Nothing in this blog can be believed. If you think that anything in this blog is true or factual, you'll need to verify it from another source. Do you understand? No? Then read it again, and repeat this process, until you understand that you cannot sue me for anything you read here. Also, having been sucked into taking part in the mass-murder of more than 3 million Vietnamese people on behalf of U.S. Big Business "interests", I'm as mad as a cut snake (and broke) so it might be a bit silly to try to sue me anyway...

Friday, December 31, 2004

the brigadier's ghost...

In 1966 I was working in Melbourne for the Victorian Railways. I had a friend who worked at Tooronga station and I would often visit him there (to illictly drink beer and talk shit). But this story is not about him or me. It's about a hobo, a homeless person.

He used to use the waiting room at the station to sleep there at night, on one of the hard wooden benches. He was very well behaved and so he was welcome. He never arrived before the last train had departed, and he was always gone by the time the station was opened in the morning. He never drank or caused any kind of problem. We would make sure there were old newspapers for him because he used these like blankets to keep warm, especially during the harsh Melbourne winters.

During the day, he would sometimes drop by the ticket office for a chat and we'd let him in and give him a cup of coffee or tea. And little by little we'd glean a few clues about his past. He had been a brigadier during WWII. It was clear he had had some kind of "nervous breakdown", a popular terminology of that period for what we now call post traumantic stress disorder (PTSD).

His mind was well stocked, as they say. He would talk about all sorts of things and it was clear he was a highly intelligent and educated person, but he would not talk about the war. Nor would he talk about why he preferred to "live rough". I mean, he would go through rubbish bins looking for food scraps. We thought he was penniless, but when we tried to give him money he would refuse, saying he had plenty of money in the bank because his veteran's pension was going into his accout and he never drew any out.

Apparently he had relatives who had offered to accommodate him, but he didn't want to be a burden on them. But we could never figure out why he chose to live like that. He would generally hide during the day because the police used to move vagrants on if they found them. So he became this timid, furtive person who looked nothing like a brigadier who was once in charge of several battallions during the war.

The best we could get out of him was that he could no longer live within society because he scorned everything it stood for and, he said, it's what would cause endless wars in the future.

Well, we dismissed this at the time as the rantings of a man who'd lost his marbles and one winter's morning, after a particularly cold night, my friend found him dead on that waiting room bench. It turns out, according to one of his relatives who came down to the station a few times to belatedly try to find out something about their "crazy" relative, that he had quite a tidy sum in his bank account and that there was a will. He had left the entire amount to be disbursed to charities caring for war orphans in Japan and Germany. This relative seemed to think this was tantamount to treason and they were contesting the will. We never heard how it all ended.

A year later, having forgotten all about this, I joined the Army to go kill communists in Vietnam because if we didn't kill them there they would come and kill us here... I didn't know then that politicians told monstrous lies...

I don't know why I had to get up at 1am to type this, except that I know from experience I would not get any sleeep if I didn't. Goodnight all...


Blogger the urban fox said...

I have a nagging feeling that maybe he was the wisest of us all...

December 31, 2004 2:31 AM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Yes. I also think now that he had a lot of integrity.

Whilst from time to time in the last thirtysomething years I'd remember the old man at the station, the full details didn't come back to me till last night. I'd done a good job of blocking them out.

December 31, 2004 9:24 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

What man makes other men do! Perhaps the greatest casualties of war aren't the dead, killed in battle, but the ones who killed. Soldiers are supposed to be killing machines, not individuals. Killing soldiers isn't so hard. Killing an individual is another thing. Maybe some men are born or rather, brought up to kill and accept it, most of us (thankfully) are not. Obviously, this "hobo" was no soldier. He was just an individual who through unfortunate circumstances had his soul stripped from him by other men... by society. Welcome to "civilization."

December 31, 2004 3:04 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Thanks for welcoming to "civilization", Jeff. But till I see some form of "civilisation" which I can respect, I'd rather not feel welcome.

What passes for "civilisation" at this time is the greatest travesty of justice since Hitler's Germany and Stalin's USSR. It's just that this mob have refined the art of conning people into believing they are free, that they live in a democracy, and that killing millions of "enemies" of this system is the right and proper thing to do. This is an elitist capitalist totalitarian system which screws the whole world to enrich itself at the expense of those it exploits. If that's "civilisation", I'd rather not feel welcomed.

I know you were actually complimenting me, so thanks for that. I just couldn't resist another rant. :-)

December 31, 2004 3:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The bad in human beings gets perpeptuated by vast institutions and alliances of the powerful.

The good is created moment by moment between us. Which is why we will never be defeated.

(Unless they manage to obliterate the whole species, but that's just too awful to contemplate).

I hope you got to sleep after this.

I wonder if he really was a brigadier..

- barista.

January 01, 2005 6:30 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Did I get to sleep after that? Yes. Was he really a brigadier? Dunno, but we never doubted him. Good question though, barista. The good/bad thing? How will that pan out over the next, say, twenty years I wonder?

January 01, 2005 8:16 PM  

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