Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Broken by Sean Crawley


There is a broken spoon in my coffee jar. It is one of those thick ceramic soup spoons that you get in Asian restaurants. This one has a delicate blue design around its rim and its handle is snapped off. Because it fits inside the jar and can still scoop, it survived the purge that I subjected upon everything in my life about three years ago.
It's hard for me to say, but that was back around when my daughter committed suicide. There I said it, every time it's a bit easier - just a little bit though.
She threw herself out of a window at her workplace in town. It caused more than the usual chatter and horror. Not because it was suicide, that was happening all over the place, but no one could remember anyone jumping out of a building recently - certainly not a female doing something like that. Girls were prone to pill eating or wrist slashing, and the boys, well they either hanged themselves or drove their cars at terrifying speed into sturdy road-side gum trees.
Teresa was my only child and only twenty when she took matters into her own hands to end her suffering for good. I couldn't understand how a mood could be terminal. It was the ten years of sexual abuse perpetrated on her by her aunty that did the damage. But what do you do about that? The string of counsellors she saw all tried different ways to fix her. One therapist, for $150 per hour, watched her play in a sand pit in a fancy glass walled room overlooking the bay.
It's a recognised therapeutic modality,” the stiletto wearing psych said when I flinched at the bill. Guess sand's not so cheap these days.
Countless times she had to repeat all the sordid details – each and every expert wanted to hear it for themselves. From the initial and supposedly innocent brushing of nipples, right through to the penetrative abuse, Teresa reluctantly told it over and over. I don't blame her for giving up.
When Teresa's mother, my ex – and I say that with extra exness – found out about the atrocities, she refused to believe any of it. The perpetrator was her sister, Teresa's aunty, my sister-in-law, the artist. By the way, her art is pretentious crap. The bitch eventually admitted to the nipple stuff but denied anything else.
I was only being affectionate. It was just tickling. I love Teresa so much. How dare you think I could ever do any of those other things!”
At first the deniers claimed that the counsellors must have planted this pornography into Teresa's mind. Later they recalled the fact that Teresa once took an Ecstasy pill at a musical festival – undeniable proof that the silly girl was not to be trusted.
It was probably laced with LSD!” they said. For fuck sake, give me a break. I believed Teresa.
When the school's year advisor told all of Year Ten about how the parents' authority over their children expires at sixteen, Teresa must have felt empowered. She blew out the candles on the birthday cake and announced that Aunty Silvianne was a lesbian who had been raping her for years. By the way Silvianne is not her real name, it's her artist's name. Her real name is Cheryl and, when the truth came out, I used to call her by her birth name and watch her go ape-shit. How could anyone believe such a phony? Sadly, a lot of fools do. The police, well they mightn't actually believe Cheryl, but without physical evidence it's a case of one person's word against another's. Frankly, I don't think they could be bothered.
Teresa was scared of her mother. I'm ashamed to admit it but so was I. But that night when the candle smoke was still twisting in the air, and when Teresa's mother responded to her own daughter's plea for help by calling her a liar, I found some balls and kicked my wife out. The hugs I got from Teresa confirmed that I had at last done something right.
I have to thank my daughter for teaching me the greatest lesson of my life: you can't fix everything, sometimes you just have to let go. I realise now that I had hung on to Teresa for too long. I couldn't fix her, and neither could anyone else, no matter how much I paid.
Why didn't I let her go? Even if that meant having to kick her out of home; maybe, just maybe, she would have survived. I will never know.

