Here & Now with S Sorrensen - Dec 17

Woodfordia, Qld: Sunday, 8.30am

Two young men squat next to a huge pile of star pickets. And I mean huge. The bundles of black metal pickets neatly packed on wooden pallets stretch back into the gloom of a massive marquee.

I can’t see what one of the men, who has his back to me, is doing, but the other has a pair of pliers and roll of tie-wire and is busily snipping while he talks to his mate.

There are scores of large tents dotted about the land here. Preparation for the Woodford Folk Festival (after Christmas) is in full swing. Hundreds of volunteers, most of them young, are working under the experienced direction of their elders to get Woodfordia ready for the festival – extensions to the toilet and shower facilities; hundreds of acres of trees and grass mulched and mown; hessian fences hung from star pickets.

The young volunteers come from all over Australia and all over the world. They live onsite together. They work together. They eat together. They share tips on dreadlock maintenance.

An electric cart approaches. Silently. It has a stuffed teddy bear with a Christmas hat hanging from the front. Three young women with smiles almost as big as their hats bounce along. Four rolls of hessian bounce with them.

The lad with the pliers waves to the girls. The girls wave back. The driver, wearing a straw hat with a hole cut in the top which allows her blonde ponytail to poke straight up through it, waves most enthusiastically, causing the cart to veer. She quickly corrects her steering and laughs.

I’d seen her and the pliers bloke sharing muesli this morning in the food tent.

I smile at this scene, but I’m angry.

Angry that our ‘normal’ society offers its young people so very little. Gone are the rituals, loaded with adult wisdom and mysteries, that once marked one’s path into adulthood. Now we exploit our young, filling them with lies and sugar. We shrink their dreams to credit card size. We refuse to stop trashing their planet.

Where once we offered the secret adult business of initiation, we give them alcohol and car keys.

We give them schoolies week.

Somehow, while we weren’t paying attention because we were distracted by the shiny beads of material wealth, our society morphed into a child abuser. It feeds on the young, offering in return only the brain-dead conformity of drugs, the shallow rewards of consumerism and the bleakness of an uncertain environmental future.

All the iPod downloads and Facebook friends in the world will never make up for the lack of meaning we give to our kids and young adults.

That’s why I’m angry.

And being here at Woodfordia, and seeing a culture that does care; that offers participation in something bigger than self-interest; that offers a future – not only for the younger folk but for everyone – has accentuated my growing anger.

Our leaders, with their political agenda and blatant denial of reality, are the enemy now. They’re impediments to a worthy future for our kids. They are the past.

I wander into the shade of a marquee. I need to cool off.

The girls are offloading the hessian. The pliers bloke has wandered over to give a hand.

In a few weeks this marquee will be packed with people enjoying the festival. The young volunteers will celebrate too, enjoying the result of their labours.

I’ll be hanging backstage, working. Sometimes I’ll even be on the stage, working. But I’m not here for the gigs anymore. I’m here for the hope.

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