It’s a Free Country Mate.

 

So it 12:36 in the morning and despite being as knackered as a three legged race horse all day, I’ve now spent in excess of two hours tossing and turning trying to get to sleep because my brain just won’t shut down. So rather than fight it I figured I’d make the most of my insomnia and attempt to write down exactly what it is that has me awake at this hour.

“What could possibly be floating around inside your noggin at this hour?” You may well ask.

Well for the most part it’s usually just a torrent of useless and pointless thoughts, for example ‘do penguins taste like chicken or fish”. But in the last hour or so it seems to have melded into a stream of thought revolving around how exactly Australia, this wonderful country that I love, is no longer the free and easy going country it used to be. Here’s just a quick example of what I mean.

1976

“G’day mate. Is it alright if I park my car here while I duck into the pub for a quick one on the way home?”

“Yeah no worries Cobber. It’s a free country eh.”

2016

“G’day mate. Is it alright if I park my car here while I duck into the pub for a quick one on the way home?”

“Geez mate, it’s 5.40 on a week day. If ya park here the bloke from the Council will fine ya for illegal parking, but if you wait until after 6 then ya can park for 10 minutes if you drive a blue car and for 15 minutes if your missus parks. Or ya can go 5 metres up the road where you can park for half an hour, unless you’re a blue collar worker in which case don’t bother. And if ya going into the pub it’s only light beer before 7, or you can drink as much wine as you like because it’s classy and classy people don’t get pissed. But if you do have a beer then be careful because the local copper usually sits just down the road and pulls up everyone at this time of the day, not because he wants to, it’s just that the local MP has a bee in his bonnet because someone had a beer last week and drove over the centre line of the road and Mrs Smith had a whinge because he came within 10 metres of running over her pet garden gnome.”

Bloody hell. How did we get here? How is it that we’ve become so tightly regulated that if you joke about someone’s ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or religious beliefs, or whistle at a good looking sort (or bloke if you happen to be a good looking sort) or have a beer at the wrong time of day you can get yourself into some serious trouble.

Well, I’ve been thinking about that for the last hour or so, not because I want to but because, ya know, insomnia and I reckon I’ve hit on it. I’ll give you a bit of an example.

It’s a slow news day and Chanel X Nightly Exclusive Sensation News Service is short of a scandal for tonight’s bulletin. Someone way up the back of the mail room points out that every year, hundreds of Australians are killed or injured due to exposure to dihydrogen monoxide. Brilliant, Mr or Ms Editor thinks to themselves, and so in the advertising blitz leading up to the bulletin it gets splashed around “Hundreds die from exposure to dangerous chemical. Governments do nothing.”

“Bugger me.” The Great Unwashed all breathe as one. “Better watch that so I don’t get sick or die.”

Six o’clock rolls around and an expectant nation crowds around it’s TV sets ready to be told what to believe.

“In a Chanel X exclusive,” says the silver-haired, distinguished looking anchor while his young and attractive, yet intelligent looking female co-host looks on seriously, “it has been discovered that every year hundreds of Australians are killed and many others suffer injuries and brain damage from exposure to dihydrogen monoxide. Victims are unaware of the dangers of this terrible chemical which has flowed unchecked through our rivers, in our dams and has even been found in back yard swimming pools and yet Governments are doing nothing to stem the flow. We cross now to a young women standing in front of a camera in front of a Government building to give this coverage more impact. Constance?”

“Thanks Silver Fox. I’m standing here in front of Parliament House waiting for someone who I can badger mercilessly in order to show that at Chanel X we do hard-hitting journalism like no other news service. And despite standing here for hours, not one representative has been willing to comment on this disaster. Back to you.”

And after witnessing this spectacle the great non-thinkers are now in a panic. It’s in the rivers and dams and now I can’t even swim in my backyard pool. The Government doesn’t care. It’s not good enough, I say! And won’t someone please think of the children!

