Thursday, August 27, 2009

Oyills! Oyills! Oyills!

As a teenager in the 80's, growing up at Generic High in Melbourne's middle-eastern suburbs, I loved Midnight Oil. They were the first band I artistically devoured. I remember sitting around with Lewd Bob at the time, me with my Oils fanatacism, him with his keen interest in The Police, sharing our music interests for hours and hours (when we weren't playing footy or cricket in the street).

"10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1" came out in 1982 - I was in Year 8, and by mid Year 9 I knew every word to every song, plus all the words to all the songs in their entire back catalogue where I found some songs that to this day I would put up near the top Australian Songs of all time ('Stand In Line' from the album 'Head Injuries' in particular). The thing is, though I knew the words, I didn't really, you know, take them in, as such. I was singing and dancing enthusiastically to songs about Maralinga, US imperialism, Afghanistan, homelessness, alienation, commodification... but jeez, I was 15 years old, what did I care? It was the energy and the music I tapped into, not the message. I saw them live a couple of times at their peak, and they were fucking AWESOME. Rock? You bet.

Red Sails In The Sunset came out in about my Year 11, and it was saying what just about every other rock band was saying at the time - we were all going to die in a nuclear war. Kurt Cobain said something along those lines when Nirvana hit. I paraphrase Kurt: "I grew up believing I was going to die in a nuclear war, because that's what every song and film seemed to be saying." I agree with Kurt in that some (not all, but some) of the Gen X nihilism came from that mass-art messaging that was proliferated in the mid 80's. But, at about the same time Red Sails came out, I was starting to move into different musical circles. I liked the album, but my sister had got me into The Doors, friends had steered me into the direction of Nick Cave and I had found Jesus and Mary Chain by myself. Suddenly, my focus was inward, not outward, and the Oils became a delightful reminisce of my early teenage years rather than a serious artistic interest.

But the delightful reminisce still resonates today, and as such, I cannot help but jump to this man's defence:

I am getting sick of the 'sellout' calls coming from the left, the right, the centre, the south, the abstract plain... everyone wants to call him a sellout.

I have this to say: Firstly, whether or not the songs did anything, at least he bothered to sing about the issues in the first place. He is in a position to 'sell out' because he, unlike his naysayers, actually did something to elevate himself(joined a rock band).

Secondly, has he really sold out? I don't think so. He's joined the democratic process. Unlike the sooks at Socialist Alliance, for instance, or the angry bogans who claim to be ostracised, or the wealthy yuppies who rest on their own nestbeds worrying about not much more than the figures, or the chattering classes who drink chardonnay at Leunig book launches, or the... oh you know who I mean... everyone with an opinion or a complaint who really does nothing about it... unlike all of them, he did something. First, he was in a band, now, he's in Parliament.

Yesterday, Peter Garrett approved a thing called The Gorgon Project, which is liquefied gas project originating on Barrow Island (though it sounds like a Dr. Evil armageddon-type world destruction plan).

"Sell out" they cry. But, fuck off. That's soft. It's so easy to yell that. "Sell out!" It's like Pavlov's dog. You see Garrett's bald head walk into a room and cry "sell out!"

But, when we read further into it, we see that his approval came only when the mining companies agreed to 28 environmental conditions, many of which referred to the safety of some of the island's fauna, such as the flatback turtle.

Yeah, it's still a fucked up mining company that will pollute the air. Yeah, it would be nicer if we didn't use gas at all. But, 6000 jobs are being created, and the flatback turtle will be safe from the probing genitals of crazed mining executives.

Herein lies my argument: By protecting the flatback turtle, Garrett is doing as much as he can. The alternative is that a less scrupulous government would give a mining company carte-blanche to do as they please as long as it generates wealth for the elite few. Garrett, by bringing to the table 28 environmental conditions, is at least doing something.

That is not selling out. It's compromising.

My defence of Garrett may have a lot to do with my teenage appreciation of his band, but, what the fuck. We grow old with our prejudices, and cling to them like kids with lollypops.

Now if you'll all excuse me, I'm going to play 'Powderworks' at full volume.

Flatback Turtle - safe, for now.

And here, my fvaourite Oils song: 'Stand In Line'.

"Malcolm Fraser: Get Fucked"... gold.

This version is fucking awesome as well:


Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Good post Pers.

One of the things that irks me about the Greens is that many of them (not all) refuse to accept that democracy - modern, representative democracy - is about negotiation, compromise, a recognition that your opponent may have a valid point.

If you disagree, it's not because you're evil or a sell-out; it's because you have a different opinion.

That said, I think Bob Brown has a good record when it comes to China's hideous history on human rights - a stance he shares with Labor MP Michael Danby.

squib said...

