Roots

On the 1st day of January, 1892
they opened Ellis Island
and they let the people through

~  Brendan Graham, Isle of Hope Isle of Tears

These are the opening lyrics to an all-time favourite song of mine which has been performed by many, usually Irish, entertainers including Celtic Woman, the Three Tenors and Tommy Fleming.  It is a magical song conjuring images of the incredible history of this small island in the mouth of the Hudson River south-west of Manhattan Island, just near the Statue of Liberty.  According to the song, between 1892 and 1943, 17 million immigrants were processed through Ellis Island Immigration Centre.  The buildings on Ellis Island have been converted into a museum informing over 3 million visitors each year about the mass migration into the USA through this single port during the decades it was operational.  It is a history rich with stories, the most famous of which is that of Annie Moore, a 15yo Irish girl recorded as the first immigrant to enter through the Ellis Island Immigration Centre on the day it opened, and who Brendan Graham’s lyrics are about.

On my last visit to New York a few years ago, I visited Ellis Island and also the notorious Tenements on the Lower East Side of Manhattan where millions of Irish, Italian, Jewish, Russian and other immigrants found themselves surviving in destitution after passing through Ellis Island.  I was unaware as I wandered through the Great Hall and other rooms at the Ellis Island museum, that my mother’s maternal grandmother passed through here as an Irish immigrant in the late 19th century.  Even without this family connection, Ellis Island was a compelling place to visit.

Reading the placards throughout the Museum was evocative of the way many Australians consider refugees and immigrants in this day and age.  Fears exist to this day about such things as:

  • infectious diseases (Tuberculosis and Trachoma rate special mentions on Ellis Island – Tuberculosis has never really left the communal consciousness where immigrants are concerned);
  • jobs being taken from the local workforce;
  • public safety concerns, most recently related to Islamic terrorism but the first act of terrorism in New York that I can find online, was a bomb in a horse-drawn wagon on Wall St in 1920.  The culprits were never identified but were believed to have been Italian anarchists.  This is only the first terrorist act connected to the word “terror” and it’s likely that many previous acts of violence occurred in New York over previous centuries which today would be defined as “terrorism”;
  • political security;
  • and of course the age-old race issue.  In the days of Ellis Island Immigration Center, southern Europeans were considered to be inferior to the Northern and Western Europeans.  Chinese and Irish were particularly inferior.  There was a Chinese Exclusion Act whereby immigration of Chinese nationals was prohibited for many decades, and extended to include people from the Asian sub-continent as a whole.  It was not uncommon for rental advertisements to read “No dogs.  No Irish”.

I feel a part of this history, perhaps because of my Irish-English ancestry?  Which may also have something to do with the connection I feel to New York, where Anglo-Celtic culture flows through the streets aside the many other cultures blending together in this melting pot of alluring diversity.

I was born in Alice Springs in Australia’s Northern Territory and despite my Anglo-Celtic background have always felt an affinity with Australian indigenous people, perhaps because, as indigenous activist, character and watercolourist Wenten Rubuntja once told me, I’m a “Yeperenye Baby” (ie, born to the Yeperenye Ranges of Alice Springs).  Another place and people I am connected with, is New Zealand, where I have spent the past month visiting friends and family and enjoying the dramatic land and seascapes through the North and South Islands.  In the past few weeks Mum and I have travelled through neverending farmland where sheep and cattle graze, hills and valleys heavy with native flora, past blue lakes, emerald rivers, coastal bays, snow-topped mountains, bubbling pools of mud and cliffs tumbling down into yacht-filled marinas.  Where once my eyes which grew up on this land saw nothing but the ordinary, now they feast on a staggering beauty which I can’t believe I ever took for granted.

