PNG, My Mother Country
Death of 'the missionary with a compassionate heart'

Old farts on surfboards & the future of the world

Old man and the sea (Pinterest)PHIL FITZPATRICK

TUMBY BAY - I live in a small country town on the south eastern coast of Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. It has a population of about 2,500, of which about half are elderly or retired.

A lot of those people used to be farmers but they have now left their sons and daughters in charge of the farm and bought houses with an ocean view.

The pristine coastal environment and laid back lifestyle also attracts people from far and wide, including, and perhaps surprisingly, many from Queensland.

They tend to arrive as grey nomads in their covered wagons, fall in love with the place and buy property.

This all makes for a somewhat eclectic mix of inhabitants. We have got, for instance, a Frenchman and his Congolese wife running a very popular French patisserie in the town.

We’ve also got a nice scattering of writers and artists. They tend to offset the crazy fishing addicts.

Taking the piss out of those who are strait-laced is an official town sport.

So is worrying about climate change. There is an oil company planning to drill for oil in the nearby Great Australian Bight and this has got a fair proportion of the population well and truly riled up.

It’s kind of like a Byron Bay without all the hype and palm trees.

One of the interesting things I’ve noticed since arriving here is that the atmosphere in the town seems to encourage people to indulge their inner juvenile.

The number of old crocks sporting long hair and riding surfboards seems to be disproportionate to the usual surfie push.

So too the number of ancient and barefooted citizens about the town. You know when winter has truly arrived when they start wearing shoes.

That they were once staid cereal farmers or accountants or used car salesmen or high school principals adds to the interesting aura.

Older Australians letting it all hang out en masse is an interesting phenomenon. It has a lot to do with the baby boomer generation and is probably a one-off historical event.

Having the where-with-all, the money, to do it is may never occur again. At least on the current scale. This is rather sad when you think about it.

It says a lot about the present human condition.

The world, as currently configured, stifles any thought of fulfilment and realisation of potential except in its basest, narrowest economic and ultimately unsatisfying form.

I’m sure there are many other little towns like ours all over Australia and the world. Together they represent an argument for a reconsideration of how we live our lives.

Without trying to be facetious or unsympathetic, old blokes in board shorts and old ducks in string bikinis and pink highlights in their hair might be just as potent a sign as people living in abject poverty that all is not well with the world.

Maybe the baby boomers can have one last hurrah and change things for the better.

Some seem to think they have been responsible for the mess we currently find ourselves in.

Perhaps the anti-Trump forces gathering in the USA among older people like Elizabeth Warren is a portent of things to come and a new dawn for humanity.

One can only hope.

Meanwhile, in Tumby Bay, there are people ready and willing.


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Philip Fitzpatrick

I reckon I've seen a photograph of your garden somewhere Harry and it looked very nice.

I especially enjoy gardening. Now that we've moved to a place with only a small courtyard garden I've still managed to have a vegetable patch, a flower bed, lots of potted stuff and climbers and grapes growing up the walls. It's still a work in progress but coming along nicely.

Clive Hamilton has always left me feeling a bit uneasy. I'm not sure he's driven by a purely rational and academic outlook. I think emotion plays a large part in what he writes. A bit like John Pilger and Robert Manne.

Peter Singer has written lots of books touching on ethics and the values of lived experience.

Harry Topham

Phil - You will happy to know that the good old prof also espouses that only those people who follow their artistic bent be that in painting, music, writing or poetry or other artistic pursuits are really only those who can reach inwards and touch their inner soul and should be regarded as being geniuses as their goals are motivated by a sense of interpretation rather than that of producing replications of the theme.

A good example of touching one Noumenon is that of that noted but sadly deceased artist Brett Whitely who repurchased, at five times it’s original sale price, one of his earlier sold works because, he believed, the painting encapsulated his struggles with his inner demons and associated addiction problems which I guess is like seeing one image in a mirror.

