Saturday, August 24, 2013

Nailing It

I'd hammer out danger,
I'd hammer out a warning,
I'd hammer out love between,
My brothers and my sisters,
All over this land. - "If I had a Hammer", Pete Seeger and Lee Hays 1949

There was a wild colonial boy, Jack Duggan was his name
He was born and raised in Ireland, in a place called Castlemaine
He was his father's only son, his mother's pride and joy
And dearly did his parents love the wild colonial boy - traditional Irish–Australian ballad 
Three New Yorkers - Upper East Side Manhattan
One of my earliest memories is of a man with beery breath telling my father that he - my dad that is - was an armchair socialist.

I remember finding it odd at the time - we didn't even  own any armchairs. In winter we all sat side by side on a huge gum tree log that was lying sideways across the lounge-room floor. One end would be stuck in the fire place where it smoldered - emitting a eucalyptus smell that mingled with the odor of burning scraps of leather that the armchair socialist had brought home from the shoe  factory where he worked.

When the fire burned down we all had to stand up and my dad would shove the log further into the fireplace so that its dying embers would fall off and along with a few scraps of leather, would ignite the end of  the now truncated log.  This family-time fiasco repeated itself, until the log was completely consumed, when a new one would take its place.

I don't know where we sat in summer. My childhood memories are a jumble, as my parents would split up and reunite changing towns, then cities, and at the end, even countries.

Later on, much later, I heard "armchair socialist" used again. At Melbourne University by old people. Well, older than me. The scrag end of the "beats", old guys about thirty would hang around university haunts, ogling young undergraduate girls and discussing politics over cheap reds with undergrad boys - for this was before Germaine freed us and we came to understand that we had been oppressed.

Armchair socialists - the pits. All talk and no action. I remembered my dad.

We grew up, left university. The armchair socialists, the beats and the hangers-on disappeared or died. Some became famous artists.  Others, prominent lawyers, replacing one kind of bar with a more salubrious one.

The armchair socialist label was replaced briefly by  "chardonnay socialist" -  there is even a Wikipedia entry: "Chardonnay socialist: a derogatory Australasian term for those on the political left with comfortable middle or upper-class incomes, tertiary education, and a penchant for the finer things in life, Chardonnay being a variety of white wine".Until the sales of the actual drink dropped off after its image was decimated by bogan Kim in the hugely popular TV comedy show, "Kath and Kim".

I had sort of forgotten about gum tree logs, armchairs and chardonnay socialists until a few weeks ago when I received an email from an old friend.

I had asked him about the Victorian (OZ) town of Castlemaine. And this is what he replied.

" [Castlemaine] is full of millennial hippies, but many middle class yuppies are infesting the place and has become "fashionable". Even reactionary, racist left wing federal court judges live there. Many bobos."

Bobos???? First I ever heard the word. I looked it up online. There were several very different meanings, but the one I though my friend meant was "bobo: a portmanteau of the words bourgeois and bohemian".

So that's where the chardonnay socialist were hiding out.

I will be in Castlemaine in a few weeks. I will be on the lookout for bobos. I'll try to take some photos of them in their apparently natural habitat.

Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

Keep on the lookout for 'MILD colonial boys'. There are a few of us out there.

Anonymous said...

Wanna find a better place to hang than NY City? Try Portland OR

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