I’m now in Rotorua, in the centre of the North Island, a tourism destination thanks to many lakes dotted through the region, threaded together by rivers in an area of geothermal activity causing mud to boil and underground water to billow into the sky at regular intervals at some of the world’s most famous geysers.  Maori culture thrives here and there are many cultural shows tourists can attend to learn more about the civilisation that populated New Zealand until European arrival in the 1800s.  Some of these arrivals were my own Irish forebears who traveled here to escape the Potato Famine and develop farms on the coastal foothills in Marlborough.  In my adolescence I lived in a rural village, where I spent most of my time with Maori teenagers, leading each other astray in all manner of youthful mischief.

At the end of my adolescence I moved to London and spent the following six years becoming acquainted with the English and their ways.  In jest, my English friends believed I was a colonial hillbilly who needed to be enculturated and in many ways they were correct.  But I have my own culture, as we all do.  Mine is an integration of all of these aspects to my family and personal history.  The reason we connect strongly with certain people and issues has to have a cultural foundation, infiltrating genetic predispositions and other innate qualities to form our unique characters and perceptions of the world.

Last night in Rotorua we went to the cinema and I felt a really strong connection from the opening scene until the credit roll, with the film Jimmy’s Hall.  The bright green Irish moors on an icey winter’s day captivated me immediately and it only got better.  Without recognising a single cast member, I enjoyed their portrayal of a poor Catholic community in the Irish border region of the 1930s.  Based on a true story about Jimmy Gralton, the film depicts a historical Ireland where poor farmers lived and worked on land owned by wealthy absentee landlords, where the Real IRA held community influence parallel to priests and communities struggled through an economy flattened by the Great Depression.

Gralton spent ten years living and working in New York before returning home to his mother’s old stone cottage in rural Ireland.  He almost immediately fostered his reputation as a rabble-rouser by opening a community hall where education outside the confines of the church’s control prospered within the district.  Lay teachers held art, music and dance lessons.  Community meetings and dances took place.  This upset the church and other authorities, dividing the community and making Gralton a target of clandestine intimidation and of the authorities.  He was an open Communist and eventually the Irish government of the time had him extradited to America without trial.

So here in New Zealand on a cold, early summer’s night, I learned a piece of history from across the opposite side of the planet and felt like it was partly “my” story.  Because it is!  This, days before I make my way to New York for Christmas, where I will be staying with a friend in SoHo, in Lower Manhattan.  Her apartment on a cobblestone street in a historic building sits 1.2km from the Tenement Museum on the Lower Eastside.  But the Tenement Museum informs us of lives which existed infinite worlds apart from my imminent SoHo experience, in both time and circumstance.  The dark, crowded, impoverished lives of the Tenements of 1800s New York resembled in some ways, today’s Cambodia, although there are obviously also many contrasts.   An example which comes to my TB-drenched mind is the way that infectious diseases affect(ed) the lives of both populations.  In particular Tuberculosis, which occurs in today’s Cambodia at a rate very similar to the rate of TB which occurred in New York’s tenements in the 1800s to early 1900s.  When laws related to living standards were implemented, public health improved and rates of infectious diseases began to plummet.

The history of Tuberculosis and other infectious diseases in New York is particularly intriguing so I’ll probably blog about it sometime over the next month.  My dream of living in Manhattan <faking it> as a writer is about to come true.  I may have to start a whole new bucket list!  Meanwhile, the point of this post is to highlight my belief that our cultural roots, which help define us, cannot be represented by a single time, place, event or characteristic, but are multi-dimensional and interconnected fragments, woven together in often unexpected ways.

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So Many Worthwhile Causes

There are so many worthwhile causes in this world.  I find myself saying “no” to requests for donations to all kinds of charitable organisations who approach via door knocking, mailouts, emails and telephone calls.  It seems overwhelming sometimes.  Only recently have I realised that the reason “we” in the western world are so inundated by requests for philanthropy, is because of the global imbalance between rich and poor.  While poverty in Australia is defined as any single adult living on less than $358 per week, elsewhere in the world 1.2 billion people continue to survive on less than $1.25 per day.  From what I saw in Cambodia, many of these people actually earn nothing at all.