And so the next day pressure starts to build on the politicians. Totally unaware of the full depths of the crisis and terrified of losing the next election, a parliamentary enquiry is commenced, at a cost of $60 000 000 tax payer dollars and eventually a 2000 page report is tabled in Parliament and before you can say “what a waste of time and money” the “Dihydrogen Monoxide Control Act 2016” is enacted and for your own safety and peace of mind the Government now controls it’s citizens exposure to dihydrogen monoxide, or as it’s more commonly known – water.

Yes it sounds ridiculous, but it’s been happening for years. Look at just about every piece of nanny state regulation passed over the last 30 years and you’ll see it. Whether it’s alcohol laws, gun laws, smoking laws or even our freedom to jump in a four wheel drive and camp for free out in the bush, there is always a media frenzy whipping up fear in response to some incident or perceived threat, the un-thinking masses do as their commanded by the media and special interest groups and apply pressure to the politicians who in turn, in an effort to be seen to be doing something pass another stupid law. Each time one more precious piece of our personal freedom is chipped away.

It has been such a gradual process that nobody seems to have recognised it. Each time something happens and the social warriors kick their outrage into high gear, the grip of regulation gets tighter and tighter and all those things we once took for granted are now illegal, expensive or choked in red tape.

What can we do to turn this around and get back to the way things should be?football-meat-pies-kangaroos-and-holden-cars

It’s a free country? Bullshit.

Narrowly Avoiding the Austral/Russian War.

 

Not many people know this, but in the late 1990’s Australia and Russia nearly came to blows, and I’m sad to say I may have been the cause of this international diplomatic calamity, or to be fair me and another bloke may have been the causes.

You see, not long after I left the army and decided to give up swinging spanners for a living, I kind of drifted towards doing a bit of DJ work, not through any conscious drive in that direction but basically just carried along on life’s current until I found myself working for a local Brisbane DJ. Turns out that it really wasn’t for me and I only ended up doing two gigs.

The first was a fun night accompanying the boss to a birthday bash for some partner in a legal firm. Now if you want a rocking good night full of hi-jinks and hilarity, then you could do a lot better than a bunch of middle aged legal eagles. Oh how the chardonnay flowed, or trickled more like it, and they mostly stood around in small groups talking legal stuff. Yawn. And to make matter worse the music the boss DJ was playing was a definite cure for insomnia. My job was to keep track of the songs the boss had dug up from the depths of bargain bin.

But, I thought to myself at night’s end, this DJ thing can’t be all old and boring professional type people and much to my delight next weekend’s gig was to be a 21st birthday celebration for a young Russian bloke. And even better, the boss was staying home and I was to do the gig with another young bloke who was into his rock music as much as I was. Bring it orn!

And so it was that the next Saturday afternoon found me and, oh I don’t know let’s call him Eustice, at the Russian Community Hall in Brisbane setting up the turntable, speakers and lights. The young bloke came up to us and welcomed us with a friendly smile and encouragement for what he was sure would be a great evening. Then we met the Patriarch of this family.

So you know how Russian men are widely known for their laid back attitude and wild sense of humour? Yeah me neither, and this bloke was the epitome of the Russian man. I think he may have smiled at some stage way back in his teen years, but he had quickly banished that smile to the salt mines of Siberia. After his son had welcomed us so warmly, the cold stare that Dad shot us was enough to freeze molten lava, and so we lost a little bit of confidence that this was going to be a great night.

We got in and set things up and, as is the norm, we started playing a bit of low volume music just to provide the ambiance for the early arrivals. Everything was going swimmingly as the sun began to set and the rest of the guests arrived. Before long we had maybe 100 – 150 friends and family in the small hall, generally relaxing and having a good time. Then Dad approached us.

“Did you bring any waltzes like we asked?”

Eustice and me looked at each other in confusion. No one had told us about any waltzes and to be honest the only waltz I ever heard of was Kevin Bloody Wilson’s “The Last Lager Waltz”. You know the one “two steps to the south and three to the north….oops sorry mate, did I chuck on ya car? I really didn’t think I could chunder that far.” If you have never heard that song, stop reading now, head over to Youtube and dial it up. Go on, we’ll wait for you.

Dum, dee dum dum.

