Days of marc6x
Persecuted artist and speculator

Aug
26

So my latest news is that the so-called “Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner” (apparently the “Lord Mayor” of Brisbane, my home city) has blocked me from making any further reactions and comments to his stupid posts on Facebook. Which leads me to examine a very important concept: that of the illusion that a bureaucracy exists and must exist by law.

The first lesson that a reasonable legalist should teach their students is that the law is simply a construct to maintain order among the people. If the law does not serve its people, then the law is INVALID.

How many rules and laws have you come across or been bound by without knowing exactly what you were doing? To be sure, the lawgiver and lawsayers could hardly give a hoot whether you understand everything, as long as you’re complying with the regulations.

Which leads me, since I have an independent mind, to suppose that I can make my own laws up and why should they not be valid? Especially since I despise the vast majority of politicians, parliamentarians, and other dignified or esteemed representatives of the people?

This is the thing about God as well. The concept of “God” created order among the populations and exerted extreme power and control over them. But if I want to worship my own “god” or follow my own leaders, I have every SINGLE right to do exactly that.

As a result of my tussle with the dishonourable Adrian (after whom I will nobly name this the Schrinner case), I will be creating my own laws and worshipping my own leaders. The so-called “Australian Government” does not deserve to hold power. They have a fancy schmancy coat-of-arms and plaster their stupid labels on everything, but I’m not going to be sucked into that shit.

From now on until further notice, I’m going to call myself, “Lord Mayor of Vegantinatalism”. None of this shit where I have to register with the Registrar-General of Australia to get my name changed and all the inconvenience around that.

FOLLOW YOUR HEART. Be your OWN leader. And this world will be a better place. Thank you! 🙂

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Mar
09

ORIGINS 1979-1991

To openly explain to you that I was born in the Royal Canberra Hospital on 10 August 1979 is an expression of irony, because my Asian parents never mentioned to me the surrounding detail relating to my family tree. I had no strong connections with my extended Asian family, who were largely based in other parts of the world, and to which I was never able to forge contact. Bringing-up me and my elder brother, Leonard, in Australia, my parents decided that rather than allowing me all the advantages of becoming multilingual, my brother and I should learn only to speak English.

At a young age my parents were so insistent that I should speak well that they employed a private tutor for us to learn speech and dramatic art. Emer was a young, well-to-do lady from Ireland, and she taught us to memorise poems and large extracts from stories and recite them with grand expression before admiring audiences. This gave me charisma and charm, but as for confidence in making friends, this was not quite so easy. My brother was absent-minded and never close to me, and although I was fortunate to have a sibling three years older than me, he did not treat me with great respect. We shared many good times, though, laughing at strange cultural anomalies and comedy on the television, but without the enduring brotherly bond that most brothers seem to share.

The other languages that my parents gabbled, I did not acquire, but imitated them with a sarcastic twang. My parents spoke rapid Cantonese to each other or over the telephone to their friends and relatives; and it was traditional for the parents to assume the high status built upon presumptions of seniority as the children played unwittingly in a cultural void. In the presence of my parents I sprouted confidence and held great curiosity in many things. My parents read stories to us and taught us to be determined and focussed, and my father paid for us to be students at the most prestigious school in our city: Canberra Grammar School.

However, the cultural divide caused me, even as a young child, to be confused. For example, my mother insisted on giving us our haircuts, and they were messy jobs which rightly embarrassed us. Also, it was never traditional in my parents’ culture that we should wear underwear, and this caused me a great amount of consternation during the times when we had to get changed at school for physical education classes. In short, I only ever wore underpants on days that I thought that I needed them, because my mother was reluctant to wash or iron our clothes more than was necessary.

Ill-equipped with social context or experimentation, I was bashful in front of visitors or children of my age. Lonely for much of my break time at infants’ school, I acquired nothing more than a few niche friends. However, my focus on schoolwork was excellent not least because it gave me something to do, and I excelled in all formal subjects as a child.

In my earliest years, it was through my parents only that I learnt to interpret the world; and I was taught that a good education would be the foundation for a successful life. My parents vocally supported my ambitions to have a career as a neurologist, and it made my Year 3/4 class chuckle when, in bashful humour, I pluckily dissected the basic concepts of the human brain, which I had taken from a human anatomy manual, for all present to enjoy. During these years my happiness allowed me to become more daring at school as an individual, and I developed a collection of witty catchphrases and mannerisms that I would often repeat to my peers to make them laugh.

In one of my school reports, my teacher mentions that “whilst Marcus is the first to share a joke, when there is work to be done he does it”. I enjoyed a tradition of what we called “chucking spasms”, which as you might imagine, was a way of making fun of people whom I had seen conditioned by cerebral palsy, which I referred laughingly as being “mentally retarded”. We took the idea of spasm-chucking to a great distance, even conducting spasm-chucking competitions at a number of social events such as my classmate’s birthday party. I was the best at it, and consistently scored ten out of ten: my bodily was naturally wild, and my quirky spirit was contagious.

My academic success continued to the end of my junior schooling, aged 11. But tied closely to my mother for emotional support, I also ate large amounts of her delicious cooking or unhealthy items that she bought—curry puffs, and cream puffs especially, and microwave burgers after long days at school–and started to become overweight during my junior school years. However, I retained my social reputation as the clever class clown to the end of my junior school years, which were simply the happiest years of my life.

THE PLOT THICKENS 1992-1997

During the school holidays before I entered senior schooling (Years 7 to 12), I discovered puberty. As you might imagine, this was a massive and magical discovery, and I would imagine that many people remember their onset of puberty for the remainder of their lives.

Consistent with their emotional detachment behaviours, my parents never discussed puberty with me or my brother, but I was fortunate to have enough pluck to be able to welcome it into my life. I was aware, however, that my brother’s early pubescent years were marred with cultural paranoia as I, his younger brother, regarded sex as an anomaly to be ridiculed.

Senior school was not the first time that I loved showing-off to others in my class. Even during junior school I had a crush on two other boys, brothers to each other, in front of whom I would say something funny to try to get a laugh. Not more than a few months into senior schooling, I became aware of a much more elite circle of friends in my year group: these were the group of boarders, who were much closer to each other than I was to my brother, and who all seemed to have their origins in agricultural farming families in rural communities such as Braidwood.

In my earliest diaries dating back to 1994, when I had just finished Year 9, I referred to these boys as “elites”. I admired them passionately because they wore necklaces beneath their uniforms, had the trendiest haircuts, wore surf culture clothing on non-uniform days and were, quite simply, incredibly sexy young boys. The bond between us was reinforced by what I inferred to be telepathic communication, which I referred to in my earliest diaries as “thought-communication”. My belief in telepathy was strongly reinforced, in turn, by my reading of a book that I stole from my brother’s room entitled Kinship With All Life, by J Allen Boone. Being afflicted by early childhood notions of loneliness, I yearned for these elites to become my friends. Instead, because I was not quite compatible with their modes of behaviour, they became more like angels to me, and I worshipped them in secret.

One other factor, which is difficult for me to describe, contributed to my experiences of the esoteric, and that was what I would later to refer to as “having an odour”. Dating back to Year 7, 1992, I became aware that a lot of people were coughing uncontrollably in my class, and I accrued evidence that I was the origin of some kind of unpleasant odour. I now understand, slightly more, that although this was a prestigious school, its campus consisted of a large series of old, musty rooms, with many of these built along cloisters that smelt of poo and filth as they had not been properly washed-out or cleaned over the years. However, as much as this may be true, I was on a number of significant occasions accused of “smelling” of something and this contributed to my strong belief that I did indeed have an odour emanating from my anus, which was caused no less than by my fingers digging into my anus during my sleep.

So strongly did I believe this to be the truth, that I discovered a neat solution to my problem. Before going to sleep, I would put on long trousers and a thick belt buckled tightly so that it would be impossible for me to subconsciously irritate my anus during my sleep. The next day, those in my science class seated opposite me breathed in deep breaths of relief, which suggested to me that my plan of stopping my odour had succeeded. Hence over the years following, whenever I became paranoid that I was going to touch my anus, I would ensure that I was wearing my belted trousers before going to sleep.

My odour problem persisted for a few years; and I became overcome with doubts such that I was never fully comfortable when the people around me were coughing to excess. This happened quite often; and on one occasion an unruly member of my mathematics class suggestively accused me of smelling like a dog, which I wrote about shamefully in my diary the following night.

As a direct and total consequence of this paranoia, my academic performance slipped in a period of my life that I referred to as my “subjugation”. Believing that I was the cause of others’ misery and discomfort, I became easily distracted, easily disappointed and depressed in class time, and I went from being first in the year group in mathematics in Year 7, 1992, to achieving marks such as E4 in physics in Year 12, 1997.

The sequence of descent in my life, which I so carefully documented starting with subjugation, caused me to have some very esoteric experiences in which I became very finely attuned to the life of Jesus Christ. Although my school was officially Christian, we were very little educated on the concepts of magic that permeated the New Testament. I became fascinated not only by telepathy but by all the profound miracles of the Holy Spirit that Jesus was said to have performed. This, coupled with the bimillenial anniversary of Jesus’s birth, caused me to believe that I myself was some kind of messenger, or “conduit”, of God’s purpose, especially as the year 2000 AD approached.

THE DRAMA YEARS 1998-2001

Although I wasn’t physically fallen apart, I left high school in 1997 in bad shape. I had no friends from school or otherwise, my parents had drifted away from me such that we shared nothing in common, and I had no plans to enter university. Sick and tired of an education system that felt tasteless and irrelevant, I felt lost and unable to determine my future. My father annoyed me with his loud ignorant voiced expressions, and my mother too quibbled about trivial things. I felt above my parents and my brother; due to my esoteric experiences at school, I felt like I had had more life-experience than they, and in some way I felt destined that, in casting them aside, I would change the world. It was just an inkling.

The months drifted into 1998 and in January I received my Higher School Certificate result of 85.75. This meant that I had scored in the top 15 percent of the state; not a bad result by some people’s measures, although for someone with my academic expertise it was a pretty poor result. Undecided on what to do next, I planned two major activities in 1998: a drama workshop, and a solo hiking expedition.

I found a brochure advertising workshops by NIDA, the National Institute of Dramatic Art, in the local library which I would frequent. My father reliably agreed to pay for my attendance at the workshop in Canberra that year. The workshop completely changed my life.

It’s difficult to describe exactly what happened. The tutors were all very stylish and all tended to speak with resonant voices, and I felt compelled to impress them: Wendy Strehlow and Tim Elston and Michael and others. There were a lot of improvisation games, and in each of them I was extremely charismatic and empowered. I felt like a superstar, and my introverted and shy nature when I was not on the stage made me a human puzzle to the others in the group.

During a lunch break in which, instead of making friends with others, I ventured to the nearby shopping centre, Wendy came up beside me and held a conversation with me. It was an enigmatic conversation (which I will not include here) and it confused me because I had prior beliefs in the esoteric. That same day I was sure I had seen Tim Elston pushing a shopping trolley outside the shops, but when I returned to the school campus grounds a moment later, there he was standing with Michael by the gates. I was convinced that this was an act of trickery which led me to think that the NIDA tutors were trying to trick me, and were secretly observing me. I let it get to my head.

In my written feedback to the NIDA tutors, I eeriely wrote that “I felt like the tutors were OBSERVING me.” This statement rang true in the sense that I felt that the tutors were interested in me as an actor, and would surely be interested in admitting me to the NIDA school if I were to audition for them. Understand that NIDA was a very prestigious institution, and that I felt infatuated with the idea of being their newest movie or theatrical superstar. One of the stories that I had on my bookshelf at home was entitled The Amazing Bubblegum Caper (a book of choices like the Choose Your Own Adventure stories) which told the story of a rich man who mysteriously led the main character (YOU) on a wild goose chase just to “test” whether he would follow the adventure and become the next improvisatory superstar. That is exactly what I believed was happening to me.

