animals in a filthy, meaningless culture that is better
described as a disease than anything else. That wasn’t
Try this for a combination of social skills - These were the
values I was raised on:
Never be a snob.
Don’t make fun of people less fortunate.
Don’t make fun of other people’s accents, or how
Don’t make fun of people for being ignoramuses.
Treat everyone like they’re real people, not
deformed, moronic pigs.
Mind your own business - Don’t be intrusive or
make personal remarks.
If that sounds like a recipe for a difficult social life, it is.
To this day, I’m reflexively polite to people you couldn’t
pay me to wipe my arse on. When I went to school, in my
own neighborhood, all I met were some really dumb,
nasty kids. I still have some physical scars from grade
school, put it that way. There were a few exceptions later
on, but it was a revelation I could have gladly done
Then there were other families – Tantrum factories for
the kids, hysterical over-parenting for the parents.
Psycho discipline. This was rich brat land, and believe
me, these guys were crap even at that age.
“Discipline” for my school mates turned out to mean
actual beatings – Or shameless pandering to the brats.
My few friends would come to my place to get away from
it. I was envied for having sane parents. For me,
discipline was absolutely merciless – And didn’t involve
any sort of maniac behavior. If I did something wrong or
stupid, I’d get a look from one or both of my parents, and
sometimes the dog, as well.
That look said – “You’re that stupid? You’re kidding.”
The response – “Er, ah, um… Well…”
No way out. No comeback. No excuse for later
accusations of parental abuse. Just an inescapable,
indefensible position. Believe me, it worked.
So – On to high school, and bigger and dumber idiots.
Fortunately for me, I grew to be bigger than most of the
other guys at the time, so I was largely left alone. I could
give a punch and take a lot of punches, so they moved
on to easier targets.
Being high school, of course, made a difference. You
learn to really hate at that age. Actually, I already knew
that, but it did add a dimension. If you’re thinking that my
training for social manners was no help, it wasn’t. All it did
was give me a perspective, to despise those people.
On to later teens, and to my hippie days in Melbourne. I’d
never met real suburbanites before, and if all the grass,
acid, and hash softened the meeting, there was still a lot
to learn, and dislike. The actual hippies were OK, and the
most risky thing that could happen was being asked to
look at someone’s new poem.
The suburbanites, however, particularly the pseudo-
hippies, were trash, boozers, and totally disgusting. This
was some sort of insane version of a Women’s Weekly
world where everyone had to put on an act. If anyone
ever tells you the 70s were some sort of magical era,
they’ve forgotten a lot.
If my childhood experience of other kids had been
negative, this was worse. I’d never met such vulgar,
pretentious people in my life. They were utterly
obnoxious. The women were apparently used to being
treated like shit. They lived in ridiculous little doghouses
like they were the princes and princesses of some TV
They were mean little bastards, too. What they lacked in
intelligence, evolutionary development, and hormones,
they tried to make up with social superiority. In
“egalitarian” Australia, they were anything but. They did
everything they could to be superior to others.
I later went through my junkie phase, and they were very
like junkies. They’d tear anyone down, backstab, and
really do damage. Everything was all about them – And
money. No fairy tale misers ever came near them for
money grubbing. Much later, I discovered that people
who try to be superior are really covering for their own
inferiority. No wonder they had to try so hard.
The strange thing is that my upbringing, which was the
recipe for managing the actual antithesis of my social life
to that point, gave me a perspective. I knew not to take
them seriously. If you can’t respect someone, any
relationship with them is fundamentally meaningless.
These people were never worthy of respect of any kind.
They had no conversation. They knew nothing about
anything. They were always about 30 years out of date
on any subject. They were coarse, more like farm
animals than people. I’d met people like that before I went
to grade school.
They were also incredibly stupid in their own
relationships. I used to know a very smart, very attractive
girl called Marie, a real guy magnet, who could run rings
around the guys. She was the only person, I think, who I
ever met who could be a real person in that
environment. She could easily outwit her conveyor belt
of guys, and could hold a conversation on subjects other
than sex. (This was quite amusing, because she had a
real sex life, and they didn’t.)
Need I say that people like that were pretty rare in 70s
Melbourne. The hippies were usually worth talking to, but
the city was made of rednecks in suits. After a drug bust,
(in which I discovered that people in jail were pretty much
like the suburbanites, but could punch each other clear
across a yard), I left Victoria and didn’t go back for
So on to a different world, that of Sydney and the public
sector. More suburbanites. A few tolerable people, sure,
but the social scene was still at Genitalia R Us level. In
my mid 20s, I was now meeting “the workforce”, or
“workfarce” as I continue to think of many of them. In the
NSW public service, there are some real people – And a
hell of a lot of hangers-on.
I got the impression that getting promoted was very much
a matter of managerial preferences, and I wasn’t exactly
popular with some of the suburbanite managers. One of
them later called me “insubordinate”, which is pretty right.
I’m not a natural subordinate, and even this ingrained
politeness of mine won’t change that.
The loathing was mutual, and I was OK with that. Suffice
to say that nothing I did was appreciated, despite a
certain amount of fan mail from departmental clients.
Getting promotions wasn’t exactly easy. I got two in 19
years. My social skills, such as they are, were devoted to
trying to find a woman who could put two sentences
together without requiring surgery and NASA for logistical
support. I’m still not married, and I’d have probably made
a mess of it if I had been, deluding myself that these
damn animals were possible mates for life.
I found a total of about 4 women during that period who
were pretty exceptional – And married or engaged. Like
an idiot, I didn’t do anything about it. A bit absurd. Why
was I being ethical? What’s the point of being a member
of a family of womanizers, if you don’t “ize” a bit? Ah well.
As I said to my equally unmarried cousin Moira a few
years back – “This is a family, not a zoo”. If I’d had
suburbanite kids, I’d be a homicidal maniac by now. It’d
be like siring a family of cockroaches.
OK, that’s the story – Now the reason for the story. If my
“genteel” upbringing was a surefire way of being
constantly nauseated by my “associates” in life, it was
also my way out of that scene.
I was raised to be a real person, not an accounting entity,
a mediocrity, or some pathetic self-important slum
worshipper lost in the glory of existential failure in some
pastel colored oblivion. I spent decades being virtually
sick at the sight of so many people. I mixed with vermin. I
had to have working relationships with people I would
otherwise have put in rubbish bins or flushed down some
poor toilet which never did me any harm.
I could never be part of it, and that was my ultimate
salvation. If I’ve had to use a huge number of spiritual
barf bags in all these years, I didn’t join the sewer. That, I
think, is the real vindication of my upbringing. Better to
be a gentleman than a cockroach, at any price.
If you hate this cockroach culture as much as I do and
always have, remember that. You can always be yourself.
It’s worth doing.