There was an art to evasion, to plying a presence within a presence (or outside of it) unseen. Multiple selves, multiple lives, fractious and hybrid, not exactly bad (looking back now), but not a way to be then, in the last loud surges of post-industrial modernism, when in order to be anything you had to first be within the boundaries of something.
Instead, in truth, a scattered, mis-formed menage of ripples: From far-flung history (queen and mother and fatherland and country), and blaring nationalistic advertorial (replete with caricatures of cork-hatted swagmen and greasy haired Marios).
Do people remember the visual affront that was Ken Done? Or Koala Blue perfume? That 1982 Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil commemorative bottle in the shape of the football (soccer) World Cup?
What was the insistent, desperate, emphatic declaration of national identity about? Was it all just commercially driven? Like Christmas? Or was there something else afoot? An unconscious, grinding sense that geopolitical order was heading toward a clattering endgame; the Cold War just a distracting ruse; that flags which were fought under, died for, and unfurled in 80,000 seat arenas would soon be replaced with corporate logos and brand loyalty; served with half time entertainment. 20/20?
“Lasciare mi a cantare, con mia gitarra al mano, lasciare mi a cantare, sono l’Italiano.”
Remember the Bicentennial? 200 years - not of federation mind you - of invasion and occupation. English men in patent leather and long socks, curly-white-wigged, running union jacks up flagpoles, proclaiming their proclamations, violating their own laws, and scattering scurvy-infested convicts hither and tither. A flotilla-ed harbour. Live satellite broadcasts. (Definitely) fireworks later. All with Fosters and Swan Breweries fighting it out World Series Cricket style. And not a blackfella to be seen.
What a production; to make it all look like it meant something vital about “who we were.” Vivid and Real. When in truth the nation state, the whole stupid premise, slowly dying, old Empires crumbling. The future of fast bowling would be in pyjamas. And the victors? Carlton United. Replaced by Elders. And then by some South African mob.
What happen to that place? That strange accompaniment to awkward domestic surroundings. On the one hand, the uncomfortable jacket called home, handed down through endless sets of cousins and half-relatives: resistant to any suitable shape, inappropriately transposed, grabbing shoulders, arms, and all, and decades out of date. On the other: fluorescent drop waists, permed hair, Oz Rock, Island Coolers. She’ll-be-right drunk driving.
No wonder I wanted to disappear.
Does anyone remember how weird it all was? Or is it just me?