Alas sadly I missed out on inheriting the right artistic genes although briefly in my youth I did dabble with the trumpet playing socially in small suburban jazz groups.

Apart from having to use one’s tongue and teeth to bend notes, playing the trumpet also requires the ability to breathe from one’s diaphragm which gives the same meditative effect by those who adopt yoga as a form of trans meditation.

A misadventure that saw me lose my front fang put an end that brief interlude in music.

Nowadays in my dotage I find gardening a good form of mediation, even if it means beating off occasional critters that want to bite you for a free feed, as the pastime allows one to be out in the open air, communing with nature.

Quite simple really, plants being innate objects that unlike human beings do not talk back and given enough TLC and the right climatic conditions will, when in their reproduction stage, reward the gardener with a good display of blooms or if really lucky a bountiful crop of tucker.

Paul Oates

Now you've really pulled the top off the scab, Harry. I followed that reference through and exhumed a number of theories about some people I know, but then who are we to point the finger?

What I can say with a modicum of experience is that sitting around the fire at night and telling yarns can be very fulfilling and enjoyable. The problem is that we can't do that all the time otherwise nothing gets done and we and our families go hungry.

We have discussed a number of times on this site about the difference between social capital and monetary wealth. Most people who are wealthy seem very unhappy and yet those who are poor, long for monetary wealth? Therein lies a paradox!

Along the lines of the professor you have quoted, perhaps a basic tenet of humanity is that many people never seem to be satisfied with what they have and want more.

That only makes them further depressed when they get the advertised, short term satisfaction of a purchase (with a shot of dopamine), that to a dedicated consumer then becomes addictive.

So Phil, maybe you live in a more ideal community?

Philip Fitzpatrick

They breed them tough in Tumby Bay, Arthur.

An old local codger named Ron Dorward passed away last week aged 107. He gave up visiting the pub about two years ago.

Rumour has in that he was in the Charge of the Light Brigade, or was that at Rourke's Drift during the Boer War? Anyway, the local warmongers at the RSL rolled him out every Anzac Day. They'll miss him.

Perhaps contentment is like wealth Harry. The more you have the more you crave.

Harry Topham

Phil - One of your old wantoks from South Australia, namely the philosopher Professor Clive Hamilton, in his book titled “Freedom Paradox: Towards a Post-Secular Ethics”, aptly addresses the issues you raised.

He attempts to rationalize the meaning of freedom and morality in the modern world and why is it so many of us lack contentment, despite all the wealth and freedoms we enjoy.

He sets this against the background of the consequences of advanced consumer capitalism and that human beings especially those in the western world have never adopted the required self discipline required to provide the necessary check balances to meet the excesses resulting from freedoms won over the past 70 years.

Drawing heavily on the teachings of the early 18th century philosophers such and Kant, Schopenhaur and the teachings of eastern philosophy in particular Zen Buddhism, Hamilton espouses that human beings have the choice of taking three pathways in life described as being: The Pleasant Life, The Good Life and The Meaningful Life.

The first life pathway looks to wealth as providing a good sitdaun, the second is similar to the first with some altruism thrown in for good measure, whilst the last pathway requires discarding hedonism and greed then touching with what he calls our inner Noumenon, which is in simplistic terms that could be described as our inner soul.

I guess what could be seen as selfishness that seem to exist amongst a certain percentage of our baby boomer age group then, the lifestyle adopted by this particular demographic group is quite understandable?

I guess that wisdom can only come to those who finally accept the inevitability of their own mortality.

The old adage “a rooster one day, a feather duster the next" is a difficult concept to accept by many when their super ego predominates their life’s mindset.

Arthur Williams

On my recent 80th Birthday I was informed that is the same as:

702468 hours
42,158,885 minutes
2,529,533,141 seconds (2½ trillion)

The UK National debt in sterling is the same.

arthur williams

Sorry Phil but judging by the picture with your article you seem to have aged rapidly

Paul Oates

Totally agree Phil.

