Thursday, January 13, 2011

The people that they breed tough

Since March 2009, Anna Bligh has been the state premier of Queensland. Although this has been a prestigious title and task (she's one of the rare Australian politicians who doesn't seem to be playing a role when wearing a worker's hat), I'm tempted to say that, up until now, she has been "merely" the state premier. In the space of a few terrifying days, as flood waters covered Queensland and moved into Brisbane, Anna Bligh has become a stateswoman. In her words today, there were overtones of Winston Churchill in May 1940, when he said to the House of Commons: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat."

My grandfather and my father, who were both Queenslanders in a way, would have surely been moved by Bligh's words, as I was:

As we weep for what we have lost
And as we grieve for family and friends
And we confront the challenge that is before us,
I want us to remember who we are.
We are Queenslanders.
We're the people that they breed tough, north of the border.
We're the ones that they knock down, and we get up again.
I said earlier this week that this weather may break our hearts,
and it is doing that. But it will not break our will.
And, in the coming weeks and the coming months,
we are going to prove that beyond any doubt.
Together we can pull through this,
and that's what I'm determined to do.
With your help, we can achieve it.

The heroic spirit of Anna Bligh's emotional declaration reminds me of the poem Australia by A D Hope, which has provided me with a title, They Sought the Last of Lands, for my monograph on my paternal ancestors.

They call her a young country, but they lie:

She is the last of lands, the emptiest,

A woman beyond her change of life, a breast

Still tender but within the womb is dry.

Without songs, architecture, history:

The emotions and superstitions of younger lands,

Her rivers of water drown among inland sands,

The river of her immense stupidity

Floods her monotonous tribes from Cairns to Perth.

In them at last the ultimate men arrive

Whose boast is not: 'we live' but 'we survive',

A type who will inhabit the dying earth.

Talking of "immense stupidity", I hope that Anna Bligh's authentic words will replace the ridiculous slogan that Queenslanders have got into the habit of throwing around: "Beautiful today, perfect tomorrow."

ADDENDUM: I attempted to bring the present blog post to the attention of The Australian (primarily for reasons that might be designated as poetic) through a comment to a relevant article on Anna Bligh. Besides, it was normal, out of elementary politeness, that I indicate my use of their video of the famous Bligh declaration. Unfortunately, my comment has not been published. This is not the first time that I've noticed a kind of xenophobic (technical?) rejection, on the part of The Australian, to comments from beyond the borders of our sunburnt country… notably from France. What the fuck!

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