Blue Sky Mine takes me back to my last years at high school every time. Wittenoom was fairly close by and we spent holidays there playing with asbestos

I was watching Garrett on the telly last night and feeling a tad sorry for him but however well meaning he is, he will always look like a sell-out. You can't sing about important things and do a total back-flip later on without looking ridiculous

I wish he had stuck with music or joined the Greens. I don't think he's doing much for Labor's image either. Ramon, I agree that the Greens are often a wee bit fanatical and arrogant but I don't think they are the only ones who view Garrett as a deserter. Politics is not kind to anyone

Anonymous said...

Fair enough, but you must admit that suit and tie is atrocious.

Perseus said...

He's always dressed appallingly Ginga. Even when he was a rockstar. Maybe cos he's 8 foot tall or whatever. Very tall, very short and very fat people always dress daggy because good clothing companies couldn't give a shit about them. Speaking of which, I've discovered Kenzo. Yeah, yeah... it's a 'brand', but, for once, everything fits me. They specialise in tall-ish thin men.

Squib - but that's my point. If he was in the Greens, he wouldn't be able to help the flatback turtle at all! Plus he'd smell bad. All Greens members smell bad. They make their own soap, and it fails to reach minimal soap standards.

squib said...

I suppose you wash with whale blubber?

No, someone else could have saved the turtle. Can't you see it's as though Jesus joined the army? It's just wrong

Also, it's spoiled my enjoyment of Midnight Oil

Perseus said...

Whale blubber? Who do you think I am? Some sort of salty sea dog? I'm a post-modern pirate... I wash with codfish oil.

Jesus would do well to join the army. It would make him less insidious a character. He'd learn some discipline and a sense of brotherhood, instead of all that apocalyptic arrogant 'believe in me or else' and 'I'm the son of God so what I say goes' crap.

Pepsi said...

Nice point but I disagree.

Compromise of this magnitude dilutes any integrity an individual might have.

I’m not sure the destruction of an ecosystem is really worth 6,000 jobs for 5-10 years is it, regardless of how many turtles you may temporarily ‘save’.

In your post you say he is doing as much as he can. That’s one way of looking at it. I say he is failing to live up to the high standards he set for himself by trying to play the game just like every other Politian plays the game; rather than trying to change the way the game is played by boldly standing up for his beliefs and trying to change the mindsets of the ones who own the game.

Unfortunately he has proven himself to be someone who is not very good at playing this game of Politics.

He was once good at delivering messages that other people were too scared to deliver - maybe he should stick to what he used to be good at.

I wouldn’t call him a sell-out, I’d rather just call him another great disappointment.

Disclaimer: The music of Midnight Oil did not figure highly in my childhood, we were baby Goths and used to turn our noses up at the Flanno wearing Westie bogans at school.

Perseus said...

But Pepsi, if he spoke in Parliament like he did in the band he'd last two minutes before he was evicted and made to 'disappear'. Paul Keating once called Dr. Mahatir a 'recalcitrant' and it was an international incident. You can't have a Minister in the federal Government saying, "Hey, Exxon Oil... get fucked!" (as much as that would make for fun parliament viewing).

Modern democracy can't be run by extremists from any side. Rock bands, maybe, but not democracies. He has to speak in measured tones, with measured words, or he's out.

I would like a totally green power grid across the globe, and, because I have a bit of faith in humanity, I genuinely believe we will one day, but it will only be done in very small steps. Garrett is one such small step maker.

I would have tried to pick you up if you went to my high school.

squib said...

Obviously Jesus would have fared better if he'd had a gun

'Go ahead Pontius Pilate, make my day'

but would he be the same loveable Jesus that everyone keeps banging on about? I think not

Perseus said...

I really don't see, and have never seen, what is so lovable about Jesus.

Perseus said...

... but you're right, he would have been more fun with a gun. Idea for novel: 'Dirty Jesus'.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

In the end, you make a choice.

You either shriek from the sidelines or you try and make a difference.

As Gough said "only the impotent are truly pure".

And Jesus said "I come not to bring peace, but a sword".

Lewd Bob said...

Garrett knew going in that he couldn't live his ideals. It's all very well to say he should stand up for this or that, but the simple fact is, he can't. He has to toe the line like every other clown in politics. The problem isn't Garrett, the problem is our 2-party, never-cross-the-floor, stick-with-the-program shystrem*.

*A typo, but I found it hilarious so left it in.

Lewd Bob said...

Oh, and their best song is Loves on Sale from Place Without a Postcard.

Perseus, do you recall your Weird Al Yankovic-style version of US Forces? It began with "Ronald Regan gives head jobs."