In many ways it was probably true. As Wendy herself so tartly put it, with subtextual reference to me, “a lot of good actors are mentally unhinged”. In the same month, August of 1998, I started my longest journey as a solo hiker into the nearest wilderness, Namadgi National Park.

I spent four months alone in Namadgi after having purchased my entire set of hiking gear with the few thousand dollars that I had to spare. I now think of myself as rather cute for having this noble objective to find peace in the wilderness when I could not find it in my parents’ home; indeed I was quite handsome and I looked like a cute traveller. I believed that I was on a mission dictated by God and that I was fulfilling God’s purpose by going on this pilgrimage.

It was one of the best things I have ever done, because it was such a daring and noble adventure. Despite the poor-quality food, the abundance of sleeping and lying around, and the loneliness, I had found a place to camp and call my own, in some sense. I had encountered some of the rangers of the National Park, and even though I was alone they did not bother me or ask many questions. I stowed my bike in a supposedly secret place opposite the main entrance of the Park and covered it with a tarpaulin, using the bike with some pannier bags as a means of transporting fresh food to my campsite. For example, I would buy a sprig of broccoli from Woolworths, wash it under the tap in the shopping-centre bathroom and then store it (slightly moist) in a plastic bag to cook and eat within the next week. It wasnt very hygienic, and it was probably dangerous for my health, but I got away with it. Due to the terrible conditions, and under influence from my study of the bible, I also fasted for seven days on two separate occasions, with the ostensible purpose of saving money. To be honest, I wanted to live like Jesus and learn what his venture into the wilderness was like.

During that time, I also wrote in a notebook that I believe is now one of the most precious documents of all time. On 30 October 1998 I wrote a poem “Inland Surfer” which I regard (arrogantly or otherwise) as the greatest summary of the nature and character of humankind ever written. Originally intended as a treatise or synopsis of my experiences at school, its eight verses are enlightened but the language is difficult for most to understand. In 1999 I published this poem in my verse collection entitled (1999), which never received critical acclaim but which was appreciated almost exclusively by my poet friend Michael Byrne. Many years later, I have also published this poem on Facebook and submitted it to various journals without it being acknowledged.

In these wonder years, I always aspired to greatness. I worshipped the message of Jesus and I admired the true greats of human civilization: Shakespeare, TS Eliot, Bach, Beethoven. I felt compelled to emulate them and I was convinced that one day I would be as great as any of them.

In 1999 I enrolled in a music composition course at the Australian National University, but quit within the first few weeks as a result of dissent against the unprofessional, lame conduct of the teachers and tutors there. I was an impatient young man and I only wanted my own private space to be able to write my poetry, practise the piano and compose music. I did not require a formal teaching course in order to do well.

At the dawning of the new millenium I made two very close-together trips overseas, funded by my father: to London, Paris, San Francisco, New York City and Los Angeles. It was my first travel to Europe and America, and was a rough toss attempt to be admitted to any of the finest drama universities in the world. I had a very elitist taste and, infatuated by my performance in front of the NIDA tutors in 1998, I felt that I had the talent to successfully audition for the best.

At the end of my trip, disappointed that I had “only” been accepted by AADA (the American Academy of Dramatic Art), and distrusting the idea that my father would continue to fund my expenses with staying as a student resident in New York City, I decided to completely change tack and study science at the University of Sydney. Sydney was closer to my parents’ home in Canberra, which provided a little more comfort. But it was a strange decision since I had invested quite a lot of effort in procuring a place at the American Academy of Dramatic Art (AADA), New York City – my only successful audition (other than an incomplete audition at WAAPA), even though I had auditioned for all of the presitigious universities such as NIDA and RADA (the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London).

My interpretation of this decision is bi-valent: Firstly, I felt that being an immensely talented actor I had the status to scorn the drama schools for being rejected by RADA and NIDA. Secondly I felt that even though the drama schools dearly wanted me as a student, they had issues with my attitude and arrogance.

THE DELUSIONS START: 2000

Although I did not appreciate it at the time, I was relatively fortunate to be granted accommodation in one of the University of Sydney’s more-modern student buildings at Darlington House. I had room 8A, and shared the common areas with four other students.

Although I did not know it, my mentality was loaded and about to implode. Infatuated with the idea that I should have my own private apartment, I drew great dissent from the unprivate layout of my unit 8 and the fact that I had to interact with other students. I was incredibly drawn into myself: I wanted to be completely private, and in the spirit of morose authors such as Henry David Thoreau and JD Salinger, famous figures who both isolated themselves from their societies, I yearned for a place where I could enjoy my complete peace and solitude (I referred to this in my personal writings as ME, or “My Environment”).

The city of Sydney both mesmerised and enthralled me. Having lived in the quietude of Canberra, known as a sleepy town capital at best, for almost my entire life, walking out on the town in Sydney was a blast. But while I yearned for the excitement and vibrance of the environment, I also was heavily insistent on complete quiet when I was at home: and this was impossible. Even when I closed the windows and shut my door, I could still hear all the noises that one normally hears in an apartment room.

In the late months of 2000, I began to complain about various things, including changes to my environment which all my psychiatrists to this day have referred to inexactly as “hallucinations” and “delusions”. For example, I complained about curds forming at the bottom of my soy milk carton, and suspected that someone was poisoning it. I complained that the top of my bottle of chilli sauce had been half-unscrewed by some unknown intruder. Around or during my sleep, I complained that I could not breathe and that there were airpipes leading into my room which were possibly pumping the air full of carbon dioxide.

I also had concerns about the billboard advertising on the streets: hundreds of billboards (now known as Adshel advertising) across Sydney had been erected showing ONE poster of a woman’s legs, which I thought were placed there to deliberately scare me. And there was ONE poster at the lowest end of Broadway which I could not decipher and caused me great consternation: It read: “THERE IS NO SCAPE”, which I interpreted to mean, “THERE IS NO ESCAPE”. I seriously thought someone was trying to subvert me.

Since I related a lot of this news to my parents, they became immensely worried, and not at all in a constructive sense. In hindsight, psychiatrists claim and believe that my delusional observations are a sure indication that I must have started to be mentally ill with paranoid schizophrenia. I disagree. Borne on all the invasive and pseudo appearances in my life, including the idea that I was being pursued by authorities representing the drama institutions, my so-called paranoia can be properly explained as a natural and feasible reaction to my environment. I knew that what I really needed was a peaceful environment, and many years later I proved that my life satisfaction would be significantly improved when I got what I desired. But this would have to wait many, many years…and the worst was yet to come.

In September 2001, I completed a letter that I had started a few months earlier, which detailed the reasons for my decision to reject the offer of admission to the American Academy of Dramatic Art. The letter was rather on the long side and makes for provocative reading, but was more of a publicity stunt than anything else. I wanted the AADA to respond to me and tell me how much they loved me and yearned my presence. On 10 September 2001, in what must have been the biggest and most unfortunate coincidence of my life, I mailed my letter to New York City.

The following day I received televised news of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and elsewhere. I was deeply emotivated; it was like something out of a book of fiction, but it was happening in real life. Searching my soul, I forced myself to feel guilty about the events that occurred, and blamed myself for what had happened. The rational connection with me having posted a letter and the actual causation of the terrorist attacks was a reasonable one, and I put on a mask of sadness to show everyone how sorry I was. Even though I explained to my parents that I did not understand what had happened, the connection with the drama-school underworld and the imperious presentation of US President George W Bush was enough to make me implicate myself and blame myself for everything. The media story about the post office worker who had died of Anthrax on the same day reinforced my beliefs. Another thing that reinforced my beliefs was the idea that I had supernatural powers and had committed an “Act of God” (which was also the story that I had heard a few years earlier from children’s author Gary Crew).

Flustered and frustrated, and altruistically convinced that I wanted to sacrifice my life for what wrong I had done, however unintentional, I made the concessional decision that I would return to Canberra, live once again with my parents, and be kept under their supervision, even though I despised them. I prayed to God that the disturbances that I had experienced would not repeat themselves when I was back under the wing of my parents. It would be one of the worst decisions I had ever made.

ABSTINENCE, ARREST AND FIRST INSTANCES OF CONFINEMENT 2002 – 2005

Although in Canberra there were scarce few other delusional experiences in the years 2001 to 2004, my parents continued to treat me with contempt and I started to relapse into my former behaviours of solitude-seeking.

In 2004 I discovered, again by remarkable accident, an amazing symmetry in the annual calendar using my two favourite numbers, 36 and 56. Using these numbers I found an alignment with the falling of my birthday, Easter (Day), Christmas Day and other landmark dates. I determined that this was a special observation and hence decided that I would plot various abstinences to align with the different periods that I had discovered. I felt that such an attempt would have religious significance, and be an interesting if not also useful experiment in hardcore Christianity.

By “abstinence”, I do not simply refer to things like alcohol or sex. I had none of those things: what I meant, rather, was abstaining from acts such as masturbation, lavish food, television, and types of pornography etcetera. I tried to think of every possible type of abstinence that I possibly could, and incorporate that into my plan. I think many people would regard this as strange, but for me it acted not only as a religious devotion but also as a protest against my family’s and parents’ continued contempt towards my peace-loving ways of life. In regard to a normal and healthy lifestyle, I admit that the plan that I had for myself had never been medically approved nor was it a plan that would leave me fitter or more zestful for life than before. Misery begets more misery.

Although on the surface it would appear that I had paranoia, in reality my mind map was built upon a history of many years of esoteric experiences. Remembering that I believed in telepathy from the age of 12, I was convinced by my own supernatural abilities in some sense, even though I was not fully clear about how I should go about fulfilling my God-given destiny.

On 15 May 2005, I was some way through my landmark year of abstinence when police arrived to arrest me at 4 a.m. on that day. I was totally taken by surprise, and it remains quite easily the most traumatic and shocking day of my life. I was placed in a barren white-walled room lit by white lights and, presumably, under observation, put into an alien environment for the first of 17 involuntary hospitalisations that I would have between the years 2005 to 2016.

To date, nobody has been able to explain to me why people are placed in inferior hospital environments far removed from the comforts of their own home in an attempt to “cure” them. To those like myself whose senses are completely open, hospitals are terrible and depressing places. It remains difficult to record all the mundanity and terror of my hospital experiences, as much as of my experiences in police custody where I spent overnight in a small cell on several occasions, but my current blog has the following real-life description:

Imagine living in a world where if you express that you are sad—depressed, suicidal, morose—you will be put under observation. If you complain too many times—maybe once, maybe two, three, four times—you get forced into mental hospital.

But not just any mental hospital, but a high dependency unit where everything that gave you comfort in the real world–the sights and smells of your own house, clean comfortable clothing, your own meals and choice of food–is also taken away from you, and replaced by a blank, sterile room with an obscured window showing almost nothing of the outside world. The room and walls smell like alcohol and cleaning fluid. The window is bolted and cannot be opened. You are forced to eat, and forced to eat the mushy food prepared for you. You are forced to wear a shabby hospital gown just big enough to cover your private parts, and then only if you fuss about with the cumbersome gown to make it fit.

Just outside your room is a common area shared by a number of louts and imbeciles. The way that they cry out, or yell, or scream, is like a public swimming pool of hell. They are disruptive and unpredictable. They might throw food or bash their fists on the walls to demand things. Even though you need water in copious amounts, it’s given out a cupful at a time from the nurse’s window. When you finally find the common toilet, you realise that the smell that rises from it is the ineradicable smell of excrement. The taps are small knobs that provide a pathetic trickle of water, so it’s hard to wash your hands.

