27 years since M and I moved into Redfern

Shared with Philip Costello and his then partner. Philip is now married to Timothy Klinger and they live in New York.

Here’s a recycle. While M and I no longer live together, much remains of what we began 27 years ago!

Redfern Visions 11: George Street

This is the second-last of the set from my walk yesterday. I mentioned I lived in George Street for a year. It has changed, especially on the other side of the road, with quite a bit of new development and some more in train, but what I have concentrated on are the things that have not changed much since 1990-1991 when M and I lived here.

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And here are some more related memories.

Redfern Visions 26: East Redfern 4

Now we are back near Cleveland and Elizabeth Streets, going towards the Surry Hills Shopping Village (aka Redfern Mall) through the back streets.

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This is Morehead Street, which I first got to know way back in 1985 when two of my first gay friends from The Britannia Hotel lived there – Philip and Dean. They were much younger than I was – 21 and 19 respectively — but took me, a neophyte, under their wing, as it were. Later, in 1990, M and I were to take a room at Philip’s place in George St Redfern, our first joint address.

Facebook does it for me again…

A couple of times in the past I have mentioned the Britannia Hotel and especially two friends I met there.

… Facebook has delivered both as “friends” in the past few days! Smile One lives in New York, and the other in East Timor – and bemedalled as well though I am not sure what that is about. And here they are as I first knew them, pretty much.

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Both have stories to tell and both I greatly admire and recall with real warmth. Good to see that they have got on so well these days.

Twenty and more years ago

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M in China pre-1989

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M in Sydney 1990

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Reject Chicken Little!

This morning’s Sydney Morning Herald has a Chicken Little from former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whose sister, you may recall, wrote an excellent but opposite piece in the same paper recently. She wishes to marry her partner and hopes the law will change to allow that to happen. Be interesting for Tony going to that wedding; indeed I gather brother and sister do in fact get on quite well.

Before saying more about Tony Abbott’s piece, which is absolutely typical of the way the NO case is being run, let’s remind ourselves of the fact that we are being asked in the Postal Survey a very simple question: should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry? The NO case I have called Chicken Little-ism, and we have had case after case of it from the Australian Christian Lobby through ex-PM John Howard to last night on The Drum where we had ponderous journalist Paul Kelly and some Canadian Catholic academic whose name escapes me. Everything short of earthquakes and asteroid strikes it seems will follow if YES gets up!

Tony Abbott seems to have looked at Benjamin Law’s Quarterly Essay, to which I referred in the last post. Or rather, he has mined it for a telling quote: “it might be stating the obvious but same sex marriage is far from the final frontier in the in the battle against homophobia.”

Indeed Benjamin Law does say that, though hardly as the threat Tony Abbott makes it appear by quoting the line out of context. Go to pages 41-42 of Law’s essay and read on. Let me offer just a sentence extra to clarify:

…in the United States, where same-sex marriage is legal and consistently supported by the majority of Americans, the organisation GLAAD found 29 per cent of Americans are still uncomfortable seeing a same-sex couple holding hands, and 28 per cent would be uncomfortable if they learnt their doctor was lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. It might be stating the obvious, but same-sex marriage is far from the final frontier in the battle against homophobia.

You can see this has no relation at all to what Tony Abbott is suggesting!

I think a point well worth repeating is that the Postal Survey is NOT about Safe Schools, or “gender theory”, or religious freedom, or the possible existence of the thylacine in the 21st century. It is about whether the STATE should recognise those same-sex couples who wish to commit to marriage to a life’s partner. Some will, maybe many won’t. But they will have the option. They do not at this time have that option in this country.

And whatever the outcome of the Postal Survey, refining the way we talk about and understand sexuality and gender will continue. Voting NO will not stop NO RELIGION as being the greatest religious growth area in Australia, nor will it stop people questioning whether “male and female created He them” is any longer an accurate formulation of the facts of human diversity.

What we can be sure of is that voting NO will profoundly affect the lives of quite a few families in our country that are still struggling to gain full dignity in the eyes of the law.

See also Legalise same-sex marriage for the ‘common good’, says Catholic priest Frank Brennan.

And here, courtesy of norrie, are my friends from South Sydney Uniting Church.

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And that reminds me. Tomorrow is R U OK Day. To me that this should be 14 September is particularly poignant. I wonder, were he still alive, what Rob would have had to say about it all, and I reflect on the fact that his mother and her partner were, in 1989, among the first same-sex couples I met – but under such sad circumstances in which homophobia had undoubtedly played a role. In my story Rob is “J”.

