So, here’s some gut feelings that – if someone were to pay me to do a PhD – I’d try to turn into something a little more rigorous. But, of course, it’s probably been done?
It’s taken me a long time (though to be fair, I’ve not lived in Oz as an “adult”), but I think I’ve cracked a part of the problem Australians (men mostly, but women too) of a certain vintage are having adjusting to the New Realities.
It’s based on a few things that I knew separately, but am beginning to pull (wrongly?) together. I’d love to know what people think…
Here’s a few historical factoids-
* For the first few decades of White settlement (or invasion, if you’re looking at it down the wrong end of a musket), the gender imbalance was ferocious enough in the cities. God only knows what it was like in the Outback. Presumably, therefore, rather a lot of Love that dare not speak its name. And, naturally, vehement denial of this. So – hatred for poofters and hatred for sheilas.
Still and all, use of Aboriginal women (“gins”) for sexual purposes. Thus the lovely phrase “gin jockeys.” (See here for my reflections on a place called Gin’s Leap.)
* Hatred of the weird weird environment. Trees that never drop their leaves. Giant hopping rats. Poor soil. No water. Mammals that lay eggs and all other sorts of perversities and backwardness. All them bloody living fossils. A biological cringe, almost.
* Stone Age people worth hunting into extinction. Much as we might like to be silent about it later.
And, of course, the Aborigines are seen as part of the land, to be exploited/moved etc. And the woman/nature link goes way back. To be “protected” in the same way the mafia “protect” shopkeepers in towns throughout Sicily etc… There are probably some reinforcing loops that I know nowt about too.
So, as Faulkner said “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” And as Billy Bragg said “the past is always knocking incessant, trying to break through, into the present.”
And until very recently (the 1960s) everyone knew who was on top. Mr Whitey. Then the 60s came along (mostly in the 70s and 80s – it is a colony at the arse end of nowhere) and the cat is well and truly out of the bag.
The blacks got their land, the women got some (very) high-profile jobs… And the Nature? She’s getting her revenge in good old-fashioned ways of soil loss, salination, drought and flood…
All the things Mr Whitey thought he had under control. While he has, it seems, won the class war, and has had to bare his teeth in the race war, in the end, he is not the hegemon he once was. Of course, this makes him even more dangerous…
Finally, are we ready for an Asian lesbian as Prime Minister? Probs not – sorry Penny.
Things to read:
The Death of Nature by Carolyn Merchant. And more recent stuff.
Women and the Bush: Forces of Desire in the Australian Cultural Tradition by Kay Schaffer
The Real Matilda by Miriam Dixson