Fostering Bad Relations…

Back in 1999, I think it was, there was a book launch by an Aunt of mine, of a piece of genealogy called Fostering Good Relations. It even goes into a little biography on my family nucleus (odd, considering I was never interviewed about the details), and I contributed an illustration.

There’s a particularly deceptive piece of photography in the book, of me with my family, smiling the family smile. You wouldn’t realise that my late father and I had had a dust-up just prior. My mother has this recurrent false-memory that the dust-up was after the photo. I suspect the cognitive dissonance caused, is just a little much.

A dust-up after the photo would merely make it ironic, whereas before – this would call family history into question, by implication. But of course, this is the truth; we were all smiling faces right after the fight. Happy families.

Oh the kinds of things in my life that never made it into the book.

In 1992, after a hellish 1991 in Port Lincoln, South Australia, I escaped to Adelaide, into the company of the Buckland clan. The Bucklands, being the family between the Fosters (of Fostering Good Relations fame) and I.

Or at least, I thought it was an escape.

***

If there’s one thing anyone needs to know about The Bucklands, it’s about how they gossip; if the gossip isn’t true, it’ll still persist without anyone checking the facts, and if it is true, nobody will act on it because nobody’s checked the facts. Gossip, gossip, gossip. I’m sick of it.

The thing of it is, where there should be a historicity of The Bucklands, there’s just more gossip …and agendas …and grudges. In fact, it’s hard to make a contribution, or a criticism, without it being seen through the prism of a grudge.

If you try to help, you’re either attacking, or trying to upstage someone, yet you needn’t even know who, or what for. Others will make that part of the story up for you. And the slightest infelicity is always blown completely out of proportion, even before its permutations, from gossiper to gossiper.

***

As you’d expect, with so little inclination towards finding the truth, and acting on it, problems don’t get dealt with, and they accumulate.

I was informed, recently, or at least late last year, that a certain Buckland who for the sake of the peace, will go unnamed, was a dirty, dirty, man. As in, sexually harasses underage girls, dirty. Dirty by today’s standards at least – this dirty man was dirty back in the dirty seventies.

I don’t have standing to press charges, obviously, and I don’t want to prejudice anything like that, but I’m pretty sure I could name the guy without fear of an accusation defamation. There are enough witnesses to the truth, and enough things said over the years that are tantamount to a confession.

On the one hand, this is risky. Why let this kind of situation fester in secrecy? How does this get managed in a family if nobody admits it happens?

On the other hand, it’s not fair to the dirty old man himself. People are free to embellish the story, in even a damaging manner, if they are sufficiently discrete in the way they deploy their rumours.

A funny thing happens when you allude to things like this, amongst The Buckland’s; people either think you’re talking about someone else, from a different incident, or you’ll discover they’re talking about someone else. ‘You mean there’s more than one of them?’

The Bucklands are, it seems, safe hosts for dirty old men.

***

It’s not that there’s been no change over the years. The patriarch of the clan, the late George Buckland, was the archetypal image of male privilege. He wouldn’t even have men serve salad in his house, if he’d had his way; that’s what women were for (apparently).

‘NO GRAMPS! IT DOESN’T WORK LIKE THAT ANYMORE!’

The thing is, nobody keeps secrets about salad issues, so it’s easy to get this stuff out in the air. But if it’s dirty old men, or child beating, then The Bucklands, cowards that they are, couch their queries in equivocal, inoffensive terms, if they air them to the offender at all.

With exceptions… Dissidents.

Try being a dissident in The Bucklands, I dare you. You’ll be punished. As if to re-enforce each other’s self-respect in the face of their own moral turpitude, dissidents, if they dare speak plainly and truly about an awkward truth, will be rounded upon, and lied about.

‘Nicely’, at first, with the pretence of sympathy, when the family consensus becomes clear, enough courage will be mustered by the herd to charge. The lies become bolder and bolder, and more and more public.

I was told a few bold lies, about a dissident Buckland (who is outspoken about being abused as a child), recently. Utterly ridiculous lies, actually, I had to double-check the facts just because I could believe how bad the lies were.

But there you had it; the lies were as bad as they were, which was very, very bad, concerning who had made what demand in respect of the estate of a deceased loved one. It served as a warning – ‘speak out, and it can happen to you.’

With as much respect as it deserves, as I can muster – I don’t care!

***

Of course, I got my dose of the venom early on in 1992. You see, I’m an Everett, not fully naturalised as a Buckland, or of the wrong generation, or something like that; whatever I am I’m not family-politic. If a Buckland walks in on a heated conversation between myself, and someone who is family politic, well…

Bucklands gossip, and gossip goes around, and eventually, if you’re gossiped about, you’ll hear it; usually from someone with a grudge about the person doing the gossiping (they don’t necessarily give a rat’s arse about you).

Gossip can be fact checked, of course, so you can get a lay of the land – which I needed to do, being new in Adelaide back in the day. But now I don’t give a shit about the details, and I know the lay of the land, and it’s the lay of the land I don’t like.

Between the mentioned dissident being lied about at great lengths over the years, my own track-record of being lied about in-family, my own family-history supressed, and now, the passive-aggression in a recent saga that’s come to an end (a whole story in itself), I’m really quite fed up with The Bucklands.

The lengths people will go to, just to prevent you from rocking the boat… Self-defeating, cowardly, dishonest lengths.

Dissidence starts in your head, at home, and if you want to write as any kind of dissident, with sincerity, your writing environment and family should reflect this. This is pretty much the something that’s been eating away behind my eyes for the better part of the last two years, making it harder to write. This is what I need to get over.

So I’m getting over bad relations with The Bucklands by leaving them behind. I can honestly say, they’ve been given more than a few good, unprejudiced chances. No more chances. Goodbye.

With all but a couple of exceptions, I disown them.

Maybe I’ll write about it in detail some day (dibs on ‘Fostering Bad Relations’)!

~ Bruce

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