My daughter has always been a creative, adventurous, curious soul. She would bop to music holding on to the sofa before she could walk. Always wanting to be busy, I would put the TV late afternoon to hear the welcome words “…. and brought to you by the letter ….”. We would both enjoy half an hour of quiet time. This became a pattern and once the baby arrived, in case I forgot the program was to start (in the days before programs were on loop), I would put the TV on a few minutes earlier. One day to my utter dismay I heard her yell out in frustration, “scumbag!”. “Where on earth did you learn that!” my immediate response and reprimand. She wasn’t able to tell me. Days went by and I found myself catching a few minutes on the sofa myself. She snuggled near me and we waited for Sesame Street. But before her program, we caught the tail end of a political program with our then Prime Minister in full flight during question time. A volley of “scumbag” flew across the parliamentary debate.
Around the age of four at dinner time, as was our routine, I asked her about her day. She happily disclosed she had a great day but day care staff told her, she wasn’t allowed to say “*#ck” any more. Her father and I put down cutlery and stared at her in horror, saying in unison, “What do you mean anymore?” Followed by where did you learn the word, how long have you been saying this! “My friends” and “always” was her casual response.
I have no objections to swearing. Put me in Perth traffic, and I can turn the air blue. It is an emotional expression. It is how words are used, and by whom, and when that concerns me. I’ll share what I mean.
Australia is known for its ancient art rock paintings. One of these places is the Burrup Peninsular, north of Perth.About 30 km out of Karratha in mining country, the Burrup Peninsular is a pretty special place, especially at sunset. It is also a place of controversy with the gas exploration near by.I’ve been here a few times but mostly seek sunset near the water. One evening we decided to take a walk instead. With light was fading and with no torch, although my travelling companion was more adventurous, I was not keen to walk back to the car in the dark. So it was a short stay among the fearsome hot rocks.The art here is thousands of years old, some newer (1800s). I felt a deep sense of reverence in this ancient place. This place did not have the prominence of prime time TV slots. It did not vie for attention with the glorious sunset. Yet, it captivated my attention and my spirit. It quietened me and put me in a meditative space. It was a library of life, how it was lived, by the hunters and gatherers. It emitted a message. The understanding of it, was mine to keep in the moment, interpret later, and pass on. So I am.
If we are open to learning, and most of us are, shouldn’t that alert us to the influences around us? I know I wasn’t before becoming a parent. My child raised my awareness.
There is no other time in my lifetime have I felt a such a deep sense of disquiet, as I feel now. We live in a world of ‘social influencers’ where life is lived through instagram moments. This is an age where even one’s spoken words can be turned around to imply the listeners got it wrong! We have arrived at a point where we live in a world of global gaslighting.
The reach of technology is long. Yesterday I received an unsolicited SMS from a political candidate with rhetoric modelled on the ‘success’ of another businessman who became a ‘leader’. To say this unsettled or infuriated me, is an understatement.
The written word and art are some of the oldest forms of communication. We preserve it. We honour it. It tells us where we came from. It influences the future. It is fragile as life itself. It is freedom.
And with freedom, comes responsibility. This is the message I leave for my children.
Until next time
a dawn bird