There is a calculator at https://www.givingwhatwecan.org/get-involved/how-rich-am-i where you can work out how rich you are in comparison to the rest of the world.  According to my calculation I belong to the richest 0.3% of the world’s population and if I give 10% of my income away, I remain in the top 0.5%.  Amazing stuff!

Another excellent reference is this four minute video infographic displaying global inequality and outlining the causes.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWSxzjyMNpU .  The richest 2% of people in the world have more than 50% of all global wealth.  The richest 20% have 94% of global wealth while 80% of the world have only 6% of the world’s material wealth.  Is it any wonder that we, at the upper end of this scale, find ourselves being highly sought after?!

Only 200 years ago the richest nations in the world were about 3 times richer than the poorest.  Today we are 80 times richer.  This has happened mainly by material wealth being removed from poor countries, by corporations and wealthy countries, which occurs at a rate many hundred times higher than the rate of aid injected into these countries.

I’m currently visiting family and traveling in New Zealand, where the wealth of our small nation has never seemed so visible to me as it does on this holiday.  Looking at the infrastructure alone we are clearly well resourced – even the most rural country roads are almost all bitumenised, potholes are almost non-existent, roads are well marked, road signs are clear and standardised, roadworks are staffed, signposted and extremely safety-conscious, hospitals and schools are clean and organised with modern conveniences unseen in most of the world.  It’s so far removed from the world I became used to for a year, where waste disposal was erratic, sewerage leaking on the grounds of a public hospital was considered unfixable, patients often sleep on floors in walkways of hospitals, roads were mainly pothole-ridden dust tracks, schools were bare concrete buildings with ancient wooden furniture and no reading resources, etcetera.

This leads me to the reason for this blog post!  As someone who says “no” to donation requests almost daily, I recognise that this is just “yet another cause” which most will not feel able to assist with.  I also know that in order to want to contribute to a cause, we need to feel connected in some way to the cause in question.  When we are detached from the concern at hand, we are less inclined, or not at all inclined, to feel a need to involve ourselves.  Being involved as I am, is why this is a cause I want to mention.

When I first arrived home a very good friend of my mother announced that she was coordinating a fundraiser for me and that I would need to present to a public audience!  She and Mum worked together at a nursing home in the town where I spent my teenage years and the event was held at this home / hospital last Wednesday afternoon.  The audience was quite a mish-mash!

An artist of considerable talent, she donated a beautiful acrylic painting of red poppies which was raffled alongside a book written by a local nursing friend and a brass door knocker which were both also donated to the cause by separate donors.  She recruited an audience from far and wide, produced and distributed a written invitation to the event, baked cakes, enlisted others to assist with catering, networked at various social gatherings, promoted raffle tickets all over town and I probably don’t even know what else, towards hosting the event.  It was a real “kiwi” experience, reminding me of the community spirit that exists here in spades.

Mum and a couple of other family members, many of Mum’s old work colleagues, an old high school friend of mine, a boss from my first out-of-school job and various others joined interested nursing home residents and staff in the large ocean-facing lounge room of this beautiful nursing home.  I put together a powerpoint presentation titled “A Year in Cambodia” and picked some of the stories which had touched me the most to share from a large projector screen on the wall of the residents lounge.  Standing not 20 metres from the Tasman Sea which rolled and broke into white fringes out of the panoramic window beside me, I spoke for 45 minutes about my experience and my hopes to assist the Children’s Home with much-needed funds.  The assumption that I would be nervous, stemming from jitters which surfaced days prior when I gave the same presentation to a group of  aunties and other extended family in Mum’s lounge room, turned out to be incorrect.  Despite a number of the audience nodding off to sleep before me!

