On pondering the big subjects, religion, poltics, best football codes and so on, the one that superceeds the rest for me is the nature of good and evil; personkind has mulled over that one since Adam stole Gods best buds from the fruiting tree of the knowledge. Eversince a mella felt the need to partake, peoples of all cultures, religions, political parties and even footy clubs have chewed till their gums have bled along with anyone who dared to disagree with their findings. When we masticate on these things we tend to set up judisharies, however unqualified the participants might be, police forces and armies to enforce our opinions; sometime to the extremes of exterminating critics, races or religions because we have deemed them evil.
Let's take the example of Hitlers mob wipping out six million Jews; where between good government, sencible economic policies, national defence and national insanity did they overstep the mark? After their defeat, at Nurenburg, some tried to justify their behaviour by saying they were only being good pest controlers but to consiencous people on mass, their behaviour was a manifestation of pure evil. Speaking as someone in their fifties, I have chewed on that particular piece of bitter fruit for far to long and after having watched every episode of Hogan's Heros twice, I can see both sides of the story; after all who could hate Sergent Shultz. Never the less my initial gut feeling that fasism was to blame never went away along with the bad taste in my mouth.
Recently we have had a dump of Eden's best, with the war in Iraq, neo-cons labeling radical Islamists as evil and Moslems countering with similar claims againt the Judao- Christian eliete, the cold war revisited as China and Nth Korea loom large, millions of Indonesians and Terrorists on our doorstep, genocide in Serbia and Africa, war in Lebonon not to mention Afganistan; I need a sedative, a laxative and a dose of saline for my belly ache. Luckilly it all came in one small package, a short story by Australia's Thomas Keneally 'By the line' or as it was called when first published in 1965 'The Fear'. It's highly recomended as the covernotes confirmed,'One of the most exciting events to arrive on the Australian literary front....what James Joyce did for Dublin, T.K will articulate for Sydney.' P.G the Bulletin. 'T.K's The Fear is clearly the most important Australian fiction to be issued this year.' Max Harris, Aust. Book Review and most amazingly 'The Fear is a novel of brilliant originality.T.K stands head and shoulders above the ruck of Aust. novelists a master of pace, realism, dialogue and a sinewy brand of lyricism. It's a book to exult over, one to press urgently on your friends.' Derick Whitlock, ABR.
If that wasn't enough to get me in then the linear notes were; 'the main character, called "The Comrade" was mesmeric and terrorfying as he dominates the lives of his wife, sons and the neighbours young son Daniel. His "tyranical zeal" has a devistating efect on the lives of the working class who live by the train lines in war time Sydney. T.K explores the effects of ridged adherence to Communist Dogma and the often fine line between inner-sence and guilt;' or as i was saying earlier, the line between good an evil. I wont comment much on the content of this story for it is suffice to say Mr Keneally takes a meat cleaver to "the comrade" or "Mr. Red" as he is somstimes calls him and leaves us beying for his blood by the end. I could see why you would want to recomend it to all your friends if you were a raving McArthyite, seeing reds under the bed, but as for the rest of us the story line was thin at best and the "realism" in a "sinuewy way" was only that if you didn't grow up "by the line" as I did surrounded by the "realism" of corrupt authorities and drunken returned soldiers.
What I had here, in this little book, was a panacea for my retchard condition; taken in a quick swallow with strong drink, I was transported backwards through time to where I was rewritting it in pre-war Nazi Germany just by changing "the comrade" into "the Jew" and setting it in lovely downtown Berlin. Hitler and his mates loved it; I got rave reviews, plenty of accolades and with an expediated "kristalnight" on its way, most importantly of all lots of money to buy a ticket to Australia where i could live out my life as a retired author. But enough of flights of fancy, in the real world today I would have to change his name to "Mohamed" and get it published by Random House so I better hurry or before you know it I will have to rewrite it again using the name "Ching Chong the CHinaman" and the way housing prices are going up around here that wouldn't leave me much time to live out my life as a retired author.
Seriously though, Thomas Keneally does deserve you attention; take for instance his larger, more widely known masterpiece, the award winning, Booker prize shortlisted "Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith." If you didn't get to read it when it first came out in the seventies, you got to see it on the BIG screen when the Australian Film Board handed over more money than it had ever done before to an ex-Victorian used car dealer come producer. Fred Schepsi's previously unknown tallent shines, in a Sullivan-styled way, as Jimmy and his black's camp mates hack their way through a perfectly lovely Aussi family over nothing more than an arguement over some suger and flour. The hunt is then on to "blow the brains out of those murderous black bastards" as Mr Keneally's particular brand of sinuewy lyricism so aptly put it.
If T.K's previously mentioned literary masterpiece had of recieved a similar treatment by Fred, then it could have been called "Fear the Commy" and this one sequelled as "Fear The Abo". They could have saved some of the people's money by using the same poster artwork for both, a black axe on white with red blood dripping. "Fear the terrorist is currently playing all around the country and if you are a contributing author, director, producer, actor or in anyway conected to this long running doc-u-drama then enjoy your wages, you deserve it. If on the other hand you are part of the paying public that are buying into it, applauding it, honoring it, feeding it, addicted to it like it was an episode of Neighbours or Big Brother, then keep up the good work and there will be plenty more where that came from.
My advice, for what it's worth, is don't feed the fear; it's dangerous. Think about it for one second, did the people who fed Hitler's fear of the Jew do themselves or anyone else any good. Sure the machine went on to bigger and better things but the people that fed it got shit on. The only thing to do with a fear machine is starve it to death. What if the Germans had of be led to love Jews, if they had of been shown how to live together, labour together, build together, sustain together, then truely they would be a fomidable empire second to none and not a bunch of nasties afraid their past will one day be revealed.
Now, keep that thought going for just awhile longer, what if T.K had of taught us to love instead of fearing, what if we the paying public had of honored a book and film that showed a Jimmy that went on to become a great man who led his people to prosperity. A step by step guide to crawling out of poverty, providing a prosperous lifestyle to educate his family and refused to stop untill all his people were upstanding citizens of a modern day Australia. Alas there I go again drifting off to a fantasy past, in a Joe Bejelky Peterson led Queensland a literary critic possitivly reviewing that style would have been laughed off the stage, just as sure as a positive reviewist of "Love the Jew" in Hitler's Germany would have been shot.
So to the cold hard reality of today: What if I authored a masive work of pure genius and plastered it all over the net on how to run a politicaly correct, unbiggoted, unbiased, fair country where everyone irreguardless of their roots had an equal say in the day to day runnings of this fine tourist destination and could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt where an internet voteing system could provide the worlds first real democracy in which polititions were relegated to the status of check-out chicks. Where we the people could decide weather or not we wanted to become a repubilic without having to ask the polies permisison. Where we could decide whether or not to sell coal to the Chinese or Uranium to India. Would my heartbreaking work of staggering brilliance be well reviewed by the critics or ridiculed and removed from the net pending sedition charges?
Sadly I conclude that it would not matter how well I mastered pace, realism, dialogue, (even if it was presented in a sinewy lyrical style) you wouldn't be encouraged to exult over it, I wouldn't go on to do for you what James Joyce did for Dublin and most obviously you wouldn't be urged to press it on your friends. If I persisted in claiming my briliance, I could find myself worse off than David Hicks or worse still, diagnosed as having delusions of grandure and give some special treatment in the Richmond Clinic Mental Health Scheme. Anyway that's about all for now, I might just take a dose of Mylanta, a couple of prozak, hit the sack and dream of the Future.