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The self and the selfish – Sydney’s homeless

Categories: Australian Federal Police, Discrimination, Discrimination/Racism, Human Rights, Law Enforcement, Respect, Shared humanity

by: Bakchos
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Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee
Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal Puff
And brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff, oh!

Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee
Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee.

Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sail
Jackie kept a lookout perched on Puff’s gigantic tail
Noble kings and princes would bow whenever they came
Pirate ships would lower their flag when Puff roared out his name, oh!

Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee
Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee.

A dragon lives forever, but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys
One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more
And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.

His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane
Without his life-long friend, Puff could not be brave
So Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave, oh!

Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee
Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee

“Puff, the Magic Dragon” lyrics by Leonard Lipton and Peter Yarrow

Last Saturday marked the first anniversary of Occupy Sydney. A march projected by organizers to bring three hundred or more protesters to the streets of Sydney to demand justice from Australia’s so called establishment was planned. What a dismal event it was, thirty at most, a true testament to the true Australian spirit – selfishness – as Darren Bloomfield said outside the University of Technology Sydney the day the police first broke occupy last year. “If we don’t reform immediately and go back, it’s all over.” No more insightful words have ever been spoken about an aborted protest movement.

Not wanting to make the day a total loss, I phoned a sister in arms. In fact Sister Marie is a real sister, a Catholic nun that is. I asked Sister Marie if she could meet me outside the Supreme Court building and help me seek signatures on my petition calling for a Royal Commission into the Australian Federal Police (“AFP”). It never ceases to amaze me that what seems outrageous coming from me somehow seems normal and acceptable when the same proposition is put by a nun!

Much to my chagrin, but nonetheless to the benefit of all Australian’s, Sister Marie managed to collect another three thousand signatures. Obviously, God is walking with her on this issue. I guess having Father George speak to the merits of the petition during mass doesn’t hurt either.

All very well, I hear you say, but what does a song about the loss of innocence and childhood magic have to do with a petition calling for a Royal Commission into the AFP? The short, indeed the long answer is nothing. Puff however does have a lot to do with selfishness, consumerism and everything that is generally wrong with our society. Puff more than many may realize is a symbol of the hypocrisy that has come to pass for intelligent and probing debate by our spineless and facile media and so called political leaders.

In 1977, Noel Paul Stookey released Real to Reel, a live album drawn from a tour of Australia, which he recorded in March 1976 at the Sydney Opera House. It was released by Stookey’s own independent label Neworld, manufactured and distributed by Sparrow Records. Stookey as always gave an engaging solo performance, mixing songs old and new with gently comic monologues, including one in which Puff, the Magic Dragon, goes on trial for his supposed references to marijuana, with Newsweek serving as the prosecutor and the audience as the jury.

Puff the Magic Dragon, friend of Little Jackie Paper, was somehow morphed into a recruitment campaign for the marijuana industry by the West’s docile and facile entertainment/media machine, passing itself off as the purveyors of insightful commentary in the world of the selfish. At least the audience/jury at the Sydney Opera House saw through the farce and exonerated an innocent Puff.

The reason Puff has raised his “gigantic tail” in the NSW Supreme Court precinct is that the square where Sister Marie and I canvassed passers-by for their “John Hancocks” is bounded on one side by the NSW Supreme Court and Federal Court, on the other by St James Anglican Church, overseeing both. All who enter the square are under the gaze of the larger than life-size statues of Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Consort Albert. One of those entering the square when Sister Marie and I were canvassing Victoria and Albert’s wards was a young mother singing Puff, the magic Dragon to her two children. After politely declining Sister Marie’s invitation to sign our petition, the young mother was approached by one of Victoria and Albert’s homeless wards. The young mother again politely declined whatever overtures were made by a fellow human being. Once she passed the homeless man, but still within my earshot she said to her children “that’s what happens if you don’t follow the rules”. The juxtaposition of the entire scene made me stop and think for a minute, but only a minute. Here we have a square bounded by all that is sacred in our society – church and law – overseen by the effigies of imperial power and pride, peering down upon the young mother singing to her children a song about the loss of childhood innocence whilst denigrating one of Sydney’s many homeless and destitute denizens. (what happened)Under the gaze of all that our society sees as good and just (is that) one of society’s less fortunate was not only rejected again by one of (society’s) the more fortunate, but was then held up as a salutary lesson about what will happen if you don’t lose your childhood innocence and become one of join the ranks of society’s the selfish. A poignant scene, if ever there was one.

Frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee

We all like to frolic in the autumn mist, or in this case the spring mist in our city by the sea. It’s a marvellous city to live in. But, like the rest of Australian society it can be a cold heartless place. Do people really think that a man or a woman would choose to live on the streets in abject poverty, devoid of self-worth, despised by all those good Christian, Muslim or Jewish souls who pass under the gaze of Victoria and Albert while going about their daily business? Anyone who answers yes to that question should take a long hard look at themselves in the a mirror.

Where is the dignity in decay? Where is the truth and Christian brotherhood exemplified by St James Church and the court buildings? They don’t exist; in not existing they show society for the sham it is. If Australia truly desires a society moulded on selfishness, hypocrisy and a denial of justice, so be it, but at least have the courage to say so, to stand tall and say “I am a selfish, judgmental git and I’m proud to be”. That I don’t have an issue with; it’s out in the open and people can respond as they see fit. What I can’t stomach is the hypocrisy of our Christian, caring window dressing.

His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain

After putting away our flags of dissent and brew of treason, I walked Sister Marie to her car, promising with crossed fingers that she would at last see me in church, tomorrow – but, as we all know tomorrow never comes! I myself  walked back to St James station to catch a train home. As I entered the station tunnels outside St James Church I saw two men, heads bent in sorrow, curled up in urine stained sleeping bags, their merger possessions beside them in a shopping trolley. As I passed, leaving them with some money for food, I realised what homelessness is. Your life, your sense of worth, indeed your whole self-worth falls like Puff’s green scales; leaving you with only one choice, to follow Puff as he “slipped into his cave”, to be unceremoniously moved on lest those good Christian, Muslim or Jewish souls catch your gaze while going about their daily business, which could only serve to spoil their lunch.

Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys

What had and still has me more concerned than the plight of these two men and their thousands of brothers and sisters who sleep rough on Sydney’s streets on a regular basis, is the message that young mother was sending to her children. “Unless you, like Jackie Paper, abandon those who are no longer useful to you, you will end up on the streets with green scales falling like rain”. Is it any wonder that our society is the way it is, where self-interest is all that matters? Everything else, including our brothers and sisters, matter naught in the land of the self. Is this really the type of society you want to bequeath your children?

A tribute to our brothers and sisters who have fallen to the scythe of selfishness

The tears that burn
the throat that’s raw
rejected time and again by those I call friend
what’s that I do, that you call “so wrong?”
is it because I’m self?
or because I won’t let the selfish mould me
into who they want me to be
can’t they see that’d destroy me?
why do they try and mould me into what I’m not
don’t they know I’d rather be not
how can they say I’m unreal?
I’m sick of trying to please
to conform with what they’d expect
they’re the ones pretending
to be someone their not
they call me hypocrite
but they’re the ones who say behind my back
what they won’t say to my face
am I the hypocrite now?
because I have walked away from all this hypocrisy
rather than risk, becoming the selfish
with those sneering looks on their faces
how can the selfish call anyone a hypocrite
no one is perfect
so what does that make you,
a hypocrite too?

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