Archive for September 2013

Little Kings – a lament

September 5, 2013

In the nineties Paul Kelly wrote a gentle protest song called “Little Kings”

I’m so afraid for my country … there’s an ill wind blowing no good

I sung it once with a friend at a local school fundraising concert. It was hot sweaty night and the crowd was small and kind. But even now I remember thinking inside myself how deeply I felt those words – I was worried for my country, and that we would descend into a self-absorption from which we would never recover.

I think the back-story for the song was largely about past and present treatment of Aboriginal folks, but it was a theme that runs into many of life’s other places too. And it has run around and around in my head these last few days. The cuts to foreign aid the Coalition intend to make are savage, and they will have real consequences for people who are most vulnerable, people we will never meet, people who have lives that most of us can never imagine.

And most of our population either won’t care, or they will cheer on those who took these ‘tough decisions’. What bullies we are. There’s a pervading meanness in all of this. And it’s a meanness that’s cunningly wrapped up in a pretence of being ‘responsible’, and a series of lies about how ‘tough’ our life here is.

I live with my wife and three daughters in a soundly constructed weatherboard house in a Perth suburban street. We own a minibus, a trailer, shelves full of books, wardrobes full of clothes and some power tools. All five of us have a bike each that we can ride, plus a couple of extras. We live in a suburb listed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ ‘Index of relative socio-economic disadvantage’ as the second most disadvantaged local government division in the Perth metropolitan area. Despite this we have running water – hot and cold, tv and radio reception, a phone, a computer that connects to the internet, and at least seven different musical instruments that are played at many hours of the day and night. Within a kilometre of our home there are three beautiful parks with lawn and playgrounds and barbecues, and most of the time reliable public transport is available in a number of directions from our house. Our own backyard has a wooden cubby, a slide and a trampoline, as well a vegetable garden, seven chickens, three ducks, a dog and a corrugated iron shed. Our children attend a well-resourced school and when they get sick we can take them to the doctor or the hospital and we have our own first aid kit and medicines. We have many other possessions that are not listed here, and clearly have more than we need for survival. We have more than enough.

When the man who will likely be our treasurer says “we need to have a stronger economy to be more generous”, I think what he really means is “we’ll take care of ourselves first thanks very much; what we need is freeways. Those kids who die from preventable diseases, they can wait” – selfishness, barbarousness, right from the top.

Yesterday it was the Liberal candidate blaming clogged freeways and public hospital queues on the arrival of refugees – so misinformed, and again, so unkind.

We do live in a land of increasing economic disparity, but we also live in a land of plenty – and it seems a land where unkindness will become a national pastime.

“I was born in a lucky country

Every day I hear the warning bells

They’re so busy building palaces

They don’t see the poison in the wells

In the land of the little kings

Profit is the only thing

And everywhere the little kings

Are getting away with murder

In the land of the little kings

Justice don’t mean a thing

And everywhere the little kings

Are getting away with murder”


– Paul Kelly, Little Kings