I seem pretty good at ruining peoples lives lately. Do I have a sign on my head? Is there something wrong with me? I don’t think so, but I am what some would call a Tall Poppy. I’m not someone who thinks highly of themselves, like some definitions say, but someone who has achieved a lot:
“Tall Poppy Syndrome (TPS) is a term commonly used in Australia, referring to the expectation that poppies should grow together, and if one grows too tall, it is cut down to size… women…, like poppies, [are cut] down due to their success and achievements.” (Billan, 2019)
After the last school holidays when heaps of people came to my small village to camp, go fishing, boating and to the beach I sent an email to the council. I didn’t do it because I hate visitors or because I’m trying to ruin peoples lives, I did it because it was glaringly obvious that the visitors have different values to the people who live here. The reason I know this is because:
They drove their cars onto the beach, ruining the fragile little dune system. They launched their boats on the sandy strip next to the boat ramp and drove their cars along that beach crushing a lot of the mangroves. At the campsites they had shotguns and were shooting things in the middle of the night. They dug holes in the grassed foreshore and had fires. ALL of this stuff is totally illegal and wouldn’t be tolerated in a more populated area.
In the email I highlighted the problems above, plus gave the council some ideas about how it might be time to upgrade the toilet block and shelter shed. I was totally surprised when the council rang me up and said they were going to investigate all of the problems I’d outlined and do what they could to address them. Whoa! I wasn’t expecting that.
Council started upgrading the rest area by removing the ugly old fence and chain around the area. It looks good already.
So, they came down here, assessed things and made some decisions about what needed fixing. They didn’t ask me or anyone in the community if it was OK for them to make changes, they just did what needed doing, which is what councils do all the time because guess what? We live in a democracy.
This is what they did:
Rocks sourced by council and placed by a local earthmoving contractor to prevent cars accessing the beach. When I saw them I thought they looked great. “I love how you’ve left the gaps in between. People will still be able to get onto the beach no worries, plus look at all the new seats!” I said to the contractor. He seemed pretty pleased with the job. This will stop any further destruction of the dune and the vegetation that sits along it and the mangroves that sit below it. We could put plaques on these rocks to commemorate people from Woodgate. The rocks could be painted, carved, seats put on them, etc, etc. If you don’t like the way they look, instead of whinging, do something constructive about it.
Bollard placed by the council to prevent people launching boats on the sand. Um, hello? Are you in there? Didn’t you notice the actual boatramp? It’s only right there in front of you!! This will prevent the vegetation to the right of the bollard being destroyed and an erosional process starting up. This bollard doesn’t have to be permanent. If people want an accessible boatramp for the frail or disabled, this would be an awesome opportunity to get that going (see: change bringing opportunities).
All these things are about protecting the coast. I didn’t ask the council to come in and ruin everyone’s lives by making these tiny changes. I’m sorry, but contrary to what some people might think, I don’t actually have that power. Here are some little examples of the things that have been said to me:
“I’ve been here for thirty years and there’s no erosion. It’s exactly the same as it was when I came here thirty years ago. People don’t drive their cars on the beach.” (Hmm, I do wonder how this person might know this considering they sit on their arse inside their house all day long and the only time they go out is to hang the washing on the line, which is nowhere near the beach, rocks or bollard).
“You shouldn’t move here if you don’t like it.” (I do like it, you moron, that’s why I’m interested in making sure that the way we use the area is sustainable).
“How come the council does what you say, but when we ask them, they won’t help us? That’s not fair.” (I don’t know, maybe because all you do is whinge and aren’t effective at communicating what you want in a specific enough way and to the right person/department).
“You’re the only one who thinks like this, no one else does.” (OK, that’s great, but how do you know that and why does it even matter anyway. Besides, it’s not true because I spoke to most people about it and everyone I spoke to said it was a good idea).
“Those rocks are ugly. We don’t need those. They could have done a better job of putting them in place. They look terrible.” (I let the contractor know how unhappy they were with his job).
“You’ve done this to be annoying.” (What the actual fuck?!).
“What else are you planning?” (Again, what the actual fuck?!)
