My place. Monday, 1.20am
So, I arrive back in Australia (a landscape I love) after a brief sojourn to a Pacific island (a landscape I love) and what happens?
No, I don’t lose my citizenship because of my lack of patriotism for Team Australia – I have a birthday.
I’m not saying what age I am, because I don’t want people judging me by the number of revolutions I’ve made around our sun. That is so shallow (and could affect my popularity).
Also, I’m still not that comfortable with my new age.
All I’ll say is that this birthday was more significant to me than most of my previous 59 birthdays.
I reckon it’s partly the power of numbers. (Remember 666?)
Western culture, despite its jealousy of Arabic culture and comfortable clothing, borrowed its number system (based on 10) from the Arabs. My age, based on this system, is huge.
We could have stayed with the Roman system, but the Romans, with whom we identified on many levels (especially their propensity for invasion), had a very complicated number system. (And my age would look like a shirt size.) These blokes could fight and drink (and we love that), but manipulating job figures or fudging entitlements? Useless.
So, apart from the odd grandfather clock, Rolex watch or chapter headings, Roman integers went the way of lead plumbing and metal skirts. And we went Arabic.
We could have gone Mayan (based on 20) and I would only be in my third vigesade. But the Christian conquistadors slaughtered that number system because it had a zero. The pope didn’t like zero because how could there be nothing if there was always a God?
According to the Bible, I’m allocated only three score and 10 years. Which means I’ve barely enough time left to do anything. Long-term relationship? Forget golden anniversary, I’ll be lucky to make tin… Generous retirement finances? Only if I get into politics…
Under the traditional Aboriginal system I would have been an old bloke ages ago. I’d now be eating prime goanna cuts and telling stories between naps.
The culture in which I live – in which I was raised – is obsessed with youth. I was a believer. As a young fella I protested against the old people who were sending young people to war. I rejected their closet sex, stale music and grey suits.
I laughed at the idea of a 9-5 job and went deep bush with other middle-class white youth to build a young utopia upon the smelly ruins of the old. The universe will provide, I reckoned. And it did. With a little help from the dole. And my mum.
But, my youth is all done now.
The other night it rode into a flaming North Coast sunset with both barrels blazing, all corks popping. With a crystal glass of French bubbly in my hand and a tear in my eye, I waved goodbye to the boy. And said hello to the old bloke. (Was there ever a man?)
But, you know what? I’m glad to be older.
Because I realise that all that focus on youth is smoke and mirrors. This culture doesn’t care for young people. They’re not society’s future; they’re marketplace fodder. Their futures have been mined for profit.
In a perverse distraction this society elevates Miley Cyrus above real heroes like the people who stopped the Adani-Carmichael mine. It gives banks more guarantees than rivers. It treats preening pollies to freebies but treats the oldest living culture to a night in jail.
It doesn’t care about me, the youth, or anybody who is not part of Team Greed.
But now I’m of a certain age, my culture rejects me.
And I’m free, gloriously free.