You don’t know how long you’ll be here. No one told you your rights. You don’t know why you’re here. You remember the movie scenes in Terminator 2, and know that you’re being monitored through cameras. But because the technology is great, you don’t know how it’s done and you have every reason to feel that the nurses and staff will lie to you.

For the past several years your parents despised and excommunicated you, even though you were forced to live in the same house as them. In silent protest you started on a fasting diet, which if your parents found out about would have landed you straight in hospital. In this world, you cannot protest. You cannot fast, weep, follow the ways of Jesus. You must act normal, and if you do not, you will be incarcerated.

Imagine also that you are injected with psychiatric drugs. Imagine that these drugs fuck with your frontal lobe, so that you cannot use your imagination, think widely or laterally, or so much as hate anyone. You feel the limpness of your own body. You have nothing to do except sleep, and the unconsciousness of sleep brings comfort. Your designated psychiatrist and his team enter your room, to ask you how you are, and even though you’re fully aware of how much they are tossers, you choose to ignore them. So they regard you as lacking insight. It is not so much that you cannot answer, but if you will not answer, you lack insight and you will be detained further. They leave the room, scheduled to return in a week’s time.

These memories will stay with you, because every time you are injected, every time a tablet is forced into you, your hate for the system and the staff is renewed. There is no end to the treatment. Your very blood, your very flesh, is contaminated; and this in turn contaminates your soul and will detain you in this hellish place on earth–either physically, or mentally when you are eventually allowed to leave.

As you can read, I was extremely sensitive to the mistreatment, and I wrote copious amounts of anecdotal material in my attempts to overcome frustration and boredom. The clinicians that administered me were interested in preventing all of my so-called symptoms of mental illness, but they weren’t at all concerned about preventing the suffering and disappointment that I felt being a patient, by leaving me alone in the first place and attempting to engage with my heart.

It was always a similar problem with police: They always tried to prevent me from acting differently or deviating from society, but were oblivious to the idea that I was a person to whom personal space was very important. I was afraid of the police for more than one reason: mainly because they had unmitigated powers to break in and enter my house or the house in which I stayed, but also because of their past “bulldog”-type manners, the lethal guns that they carried, the video surveillance cameras that they were connected to, and their lack of politeness every time I clashed with them since 1979. I was afraid of their vehicles and the armoured vests that they stiffly strutted about in, in which they carried knives or switchblades. I have memories of nasty police officers since I was about five, and many more at other times growing up, and I can never recall a time when they’ve helped me out of a mess or been remarkably friendly.

I was an escapee for much of the time in the years 2005 to 2015, but decreasingly so as I became tame to the system and started to lose my energy to escape the harsh system. While in Canberra, I would often spend late nights at the club or in inconvenient places just to avoid meeting the authorities at my parents’ home during what I thought were operating hours. At strange times of the day or night, I would try to sleep in strange places where I felt most protected. Escaping to various cities including Sydney, Melbourne and finally Brisbane, I managed to make it difficult for the authorities to get hold of me and I often refused to give myself into custody without a struggle. It was a terrible lifestyle, sleeping in hostel dormitories or sharehouses, trying to save every dollar for a worser day. I suffered terrible depression and anxiety, but I kept going with many of my artistic and knowledge pursuits: writing poetry and children’s stories, listening to music at the computers in the libraries, and exploring many new places in the city areas. I also had half a year in drama school at the Australian (not the American) Academy of Dramatic Art (also abbreviated as AADA), but I was expelled from that institution for alleged bad behaviour even though I enjoyed my time in that social environment immensely.

I believe it was in late 2008 to 2009 that I became very desperately attached to my mother after getting anxious that the police were going to “shoot me”. It was a fear that erupted from a number of scenes in which police entered my room in my parents’ house, fully armed, and forced me to come with them to hospital. During that period I felt like cowering in my bed under my blanket, and my entire self became a timid “inner child” of despair and I needled my mother for support and love, like a neglected puppy would. Wherever she went, I wanted to go as a means of security. When she went to work, I would stay with her in a room nearby if she allowed that. I would sleep in her car, and I would moan that there was nothing to do once our outing was over.

At some stage during my fearful anxiety, I realised that I had to do something different. I knew that it was best to prepare for my future. So, in the years 2009 to 2010, I spent a lot of my free time trying to earn a Certificate through my studies of Information Technology at the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT). The CIT campuses were friendly-looking places, and among them was also where my mother was working as an English-as-a-Second-Language teacher at times, so I felt drawn to its environment. As I had grown the habit for, I often spent very late nights in the computer area simply soaking-up time by surfing the internet and writing prose or poetry.

I also enrolled as a student of Open Universities Australia, attempting to gain a degree-level qualification in the arts (encompassing various subjects such as economics and business). I was fastidiously keen that I should gain a degree qualification, but as had been the case at the Australian National University in 2002-2004, the higher-year courses/units became exceedingly difficult for me and I was unable to proceed or pass these courses. Although I claim to have tried very hard to keep going, something seems to have stopped me every time, whether it be a lack of available resources or some other reason. Since I first quit university in 1999, I have bombed out of university courses on about eight occasions to date.

Also in 2009-2010 I created my own website out of HTML, schoolwort.com, with the idea that I would help students online by providing feedback to their essays and schoolwork. It was an idea that I believed in but I would never prove could succeed. Other than spending a great number of hours surfing the internet and using email (especially to people who weren’t really interested in responding), I also wrote a guide to the internet’s best sites of the time, entitled Internet, Eh?_. Writing in elevated, giddy prose was rather new to me and I felt that writing the book in such cordial language (even though I myself was suffering so much in my personal life) was a genuine achievement.

STREET BUSKING, MAGAZINE SALES AND FINANCIAL LIBERATION 2010-2014

I achieved liberation in these years, and in December 2013 wrote the story of my successes in the document Tales of Splendour of a Big Issue Vendor.

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1 ORIGINS 2010 to early 2011

In 2010, when I was 30 years old and I had been unemployed for ten years, I was still living with my parents near Woden, Canberra. I was always broody; our family relationships were always tense and twisted, and although my parents had not had the gusto to evict me from my free lodgings, they had already threatened to do so many times.

During the last ten years I had travelled to Sydney for university, but due to unsurmountable problems with second- and third-year coursework I had bombed out of university six times in those ten years without achieving a degree. To be honest, the complex pages and pages of third-year work were all garble to me. It was a dreadful waste of time and I had all but lost my direction in life.

I was a frightened, self-proud underachiever and had, like many others I suppose, tried all of the poor man’s ways of becoming rich and famous overnight—I was sometimes a poet, I was self-published but had sold a mere seven copies of my books, I had ideals of becoming a great musician but needed my own place to be creative, which was impossible. I had placed so many of my chances on passing at university; but as I grew older, and maybe a bit wiser but without the papers to prove it, my dangers of long-term unemployment increased.

From time to time I had applied for some of the lower-level professional positions that I thought I was intelligent enough for, such as reception or administration. Taking pride in anything and everything, I would have made a great receptionist anywhere. But on each occasion, the vacancies being hugely competitive, I never even made it to the interview stage. There were frequent reports of jobs having as many as 100 candidates, many of whom had already had prior experience in similar roles. I had no experience, and no one was about to get me off squat.

By the age of 30 I had accumulated about $45 thousand, mostly from my savings whilst on the Disability Support Pension. Throughout my adult life I had been saving fastidiously, obsessively spending as little as $12 a day in order to channel most of my pension into savings. I bought the cheapest and often unhealthiest food, like pizzas and chunks of cheese-bread; if I travelled to Sydney or Melbourne I stayed at the cheapest lodgings, such as boarding houses and hostel dorms; and, not least for having no friends, I never spent lavishly on anything like fancy clothes or a night out, let alone a car. Spending small was not so much my way of expressing poverty, but rather of protecting against a time, some time in the future, when I would be stricken by far worse circumstances. It was just slightly ironic that my inability to look after myself would lead to further misery.

In 2010, I was walking down one of the main commercial streets in Canberra when I met again Bill Tully, the most pleasant face you ever did see. I did not know him by name, although just checking back some of my autographs I see that he is a very familiar face to the Canberra cultural scene, and my mum and I had met him once at a concert when I was a kid. This time, Uncle Bill brought me up to his CD library and community radio studio, and allowed me to sit in as an accomplice during his radio shows on 2XX FM 98.3.

He was good company, although after a few months he became impatient with my ways and we parted company. But during those vital few weeks of our relationship, he introduced me to a new friend, Michael Byrne, who was launching his new poetry book, A Man of Emails. The title is befitting, because from that night, Michael and I emailed each other, encouraging each other to be productive, not only in the world of art and poetry, but also in music, philosophy and life-choices. Michael had been published in the Best Australian Poems a few years earlier; and if he was ever a renowned poet, I was his instant friend.

By coincidence, I too had been slaving away for many hours at Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT)—using the computers at my disposal to write my first self-published book in nine years: Internet, Eh?_. This book was intended as a guide to some of the best internet sites in the world. With the status of student, I was fortunate enough to be able to pay the CIT printworks to produce those parts of my book that I myself could not make using a standard pay-per-print photocopier. Although I had seen a flyer for The Big Issue at the radio station studio, my idea was that I would make much more money selling my own books directly to the public. But when the book was ready, I got turned down by the few people that I asked. They simply weren’t prepared to buy a handbook from someone they knew nothing about. I started to get scared, because pressuring people that I just met on the street or in the middle of the city made me feel uncomfortable too. Making my first $10 was proving damn difficult.

In September 2010, Michael wrote to me: “I’ve been busking down at the Florey Shops; and I made $1(8) in the time that I was there. One guy even gave me $10!” This, almost literally, struck a chord with me. I decided that very afternoon that I would take out my old recorder (a bit like a flute, a woodwind instrument), which I had not been playing since the age of nine, get out my never-before-used hat for collecting money, and play a few simple tunes down at my local shops. For some reason, because Michael had just proven that he could do virtually the same with a guitar, I was not scared of looking silly just wielding an old recorder.

In my first hour on that 23 September evening, between 5 and 6 pm precisely, I made $57.75, sticking to five basic tunes including Danny Boy, Country Road and Shanandoah. I had known these songs for donkeys’ years but never thought to play on my little instrument. When you’re busking, you always get a little jittery of the public. Counting all the coins in my hat made me a little tipsy; the amount surprised me a little, but I was too flushed with my initial success than I fully understood that this could, and would, be the start of a hugely successful career of making money on the streets—not with a university degree of any kind, not with drugs, nor with begging, but with music in my soul and in my blood.

As you might expect of someone who had been deprived of good food and good money for several years, I came back to the shops every day to busk with that little recorder. From then, every morsel of food that I bought with my own money made me feel rich inside. Earning $57.75 that first time had been out of the ordinary, but my rate of earning hovered at about $24 per hour for the first few months, as I plotted my statistics on my computer program Excel every evening at home. In those four months over the summer I made my first $5 thousand, which was almost exactly the same amount as I had earned and then lost during my exploits in the Australian Stockmarket between 2006 and the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. In order to avoid repeated losses and to actually start earning, I continued to spend small amounts, almost entirely on better food.

I expanded my adventures to other shops and other public places, where I met other buskers at the mercy of the elements. At my peak, I was working a maximum of four hours a day, because I was overweight and my legs, which are slightly unequal in length, start to get really sore if I am standing up for any longer. Although getting myself a stool would have been a good idea, I presumed that standing constituted a “better look” to the audience.

