Theatre from the cracks in the psyche of culture










SCREAM No. 71 October 2015

I doubt that even many Priests of the Catholic Church actually believe in the dogma of Catholic catechisms and the Nicene Creed. But for my father in 1954, belief was everything. As a child I knelt at my bedside while my baby brother slept in his cot and my mother knelt with me and we recited the Rosary. A few years later, a well-meaning Nun in her early twenties, asked her Yr 2 class at Mary Immaculate Church in Annerley, Brisbane, to stand up if they did not go to Mass on Sunday. It was 1958. And Sister Anne was obviously under pressure as she asked "Who didn't go to Mass on Sunday?" And as the usual excuses came out (eg. I was sick, or "I had leprosy"), two little girls of Italian background simply said: "I don't know." They were unusually honest. But they had said this each time the question was put over a number of weeks. On one particular occasion, Sister Anne decided to get to the truth of the matter. She was obviously under instruction. As most of us lied and were let off the hook, a thing encouraged at Mary Immaculate Convent School in 1958, these two little seven year old girls held out with with their implausible reason for not going to Mass on Sunday. Sister Anne persisted. The girls went silent. The class, all 75 of us, were silent. Sister Anne called them out to the front. They all turned around to face the wall. We only saw their backs. The question was put again and again. The girls cried. We saw vigorous movements of Sister Anne's garments (ie. she wore black robes the St Joseph Nuns that were certainly capable of flowing) ... but couldn't really tell what was happening. It looked like the little Italian girls were being hit and thumped. But of course it wouldn't stand up in court. Finally, they all faced the class. "Why didn't you go to Mass on Sunday?" and one of the little girls responded: "Because Mummy forgot it was Sunday". Sister Anne was now crying: "Well if Mummy forgot it was Sunday it was no fault of yours. Come to me my little darlings ..." and she gave them both a hug as the rest of the class of six and seven year olds sat in stunned silence ...

I am sure my father would have been horrified. But as children we were used to this kind of madness and didn't tell our parents ... who probably would not have believed us anyway. 

So as the children grew up and became distracted by the thrills of co-curricular activities, the details of religious insanity became blurred and so the generation mostly propagated the same precepts their parents supported and subscribed to. Catholic and Independent schools provided exciting "school spirit" activities that won over most students. The oddities of religious practice were somehow subsumed and so most continued to believe in the oddities of dogma that thinkers within the church had long abandoned. Guardian Angels, the eating of fish on Fridays (since decreed by God as unessential), prohibitions on masturbation, the evils of mixed-marriages, the evil of birth-control (ie. "the pill), praying for the "conversion of Russia" at the end of every Mass, the risen Christ floating body and soul into space towards heaven (ie. Easter), the notion of paganism being inferior to Christianity, the evil Protestants who drew horns on the Pope (ie. Seventh Day Adventists), the nasty Masons who attacked Catholics wherever they resided and took jobs from Catholic youth ... and the list goes on ... ah to be relieved from such drivel ... But as an adult, I became surprised to see such nonsense over-looked and even respected as cultural difference!


I scream! Do I attack such factors and then be called racist because of the Irish influence in all of this? The beliefs underpinning 1950s Catholicism are bad. Worse, they are immoral and essentially evil if we factor in the degree of sexual abuse that has since been uncovered. But worse still is the cloning of the father's belief that all is OK; that we simply are clones of the father and cherish all that we inherited in our cultural and ethnic divide that separated us from Protestants and whoever else challenged our Catholic beliefs. To be fiercely "outsiders" fighting for our rights and recognition was encouraged and embedded in Catholic schools throughout the 1950s and 1960s. The outsider could easily draw ego satisfaction from difference. Artificial divides caused by cultural agendas are nothing new ... and indeed are still evident today even if not in a Catholic context!

Catholics and Masons today work well within and across their organizational structures even though it was the existence of Masons that gave rise to the Knights of the Southern Cross within Catholic circles in the 1930s.

Times change. Ultimately humanity will defeat culture and all the artificial binds that culture enforces as straitjackets on humanity. The tribalism of ancient conceits ultimately gives way to change. The Communists underestimated the power of the hold that tribalism still held in the twentieth century and now we see with ISIS and a whole variety of tribal based tyrannies and western government tunnel visioned lunacy that the world has not progressed beyond the limits of the Neanderthal.

Only when the child can identify his/her cloned features of the father and the mother can the human race move forward. Culture is the most divisive and structurally limiting concept facing humanity. Seen as a positive force it only reinforces all the most destructive tendencies in the human spirit. It clones its own. It clones its own separate identities that corrode and spill blood on to the pavements where children are playing and then cop the blade of the culturalists pathology.

Can our theatre help to re-align the perspectives that might be necessary for a better tomorrow? Obviously most theatre practitioners are completely unaware of such issues and so go on perpetrating irrelevant egoisms that satisfy the theatre coterie ... but still is it possible???



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