INFLUENCES

      The "Straight and Narrow" - a place discussed 
           mostly by those who rarely use it.
   

   Having always been an intense observer - everyone I ever met
   or associated with throughout my life had some "influence" on
   me.  Whether it was wanting to be, or not wanting to be like
   someone or embrace their beliefs or something I liked or didn't
   like. I really think I continually learned from all of my
   experiences and observations, along with the self educating
   mistakes I reluctantly admit making... to myself!

   Its said that a strong character evolves individually, while
   the weaker will follow the display of others and form a person
   they can never call their own.  Then if this is true, how many
   people do you know that did not learn from observing and
   learning from others.  Learning.... not copying!

   It seems to me that we must all adopt what we judge to be the
   best qualities of all those we come in contact with through
   our lives, for that very judgement qualifies us to being an
   individual and "our own person".  An "adult" if you will.

     (Being an individual with character - now that's OK too!)
                          ----------

         The best and worst influences on anyone's life 
                      is themselves.


   You can't blame others for whatever bad choice you may make.
   Well you can - but that's not accepting responsibility is it? 

   Everyone has a reason for their actions and because we are human
   and therefore not perfect... our reasons may not be seen by others
   as understandable, logical or even acceptable, but in that moment of
   "just after", we stridently search for a reason to justify our action,
   even though our instant sub-conscious may tell us we were to blame.
   I believe its natural for us to look for someone else to blame in the
   heat of the moment - mainly because we find it hard to accept we could
   do whatever it was and also to seek out those who may hav done it. 
   Sadly, it's pitifully true that some will pursue this course despite 
   any end realisation that they WERE solely responsible regardless of 
   who this may implicate or harm.  That's surely not natural of anyone.   

   The majority of us, with the benefit of short sight and selective
   memory, see ourselves exclusively as having the right reasons
   for whatever we do - and anyone who disagrees with our view is
   dismissed for whatever reason we like to apply to them. Some may even
   say this displays a strong will and leadership... I say it's bullying.

   Besides these "human nature" phenomenons, there are the changing man 
   made laws we will probably have to contend with for time immemorial,
   as laws framed by "flawed" humans will never be a case of mathematics.   

      Understand... the law is designed for order - not for justice.

   A man stealing because he is hungry may have broken the law yes,
   but he has a good reason for what he did - PROVIDING he did
   everything humanly possible to help himself beforehand. It helps
   for the sake of attracting sympathy, to also have done it to
   assist another person - or for maximum "admirable" motives, to
   feed a starving or ill defenceless person or child.  The "Robin
   Hood" syndrone of taking from the rich to give to the poor if you
   like.

   But what about a proud person who finds attracting sympathy so
   repugnant they will not disclose personal details out of pride?
   Does that make them due for extra punishment and less sympathy?
   Are they less entitled to "fairer" dispense than others?
   And more importantly does any applicable law "care" anyway...

   To make matters even worse, our laws are interpreted and
   punishment meted out by the most flawed creature on this planet
   .......man himself.  

   I cant imagine anyone of us who hasn't a dislike, a sidetracking 
   "other" worry, a chemical aversion to another person or situation, 
   a preconceived opinion, a firm belief otherwise, an odd grumpy 
   mood ....etc  etc.  Any of which MUST seriously affect a balanced 
   and even handed fair assessment of any situation or individual.

   Consider the well accepted norm that to impress the judge, you 
   must appear before him "dressed to impress" in a suit otherwise
   he may pre-judge you as a slob and this wont help your case. We 
   know justice has nothing to do with the cut of a mans cloth, but
   it seems the law under mans dispense doesn't see it that way. 

   The fact that you smoke and drink wont be seen by all as adding
   weight to your argument that you had any good excuse,  but a
   person with knowledge of what these habitual drugs can do to a
   person (ie an ex smoker/drinker), will have better understanding,
   .... and maybe overdo the sympathy call. 

   We humans are such an intricate and varied specimen.

   The person who shoots an intruder should have the benefit of the
   doubt in all circumstances where it is seen he acted reasonably.
   "Reasonably" being what's considered "ideal" to do rather than
   what one would humanly be likely to do in the same circumstances!

   Imperfect human, confronted by a threatening situation of unknown
   quantity, acting on a natural survival instinct.  Boy, anything
   could be considered reasonable couldn't it?