Over the Christmas holidays, my mum and I were tidying up the mess in our house and I got the idea of making balloon animals to sell on the street. Using a guidebook and some basic equipment, it took me a day to learn how to make a balloon dog and a balloon cat. I took my new-found expertise to the streets, hoping to make more money than before. Instead, I made less. By the end of January 2011, my rate of earnings had fallen away dramatically. It seems illogical to me that my misfortunes were caused by consumer boredom, because I was still trying-out new places and I was sure that not everyone in Canberra had heard my playing or bought one of my balloons. But managing my balloon sales and my busking was logistically impossible. By now, I was earning about six dollars an hour, and I speculated that people were more interested in donating to the bushfire appeal for the recent bush fires, but I doubted that this was the main reason for my unsuccess. To keep up my earnings, I needed to do something innovative—fast.

2 STARTING THE BIG ISSUE

During my recorder-playing days, I had met some of the Big Issue vendors in Canberra. Grant was the guy who always sold on the red bridge in Belconnen that used to link the shopping mall with the Department of Immigration, and I would usually stand a bit apart from him on the same bridge. Grant told me how he would easily get about eight customers (equating to $20 plus tips) an hour just standing there offering magazines. It seemed simple enough…perhaps too simple. Another previous vendor, Michael Bryl, had befriended me around and about the Woden Community Centre and had suggested that I could do both busking and magazine sales to earn money. Neither of these people were extremely encouraging, but they gave merely the seeds of the idea. At the time, you must understand, I doubted how much money I would earn as a seller, and with the vendors having an unattractive yellow vest as their uniform, I did not think of The Big Issue as a particularly flashy or fashionable brand of trade.

I had met The Big Issue Canberra’s manager, Julie Evans, a few times during my busking in Woden, and she had even dipped a bit of money in my hat when I had been busking once. Confiding to her with a slightly heavy heart in her little office, I admitted to her that my busking days seemed doomed to fail. Maybe magazine sales would be better?

Right from the start, Julie’s gentle, smiley manner helped me to believe in what I was doing. She showed me through the contract and I started selling at the earliest possible opportunity on 28 January 2011. I made a point of being able to remember how my first customer looked: it was a lady, probably a housewife in her 40s or 50s, with soft medium brown hair and a short dress. (They always look so average, there was nothing very remarkable about her! but the memory of her is so important now.) As I grew in experience, I would indeed discover that most of my customers would be women of around her age or slightly younger, perhaps.

A week into my sales, Julie had me on the phone. “Your sales figures are incredible!” she exclaimed. She had previously worked at the Australian Bureau of Statistics, during which time she had been a regular customer of Grant, and I wondered how my sales were shaping-up from her end. “Yeah,” I tongued with affected flatness even though I was shaking a bit, “30 magazines a day.” Grant was still top seller, and I was number two, but I thought I could do better, because at the moment I wasn’t even pushing it. My first issue was number 373, Here’s Jack (Jack Nicholson), featuring an interview with the famous Hollywood star—my favourite actor of all time. My first week had been incredible for so many reasons: because I had sold magazines to so many unusual people, including the incredibly beautiful and blonde (Me: “You look so happy…” Her: “So do youuuu…”), a Chinese girl talking on her mobile, and a Muslim woman showing genuine interest. I had, according to one young man, “dropped his cherry” when I asked him if this was his first time :). I had sold one mag to a dapper black-suited (read “very important”) man working at the Taxation Department, boasting to him a bit that we didn’t pay tax, but he couldn’t resist my catchcry that this was truly a “good-looking, good-feeling magazine” and I’m sure he got a buzz out of it. O brave new world, that has such people in it! Who (except perhaps for the dear gentleman who insisted he was “trying to give them up”) could ever resist the face of Jack Nicholson?

I sold one of my magazines to an acne-covered teenage guy walking out of the front doors of the Canberra Centre. Running after him, I told him that Jack was the only guy who would never write his own biography because, in his OWN words, he “just wants to have fun and live in the moment”. So you just had to read the magazine, to know… With the slightest smile, he was SOLD on the idea. I just knew he would enjoy reading it.

3 INTERESTING PEOPLE

During my first two weeks of selling, I met a girl named Juanita. She and a friend were probably on their way to university, and when I said, “What are you studying…journalism?”, she exclaimed, “How did you know?!” I had the knack of knowing what people were like, and because of the way that she thought (in inspired strings of words), I had a fair idea that writing was what she was studying at university. In all fairness, however, due to being rather coy and inward-looking, I have never had a girlfriend, and on this rare occasion I was hotting up to this opportunity to know this really sweet and crazy person.

I told Juanita that I had been volunteering for the local radio station, which wasn’t flash hot like all the commercial radio stations, but I had the philosophy that any radio station could be just as good as any other, if you wanted it to be (especially if you were the host). She wasn’t really impressed, but she did write for me her contact details on the back of her old Spice of Life receipt (she had already spent $75 that day) and I promised that I would write to her and give her a few references of my recent publishings in local news journals, to give her some leads. Because I had been in trouble with the police in recent years, I advised her with a smile that she should stay out of law, because in our modern society lawyers were rarely moralists.

Juanita bought my magazine, but more important than anything else was the fact that she was interested in having fun with me. Many months later I wrote about my incredible dream in which her little slip of paper was actually the last feather of a white dove or a magpie that had floated into my lap or onto the tip of my shoe (as in the movie Forrest Gump). It would surely be the only “feather” I would not let blow away. You see, I have this craze about girls that I really like, and I become really loyal to them and don’t really like to let them go. So, if you really want to know, I have been writing to Juanita regularly over the last three years that I have been selling magazines; sending her my art and some other crazy things that I like to do when I use the computer and internet.

A few weeks after we met, Juanita emailed me back. “Marc, I have something to tell you. I have decided to study law.” I felt like she was playing elusive. I emailed her back, saying that it was a dreadful decision and she should go to hell and high water rather than attempt to practise law. “Law is for nerds,” I responded, but her decision was made. I think my smile, during our little chat, had betrayed my inner feelings that law was, and could be, a very intellectual subject. But I also saw in Juanita a huge danger that her sense of artistic expression would be lost if she dropped journalism; and I also feared that if she became a lawyer she would look down on me, a magazine-seller. I didn’t want her to become bourgeoise, I just wanted her friendship.

*          *          *

The other great people that I met during my first two weeks were three young girls, who said their names were Shania, Britney and Shania. No, they weren’t twins or triplets. They were waiting for their parents down at the local shops after school, and my presence there must have had a local “feel” to it, so we were really happy to get to know each other. After getting over the idea that they were named after some famous pop stars, I explained to them the nature of my trade and I told them that on any condition they should try to get a job during their post-schooling years (even if that meant going to university as well), because life without enough money can be really terrible. You could be a pop star or a magazine-seller, but either way you gotta earn your keep.

I let the girls help me by holding up my magazines. As was my practice, I showed them how to do it so that there are two copies back-to-back so you can see the cover from any direction. I myself took out my recorder from my bag and played a few tunes for everyone to enjoy. I think our display was rather a deterrent to customers, who were not familiar with seeing children selling, and we got a few donations in my hat but no sales. Shania had some really romantic ideas about how she would spend her money if she were rich. I guessed she had been watching too much television. She put-on a face when we got to discussing Justin Bieber, and I conscientiously agreed with her that Justin gets too much ($100 million a year) while I was earning a measley $28 an hour selling magazines on the street. So,  I told her that initially at least, for the sake of safety, she should put her savings in a bank account, just as I had been doing when I was her age. But she was more interested in donating the money (“to you”, she said, but she also mentioned Angel Flight).

I lost some of my loneliness in the girls’ company. They were only young but very smart and charming, and I listened carefully to everything they had to say. As can be expected in a highly defensive society where pedophilia is heavily berated, I was treated with passing suspicion by some of the public audience. My point is that people should be protective, but not be so paranoid as to keep their children from meeting a stray seller down at the local shops. I really enjoyed the 20 minutes that I spent with these young aspirants and I was sorry when their parents’ car stopped over to take them home.

4 PHENOMENAL SALES…AND THE ATMOSPHERE!

23 vendors working in a city of 400,000 people. Combined sales of 1600 per fortnight. During my first two months, I pushed sales up to 2400 per fortnight. Literally, I was selling 1 in every 3 Big Issue magazines sold in Canberra, and making more than $1000 a week.

I have heard the old tale that there are some people who are naturally gifted in running a business, and making more money than everybody else. I believe that I had this gift, and the main reason for my success was that Big Issue management was allowing me to have my head. I had never been given so much responsibility in my life, and I relished showing-off how good I was at the logistics and instincts of my trade. I had great ambition. I rarely took a day off. I learnt from my mistakes. In my first few months, I chose the best places to sell, I looked after my health, and I respected the rights and opinions of other vendors. Whenever I set a new record in profits, I would try to unearth new ways to beat it. If something was bothering me, I would work out how to resolve the problem.

Talking through my day’s plans with my boss Julie every morning, as I bought my day’s supplies, because a pleasurable habit. She had every good wish for me, showed extreme interest in my progress, and gave me great confidence to continue with my work. I bought back issues from her at the office (I sold back, or prior, issues to customers who had missed out weeks before or who were interested in more choices), and then I usually went to one of the branches of The Body Shop, the other distribution point for The Big Issue, where I would meet with the other girl staffers and buy typically 50 or 60 copies of the current issue from them at the slightly cheaper (1 cent cheaper, to be precise) rate of $2.49 per copy. When you’re buying tens of thousands of copies a year, 1 cent makes a huge difference.

Whilst I sold in the city and my local shops during most weekdays, the end of the week was my best sales time and I would usually try to make the journey to Cooleman Court, Weston on these days. For many vendors, Weston presented itself as a logistic nightmare for selling magazines. The main entrance consisted of a ramp leading up to the doorway, and three or four strong men were employed by the shopping centre to collect stray trolleys from the adjoining carpark and drag them up the ramp back to their bay in the supermarket. It was chaos; but I found a neat spot on the left side of the ramp where I was in the exact centre of the action, but never got into anyone’s way.

This was where I got some of my best sales. Customers coming down the ramp were inevitably heading toward me and had almost every reason to stop by before proceeding to their car in the adjoining carpark. The place was quiet enough that sometimes you would hear no one about, and then, with a rattle, the automatic doors would slide open and a person or two with a trolley would ramble down the slope. By golly, do people buy a lot these days!

My most successful sales were with issue 378 featuring the star of Alice in Wonderland (Tim Burton), Canberra’s Mia Wasikowska. Saying her name about a million times was a challenge for me, but I think many local Canberrans recognised Mia as one of their own great success stories, and they really wanted to read about her. I sold 845 magazines during the two weeks of her issue, and although I never met Mia in person during my stints, I bet the movie industry were getting pretty happy with my support, if they had known how hard I was trying.

Over my first few months in Canberra, I seemed to have helped to turn Weston into a weekend party scene. Soon, other than the occasionally present Salvation Army table and the buskers, there were people handing-out flyers, there were raffle stalls and sausage sizzle stalls, and the occasional interest-group stall such as The Greens. I was there when the Fire Brigade setup a donation bucket, and their earnings were spectacular. People were using the bucket to dump notes of extraordinary value. But, to be fair, I think that a place like Weston can show remarkable community spirit and atmosphere when it wants to; there are people with the most remarkable stories and experiences, who make the place come alive. I even had intentions of playing chess with one of the trolley-pushers during my selling stint, but then had second thoughts that it would have added to the congestion…and the confusion.

During the political campaigns for the territory elections, I liaised with members of all the parties and got some pretty nice contacts. Senator Gary Humphries is one of the most instantly recognisable personalities in the Canberra scene, and his personability is infectious. Angie Drake had been in the political scene for many years, and as well as supporting me by buying a magazine, she was responsive to so many of my suggestions about how Canberra should improve and grow. I felt like I knew the community scene better than these politicians, despite their experience, because I hung around there all day and talked with so many of the locals. One woman told me she enjoyed talking with me better, and that comment made me a little satisfied.

