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459 Fitzgerald Street
North Perth, WA, 6006
Australia

Punk is Dead but Gardens are Not

Tahlia Palmer: Steady Eye

Punk is Dead but Gardens are Not

Andrew Ryan

I’ve gotten this idea in my head that I can gain skills in medicinal herbology. It comes as an extension of my interest in Australian native plants, my desire to help people, and my lack of trust/faith in global capitalism.

I want to be a botanist, or a witch, or something, or at least have some skills in that scientific area; I want to be able to recognise a plant anywhere it may be growing and know by sight if it would be good for stopping bleeding, or for reducing swelling, or reducing blood pressure, or helping a sore throat, or any of the bajillion other properties plants have when interacting with human/animal physiology, and I want to know how to properly prepare and administer these plants. I kinda want to be an expert in Australia medicinal plants in whichever area of country I settle in and I want to learn the history of the use of those plants and I want to learn everything else: not even just medicinal, but all the edible plants too, because well-rounded diet is number one thing for health, after all.

I reckon if people were filling their gardens with edible natives, that would be a very nice thing, for many reasons. And I reckon if the information about what plants are edible was spread, and people could just go and eat the food when they’re going for walks, instead of munching on doritoes or tiny teddies, that would be pretty nice too.

I would like to live in a world where this way of thinking is the norm, but I can’t see it happening in my lifetime, and that makes me a bit sad. There’s too much entrenched systemic workings going on in society, too many people with too much money and not enough inclination to change. It’s not as if I want to force the world to change or anything (I say this because I have been accused of such thinking before), because forcing people to do things isn’t very good for creating an environment where people are comfortable and not scared. I mean, how can you force people to do things without making them fearful of brutal repercussions? You can’t. And what kind of life is one where you are always uncomfortable and scared? Not great. I live it, to a very small extent, every day, and so do many others, in much more pronounced ways too, and the whole point of this change of lifestyle I am dreaming of is to not be scared any more; to know where my food comes from, to understand the land I live on, to have control over my life, to survive on my own, to not be at the whim of global food trading, to cuts costs, to opt out of certain modern ways of being that I feel morally uncomfortable with, and to raise my children to have the same knowledge, knowledge I will have to work incredibly hard to gain myself.

I’m gonna be traveling through big non-ubran areas for a little while again, eventually ending up back at the place of my birth. And once I get there, I’m pretty intent on building up my skills as quickly as possible so I can make up for all the time I lost while I was figuring out which skills I wanted to build up (see: my youth). I am keen to get working on creating a world for myself (and anyone who wants to join) where good food and natural medicine is easily obtainable, a world where I am self-reliant; a world where I’m working from a mixture of traditional knowledge and modern scientific understandings to make a nice time.

Last time I had an AH-HAH moment like this, it was Social Work. Now it’s fucking Botany. My intellectual, emotional and creative needs seem all over the place, but I think I’ve found a couple of courses that will provide some satisfaction, and more importantly a good push towards the academic and badass practical applications of these skills:

- Involvement in environmental regeneration? Tick.

- Native food and medicine understanding to decrease personal reliance on introduced crops and commercial products and then pass on the knowledge to young people through youth work programs and community development initiatives? Sure.

- Involvement in biofuel research? Possibly!

But there is still a part of me that feels like I’m too old. Just turned 28, and it feels weird to think that once I’ve finished the three TAFE courses in wildly different fields I’d like to do before I enter university again, one of which I have started but have had to put on hold while I’m homeless and waiting for Pete to rock up in his van to drive us back to Perth… once I’ve finished those courses I will probably be in my 30s. That kind of weirds me out, and that little bit is almost enough to make me not want to do it. Almost.

But, I have had to ask myself seriously, what else would I rather be doing with the rest of my 20s? Certainly not what I have been doing up until this point. I’ve been sick of boozing for the sake of party for a while now, completely sick of bar work too, sick of going places just to take photos of musicians, sick of getting bummed out every time I leave the house and see that despite our “best efforts”, punk – the thing that drove me and got me through my youth – has done nothing to change society for the better, because advertising and marketing only gets more insidious, sturdy old buildings still get replaced by not-built-to-last units, ancient trees still get felled, and real estate agents still get paid more than social workers.

The day after David Bowie died, I watched an interview with him from the 90’s in which he talked about the power of the internet as a communication technology, as a new media. In this interview, he mentioned that rock and roll was no longer revolutionary, not like it used to be, and it hasn’t been for decades now. I’ve been thinking about that a lot, and I agree. It gave me the same feeling I had as I walked around this exhibition a few months ago that contemporary music culture, especially in Australia, leaves a lot to be desired. There is nothing left in rock and roll culture that cannot be commercialized and bastardised by assholes for their own personal gains. And so there is a big, cultural gap that begs to be filled.

I mean, the amount of things that I, and so many others, perceive as cruel or wrong or shit or embarrassing about the way this nation is run, the way people are treated, the way resources are distributed, all that stuff, is pretty large. For how rich this country is, we’re not doing a great job of looking after people in need. This nation is pretty good at being an asshole these days, and very few people are expressing their frustration with it through music, and if they are, not many people are listening and getting inspired. But people still feel the anger.

I remember when Tony Abbott came in, both myself and fellow CPN writer Lyndon Blue both came to the conclusion that perhaps some interesting punk sensibility would come out of the inevitable political and societal shit-fight we both saw coming. But in the time since then, I haven’t really clocked anything that fits what I was expecting/hoping for. Which isn’t to say there has been nothing interesting going on. I am lucky enough to have seen a few fucking inspiring, intelligent and downright enjoyable musical expressions of political dissent and social critique… but their audiences are always too small for how good they are.

I’ve seen some great brutal, heavy music that is quite popular, but it’s nihilistic and aggressive. I’ve seen some great brutal, almost unlistenable noise acts play, but it’s anarchistic and kind of solitary. Same with the dark ambient stuff I was listening to last year- rich, satisfying, creatively inspirational, good listening… but revolution doesn’t seem to exist in music anymore without being covered by layers of melancholy, sadness, or hopelessness.

So as I said, I perceive a gap there, a gap I feel would be well filled (and indeed are beginning to be filled) by the revolutionary voices of those who are not of predominantly Anglo-European descent. But that’s an exploration for another time.

The point is, I refuse to lie down and cry anymore, refuse to agree with so many people I know when they say: “there’s nothing we can do about it”, it being frustration with political situation, frustration with social inequalities, because there are so many fucking things we can do about it, you just have to use your head and follow your heart and all that shit. Everyone is capable of doing it, especially if you exist anywhere between the middle and upper classes in Australia, but everyone has the ability to care, and show care, for your fellow human being. And, I guess, you know, my style is, when I have a garden to figure it all out in, is to become a Good Witch and train to be a Good Scientist and learn how to harness the healing powers of plants. Revolutionary.

Photo: Penny Rimbaud, of Crass, in the garden of the artist commune started by the band