Did you know J was bashed last year?
Yes, he told me.
So much hate.
You know he told me a year ago he didn’t think he was going to win.
The most he could hope for was to live with it.
So much love.

When the Reverend Fred Nile and his fundamentalists march into Oxford Street set on a bit of cleansing I am out there with the crowd. I wear my Mardi Gras T-shirt with additions:

FOR JAY

Sept. 1961-Sept. 1989

‘Gone where fierce indignation
can lacerate his heart no more.’

AND FOR LUKE
WHO LOVED HIM

Fred has his thousand, harmless-looking folk pushing strollers, mingled love and fear on their faces as they march up Oxford Street.

But we have five, ten thousand voices chanting NO MORE GUILT! NO MORE GUILT!

Come to think of it, how many same-sex couples do you know/have you known? I can think of at least ten off the top of my head. And you? When I reflect on it, I would say the first couple I met was in the 1940s! They were friends of my aunt.

Update:

I must be careful how I put this, as I have met the person involved and liked him for his eccentricity.  Since writing the post I have read David Flint’s piece in today’s Daily Telegraph. It saddens me. I have also read Miranda Devine’s version of Benjamin Law. I find it, to adapt her characterisation of Law, utterly unhinged.

If that is the best the NO camp can do, God help them! And us, if they succeed.

 

Vote “Yes” for sure!

So, the weird postal survey is go!  I waited until the High Court gave the nod before posting on this, but let me be clear from the outset. As far as I am concerned there are no good reasons to vote NO to a proposition that does not alter the status of any existing marriage or make compulsory any particular views about marriage. All voting YES will do is enable a sizeable minority, if they so choose, to have their relationhips recognised by the state as marriages. Churches within their own communions will be free to do what they think best. No doubt there will be many same-sex couples who don’t want to be married according to law, just as a substantial number of man-woman couples these days choose not to be married. But they can be if they want, and all the YES will do is extend that to same-sex couples. There are indeed conservatives who are voting YES because they want to encourage all couples to enter into legally binding committed relationships.

Eric Abetz, to take just one example, encapsulated everything wrong with the NO case brilliantly on the 7.30 Report last night. See also Same-sex marriage postal survey: the five worst arguments for voting No. I may have more to say — politely of course — about such piffle later on.

Meantime, let me replay Random Friday memory 20 – July 1990.

…And today in 1990 in a pub that is no more, in a century that is no more, I met M…

A year or two on from 1990:

memorabilia 13: 1993-4

Posted on January 24, 2009 by Neil

Clearly this is Christmas, and it is here in Elizabeth Street, but I am guessing which year*. Oh my, have I ever aged! But fifteen years or so is a long time…

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George, me, M

* It may well be Christmas 1992, the first in Elizabeth Street Surry Hills.

And the pub of course (12 July 1990) was The Albury: mais où est l’Albury d’antan?

And someone comments on Bruce’s album:

Such an beautiful original old pub destroyed! I was saddened when I finally moved to Syd and it was gone. I met a lovely guy there on my first visit around 1996 and didn’t leave empty handed….a big deal for a country boy!!!

“Such an beautiful original old pub destroyed!” indeed. I hope Bruce finds a few more to share in that “boot box full of photo memories.”

I have cropped a couple and given them the art makeover treatment.

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Here is a 2007 post:

M’s 18th 19th Australian Christmas

16  DEC 2007

Even if he will be spending it on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.

M arrived in Australia from Shanghai in December 1989. He has told me how disappointed he was that year in Christmas, thinking it would be something like Chinese New Year back in Shanghai, only to find the streets of Auburn were less than vibrant on Christmas Day! (I met him around six months later.)

Christmas 1999 – New Year 2000 he was in Bodh Gaya being taught by the Dalai Lama.

Gets around, does M.

Finally, from 2009:

I too was offered a free trip to China…

28 MAR 2009

… and M was once thought to be a Chinese spy.

Back in 1990 when I first met M, then very recently arrived in Australia, I was living in Paddington at PK’s place – and a nice place it was too. The first morning M appeared at breakfast PK was quite nonplussed – being of Lithuanian background he had fairly strong Cold War views in some respects, though not in others. He did indeed suggest soon after that M may be a Chinese spy. He later changed his mind and may even deny the story today. 😉

No doubt among the very large influx of Chinese students at that post-Tiananmen time there would have been some spies, mostly there to monitor the other students. Chinese were used to being monitored. M solved the problem back home in China by joining the neighbourhood spooks – hiding in plain sight, you could say. The neighbourhood committee of spooks also had a benign role; as well as reporting suspicious activity they were agents too of social welfare. M claimed he was particularly lax on the reporting side, especially given his own association with quite a few westerners.