But I must say my competition became a lot more intense one day, with the appearance of a young boy lugging a guitar about as big as himself. He was a little cutie and his energy in playing and singing were smashing. Some people have the ability to part the Red Sea or move mountains; this boy’s brave rendition of something from Australian Idol seemed to have it all. I told him he should be on community radio – that was my idea, because I’d worked there and knew he could change the music scene in Australia forever.

5 THE BEGGAR AND THE FUNERAL

I had a pretty good run-in with the Canberra public. Although I copped a few insults in my early days, especially by people who had fixed ideas about what the magazine represented, my impression of the public was that they were 98 percent decent.

One of main people whom I often had to share my selling space with was Dale, a beggar. Like many other cultural changes that were occurring in my active presence, I suspected that he had been drawn in by my stirrings of the public and wanted to take advantage of the so-called “other” side of the market—those who took pity on a beggar. Those who chose to ignore me (and my version of poverty), could turn their attention to Dale.

Dale found begging to be a convenience, and it seems that because no one was helping him to get a better job, he found begging lucrative enough to keep at it for quite some months. In our initial meetings we chatted and curiously he knew me by my formal first name, Marcus, rather than my preferred name, Marc. During his first few stints, he sported his relish and delight at the donations that were handed onto him by strangers who didn’t think any better: sleeping bags, pastries, other bags of food, and of course money. In many cases, Dale got the largest donations of money because, looking at him, people thought that he really needed it, for finding a place to sleep. So they gave him ten or twenty or fifty dollars, thinking that after doing that he would move on, maybe get a home or go to the charities.

Dale was a casual liar, and this obviously involved quite a bit of skill. As well as having the typical beggar’s cardboard sign, he had a long story about being mistreated and unable to find decent accommodation. And he never showed anybody how much money he had.

*          *          *

During my early busking days before The Big Issue, I became familiar with Eddie, a vendor who usually ranked third or fourth in sales. He was the man who would come to my hat and put perhaps a small amount in it, three or four times in a short period of time. Eddie had a large bulging forehead and a mild comicality; after I had established myself as a vendor, late in our relationship he became a bit competitive, but usually ready for a pleasant chat.

A bit controversially, my support worker Ron reported that Eddie had had a heart attack and died while selling The Big Issue. Someone else had said that the heart attack was caused by the fact that Eddie had returned to his belongings at his normal place of sales and found them missing. It was all confusing to me, and I wished that the truth be known, but I had many mysterious happenings in my own personal life and this was only one of them.

Eddie’s funeral was the first I ever attended, and it was attended by many of the vendors and close community. Eddie’s death was a reminder of how short life could be, and in many ways how we would fail to achieve everything before we died. A bit strangely, The Big Issue is bugged periodically—I would say, with surprising frequency—with the death of some vendor, as reported in the magazine. With a hint of sadness, I imagine that many vendors aren’t treated very well or aren’t able to enjoy life fully before they pass away. Without forgetting to feel sad for Eddie, from now on I had less competition from the vendors and more vacant places to sell.

6 SPRUIKING, AND HOW TO BE CHARMING

Due to my increasing success with The Big Issue, I feel that many people would start to ask me, a bit suspectfully: “Now…how do you do so well at your business?” And it is difficult for me to reply, because I’m naturally not a very popular or confident person.

I have a very strong idea that all people like to be met with someone who is bold and yet courteous. A hearty “Good Morning!” is the best way to let passers-by know that you are more than the paint drying on the wall. More than just selling a magazine, selling The Big Issue is fundamentally about selling yourself. You are the vendor; YOU are the one who has a disability or no money or a terrible family. YOU are the one who gives a shit about the situation that your life has been placed in.

I have a great subtext going on (or, if you like, the words that are always circulating about in my head), which is, “I have been unemployed for 10 years, and I’m here to show you that I’m not going to say die! If you have ears, and if you have tears, prepare to use them on me now!” In the back of  my mind, I’m always thinking of new things to say, which will shock, excite or enlighten whoever hears it next.

So, rather than just being funny, the aim of your game is to GET THE SALE. If you’re trying very hard to sell something to someone, the humour will start to come out automatically. If you’re good at making jokes, then go for it. Or, if you’re a great listener, listen to the great stories that people have to tell you, and then give yourself the chance to tell them something—about your magazine—back.

Many corporate executives will tell you that they want their company to be all things to all people, and The Big Issue is no loser in this regard. The Big Issue is written by world-class journalists and the material that it publishes is, in many ways, what everybody aspires to. If you’re interested in the state of the world, or politics, or some cultural quirk, or the changes that occur in our society, you’re sure to find relevance in the magazine. As a seller, don’t just know the information…actually use it, and if necessary, show it to the potential buyer, so that they know what they’re missing out on if they don’t buy the magazine.

Sometimes, you will insult people no matter how hard you try to avoid it. If you accidentally annoy someone, be a bit apologetic and keep your mouth shut until they have moved on. With practice, you will learn to gauge how much to say to each person that passes by. But in all cases, because your objective is to sell, you are much better off saying something than nothing at all.

7 GETTING PUBLISHED

As a tribute to the great variety of people that I met during my selling days, I wrote my short essay “Box of Unusual People” and sent it to my boss Julie. She thought it was great. It became my first ever contribution to The Big Issue, published in issue 386, and it paid me about $40. Essentially my essay glorified the role of the street vendor and the observations that he makes everyday, and this theme was especially pertinent in an issue regarding homelessness. Customers were delighted to read a magazine in which I had been published!

I feel that the homeless often watch-on while money makes the world go round. Beggars are common in the larger Australian cities and I guess that what they lack more than anything is not always food or clothing but the motivation to get on with their lives and make something of each new day. From my experience, the magic formula for helping these people seems to be, not just provisions, but real love plus education to do something in the most positive fashion.

Remember, too, that before I began selling The Big Issue, I was in a similar position financially and spiritually. My self-esteem had been wretched and I lacked the vision to see that anything could possibly be different.

Only about six weeks later, I was published again, in issue 389, and my effort was paid $50. The major topic of this issue was dementia, and my “list of things you can still buy in Australia for a dollar” made it onto one of the magazine’s fun pages. The list seemed to have supplanted the contribution of the magazine’s normal columnist, known as the List Operators, and I suspect that Julie’s claim that these people were “on leave” was a bit too euphemistic.

I have been published in two other issues, 404 and 412. Issue 404 was editor Alan Attwood’s major attempt to popularise the issues relating to mental illness, especially when The Big Issue’s previous attempt a few years ago had failed rather miserably. My new article, ‘Creatively Therapeutic’, for which I was paid $300, was instrumental to the success of 404, as it described how as an involuntary patient I was distracted from my sorrows by the activities offered in the psychiatric ward. But there was some phenomenal writing by other writers in that magazine, and mine was by no means the clear winner.

Rather than glorifying movie stars and music stars as The Big Issue is wont to do most of the time, the magazine developed a very sharp ethical focus at about issue 404. From issue 400 (education), there were issues about the overuse of technology, the achievements of disabled persons, wildlife conservation, and feminism. Previous to all of these, issue 380 dealt superbly with the vegetarian diet. Some of the cultural advances promoted by the magazine were staggering, and I wanted to be a part of what I felt should be a cultural upheaval.

Over the last 15 months since I was last published in 412, I have tried very hard to get more ethically interested articles published. I really feel that the public should be educated, and that my (OUR) magazines provide the impetus to create lasting social improvement. Some of my recent submissions include names such as “Doing good in a post-draconian culture” and “Goody Goody Two Shoes“. But so far, despite my keenness, I am without success. Perhaps the editors see me as just an Asian eccentric.

8 FURTHER AFIELD – SELLING IN SYDNEY AND MELBOURNE

From Julie my manager in Canberra, news of my amazing sales spread to Sydney and Melbourne. Julie had told me of another very successful seller in Melbourne, who was used to selling 900 mags a fortnight, but her reports are questionable and may have been intended just to motivate me.

One morning, anxious to avoid the pryings of Mental Health authority in Canberra, I announced to Julie and Ron that I was leaving. My expectation, based on statistics that Julie had shared with me, was that Sydney and Melbourne were better places to sell.

The Sydney staff, when I arrived, were also fantastically friendly, and they agreed to take me on. I marvelled at Sydney: more clutter, taller buildings, people going about in every direction. But as I stood outside Pitt Street Mall for the first couple of hours, I slowly realised that I had presumed too much. Instead of the usual eight or nine sales an hour, I was lucky to get three or four. I wasn’t getting that much attention.

A few weeks later, with heartache, I made up my mind to return to Canberra. Canberra’s crowd had a “secret formula” for my successes so far that I didn’t fully understand. I did of course have my own suspicions that the crowd was being “controlled” by some technological modelling force (and I have written extensively on the subject). But I would have to persist in Canberra, because it was the only place that seemed to work.

Figuring out what made Canberrans more likely to buy The Big Issue had become one of my greatest intellectual challenges. From now on, moving to Sydney or Melbourne constituted some grave risk which could make or break me as a seller. I stayed on in Canberra until I had worked in The Big Issue for 15 months. Then, in April 2012, I made a new move to Melbourne.

This time, I was determined to succeed. With Melbourne’s larger crowds, and greater abundance of distractions, I quickly learned that I needed to spruik louder and more persistently than I had ever done before. Whereas in Canberra I could get by with a repetition of happy “Good Morning!”s, in Melbourne city I had to shout myself dry and distract the crowds. I yelled as strongly as I could about the issues that The Big Issue was presenting. I followed people up and down the street, waving and flapping my magazine until they paid me attention. I crept up behind people as they were standing at the traffic lights, and asked them were they interested?! My “Hustle and Bustle” technique of selling became the subject of a passage that I contributed (in cooperation with writer Sophie Quick) to The Big Issue 412. Although I kept my voice in check, I have to admit that my legs and feet were getting incredibly sore as I was still working typically six hours a day. My only other choice would have been to admit defeat and earn only just enough to pay for my accommodation (about $30 or $40 a day). Remember, I was still staying at the most basic accommodation, such as hostels and the cheapest hotels. Every day I knew that I was fighting to keep Melbourne a viable place to sell my magazines.

After about six weeks, tired and worn out, I finally gave up the fight and returned to sell in Canberra. In some way, despite the attritional losses, I had managed to prove to myself that yes, I could sell successfully in Melbourne. But, as far as I am aware, I was by no means the clear top seller wherever I wanted to be. Melbourne was extremely competitive and, although the city is so beautiful to be a part of, the demands of selling are so much higher. Boy, I wish I was fit and could keep up the energy level all day!

9 THE BIG ISSUE COMPANY IN MELBOURNE

The famous names that you read in the frontispiece of any copy of The Big Issue are real people in Melbourne, which is where The Big Issue was initiated in Australia. I was keen to meet them and discover “the works”, in the sense of seeing how everything came together.

The people were quite wonderful, and I must say, exactly as I might have imagined they would be. They were proficient and professional without being pedantic or pretentious; they were typical Aussie without the patriotism or overpoliteness; and there was always something going on. Other than the inconspicuous Finance Manager I was the only Asian there, and I did not notice any Aborigines (although I may have liked to). I also met with volunteers from our sponsor organisation.

I feel slightly embarrassed suggesting that I had “fun” talking with writer Sophie Quick, but she will admit that she’s an interesting and sexy person and I could hardly distract myself from her to speak with my other friend there, Owen the vendor. Sophie read me well—maybe too well—and the only thing I didn’t communicate with her was my desire for a more respected (and, as I saw it, less strenuous) position in The Big Issue hierarchy. Although a classic vendor for my style and vivacity, I wouldn’t say that vending is my cup of tea. If only Sophie would see eye to eye with me, she would know that my real interests lay in creativity: writing, producing, innovating.

