Sunday, May 31, 2020

A Bigger Picture and Fear

If you've been reading my mad ramblings for a while, you'll probably know I've been on some spiritual path for a while. I stumbled into it to write a story and haven't untangled myself, or the story, yet! So this is a post about how the most unlikely book can stir up things inside me.

I picked up Malcolm Turnbull's book, A Bigger Picture. If you're not Australian, he was a recent Prime Minister of Australia and has been in politics for quite a time. I'm not usually into biography/ autobiography/ memoir because I often feel like a voyeur while reading and it makes me uncomfortable. However, I saw an interview with him about the book and the political issues he claimed to discuss in the book made me sit up and take notice.

Politics frustrates the hell out of me because most of the time I think they're all idiots who are only after their own agendas and have no 'public service' in their mind. They speak in language that says nothing yet uses lots of key or buzz words. They're masters at not answering a question. But... I'm not going to go on or I may not stop!

To pick up this book was not my usual mode. However, I loved reading it. It's exceptionally well-written. Turnbull is brutally honest in his opinions. He sheds lights on things that I didn't quite understand from the media reports and the events in politics. It's an absolutely fascinating read. I'm not sure that everything occurred exactly as he states, but I'm certain he believes what he has written. It's so brutally honest, raw, and opinionated. And no one has spoken of suing him - that makes me more convinced that it contains a lot of fact, evidence behind the scenes, and truth.

In reading this, I began to understand the far right of the Liberal party and the way they act. This was particularly relevant when he spoke of Tony Abbot's time as Prime Minister and some of the world events that occurred. It also dove-tailed into an awakening I had when listening to Tony Birch speak at the Wollongong Writers Festival in November 2019, which I mentioned at the end of this post (

Fear. Bullying. Loudly stated opinions as fact. Not allowing change. Believing they are right. Illogical arguments. Picking fights.

These seemed to be the things that Turnbull and Birch identified as being traits of the Far Right.

I recognise these things but I've often overlapped them with the 'patriarchy' because I hadn't consciously noticed that they were different things. In my mind, the Far Right are men. But that's not true. Which is quite a realisation for me.

I spoke to Mr E of all of this. And I said something like, "There's so many of these Far Right people, they're stopping things happening." He's a strange man to discuss things with because when he doesn't agree with me, there's this stony silence, which is what I came across. "Aren't they everywhere?" I asked. "You're telling the story," was his reply, which is code for, "I think you're bloody insane."

So, this put me back on my haunches. If he didn't see these crazy loud people, everywhere, bombastically shoving their opinion down everyone's throat, why did I?

I've always maintained that I refuse to live in fear. I've pushed myself to do things to overcome my fears. And this is for adventure activities like sky diving, but also the every day things like ringing up tradespeople, making appointments, talking to strangers.

But why did these things make me fearful? Mr E didn't seem to have these things as a 'fear' just an every day thing. Why were we different?

In some instances, I think there is a gender issue. In others, a country vs city upbringing can account for things. Age may account for a few too. But there were still a lot of things that weren't accounted for by these differences.

I had to look at my upbringing, the people who surrounded me while I was growing up and growing into adulthood. I had to look at myself too, and how I stood in these circles.

I don't like loud noises - and looking at a couple of youngsters in my family, this may not just be a me thing. So I'm sensitive to people shouting. I notice them. I keep away from them. In a way, I fear them because they hurt my ear drums. And as a child you can't ask someone to keep their voice down because you have no power. You suck it up or get away...but it enforces your powerlessness.

The Catholic Church revolves around fear. If you do this, you'll go to hell. No forgiveness and you won't get to heaven. So many rule breakings have dire consequences. Punishment, repentance, sin, these are all huge factors in the teachings of the Church. Love, kindness, care are also present but seem to have much less focus and a much softer touch. Plus, in my early years, very few sermons spoke of love; fire and brimstone were far more loud, powerful, scary. much of the symbolism in the Catholic Church is themed in violence and barbaric acts - the stations of the cross, the crucifixion, the fact that the Crucifixion image is displayed front and centre of every Church in all it's horror. I understand that the crucifixion is supposed to symbolise sacrifice, but holy heck, the Christ in my Church was vivid with his spear wound, bloody harrowed face, crown of thorns piercing his scalp, nails in hands and feet, knee broken. Thsi wasn't sacrifice, this was barbaric violence. I know there are other images of love, and the whole Mother Mary is about love, but what sort of balance does it have to a child? For me, the violence and the horror is what comes first to mind - even now.

I've spoken before about my grandfather having Labor party affiliation...but also that he hated the left (Communism), and I wonder how far to the right were his beliefs. The older men in my extended family were those who believed they ruled the roost, and some of these men were violent (but so were a lot of men in Australia, particularly those of English/Irish heritage). I didn't see this violence, but I wonder if I picked up on it. I did hear stories of this - but I don't know how old I was when I heard them, certainly while I lived at home.

I worked in a male dominated industry where a lot of men shouted loudly to be heard, to force their opinions onto others, to make sure they had power. I don't have a loud voice, but if I said something they disagreed with, they'd just start talking over me to drown me out. My refusal to live in fear, often made me try to express my views, but I rarely succeeded except by being sneaky (e.g. only speaking at events without their presence).

And when I start unteasing all of that, I saw why I believed there are so many of the Far Right affecting the world - because they affected my world as I grew, and I remain attuned to that. I'm sensitive to them. I avoid them, even as they ping loudly on my radar. And I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I don't want to live in a world ruled by them. I'm not even comfortable having them near me.

Which brings me to see that my whole life has had 'fear' as a focal point. It's why I've struggled with Cate and writing erotic stories. Why breaking from society's bounds has caused me such grief. It's not been grief, it's been fear. I may not be jumping out of a plane to conquer my fear of's much worse, I'm stepping outside of the box, not knowing where someone might scold me, rouse on me, ostracise me, abuse me, point me out. All those things I feared as a child are coming up again. All those things that as a child I hid from and avoided were brought to the surface during Tony Abbot's Prime Ministerial stint even though I didn't truly understand my reaction to the climate.

And this is how books affect me. A seemingly innocent book opened up a whole load of baggage I needed to unpack.

This is also why I love books. Who knew that a story, a memoir, could pack such a punch!

Thanks for a fabulously insightful read, Malcolm Turnbull.

How do books affect you? Have you read A Bigger Picture?