Dumb ideas come into my head-on the daily. I tend to do my best thinking ether running or riding, it seems like my brain works best when on the move. One day on a lonely highway heading home from somewhere I came up with an idea to organise a series of long motorbike rides to raise money for organisations helping to make our world a slightly less messed up place.
I chose the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre as the first organisation because they do a great job of helping humans in need, they raise awareness of a serious humanitarian issue and advocate for political change. Simple as that.
I am a human, you are a human, ‘they’ are human. We’re all human.
We all shit, piss, fart, get embarrassed naked, fuck, burp, die, hurt, love, worry and wonder.
No human is without some level of feeling.
Being a naive dumbass I thought that people would be on board with this cause, but I’ve since found out that a lot of riders refused to go on the R100 because of the cause it supported. Well I say, sad. I say sad as fuck.
The realisation that people judge without openness, without a caring heart. Wow.
We get far too set in our ways, we get scared someone might hurt us or take something away from us, and this is the very real thing that drives people to seek asylum in the first place, to seek a better life. If you haven’t experienced this you will never know. If you’ve never experienced not having money to feed your children, or being bombarded and shot at on a daily basis, persecuted for your religious choice, innate sexuality, you will never know. This is why us lucky bastards need apply some empathy. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, I suggest you google the hell out of it.
We Aussies, like every other gimp around the world are born on a geographical location by pure fucking chance. We don’t earn a birthright just by coming out of a vagina at a specific GPS location. I didn’t choose to be born here, I just was. For me that’s a fortunate thing, because no one is trying to kill me on a daily basis. I realise I am lucky. I feel for the people that are not.
We covered a few thousand kilometres over 5 days of hard riding. My old Harley and I rumbled our way through dry outback highways at speeds my parents would disapprove of. On the road I had a lot of time to think. I also saw some things that I want to share. For the sake of perspective here are some snippets that brought the whole experience together for me. Every bit I observe around me helps make some sense of the show that is existence. Read with an open mind.
We rode into a town called White Cliffs. It’s an outback opal mining town, wild, dusty and beautiful. In the town pub we drank a few cold beers and talked with locals. It was a big night for the normally quiet remote pub as they’d hired a mechanical bull and Booked cover band called ‘Led Affected’ that had come all the way from Broken Hill to play old Midnight Oil and CCR songs. They played all the hits, just slightly faster than the original version. In the crowd of locals getting messy together were white people and Indigenous folk. They mingled, but in some subtle way also kept a defined social distance from each other. In the scheme of a long history, the white people are the new arrivals to the land. A land with some of the oldest rocks and soil on the planet, a land cared for relatively well by the first custodians. To the Indigenous, the white people are the new immigrants, the people seeking a better life from the old world, come here to plunder resources while taking everything, even cultural freedom from the original custodians. Sadly, who rules the joint? Is it the original custodians? No, it’s white people. Have we treated the land with respect? Fuck no. Have we treated indigenous people with respect? Fuck no. We have a lot of ground still to cover in terms of repair. Who are we to dictate who owns a piece of land, who has the rights to it. In any case, we all eventually die and we’ll all be forgotten in time. Our bones with fade like those of the roadkill we past on desert highways. Forgotten in time, returning to the earth that birthed us. The earth we should respect for all living things.
In a town called Griffith we ate truck-stop sandwiches and refreshing cold water on a hot day. Road weary and dusty we needed rest and a fuel stop before tackling more of the Kidman Way heading south to Nathalia. As I chewed through my bland souless food, I noticed about 6 middle eastern blokes being lead through the streets of town stopping at every few shops as the guiding leader pointed and passed on information to the new arrivals in town. All men, most likely in town as labour workers for one of the many irrigated farms. As the men walked past they looked us bikers up and down, some with fairly snarly faces, might have been a resting bitch face, maybe they’ve had abuse hurled at them from people that look like us. All the same, I let out a welcome smile and wanted to tell them we were riding for people just like them, but I didn’t. Thats what ASRC does, it helps settle people into living in our country with guidance. Imagine moving to Syria and not speaking the local language, not knowing what the food is like, where to buy groceries, clothes and what the local laws are. Put yourself in an ‘out of comfort zone’ experience for a spell and dig deep for empathy for fellow humans.
