26 April 2014

“W” is for Worry

I am quite a worrier at times and I have many fears as well.

I am an Australian living in Singapore. The Island is no place to live if you suffer from demophobia or ochlophobia. The former is a fear of crowds and the latter is an abnormal fear of crowds.

I am unsure of the difference between the two phobias. 

I am no psychologist.

I took this photograph one day when on my way to work:

The view is from the top of the escalator from the Raffles MRT station and the picture was taken at 8.00 o’clock in the morning.

It was not yet peak hour.

‘MRT’ is an acronym for ‘Mass Rapid Transit’. There is much mass – it is rapid and it certainly transits a lot of people.

Large crowds of commuters happen in most big cities around the world but Singapore is very densely populated. It is currently the third most populated country in the world.

Population density is determined by the number of residents comparative to the land space available for residence. 

Only Macau and Monaco are more densely populated than Singapore.

Enochlophobia is the fear of being crushed and Singapore is also no place for people afflicted with this condition.

You will note the lack of smiling faces in this crowd. Geliophobia is the fear of smiling. I think that this is a fairly common affliction here on the Island and in the world at large.

A lot of bad shit is happening.

I am not making any of these phobias up. They are real. The world is full of worries and fears that are both rational and irrational. 

It is a scary place.

I am currently greatly worried about quite a few things. First and foremost is the health of my best mate Berty.

Bert and I have been best mates for 36 years. Since we were silly little boys. Even though we now live many thousands of miles apart and we are both expatriated from our homeland of Australia, our friendship has not eroded.

Not one iota.

Mateship is a pretty big thing for we Australians. It is something that goes a bit beyond friendship. Mateship is a term traditionally used among men and it frequently describes the relationship between men during times of challenge. It is not exclusive to men though - particularly in these modern times.

I have quite a few good mates who are women. 

The popular notion of mateship first came to the fore during the First World War. During this period the word 'mate' became interchangeable with the word 'digger', which had its roots in the Australian gold digging fields of the 1850s.

During the “Gold Rush".

The myth of the digger and the larrikin hero is an important part of the Australian experience of pastoralism and it is strongly tied to the concept of being a mate. It has links as well to the early days on the goldfields and in the days of bushrangers.

Think Ned Kelly.

In the classic Australian historical novel – ‘Settlers and Convicts’ - which was first published in 1847, the writer Alexander Harris wrote this of the relationship between male pastoral workers in the early days of Australia - when it was a British colony: 

‘... working together in the otherwise solitary bush; habits of mutual helpfulness arise, and these elicit gratitude, and that leads on to regard. Men under these circumstances often stand by one another through thick and thin; in fact it is a universal feeling that a man ought to be able to trust his own mate in anything.’

Through thick and thin and absolute trust. 

I love it.

I really do.

The great Australian poet Henry Lawson wrote this in his classic work "Shearers":

They tramp in mateship side by side -
The Protestant and Roman
They call no biped lord or sir
And touch their hat to no man!

Mateship was further developed and defined through the experiences that Australian soldiers had in wars. It was refined in abhorrent and terrifying moments actually.

Think World War One and World War Two and Vietnam.

These were horrible and terrible conflicts that a great many very young and brave Australian soldiers fought and died in.

Think Trench Warfare and Concentration and Prisoner of War camps.

It was Anzac day yesterday and there was a memorial service held here in Singapore. Thousands of Australian and British and American and Singaporean troops died in horrific conditions here in Japanese Prison of War camps.

Think Changi.

The Australian historian Paul Sheehan wrote in his 1998 work - "Among the Barbarians":

In the Japanese POW camps the Australians discarded their differences and became a tribe, a tribe which was always the most successful group. The core of this success was an ethos of mateship and egalitarianism which not only survived the ultimate dehumanizing duress of the death camps, but shone through as the dominant Australian characteristic.

Discarding differences. This is another essential ingredient of being a mate.

Nice one Paul. 

That sort of stuff makes me proud. 