Three months after the funeral, my brother came and picked me up from the hospital. Somehow I woke up one day and could feel the sun and hear the birds again. A drug and alcohol counsellor who did the rounds said something about surrounding yourself with decent people, and throwing out all the rubbish. And he didn't just mean the empty sherry bottles. So that's what I did, and boy did I do it with gusto.
The ex was long gone, she was back in England. I heard on the grape vine that she had turned lesbian – go figure that if you want, personally I don't bother. And Teresa...poor Teresa...she is buried under a tree at my brother's acreage by the Macleay River. She asked for that in a letter that I found under her pillow two days after she jumped. The place was all mine and ripe as hell for a good going over.
I couldn't believe just how much broken and useless stuff was hanging around.
Old phones with no cameras, cameras with no phone, cassette based stereos, floppy-disced computers, superceded gaming consoles, VHS video gear, burnt-out hair straighteners, face-lacerating electric razors, and un-rechargeable electric toothbrushes all became one big tangled pile ready for the e-waste depot.
Stained, ripped and embarrassingly once fashionable clothing, undies with no elastic, un-matched socks, see-through bed sheets, tired brownish pillows, moth-eaten blankets, thin frayed beach towels, two thousand coat hangers, and dozens of dusty pairs of assorted footwear, were boxed for the Vinnie's volunteers to sort through.
Busted furniture, scratched CDs with no cases, CD cases with no CDs, yellow paged books falling apart at the binding, mildewy picture frames, chipped crockery, aluminium cookware, all the stuff nobody wants, all that crap ended up on the footpath out front. Good luck road-side collector nerds.
After I unburdened the house, I focussed my new hobby onto humans. Friends, relatives, work colleagues, neighbours, local shop assistants, business owners, telemarketers, every member of my species that I came across was run through my “broken-or-not” filter.
About half my friends needed scuttling. I was Captain Ruthless. Anyone who didn't float my boat was ceremoniously scuttled to become an artificial reef for some other species of fish – my days as a sucker fish were over, that's for sure.
Then the relos got the once over. How could I have overlooked such familial psychopathy? It was right there in the family photo album that my sister made for my fortieth birthday. Only four relatives remained, that's plenty I thought. By the way sis, the album went into the fire, sorry, but it was a book of side-show freaks really.
At work, I began ignoring or standing up to the arse-holes. I laughed at my department manager's attempt to pull me into line. He went and chucked a tantrum to the big, big manager. Now she, who I always liked, she had her shit together. She came and saw me. I spoke frankly, she nodded a lot, and then she said, “Leave it to me.”
Later that day we all stood around and watched our department head pack up his desk into a Reflex copy paper box and walk out the back door - which of course set off the fire alarm. Best day at work for a long while, let me tell you.
In less than two weeks my life had been stripped down to contain only good stuff - no crap.
Simple, uncomplicated, real.
Teresa, I am sorry. I should have let you go, it would have hurt but it might have been better for the both of us. When you jumped that day I know you fixed yourself the best you could. Rest in peace little one. And I thank you, you fixed me. It is the wrong way around that a daughter fixes her dad, but so much is upside down these days. I will come as often as I can to your tree by the river. You picked the most magic place and your uncle is a good man; he was good to you and good to me, and that can give us all some hope.

The spoon without a handle that fits neatly in my coffee jar slipped from my hands and smashed on the floor. It will have to go in the bin now, but not before I punch the fridge and scream at the cobwebs swinging from the ceiling. 

Mr Denton Where Are You?

Dear Andrew,

On Monday the 2nd of November, 2015, Q and A recorded and aired an episode that had Paul Erhlich on the panel. His appearance was ineluctably refreshing - he had no personal or domestic political agenda and he spoke frankly on some topics that, sadly these days it seems, are universally taboo. He opined on religious education of children, growth of economics and human population, mining, taxes, possibility of nuclear war and the scourge of right wing neo-conservatism.

It was easy to feel the discomfort of the host, some of the panel and much of the audience when not only such taboo subjects were raised but when someone dared to offer an opinion contrary to beliefs that are widely deemed unquestionable (let me state economic growth as one example of a sacrosanct belief in the modern world). I get the feeling that the debate on this show is strictly controlled to be within tight, acceptable boundaries. Sure, sometimes the debate is allowed to become quite heated or fierce within those boundaries, but some territory (perfectly valid and pertinent territory) is strictly off limits.

It is outrageous that this show is the most open debate that is available for TV viewers and it's even more outrageous that the ABC has recently been held to ransom by right winged governments and mainstream media to present a so called balanced view. These balanced view advocates essentially want extreme right-winged neo-conservative views to be able to be voiced unchallenged. And if that requires outright lies to be aired, and character assassinations to be the norm, then so be it. It is my belief these forces want to keep the masses in a state of fear and therefore conservative in their voting habits – no wonder the poor old Greens fare so badly on election days.

