Skip to main content

Stan’s Stuff

Things may not be what they seem – Appearances can be deceptive

From 1947 until 1953, I lived in the best designed town in Australia – Yallourn. In every respect this company town was perfect. Built to accommodate 5,000 people by Victoria’s State Electricity Commission (SEC), it was designed to be the ideal town. All power was underground, and gardens and recreation facilities were top quality.
 |  Stan Stewart  | 

Jane Goodall, family for her life amongst chimpanzees.

The Town

In the 60s the decision was taken to destroy this garden city. The reason given was that the SEC wanted to mine the coal under the town. But the Yallourn coal stretched for hundreds of miles in all directions. I think there was another reason. This perfect town had a kind of cancer.

‘Pollution’ was a word hardly ever spoken in those years. I believe it was pollution that killed that garden city. The reason for the mine was the near-by open cut coal mines and power stations. Twenty-four hours a day the power stations belched out smoke and soot. Washing hung out to dry would be covered with black spots. More than that, the power station soot made its way into the cracks between the tiles of the lovely homes. Even when I was there, some homes had their ceilings collapse under the weight of inches of coal dust. Yallourn seemed picture perfect, but it had a deadly disease. Things were not were what they seemed.

The Meal

Summer in Perth, Western Australia is usually hot. In the company of friends, on one sweltering Sunday, we made our way to something that was new in Perth (early eighties) – a food court.

Housed in what had been a warehouse, twelve or so stalls served food from around the world. Our group chose Indian. The curry caught my eye. Made from a mixture of capsicums and vegetables, it looked just right for my Sunday lunch. The proprietor asked how would I like it. I said, ‘Normal’.

The first mouthful blew my head off. Never in all my life had I encountered such an inferno. The crunchy vegetables were familiar to me. The sauce was not. Too proud to admit defeat I kept on eating and sweating.

The strangest thing was that a few minutes after I had eaten the gastronomical torture, I experienced a cool change. It was then that I realised why people in hot climates eat scorching hot food – to cool off.

The Map

Aussies can’t read New Zealand maps. They don’t know what they are looking at.

For eleven years we lived in the Karangahake George. Over that time, we had a number Australian visitors. All of them were keen on sight-seeing. They reckoned a Coromandel whizz-around would be just the thing for a day trip.

We said they shouldn’t try to rush it. Overnight half-way was our advice. The Aussies scoffed and regaled us with tales of hundreds – thousands of K’s driven in Australia. We said New Zealand kms were different. They didn’t believe us. Only one of our visitors made it around in one day. They returned pasty faced and spent most of the next day in bed.

When it comes to reading maps, all kilometres are the same length, but traversing them can be quite different. Appearances can be deceiving.

Looking at the world today, I wonder where are we going? Where is the good news? The Middle East, the Ukraine, Fiji, and add to all this, ChatGPT? What jobs will be left when artificial intelligence can do everything more quickly and more effectively than we can? I find these spectres depressing.

But I am not sure what I am looking at. Maybe the seeds of hope are out there – somewhere.

Today, I watched a priest from Los Angeles, Gregory Boyle, who has worked with gang members for 30 years. When rehabilitation happens, he said, it is because of compassion and being able to impart in individual gang members a sense of personal worth. His approach seems opposite to bigger prisons and draconian punishments.

I recently watched Jane Goodall. She is famous for her life amongst chimpanzees. She has found that to preserve the chimps’ habitat, she has had to help the villagers who live outside the reserves. Her love for these people and the assistance she gives them, helps to create a stable and flourishing environment.

Her mantra is: “Every single day we live we can make a difference, and together we can change the world”.

Truthfully, when I look at today’s world, I don’t know what we are looking at. But I believe in what Jane has written and re-enforced by the life she lives. Gregory Boyle and Jane help me to find meaning in the chaotic world we face.