MY FIRST job after leaving school was with the National Bank. I don’t know why I took it, there were plenty of other jobs around in those days. Perhaps, in my exuberant youth, I harboured some sort of misconception about what mattered in life.
In any event, this introduction to the financial world and the small-minded people involved in it in those days was a salutary shock and I immediately started looking around for something a bit more fulfilling.
I already had a long nurtured but vague idea about applying for the next intake of Cadet Patrol Officers in the Territory of Papua New Guinea.
I endured eighteen months of excruciating boredom at the bank before I escaped. My escape included being berated by my boss for throwing away the opportunity of a good career to go gallivanting among headhunters in the jungle.
Years later I came across him running a fish and chip shop in a small country town. He had been made redundant in some sort of efficiency drive.
I spent the rest of my working life basically helping people and advocating their sometimes hopeless causes. I include my years as a kiap here, after all, they were all about helping a new nation on its journey to independence.
I also spent many years advocating on behalf of Aboriginal people. This garnered me a potential charge under the South Australian Public Service Act. My persecutors were representatives of the spineless bureaucratic sub-culture that dominated indigenous affairs then and now. Be nice and do nothing dangerous, was their motto.
I have recently become privy to records from that time. Apparently I was considered ‘extremely left wing’. One mandarin labelled me ‘an anarchist’. That tells me I must have been having a lot of fun.
However, looking back on those years, what struck me most was the lack of gratitude from those people whose causes I championed.
There were exceptions of course but by and large they were all ungrateful bastards. Some of them maliciously so.
I have been used and dumped when my usefulness expired. I’ve been stabbed in the back by those I helped. And I’ve seen other people abandon me and run for cover when the going got tough.
Of the few exceptions who stood out, many came from Papua New Guinea. There is a message in there somewhere about the felicity of living with headhunters in the jungle.
I’ve discussed this with some of my geriatric leftie friends from those bygone days. They report similar experiences.
Which makes me wonder about whether it was really worth it.
This question comes into better perspective when you consider the alternatives. I could have been an ex-bank johnny piloting a greasy fish and chip shop. Or maybe a multi-millionaire stock broker. Both of which seem equally unappealing.
I wouldn’t have had the chance to meet and work with so many fascinating and dare I say ‘real’ people. I probably wouldn’t have bothered to go to university either. I wouldn’t have written any books and I wouldn’t have had children and grandchildren who share my leftie, anarchist view of the world.
So, despite all the ungrateful bastards, I’m glad I ran screaming from that bank and went to play with the headhunters in the jungle.