Modern Australia should reflect on this. Our current day immigration and refugee policies are shameful as is our involvement in conflicts abroad. They are disgraceful. They lack compassion, humility and humanity and they often make me ashamed. 

Wake up you fucker Australian politicians.

I digress.

I often do.

So back to my very best mate Berty. He lives in the US – in Las Vegas in fact. He married a septic. That's rhyming slang for you un-Australians. A septic tank = a yank.

Obvious huh? 

Dana is Berty's wife. She is the septic and she is wonderful. I love her like a sister and she is also my mate. Berty and I went to school together and we shared many first experiences. We stole our first car together we smoked our first spliff.  At one point Berty and I dated two sisters - the Baumgartners. Berty’s Baumgartner went on to be an Olympian and mine ended up being a nutter.

I always got the crazy ones and I seem to be a magnet for lunatics.

It is a cross that I bare.

I was best man at Berty's wedding. It was in San Diego in California. I wrote a poem for the occasion and I don't think the Americans who were in attendance understood it or appreciated it. 

I didn't give a fuck. 

The poem was for Berty. 

I also read a eulogy at Berty's Dad's funeral. His name was Brian. Bert was too ill even back then to attend - so I stood in for him. I cried all night after that and well into the next day too. The loss of Brian was as profound as anything I had ever experienced.

It was a real kick in the guts.

I wept for Berty and I wept for me too. 

As with any of my mates, I would do anything for Berty and he would do the same for me. We wouldn't even have to ask. We would just know.

Distance doesn't dilute mateship and it doesn't weaken it.

It is a very powerful bond.

Berty and I haven't lived in the same country for many years. Decades actually. When we do see or talk to each other it is just like it's always been. 

We are like an old pair of slippers. 




We will be mates forever.

I am worrying a lot about Berty lately and I am talking to him every day. He is back in hospital now and such is my worry that I will be flying over to Vegas to see him next week - as soon as I tie up some things I have to do here.

Hang in there mate.

I will be there soon.

The origin of the word 'phobia' is Greek and it is derived from the term 'phobus' - which means an irrational fear or aversion. It is associated with panic and flight.

Being scared is different to having a phobia.

Rationality is the differential. 

A phobia is an irrational fear.

As I mentioned I am a bit of a worrier and I have quite a few fears. I think that most people do. There are things that I don't like and these include clowns, spiders, snakes and the thought of being buried alive.

When I was little I remember being greatly worried and at times terrified of the thought of dying. Now that I am an adult I don't like the idea that I will die but I accept this as just the way things are. I haven't reverted to a religious conviction to deal with this though - I simply accept it as just being an inevitability - and I live fast.

I cherish each day and I have many friends and some close mates here on the Island. I don’t waste my time with sycophants and fake and cold and pretentious and self-absorbed people anymore - and I don't worry about them either.

I remember being really worried and scared for my Dad when I was little. He was an officer in the Australian army and he was away fighting in the Vietnam War for two very long and painful years.

I was worried that he was going to die.

I don't think that my worry and fear in this instance was an irrational one. It was a dreadful reality and I was just a little boy and I didn't want my Dad to die. 

I still don't.

The irrational fear of clowns is called coulrophobia. I don't believe that I suffer from this condition either.

I just don't like them.

The irrational fear of spiders is called arachnophobia and for snakes it is ophidiophobia. The fear of being buried alive is taphophobia.

I have checked to see if there is actually a fear of fear but alas there is not.

Apart from the worry about Berty I am also worried about many of the children of Nepal who I am associated with. I returned a couple of weeks ago from my most recent visit where another of my best mates joined me – my brother Richard. We spent a lot of time with kids we are trying to help by supporting their education.

Education is really the only way out for these poor children. They have absolutely nothing – including opportunity.

There are so many of them too.

I also worry about my family - that is constant and is born of love.

Most of my worry is born of love.

I know that my worry won’t help Berty and it will not help the children of Nepal or my loved ones but I just can’t help it.

I can’t.

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