Monday, December 04, 2006


We are on the road from York to Beverley when they really begin coming at us in force. They had been slowly building, soon after we emerged from the protection of John Forrest forest into great flat treeless plain that grows nothing much but salt, salt and that vast monoculture of wheat. Hereafter, on the drive ahead, we would plunge through sudden swarms of this plague, covering the road like patches of fog. Das and i could only contemplate the sheer meaninglessness of it all, as each individual locust met God in the form of a Zephyr travelling at around eighty miles per hour.

But then, aren't we humans just one more plague heading towards the giant Zephyr windscreen of our destruction?

My hangover is giving me a rather harsh view of the world. Would of course be better to view this landscape through the Rose Coloured Windscreen of Kim Salmon and the Surrealists. But we don't have that on Das's mp3 player. In the meanwhile we have Mr Tom Waits keeping us company. "1200 songs!" says Das with some relish, the Creative player hanging by its cable from the cigarette lighter. Ah, just like the iPod in my Madaz. Minds think alike, you know.

As soon as we get to Beverley, we see the first of the Vampires. In Perth we have a statue of John Forrest. In Beverley, there are two statues of Vampires. Das said he feels sorry for these poor 'planes, built during the Second World War but never used; they never had a real conflict to sink their teeth into. An Australian-made fighter jet of the "two tails are better than one" school of thought, the Vampire was built by de Havilland using bits of plywood and nails. In England, they have a Vampire Preservation Group. Goodness me. Break out the garlic. The Vampires, standing on their pedestals like proud statues in this quiet wheatbelt town, seem somehow appropriate, a symbol of a culture which sucks all the resources from the earth, draining it of its lifeblood. Wheat, oil, minerals – it's all part of the petrochemical industrial cycle.

I'm a vampire, babe,
suckin' blood
from the earth
I'm a vampire, baby,
suckin' blood
from the earth.
Well, I'm a vampire, babe,
sell you
twenty barrels worth.

I'm a black bat, babe,
bangin' on
your window pane
I'm a black bat, baby,
bangin' on
your window pane.
Well, I'm a black bat, babe,
I need my high octane.

- Neil Young "Vampire Blues"
On The Beach (1974)

The Zephyr, at least, runs on LPG. A balanced and blueprinted late model 250 Ford hooked up to an auto trans with a B&M shifter, it has enough get up and go to startle unsuspecting boy racers. But the combination of an unmodified exterior and Das's old man's hat means it does not attract the attention of the police. "You know, if i was a drug dealer," says Das, "I'd get myself a white Volvo, with a slight window tint, and a set of bowling whites. I'd wear the Bowling Club hat, and those big Cancer Society wrap around sunglasses. The cops would never pull you over to just check you out." Hmm, i think. But imagine turning up to buy a couple of keys of coke dressed in bowling whites, wearing the Bowls Club hat and those big plastic sunnies. At least nobody would fuck with you. Look at this guy, they'd think. Dressed in bowling whites. Must be a crazy motherfucker. Best not to fuck with him.

We visit the secondhand shop. Das finds a neat camera with a pop-up lens hood, complete with flash, and loaded with a roll of film, for two dollars fifty. I buy a pile of books – at a dollar a pop they are good stock for my upcoming Melburnian bookshop. The old woman shopkeeper is outside in the sun-baked yard, talking to a barrelful of water.

I was just talking to my frogs, she says.
Uh huh.
I've got five of them.
I used to have about seventy at home, but now there's only a handful.
Yes, one year we were down to two males. I think something was eating the eggs –
Can i have my books please?

Back around through Clackline, under the parachutists and gliders. The Zephyr is running hot, so we stop and chip away a layer of locusts clogging the radiator. The running temperature drops almost twenty degrees.

Wheat Belt. Perhaps Wheat Bludgeoning is a more apt term, particularly from the point of view of the local fauna. It's a disgrace. The desertification of an already arid landscape, passed off as "farming". And the tighter the banks, the drought and the competitive global economy squeeze the farmers, the more ridiculous the demands they will place on an already overtaxed environment. Many will drive their farmlands into ruin before being driven off the farm, trying to gain an extra hectare of productive soil, or a higher yield by using more and more super-phosphates. Agribusiness is merely a branch of the petrochemical industry. The fertilizers are a byproduct of the oil refineries. The wheat is grown in vast fields that depend on mechanical harvesting, then it is distributed by the huge network of petrol- and diesel-consuming trucks and trains. It's a self-perpetuating myth, a vicious cycle of destruction. And now Bill Gates is trying to relaunch the Green Revolution of the 40s. What a misguided philanthropist the man is. The Green Revolution was simply the economic colonisation on the Third World. In order to receive aid, farmers were forced to adopt first-world agribusiness farming practices, to give up their traditional subsistence farming and begin cash cropping. Their farms taken over by big businesses, many were not even allowed to grow food for their own families.

Was subsistence farming really such a bad idea? Growing food for your family and the immediate community? Call me a hippy, i really couldn't give a rats. Now just try keeping them out of the wheat bins without chemicals.

Read about the Green Revolution here.

1 comment:

Art Director & Mayhem said...

It's uncanny. I had no idea what a religious experience the 'bug run' was. Locusts look very similar to angels. Who woulda thunk! Aaaahh :)