   Yet we still have laws that dont take this into account... and 
   those instinctive reactions are argued and usually judged harshly.
   Hence people saying that the victims can be treated worse that
   the instigators.  
   

   I dont know how many people out there agree with this, but life
   has taught me... I dont have to agree with something that doesn't
   allow for human nature.   Even the doctrines of law.

   After all - the laws are made by humans and we're inept if we make 
   a law that doesn't allow for our own normal behaviour and instincts,  
   because right or wrong - that's what we are.... human and flawed.

                        ----------------

   I was never convinced, (never mind what I projected) that I was
   anything but average. And then only just. My confidence only came
   from knowing that most other people WERE average too. Not a  big
   edge perhaps, but I knew I could hold my own under normal in most 
   one on one circumstances.

   Until you do find yourself in an extremely vulnerable position... 
   and experience the accompanying feeling of hopelessness, the lesson
   to be learned from abnormal instances is yet to strike you.

   The greatest lesson I learned about my own fragility under abnormal 
   circumstances I relate below:.........

   We always knocked around  Milperra Bridge as a group, most of 
   us were locals and I guess by virtue of me being among the oldest
   and having the reputation behind me that I wouldn't back away
   from anyone who threatened me, I was seen as leader by a group of 
   guys who attached themselves to me and who I considered my mates.

   Not that I ruled any roost, but I was looked to for advice and
   they seemed to listen to me as well. 

   There were several girls in our group that I never got involved
   with because of familiarity and it didn't seem right to fraternise
   that way with a "mate". I treated them like the rest of the gang
   and we all got along fine.

   At this particular time I had just undergone intensive treatment
   for my back which I had damaged working on the local airport and
   had been put off as unemployable because of the bad nature of the
   damage.

   I went to our local hangout this night but everyone must have had
   somewhere else in mind to go and it was deserted. I was feeling really
   down because at the time, the news was all bad from the doctors.

   I went to Liverpool and had a few beers but saw none of our gang,
   so I came back to our pad, but still no one there.

   I went to a couple of houses before I found someone home. It was
   a girl in our group and I had helped her out with her personal
   troubles quite a few times. I wanted a friend I could talk to at that 
   very time.

   She told me she was going with this bloke from East Hills and he
   was insanely jealous. If he found out I had called he would be
   real mad. I was looking for a sympathetic ear and it was obvious
   she didn't have one, so I carried on till I found another of my
   mates.     A few of the others turned up and we sat up talking as
   we usually did that night. I felt much better then.

   The girl (with the insanely jealous boyfriend") who was frightened
   he would find out I had called on her......?  Well no prizes for
   guessing who told him I called in to see her!

   For five years we'd all called in on one another at our homes
   before that,  so it was nothing as far as I or anyone else in our
   group was concerned. That's plainly what we'd always done before.

   This girl was a dramatist and obviously I had overlooked this in
   my estimate of her as a "friend".

   I was sitting in my car a week later waiting for someone, when he
   pulled alongside, got out and attacked me.

   I was still wearing a surgical steel back brace at the time and
   under orders not to exert myself under any circumstances or I
   could end up paraplegic in a wheelchair....(ad infinitum...) Wow!
   And that REALLY frightened me.

   I tried to tell this guy that but that only made things worse...
   the guy was demented and obviously knowing I would be a pushover
   seemed to only spur him on as he tried to drag me from my car,
   but my mind was firmly fixed on what permanent damage he could
   do to my injured back and I somehow managed to resist his efforts.

   He gave up after a short time when he couldn't drag me out of my
   car and he left after the usual ranting and raving about something
   that was nothing in the first place.

   I never hated a person so much in my life at the time.  No......
   not the guy..... the girl who had caused the whole thing by trying
   to use me to impress her new beau how irresistible she was I
   suppose.  He was being used too.....but he couldn't see it.

   I never felt so bad towards a girl.....before or since... as I did
   toward her then.

   And I was lucky because no damage was done apart from a very short
   setback to my treatment.

   I never did have the opportunity to follow this up.   Although I
   wasn't happy about the girl ("long time friend") having caused
   the whole thing or her demented boyfriend, I always figured their
   fitting punishment would be if they  got married to one another.

