A post industrial village

sayarsan's picture

Remember village life? It was glorious especially in a not too tropical not too temperate climate beside or near a good river with a few decent creeks around and plenty of room to grow, collect and hunt food and other necessities. Life was hard but so were we and what couldn't be endured usually killed us so acceptance was easy. Education wasn't too good but there was plenty of work opportunities and that's always where the real learning takes place.
A close proximity to nature makes it impossible to ignore its importance to our existence, faith was a necessity not an option so that we believed in things that deserved it. Survival wasn't yet so much a given that we expect everything to be a matter of taking and not building. It might have been all that building which got us here, another example of modern immoderation. The fields require tending as do the animals and boredom does not exist, neither does leisure, neither does childhood and in many but by no means all cases neither does old age. Death amongst all things is with us just like birth and they are much better understood than now.
Time was marked by the light or warmth on our skin, the distance of the sun and behaviour of the animals, something more familiar than the face of a clock. Pain is a signal that alarms us, we take notice and evaluate it then act accordingly while now it is a preoccupation that absorbs us. Surely the template is with us as much as it ever was but using it is a matter of opportunity. Small and furry are the troupes of primates up to bonobos at least, my favourite cousins. We have become a herd which is bad enough, are we to become a hive?
What I see now is something more than a herd mentality. When you find a herd that's quiet enough to get close to you will notice that they are warm and hairy with a face and lips, eyes that look and they breath. Hives are different and those teeming insects with chemical weapons on board and mandibles to kiss with are not very appealing role models, living as they choose away from the sun. The hive i see is tiny, given the location outside a small city it lacks the defining characteristic of the hive which is total regimentation. The inhabitants are not up to it but that is not the point, the overcrowding and over riding busy-ness is absent, the individuals are left to freewheel and find their own equilibrium albeit within the limits of the hive. The dwellings are very small, in a village they would be adequate for a single person without a family but in a village you don't eat at home, you work outside and with others most of the day and the same with entertainment. These dwellings don't just contain the inhabitant they contain his/her work, leisure, cooking, eating, and sleeping with no room to socialise except for a small lawn. It's main saving grace for this inhabitant is the close proximity of a beach the ocean of which i am very fond.
Most inhabitants are living a quiet and apparently harmless life following their inclinations but it isn't always so and for a while it was very different, the period of adaption was something interesting in itself, the part computers played in this process is not to be underestimated, they are an important adjunct to a healthy adaptation. While people can and do get by fine without them they provide opportunities where more traditional cottage industries will fail, open up new ways to communicate and further expand our interests despite the lack of space. The key to adaptation is imagination, not sufficient by itself but most unlikely without it. Their role in perpetuating a meaningless dull existence as a passive consumer is not to be ignored but that's the case with drugs too.
After more than three years the most impressive thing about the place is the waste. What was achieved by poor, often homeless and generally young people while living in a communal squatting environment was far more impressive than this example. That with no budget, barely any resources and an overhanging illegality squatters managed to establish a far more satisfactory lifestyle than the state or BRIC can is undeniable. The only thing that squatting couldn't guarantee was permanence but in many examples they come close, especially in civilised countries. Their contribution to the preservation of disaffected youth is not to be under estimated despite their reputation as a nexus of drug addiction.
With no first hand experience squatting in another country, I was fortunate to meet with some audacious anarchists in Sydney during the International Conference in 1975 and had moved down there for a time not long after in a good attempt at scraping Brisbin off like dead skin. The milieu for anarchists was qualitatively better and quantitatively easily greater than Brisbin which made for a feeling of opportunity where the burg had always been a case of banging one’s head against an all too familiar and second rate wall. Infamous for its totalitarian tactics and laughable for the ruse they used to stay in power, provided by Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition the State Labor Party, when they previously held office. Meanwhile the youth are the easy target so they are publicly persecuted as an example to the silent majority. An unending game of cat and mouse with the police just so one could smoke pot in peace seemed like a cruel waste of one's youth when a little over 12 hours drive or 17 hours by train or buss put one in a place that lacked the police presence and enjoyed the benefits of being one of the biggest ports in the Southern Hemisphere.
In Sydney people were bemused by my strict nightly ritual of going through the lounge and kitchen to empty ashtrays and remove any incriminating evidence and stashing it appropriately. I would grin foolishly; “Please just indulge me” I pleaded. After a weeks or two a visit from Bill an expat like myself who had shared houses in the past with me came on a visit and told us of his news; “There was a knock at the door and when I opened it there was a couple of cops at the door with a warrant for unpaid fines and asked if they could come inside.” With little or no alternative he led the constables down the hall to the lounge where one babylon began to go through the business of dealing with a warrant while the other cop, redundant, got bored and noticed the bag of pot of the mantle piece; “yer wanna find a better place to hide that mate”, then with their business complete left without saying or doing anything more about the pot which would have been close to an ounce, half at least. Slowly I acclimatised but only to a degree.
Ironically it came to pass almost ten years later that my decision to study full time placed me in an awkward position financialy especially as this was around the time that the Tax File Number came into existence. People who had been collecting the dole while claiming TEAS were collected in a net that would embarass a Japanese factory ship but in many cases where the outstanding payments amounted to less than a fortune a reastraint on the part of Social Security was gratefully appreciated. I was fortunate to be well placed within walking distance of most lectures and a brisk walk and train ride to the other lectures and clinical prac as well as part time work when I finally bit the bullet and found a job shaving arseholes and ball-bags, including the region in between and in the case of a Coronary By-Pass Operation pretty much every where else. I got a $50 tip once and the patient was Javanese with no English. Several of his family were staying at one of the luxury hotels so they could stay with him as much as possible which is customary where they were born. It is sad what some people will do for money but at least this was not for drugs.
I approached a couple of friends who had been squatting at Pyrmont for some years and was lucky there was a spare room I could use and all was cozy until his big brother and chainsaw came to stay, probably with a wide comb for shearing sheep in his backpack. Robert, and his friend Roger who accompanied him amused themselves playing rugger in Ned Kelly Park until they lined up work in the state forest where they needed chainsaws that big to cut down the old growth timber. They enthused over this while looking at any of the drug users with expressions reminiscent of maiden aunts. Over the years it was a constantly changing mix of people from Ross 'The Skull'  May whose commanding visage can be found in 'Anatomy of a Broken Dream'.