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Rob Greaves

Ruminations from My Verandah #46: Oh what a year it was . . . it really was such a year!

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"Ruminate - to think deeply about something" (Oxford Dictionary)

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ID:	33631 Oh what a year it was . . . it really was such a year!

Hi, I'm Rob Greaves.


This is the forty-sixth posting in this on-going, if not somewhat ad-hoc column, called "Ruminations From My Verandah" and it's the last for 2016.

The sun is beaming down, the wine is a nice chilled 10 degrees C and I am feeling very mellow. For the umpteenth time this year the Kookaburra’s are singing loud and heartily. My pond is gurgling as the water runs down the rocks and the cicadas rise and fall in a never-ending opera of the bush.

It is hard to accept for a frozen moment in time, as I sit here, that the world both locally and globally, is in such a mess!

We come back to the declaration of, “what a year, oh what a year it was, it really was such a year” (Apologies to Elvis)

Firstly we have had to deal with both natural disasters and manmade disasters, both locally and globally.
Now natural disasters can bring a lot of damage, to people and property but for me, they do not have the same effect as man made disasters, although in many ways, natural disasters can manifest themselves as a result of human activity, somewhat blurring the distinction!

So why has it become a “hell of a year”!

First there is terrorism!

The ever-present media publishing about terrorism really is a two-edged sword. Certainly the media has a role to inform and even ‘educate’ about what the dangers are and who is responsible and where these acts are being perpetrated! Make no mistake I find my guts tying themselves in a knot when I read and see images of people being slaughtered by terrorist acts.

Regardless of what the essence of the "cause" is, the total disregard for human life and liberty by these people demonstrate that despite us now being in the 21st century, we still are afflicted by the barbarism that belongs consigned to a dark long-ago history. yet, it is still with us.

I also understand that the lines between terrorism – the act, and Islamism – the religion, have become almost blurred to the point where ordinary people do find it hard to differentiate. This is largely due to deep seated fear in many people of that which is the "unknown" and, because there is little filtering of news. It is constantly in our faces, it is relentless and in many ways, those that follow the path of terror, be it religious or western state sanctioned terror, want it that way.

Fear is very powerful and fear of the unknown, fear of a perceived loss of a way of life and indeed, fear of very real hurtful actions all give rise to deep seated, deep rooted reactions. It has been said many times that we are only nine meals away from anarchy!

Now this country has a both a history of wonderful and powerful behaviours and reactions when people are in need. That is something as a society we are proud of. However, we also have a history of reacting in a very racial way against people from various parts of the world. In the early part of our history it was the Chinese who were vilified. Post World War II it was the Italians, then in the 1960's it was the Greeks.

Over the years people from Vietnam and Asia in general and boat people in particular have had to deal with this apparent intolerance of many "white" Australians. More recently, its become a case of racism toward not so much people from a particular country, but to people of a different religious belief.

I do truly believe that the majority of Muslims who practice their religion are decent hard working people seeking to find a life in what is for all intents and purposes, a "new" country. They do have differences in many social and cultural norms and like all peoples everywhere, they have their share of "ratbags" - but painting an entire culture on the actions of a few is not only ignorant, it is, absolutely, against that Australian ethos of, "a fair go!"

"Thinking people" also know the strength of this country is that it adapts and adopts those differences in cultures and beliefs and is richer for it as demonstrated by the fact that we no longer seek to separate out, for example, Italians and Greeks as being "different" - they are Australian's. I also understand that there are some utter ragbags that happily bend the religion and their racist beliefs to attempt to justify their rabid anti-social, in fact their anti-Australian activities. I'm talking about both Australian born and OS born.

But we have developed a wonderful pluralistic country that is the envy of many nations and I believe we are absolutely richer for it. Of course, before we start shinning our collective halo's, we do have a very dark spot that we tend to actively ignore!

We have still to come to grips with how we think of and treat our original Australians, those whose stewardship of the land and culture goes back over 35,000 years!

The various forms of "racism" being experienced by the many, with the current main focus seemingly directed toward folk of a Muslim background as well as the boat people, is part of a growing trend to sensationalise the issues and to promote a growing fear that then manifests itself in another “horror’ of the year – the rise and rise of right wing extremism and rampant nationalism.