I suggested to Sophie that we should co-create an article on music, the greatest passion in my life. Feeling tormented, I opened my heart and mentioned all my ambitions and all my dreams to her. I didn’t want to just be the Asian guy who turns up every now and again to provide a bit of exotic experience. I wanted my own regular feature in The Big Issue (I would have called it “Tales of Splendour from a Big Issue Vendor”) and I wanted the magazine to innovate dramatically with my original ideations.

Although my heart burns with desire, I don’t know how strongly my desires are understood. I continue to be undervalued by The Big Issue editorial, and I have, as I mentioned, not been published for more than 15 months. Many of my newly written articles are unapologetically technical and concept-orientated, which would surely throw a lot of readers. But I’m really, really hoping to break into The Big Issue’s sense of goodwill and forward-looking qualities. I want the magazine to change and grow.

Please, please give me a chance.

10 BEING ARRESTED BY POLICE

In a story that is so happily intent on telling the successes of my sales, it is difficult for me to relate my sadness in the actions of the Australian police. The police and the Mental Health authority in Canberra (and elsewhere) have been pestering my life since May 2005. The police have arrested me four times during my selling stints, in full view of the public, leading to my captivity in hospital and forced, misappropriated medical treatment including involuntary drugging. I strongly object to their manner of dealing with helpless individuals such as myself.

Although Mental Health has accused me many times of being mentally ill, my consistent ability to sell The Big Issue is convincing proof that I suffer nothing like that. Over the years, most of my suffering has specifically been caused by my father, the police and Mental Health authority.

11 THE BODY SHOP, and MY SECRET LIFE OF FAME

Most days that I have to pick up magazine supplies, I visit what you might call the official distributor of The Big Issue, The Body Shop. The girls (and a few guys) who work at these various branches are stylish and sensible, and I enjoy drifting into their “exhibitionistic” displays and smelling all the various skin and body-cleansing products on sale.

The professional relationship that I have with these people makes suggestions of love (and dare I say it, sex) too awkward to mention, so I go on with my humble life as a virgin none the wiser. Many times that I go there, I fall in love but keep it to myself. This semi-introverted behaviour seems to have been part of the inspiration for Gotye’s hit song “Somebody that I Used to Know”, circulated in The Big Issue 411. Whenever I enter The Body Shop, I try and stay as cool and collected as I can, and even if I’m buying 100 magazines, I will not show a hint of surprise.

I admit that I hate Gotye’s song and wish that my love life could be really passionate, but I have not been able to overcome all the problems in my life so that I would feel enabled to pursue a “romantic” type of lifestyle. In other miscellaneous ways, the culture of The Big Issue magazine has struck a resonance with me, or puffed up my ego in making me believe that people are using my ideas. For example, although my contributions were never acknowledged, Alan Attwood’s writings on “Driven to Distraction by Technology” (The Big Issue 406) seem to have been precipitated by a submission on that topic that I sent in a few weeks earlier. Also, I once believed that I was the origin of many of the ideas for Warner Bros’ new Superman movie, “Man of Steel” (publicised in The Big Issue 425). Of course, I had a great experience selling and spruiking this kind of thematic magazine.

However, the pain of being accused of paranoia over such things is far too great and I must confess that I do not understand everything about what God intends for me. So I do not presume that I will ever become rich and famous, even if many would say that I am already famous. On a more realistic level, my vendor profile was published in an issue of the South Sydney Morning Herald (circulation: 10 thousand) and there would probably be many people who learnt about me—the real me—by reading that.

12 SAYING THANKYOU

A lot of people who have witnessed me selling and spruiking The Big Issue think that I’m a strange sort of character, but at least as many have seen through the deception and told me straight, “Keep it up; you are doing a good job.” Like many people who work long hours with a real focus on customer service, I have a great appetite for feedback in the form of appreciation and gratitude, and I generally feel that I don’t get enough of it. I strongly remember the relatively small number of people who have praised and thanked me for my humour as much as my dedication to selling. My manager in Canberra, David, is one other person whom I feel has not been cherished for all the good times and bad times where he has stuck up for me and my rights, read my emails and thoughtfully offered solutions to my long-term problems.

Having said that, it goes without saying that I value negative feedback as well. No crowd should ever be 100 percent satisfied, and along the road I’ve made plenty of stuffups. It’s been a different day everyday, and every day a new opportunity to learn.

It would be wrong to suggest that I sell The Big Issue only for the money. I feel that I am also making a huge statement to society, to underscore the point that an intelligent and purposeful person such as me must suffer the hours of drudgery of selling magazines, a pretty menial job compared to the jobs of so many university graduates and family business owners. By transforming the most basic of selling jobs into a wonderfully entertaining street act, and sharing the real issues that are portrayed in the magazine content, I am in my own way conducting public opinion to rethink and reinvent itself. That includes so many of the semi-satisfied office workers who have jobs in one of those high-rise buildings, or elsewhere, whom I hope will be surprised that such a basic and seemingly meaningless job could have so much lasting significance.

Nowadays, whenever I hook up to a computer I usually start by plugging my ears with a music video by Coldplay, entitled “Sky Full of Stars”. A close look at the lyrics of this song shows a surprising relevance to my reality of street vending, and even better was that the video was filmed on King Street Newtown, Australia, the street where I had so much sales success at one stage in the years 2013 and thereabouts. The list of acknowledgements for the video demonstrated that there were many others who shine in accolades; who together transformed King Street into a place where love could flourish.

2013-14 was also the year that Creative Avenue film production paid a visit to The Big Issue and created a film for submission to Tropfest, entitled “Under the Vest”. The crew included some of our nation’s high-prestige graduates who were looking for a way to preserve the memories of The Big Issue’s way of life, and attempt to give vendors of The Big Issue such as me the recognition that they deserve.

13 THE YEARS AHEAD

Selling The Big Issue has paved the way for my future. Although I do not feel that I have helped to solve many of the world’s greatest problems, I have hope that The Big Issue will become a source of inspiration that will encourage you and I to help others in need, including the disabled, homeless and underprivileged.

Rather than feeling underprivileged, I feel extremely privileged to be part of The Big Issue team. I feel excited that I may positively influence the culture of readers in Australia. And I certainly hope that you, too, will join in the fun.

See you some day, when you can come to buy my magazine!

Best wishes.

******************************************************************************

 

Nov
22

It is bad luck, when seeing others creating bridges to help someone in need, to simply walk straight past.

That last sentence is not a quote, but if it were a Chinese or Hindu proverb or some such, perhaps it would have greater weight and meaning.

Beggars often accumulate on the sloping street going down to the Queen Street Mall area. There’s a lot of passing pedestrian traffic. Today I saw something quite unusual: a young woman, part of a group of four Japanese youngsters, crouching down and stroking the shoulder of a lone man who was obviously decrepit and in very very bad shape.

When you see something like that, a million thoughts pass through your mind, most of them rather unpleasant. Where is the man from? Is he dangerous? Would he hurt me if I approached him? Is he really poor, or just hiding a fortune behind his back? What would happen if I decided to give him something? Would he spend it all on drugs, cigarettes and gambling?

Very few people do give. There are too many variables involved. Of the few that decide to open their wallets, even fewer are able to open their hearts and their minds to this strange man, with a withered face and frown. It’s embarrassing to kneel down and place anything in his hat.

But knowing that it was bad luck to pass by, when clearly others were trying to help and console him, my walking slowed to a stop a matter of ten metres down the road. I knew that I should have to do something.

A lot of people were coming down the slope now, oblivious to this man, and just across the road there were a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses with their booklet stand. Christians they were, but obviously incapacitated by their own religion and above helping this man.

I always carry with me a couple of my own self-written newsletters which I share with others that I meet. It can be great conversation material. The one that I almost always have with me is about veganism and “The Dramatic Life of Meateaters”. Essentially it is reading about how having a plant-based diet is cheaper (for beggars too of course) and much healthier than having any meat, dairy or egg products.

I readied myself and started to walk back up the slope. The man, perhaps fortunately, was not looking straight at me, or I would have been rather embarrassed.

I bent down to speak. “How are you?” He nodded vaguely, managing a smile.

I knew that I had to be quick. “I’ve got a bit of money for you,” I said, placing two dollars in his cap. It was the only spare change I had. “And—I’ve got a newsletter. If you like reading. I wrote it myself.”

I could see that he was gentle enough, but he said very little if anything. Immediately, though, he took up the newsletter and began to open it for the read. I backed away and tottered off back down the slope, feeling a bit shaky of course, but glad that I had at least made a difference to the life of this strange man.

A couple of questions formed in my mind. Firstly, why is it usually or always women who make the effort to reach out to these kinds of people?

The answer I found to this question is a bit ironic, and a bit simple. Humans are naturally drawn with their sexual feelings toward each other, even to express love and kindness. Hence it is the most common and commodious dichotomy to have a man approached by a woman, and not by another man. Some women are remarkably empathetic and kind, not all and perhaps even not many, but there are some who are able to feel compassion and love to a high and mature degree.

Secondly, when there is a communication gap in such situations, what’s the best way to interact with the person in need?

The answers to this question are not simple.

I invite YOU the reader to think about them, and let your spirit guide your actions!

MARCUS LOW was a Big Issue street sales vendor and busker during the years 2010 to 2017. He knows how tough life on the streets really is, and hopes to reach out to as many people as possible to help the genuinely poor, disabled, weak and underprivileged. Please don’t just walk past.

Nov
05

Here’s the thing about news media: it teaches us to be afraid of certain things, without really teaching us why.

And here’s my example: pedophilia. I’ve been a lover of children for a long time, and although I may well enjoy having sexual intercourse with a child if given the opportunity, I have learned by rote that pedophilia is utterly and convincingly WRONG. So even though I don’t know why, I shut the fuck up. And zip the fuck up.

Many observers, including those working in the Mental Health sector, have reinforced this self-hatred in me, accusing me of harming or shaming small boys and girls, without knowing the full extent of my love for the same beings.

The same news reporters and naysayers who decry pedophilia and detest the loving sexual feelings of pedophiles are also hard-pressed to change their minds about bestiality. If we were to examine the explorations of the human mind over millennia, we would notice something very strange going on.

The Victorians, for example, are known to have admonished sex entirely. Sex is dirty, they said. And society believed them, for a very very long time.

What is (almost randomly in some cases) inserted into the Holy Bible also prevents us from free thinking: for Jesus himself said: “He who looks upon another with desire has sinned already, in his heart.”

What can we conclude? In the words of some great or not so great leader: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” In other words, those fears that we do have are caused and propagated by certain wide-eyed, loudmouthed naysayers of our society, and cause us to shy away from certain explorations or evolutions of the human mind.

The human mind is remarkably small, in the abstract sense. It can’t think well much of the time, because it is subject to so many external and internal forces. Most people’s minds are conditioned from their earliest years, and as much as we try to escape and explore adulthood, the impression of those earliest years is almost always still there.

Indeed, humans have rightly been called “genitals on legs”. Many are merely interested in sexual intercourse, and only if they understand it to be proper to the society and occasion in which they function. Nevermind if there are others—recluses, outcasts, vagabonds—who are disadvantaged by exactly the same presumptions. A man’s (and even many a woman’s) virility is determined first and foremost by his or her sexual prowess. If you do not have sex, you are not living the dream.

