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Blackfella: Down Under: Poem 2 of 10: The History Wars

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Blackfella: Down Under: Poem 2 of 10: The History Wars

by John Kendall Hawkins

Adapted from my 2 Act play, Crawling to Rotto. For decades, debate has raged (amongst white Aussie academics) about the founding of Australia and the consequent displacement of Aborigines by British law, colonists moving in suddenly, like absentee landlords showing one day and saying: "Yo, ixnay!"

Below, a hot beer-soaked debate rages at a table in a bar on Rottnest Island (off the coast of Fremantle in Western Australia) between white intellectual notables -- Andrew Bolt, Robert Manne, Robert Hughes, Geoffrey Blainey -- Rottnest, said to be a Dutch-pronounced version of Rat's Nest, is the site of atrocities, Aborigines imprisoned and executed and buried there. It is alive with their spirit. Daryl Jones and Nigel Whale, two mates, are playing ping pong, listening in, making sporadic competition sounds. While the whites debate, an Aboriginal fella named Moby sits at the bar watching cricket (because that's what's on TV) and raising brown bag after brown bag filled with a mild hallucinogenic to his face to drown his sorrows. It's a farce.


A spotlight comes up on Robert Hughes


Robert Hughes:

I'm not saying there were no abuses.

It started with the malign injustice,

casting away souls, so many j'accuses

far flung to this distant shore, a bloodless

inhumanity, flung so far. It amuses

the Devil's heart -- soul's without a compass,

fresh pickings, easy prey to his ruses,

aliens in a new, old world's strangeness.


Robert Manne:

Yes. And so it was with the Jews -- just tossed

upon the discard heap of history, vile

golems not fit for human warmth, just lost

at sea, on land, dark valleys. Yes. Such bile!

(shakes his head inconsolably)


Hughes:

I mean, can you imagine if we put

people back into debtors jails again?


Andrew Bolt:

We could ship them to the Yanks. Look, it's moot,

Hughesy, an oversimplification.

It's known and established they were riffraff;

some were what we call psychopaths today,

serial rapists, just quaff after quaff.

Who could blame Jack for sending them away?


Hughes:

No, I know all that; there's no dispute there.

What I'm saying, Boltsy, is a certain

climate was attached to the whole affair:

Transportation divided men girt in

sorrow, grief, loss, a fatal atmosphere

prevailed, each man lost in his own burden.


Bolt:

Oh, I don't know. It's given us mateship,

which helped those poor buggers survive not only

the miserable long journey, losing grip

of their souls, knowing scurvy, so lonely.


They pause a moment or two to cry in their beers.


I can just imagine what thoughts they had

coming to a place chockers full of crazed

and bizarre creatures, their nightmares so bad,

they must have spent years totally amazed.

Sounds of boomerangs and didgeridoos,

whoosh-whooshes and trippy jewsharpy moans,

and emus at you, bounding kangaroos,


They pause a moment or two to laugh in their beers.


Manne:

Struth and fair dinkum. But we're neglecting --


Hughes:

Sorry, Bobby, let me finish my point.

I've been doing a lot of reflecting:

Mateship! but it's no universal joint;

its smile doesn't get you genuflecting;

its not a Golden Rule; you can't anoint

an inmate argot's bought wink detecting.


Daryl Jones (to Hughes):

Oh, shut the f*ck up, Hughes, you feckin plagiarist. Who the feck would want to be your mate anyway?


Hughes:

My point to the rescue.


Geoffrey Blainey:

Truly, it was due.

I hear what you're saying, Hughesy, but lest

we forget, that exile mentality

was consequential and a kind of test

for any new eventuality.

They were exploited by a mad Empire

and unwilling vanguards too far away

to negotiate with the local choir

of Aborigines, too anxious to play.


Manne:

Yes, of course, and it was a policy

path to exploitation and genocide.


Moby wants another round. Holds up his paper bag. He's heard it all before.


The Stolen Generations fallacy,

removing children as a point of pride.


Bolt:

Now, come on, Bobby, all you Jews have that

genocide theme suffused in your thinking.

Sure sh*t happened, but then sh*t will happen.


Nigel (shouting from the ping pong table):

Sing it, Bolty, sing it! You're my captain.


Manne:

Surely you're not saying the Holocaust

never happened, Andrew, my heart would break.


Bolt:

Oh, come on, Bobby, leave the horror paused,

while we talk Stolens, for jesus christ sake.


There is a loud crashing sound as the doors swing open in the back and the spotlight sees a man dressed in a black Western outfit strutting in, spurs clanging. We hear the theme from the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. All eyes on him.


Barkeep:

Well f*ck me sideways in a submarine. It's Keith Windschuttle!?


Moby:

Oh f*ck me.


There is a massive applause, a popular celebrity has made a cameo appearance.


He jingles forward, lean and mean, toward the debaters. Stops several feet away, about halfway between their table and where Moby is seated.


Barkeep:

Drink?


Windschuttle:

The usual.


Barkeep:

Vinegar and piss?


Windschuttle:

Aye, neat.


Takes a step toward the table and eyes the quarry.


Gentlemen. See you're consuming more of your precious time talking the usual sh*t about genocide and stolen children.

There is wild applause.

Blainey (gets up, ready to strike. Manne restrains him):

Once again, let me reiterate: There was no genocide.


Nigel, Daryl:

Eeeeee-haw!


Now both Blainey and Manne make as if to lunge at Windschuttle but get restrained by Hughes, the three tumble to the floor as a result. Windschuttle lets out a roaring laugh. Moby sneaks up behind Windschuttle with a chair.


Windschuttle:

And there was no Stolen Generation!

Wild applause.

Nigel:

Look out, Windy!


Moby smashes a chair over Windschuttle's head.


Nigel:

Oh maaaaate, you are going to pay for that.

They approach the master debaters. The Barkeep throws up his hands, turns on the TV, watches the cricket highlights.

As the lights dim, we hear the sounds of smashing furniture, assorted grunts and groans, cowboys and Indians at war, the sound of drones.

Fade to black.

(Article changed on February 25, 2021 at 22:46)

 

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John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelance journalist and poet currently residing in Australia. His poetry, commentary, and reviews have appeared in publications in Oceania, Europe and the USA, such as Cordite, Morning Star, Hanging (more...)
 

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