Australia, Religion, Politics – A Discordant Blend

Another – dare I call it – colour piece from the inimitable Jaycee. Many thanks!

My first connection with the amalgam of religion and politics started at an early age. 1956. Grade One at St. Theresa’s Catholic School. It was late summer, I know, because I remember seeing the sharp black shadow of the corner of the tuckshop building angled across the verandah just outside the classroom door. Also, I suffered from an incurable blight of my birthday being on the very day school returned after the summer holidays. I have to surmise from my now advanced age and experience that the door was open to let in a cross-breeze as the heat and odour from fifty odd (that’s ‘odd’ as in generic, not psychotic – we weren’t protestants, you know!) kiddies would be too much for even the most hardened teacher to bear.

She was a small young nun, was our teacher. Sister Mary Francis. I remember that too, because I loved her as I grew older. Well, her face at least, for it was still the days of the habit. But hang on a sec – back on topic!

Late summer, just before noon (the shadow, remember?), when the Principal, ‘Mother’ Mary Margaret, came into the room and said “Good morning, children”. .”Good Morning–‘Mother’–Marrgrit” (automatic chorus). And we were soon exhorted to say a Hail Mary to the Virgin Mary so that communism wouldn’t take over the world. We all had to scramble to kneel in the aisle between desks.

It seems to have worked.

But it never cured my hives, you know. God = mysterious ways. Though I have to wonder: if greed and envy, those two driving forces of rampant capitalism and prime suspects in the list of the seven deadly sins, get no mention in “prayers to stop taking over the world” but communism, a doctrine in its purest intent (just like religion) being a plan for equality of communities on earth gets canned as being “ungodly” – what gives?

This idea that there is a whole population waiting with bated breath for some god-like revelation that will fix the economy, solve climate change, steer the nation to a more moral and ethical path (that’s the end of religion then!) and make the Liberal Party look like a reincarnation of the Church of The Sacred Heart Chapel Choir all singing in tune … well … it just ain’t gonna happen, so put away the banners, the prayer-books and the excuses. There never has been and there never will be divine intervention in Australian things – ask the indigenous people! – except in your own mind and in your private dreams. Best wishes and good luck to you on that!

But now we have these fanaticised young men sacrificing their sweet youth and future potential to the dubious reward of a heavenly afterlife. .Yes, the Mormon Church has a lot to answer for. as, of course do the other Abrahamic religions. I am forced to recall the dangers these impetuous youths place themselves in with the tale from one of my mates in days gone by, when he was having a face to face brawl with his wife in their housing unit – a screaming, plate-thrower of a brawl. He, typical male, was strategically stationed by the most convenient escape route, she, cunning woman, by the ammunition, when the doorbell rang. Being just there he flung the door open just as the last dulcet tones of Avon Calling! faded away, to see two wide-eyed, smartly dressed young men (one with finger still attached to bell-button) standing there. You know them: sharp-pressed white shirt, slim tie, black suit trousers, patent leather shoes so polished you could see your soul or women’s underwear (or perhaps both) in the reflection. One studied look up, then down and to the satchel was enough for my mate. “Ge-het fucked!!” was his most insalubrious greeting for these men of god. The door slammed and the young men turned away, but not before being heard to mutter in that distinctive American drawl, “Well, mahey the lawwd have merrsee on HIS soul!” Dangerous work, the work of god.

However, it is an American thing, surely, this religiousising of politics in the West – the vacant ecclesiastical stare, the glib reference to god. It’s certainly un-Australian. All those childhood years of catholic indoctrination taught me only two things: (a) never take religion seriously, and (b) always leave the Melbourne Cup sweep kitty in the hands of a nun. Not to say religion hasn’t penetrated (is that the right word?) into the political life here, it’s just that in Australia –I like to believe –it has followed the well-intentioned path of European Christianity via plain, run of the mill bribery and corruption. sort of like Fagan and his child army. god bless ’em – just simple down-to-earth deceit. Why, even when I was an altar boy under old Father Collins (be nice), I could see there was a degree of honest intent in the religious soul. Once, I snuck a look around the door from the altar boys’ into the priest’s vestry and there he was, with a small glass of the altar wine in hand and he gazing deeply into it, presumably looking for its soul (I’ve seen the same look since, with other men, before tackling a “hair of the dog” on a Sunday morn). Then he softly consecrated it with, “Saint Benedict, bless my soul ! ” and quaffed it in one gulp, kissed the cross on the surplice, and ascended to the fray. It was Pentecost – he must have needed it!