My students at the language college I then worked in more or less assumed someone could be a spy, or “a boss” as they tended to say, and sussed one another out before they started opening up about certain topics.

About a decade later I was offered a free trip to Shanghai by the parents of one of my SBHS students – and not to influence me, as it was offered after the exams. As M said, they were just being Chinese and were grateful I had helped their son. I found a face-saving way of refusing the gift…

25 years ago, July 1990! I can’t believe it!

Catch-up

Just 10 posts in August! There were 36 views a day average. Since 1 August the post viewed posts have been:

Home page / Archives 560 views
Friday Australian poem: #NS6 – Mary Gilmore “Old Botany Bay” 36
Living with the facts of our history 33
The search for the perfect burger 32
Taste of Xi’an Wollongong 28
Poem of the day: W H Auden 26
Tomorrow when the war began… 24
I’m really a conservative…. 18

And from 2009:

East Redfern: M’s orchid 1

On a balcony overlooking South Dowling Street.

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I’m really a conservative…

But hardly anyone else is, least of all the creatures that infest the Murdoch press so much. I say that after almost spoiling my lunch here at City Diggers (appropriately conservative venue) by reading the latest column by Andrew Bolt in which to me the great mystery is whether he is in any genuine sense any kind of Christian, deeply and intellectually that is — apart from using it as a chess-piece in a cliched rant directed against clearly sane people like Waleed Aly and annoying but misunderstood folk like Yasmin Abdel-Magied. (Best comment on her, by the way, comes from fellow ex-SBHS alumnus and well-known writer of letters to the editor Burt Candy on Facebook the other day: “My father died on the Thai-Burma railway as a Japanese POW and I know he wouldn’t have been offended by Yasmin using the ‘Lest We Forget’ to remind us that there are still wars across the world that are killing innocents. However he would have condemned her being forced out of Australia for it. He didn’t die to support cruel bigotry”). But it’s part of Bolt’s schtick to throw into his tired argument her name, Waleed’s, and the ABC, which apparently spends all its resources on vilifying Christians — on Compass for example, or by broadcasting Songs of Praise every Sunday. Meantime, I wonder just how much of the Nicene Creed Mr Bolt actually subscribes to hand-on-heart. I would guess not much.

But back to my being a conservative. All my genuinely Left friends over the last 50 years or so have known what a sceptic I am when it comes to The Revolution! When it comes to the classic locus of conservatism I am rather more Edmund Burke than Tom Paine, and always have been, despite my views on individual issues often producing a profile like So I tried ABC’s “Vote Compass”.

The overview of my political leanings came out thus:

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Not too surprising.

But then I subscribed to Quadrant back in the 60s, when it was half-way decent. I ever rejected the siren-call of Marxism. If from anywhere, my political core came from my parents and especially from my maternal grandfather Roy Christison, who if anything was a Dickensian and judging from many a thing he told me something of an agnostic in his later years. As am I really. Have a look at these posts from November 2008 and this one from the year before:

I began life as a resident of The Shire and continued as such for my first quarter-century. I was, so far as I was political at all, a supporter of the Liberal Party in early adulthood. I was a religious conservative. I even subscribed to Quadrant, though I would venture to suggest the Quadrant of the 1960s bore small resemblance to the Quadrant of today. I supported, at first, the Vietnam War.

In due course I changed my mind about the Vietnam War, but always felt the extreme left’s take on it was hyperbolic and in its own way bigoted. The treatment of soldiers returning from that war in the early 70s was disgraceful. As I went into my teaching career I began to see through the conservative religion to the pit of absurdity at its heart, leading to a considerable (but useful) period in the wilderness in that regard. I became involved, in a small way, in the Teachers’ Federation and came to see the value and necessity of the trade union movement.

In 1972 I voted for Whitlam. Since then I have tended to favour Labor, the sadly dying Democrats, or The Greens, or, on occasion, Independents.

I have learned much from some left-wing, even Marxist or neo-Marxist, writers without ever being or even wanting to be a Marxist. Like Bruce I read Karl Popper’s The Open Society and its Enemies (or some of it), and Orwell, and S I Hayakawa’s Language in Thought and Action. Take just one quote from Popper:

Liberalism and state-interference are not opposed to each other. On the contrary, any kind of freedom is clearly impossible unless it is guaranteed by the state. A certain amount of state control in education, for instance, is necessary, if the young are to be protected from a neglect which would make them unable to defend their freedom, and the state should see that all education facilities are available to everybody. But too much state control in educational matters is a fatal danger to freedom, since it must lead to indoctrination. As already indicated, the important and difficult question of the limitations of freedom cannot be solved by a cut and dried formula. And the fact that there will always be borderline cases must be welcomed, for without the stimulus of political problems and political struggles of this kind, the citizen’s readiness to fight for their freedom would soon disappear, and with it, their freedom. (Viewed in this light, the alleged clash between freedom and security, that is, a security guaranteed by the state, turns out to be a chimera. For there is no freedom if it is not secured by the state; and conversely, only a state which is controlled by free citizens can offer them any reasonable security at all.)

