It makes you think when an seventeen year old boy escapes home and joins IS in Syria. He could be concentrating on his stamp collection or help dad prise out unwanted grasses from the front lawn, couldn’t he? Surely there must be ways to escape from our much praised ‘own home on own block’ in those endlessly anonymously sun-lit streets of suburbia, without going to that extreme.
I remember well my introduction to an Australian suburb after my parents in 1956 decided to buy a fibro asbestos dwelling in Sydney’s western suburbs. It was a devastating experience which, now at the age of 74, am finally accepting that it did happen, it was not their fault. I have conquered and overcome! It all came back last night when watching the excellent ABC TV documentary on writers/comedians/artists who not only overcame but became national Icons of art and culture precisely (bar for Robert Hughes)because of the dreariness and desolation of the Australian suburb. They escaped but used the experiences in ways that enthralled millions around the world for decades. There is nothing like a mirror being held up in front of us.!
It must seem like typical responses from the incorrigible Jerimiah Jacobson to finally have escaped England and rejoice in the sun and warmth that greeted Howard Jacobson in 1965 after sailing into sunny Sydney harbour. The gleaming whiteness of the Opera house a cheerful greeting card. He visible recoiled when ruminating over the dreariness and greyness of England’s skies heavy with sombre souls of past leaden Lords and hollowed out Timothy Thatchers. The cricket score on a Sunday afternoon, as exciting it could ever get. Waiting for the dreaded mid-night knock on the door. What Howard took delight in, the four giants of Australia’s own suburban making, escaped and flocked to Earls Court and at roughly the same time.
It just proves that changing and escaping from something might be an essential part of coming into one’s own. Even so, I do think that our architectural domestic way of housing ourselves leaves much to be desired. The fenced off and utterly lonely environment, the strips of bitumen snaking mile after simmering mile. Not a soul to be seen. Just metal boxes on endless journeys, but whereto and why? A Sunday afternoon, a solitary figure perched on a ladder clearing his guttering from errant leaves. I am surprised that young people can survive all that.
After every domestic murder, the usual responses; “Oh, such a lovely family amongst a close-knit community. We sometimes saw then and even said hello”! In the meantime some young people go to Syria and fight to get killed.