Folks and People
Article by Peter
Published in ‘Here and Now’, Byron Bay, October 1999
I have had many occasions lately to recall an incident that happened when I first came to Byron Bay to live some 6 years ago. I visited a local business and it turned out that the owner was a shire councillor, and as we chattered on he told me of the plans to rid the council of certain staff who had opinions that differed to the majority of councillors. I took it from the conversation that they were regarded as too Left or too Green. He stated that the cost of sacking them was so high that it was better to make life so difficult for them that they would eventually leave by themselves. I remember being astounded at the time that he would openly admit to such a malicious act. ‘What would it be like for Council staff to work in such an atmosphere of intolerance and persecution?’ I thought.
Five years on and I now hear the same thing, except this time it is the Right wing staff and the ‘Developer’s Friends’ who are being targeted quite openly and blatantly. It all reeks of schoolboy grudges and petty fights in the playgrounds as one group ‘ganged’ up against another. I remember after school days when my particular school group of friends broke up and dispersed, I then became increasingly indoctrinated into believing and joining certain groups of people whose principles I agreed with. For me the attraction was to socialism, peace, green and eventually spiritual groups. This, of course, meant that I then had to disagree and fight with the other groups representing opposing beliefs. And everybody is in one group or the other. As a consequence, in the world the Left fight the Right, Protestant fight Catholic, the poor fight the rich, Greenies fight the Greedies, Christians fight the Moslems, Democracy fight Communism, tribe fight tribe, the workers fight the bosses, men fight women, women fight men, and so on and on.
‘Good’ and ‘Right’ and ‘True’ are words used by both sides in the arguments, fights and battles but, at the heart of it all, we human beings are instinctually programmed to fight, blame and resent other human beings. A good example of this was evident in a recent TV show by Clive James called ‘A postcard from Chicago’. He was escorted through the Black ghettoes by a policeman who explained to him the gang warfare that continually raged. Boys as young as ten were initiated into a gang by breaking the law – robbing a store or mugging someone were typical acts. Eventually, to earn respect in the gang, the boy would have to kill someone and a random drive-by shooting was the popular method. The policeman went on to explain that the gang structure was essentially split into two major groups – ‘Folks’ and ‘People’. This grouping did not represent old tribal, ethnic or religious groupings but was an apparently arbitrary split invented only in the last decades. After centuries of oppression and slavery gradually coming to an end for these people they have now invented new groupings in order to inflict hatred and violence on each other.
This may at first appear to be an extreme example of human beings’ predilection to form into waring groups when compared to the local scene but I see no essential difference. At the very core of the Human Condition lie the animal instincts of fear and aggression which, despite all the spiritual pursuits, morals, ethics and good intentions, have not been eliminated after thousands of years of so called ‘civilisation’. The key to eliminating this violence, anger, revenge, retribution and aggression is to see it in ourselves, rather than avoiding the fact by blaming others or denying it and escaping into fantasy worlds. After all, the first step to curing addictions such as alcoholism is to admit you have the affliction in the first place. Then we could see such things as consensus, co-operation, consideration and happiness break out in this wonderful place. And people would see what a paradise we live in and see how the council workers do such a good job in providing our services and maintaining and improving the Shire’s facilities. Recent works to the parks and foreshore in Byron spring to mind – just normal everyday council activities, undertaken with good intent, and that bring such delight to the eyes.
In the meantime the columns and letters to the Echo spew forth the vitriol as the ‘People’ versus the ‘Folks’ battle rages on. And, of course, each side believes it is right or true or good. Until we each stop being either ‘Folks’ or ‘People’ and realise that we are all fellow human beings ... and then we will really be able to live in peace in this earthy, sensual paradise that is Byron Bay. It would involve abandoning our dearly-held beliefs and our socially and religiously instilled morals and ethics, and then acknowledging and eliminating the animal instinctual passions in ourselves. And I do mean each of us, no matter how right, true, good, holy, or ‘above it all’ we feel or believe ourselves to be. But why not? The rewards would be stunning, to say the least.
The acid test is if you can live with one other person in utter peace and harmony – then you prove that peace on the planet is possible – it doesn’t remain a far-off dream. Otherwise life is indeed a sick joke and I, for one, always refused to accept that.
Peter's Text ©The Actual Freedom Trust: 1997-. All Rights Reserved.