I know of some who boast about where they've been but can't relate anything they have learned by going there.

When we visited Dubrovnik a few years ago, our visit unfortunately coincided with four multi storied cruise ships and the old town had wall to wall tourists, packed in like sardines. Clearly the town was on their itinerary and so they were able to tick off 'visited'. After only a short time however, the ship's siren blasted a recall and all the passengers lined up and were shunted back on board.

I hear Dubrovnik is now limiting the number of ships and tourists that can call in on any one day so that at least the locals can also enjoy their own town.

The society we grew up in is changing so fast that the millennial's will only wonder what they've lost after it disappears.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Supermarkets are a bit like swamps Paul; I've found that its is wiser to graze around their periphery but downright dangerous to venture into their heartlands.

What seems to be happening in the world is that we are moving further and further away from reality. This has been particularly exacerbated by modern technology.

These days people can spend their whole lives living vicariously without their feet ever touching the ground. You can even buy 'authentic' travel experiences that are entirely fake.

I've got friends who love cruise ships and brag about having visited many exotic places. Turns out they spent most of their time on a kind of floating shopping mall and only an hour or so ashore in most places. They still insist they've been to PNG and Fiji and Vanuatu etc.

Then of course there are the reality shows on the idiot box. 'Australian Survivor' and 'Get Me Out of Here I'm a Celebrity' spring to mind as does the pap presented by Bear Grylls. They are far removed from reality but no doubt people believe them real.

What the old farts are doing is rediscovering reality and surprise of surprises discovering they enjoy it.

If they can do it who says everyone else can't? And it might make for a better world.

Paul Oates

and another 'bite at the cherry'....

Just look at how bald men often try to conceal something that results from their genetic make up and therefore shouldn’t reflect on their personality. It just affects some men’s self-esteem.

When I was young, my sister’s hair was curled using a hot poker. Mr mother occasionally had her hair permed and my grandmother put a blue rinse and curlers in her hair. Yet when I lived in PNG, I saw women put large curlers in their hair to straighten their hair out and some bleached theirs.

Maybe we are never satisfied with what we have? I’ve just returned from the supermarket. How many products try to entice you to buy by constantly claiming they are ‘better, new, improved, supersized, etc.’?

However, most human attributes are a result of logical causes.

If our ancestors had not migrated from Africa, we wouldn’t have over populated the world as we are now doing. But then, had they not migrated due to what we now know was climate change, they may well have regressed and wandered off into oblivion. If our ancestors hadn’t experimented with tool making and communicating, we wouldn’t be the type of animal we are would we?

See what you've started Phil?

Paul Oates

There could be any one of a number of theories that might be unleashed by your prognostications Phil.

Do old blokes wearing beards indicate thoughtful, philosophical inclinations or a mere slothful attitude that considers a morning dice with a razor just too onerous to contemplate?

The desire to return to a more peaceful life is nothing new. The concept of an island paradise of waving palms and white coral beaches with waves breaking gently from a turquoise blue lagoon has attracted people from a more hectic metropolitan existence for hundreds of years.

There is nothing more relaxing than to sit around the campfire at night and tell yarns. Yet that doesn’t put food on the table or defend your way of life.

So is the answer somewhere between the two extremes? Or is it more about what you can get away with?

The obvious answer is that you only end up with what you work for. No matter how much wealth you accumulate during your life, your grave is still much the same size as everyone else’s. Some may be ‘lucky’ and inherit a fortune but most do not. Those who are lucky often don’t then appreciate what they have until it is in danger of being taken away.

Just look at the comparison many of us experienced. Those who had at first glance, an idyllic lifestyle were then envious of those who apparently had a lot of material wealth. Those who had access to a lot of material wealth secretly envied those who seemingly had an idyllic lifestyle. Both sides were however not prepared to give up on their society’s benefits in order to gain the other’s quickly evaporating advantages.

The old human adage that ‘further fields are always greener’ seems so humanly apt.

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