Life of Riley: The wowsers are back

January 26, 2000

Life of Riley

The wowsers are back

Imagine this, if you will. Here's this younger version of me out and about town, taking in some theatrical entertainment. These events were something I was passionate about, and it was my want to catch the best of the latest shows. This was Melbourne, 1967, and the occasion was a performance of the short play Norman and Ahmed.

You won't know, unless you were caught up in these events, that the play was being performed at La Mama in inner-city Carlton. It was a two-hander which ends with Norman beating the crap out of Ahmed. Satisfied with his handiwork in support of fortress Australia, Norman looks down on the unconscious body of Ahmed and says: "Fuckin' boongs!".

Not a good idea that, Norman. Not a good idea at all. For as soon as Norman gets out those words, the local constabulary invade the stage, arrest him and drag him off to the Carlton cop shop.

This wasn't fiction. This was for real. The audience blocked access to the paddy wagon but when walloper reinforcements arrived, we marched on the police station to protest the jailing.

That I can now write "fuckin' boongs" without my PC being seized by a computer-literate copper suggests that maybe our self-righteous march that evening contributed in some small measure to the freedoms we enjoy today. Back then, we weren't allowed to swear on stage, read certain novels or watch particular films. Everything could be censored by an officially designated wowser.

Remember them? The wowsers? Even the term seems archaic. A wowser is a home-grown puritan who was overthrown in the late 1960s as part of a generalised mass campaign for democratic rights. A wowser bans things: novels, plays, films, political figures, refugees ... and prevents them from entering the country.

And they're back. Indeed they are. The banning of the film Romance says it all.

It is not mere coincidence that the banning of Romance coincides with the criminalisation of refugees. Focusing on the real life fellatio (that's cocksucking for short) in Romance is but another attempt to generate national xenophobia.

What with the fuckin' boongs, we've got the fuckin' French film-makers, and the fuckin' boat people, and the fuckin' this and fuckin' that. Thank fuckin' Christ we can say what we fuckin' well please ... at least for now.

The great joke about all this must surely be on Pauline Hanson. Perhaps she doesn't see it? But it's staring her right in the face: you're fired, ha, ha. Having done her all to revive wowserism in all its many pan-Aussie forms, the One Nation bandwagon is to be closed down by those same agents who dragged Norman off stage.

Thank you, very muchly, Ms Hanson, but John Howard and Kim Beazley don't need you any more. Why? Because the wowsers are back!

So, if you've got a hankering for this democracy stuff and you believe it to be the preferred lifestyle of consenting adults in the privacy of their own country, then maybe you should give some thought to Romance. As Voltaire once said way back when: I may not agree with oral sex on an erected male member, but I will fight to the death for your right to it.

That's telling them!

By Dave Riley

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