After this show I began to think about the desperate need in this country for a more open and fair debate on subjects and opinions that have been deemed off limits. In my reactionary mood I do confess to a desire for radical left wing viewpoints to be aired. I want (and I believe a large number of us want) a show based on facts, a show that is framed in secular humanist language, a show that gives a platform to selfless well informed individuals and a show willing to tackle the taboo subjects. At heart I want a show where hatred, lies and deception are called out immediately. The Q and A fact check is a great thing but I fear that it is too little too late. It also has no teeth and by the time it publishes its findings the liars have achieved their goal.

Personally, I am passionate about the all pervasive myth that growth is good. Talking against population growth and economic growth in particular is taboo. I believe the mantra of ever increasing improvement that permeates our schools, our sports and in the workplace, is just another variation of the growth myth that is detrimental to our general well-being. The growth myth is underpinned by a world view that paints Homo sapiens as a flawed being marked by sin that must continually strive to improve and redeem itself. This is fundamentally a religious construct but also a modern Hobbesian perspective on humanity. I want a show that will get us thinking about and challenging these fundamental ideas we have about ourselves. These crazy ideas that have us speeding ever faster and faster to inevitable collapse. These ideas that are taboo to oppose.

In my fantasising I was trying to think who could produce and/or host a show such as this. You came to mind.

To my surprise the very next week I watched you on Q and A advocating for Euthanasia Laws – talk about taboo land. Your arsenal of factual information, your empathy for humanity, your rational and calm demeanour and your admirable and fearless challenging of emotionally based language and questionable facts were as refreshing as Paul Ehrlich was the week before. It confirmed my opinion that you could be the person to host a TV show of the ilk I am trying to describe.

I am sure you are a busy man and I believe you retired from TV altogether. But I sensed a passion in you that might indicate that you are sick of the bullshit and narrow debate that pollutes the airwaves these days. I wonder if you may be itching to get back on set to blow away the infuriating constraints that are holding Australia back from being a land of no bullshit, a land of fair dinkum down to earth people who don't blindly and mindlessly follow the psychopaths with all the money and power.

Kind regards,

Sean Crawley.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Time for Compassion

Dear Prime Minister,

Sometimes, when you're smack bang in the middle of a storm that's been going on for a while, it's hard to figure out what the fuck is really going on. Insanity becomes the norm, up becomes down and knowing your arsehole from breakfast time is a real challenge. And when that shit storm is of your own making, well, it's not unusual to tell the odd porky pie and to get a bit antsy about all the criticism. And we all know how easily the adrenaline kicks in and the need to destroy all of one's enemies from the past and present becomes an unstoppable obsession. We are reasonable folk, we understand - it's bloody hard being in charge of shit, let alone a whole nation. One can go a bit crazy being the big boss – there's no shame in that. Please note Tony: mental illness is common, it's not a sign of weakness and the prospects are good if you seek help. And guess what? I have a solution for ol' China, and I feel the time for compassion is nigh. I will admit I was getting a bit cranky with you and the fire in me belly was not doing me, or the dog, any good.

Let's face it, the game's over Tony, hang up the gloves son, have a rest.

I've got a hunch that you want to be remembered kindly by history and, believe me, a record loss at the polls will one almighty piss weak footnote. Compare that to the glory that would rain down, like a Golden Shower, upon a PM who had the balls to chuck in the towel and say, “Fair shake of the sauce bottle, I had a shot and I stuffed up. Time for someone else to have a go. There's a whole bunch of folk, way better than little old me, that could do this country proud. I apologise for all the suffering and the international embarrassment.”

I know you will find this counter-intuitive, but that's the bloody brilliance of it. So much so, it just may even get Malcolm, or Scott, or Julie, or Christopher, or whoever, in at the next election. And if it doesn't and Labour get in you can rest easy that you won't be charged for a GP to write up a mental health plan, which you may need when they approve a wind turbine, or ten, up on the ridge at French's Forest.