I also gave a similar presentation to a Year 6 class upon request of my good friend’s 11yo daughter which was a highly entertaining exercise.  After speaking semi-regularly at schools and universities in Cambodia, the small classroom with comfortable desks and chairs, a computerised presentation system, children all speaking confidently of their overseas experiences and extra-curricular activities could not have been more different to the classes I spoke to in Cambodia.  Since I’ve been home others have also generously donated, either to Phter Koma or to individuals they know of through this blog.  I am so grateful to many for their eagerness to contribute, which is not just about the money but also the big hearts of many of my family and friends.

Until now I have not named the Children’s Home I regularly mention.  But they have a public profile and the Board of Directors have farewelled me on a holiday to Australia, New Zealand and America in the hope that during my travels I might manage to raise money for the home, so I guess it’s time to name them here and outline what we do.

Phter Koma Children’s Home in Kampong Cham Cambodia currently cares for 12 children between 6yo and 16yo who are HIV+ and have lost one or both parents to AIDS.  The home is licenced under Cambodian law for 15 resident children but currently does not have the budget for more than the existing 12.  I am the only Australian member of the Board of Directors at this home which was established by a group of doctors and social workers who came to the realisation whilst working together on an HIV program, that many of their clients were dying and leaving behind HIV+ children with no one to care for them.  This placed the children at high risk of health problems related to poor HIV treatment as well as many social risks including homelessness, neglect, abuse, child trafficking and prostitution.  The children all come from families who are unable, for various and often shocking reasons, to provide them with proper care, in a nation crippled by poverty.  They are beautiful children, keen students who attend school daily and extra classes whenever possible in order to try and catch up after losing out on schooling due to circumstances including ill health, poverty and chaotic home lives.

The home is 100% Cambodian managed, with a Manager, an Educator and two carers who rotate in shifts to provide general care to the children including cooking, housework, coordinating the children’s activities and health appointments and ensuring care and routine in their lives.  In order to function at a basic level, Phter Koma needs a minimum of US$2,500 per month which covers accommodation (they rent a house near the children’s school), staff salaries, food and clothing for the children, transport, school fees and other general costs.  The carers earn around $100 per month in salary and all staff earn less than $400 per month, so most costs relate directly to the care of the children.

Cambodia is renowned for it’s “orphanage tourism” which corrupts children in care for the purposes of fundraising for personal gain/profit.  Phter Koma is a genuine, licenced and ethically managed not-for-profit association with processes in place to ensure the protection of their resident children, whose best interests are the association’s only concern.  The Children’s Home website is at www.phter-koma.org .

The role of the Board of Directors is to provide technical advice and oversee budget implementation, as well as to raise funds to keep the home functioning.  Most funds currently come from France where one of the home’s founders, a French social worker, spends exhorbitant amounts of time and energy sourcing private donations.  We have a provisional budget of US$30,000 for the following year, but currently only have US$26,000 available (almost all from French donors), so we are looking for an extra $4,000 to ensure the home remains operational into the following year.  If we are able to raise more funds we will be able to increase our resident children from 12 to 15.  There are many HIV+ children in the region who fit the criteria for admission to Phter Koma and have an immediate need for residential care to protect their health and improve their future chances at a decent quality of life.  We also have a currently-unaffordable idea that we would like to separate the children into two separate homes, by gender, as they move into their teens.

Both France and USA have tax exempt connections to Phter Koma allowing their citizens to make donations to us as an official charitable organisation.  I am currently working towards obtaining this status within Australia, which is a complicated and lengthy process.  All donations are warmly welcomed by anyone interested in contributing to a highly worthwhile cause but permanent donations which can ensure continued income for the home are most valuable as they mean we have a better chance at maintaining operations into the long term.  For more information or to make contact, refer to www.phter-koma.org or feel free to email me privately at hjtin@yahoo.com.