Tho’ surely, I can’t help but feel that if these young people were given a glimpse, a vision splendid, through the window of sage old age. they might be inclined to pass off all those incandescent actions and violence as nothing more than what seemed – a good idea at the time – and go a different course. Such is the impetuousness of youth. Foolishness and impropriety are at their beck and call, and it can only be luck and chance that get some through the passage of youthful intensity, for there must be some truth in the Boomers’ chant that fitted the age like a dick in a sock and served a whole generation so well: Make love, not war.

On that note I remember sitting in the Darwin Hotel one balmy ’70’s afternoon with my old-time mining and travelling mate, Bernie Babler, and talking of one childhood associate: Louie Lewourick, a keen, gangling always opened-mouthed, spikey-haired lad with coke-bottle glasses.

“I remember us two kids, the day after Guy Fawkes night,” Bernie recounted. “At the park we found a skyrocket that hadn’t been used so we fired it off, keeping an eye on where it landed so we could get it back,” … a sip of beer … “It landed behind the Caltex garage there on South Road and we ran like hell to get it, but we couldn’t find it. There was this old canvas-hooded car there – a Whippet or Model ‘T’ or something with the big petrol tank behind the open back seat. It had no petrol cap and I said to Louie, Maybe it went in the tank?” … another sip of beer … “I gave him a box of matches I had [all boys had matches – good scouts] and he lit one and held it to the opening to look in.” The result I will leave to your imagination – except that luckily the tank had been without a cap and empty for so long that there was no volatile explosion. Only a whooshing rush of heat and flame out of the opening that left Louie, when he looked up at Bernie in shock and surprise with his glasses falling down off his face … “He – he looked like Al Jolson in one of those minstrel shows.” Bernie laughed at the memory, until I asked him what in heaven’s name made him think of doing such a stupid thing. He sipped his beer and started to formulate a ‘rollie’. “Dunno … seemed like a good idea at the time.”

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781 thoughts on “Australia, Religion, Politics – A Discordant Blend

  1. Oh yes, yes, yes! Do it Julia!

    Simon ‏@Jovianshadow
    I want to see the PM pull out the knitting gear in the HoR when the LOTO stands up & moves to suspend SSO’s!

  2. Yes re knitting ….what a crime ! Fat ankles , big ear lobes AND she knits ! How can Australia be prosperous with her at the helm ? We want low interest rates and low unemployment rates and better health & education outcomes and infrastructure and good relationships with our trading partners……..Oh , wait……

  3. I confess to watching a few minutes of Q&A. last night till the moment T. Jones asked Anne Summers DIRECTLY to respond to a question and just when she started to work into it, he cut her off with “I’d like to bring the other member of the panel into this..and we have another question from the audience on this topic.”……I mean!..really!..is the guy a jerkoff or what!?
    That’s when I walked out of the room.

    Seriously..what I want to see is Rudd AND all the white-anters INCL’ those advisers like Hawker…totally thrown out of the Labor party and their seats thrown open for new candidates.
    Mark Scott sacked for incompetence from the ABC. and replaced with an apolitical CEO.
    The press gallery passes being revoked for incompetence in reporting ANY policy and all names with a majority of Fifth Estate journo’s being thrown into a hat and redrawn and reissued to the press-gallery.
    Murdoch being declared a “Persona non grata” for interfering in and attempting to pervert the natural course of elections in Aust’ and all communication with his companies banned.

  4. Thanks for the link to Corinne Grant’s article, C@tmomma!
    (http://thehoopla.com.au/politics-dumbing-begun/)

    Just finished reading it, and it’s a corker.

    Where’s our comedy shows these day like Glasshouse, that could take the piss out of the media and say it like it is? Corinne, Wil Anderson and Adam Hills would tear shreds off the Coalition’s ‘pamphlet in lieu of any policy’.

  5. socksfullofsand,
    Yes we do need the Glasshouse back, pity mark scott took it off, possibly on the orders of John Howard himself.

  6. The problem with Q&A, really, is that it’s not designed to be the type of show people want it to be. People expect it to be some kind of weekly Community Cabinet, but it’s much more structured than that. It’s more like the Tony Jones Variety Hour with special guests and some audience participation. He never lets you forget it’s his baby. So you tune in each week looking for an hour of good discussion, and what you get is about five minutes of that, twenty minutes of finely honed political lines, ten minutes of light humour, and the rest of the time Jones is reminding you who’s in charge.

