education. They were dead set in the middle of that column; modestly well-off.

The family business was a small to medium sized firm attached to the construction industry. An Australian institution: the Blue Collar Enterprise. The son and heir always had to start of at the bottom and work his way up. Of course, promotion was assured. 🙂

But what wisdom in such a monarchy? By the time the Son became the Boss he knew the business from the ground up. He’d see what needed changing and what didn’t. How it all worked. What it was like to work here and there. Trouble was the limited pool from which to draw labour. It was, of course, explicitly sexist (girl had babies, boys had jobs). And the son might be guided by tradition but the chances are, sooner or later, you’d get a right berk or downright nasty bastard. It’s difficult for the rich to not spoil their children. Another rub. Thing is sometimes, fellas (quite often really) it’s the girls who’d make a better boss. The Spartans were miserable old sods, but they had wisdom when is came to their women.

It occurs to me that, in my own weird way, I’ve pretty much done the same thing. For what end I don’t know. I do not own the future, but, it is still open. I have relinquished opportunities yes: for prosperity, for advancement, for sex. But I have not relinquished my capacity to choose the many paths available to me in this Our Year of the Almighty Whatever – two-oh-one-one. I have a wide experience, I know what it’s like night shift in a factory. I know what it’s like 7am right thru to the early hours of the next morning. Paper cup coffee swallowed in gulps on the run while answering the relentless call of an electronic master. It never stops long enough for you to quietly view the beauty of the city skyline from high up behind a glass and steel window.

Ferris Bueller said life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around every once in a while you might miss it. If you work the skyscraper high-life; if you get all the way to helicopter level where you only ever need touch the ground to switch to the Gulfstream en route to allover; the higher you go… The more you need to remember what Ferris said. I like the view from high up but it ain’t worth the palava.

Other people I’ve known are heading for that apex of the democratic monoliths that mark the architectural symbol of early Technological Civilization. And, if they’re well-grounded in a spiritual tradition, it doesn’t drive them crazy. If not, well I’ve seen these people – drink.

Dry-cleaning everything is a bitch, forget about it. But I could’ve chosen that life. If I had, I wouldn’t be me tho’, I’d be someone else. And, if it was me personally, I don’t think that someone else would be very nice. It’s moot now because that life is a path closed to me. That sort’ve thing you have to commit when you’re at what Americans call Junior High. I have options but also many burnt bridges.

I am privileged and fortunate. Others are not, they have been chosen for a difficult path. Hard, hard, hard! From the time they’re born. Last night I made another friend (weird: Sunday nights!) and he’s Jewish and Muslim and Christian. We met and spent hours talking, so different and yet connected. He’s struggling, he has a kid, chancy employment opportuities. The migrant experience. The refugee experience. I saw a fragment of his world. Interesting, this city’s third-world underground.

Born on the roof of a Saudi jail, this guy. Truly. Brought up an ultra-orthodox Muslim and now converted to Christianity. Still he’s a son of Beta Israel, believed by many to be famed lost tribe of the ancient Hebrews. He believes Jesus was black. My friend has changed his name to that of a very popular saint (not Francesco d’Assisi). We ate dinner in a restaurant run by Hindus. Lots of Ohm signs about. But also a painting of the Buddha and a newsclipping of Mary MacKillop’s canonization.

Amongst the Faithful, these days, there are those that crave war and there are those instinctively moving toward other creeds – including Atheism – in a spirit of catallaxy. My friend is a mystic and it’s hard to follow him sometimes but he is amongst the latter, he moves toward convergence in a spirit of peace. All the while knowing that outside in the cold distance, a wild cat growls. He knows a lot more about religion then I ever will. I am lucky, I have have been born lucky consequence of war-torn centuries and persistent wilfulness. Of conquest, plunder, slavery, lies: and glory too. What a piece of work is Man:

Jeffersonuniversity

My friend has it tough because his ancestors were on the other side of all that business. I am lucky to meet him. He thinks I am his guide perhaps, but he is mine. I am lost, I think I’m found, I realize I’m still lost and then I find one also lost. But he has read the map. He will show me the way on the other side of the wall erected ‘twixt Reason and Dream in the Western World. What will I show him? How should I know, I don’t own the future. No-one does.

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3 Responses to “HAVEN’T SQUANDERED MY RESISTANCE”

  1. Peter Patton April 14, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    Adrien

    As part of my extended tour de bitchslap over at the cat, I spent the weekend reading all 4 Volumes of Hobsbawm’s history from 1789 to “the Age of Catastrophe”. That was about 1,500 pages in 4 volumes. Though, I am really glad I did, I have to say, I do not share your enthusiasm. In fact, I found his mind incredibly tedious; almost autistic. The sheer tawdriness of a grown man, with all that learnin’ who remained a Stalinist at least till the early 1990s, made me equally angry, as contemptuous.

    I concluded that the only thing he has to contribute is his observations about the mindblowing leviathan of social identities that the revolutionary ideas of proletarian class consciousness that socialists had to navigate in the closing decades of the 19th century.

    On the 20th century, the guy’s a spastic.

  2. Peter Patton April 14, 2011 at 9:22 am #

    Ooh. THE most profound new idea he gave me was the complete uniqueness of Australia’s late 19th century labour movement in being completed unimpressed with socialism and Marxism! I wish he’d spent time on it. No matter, I’ll do it meself.

  3. AC Stewart April 15, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

    The sheer tawdriness of a grown man,

    Peter, stop ripping off Tom Wolfe, that’s my gig.

    I don’t think Hobsbawm’s good for ‘new ideas’. He’s a Marxist after all. And he is not entertaining. But a spastic? I don’t think so. See, you are one of those ‘literary’ Marxists. LIke Raymond WIlliams, you’re working class so the ‘Marxism’ is grounded in interests.

    Hobsbawm is the kind of Marxist only someone born and raised in close proximity to the corridors of power can be: a Lenin type Marxist. They possess the view of battle from the hill where the generals are. HIs Marxism is not grounded in interests but in an aspect vision of a perfect civilization.

    So, which historian would you recommend.

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