The Story of One Patient

Many stories came out of my year in Cambodia.  I feel particularly close to one of my patients and I am not sure I ever fully told (my part of) her story.  At 25yo this young woman who I will give the pseudonym of Phan, was admitted to our ward weighing 21kg.  Her father carried her into the ward and placed her on the bed.  I had never seen anyone look so malnourished and frail.  During the admission process we needed to weigh her and she said she would be able to stand on the scales for us.  She misjudged herself, her legs gave way under her and she fell to her knees.  Her father picked her up and we weighed her in his arms, with his weight then subtracted from the total.

A Cham (Muslim) family from an impoverished rural riverside village, she was hospitalised with us for over two months, during which time she constantly had family present and caring for her – a cousin, a sister, her mother and various others.

Two years prior she had been suffering with abdominal swelling and pain for years and after years of suffering her family somehow managed to obtain the funds to take her to Phnom Penh for expert opinion.  Unfortunately, in Phnom Penh it was initially decided that she had appendicitis, which is an acute condition that cannot last for years and should have clearly been a misdiagnosis.  Surgeons operated to remove her appendix and during the operation discovered swollen lymph nodes which they diagnosed as cancerous.  They excised some of the nodes by a bowel resection, forming a stoma where the newly created end of her bowel now opens out onto the skin of her abdomen and requires a plastic bag to cover and catch the faeces.  They also told her that they had not been able to remove all of the cancerous lesions and that they could not tell her how much time she had left to live but that the cancer would ultimately be terminal.  In a country where chemotherapy and radiotherapy do not exist – the wealthy travel to other countries for such luxuries – this was the best they could do.

One of the risks with abdominal surgery is the formation of adhesions, or scar tissue which sticks internal abdominal tissues and organs to each other, which are normally soft, slippery and not attached to each other.  Adhesions can be asymptomatic or they can cause pain and intestinal obstruction which requires further surgery, which in turn risks the formation of more adhesions.  Phan developed painful adhesions and was operated on twice more in the following months.  These operations resulted in the formation of a fistula between her intestine and the skin of her abdomen on the opposite side of the deliberately-formed stoma.  She now has two permanent openings on her abdomen which ooze faeces.  One, the stoma, has a plastic bag attached to catch the faeces; the other is treated like a wound and dressed multiple times per day depending on how much faecal ooze occurs.  The skin around both sites is raw and inflamed due to the constant faecal ooze.

Her treatment in Phnom Penh was very poorly documented and our medical team had to make a lot of educated guesses about her condition.  To cut a long story short, my personal conclusion is that she (obviously) did not have appendicitis and that the visible lymphomas which, in the face of no real diagnostic tests, were determined to be cancerous, were in fact tuberculous.  That is, all along she actually had abdominal Tuberculosis which would have been cured by a standard six months of anti-TB medications.  Unfortunately it is very difficult, without appropriate testing, to differentiate between abdominal lymphadenopathy which is caused by abdominal Tuberculosis and that which is caused by lymphoma (cancer).  In countries with high TB prevalence and poor resources for diagnostic testing, this is an easy mistake to make, although her age and the prevalence of TB in her population may have seen another medical team make the right educated guess about her diagnosis.

The abdominal surgeries which all could have been avoided, have resulted in a state of malabsorption where she is unable to absorb enough nutrients before the digestive process ends at the opening of either her fistula or her stoma.  This leaves her in a constant state of malnutrition, and her weight continues – years later – to hover in the region of 21kg to 22kg.  Had she been born in a wealthy country, she would receive parenteral nutrition into her veins which would allow her digestive tract a chance to rest and heal and her prognosis would be very positive.  Unfortunately her only option is to eat and she is receiving extra food and therapeutic food supplements to try and assist her nutritional status, but it is proving ineffective due to her clinical state.

The malabsorption has also meant that, finally commenced on TB treatment, she does not absorb the TB medications well.  After a time on TB treatment, tests returned that she had MDRTB (multi drug resistant TB), which the doctors  have theorised is likely caused by her inability to absorb all of the anti-TB molecules properly.  This poor absorption exposes the TB bacteria in her system to small doses of anti-TB molecules which allow it to produce enzymes which obstruct the anti-TB properties of these molecules.

