The series of fiascos that defines the Turnbull Government and its precursor, the Abbott hilarity, are a symptom of an old guard of suited conservatives shouting abuse at the winds of 21st century change. They long for a simpler time, probably somewhere in the 1950s, when women were women and all real men wore hats. They long for a time when homosexual men and women had to keep to the shadows of their lonely ostracism. They long for a time when women knew their place and that was mostly in the kitchen or doing the housework. They long for a time when women had to resign their jobs when they married. They long for a time when sexual harassment was a rite of passage for women. They long for a time when the men who worked for wages knew their place and doffed their hats to the boss. They long for a time when a stormwater drain, the river or the ocean was a convenient garbage dump. They long for a time when animals were curiosities you could occasionally use as target practice if you were bored. They long for a time when a chimney was a way to get the noxious fumes up so high you didn’t have to worry about them. They long for a time when native forests were there to be cut down and shredded to make paper or cardboard. They long for a time when unimpeded bulldozers clear-felled woodland to graze cattle. They long for a time when all the faces they saw on the street were almost universally white Anglo-Saxons. They long for a time when if you lived in a town, you hardly ever saw aboriginals, except on the outskirts. They long for a time when the words activist and environmentalist were unknown. They long for a time when human rights only concerned other countries. They long for a time when the options were to populate or perish. They long for a time when the family was dragged to church every Sunday and you ate fish every Friday. They long for a time when the punishment for a priest molesting children, was to be given another parish. They long for the time when children were taught reading, writing, arithmetic and religion, and bullying was character-building. They long for a time when everything was cut and dried, and thinking was optional. These old conservatives think these were the good old days. My father used to say that anybody who thinks they were the good old days, wasn’t there. These conservatives are an anachronism and if we do not bypass them, embrace the future and attend to the problems of this planet, in part caused by the archaic attitudes above, it will not be a planet on which we can all survive.
While I agree with almost all of the above, a lot of good things were happening in the 1950s, a decade that is often denigrated unfairly. It was a time, at least in Australia, when material comforts were certainly on the increase. I can remember when we first moved into our new house in an outer Melbourne suburb in August 1948 we had an ice chest instead of a refrigerator, no hot water service, a copper instead of a washing machine, no car, no phone, an outside dunny and many of the local roads were unsealed. In 1948 people who owned cars were in a minority. By the time we left in 1957 we had a decent fridge, a hot water service, a washing machine and a new car. These were quite important to the average person. The sewerage was yet to arrive in our suburb.
Something else that was different in the 1950s was that people were much more willing than they are now to join community organisations such as the local school Parents Organisation. In the modern world, all sorts of groups are struggling for members who will actually do something. This includes scientific societies and even the local bowls clubs. Part of this is due to the fact that in most cases these days both partners now work (often quite long hours) and are too tired to join outside organisations and their kids are looked after by their parents. Another factor is that it is much easier to travel, both locally and further afield. Communications have of course improved remarkably.
I know that material well being was increasing during the 1950s, as it has done before and subsequently; it is the attitudinal and societal parts of the 1950s with which I was most concerned. For some people, the 1950s were a straightjacket that they couldn’t wait to throw off. In the 1960s they started to do that.
Certainly there were serious attitudinal and societal problems in the 1950s followed by long overdue changes in the 1960s. However, a couple of points need to be made, (1) the Great Depression of the 1930s clearly scarred many families. My father used to refer to it constantly and the difficulties of getting a permanent job clearly affected his, and many other peoples, views on life, (2) World War II had a drastic effect on Australia and the way the old anglo-celtic Australian community reacted to the post war situation. The result of these two factors was that what a lot of people wanted was some sort of certainty in their lives and a higher standard of living. It is much easier to address things such as environmental issues in a comparatively wealthy society rather than in a poor society. Many inner city “greenies” have no idea of the real world. One other point is that it essential to clear land if you wish to grow crops, graze animals, etc. Most people wish to eat. Clearly some land that has been cleared should never have been cleared, but there needs to be a balanced approach.
Yeah the depression and the war buggered up my parents’ lives. My father was working in a full time job when he was 14, and my mother when she was 16; then my old man spent three years in the army. However, they were not bigots and some of their friends were refugees from Germany (he fought against the Americans), UK, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and sundry other places. I was lucky.
I look back to those days and I remember the dishonesty, how real communication didn’t take place. As a child you weren’t encouraged to speak.
People believed the illusion that society was decent, people were well mannered and nothing bad ever happened to good people.
Sadly as a child in those days I was sexually abused by not one but two neighbours either side of where I lived. The first was the man I called Pop, a man that was a surrogate grandfather for me. Well he violated my trust and my relationship with him and I would have been all of 5 or 6. I sensed this was wrong and stopped going into there, a house a metre away from the side of my home. Now the other neighbour was in a house 2 metres from my home on the upside of the street, he was a boy in late adolescence who enticed me in to his place, I don’t recall the pretence.
He was obviously going through his own sexual awakening and needed a young girl to practice on. Penetration did not occur fortunately.
Again I knew this was not right and again I said nothing to anyone.
This is how it was, we as children didn’t have the words, the understanding or a willing aware environment in which to tell our parents about things like this.
A third thing happened this time to my sister, another boy in late adolescence from a few houses down attempted to rape my younger sister. It was traumatising, the Police were called, they took evidence.
As a family this was never mentioned again.
Silence was the go.
A dishonest silence covered up by dishonest ‘everything is alright’.
Al least nowadays we are a little more honest, we have words and permission to speak about subjects that were previously taboo. We teach children about their safety and even how to say no and how to communicate this to others.
I remember the smugness of ‘nothing bad ever happens here’ and I knew it to be a lie.
Scratch the surface and you’d see the underbelly of all that niceness.’
Yeah, the stigma attached to the victim as much as the perpetrator. So, in those days it was just better to keep things quiet. It was appalling.