I watched the ABC program this evening on Aussie masculinity. I was interested to see how boys and men in Oz experience life and growing up today compared with three quarters of a century ago in working class wartime England. Back then it seemed to me my own four brothers were somehow privileged and that as a girl I was disadvantaged, and always struggling to hold my own against them and other boys. I don’t think I gave much thought to their National Service for two years which could involve them in military training for war on battlefields in Korea once the Germans and the Japanese were beaten in 1945. Even so I certainly didn’t imagine that boys and men born no matter where in the western world were many times more likely to kill themselves even in peacetime than were women. I go to bed with these verses in my head written many years ago.
My Neighbour Died The Other Day.
My neighbor died the other day, by his own hand.
Was he trying to make me understand
What it was he had in mind, what it was he planned?
Was he hoping for one last helping hand,
When he stood out there beneath that fateful tree
And said, “You’ll be sorry. Just wait, you’ll see!
You’ll wish that you had been more kind to me.”
With hindsight that’s as clear as any threat could be.
That’s what I feel, my unspoken point of view.
To his family, I hear, he’d given not a clue
That this was something he planned to do.
He didn’t say to them, “I’m going to punish you.”
He left no message, however brief,
With explanation, offering some relief
From the horror and the shock beyond belief,
Assuaging guilt and what will be unending grief.
NOTES: Suicide has rarely impinged on my own life or the family circumstances of those around me though issues of gender equity often have in a very real way. Social scientists have researched and written much about the gender disparity in suicide rates no matter where in the world. Tonight’s program had me re-thinking my experience of what seemed to me a very un-fair go in my working life here in a Land Down Under. How ironic is that? That hit was sung by Men at Work in the birthplace of Germaine Greer, near contemporary of mine, world-wide champion of Women’s Lib!
But why is what comes to mind no militant chant for women’s rights to equality, but rather this long ago regret for the sadness of that neighbor who seemed so rough and tough when he told me how one day I’d be sorry! I should have been more kind to him!