I have, partly through linguistics and English Studies, taken on since then much from postmodern and postcolonial sources — generally speaking so long as they can write like human beings, which many of them cannot. So my thinking may even be described by some as conservative. It is certainly not terribly profound or original. However, given all the above I found myself increasing alienated by what has in the past decade or two masqueraded as conservatism, a set of increasingly fevered and unreasonable right-wing fetishes starting with the kiss of that spider woman Thatcher — though it has to be said of her that she was a very progressive figure in her day on the subject of global warming, but then she was after all really a scientist.

In 1984-5 I found myself working full time for the then Liberal Party candidate for Sydney, not that I ever voted for him. That was when the Howard career really began with his first stint as leader, stalling soon after, but reviving to take him to power in 1996. I saw at that time the forces at work, viewed from my desk in a Glebe bookshop, or fielded by telephone. I saw, met, spoke to, or at least heard of many of the players at that time. I saw the beginning of the trajectory that has delivered the Liberal Party now in the wilderness. At the centre of it all has been John Howard. (Yes, I had taken time out of teaching.)

That potted background leads to an excellent letter in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

Liberals must return to tradition of decency, diversity and tolerance

It’s hard to see the Liberal Party re-establishing itself as a credible force without it reconnecting with a significant part of its one-time base: the small-l, compassionate tradition that was for so long such an important part of the party’s make-up, allowing it to operate as a “broad church” of anti-Labor tendencies. They used to call it the Whig tradition.

It was a tendency that recognised an obligation on government to look after those less able to deal with the world than others more fortunate; a tendency that saw people as people, rather than as economic units.

It used to be in the Liberal Party, too, that members were able to vote against their party if it came to a matter of real conscience. It was tolerated, and the party was proud of it as one of the most important distinctions between it and the ALP. It was a key reason for them naming themselves Liberals.

These days, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission would do well to have a look at the Liberals for misleading advertising, for liberal they ain’t.

One of the most poisonous trends throughout the Howard era has been the crushing of the small-l tradition in the party with the at-times systematic elimination of MPs and strains through the organisational wing.

Even with a handful of moderates surviving idiosyncratically, they are nothing like the force they were supposed to be in the Menzian Liberal Party. And when they do survive, they are there more often as numbers manipulators than as forces for altruism.

The Howard Liberal Party, fashioned by him and for him by the likes of Michael Kroger and Peter Costello, made people such as Petro Georgiou, Judi Moylan and Bruce Baird nothing more than an accidental ginger group.

It became, with them, a matter of note when this ginger group took stands against the party and the leader, when it should be something almost normal: an important check and balance within the party.

The Liberals used to be proud that they tolerated dissent. Now, they punish it as vindictively as the ALP, except that vengeance within the Liberals is often behind the back, not up front.

The Liberals’ liberal tendency should be an indispensable component of the party. That’s where the party’s compassion is: its humanity. Without it, they will forever recede into more of an intolerant right-wing rump undeserving of broad support from the electorate.

Paul Ellercamp Gymea

Also from The Shire, you may note.

The worst thing they could do would be to elect Tony Abbott as leader; when I saw him extolling his “people skills” on TV last night I almost fell off my chair!…

But the problem with Abbott is deeper than that; in fact he is part of the problem being a product of the rot that set in after 1985. I can’t help thinking Paul Keating was being mischievous in proposing Julie Bishop; let’s face it, he hardly wishes the Liberal Party well. I would also reject Brendan Nelson who has displayed an amazing talent for following all the worst advice he can find, in my opinion….

So. The trouble is there are virtually none of the loudmouth conservatives here or overseas that I can take seriously. After all, I find the case for human-influenced climate change compelling, which makes me a warmist! If I were still teaching I would gladly avail myself of the resources offered by Safe Schools! I plan to vote YES, assuming that silly postal survey turns out to be even legal. (We don’t know that yet.) And so on…

I am a conservative out of sorts with almost all the fetishes that pass for conservatism in today’s world! I suspect I am far from alone.