In the absence of icons

Before I go on, Steve Cav has taken out the ‘Snakes on a Black Box’ flash fiction competition from the previous post. Congratulations Steve and thanks to everyone who entered. Each and every story was a hoot! Well done! [Further details are in the comments of that post]

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The last few days have been not so great for me, health-wise. When I started pissing blood today, I knew something was up, but then again, I’ve spent a couple of days in fitful and medication-induced sleep, so you know, par for the course really.

Before the orifice leaking blood thing, I was actually getting better. A + H both have similar symptoms, but A and I managed to overcome them long enough to take a particularly long walk this afternoon. I think the fresh air did us both good.

Anyway, I’m sure the doctor will slip me some pills and a few Hail Mary’s and hope it’s just internal damage from the infection and not the big C [which it’s not] or some other unpleasant state of being.

My mood has been dampened of late by the deaths of Steve Irwin and Peter Brock. Colin Thiele, too, but I was not that much aware of his work (except for Storm Boy, of course). Anyway, Brocky and the Croc Hunter. My sympathies go out to their families.

I’ve seen some vicious or at least insensitive comments made about Steve Irwin in particular. It sickens me, it really does.

It’s in times when we lose cultural icons like Irwin and Brock that I realise how patriotic I am.

I am the product of modern Australian culture. True blue. Dinky Di. My family line goes all the way back to the First Fleet (and I spent my first twenty years living within cooee of Captain Cook’s landing site at Botany Bay, Sydney).

Modern Australian culture is a fragile thing and it spans little more than 200 years. There are certain overused and overscorned stereotypes that define modern Australian culture, like the bronzed Aussies or Holden cars. As such a young culture, we have relative few cultural icons to cling to.

I watched Peter Brock go around the mountain at Bathurst with my late grandfather on a few occasions as a kid, and even then, I just knew everyone living in my city, my state, and my country knew who Peter Brock was and what he did. By all accounts, he was a decent bloke, a man who constantly pushed himself, but maintained a quiet dignity that almost epitomised the modern Australian male ideal.

When I first saw Steve Irwin, I thought he was ridiculous. He exploded on the cultural consciousness with his larger than life personality and stayed there. When I realised what we saw on TV was the real him, I relaxed and found I enjoyed what he did. Like him or loathe him, agree or disagree with his methods, he advanced the cause of wildlife more than any of his contemporaries. Pioneers like Attenborough and the like did great things, but Irwin was uniquely Australian – the stereotypical larrikin – and his methods suited the current infotainment and reality TV generation more than anyone else.

As those who know me will attest, I’m not averse to letting loose a good “crikey” now and again. “Crikey, a croc’s got me leg!” was a line I overused at Clarion, for instance. Steve Irwin gave me that, and now he’s gone.

I fear like Irwin and Brock, modern Australian culture is fading away. It’s changing, being diluted and sanitised by generations of politically-correct regimes. I’m a fan of a multicultural and tolerant society, I am, but the Australia I knew is disappearing. I don’t want a flavourless neutral zone where Australia is simply a conglomerate of other cultures. In the mix, I want something ‘Australian’ to remain, and to me, Steve Irwin and Peter Brock were quintessential Australians.

Both Irwin and Brock were icons. Both men seemed indestructible.

Australia will be poorer for their deaths as they pass now into legend.

Their deaths saddened me more than I expected. I will miss them.

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