Nothing is more important than our mates.
Update: October 12, 2012. Ten years have passed since I wrote these words. I still feel just as sad and just as angry.
by Neil Jenman
The title of this article is not politically correct. But, right now, I don’t care too much about that. I want to talk about mates and mateship and I don’t want political correctness to stifle me.
Last night, my mate, Kerry Rowley, went to Tempe to see our mate Johnny.
Johnny is a good bloke, a real happy go-lucky type. He used to work at the airport driving an electric buggy, the ones that go beep-beep as they whiz past the passengers at the terminals. Johnny loved his job and, after eleven years, he figured he was there for life. But Johnny worked for Ansett and so, in September last year, when he was 45 years of age, he lost his job.
Johnny has not been too well lately. Cancer. No one knows much about it. Self-pity is not Johnny’s style. No matter what’s happening, he’s always smiling. When we used to fly Ansett, he always called out, “G’day fellas.” Just looking at him makes you feel good. I can see why Kerry likes him. He’s a likeable guy. A good mate.
The past year hasn’t been good for Johnny. His mum, who is 83, recently had her leg amputated. Johnny was there for her, just like he’s there for all his friends and his family. To Johnny, they are all mates. Earlier this month, his wife, Debbie, went for a holiday with some of her mates. She also took their 13 year-old daughter, Abbey, along. They went to Bali. Last Friday they were due to fly home, but there was a mix-up with their flight. And so they decided to come home on Sunday.
On Saturday night, Debbie and her mates went to the Sari Club. Abbey tagged along. About ten minutes before the bomb exploded, they all decided to leave. But young Abbey wanted to hear one more song. And so, together, Johnny’s wife and daughter walked back into the club.
Since then they have been listed as “missing”. We all know what that means.
Kerry was pale when he told me about Johnny. He had the newspaper with the photo of Debbie and Abbey on the front page. I said he should call Johnny, but Kerry knows that mates don’t need to call; they just turn up. And that’s what he did. He went to his mate’s place.
Kerry said Johnny was numb. He has stopped smiling. Filthy cowards have finally broken him. And for what? For some cause with some twisted logic that justifies killing people who have nothing to do with whatever you think you are suffering. Well, let me tell you something: There is no religion in this world that condones what you do. You have lost the right to ever achieve whatever sick motive you believe you have. The rest of the world – whatever their religion, their race or their belief – despises you. You don’t know the first thing about real mateship. You might kill our mates, but you will never kill mateship. You will never kill our spirit.
We’ll take care of Johnny and all the others who have lost family and mates, all of whom are numb right now. That’s our way. We take care of our mates. Our way is not to kill innocent people to gain attention. We know that mates are worth something. You are worth nothing. As Bob Dylan sang in his song, Masters of War, “You ain’t worth the blood that runs through your veins.”
What you do will not destroy us, it will only make us stronger with each other. It will make us realise that nothing is more important than our mates. We will recover from the effects of your cowardice; and we will be braver and better than ever before. Yes, we despise you, whoever you are. But no, we will never sanction your cause, whatever it is. We will never forget nor forgive what you have done. Neither will your God.
Neil Jenman. October 17, 2002