Those social occupations that bring us all together as humans—eating food, engaging in sports and activities, including hunting, and such things as drinking alcohol or taking drugs—also bind us to celebrate togetherness without which we immediately feel inadequate. In 2018, we now have developed a cool culture that the new Millennial generation are struggling to acclimatise to, but are forced to comply with and cherish as their own. It has been a miracle that in the scope of the last few decades, an acknowledgement of the sexual feelings of the LGBTI community has emerged, and then only because the numbers were there to vocalise adequate protestations. The point is: our primal brains are so small that without social validation, we cannot even acknowledge sexual feelings for other species without feeling embarrassed.

As a virgin for almost 40 years, I’ve come to realise that there are very, very few people who care about my sexual feelings. This shortcoming is deniable by one of the truest, most noble people I have met, named Ryan. Between myself and Ryan there is no sexual love, but rather a vicarious love in which there is no embarrassment in expressing exactly how we feel about each other. Ryan’s honesty is the best thing about him; but without his empathetic interest in others, he would still be a nobody. Among almost all my other friends, family and acquaintances, there are rampant feelings of fear, anxiety and even hate. The chance of these people understanding my fears is very small. Seeing the fear in others when we do not possess it ourselves is very, very rare.

Now, here’s the thing. Nothing between us goes unsaid. If one of us is unhappy, we speak about it. Ryan was one of the first, and will not be the last, to express that society conditions us to behave and think in certain ways, and the only way to break free of that is to act weird and wild at the very best opportunities.

So what I said about the lacklustre and disappointing evolution of the human brain and mind applies here. I truly and honestly believe that it’s time to break down the barriers between humans and other animals. And that means using all our energy—including our sexual energy—to love animals in the only way that some of us know how: through our genital organs.

The exercise may well be thought of as a psychological one. And it may well cause harm, if done improperly. But it will teach us some very important lessons: most of all, it will teach us how to deal with our fears and how they are tied to our social constructs. Something that we heard on television, something that we read in the newspaper, something that our grandmother scolded us with or told us. We need to forget that, and learn to love afresh.

Now, I’m not advocating that everyone have sex with animals. What I am advocating is the advantages of wanting and imagining that kind of weird sexual experience. Oscar Wilde once said approximately: “The only way to get rid of the evils of temptation is to succumb to it.” We can start off by doing it vicariously, and letting the desire take full command of itself. And I can assure you, that once these seeds are planted in our brains, many of the carnists who denied that animals deserve justice will become animal-lovers overnight. But we need to be breaking the rules, in order to find ourselves.

This principle of weirdness is not new. The LGBTI community has used it to great advantage. Now their weirdness is seen, at best, as being virile, fashionable and desirable. And so, even though we will and must ultimately leave the animals alone to nature, having sexual feelings about them is absolutely not going to harm anybody.

At the moment, the vegan movement is experiencing some trepidation and pause, because vegans are seen (and often see themselves) as weak, rather than masculine, courageous, loving, kind and noble. The term “animal lovers” is a term often easily used with mockery, and makes all vegans want to shut up and close shop, rather than expressing those inner feelings and letting them out.

For sake of our livelihoods, the animals and the planet, it’s time to realise that we are masters of our minds, and not their servants.

MARC-US LOW is an Earthling, a writer and an innovator of the mind.

Sep
21

The concept of having everything in moderation is an old one, but nobody has really set the record straight.

Moderation in DIET

“Everything in moderation” appears most often in health circles, I believe, and espouses that everything that we eat should be eaten in moderation. But the vast majority of health professionals know that this is not true. Even those dieticians who espouse the food pyramid scheme of eating know that if you are eating as much fat as you are vitamins and nutrients, your “everything in moderation” argument is blown out of the window. For a long time, society has been taught that eating “moderate” quantities of meat products is also nourishing, until it was realised by vegans that these meats are as carcinogenic as smoking.

The best research now agrees that a full plant-based diet is best for human health. So the “everything in moderation” argument does not hold here.

Over many generations, the human body can adapt. In this way, sometimes a deficiency in certain nutrients can force the body to be less dependent on specific food sources if ever these were to become scarce. In purely scientific terms, it remains unclear what nutrients caused the human mind to become so sophisticated and cognitively (but not so much emotionally) intelligent: but there are lessons to be learned from that developmental history.

What about other things in life? What about MONEY and FRIENDS?

It is a truth that if a small fortune, say $10 thousand, is given to a poor person, that amount of money has a huge impact on him or her. The joy of having that money is obvious, and that person will likely make significant lifestyle changes as a result of having just that small fortune. But if you were to give the same amount to someone who is already a millionaire, the impact is far less. Most likely the millionaire will ignore that contribution as rather meaningless. And that is why, in regards to money, the “everything in moderation” rule does have merit.

This is the reason that many rich people choose to dress humbly: because in order to experience the high of being rich under the surface, appearance and reality mean less than what’s in the bank account.

However, it’s also clear that those who seem excessively rich are also inspiring to those who have very little. Hence, if everyone were to have exactly the same amount of money, the system would be entirely socialist and society would possibly lack the “frisson”, or moving-power, to produce new inventions or keep reinventing itself.

Now, it’s the same with friends. Jay Shetty and others will have pointed out that if you have no friends, having just one good friend would make a huge difference. But if you have many friends, like some of my friends on Facebook who have literally 5000, the value of each friend is diminished.

I have subsisted throughout my Facebook career with the meagre quantity of 80 friends, and that is why each of those friends means much more to me than to someone who is extremely popular.

What about the occupation of WRITING?

Although I can feel bored of writing at times, that boredom is fleeting and I still aspire to longer forms of writing, for example writing a novel as I have never been able to do previously. Therefore, the general rule of moderating my writing experiences simply doesnt make sense.

However, it being well-known that READING is a benefit to people generally, it would seem to be wise to invest a fair proportion of my time reading in order to inform my WRITING.

What about PERSONALITY?

This is the hardest of all categories to analyse. Mutant humans can produce amazing and valuable results to the human species. When I was a kid, I used to “chuck spasms” which showed me off as charismatic but also prone to social misadjustment. This made me unique but also caused me to endure many years of loneliness.

If everyone in society were exactly the same–thought the same way, believed exactly the same things–surely that would be boring. But it would certainly not be so lonely. A modern-day example is people who read the bible too much. Doubtless these people infatuate themselves greatly by doing so, but their disconnect with the real world causes culture shocks that invigorate the mind and cause different types of cognitive dissonance.

It is those people whose opinions are the most outlandish that often hold the greatest value as human beings. As Shakespeare said, “there is method to (this) madness”. I believe that my writings are of pioneer quality, but because they are so advanced they are not for popular appeal. So be it.

What about SEX?

I have heard that there are some people who have been “addicted” to sex, and on some level their disconnect with the real world has been a bane on society. However, I believe that sex is one of God’s greatest gifts. Having plenty of sex is a blessing.

Conclusion

So, dear friends, having everything in moderation is certainly not wise. There are some things that we should have none of, and some things that would be nice but are not necessary to have abundantly. Perhaps the only thing we can humbly conclude is that “only a moderate number of things should be had in moderation…certainly less than everything”. QED.

Aug
24

“I’m happy because I’m forced to be.”

Imagine living in a world where if you express that you are sad—depressed, suicidal, morose—you will be put under observation. If you complain too many times—maybe once, maybe two, three, four times—you get forced into mental hospital.

But not just any mental hospital, but a high dependency unit where everything that gave you comfort in the real world–the sights and smells of your own house, clean comfortable clothing, your own meals and choice of food–is also taken away from you, and replaced by a blank, sterile room with an obscured window showing almost nothing of the outside world. The room and walls smell like alcohol and cleaning fluid. The window is bolted and cannot be opened. You are forced to eat, and forced to eat the mushy food prepared for you. You are forced to wear a shabby hospital gown just big enough to cover your private parts, and then only if you fuss about with the cumbersome gown to make it fit.

Just outside your room is a common area shared by a number of louts and imbeciles. The way that they cry out, or yell, or scream, is like a public swimming pool of hell. They are disruptive and unpredictable. They might throw food or bash their fists on the walls to demand things. Even though you need water in copious amounts, it’s given out a cupful at a time from the nurse’s window. When you finally find the common toilet, you realise that the smell that rises from it is the ineradicable smell of excrement. The taps are small knobs that provide a pathetic trickle of water, so it’s hard to wash your hands.

You don’t know how long you’ll be here. No one told you your rights. You don’t know why you’re here. You remember the movie scenes in Terminator 2, and know that you’re being monitored through cameras. But because the technology is great, you don’t know how it’s done and you have every reason to feel that the nurses and staff will lie to you.

For the past several years your parents despised and excommunicated you, even though you were forced to live in the same house as them. In silent protest you started on a fasting diet, which if your parents found out about would have landed you straight in hospital. In this world, you cannot protest. You cannot fast, weep, follow the ways of Jesus. You must act normal, and if you do not, you will be incarcerated.

Imagine also that you are injected with psychiatric drugs. Imagine that these drugs fuck with your frontal lobe, so that you cannot use your imagination, think widely or laterally, or so much as hate anyone. You feel the limpness of your own body. You have nothing to do except sleep, and the unconsciousness of sleep brings comfort. Your designated psychiatrist and his team enter your room, to ask you how you are, and even though you’re fully aware of how much they are tossers, you choose to ignore them. So they regard you as lacking insight. It is not so much that you cannot answer, but if you will not answer, you lack insight and you will be detained further. They leave the room, scheduled to return in a week’s time.

These memories will stay with you, because every time you are injected, every time a tablet is forced into you, your hate for the system and the staff is renewed. There is no end to the treatment. Your very blood, your very flesh, is contaminated; and this in turn contaminates your soul and will detain you in this hellish place on earth–either physically, or mentally when you are eventually allowed to leave.

MARCUS LOW has been an involuntary mental hospital patient on seventeen occasions. Since becoming an involuntary mental health client in May 2005 he has been forced to take hundreds of unnecessary injections and tablets, including tablets intended to cure the depression caused by the mental health system. He continues to live every day in morbid fear of being rearrested by the police.

Dec
11

MARCUS LOW discovers that the library is a place of books, as well as people.

As I breeze into the public library, I often elide considerations of how much effort is put into its design. I think it’s just a public amenity. The choice of chairs, the wall-hangings, the displays, the toilets (ahem) and of course the books themselves. There is a policy on what they hold…

As I sit down into the low chair (there are low chairs and high chairs, a bit like an extraterrestrial bar) I begin to notice the other occupants. There’s not much space and time to observe everyone without looking like a stickybeak. Computers are wonderful things: the screen lights up, the cursor is flashing. To be afforded a space at a computer in a public building is quite the privilege.

But in the hour that I spend in there, my peripheral awareness begins to flower. At once I notice a man whom I suspect of autism staring at the screen. He’s half-bald, looks old-ish, maybe forty, but his fascination with how the keys are typed onto the screen is like that of a young child. His fascination is infectious, and I can hardly contain my interest in what ever word he is typing so slowly. It reminds me of my father’s chubby fingers whom I used to press when I was a child in his lap. Then there are the people playing the pokies. I don’t know what site they are logged onto, but they must have got the name from a good place. It’s not officially disallowed to gamble here, although in some libraries it is. It’s only when I see a girl prop her legs up on the desk as a form of comfort, as she presses the wheel button, that I feel it may be going a little too far.

My powers of deduction tell me that the library must be a sometime refuge for the homeless, but I certainly don’t notice anyone looking unkempt. It’s where you can find comfort but according to the rules not get too comfortable. Dazed by the imagery of a book of poetry, I shut my eyes for a second and already a smartly suited employee walks past to wake me up. Yes, these security personnel get paid for so much as a second of their time.

