Writing on, and about, an island

Posts Tagged ‘Richard Flanagan’

Cliffs. Coast. Cloudy Bay

In Island Life, Tasmania, Travel on February 8, 2012 at 12:44 pm

I am perhaps very un-Tasmanian in the fact I don’t like the bush. Actually, it terrifies me – in a 1967-bushfire/Blair Witch kind of way. The bush makes me claustrophobic; there is nothing relaxing about that closeness of tall, dark trees. And I grew up in the bush – which, to many, is the idyllic childhood.

No, my Tasmanian island ideal involves great stretches of coastline. Ocean. High cliffs. Seagrasses… Which is why I love Cloudy Bay, on the Southern-most tip of Bruny Island.

This Cloudy Bay beauty is currently for sale, for $1.5 million.

Cloudy Bay is spartan, windswept, and wide. I stood on the sands of it only a few weeks ago, in a storm, and it was everything that is best about Tasmania – the mist was swirling over Cape Bruny, the rain was pelting my face and the vast expanse of the Southern Ocean was almost indistinguishable from the big sky.

(This view is what someone inside that glass house would see.)

As I stood there, a lone 4WD exited the gravel road, onto the beach. I watched it drive to the far, far end of the beach, where it turned off, up to a half-hidden shack – one of only a handful of buildings on this lonely beach.

I think Richard Flanagan lives somewhere around Cloudy Bay. His shack is where my favourite author, Ian McEwan, finished off one of his books. If you’re a writer, Cloudy Bay is certainly one of the moodiest, most-inspiring places you could ever work from.

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Goodbye, Group Think. Hello, Independent Thought

In Tasmania, Writing on February 1, 2012 at 9:48 am

I am allergic to FebFast. I am also allergic to religion, unions, sunscreen and anything else that peddles mass guilt to the guilty masses… It’s also why I have an ongoing struggle with Facebook (my time on there is doomed, I think).

I have come to my own conclusions about these quasi-religious social projects… and those conclusions do not align with my belief in independence and the fundamental differences that should be respected and revered in humans.

FebFast, as a timely example, is designed for people who need validation, the pat on the back, the relief from guilt that comes with doing something – very publicly – that is popularly thought of as acceptable, expected and desirable social behaviour. I don’t think this is a very sound reason for doing something, however good.

Think I’m harsh?

Consider the fact that all those people signing up to FebFast could do the exact same thing – abstain from alcohol/donate money – on their own terms. Quietly, without requiring other people to get involved or applaud them for it. So… why don’t they?

Want to do something that’s good for yourself or the world? Then do it because and only because you thought independently about it, not because you have been sub-consciously guilted into emulating others. Want to do something that other people say is incorrect/not the done thing, despite the fact it wouldn’t hurting anyone else in the doing of it? Go ahead. It’s your life.

There is a well-known scientific experiment of mob mentality, of group-think, involving monkeys, a banana and some cold water…

To be or not be a monkey? Hmm.

Mob mentality is what I disliked most about Tasmania while growing up here. Look at our politicians, the jobs for the boys, the way we dislike anything that challenges the status quo. Tasmania is a place where independent thought is so rare, that those who have it are championed as geniuses (Richard Flanagan*, for example – certainly a great independent thinker, but not, I would argue, a genius). Tasmania’s mob mentality is what I ran away from. But, inevitably, I find it’s still here on my return. I’m not running from it this time, though.

By all means, do good things for yourself and others. But don’t do things just because everyone around you is doing them. Just because something is popular does not make it right for you. If nothing more, think a little harder when you’re tempted to be conscripted into doing something ‘good’ – into joining someone else’s cause – just because everyone else is doing it. Instead, start your own cause.

 *RF, speaking recently at a wake for respected Tasmanian arts patron Dick Bett, said: 
“For a moment it seemed as if gathered there that night was the Tasmania you dream about – brave, gifted, open, laughing, free. I don’t know if we’ll ever arrive at that Tasmania.”

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