In a small swampy humid town called Nathalia we pulled over for the night, parked the insect covered bikes and pitched a few tents. A Sudanese bloke walked up to JP for a chat (JP is a French Canadian rider mate of mine, who I’ll cynically explain is ok as an immigrant because he’s white and has a cool French accent. You must understand the levels and nuances of racial acceptance in this country). He asked what we where doing and JP with his fine French racially acceptable accent told the Sudanese bloke about our R100 ride. In return the Sudanese bloke told JP that he works in a factory in the country and has been living in the caravan park for 3 years. Working for a living like the rest of us.
That night at the pub in Nathalia we walked in and ordered a few beers. The middle aged white lady behind the bar told us there was two options for pub meals, ‘normal Aussie food’ and a Thai menu. The Aussie menu was a Parma, Snitz and a steak. I’m always cautious seeing ‘international’ cuisine at a country pub knowing there’s a fair chance Davo the cook once went to Thailand with the boys and picked up a few tricks and now does his interpretation with a bit of help from a can of pre-made, caterers blend, PFD delivered sauce. I didn’t order immediately, instead the three remaining riders went out back to the beer garden to soak up the last of the days sun. From the well patronised beer garden we could hear the kitchen staff speaking Thai in the kitchen. Alarm bells immediately went off. We hadn’t eaten much good food for days in the desert, so real Thai food cooked by Thai people? Perfect! By the way, if you ever find yourself in Nathalia at the top pub, order off the Thai menu. Another thing to consider, the Aussie menu. Let us not forget where crumbed schnitzel originated from. Our entire palate has been formed from food from other countries. Without immigrants we wouldn’t be drinking coffee, stuffing pizza down our gobs or slurping Udon noddles.
Point of this story? There were plenty of white male workers in the pub that night, most of them losing their shit over the amazing home style Thai food. No one complained. And unless you went around the back you’d never know that it was Thai kitchen staff that made your delicious food. But were any of the blokes in the pub that night racist? Most likely. Sadly its a given in Australia. But it’s ok, because the food tastes great, so these types of immigrants are totally acceptable. What bullshit double standards. If that’s the theory then go eat some amazing Lebanese food. And if food is the way to break down racial barriers then eat if from every nation in the world and be as fat and happy as you can be. Because the world has so much to offer, soak it up.
In a pioneer town in Central Victoria we pulled into a run down service station to find a large shifter to adjust a sloppy chain on the Snails Honda chopper. No one was in the service station but there was local bloke there to remove a large gas tank as the station was shutting down. He was a typical middle aged white male from the country. He started telling us about how some ‘Indians’ were going to take over the place, just as some other ‘Indians’ had done in a nearby town. Apparently all people of that general area in the world are ‘Indians’ and when I asked for more clarity he replied, “you know…..black fellas”. He went on to tell us how he hates the dirty Indians that drive the same contractor truck he does. How they shit and piss in the truck and that because he’s experienced this that ALL black fella Indians are dirty and exactly the same filthy creatures. He made his distain for their ‘breed’ fairly clear. I was tired and wanting to get home so I wasn’t up for a fight, but I had mentally visualised punching this dickhead in the guts and kicking his balls so hard they’d pop up under his throat. But knowing anger won’t get me anywhere we rode off, leaving the racist prick behind to deal with is own issues.
We are just born in places. On earth. We don’t chose. But we all want the same kind of basics in life.
I’m a mixed breed of all the anglo, German, French, I’m all over the place. I also know one direct wog connection that intrigues me, a direct link to another country. My grandfather, that I never met, left Malta many years ago. Not sure why he left but I consider war and conflict might had something to do with it. He left on a boat, he arrived in Melbourne on a boat, he made a life here, married and had a son, my Dad. I am the descendant of an asylum seeker, however walking down the street with a last name like Anderson no one knows. So I’m an ok Aussie. Well I say fuck that. We are all Wogs, we are all black fella Indians, Sudanese and Syrian labour workers. We are all the same. No immigrant is trying to take your job or your living away from you, they’re not trying to hurt you. Stop being hateful and full of fear for the unknown. We’re all just trying to make it through every day, life is a hard enough challenge for all of us. Find some empathy.
This is what I rode for.