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459 Fitzgerald Street
North Perth, WA, 6006
Australia

People (Are Funny)

Tahlia Palmer: Steady Eye

People (Are Funny)

Andrew Ryan

The other day I came home to discover that some local kids had done a bunch of chalk drawing on the footpath outside my house. It extends all the way around the block, which I noticed today when I took a little stroll to clear my head of all the shitty Australian news I’ve been reading in the last 24 hours. It’s a nice thing to have on the footpath- especially when you’re emotionally exhausted- because it’s filled with little positive messages and smiley faces. There was even a frowning face with a line drawn through it- don’t be sad! Hope will get you through! Friendship! Love! I should really go and take some photos of it before these brewing storm clouds let their bowels loose over the area.

Right now.

So I snapped photos all around the block, waves of feeling buffeting my mood around warm/amused and cold/cynical. I was glad these kids appear to have no concept of nihilism yet. I am glad they’re full of hope and love, but it’s only a matter of time before it starts to turn sour, I thought.

And then I saw some graffiti on a garage door, above where the kids had drawn one of those classic kid-style cars. The graffiti was two phrases either side of a drawing of an Aboriginal flag with a crown on it. The phrases were ”black power” and “fuck the white man”. I stopped and stared at it.

All that news I’ve been reading in the last 24 hours, the stuff I needed to walk-off? It was all to do with Aboriginal affairs. I’m still regularly educating myself about how this nation is dealing with the aftermath of it’s colonisation, and last night was a particularly big session fuelled by intense questioning and nearly half a bottle of whisky. I came to some pretty solid conclusions about the role of out-of-touch institutions in the continuing almost-but-not-quite-accidental destruction of Aboriginal culture around the country, and about some of the big players who have had an impact in the history of it all. I was doing some hard core fucking research for nothing except my own desperate need to understand how to help.

But despite being totally aware of the destructive impact of the white man’s institutions, seeing the words “fuck the white man” actually hurt, and it is still hurting as I write. The hurt is there because I was jolted in to remembering that hatred still exists in the hearts of so many, right here, around the corner from my house. I thought that perhaps the kids were innocently responding to the aggression: Love! Friendship! Hope! I wondered if they’d actually seen the graffiti, if they knew what it meant; if they asked their parents and if their parents told them the truth.

The graffiti is understandable. I get it. I totally get it, because I’m angry too. That’s why I drive myself to tears by reading about indigenous communities, indigenous issues, their stories, their struggles, the white man’s law- because I am angry at the mistreatment, so fucking angry. I want to learn that culture. I want all of Australia to learn that culture, those laws. I want to learn our land properly, sustainably, and respectfully.

As I was smoking a cigarette outside, after the rain I knew was coming had died down, I was thinking about how that chalk is now gone, and that I was glad to have documented it. I was thinking about those kids, who, according to my housemate, started fighting with each other when they were done with their grand design, probably having no concept of the irony of their situation. I imagined a child kept awake that night by thoughts she’d never had before, struggling with- and learning- the concept of futility as her parents settle down to watch the latest Hollywood film in the loungeroom.

And then I started thinking about whether or not I actually want to bring children in to this world. Sometimes the thought of raising a child is the only thing that makes me feel light-hearted, but sometimes I don’t know if there is any point to it. I was thinking about all of the pain that I feel when I pay attention to the world I live in, and the hopelessness I feel when it is apparent that so many people don’t give a shit about anything they don’t have pressed up right in front of them, the flagrant ignorance which has lead us to having a government that wants to send our brothers and sisters to fight in a war, and turn away our brothers and sisters who run to us to escape wars. A government that is happy to direct funds away from helping the needy so that they can help the already wealthy. Why? It hurts so much. So much. Sometimes I feel so nihilistic that not only do I drink way too much booze in one sitting, but I also come to the conclusion that there is no point in eating.

The only escape from nihilism is love. I am drawn out of it by the love of people, of nature, and of creating, but sometimes they are not enough to keep me from sinking in to despair. Like when I hear about journalists getting kidnapped and murdered. Or when I hear about the sexual abuse of children. Or when I hear about someone working within an organisation designed to help Aboriginal people posting racist, ignorant comments on news articles online. There is so much to fix. So much work to be done.

It’s starting to feel as if my heart re-breaks every day. I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet that those Koori graffers are experiencing heartbreak too. I hope they have love around them at least. I hope they can move through the heartbreak soon and meet me on the other side so we can go for walks by the creek together and figure out how to fix this shit.