It is unbelievable that despite her precarious physical condition, having been told that she has an incurable cancer and will die, she continues to survive.  But she does and it has been an honour and a privilege to know her.  Earlier this year her husband divorced her and remarried.  They share custody of a 3yo son who her parents care for when he is at their home.  The below photographs show some of the children at her home and her mother caring for her at home.

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I made a number of visits to her home before she was discharged (with the DRTB Nurse who identified a Home Based Care Nurse to administer her daily Direct Observed Therapy) and I have visited her a few times since she  returned home.  Their living conditions are less than basic.  Water supply is the muddy Mekong, the shores of which their elevated wooden home sits on.  During the Wet Season the Mekong rises and flows onto the land, at which time they can only leave home by stepping out of the door and into a wooden boat.

We had to work out the best dressing and stoma care materials for her and at one point an expatriate clinician based in Phnom Penh suggested we provide reusable materials which could be washed, until I explained their water supply to him.  Very basic things like this were eye opening to my first world brain, which has never had to imagine the dangers associated with dirty water supply.

I have maintained contact with her and am hoping to return to Cambodia in January with supplies that might help improve her situation.  She spends her days lying on the wooden floor of their home, surrounded by extended family including many children, receiving an impressive level of care given the circumstances that they live in.  I have contacted a stoma care nurse in Sydney who is trying to assist me in obtaining appropriate colostomy bag supplies, but this is not an easy task because Australian standard supplies, which are free to Australian citizens, are very expensive to purchase privately.  We are waiting on further contact with a company who have begun supplying more basic colostomy bags at a fraction of the cost, to poor nations.  However they have various conditions attached to supply, such as a contact person in the country, someone responsible for teaching the carers how to use the bags appropriately, etc.  With mail unreliable and expensive in the best of circumstances, her very remote location which makes receiving mail impossible, and my unknown duration of stay, these are not easy things to put in place.

Yesterday I gave a brief presentation to some family members about my year away and a photograph of this beautiful young woman elicited questions about her prognosis.  This prompted me to write about her this morning.  I believe that her prognosis is better than she has been told, in that she probably doesn’t have terminal cancer.  However, she is living precariously in a state of extreme malnutrition, in very poor living conditions which place her at risk of exposure to infections which, in her state of chronic ill health, make her very vulnerable to disease and death.  The MDRTB she is being treated for may in fact be her demise.  Her quality of life is also extremely low, relying as she does on family members for everything.

A bright, beautiful, friendly and intelligent girl who enjoys reading and practising her English, she is a perfect example of the potential that our world misses out on due to material deprivations in substantial expanses across the globe.  Our collective impotence at making the world an equitable place for all ultimately detriments us all.

The Lucky Country, A Fortunate Life

The bright lights and glittering merchandise in airport duty free stores once drew me in as intended, tempting me to purchase things I might never consider necessary, desirable or affordable at other times.  These days as I walk the sparkling hallways of various airports on my already-extravagant travels, I have no desire to so much as stop for a look, aware that my money is valuable to much more significant matters.  Almost three weeks out of Cambodia now, the “life changing experience” I have talked so much of is highlighted as a living reality as I readjust back into the world of plenty for a while.  The luck I was born into has never been so conspicuous as it is now.  That I have the choice to travel, an assumed right to decent health care, a first class education which makes “the world my oyster” and so many other freedoms that most people in the world dare not even dream of, makes me pinch myself on a regular basis.

This is exacerbated by the contact I maintain with Cambodia.  One of my staff wrote to tell me that her father was diagnosed with cancer and is dying a painful death with no access to any of the cancer therapies available in my world which can improve survival and quality of life.  There is no money to ensure adequate pain relief so she is arranging an advance in her $450 monthly salary to help cover the $750 bill which has crippled them only weeks into his diagnosis.  Chom’s 3yo son fell and fractured his arm.  Due to costs, the recommended follow up x-ray had to be declined.  At the same time he crashed his tuk tuk and has a $60 repair bill which he cannot pay.  So as I flit around the world, the constant paralysis of my Cambodian friends and colleagues continues unabated.