Ok so you’re back. Funny hey. So anyway, there we were looking at each other dumbly while Vlad the Impaler was looking up at us waiting for us to confirm that we did indeed have a box full of waltzes. Eustice had the gift of the gab so while he spoke to the old man to advise that the boss hadn’t told us about that particular requirement, I frantically searched through the records and mercifully found one, the Blue Danube I think it was. So quickly we threw it on and all the old Russians were able to get out on the floor and ponce around.

The son, obviously well versed in smoothing out his father’s wrath, soon had things in hand and all was good, although Stalin was less than impressed that the Blue Danube was the only waltz we had to offer.

Before long it was time for the evening meal, and we were requested to turn the music off while the formal part of the meal took place, so we did as we were bade and took a break. With a respectful silence filling the room, in walked the Russian Orthodox Priest, in his long black robes with a huge bible clutched in one arm, beautiful bushy black beard and a plaited pony tail which had to be at least three feet long.

I wasn’t expecting this level of formality and I found the whole exposure to different cultural practices to be fascinating, so I sat and watched as everyone turned to face the cross on the wall as the priest said the traditional prayers in Russian. Eustice on the other hand couldn’t give two nobs of goat shit, and was passing the time with the headphones on, lining up a few tunes and generally keeping himself amused.

Now because I couldn’t understand Russian I didn’t realise that the prayer was coming to an end, until the assemblage all made some sound in unison and the Priest lowered his hands and bowed to the bible and made to leave the room. The patrons at the table nearest us then motioned to me that it was time to re-start the tunes, and so taken a bit by surprise I gave Eustice a nudge and he realised that the people were waiting for their dining music and so he pushed the “go” button on whatever song he was listening to at the time.

I’m sure we’ve all had that gut wrenching feeling when you suddenly realise things have taken a very nasty turn for the worst. Well as the first few lines of the chorus flew out of the speakers I knew we had just managed to deeply offend a room full of Russians, because the song which Eustice had been playing was none other than that old George Thorogood favourite “Get a Haircut and Get a Real Job.” One hundred-odd Russians had instantaneously formed the opinion that we were taking the mickey out of their priest with his long hair and everything. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a room full of seriously pissed off Ruskies staring in your direction, but take my word for it, it ain’t pretty.

Eustice scrambled to change the song as fast as he could, but from that point on things were never going to end well. But to his credit, the birthday boy once again smoothed things over and the meal was had without serious incident. He even organised for the kitchen staff to bring out some Russian tucker for Eustice and me so we figured our chances of making it out alive had gone from somewhere between none and bugger-all to a more fair to reasonable rating.

Our survival prospects headed northward again when, through a total act of serendipity we actually had a copy of the theme from the Moscow Olympic Games, appropriately called ‘Moscow’, when we were requested to play it. So while the speakers were blasting out “Moscow, Moscow, see the Russian teddy bear, dancing in his underwear, ha ha ha ha ha hey!” or however it goes, the young men took to the dance floor for a display of traditional Cossack dancing with the squatting down and kicking out of the feet thing. Once again, a fascinating insight into a different culture.

So now with everything being a positive love-fest even Dad had loosened up a little and decided that Eustice and myself had actually done a decent thing and we could share a bottle of good Scotch Whiskey between us. In hindsight I don’t think he meant for us to share it between us on that particular evening, but we did anyway. With a predictable result, we got a wee bit drunk, messed up a few songs, got a bit loud and joined the party. The young’s didn’t seem to mind but occasionally in the corner I could see Vlad the Impaler’s mood darkening.

Anyway after a few more hours of drunken shenanigans it was time for everyone to head off and we started packing up the DJ gear. But with most of the party goers departed the only thing keeping Vlad’s fury in check had also departed, and he let us have it. I have no idea what he said, as in his rage he had forgotten to speak English, but the message was definitely clear. The tone transcended all language barriers and we knew that we were being given a taste of what the German’s had received in Stalingrad and had been given ten minutes to bug out or he was going to perform deeds upon our personages which only the KGB would know.

Sufficiently chastened we made ourselves scarce and somehow managed to avoid sparking a war between Australia and Russia, but it was a close-run thing.