Lismore. Tuesday, 12.10pm:
The university plaza is empty of uni students, but full of school kids. A uniformed horde is sprawling over most of the tables and chairs. They're a noisy bunch.
One young bloke nearly knocks me down as I'm walking into the plaza. This laughing adolescent runs, not looking, right at me, chased by his mate. He sees and dodges me at the last moment. His shirt is untucked and flicks me on the arm as he flies by, but his hair is perfect and motionless, combed to one side in a sort of carefree, natural sweep as fixed as plastic.
He throws a 'sorry!' over his shoulder at me, applying the brakes to skid within the radar of a discipline of teachers standing at the centre of this lunch break, drinking coffee and chatting, their eyes constantly scanning.
Education is a wonderful thing.
Pity about the debt it comes with.
Education was free, once. It is the hallmark of a civilised society when it invests in its young. It shows foresight. Many of the older men who have put education up for sale were themselves educated for free at the public's expense, but times have changed. Foresight is gone; the future is a cyber fantasy.
Society is replaced by the marketplace; citizens by clients. Education is job training, not knowledge (because knowledge sees the real future). And if you start your adult life with a debt it keeps you on the straight and narrow.
I meander through the young crowd towards the Thai place. I like the Thai woman there. We speak French to each other. That's a bit strange I know, because the French never really got a foot in the Thai door, and France's historical influence on the North Coast is minimal, but we both enjoy the language practice. And her fish curry with brown rice is excellent.
Children are our future, but as a society we treat them badly.
The Royal Commission into child abuse is welcome. The idea of subjugating our children to the whims of sexually repressed men with a penchant for dress-up and wine is appalling, but we did it, nonetheless. Right now, politicians are huffing and puffing with that sort of pseudo indignation and inflated righteousness they love, but despite the sometimes genuine concern about the heinousness of what went (and goes) on under the sad gaze of a broken man nailed to a plank, there's an underlying hypocrisy.
Because child abuse is the norm in our society.
We send our young to wars in foreign lands which have never been a threat to us.
We mistreat the foreign young who flee the consequences of our war effort and land on our shores desperately seeking refuge.
We force our young onto crowded roads in metal bombs because public transport is a public service and taxes are better used as subsidies for our big business buddies.
We poison the water the young will need when they realise they're thirsty for more than the American sitcoms and Facebook we drip feed them.
They suicide while we congratulate ourselves on our economic boom, as if this boom wasn't a future-destroying deception.
But most of all, we're condemning the young to a dark future as we overheat the planet to supply us with the stuff of distraction.
We know what we're doing is wrong, but we'd rather not face it. We have built a church of denial. We prefer to believe in virgin births, life in heaven, royal commissions, efficient light bulbs and eternal economic growth, rather than the awful reality of what we are doing behind the closed doors of our denial.
We are child abusers.