One of my expat colleagues says that third world citizens don’t want money so much as they want resources.  I get what she means as I recognise the difference between having contacts who can affect your life outcomes, compared with having no such contacts.  This is epitomised by the value which has been placed on my newfound status as an English teacher, purely because I’m a native English speaker.  The ability to speak English increases opportunities for Cambodian children exponentially, which in turn has made it a valuable commodity with costs attached to lessons most Cambodians cannot afford.

Last weekend I cycled in the Multiple Sclerosis “Sydney to the Gong” ride, from an outer Sydney suburb to Wollongong, 58km south along the coast.  It was a beautiful ride, through a shady national park and along the coastline surrounded by beautiful seaside homes.  Many thoughts roamed through my mind as I passed through this affluent country watching children at surf lifesaving and surfboard lessons, pampered pooches running on the white sand, paddleboards and yachts out on the glistening blue sea, watched over by hillside swimming pools in beautiful private gardens.  Days prior on Halloween, we were visited in my family’s beautiful Alexandria home which borders Redfern, mainly by groups of indigenous children from the neighbouring poorer area knocking for their trick or treat experience.  Their young mothers all seemed curious when our gate opened, by what might be inside our property and it appeared to be a treat for them as much as for the children, to interact with and get a glimpse of “how the other half live”, causing us to consider the fact that our good fortunes are not shared by all Australians, in fact not even all of our neighbours.

Last week I posted a book to Win in Cambodia which I know he will enjoy, as well as assisting him in his quest to find decent English speaking books to read, which are both hard to come by and also very expensive in Cambodia.  Albert Facey was in his 80s when he wrote A Fortunate Life, his autobiography set mainly in Western Australia in the early half of last century.  It is one of the most beautifully written and quintessentially Australian books I’ve ever read, by a modest, decent man.

Last week was also the 50th anniversary of the publication of one of Australia’s most iconic books, The Lucky Country by Donald Horne.  No book title has entered popular vernacular as rapidly as those three words entered the Australian lingo courtesy of Horne in the 1960s – persisting to this day as a reflection on what it means to be Australian.  This is ironic because Australians adopted the phrase en masse, courtesy of it’s use by politicians and public figures, as a positive reflection of themselves.  This was quite the opposite of Horne’s meaning, which was to suggest that we happened to have fallen on our feet by sheer good luck – something I have always believed to be the case, without ever reading The Lucky Country which is now on my to-read list.  Horne was reportedly exasperated by this popular distortion, attributing it to the “empty mindedness of a mob of assorted public wafflers” (http://www.penguin.com.au/products/9780143180029/lucky-country/39485/extract).  The article I read about the 50th anniversary of this book led me to read more on Professor Horne, who was quite a pioneer in Australian academics and social commentary.  He remained highly critical (as he was in The Lucky Country) of the lack of vision from Australian leaders, who he described as second rate people using other people’s ideas, lacking curiosity and less concerned with achievement or hard work than with lifestyle.  He claimed that Australia did not deserve the luck it happened across.

I look forward to reading The Lucky Country.  Just as soon as I get through the tome I’m currently ploughing through about Cambodia’s history.  What I know without assistance from either book, is that had Australia stumbled into such misery and disaster as Cambodia, thanks in large part to it’s geographical location and political vulnerabilities, we would be in no better place now than Cambodia currently finds itself.  As a microcosm of this comparison, I also remain acutely aware that it is pure and undeserved luck which sees me living quite the opposite experience of my peers in Cambodia.

While I am on this subject, I’ve also added this to my to-read list:
The Locust Effect : Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence by Gary A. Haugen and Victor Boutros