Ben Peek, guest-blogging
World globes (on key
rings). Soccer balls on key-rings.
All purpose knives
Hip-pocket combs. Pipes.
nude women on the back.
Cufflinks. Nail-clippers. Watchs.
Men's shampoos. Hair creams.
And 2 photographs
of the Barber, cutting somebody's
24 Hours, Pio.
I was born in Blacktown, but got raised a couple of suburbs away in a place called Toongabbie. From birth, race has been cut into the landscape around me.
It's easy to see in Blacktown. Blacktown. Black Town. In the early eighteen hundreds, Blacktown was named as a piece of land set aside for 'trusted' Aboriginal families to settle and farm, who called it Boongarrunbee. Likewise, Toongabbie also had an Aboriginal name, which was Toongagal. It was renamed by Arthur Philip when he made the Third Settlement, as Toongabbie is also known. They told me that when I was a kid, and on the bi-centenary of the 'burb, gave us kids white t-shirts with prints of brown shackles across it in celebration of our heritage. A more truthful image would have been to give us t-shirts with dead Aboriginals, since the arrival of the English with their convicts meant that they all got fucked. There's no nice way to put it: The Aboriginal people got fucked over.
If you want to understand my Sydney, you have to understand that I'm coming from a land that is, with its names, its history, its urban myths, steeped in racial conversations about crime, acceptability, and belonging; and that, weaved through all of this is a social climate that has a deep struggle for land ownership. You don't belong in Sydney until you own land. It's important. Deep in the psyche we all know what happens to a group of people who have no tangible, brick and mortar, street and pavement, tie to the land. The history of that is fresh, just over two hundred and seventeen years old, and the city crawls with people looking, buying, consuming land.
In Sydney, you get your land and you hold onto it. It's the same throughout the country. One of the worse of the social crimes in Australia is to take another person's home from them.
This was set down in a popular way in the film called The Castle, a comedy made in 1997. The title is a play on the old saying, "A man's home is his castle," and the film dealt with a working class Australian family whose home was going to be bought out by the Australian Government to make an airport or a highway or a mall. You know, something important. It happens in real life, though Sydneysiders don't win when it happens and they resist, which is unlike the family in the film who take their battle through the courts like the Law is a tool to be used for the people to keep the world Right. The film is the classic little Aussie Battler story where, in the end, good Australians triumph, and they keep their land and send the message that no one, not even the Government, can take off them.
It's a dark observation to make, given the history of the country, but hardly a unique one in the history of the world. I make it here only because I was born in Sydney, born in a place called Blacktown, while I lived in another place called Toongabbie. I begin in these places. I begin with names that shout a history of segregation, not just against Aboriginal men and women, but Asian and Muslim and more, and a history of theft, of cultural loss, of white washing the past.
(Ben Peek has a message board... Jeff's Evil Monkey: Hey, hey, is that a Pio quote at the start there? Ben: Yeah. Jeff's Evil Monkey: Pio ain't from Sydney. Ben: Yeah, I know, I-- Jeff's Evil Monkey: You just quoted him because he likes to say "Fuck the spelling!" and you're full of typos! Ben: Fuck you, Monkey. Piss off. Jeff's Evil Monkey: Or what? You'll spank me? Ben: What? Jeff's Evil Monkey: You just want to spank the monkey! Admit it! Admit it! Admit it!)