New Internationalist

Public Armour, Private Feelings

July 1982

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CHANGE [image, unknown] Public armour, private feelings

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Public armour, private feelings
Interview by Bob Hawkins

Jim Cairns, Member of Parliament for 22 years, is said to have made more friends and more enemies than any other modern Australian figure. Now In his sixties, he was spiritual leader of the anti-Vietnam war movement, and in May 1970 led 70,000 people on a protest march through the streets of Melbourne. Cairns political downfall began with the appointment to his staff of a Fiipina, Junie Morosi. This, wrote Cairns' biographer, was 'no routine office appointment'. 'Cairns proclamation of the politics of sexual liberation coming as it did at the time of his growing friendship with Junie Morosi was widely ridiculed as the bizarre rationalisation of an infatuated middle-aged man.' He believed changes to our sexual attitudes are necessary for social reform, and was the first man in Australia to argue for sexual liberation on a national political stage. Sacked from the Australian Cabinet in July 1975 Cairns now raises pigs, sheep and goats on a farm set in rolling countryside 40 km from Melbourne.

I was a public figure. A former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and leader of the Left in the Australian Labour Party.

I was completely what others, through the media, had made me. Most of it was conflicting and inconsistent.

Some thought I was a sinister figure, out to overthrow everything that was deemed to be good; some that I was weak and naive; some that I was honest others that I was devious. To many I was an enigma. But they all looked at the same media and saw the same 'facts'.

In 1975 I was forced by events to challenge my image and all that went with it. 0vernight it seemed to me, I was deserted by almost everyone. I had been tough and self-denying. Now I am acutely sensitive to feelings and to pressures all round it had become a new, vulnerable but alive, vibrating but different, world.

I had been given a chance to grow. And perhaps become strong too. lf one is strong in the pressured, cut-off armoured situation, your strength will be ambition, display, dominance exploitation - the lot. The alternative is powerlessness and apathy.

The sort of people we are - aggressive, timid, devious, kind, co-operative, non-violent (and this goes for groups and nations too) - is determined by the kind of human relations we have with other people, mainly when we are infants and children.

As soon as our armour breaks, change is inevitable. There is no way you can stop it.

What happens then? All the false selves you were and most of the associations and activities they had fall off like autumn leaves. Your 'world views' changes.

For me, changing the world - and everyone knows it needs to be changed - was central to my life, But I had always been convinced it could change only by way of economics and politics, religion and the rest having failed. Now I saw that economics and politics were really part of the old distortion and not a way towards change. I saw that people had to change; and to change the world you had to change human relations so that people could change.

My work has always been writing and talking to assist the process of changing the world. It still is. But as soon as I changed in 1975 the old channels dried up. The media no longer pursued me. I had to find new ways.

I reach fewer people these days. But my contacts now are more real, more genuine.

I work now more in the early morning when I'm most vulnerable to everything, instead of late at night a time when I have absorbed all the pressures and built up my armour for the day.

But I am still only at the beginning of this process of personal growth. It just seems so very late.

The important point is that what happened to me does so to everyone. I was just a bit more public, But we are all the same, no matter how small the public is and how simple the image.


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Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 113 This feature was published in the July 1982 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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This article was originally published in issue 113

New Internationalist Magazine issue 113
Issue 113

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