Give it some thought Tones, seriously, imagine the universal impression of magnanimity if the bloke in the #1 top job humbly stepped down to let a mate step up and have a shot! It's so freakin Ozzie mate, that I wouldn't be surprised if Banjo bloody Patterson rose up from the dead to pen “The Ballad Of Tony Abbott” which would become an instant classic to be recited by flag draped primary school kiddies for generations to come. And that pesky the dual citizenship issue? That will disappear like coal mining in the 21st Century – that's right cobber we are in the 2000s – crazy eh? You'd not only be a legend, but your parishioner mates will likely petition Pope Frankie for a sainthood – Saint Tony, patron saint of the nose (he woke up, smelt his own shit, and dug a hole and buried it along with himself, talk about one-upping the IS death cult in the matrydom stakes!)

Look, all that glory stuff is one thing, but your health Tony is what is really important. I'm worried about you. I've mentioned the mental stuff but have you had a physical check up lately? I'm no GP myself - I've thought of it but the Uni Fees put me off a bit - but I'm sure I've detected the signs of early onset Parkinson's and Dementia a few times. That interview that you did with Mark Riley back in 2011 was a red flag for me – yeh, shit does happen eh? And that was before you even became PM, these things don't get better all by themselves Tony. But then again maybe you are seeing a GP? That constant dry mouth that you just can't seem to wet with that forked tongue of yours, that's a side effect of medication, surely? But really you shouldn't just be treating the symptoms Tony, you really should have a break. I've noticed that twitch in your left eye as well, the stupid media are calling it a misogynist wink, but as usual they're wrong - whose side are on they on anyway? And isn't it always the case that those little quirks of nature happen at the worst moments, and always when someone’s got a camera on you. And are all those cortisols pumping through your body giving you a skin rash under your arms and in the groin? I mean the way you walk looks like you're in a lot of discomfort. If one didn't know better they might think you were a cowboy ape. In the interim, try some Johnson's Baby Powder, I'm sure Peta can duck down to Woolies and get some for you.

I know you love your family Tony, and even though you still have a mortgage, I think you can manage to take a well deserved extended break and spend more time with the gals. I know I may be out of line here but I get the feeling that Margie is need in of some loving, if you know what I mean (twitch twitch). And your three not so bad looking daughters, how long is since you had the time to do some of that Dad stuff with them. You know, say, have an onion eating contest just for laughs. Or maybe a family pedal to Perth and back before brekky. The spawn of your loins deserve that quality time. Scholarships and cheap rent are great, but now they know they haven't got a half brother the only familial testostorone they're gonna be able to sniff is from you bud, you know that. What a precious gift you could give them by quitting your day job.

I could be all groovy and righteous and say that I want you to step down for the sake of the sick, the elderly, the children, the indigenous, the women, the refuges, the unemployed, the gay folk, the wind farm manufacturers, the trees, the koalas, and the Barrier Reef, and though I do care about all that bleeding heart crap, it's you Tony that I genuinely am concerned for. You care about us, you tell us so, and you've been working every day for us, you tell us that too, so it's time we cared about you for a change. You must have some sick leave up your sleeve, take it – fair dinkum that's what it's there for – hang on your not on casual are you? And don't you worry your silly little lizard head about everything coming to a grinding halt, the torch you put to red tape and the unions will guarantee that Gina and Twiggy and Gerry and Coles and Woolies will keep us all on the treadmill 24/7 – open for business just like you said.

Tony I hope you don't mind me ignoring normal protocol for a change. I live in the seat of Fischer up on the Sunshine Coast. You may remember coming up here in 2006 for a wedding, I think it cost you $609.10? Beautiful place up here, which reminds me I better get up to the Great Barrier Reef soon, the future grand kiddies will ask about it for sure. I know I should broach this matter of your health and the leadership of the nation with my local federal MP, Mal Brutus Brough, but I was worried if I planted a seed in that silly bugger's brain you could end up on the menu at a fund raiser. It would just be all in good humour of course, but I hear Mal's got access to your diary and a charity match cricket bat, which is a dangerous proposition when you consider his IQ and infamous retributional sex drive.

