A Couple of (non-esoteric) Mysteries

Normally I am a public transport person, but since borrowing my parents venerable early 80s Toyota Corolla I have been reminded of a couple mysteries.

Occasionally I drive to work in peak hour along the Kwinana Freeway. I say drive, though of course I mean ‘crawl’ (in the words of Homer, “Brake, Gas, Honk! – Brake Gas Honk!”). It is a frustrating, mind-sapping experience.

So mystery one: how do people do this everyday, day in day out; the same grey frustration and stop-start madness surrounded by cars and fumes?

I need too much concentration to drive to allow me to do mantra or visualisation, but have enough spare mental space to be bored/tensed out of my skull. Today was slightly better as someone had hung a smiling, life sized, upside down Bart Simpson from one of the footbridges above the road 🙂

Every time I drive and look around me at the bored people (and myself in the mirror) I am reminded of one of the best songs from one of the most underrated groups ever: Fischer Z singing ‘It Could You’:

“Well here he is just home from work
He’s come home early to make their tea
He’s by the sink, she’s in the lounge
He tries to talk to her but he won’t succeed
His wife is on the ‘phone, again
His wife is on the ‘phone, again

Oh oh can’t you see
It could be you it could be me
Well sometimes I wonder
if this is life then I’d prefer to die

He sits and thinks he scratches his head
There must be more to life than being brain dead
He says a lot she just ignores
He gets the paper out and he checks the scores.”

The car is too old to have a CD player and embracing the digital age I gave away my cassette collection a few years back. I sold many of my cassettes at a Swap Meet to raise funds for the excellent Tibetan Support Programme. The program started from the vision of Lama Lobsang Tsering, who popped into the Swap Meet when he visited Australia. His English was not the best and I struggled to answer his question about what a Swap Meet actually was. When I explained that it was reselling items we had once bought to other people, and sometimes they may resell the same item in another Swap Meet, his eyes blazed with recognition. “Ah, Samsara!” he exclaimed.

I don’t think I’ve come across a better summation of western material culture or a clearer example of what Buddhists mean by the concept of Samsara, which is normally translated as the wheel of death and rebirth.

So anyway, to help alleviate my freeway anguish, the other day I entered deeper into Samsara and picked up a couple of second hand Midnight Oil cassettes from the Good Sammys. This led me revisit mystery two: Peter Garrett.

How does someone transform from a left wing, activist rock singer and anti-nuclear, anti-imperialist Christian inspiration to a comfortable, establishment government minister? And within a government that seems likely to outdo Blair in Blarite practices?

Ever since Peter joined the ALP in 2004 I have tried to nut this out. I still can’t get there. It is too easy to say that he’s ‘grown up’, that radical politics is essentially a young or immature person’s game. It is also too easy to say he’s sold his soul. I’ve discussed this and read a bit, but still can’t get an answer that clearly satisfies me. Maybe that’s the way it has to be?

I think Peter can be viewed as a microcosm of a larger issue, perhaps summed up in the words of that greatest of magicians, Albus Dumbledore:

“Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”

I know I tend towards ease, I think we all do.



  1. Iain Hall · June 3, 2008

    Radio National is your friend in the confines of a slow moving car 🙂

  2. simon · June 3, 2008

    Maybe Garrett has just come to the realisation that the only way to make real change to a system is to be part of it.


  3. Asher Fryer · June 4, 2008

    I think the idea of growing up and/or selling his soul (selling out) are worth discussing, and certainly are real options, although it begs the question as to what his soul really contained, and whether this could be considered genuine ‘maturing’ . It could well be that he did not understand the pressures that he has had to face, and has temporarily towed the line and developed that oh so fake politician identity. It may be that he will come out of this cocoon in the future.

    It could also be that the change of identities and occupations has created an illusion of radical change intstead of seeing it as the result in our own minds of assuming he was his rock identity, and not actually knowing his true ideals, etc. That is, it’s a lot about presumed ideas about him. It’s hard to judge with someone you don’t really know. Also, the fact remains that he is more of an icon than an experienced politician, and that in gaining his seat, he could only go so far, for the decisions at that point were taken out of his hands.

    Finally, it is good to remember that power changes a man (or woman), and that if he has sold out, “there go we but for the grace of God”.

  4. David · June 14, 2008

    Hi Peregrin,

    apologies for posting here but i cannot find an email contact for you.

    I am trying to find current contact details for Gary F with whom you shared a house once.

    grateful for any assistance you can provide.


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