Extremism in all its form be it right to the left wing of politics or indeed, religion, has bought upon us a further level of fear and distrust. Part of the issue that extremism has given rise to is the recognition that the “traditional” politics and social division of resources, have begun to make it very clear that traditional politics are no longer serving us adequately.

We look to our leaders!

Really?

In Australia we are suffering from what is increasingly looking like a federal government in turmoil. They keep patching up their public façade, but really behind it, things are crumbling – and badly and those, like pensioners, are feeling the negative consequences of a government that will not chase after the money needed to repair the budget from those that can afford it, but rather continue to attack the vulnerable – the aged, the single parent, the unemployed the socially dispossessed.

We seek an answer; we seek anything and often anybody, who can promise a way out of this mess. As I see it, all we do is dig the trench we are in even deeper. We expect someone else to “save us” – be it a radically different politician, a religious entity or even for some, aliens!

What do they say about “don’t mention the war”? That leads me to the inevitable consideration that 2017 might be even worse with Donald Trump as president of the USA!

It is beyond my understanding how a man with such a poor business record, despite his bluster and public persona, who has a total lack of political acumen, who has a mouth that is so big that would rival the widest point of the mouth of the Amazon River has become President. He has been able to present himself with few, if any, policies based on logic, socially responsiblity, humanistic values, local and global ecologically based, science based principals. He is a man who belittles people, who mocks those who have no "voice", a man who is simply - a bully.

He scares me, not because he is scary per se, but he will, despite being overseen by the Senate, wield enormous power and he will have the ability to wind the clock way back on ecology issues, thrust the world into a new era of nuclear arms races, create division in his own country unseen previously and create a global economic tsunami that in Australia we will not be able to hold back.

But then again, I look around this globe and find no one, absolutely no one who has vision, no one with an ability to enthuse others and help bring about positive change. Certainly not in this country.

But wait! There’s more! Not only are we trying to deal with the ever-increasing consequences of climate change; we have to deal with the very vocal minority of climate skeptics.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that human activity is and continues to have an effect on the climate, we are beset by those with their “heads in the sands” who simply are unable or unwilling to recognize that the documented, verified and repeatable studies showing that things are getting worse in regard to the rapid and volatile climate change. Sadly these fools will not be around to explain their failures to future generations who will suffer far more than we are or will.

So we flounder around, sometimes we try to get on with our lives and try to ‘ignore’ that which we have no control over.

Largely we look for the answers outside, when they are often generated inside. Trouble is looking inward requires a degree of insight, honesty, intelligence and recognition that there are problems to be dealt with, and that, as it has been said before, "if you aren't part of the solution you sure as hell are part of the problem.

Yet despite this apparent “blackness’, that it could be claimed hangs over us collectively like the Sword of Damocles, for a moment it is possible for me to take in the endless variety of green that presents itself as I sit on the verandah and believe all can be well with the world.

In fact so much has happened that is good and fine. Not the least is that my self and my family have made it through another year relatively unscathed.

But wait! Is that not damning oneself with faint praise? Surely things haven’t become that bad that faint praise becomes a critical measure of happiness?

So just what is the measure by which we determine that things are good and fine? Certainly things that are not good and fine appear to be far easier to identify, and, it could be argued quite succinctly a lot easier to identify.

I think the measure for me of happiness and a measure of things that have gone well, can be measured in my family and friends. Sure we can look globally and say, “hell, the world hasn’t blown up” – but what sort of “faint praise” good measure is that? Nup! I think it comes down to family and friends and when push comes to shove, we can think globally, but we actually can only expect to affect that which is locally!

My family is now spread not just across the east coast, being Victoria and Queensland, but also overseas with my oldest son living in Ohio with his wife and stepson.

I have spoken of my oldest son,Tat, in some previous “Ruminations” and his life has turned around completely since moving to the US and marrying. I would love nothing more than to be able to jump in the car and drive and see him – skype really is a poor second best. However, he has settled in himself, he has a good job, he has prospects, he is about to get his 10 year Green card, he has a wonderful US family and he and his wife and son are coming home for Christmas in 2017!