As I reach again for the book, the peace I feel, despite being caught out, is the peace of a man surrounded by books. As we are taught, books are objects of wonder which allow us such a great quality of life. We use our imagination to create wars, sex and adventure when the real world will not let us. The ambitions that we hold to read, write and get published are quintessential to the mature and reasonable human psyche. Indeed, the typical library user that you encounter is usually well-educated and naturally savvy (regardless of whether he did well at school). Perhaps, however, the uneducated (or undereducated) class is still underrepresented in a library. The autistic man I saw earlier is a real gem.

He takes me back to observing the people at the computers. Even though everyone there is behaving in a civilised way, there is one man who is laughing—struggling to contain his mirth. He’s spiffling and wiping his hand over his mouth as if half-conscious of his impolitenesses. It’s usually a moment in a song or movie that does that to you.

He notices me notice him, and then he does something that surprises me. From his breast pocket he removes a small book and offers it to me with a pen. “Here. Write in this. It’s my memento.” Before knowing exactly what I’m doing, I scribble a few kind words and the name of my website. That and the words: “Keep laughing.”

And I see a woman wearing a large set of headphones, tears rolling down her cheeks as she is rivetted to the chair watching the operatic ‘NessunDorma’. How can we possibly understand what is going on in her mind, and thereby find the limits of human ideation?

Mar
12

1 Defend and support the needs of the weak: those who are physically weak, who may be deaf, blind, elderly, or underprivileged; those who are mentally disabled; those who are distressed, depressed or anxious; those who have a long history of deprivation; those who are unable to make wise choices for themselves.

2 Help those who are encountering problems and need assistance to know who can help them. Understand that money is often the first thing that people ask for, and have an idea what you can do to assist or guide when this happens.

3 Encourage positive sentiments and be impressionable and patient to negative ones. Avoid reinforcing bad attitude and unnecessary fears, such as by threatening people with harsh fines or severe penalties. When times are down, don’t express yourself by being aggressive or antagonistic. Instead read Ruth in the bible and learn about the charity work of proud long-standing organisations such as the Salvation Army.

4 Explain the law simply and carefully and why it is necessary to people inclined to challenge it; use clear signs and well-written information brochures as a means to encourage interest and enquiry.

5 Set an example and set a standard in good behaviour, good style and wise decision-making.

6 Set clear standards and special protective measures for young people, under the age of 18 (21 in the United States). Ensure that the sources of information and inspiration that these people are exposed to are diligent, fair-minded and thought-provoking. Realise that there are youths who experiment in esoteric experiences and learn to respect them and teach them to educate themselves in fair behaviours. Be aware of the social issues relating to drug-addiction; weapons posession; bullying and isolation; and social inequalities.

7 Be the first recipient of new ideas for social improvement. Congratulate those who have vision and motivation to help the situation. Reward and requite people who have made the effort to write and express their views.

8 Help to create and engender good feeling, good attitudes and good bonds between families, within schools, between small businesses and governments; and between larger businesses, their employees and governments.

9 Specialise in knowing what to do with people who own animals; be particularly aware of people who breed them and the inclination for animals to be less well-treated than humans.

10 Encourage an interest in good literature, such as reading Roald Dahl’s The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. Some of Dahl’s other stories, such as The Silversmith, are also quite entertaining. Make the choice to avoid reading material that is frightening or horrifying beyond the call of reality.

Read those important documents that create a framework for national pride such as the United Nations Charter of Human Rights. Learn from history and how the world and the nation of Australia has emerged from a history of terrible conflict, social prejudice, wars, famines, epidemics and various forms of disaster.

Let us never forget the value and the salvation of peace.

11 Be aware of the issues relating to the use and development of technology: how dangerous it can be; how it can be pirated; how it can cause people stress and even be the cause of violence. Knowing the full history of a person and having that information stored in a computer or computers can have very strong anti-karmatic effects and cause (in the metaphorical sense) suffocation, leading to thoughts of paranoia, suicide, self-harm and vindictive attitudes.

12 Be mindful of the power of prayer, reflection and rememberance. Every week, despite how easy it is to forget when others around us also forget, make time to attend Church, or to pray and be completely at peace and at rest for at least an hour or two on the weekend.

We celebrate Australia Day every year; we also celebrate and commiserate those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the welfare of the nation. But most of all we can choose to seek salvation in God himself, who is the origin of all benevolence and the resources of the Earth, and in Jesus Christ his son who taught us how to live our lives with truth, forbearance, honesty and love.

13 Be a friend and a human. Humans express their friendliness by such behaviours as smiling, hugging, talking, sharing and being together and telling stories and jokes, and expressing their discomforts and fears as much as their enthusiasms. If you have lost the power to do any of these things, you have lost the ability to call yourself a human being. Pray to God to endow you with the gift of being human and humanising your experiences with others, every hour and every day.

14 Never stop learning about the cultures that make-up our society and the traditions that give it significance. Be wise about Aboriginal culture and its inherent conflicts with the cultures of development originating from the Western civilised world. Let us be sorry for the plight of the Aborigines and yet realise that we must make decisions that best negotiate between the inherent conflicts of two or more existing cultures.

Dec
16

1 Write to Centrelink and ask if they have any street scouts

2 Write to the Board of Education and ask if they have any middle-of-day activities for vagrants, or the option to join Falun Dafa

3 Write to Salvos and St Vinnies and ask if they provide tooth care essentials to tramps

4 Make friends with the hostels and ask if they ever provide free board to people with excuses

5 Do the same with the public pools

6 Ask Woolworths what they do with all their excess food

7 Ask a rich man if he’s ever given his bed to a beggar for a night or a week

8 Ask a doctor if he’s ever done a full med check on a sick homeless man/woman

9 Ask a police officer if he’s ever been nice to a dumb man or person in a wheelchair

10 Ask if you’ve ever given a healthy fruit or nut bar to a starving imp

11 Ask yourself if you’ll ever be as well-loved as Mother Theresa

12 Tell a beggar to go to South Bank to clean himself (even have a shower there)

13 Teach an illiterate adult how to read a headline

14 Ask a beggar what he thinks of the city scene, the weather, the pollution

15 Give a prognosis of a man crippled as a child

16 Scold a politician for not pitying the poor and lonely

17 Tell a man to give some of his cake/platter to a person languishing on the streets

18 Look at a world map and determine where most of the poverty is

19 Give a beggar your full attention and ask them to describe their problem as simply as they can

20 Teach a beggar how to busk or sell something for profit

21 Thank the person who asked what the world would be like without money

22 Suggest to the beggar to enjoy the public gardens (lawns)

23 Conduct a group prayer with all company accepted

24 Educate vagrants on the true concept of “being aboriginal” and “being a greenie” or “loving your neighbour”

25 Give a tramp the opportunity to appear on live radio!

 

Aug
26

As a result of my depressed relationship with the police in Australia, it has taken a long time before I have felt calm enough to write about them. I wish that I had done it earlier; but so mortified have I been by their treatment over the last 10 years, that I felt that I was living in some other, heinous world. Writing objectively about them takes a shaking of the head, a lot of forgiveness, and a lot of concentration. In those ten years, I have been arrested by the police on more than 20 occasions, especially as an involuntary mental patient.

My life has changed a lot since my childhood years when I had very little involvement with the police. Although I was brought up to live a life without crime, and have according to my own estimations been a very respectful and honest citizen, my fears of the police increased sharply in the year 2000 when I went to live in Sydney. There, so many times when I was walking the roads, I saw the black vehicles and other custom-designed vans, with blue and white checkers, that the police used to transport their victims. Amid paranoia about other things in my life, I started to become convinced that the police were after me, even though I had never been seriously confronted.

During that year, I also began to notice a large number of coincidences, such as coincidental sightings of the police, and other seeming effects of paranoia such as billboard messages having peculiar relevance to me or to something that I had recently written or thought about. Upon my encountering various other suspicious changes within my own private room, the feeling of being constantly monitored led me to invent the concept of “sanet”, namely a security network that I believed the government was using to monitor and control my behaviour. In 2002, following the terrorist attacks in the United States, the governments of the civilised world assumed the power of using widespread video surveillance, supported by advanced satellite and other wireless technology. The Sept 11, 2001 attacks were, to my own educated estimations, certainly a contrivance by the United States government, especially since they were seen to be fudging estimations of the number of people killed, but only an expert would have the skill to ascertain that they contrived it in order to gain public sentiment for the war in the Middle East, and to facilitate public surveillance on a large scale.

Although I have had a lot of disturbances in my private life, no one in the authority, including the police, have admitted to me that sanet exists. It seems almost incredible that my own parents, doctors, high-ranking professionals and others would double-cross me, lying so blatantly against the truth. Even more incredible that they would incarcerate and punish me for speaking out as honestly and earnestly as I could. The coincidences that I have experienced are still classified as “coincidences” and no one wants to explain them as the end-result of organised human thinking. After more than 20 years living with these types of coincidences, I am more than 96 percent convinced that sanet exists, and even worse, I have spent so much of my private time worrying and writing about this ugly phenomenon. Strangely, the system has never been the subject of open public debate, and is only briefly cited in the media in such cases as whistleblower Edward Snowden, who revealed that government metadata collection was taking place on a horrendous scale.

Contrary to my personal standards and expectations, the police have never approached me from an equal level. They have never attempted to reason with me, negotiate with me or plead with me. A few have approached me requesting assistance, but I have never heard those gentle golden words along the lines of…”Is there anything we can do to help you?” or, “Is something bothering you? Can we learn more about it?”

A few police have looked nice and welcoming, but most have been pretty severe and nasty-sounding and there has been zero tolerance. The very way that they dress, in protective gear and with an assortment of weapons, paralyses me with fear. Being rude to them at all I know would immediately serve me up in detention. Trying to explain in normal speech the variety of problems and coincidences that I have suffered is “beyond words”. The police simply don’t understand, and even worse, my parents are so stubborn against me, and in such collusion with the authorities, that they have always been convinced that I have always been the one making the error of judgement.

What sort of advice would I give the police? Firstly, I would try to explain to them that theirs is a culture that most people don’t want to know more about. Being imbued into the police system for the first time is definitely the most scary. The police care very little about the fact that yesterday you were a free citizen and now you are a target of their attention and are subject to all their rules. But even being caught in their ways can cause one to act violently, or offensively, merely out of bewilderment with the new environment. The laws of fairness would enlighten us that punishment for first-time offenders is never a good idea. Giving reward for co-operation, and showing that the police can entertain reasoning and honesty, certainly is.

Secondly, the police have to become enlightened to the fact that they hold a lot of power. Power causes fear, because power can easily be misused. Shakespeare once wrote,

They that have power to hurt and will do none, That do not do the thing they most do show… (Sonnet 94)

I hope that the police were more like that.

So, my final questions: Do I believe that the Australian police act fairly? No, I do not. Do I believe that the police should be allowed to be armed with lethal weapons, or behave in mean ways? No, I do not. But having said that, I am more sensitive to hurt feelings than most people. I wouldn’t even hurt a fly, if I could help it—and that means that I operate on a different level than the police. The police are trained to curb crime and misbehaviour, sometimes with ruthless efficiency, and this they do with only half an eye on making everybody happy. The police do kill people; they do hit and spray people; and they detain people to the point of frustration. If you are upset about the police not being nice, and have no means to distance yourself, you can live the rest of your life in sufferance. The police care about doing their job well; they often have the best intentions, and even the best training; but sometimes they are presumptious of their power, and they don’t always care about you.

MARCUS LOW is a writer who has been hospitalised involuntarily on 17 occasions. He continues to be a long-term skeptic of police power, and of public surveillance and monitoring systems.

For more information, contact mlexa68@gmail.com or, if this communication has been blocked by authorities, please try another means of contact. Posting a letter via Australia Post may not be successful.