Go out on your own terms Tony. Write your own future, I mean you have an unmatched skill at rewriting history, so put your talent to good use, and write that retirement plan now. Do a 180 and look at the inevitable future that awaits you if you keep turning up to work sick. Euthanasia is illegal, but when has the law ever applied to your colleagues? I'm right aren't I. Think of yourself for once Tony and get out now before it's too late.

Good luck cobber,


Tuesday, 18 August 2015

The Quiet Man Who Fed the Octopus

2...beep. 5...bip. 5...bip. 2...beep. 4...barp. #...blip.
The door bolt clunked open and buzzed. The subject, head down and hands in pockets, pushed through with his hip and walked into the foyer. He didn’t notice the lady watering the aspidistras, but she saw him. Later to be known as witness D, she was often fussing around in the foyer and she didn’t miss a trick.
“They always wore hooded jackets and most of them had beards,” she answered. Could she single out the subject though? “He always opened the door with his hip and he never ever looked at me. All the others looked and smiled.” And then: “Yes, he was definitely wearing a blue hoodie, black jeans and fluoro green runners on that day...that horrible day. I will never forget it.”
At unit 7A the subject removed the leather thonging from around his neck and with the key threaded on it, opened the door. The apartment was clean and sparsely furnished. A table and two chairs occupied the dinette. The kitchen had a fridge, a kettle, and six small glass tumblers sat inverted on a tea towel next to the sink. Everything else was bare. One bedroom door was closed but the second was open to reveal an assortment of rectangular mats arranged in neat rows facing one corner. The bathroom and toilet doors were closed. The lounge room had one sofa and on the wall opposite hung a large white sheet. A video camera on a tripod stood in the middle of the room. On the wall adjacent to the sofa, in stark contrast to the rest of the place, was an aquarium. It was a six footer, illuminated and humming. On the gravel sat an octopus.
“Hello Ahmed,” said the subject to the mollusc.
Ahmed blinked and unfurled one of its tentacles – a greeting of sorts. The subject smiled and proceeded to the freezer. He withdrew one pilchard and returned to slip it quickly under the tightly sealed glass lid. Except for its pulsing siphon, Ahmed remained motionless, watching as the pilchard sunk to the bottom corner.
“It will be thawed soon my friend.”
From a built-in a cupboard, in the hallway that led to the toilet and bathroom, the subject removed a black backpack and placed it on the dining table. In the meshed side pocket was a piece of paper with a mobile phone number written on it. He took out his mobile phone and punched in the number. He hit SAVE, looked up to ceiling for a moment, and then punched in PARADISE. He hit SAVE again.
Noting the time, the subject twitched and reached into the back pocket of his jeans. He removed three warm creased envelopes. He placed them on the table, arranging them neatly like the mats in the bedroom. The first was labelled Mum, the next Kelly, and the third envelope was labelled Yousef, with 'not to be opened until 12' written in brackets underneath. He looked up to see Ahmed changing colour and moving from his corner towards the pilchard.
The subject placed the key on the leather thonging next to the envelopes. He slung the backpack over his right shoulder and left the unit.
Witness D would later respond, “Yes, when he left he was carrying a black backpack,” and, “No, I did not notice anything different about his demeanour.”