That will be a focus of 2017, there is no doubt about it, and June my partner of nearly 40 years, misses him as only a mother can.

My other son, Court, lives only 5 minutes drive away and so we see him and his partner Kirsty fairly regularly. That pleases both June and I, but I think maybe me even more than her, as he is one of the few “blood” family members I have in my life. Now while June’s family have always been and will always be important to me – blood is special.

I don’t talk a lot about June. That is not an indication in anyway that she is unimportant. Far from it! She is actually quite a private person and as an example it has taken many years just to get her to start using Facebook. Sure she is uncertain about technology, but she isn’t inept, it is more that she is cautious about what she reveals about herself to whom.

She is absolutely the Yin to my Yang. I’m happy to put it all out there, and as many of you know, I do so often.

You know, I guess at heart I am a confident person. My confidence is born of a multitude of experiences, learning experiences, emotional experiences, work experiences and creative experiences. I have an ability to learn, mostly from successes and I guess what to avoid from my failures, but I have never been concerned about putting myself "out" there and finding and discovering new experiences.

I guess age also helps. At a time when I am racing toward 71 years of age, I have comfortably adopted a serious case of “take me as I am, or leave me”! It is a very liberating time of my life. I believe that while I have filled to overflowing, refilled, overflowed and refilled again in regard to knowledge, it is small but significant slivers of wisdoms that have inculcated my being, that really have helped me establish my place in the Universe.

Now to paraphrase the Hitchhikers Guide To The Universe - The Universe is big, really, really big, and yup! I am microscopic – hell sub-atomic in relative size. But size doesn’t matter you know – not to me!

What really counts is not your size but your impact! Hey does this mean I have an ego the size of a small planet? No, not indeed, remember – think globally act locally.

So June is an important part of who I am and while we can have some ding-dong battles, and I know at times I drive her close to absolute melt-down on the scale of frustration . . . well, it goes both ways and, somehow we battle through and here we are, nearly at our 40th anniversary.

I think I will leave to a future Rumination the plans we have to celebrate our 40th anniversary, as they involve spending it in the UK, the country of my birth. I haven’t been back at all, having arrived as a child of 18 months in early 1948. Now make no mistake Australia is my home, but we deserve a decent holiday and we both want to experience England.

More on that matter in a later Rumination.

So my family is well, my family is happy and apart from the usual living stresses that life throws up, they are doing well and that makes me happy.

Now we come to friends.

When I first went onto Facebook many, many years ago, I actually had the gall to declare that I wouldn’t count Facebook “friends” as friends because only face to face connections are "friends". Oh the ignorance of the man! I now count many people as absolute friends who I have met, or reacquainted with, via Facebook. Some have been through my 52- year connection with the Oz music scene, some through my membership of the Debonairs, some through mutual friends, some through interviewing on my program, Listen To Older Voices and some, I haven't actually met face to face. Friends they all are.

So the method of making friends fast becomes irrelevant and sometimes, especially with facebook there are some that ‘drop-off”. After all, we should not and cannot be “loved” or “love” everyone. Some I have known for 50 years, some for much lesser time, but the quality of the friendship constantly shows through and it’s an excellent time to declare to you all – how much I appreciate you as friends, be you next door or in another country.

Life might have been better, and it might have been worse. Again I consider the adage – think globally and act locally. It seems to me that while we must consider what might be, we need learn or relearn how to live in the here and now - in the moment.

We probably need to recognize "that", which we can control and effect, and do as much as we can to make certain any affect we have on people and the planet results in a positive effect.

For as the Buddha said in one of his ruminations under the Bodi tree, “The secret of health for both body and mind is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly”.

I won’t be making any New Year resolutions, I never have! However I will try and refresh my philosophy on life, and earnestly try to be positive in the face of negativity, to try and find solutions and not more problems, to laugh more than I frown and, to make sure I appreciate my family and friends.

I raise my glass, to ,them and to you, the reader!

All change comes from small actions that take root, are nourished and shared. Let's start sharing positivity, not to ignore the injustice and immorality in the world, but not let it dominate our thoughts and actions.

Speak with you again in 2017.

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