Thursday, February 11, 2016

what formed me?

(Warning this may be another of my introspective, naval gazing posts rescued from draft. 2010)

A while ago I happened across some old TV shows that I used to watch and it set me wondering about my principal values and beliefs which I've often felt are at odds with the values of our Contemporary, Popular, Consumer Society... I wondered what was the pervasive message I received from the various forms of media I'd ingested during my formative years?

TV. - As a child I remember watching programs like Catweasel and I had about 10 years of constant exposure to Sesame Street and Playschool as my younger siblings grew up. I'm sure Sesame Street alone left a pretty big impression on me... (I always got the Sesame Street questions right when playing Trivial Pursuit for Kids). I loved watching the Leyland Brothers and dreamed of travelling in the outback, Whenever I got to visit the bush I'd pretend I was Harry Buttler or Malcolm Douglas wanting to catch those creatures they always told us not to but they always did... Oh and I also watched Dr Who and The Thunderbirds. Oh yeh and Countdown during the 70s of course but I never felt the urge to dress like a woman, like most of the pop bands did back then.

Music. - As a kid I used to listen to my Dad's Bushwhackers Band albums, and by the time I was a teenager in the 80s I realized that my tastes differed from my friends. I was totally hooked on Redgum, and later the Warumpi Band but today I want to share some Redgum in case you don't know them! (With apologies to the band for embedded film... )

(One more boring night in Adelaide! You had to be there!)

Redgum was a very political Band with a very Australian sound and lyrics that honoured and occasionally sledged the spirit of what many of us would identify as Australian. Probably best known for the larrakin voice of songwriter John Schumann (See his web page here) and his legendary songs I Was Only 19 (A Walk in The Light Green) and I've Been to Bali Too. Redgum sung about battles and battlers, compromise and loss, beauty and destruction, often with humor but also with great seriousness. Importantly they challenged our changing attitudes and the direction Australia was taking toward corporatization, selling out to the U.S.A, plundering our environment and the way we treat each other. Their songs often included characters from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and questioned otherwise unchallenged the racist attitudes of many Australians. Redgum played the theme to my teen-aged rebellion. Their music validated the discontent and repulsion I felt for the way I saw contemporary Australian Culture changing for the worse... (changing from how I thought it would or should be... I was only a kid after all)
I was born in the final days of the 60s. As a kid in the 70s who was exposed to all kinds of socialistic improvements that people were making to their lives I expected that recycling would become a way of life, that food would cease to come wrapped in plastic, that people would move en mass to become more connected to the land, mudbrick houses, recycled timber, meditation and macrame would all be part of the enlightened future we were moving into... I was looking forward to a green future and felt secure in the belief that we would all take care of the world and each other.

By the time I entered Secondary School (Technical School actually... Tech) I was still listening to Ausie folk/Rock but everyone else was listening to Duran Duran and Madonna, I began to feel like the future was being hijacked (It was!). The possible future of living close to the earth and growing in tune with the land had been overtaken by a strange form of blow waved hedonism with a funky beat but I couldn't dance!
I continued to believe in the basic principals of ecology, the fragility of the natural world and the importance of social connectedness. I refused to eat at the Golden Arches and had never tasted KFC!

At times when it seemed nobody I knew felt the way I did it was the music of Redgum that influenced my thinking and encouraged me to question and challenge the new age of Greed. 

What happened to us at the end of the 70s I have no idea! I was too young to know. Somehow just as we had begun to acknowledge the fragility of our world and many people were connecting to the sacredness of nature and humanity a tidal wave of greed and hedonism took over! I liked to listen to Redgum because they challenged and fought against this New World Order. Their songs were proof that something insidious is happening.

Although I owned most of their original albums, this year I happened across their compilation album 'Against the Grain' while in Geelong. I hadn't listened to them in about 15 years and I was floored by how appropriate their music is to the situation we are in today. A couple of decades have passed since they wrote some of these songs, and I see that their lyrics which may have been touted as pessimistic, cynical and negative were in fact profoundly prophetic. Of course they didn't need to have any supernatural powers to predict what our future would be... All you needed was to have your eyes open to the truth at the time! Now here we are in 2010 after 30 years of the 'Axeman's Reign' and I find Redgum just as relevant and even more necessary than I did back in 1984.

('Still Life' is a haunting premonition of how our world has actually become, but as the song suggests maybe "Slowly the Tide will turn")

(Fabulon for a bit of a cynical laugh at consumerism)

As the reality of Global Warming, Peak Oil (and peak just about everything else) persistently knocks at the door of our awareness there are signs that the consumer spell we are under is beginning to wear off. We in Western countries are awakening from our 30 year commodity induced slumber to find that we’d ignored the warnings that were so prevalent and obvious when I was a kid. Our affluence didn’t make the problems go away. It just hid us temporarily from the impacts that continued to occur despite the bubble in which we hid. As we began to consume more and more, our sedated consciences were able to cope with all manner of violence via the luxury of distance like watching the Gulf War unfold ‘From Bars three thousand miles away’.
Finally, thanks in part to the media revolution brought about by the Internet social networking, large numbers of people are beginning to ask the big questions again.
A plethora of environmental and social problems have slapped many of us out of our doze and we are just now beginning to look around to assess the damage.
What inspirational music will set the score for the new age of awareness? Which Troubadours will influence the youth of today?

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