My place. Sunday, 9.10am
‘Don’t respect your elders,’ I say out loud.
A bush turkey looks at me, taking its eye off the fruit hanging from the mandarine tree.
‘What?’ it asks with that eye.
No-one else reacts to this comment. Well, there’s no-one else here, just me and the chook. Except, some kookaburras are chatting in the apple gum behind me, and far away a tardy rooster calls in the dawn.
I’m sitting outside my shack under the cliffs, bathing in the early morning sun, tapping away at my iPad, checking out accommodation in Caloundra, Queensland, because I want to visit my son and his family during the school holidays.
‘Don’t obey your elders,’ I say, talking to my grandchildren. (I know that’s weird – they’re not here – but being online blurs the edges of reality.)
The bush turkey ignores me this time and walks determinedly towards the mandarine tree.
I mean it. The children mustn’t obey their elders anymore. They mustn’t follow in their footsteps. They mustn’t listen to the nonsense that spills from old mouths like sewage from a pipe. The young must break from the tradition of honouring their elders.
Last year, the bush turkeys destroyed the mandarine tree just as the fruit was ripening. The young fruit didn’t have a chance. One day, I woke up, admired the nearly ripe fruit, plucked one for the drive into town, and left. When I returned, there was devastation. Branches were broken. Fruit lay on the ground, skin broken, flesh exposed. It was like the US had come to liberate the poor tree. It was like business had come to the forest. It was like mining had come to the farmlands.
Not this year. Oh no. I’m keeping a close eye on the tree. Once the turkeys start eating the fruit, I’ll have to harvest everything. The fruit is already tasting good, but every extra day is a ripening bonus.
Since Homo sapiens left the grasslands of Africa, walking the path to a better life, the young have learned from the old. Experience made the older wiser, and love of the tribe compelled the old to impart that wisdom to the young. Armed with that wisdom, the young grew older, gathering even more knowledge through experience. Then, when the time came, they became leaders and donated that wisdom to the young. This is the natural way.
Or it was.
Now the elders have betrayed the humanity which created them. The leaders have lost their way. Obligation to society, which should be at the core of their wisdom, is replaced by an obligation to self. Capitalism has spread like a cancer over the planet, u-turning human progress, subverting the sovereignty of soul over stuff, confusing the instinctive love of truth and commodifying the young.
Our leaders are, well, not. Their speech is gibberish, their knowledge worthless, their allegiance corporate, their decisions lethal. To follow these elders will bring suffering upon you; will bring ruin upon the world; will bring down a darknesss upon your light.
So, don’t do it, kiddies.
The turkey launches at the mandarine tree. Bush turkeys are clumsy flyers and it crashes into the tree, snapping branches and dislodging a couple of mandarines.
‘Piss off!’ I yell at it.
I gingerly get to my feet (yeah, still have the sore leg) and hobble angrily to the turkey, shaking my iPad at it.
You can’t trust your leaders, children. Don’t follow them. They have turned off the path.
I’m sorry, but you’ll have to find your own way. Trust your instincts. Follow your heart. The world needs you; needs you to love it and to end the selfishness that stalls evolution.
And I’ll have to harvest everything today.