The train was more crowded than usual for a Friday afternoon. The regular commuters, in various shades of workplace, pretended not to notice the dozens of noisy young people. Their uniforms, worn to blend in at this weekend's music festival, were much more vibrant. The subject sat on a bench seat facing inwards in the vestibule section of the carriage. The backpack was nestled between his knees, and he looked straight ahead without expression. It was hard to ignore the many nubile female buttocks hanging out of the bottom of denim short shorts at eye level, but the subject remained poker-faced. Jostling, giggling, and a cocktail of modern deodorants and perfumes assaulted his other senses.
A member of the party crowd spotted the subject, “Hey, Brad. Is that you?” He edged over to squeeze in on the bench seat. “Man you look so different, haven’t seen you in years bro. Hey, have some calamari.”
The seafood eater, though at least ten years older than the other punters, sported a dozen assorted festival bands on his left wrist.
“Hey come on Brad, have some calamari. It’s the best stuff to line your stomach. You’re going to the festival aren’t you?”
“Thank you, but I can’t eat that type of food,” replied the subject.
“Allergy eh? My old man blows up like a balloon if he even looks at a prawn.”
The man boy pointed at the backpack. “You know they’ll go through that with a fine tooth comb. Pretty hard to get anything in these days. You've got to drop the pingers, and skull down as much as you can, before you get there. You know, pre-load. So Brad, you going or what?”
The subject shook his head. He twisted his head and squinted to look through the scratched window. The harbour and late afternoon sun disappeared with a whoosh of changing air pressure. The fluorescent lighting became apparent.
The subject took out his mobile and hit CONTACTS.
He scrolled down and stopped at PARADISE.
“So, where you going then Brad?”
The subject held up his phone to show his long lost mate the name on the screen.
“Paradise? What are you on Brad? I’d like to give that a try.” The hyped-up calamari-eating hipster laughed.
“Yes, paradise my friend.”

The subject hit the green call button as he kicked the backpack out under the legs of the excited party crowd.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Three Strikes and You're Out!

I just read some articles on the internet about a campaign against reading books written by straight white males. It confirms a feeling that I have had lately that it is quite fashionable at the moment in the literary world, to prejudge the writing, and therefore the writers themselves, who happen to find themselves born with one particular skin colour, gender and sexual inclination as deluded privileged tyrants who deserve to be ignored, even punished.

The issue of white privilege is a hot topic in other arenas as well. Politics, the environment, employment, health, and so on, are all realms of human experience that are coming under the spotlight. And so it should be. The current state of the world is testament to a paradigm that has been racist, sexist, homophobic and a whole host of other negativisms. A correction is well overdue. But as a straight white male, is my only option to slink away, disappear, cower, confess and accept a conviction of guilty and a sentence of banishment? Because I have been born into the wrong skin, with wrong gender and wrong sexual inclination, have I no rights to pursue happiness, fulfilment, equality and justice for myself and for others – even the non-straight non-white non-male folk? Am I by default invalid, a non-entity?

This is my opinion – people who are promoting this point of view, people who are screaming at white people, especially white males, and especially straight white males to be silent, to be ashamed, to accept a judgement that our every thought is a delusion, and our every action is a crime, those people who demand our submission, are only further damaging their own efforts for justice and equality. Can't you see that your arbitrary discrimination is exactly what you are rejecting in the first place? I assume many of you folk that I am talking about would be of the anti-war persuasion, but aren't you declaring war – a racist, sexist, heterophobic war?

There is a claim that it is impossible to be racist against white people or sexist against men? Can you please explain that? The recent western history of white male domination doesn't validate a future of white male oppression. Everyone suffers at the hands of ignorance, fear, ego, greed and hatred - the brand of human perpetrator afflicted by such dysfunction is irrelevant.

Am I inferior or a monster, genetically or otherwise, because my skin is fair? Or because I am sexually attracted to the opposite sex? Or because I have a penis? Should I save you a lot of effort and time and simply suicide now?

The non-white, non-straight, non-males, that despise their fellow humans of the opposite ilk, may end up winning the war that they have declared, and in their minds that will be justified. The world that they will inherit via this pernicious and ignorant venture will simply be a mirror image of what exists right here right now.

I am a straight white male. If I was a dedicated follower of fashion, with those three fanciful strikes against my being, I would be forced to accept that I was out of the game. I would give up writing, and everything else, because I am obsolete. But if you could see what I am wearing, what I am reading, eating, watching and doing, you will know I am no sheep nor game player. And if you could ever bring yourself to read what I am writing, and yes I am pounding away at it regardless, you will hear my story and it will be just like your story. A story of a consciousness dwelling inside an organic form possessing skin, genitals and libido, that evolved on this wondrous and benevolent planet.

We can all listen to each other.