TRUE OPINION: What’s there to look forward to for Australia this Christmas, wonders our resident grinch Gary Johnston.
‘Bush huts roasting on an open fire…. acrid smoke nipping at your nose …’
Christmas in Australia, is a time for giving … up.
As the national body politic lurches to the right faster than an engulfing inferno, with ever increasing poverty, climate chaos and economic uncertainty, we find ourselves in the midst of what is laughingly called the festive season.
A time of peace, joy and goodwill to all men and women. And other such swaddling.
What was originally a pagan festival celebrating the mid-winter solstice, has been well and truly hijacked by god-botherers, retailers and rip-off merchants; all of them desperately vying to capture our minds and wallets in the name of profit, propaganda and the hope that too much food and booze will divert us from the reality of the unmitigated disorder and dysfunction that’s raging all around.
Bah humbug? Yeah, with sleigh bells on; in the words of Pauline Hanson, now, amazingly, due to increased competition, in the relegation zone of the Premier league table of Australia’s biggest turkey – “I don’t like it”.
What don’t I like about Christmas? Well most of it actually, but if I had to nominate one single thing which sends me right up the chimney, it’s Christmas carols.
From mid-October onwards, it’s simply impossible to visit a supermarket or shopping centre without being bombarded by Bing, Bang or Bong warbling on about snow, mistletoe and jack frost, despite the undeniable fact that it’s 30+ degrees in the shade outside.
“I’m dreaming of a White Christmas. Just like the ones we used to know,” absolutely sums it up. If there was ever a more appropriate, inappropriate Christmas song I’d like to hear it.
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Item number one: the unmistakable notion of racial supremacy contained in the lyric.
Item number two: nostalgia and the hankering for a way of life that never existed or if it did, only ever for the privileged and entitled few, at the comprehensive expense of the unfortunate many.
Plus ça change …
In an attempt to redress the overwhelmingly northern hemispheric tenor of Christmas carols, some Australian scribblers have made an effort to invoke a more local tone. The results have been, well, sketchy.
Winning first prize in the category of unconscious irony is the deeply ambiguous question – ‘How’d you like to spend Christmas on Christmas Island?’.
Presumably written before Christmas Island became primarily known for its grisly immigration detention centre, this offering nevertheless suggests a rich vein of potential which could easily be explored by the emergence of such seasonal numbers such as ‘I intercepted 3 ships a’sailin’ in’, ‘Barnaby, the red-nosed pain-in-the-rear’ and the George Christensen favourite, ‘Away in a Monger’.
Amazingly, amidst all this dross, there is one song which truly invokes the significance of an Australian Christmas like no other.
Step forward ‘How to make Gravy’ by the seriously underrated Paul Kelly.
Telling a story from the point of view of ‘Joe’, an inmate in an unnamed jail, ‘How To Make Gravy’ explores the emotions that Christmas imposes on families living in the real world, rather than the snow-sprinkled imagined one of melody.
Separated from his loved ones through self-admitted ‘screwing up this time’, Joe name checks various members of his family, before revealing his main concern, that of Rita, his girl and who she’ll be dancing with come Christmas evening, when the tables are pushed back and the reggae of Junior Murvin comes on the stereo.
Loneliness, isolation pain, shame, jealousy but most of all, hope.
An unlikely hope perhaps, but one which can only be achieved through compassion and tolerance, qualities which as we know, exist in short supply in 2019 Australia, or at any rate in an Australia governed by a Prime Minister who displays the same contrived Christianity as that expressed in carols – with little reality and an emphasis on a pretend world of cloying sentimentalism and confection.
According to a recent poll, Scott Morrison is riding, bewilderingly, a wave of popularity. This, despite his proven track record in deception, division and self-aggrandisement all of which might suggest his own Christmas carol of choice would either be a rousing rendition of ‘Oh, Come all Ye Hateful’ or a choir of ‘quiet’ Australians warbling ‘Silent Night’.
Bring on 2020 and the vision of Morrison and his cronies unwrapping the present they so richly deserve: the sack.
And I don’t mean the one lugged by Santa Claus.