Sitting in a cafe in Cooma the other day with nothing to read I flicked through the Sunday Telegraph of December 21. Always a mistake looking at the Tele, but my judgement about everything has been off for months, so what’s one more error.
There I came upon a piece by Samantha Maiden on Senator Jacqui Lambie titled “I’m addicted to my Botox.”
I didn’t have a great deal of interest in that revelation but what did catch my eye was Ms Maiden’s description of the Senator “admitting she’s been single for more than a decade” and later in the paragraph “Ms Lambie admits she’s been single since her thirties.”
Admit is a tricky little word. It’s usually understood to mean confess, as in the offender admits. I’m at a loss to understand why a woman has to admit she’s single, or why Ms Maiden poses the suggestion that Ms Lambie has committed an offence against society by using that word to describe the woman’s relationship status.
Then a few days later came this opinion piece in the Age, questioning Prime Minster Tony Abbott’s references for new Social Services Minister Scott Morrison. He is a decent human being and is married with two little children, the PM declared, ergo the man has learned a depth of compassion the unmarried without children cannot possibly have achieved that more than qualifies him for his new portfolio.
There are echoes here of claims made by Morrison’s previous area of responsibility, the Department for Immigration and Border Protection that simply by being an elected member and Minister of the Crown, Morrison has a unique and profound insight into community standards and values that qualify him to exert unprecedented powers while remaining absolutely unaccountable to anyone.
I have to say here that I disagree with the author of the Age piece when he claims that not having children If anything … strengthens your sense of understanding and empathy for others. That’s just as silly as the claims he’s disputing. Understanding and empathy aren’t dependent on one’s relationship status or parenthood, and it’s just as possible to argue that both situations can lead to all kinds of negative behaviours that aren’t in the least understanding and empathic.
Having spent Christmas time with seriously feral toddlers I can attest to that. The youngest, who has just learned to say “No” and “Mine” spent much of his time snatching his brother’s presents off him then trailing round the house, overwhelmed by the noisy stupidity of it all, alternately chanting and whining “No No No” and “Mine mine mine” at nothing and no one while his brother yowled hideously at the injustice of it all. Tested beyond endurance by our little ones, the adults took to drink. That we all got through it and still love each other is no testament to our compassionate natures but rather to the quality of the champagne.
Anyways, what both Maiden and Abbott’s comments emphasise is the ideology subscribed to by public representatives of the orthodox political and social class whose beliefs continue to dominate Australian society. All one has to do is demonstrate one has a relationship and children to be accepted. How one actually behaves within the family unit is beside the point as long as one is seen to inhabit one.
And this brings me to Richard Flanagan’s Booker prize-winning novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Unfortunately I am far from home in the Snowy Mountains and don’t have my copy with me so can’t directly quote. At one point Flanagan lists the horrors of a long marriage in which neither partner has ever really known the other while one has been chronically unfaithful, and the stunting effects on the offspring of such a union. He ends this lengthy account of unexamined misery with two words: A family.
Here are some mountain wild flowers to cheer you up.