    It would work much better if it had an alternating panel from week to week – two members from one side of politics, three people with experience in the area the Ministers cover, and an audience contributing. The following week two shadow Ministers and three experts – different topic. That way, instead of things degenerating into a he-said-she-said verbal stoush, you can get a proper grilling for the MPs, and no opportunity for them to shift focus away from themselves.

    But they don’t want that, they want entertainment, a bit of colour and action, and they’d rather leave the topic unresolved at the end, with no-one any the wiser for it. It’s a pity, because a lot of people are interested in it.

    Of course it’s telling that even that soft format is a bit too hard-hitting for Abbott. There’s a real fear in the LIberal Party that the man can simply not function unless he’s stage-managed and restricted to appearances that last less than five minutes.

  7. I don’t know about the Glass House. I’m picturing what it would be like in this political climate and I can only imagine it’d be like The Project.

    Sure, Corinne would try to keep them off Labor’s back, but they’d probably still be waspish about same sex marriage and asylum seekers and leadership as they are on the Project.

  8. Yes re knitting ….what a crime ! Fat ankles , big ear lobes AND she knits !

    And according to a Liberal Senator, it just shows how “out of touch with the people” she is.

    FFS!

    Now knitting is anti-democratic?

    Mark my words, this will be mulled over by the likes of Paul Kelly and eventually come to be accepted as a pathetic gaffe, own-goal, whatever… that marked the beginning of the end of… whatever.

  9. ian

    You neglected to mention that part of the morning where the PM pores over every word in every newspaper just in case, in a small article on Page 17, someone has inadvertently misconstrued something that she has said or done.
    It’s a fruitless exercise but we know how obsessed JG is with her personal image.

    Having satisfied herself that the print media is as meticulously accurate as is humanly possible, she probably settles in for a careful scan of the morning programmes on TV, checking that her hair and makeup are portrayed faithfully.

    Staff feed her a steady stream of updates on what Kevin is up to – where he’s been, what he’s said, what tie he is wearing. It is reassuring to know that our PM is on top of the important subjects.

  10. “Goats”! It’s like the Reverse Live Cattle Trade to the Indonesian Police it seems. That’s how the Polisi in Indonesia, the lynchpins in the People Smuggling trade, refer to the asylum seekers.

    And Tony Abbott thinks he can stop it, when there’s $20000/boat at the rate of 3 boats/month, in it for them, just for this one syndicate?

    Tell the Australian electorate they’re dreaming if they think voting for Tony Abbott, in the hope that he’ll be able to fulfill his promise to ‘Stop the Boats!’, will become the reality they crave.

    Though, I must admit, that this policy is going the way of the Cobra Strike/Python Squeeze/Mosquito Bite that has become the effect of the ‘Carbon Tax’ on Whyalla and the greater economy at large.

    Thus have we gone from, The Boatphone to ‘Stop the Boats!’ to ‘Turn the Boats Around…when safe to do so, to ‘The Indonesian government and their representatives may not say it publicly, but, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more!, to, ‘Well, we hope we can get them down to the lowest level John Howard got them to, in our First Term, maybe…just don’t mention the complicating factor of the High Court decision’.

    The same thing appears to be happening to their economic argument too.
    Slip Slidin’ Away.

  11. Look, the MSM can’t report on the seven Coalition senators crossing the floor last night. They’ve just discovered the the PM knits. Priorities, people.

  12. It’d be nice if they could discuss policies and the passing of legislation, and they’d do it to if their hands weren’t tied. But getting to the bottom of a knitting scandal uses up a lot of resources. There’s still a lot to do before they can link it to Rudd.

  13. Another thought – maybe the ALP could find a way to use Rudd. He could leak ALP policy achievements to Laurie Oakes during the campaign, and he can report them as scoops. He’d be the first to publish them, so it would be an exclusive.

  14. The Gutless Wonders of the ‘Rudd Labor’ faction of the Labor Caucus didn’t let out a peep in the meeting just concluded apparently. Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd were both there too.

  15. It’s an absolute disgrace that PMJG should appear in a photo in a ‘wimmins mag’ hobby knitting at home just like many other Australian’s do.

    It’s a disgrace I tell ya!

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