I gave good, logical responses to all of these ridiculous statements and questions, but this person could not understand anything I said even though I dumbed it right down for them by using specific examples that related to them and their own lives. They must’ve asked me three or four times the exact same thing, which was really about it not being fair that the council doesn’t listen to them, but will listen to me. They were upset about that mostly because they think that just because they’ve lived here for a long time they have more rights than someone who moved here four years ago.
I’ve noticed that people say this kind of shit a lot:
“I’ve been here longer than you!”
“We’ve been here thirty years!”
“My family has been in the area for five generations!”
Big fucking deal. That might give you a personal sense of ownership, but it doesn’t actually translate into real ownership that can be applied in a tangible reality unless you personally hold a legal title over property or effects. Everyone, regardless of age, ability and time spent in an area is entitled to the same human rights. No one person is entitled to more rights than the next and that goes for people who have lived in a place for a long time as well.
Check out how Australia was colonised for crying out loud! It’s funny that people want to claim ownership over something they don’t own by virtue of time spent, but the same people wouldn’t be willing to acknowledge the original inhabitants of this country the same way. Yet, it’s the same argument, isn’t it? And, that argument tells us that if we’re counting years spent, then Indigenous Australians would beat every single one of us 40 000 times over. Also, what does that say about contemporary children? Just because they’ve been here less time than adults they have less rights? No, they don’t. They have the same rights as the rest of us and there’s no way that most people would argue with that.
Check out these things in my little village that were once new, and required change:
Kopper’s Logs fencing. This is to stop idiots driving their cars onto the foreshore and wrecking the joint. These fences (they go all the way along the front) weren’t always here. The council put them there because they recognised the area needed them. This had nothing to do with me by the way!
Picnic table erected by the council. At one point, this was just bare ground, so things have changed since then. Again, nothing to do with me.
A bin placed by the council. This used to an area with no bins. Now we have quite a few of them. Things have changed since people used to chuck their rubbish on the ground. My doing? No.
Seawall constructed by the council and its contractors. This used to be eroded dunes. Things have changed since then and if they hadn’t, well, the foreshore and road would have likely vanished by now. Did I do this? Nup.
Cement stairs from foreshore onto beach. Constructed by the council. If these weren’t here we’d be clambering over rocks. Things have changed since the seawall was constructed. My fault? No.
My house. This was once a bare block of ground and its not anymore, that means things have changed. Did I build this house? No. Did I move here? Yes; more change.
Do you see what I’m getting at here? We can’t avoid change. It’s inevitable. It’s like that because there’s no way to control everything. I’m sure that’s fairly obvious, but do people get it, like really get it, way down deep in their bones? No, people in general despise change, especially older people. Why? The cool guy I’m married to said this, which I think is pretty awesome:
“They probably think…I should be controlling you or telling you how to live. You know how husbands did back in their day when they got married and had twenty kids by the age of seventeen, and the wives just cooked and cleaned and the husband controlled all the money. You know, back when the earth was flat…I’ts a wonder we get any change in society. You know, because all the old [people] have been here before us and lived on this planet longer. I don’t know why people move to earth if they want to change everything.”
The Flat Earth: this is where some people are stuck (image from The Conversation website).
Sometimes, it really feels like I’m from another planet. It does. The shit that people say and do and the stuff they think just blows my mind. I find it hard to understand how someone can make it all the way into their seventies and still be a moron. If someone has been here the longest, wouldn’t that make them the smartest? I mean, they’ve had the most time to learn things haven’t they? I dunno, I just can’t get my head around it, can you?
I refuse to make myself small so that other people can feel OK about their own small lives. This is my one precious life and I will live it fully by engaging with existence and applying myself to overcome challenges. This means I will achieve things that others don’t, and that’s not something I want to hide, especially if these things can inform change that can provide us with even more opportunities than we have now. And I’m certainly not trying to achieve things to show anyone up. I could not think of a worse waste of time. I’m not into mind games. I’m interested in being the best human I can be and if that means I grow taller than the other poppies, then too bad, so sad.
(Image from: Unsplash)
Don’t be small
Grow big and shade out the sun