Monday, December 31, 2012

The C-word Rant

I have just recently read The True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey (well...not very recently, I had to take a couple of weeks to mull it over first before I could write calmly about it).  When DH first bought it I automatically dismissed it because instinctually I just don't want to go there in my mind, but a friend recommended it to me so I thought it was time to have a look.  It was pretty much as I expected, the usual story, with some neat little extras,  a story told in letter form to his fictional daughter, and it was nice how Ned tried to tone down his cursing by substituting the word adjectival instead of the usual words.  Which was probably a good idea as he had a lot to be adjectivally mad about.  At the end I felt the usual frustration and anger, which I have always felt.  Maybe this is hardwired into all Australians?  The indignation felt over such outrageous treatment of another human being.

At the root of it I will always be angry about how convicts and descendants of convicts were treated.  It has become personal for me.  When I was a kid and was taught at school about Ned Kelly he was always held up as a colonial hero (even though he was a thief and a murderer which was much more than what his father, who was a convict, was sent over for in the first place).  He has always been a folk hero because he fought against the English which has always been a very hard thing to do. Those Emglish bastards had so much power over everyone else (and incidentally there were thieves and murderers too among the upper gentry who could get away with it because of their class and power).  To be fair, the English weren't all like that, and I have been making a study of various journals and books written by people of the times, trying to get a grasp of my own heritage and history.  No matter the origins, these are the people who built Australia from the bottom up.  That's nothing to be ashamed of.

It became personal for me because since I immigrated to Canada I have been asked a few times if I was descended from convicts (I don't know if I am), but the latest, most rudest, stupidest, arse-hattiest question was pointed at me last spring where the tool who asked outright after finding out I was Australian,  "Are you a criminal?".  He thought it was funny and even laughed at me.     The guy was actually raving about a trip he wanted to take to Australia specifically to do the surfing etc. and it occurred to me at the time to give him a little warning about not asking that kind of question to people there, but something stopped me from doing so, and I can only hope that he does ask someone there, hopefully at the local pub filled with really beefy guys from the local footy team.

Thing is, Australia would not be what it is today if it weren't for the convicts and colonists.  Douglas Adams wrote this lovely little story about Australia that is included in his very last book The Salmon of Doubt  (compiled after his death), which I recommend reading because, naturally it is funny, but also provides a different point of view to the whole idea of dumping criminals in a paradise like Australia.  I am proud of my heritage, no matter what, because hard working backbone-of-the-country type people stuck it to the English and made a great nation, chock full of the most brightest, creative and beautiful people.  It's something to be proud of.

So give the True History a read.  Even with it's fictional elements it is still really close to the original story, he did those things, and for those reasons.  Try not to get too mad about how it ended for Ned and remember that he is a legend, which is more powerful than anything he could have ever done while he was alive. 

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