Garrett Bound

The talk of politicians
The sentences of cynics
…They’re all talking shit to me.
- ‘Brave Faces’, Midnight Oil. 1981.

Ladies and Gentleman, where the hell is Peter Garrett?
Once the inspirational vocal infusion of fire and peace loving vitriol, the chrome domed rock enigma appears to have been caught in the dirty, perilous vortex of party politics. Wedged between rock n roll and a hard place, Garrett gravitated towards the latter; the filthy, frustrating, grandstand of absurdity where people in suits yank the rusty strings that pull and spin the institutional cogs of this crazy thing called Democracy. I just don’t know if he’s going to get out alive.

I’m not normally the type to fall for the human want to glorify their own kind and spin tales of the ‘hero’. Heroes are the protagonists of myth and myths are but stories lullabyed to help us form some semblance of meaning as to why we are such strangers in a very strange, infinite land. However, if there was ever someone in public life that I was forced to elevate to a pedestal of adulation, then Oils-era Garrett is probably the closest thing to it. Garrett is the seminal pub rock Prometheus who stole fire from the political gods of his day. Yet Prometheus Garrett now appears to be suffering a comparable fate to that of his ancient Greek counterpart.

As president of the Australian Conservation Foundation in the 80’s, Garrett assisted in campaigning with fury against the construction of Tasmania’s Franklin Dam. The Unions, the media and the High Court all backed the project, yet after 18 months and $67 million spent, the dam was dropped – testament to what is possible with tenacious demonstration and protest. Today, Tassie faces a new Franklin. The $2 billion Gunns Mill in the Tamar valley is set to go ahead, thanks to predictable bi-partisan support from the Canberra Labiberal party. The once anti-Franklin campaigner Garrett has said that he personally has no problem with the Mill – a project set to destroy 2000 square kilometres of native forest over the next quarter century whilst dumping 64,000 tonnes of toxic effluent into the Bass Strait every day of operation. I cannot believe that this is the real PG speaking.

Oh get down, getting down, so much money in the ground
For the people who don't deserve it now
It's a circus we're the clowns as the giant ones disown
Every bit of something we call home
“Stand in Line’ - Midnight Oil. 1971.

Garrett totally ripped apart every stage that Midnight Oil graced, night in, night out for a generation of twenty five solid years. He espoused transcendent visions of ideal that most humanitarian minded people could resonate with and get behind. If ever there was a musical entity that could wake the dormant rebellion lurking in an otherwise unsuspecting member of the Australian populace – rat bogan or otherwise - then Midnight Oil, with PG at the forefront were certainly the ones with the power and juice to do it. Garrett and the Oils took fire from the Gods and fuelled every person who came to see them.

I miss the Garrett of old; the cro-magnon browed, freakishly unco, whirling dervish of chugging 80’s rock. I miss the soapbox diatribes, his poor sense of fashion, his brutal on- stage assertions telling Malcolm Fraser to “get fucked”. I miss his venomous critique of the political wankerdom that he now finds himself immersed in. I know that I am never going to hear the words “US Forces give the nod: It’s a setback for your country” sung, screamed or even uttered from his mouth again. And considering I’ve never actually seen the Oils perform live, I can tell you that’s more of a downer than Alexander is.

Yet I maintain the hope that this initial period of lost credibility might be a means to an end. After pinching the fire from Zeus, Prometheus was chained to a rock as punishment whilst, on a daily basis, a belligerent eagle consumed his regenerative liver. Garrett is currently chained to party politics, with a belligerent ‘big L’ liberal eagle swallowing his credibility on a daily basis. But eventually Prometheus was freed from those chains by Heracles, who shot the well fed eagle to death in a great big livery mess. If Garrett can hold out until November 24, with hope and luck the electorate of Heracles will blow away Garrett’s smug conga dancing eagle to death and the bespectacled rodent riding on its wings. As for the chains…well, party politics aint likely to change anytime soon. But at least that bloody eagle will be gone.

Then the party's over, it's a free-for-all
I'm under the table, I got my foot in the door
- Naked Flame. Midnight Oil. 1979

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