   Well - they did get married a little later and the marriage was
   miserable for them both last I heard.... in the late 1960's.

   Human nature is cruel when people can be delighted seeing other
   people unhappy - and in this case I was not unhappy being human!

   But  more importantly, I never forgot just how vulnerable I could
   be because of circumstances and how it could happen to anyone when 
   they least expect it.

                           -----------

   When I was younger in Sydney and not long after I had my first
   motor bike, I was riding along Harris St. Ultimo  (Wheeeeeeeee!!!)
   having a great time in and out of traffic.

   Up ahead I could see this other young bloke on his bike and I was
   catching him real quick. But as I watched I saw an accident start
   to unfold.

   Motor bikes are fine for get up and go, but try stopping one
   that's winding up and you've got problems.  There's no seat belts
   and nothing around you either - except other traffic, "speeding"
   power poles and sign posts, "fast" hard bitumen and "stunning" 
   concrete everywhere.

   Not exactly a recipe for unbridled carefree exuberance, but 
   surviving the teenage years for some, was much harder than others.

   A car from a side street had decided he could beat the oncoming
   traffic, but didn't see this blokes motor bike coming around the
   outside at the rate of "knots"....... It was like a slow motion
   film.   I could see what was going to happen long before either
   the car or motor bike could I reckon.

   The bike slammed into the car and up into the air. The rider and
   the bike drifted apart and then as if magnetised came back together
   as they hit the ground and slid with a sickening crunch into the
   kerb.

   I stopped as did everyone else, to see what we could do. I never
   noticed until the ambulance men arrived that the kick start lever
   had gone right through his leg muscle. I had to race up the road
   to an engineering works and get them a hacksaw so they could part
   him from the bike to fit him in the ambulance.  As they got him
   away from the bike, we could see his leg calf had been overcooked
   by the engine exhaust pipe (yuk).

   I fell from my bike a few times and had many close calls for years
   after that, but I never forgot that it could happen.  I lost two
   mates and another ended up a paraplegic from the bikes and I think
   as crazy as I was, I wasn't suicidal because of this incident.

   And I know better than ever now that the lesson to be learned from
   actually witnessing this event would probably not have had such
   effect on me if it were described to me by someone else. (As here)

                          -----------

   Not long after we had moved to Milperra and I had my first car and
   my mates and I were having a few beers at the Villawood Hotel.
   In those days the hotel was two thirds the size of Villawood, as
   there were only two or three other shops there then.
   The pub was an old building and local landmark, as most pubs
   outside the (perceived) metropolitan area were in those days.

   We were at the bar when we heard a screech of brakes, a dull thump
   and then silence. Just a near miss we thought but curiosity
   demanded we go and see for ourselves.

   A semi trailer was stopped at an angle on the road but we could
   see no other vehicle. We were about to go back inside when we saw
   a man go under the trailer to what looked like a shadow there.
   Others were running to him and they started yelling for someone
   to call an ambulance. No other vehicle and they want an ambulance?

   We walked over.

   Laying under the trailer was a man in a leather jacket and up
   against the back of the truck itself was another man retching
   and throwing up. We couldn't see much else.

   The tow trucks arrived first as usual, then the ambulance and
   the police soon after.

   This young policeman leaped from the police car and immediately
   took charge, directing curious vehicles from the scene and waving his
   arms and bellowing out loud directions to all and sundry.

   We were all very impressed with him. ("Whose shout is it....?)

   He got the path cleared for the ambulance men, had the tow trucks
   lift and move the semi and got them sweeping and hosing the road.

   He yelled at them for leaving this old greasy lump near the side
   of the road and kicked it into the gutter to show them how it
   should be done. The ambulance driver went to him and told him
   he had just kicked the victims brain away.

   He turned a bright white in the poor light and had to be given
   sedatives by the ambulance men.   They took him away with them.
        He was a mess........ but so impressive up till then.
            We left our beers... and the pub, soon after.

   I realised then how much better I felt knowing I had survived my
   days as a "bikie".  No motor bike was involved in this accident
   as the victim was a pedestrian, but a bikie had no better chance
   or protection in similar circumstances.

   The fact he wore a leather jacket made me think the way I did.
                              ___________


©Ted Middleton 1999.

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