Monday, February 26, 2024

Inclusively divided

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I have vivid memories of Monday mornings from my childhood at Eureka Street Primary School, standing out on the asphalt for assembly in the freezing cold as we joined in singing the Australian National Anthem as the flag monitors rose the Australian flag.

Blurry-eyed and tired after a weekend of stacking our pushbikes, climbing trees and the token Saturday night family counter meal at the local pub; we then went straight into the Monday morning exercise regime known as ‘Chicken Fat’.

As cold and miserable as it was, I do not once recall any of us complaining about the anthem containing lyrics that offended or made us feel excluded. We students were from all walks of life; many single-parent families, low- to very low-income households as well as high-income families, curly-haired kids, straight-haired kids, brown skin, white skin, black skin, freckled skin, pasty skin, boys who wore their sister’s t-shirts, girls who wore their brother’s pants, chubby kids, skinny kids, kids with speech impediments, kids who spoke as though they had a plum in their mouths. The thing is we were all part of the same thing and nobody even considered the thought of needing their own title. 

Sexual orientation or preference was irrelevant, and it did not shape who we were as humans, we were there to learn. Our reading groups were split into categories based on our abilities; Baby Bears for those who needed some extra assistance, and Big Ears for those who were more confident readers. I can honestly say that literally, nobody cared which group they were in, we just went with it and didn’t think twice as to their abilities.

The only time I remember feeling uncomfortable was when we had to learn bush dancing and were partnered up with someone from the opposite sex! But I hardly expected to be given preferential treatment. These days, that would never happen, but that is only due to this idea in recent years that people should never feel embarrassment, apprehension or any other emotion other than happiness.

We had regular visits from the local police sergeant who would come in and provide insightful lessons on road safety and stranger danger, and apart from being amazed by how shiny his black leather shoes were, I remember every student having nothing but the utmost respect for him as a member of the community who was there to serve and protect us and our families. I find myself questioning if this is still the case for kids these days, perhaps not, given the recent spate of criminal activity…

But going back to the beginning of this article, how about the name of our exercise regime? Chicken FAT! If you aren’t familiar with the song, search it up on YouTube and read the lyrics. There is no way you would get away with that these days! Essentially, what the song tells us is to keep moving our bum so we don’t get fat “give that chicken fat back to the chicken and don’t be chicken!”

Yes, they said the ‘F’ word, and nobody was offended. Circuits of 10 reps per exercise were ordered to us through the little PA speaker and we all did push-ups – rain, hail or shine (it was Ballarat, remember, so every chance there was at least rain!). It didn’t matter what size you were, you were all expected to join in. My coordination was not the best but I quite liked the catchy song, so I didn’t mind.

These days, they would probably call that child abuse! A simple, yet some may argue insensitive message to get across to kids to ‘keep moving to move that fat’. You don’t need to be an elite athlete and spend five hours a day, seven days a week at the gym, just spend less time sitting around.

I know I have spoken about this before, but where does it stop; this constant need to divide everyone according to race, sexual preference/orientation, emotional state, etc. It just seems such a contradiction, people want to feel included but at the same time wanting to be categorised into their own group. I’m not looking for an argument, I truly want to know when all this started with being offended and feeling the need to be exclusive. I just don’t understand and it’s really starting to bother me.

I think back to stories my parents and grandparents have told me over the years about “when we were young”, and without wanting to be burned at the stake for saying this, I have to wonder if they were happier times. Less distraction (hello social media influencers trying to brainwash people into thinking what’s cool and what’s right), less choice, less quick fixes, more resilience (possibly the most overused word in the last decade), more fresh air and having to use our imaginations.

I guess you could call this a rant, or maybe it’s called getting older. I’m just feeling fed up with so much whinging about ‘woe is me’, and people feeling entitled. Notice how those who really do have an enormous amount of trauma and misfortune in their lives seem to be the ones you never hear complaining? I think I am not the only one who is tired of all the bitching, moaning and complaining about things not ‘being fair’. That is life, it’s just how we deal with it or how we choose to let it affect us (yes, that is a choice) that is the difference. Maybe I sound hypocritical because I’m sort of having a whinge too, I just want people to consider that every time you say ‘but what about me?’ or ‘that’s not fair’ how much energy it takes to be wallowing in our own feeling of entitlement.

On the other hand, it is not realistic to think that being happy 24/7 is achievable, it isn’t. It’s okay to feel crappy and frustrated, but these feelings are temporary. If they are not, then consider getting some help, but we need to accept these feeling can be normal. Cars will always break down, money will be tight at times, our partners will annoy us, someone else will always be better at certain things than us, people will continue to be rude, you won’t always get what you want, we will lose people we love, friendships will end, someone will always be thinner or fatter or better looking, the house will get messy and there will always be too much washing; but that’s life. It’s a bloody rollercoaster, but there is always tomorrow.

Just enjoy the good bits and when the sh!tty bits come your way, if you can reach them, grab something to wipe them away!

The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper 9 February 2023

This article appeared in The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper, 9 February 2023.


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