Perseus said...

Remember it? I still sing it everytime US Forces comes on!

"Ronald Reagan gives headjobs.
He's been doing them since he was seventeen.
Mushies or carrots he'll do them all.
Big red Indians ask for more.

He's got the brain of an old wine cork.
That who forgot the tissues.
Nancy Reagan's a little concerned,
Cos he made his own lasagne.
La lasagne, la la lasagne..."

Come on, I was fourteen.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Oh dear, Pers.

OT, but music what would people recommend for cleaning the kitchen floor.

P J Harvey or Iggy Pop?

Pepsi said...

It's all very well to say he should stand up for this or that, but the simple fact is, he can't.

Why cant he Bob?

Lewd Bob said...

He just can't, ok!

Pepsi said...

But whyyyyyyy ?

kitten said...

Has anyone else noticed the resemblance between Garrett's fingers and those of the boy in the Dali painting?

squib said...

Now you mention it, kitten, yes. It's a bit freaky

Anonymous said...

Sometimes people can make a difference just by taking a stance on something, and being a focal point for those opinions.

When he was out of politics but a vocal protester, Peter Garrett arguably achieved a lot just by bringing these issues to the public's attention. By acting as an inspirational figure for many Australians, he also raised their awareness of those issues more effectively than he does in politics.

In politics, Garrett's just another faceless guy in a suit doing a small job all the time and 'compromising'. So why him? There's scores of well-meaning unknowns who could have done what he did in Parliament. Drafting a rock star was merely tactical move by one of the leading masters of tactical blunders - Mark Latham.

To compromise, you have to have two opposing opinions to negotiate between. Peter Garrett the environmental protester helped define and vocalise a strong left-wing position on the environment. Peter Garrett the politician and environment minister acts the role of an appeaser between others' well-defined positions, but fails to carve one out of his own.

As the saying goes, politicians lead from behind.

Peter Garrett the environmental protester had way more impact and puissance than Peter Garrett the pollie. The biggest reason for Peter Garrett not being a politician is that the role doesn't suit him. I don't think he's well suited to the Machiavellian game that is politics like a professional politician like Kevin Rudd.

You either shriek from the sidelines or you try and make a difference.

I don't think these are mutually exclusive options. Plenty of non-politicians make a difference, and plenty of politicians make no difference.

As Gough said "only the impotent are truly pure".

Yeah, but Gough was and still is an old windbag.

patchouligirl said...

"Its better to die on your feet than live on your knees"

"Species deceases"

"Nothings as precious as a hole in the ground"

Yeah - they were a great band. Pity he's approving uranium mines and gorgon projects now.

Dr. Golf said...

There's another former ACF head who went one better (or worse). Trish Caswell did the unthinkable, and went from the ACF to CEO of the Victorian Association of Forest Industries (i.e. advocating for more logging in state forests).

She believed she could make more of a difference in this role, and probably did. She encouraged the loggers to be more pro-active and promoted to government "active management" of state forests.

Certainly caught a few people offside.

patchouligirl said...

I know I nearly choked on my weetbix when I heard Garrett had approved a uranium mine in S.A.

Melba said...

I don't think you can argue any sort of case for Garrett.

His integrity is shot, just face it Perseus. And yes, it's disappointing, very much so.

How can he sleep at night?

Using arguments like the ones here in the comments. And people will be telling him this stuff as well.

I wonder what his wife thinks?

I wonder what his band mates think?

I wonder what all his mates from those days think.

What does he say to them?

Whoever convinced him he could make a difference from the inside was just using him, and I wonder how long it took for Peter to wake up.

It's a head-shaking, sad-making business, for sure.

Bring on some poetry. Please.

skywalker said...

Why pick on Garrett?
The party is full of sell-outs
Jack Robertson who campaigned against privatisation now wants to sell off the prisions.
Julia Gillard who once defended trade unionists against Howard's work choices now defends Work Choices Mark II.

It is a party dominated by ex-trade unionists who now don't give a damn for worker rights.

Fad MD said...

The alternative is that a less scrupulous government would give a mining company carte-blanche to do as they please as long as it generates wealth for the elite few.

And welcome to the Philippines. After seeing the politics of this country at close quarters for the last couple of years, I regularly thank random deities that Australia wasn't colonised by the Spanish. It's no coincidence that the Spanish fuedal system in conjunction with their brand of Catholicism has produced some of the more fucked up countries on the planet.

Melba said...

Why pick on Garrett, skywalker?

Who the hell is Jack Robertson?

That is why I am picking on Garrett. It's that simple.

Lewd Bob said...

Perseus, it's just occurred to me that, of course, your title should've been Oils Ain't Oils.