I don’t know…
Sometimes, I think that the more society progresses, the further behind we actually retreat. We have so much information at our fingertips, and we have become dumber for it.
Growing up in the seventies and eighties, I remember that if I needed to know something for school or whatever, I would refer to the Encyclopedia Britannica or a similar publication to get the answers… the facts. Now, I type a question into my browser or just press the mike button on my phone and within a few seconds am presented with a huge amount of information. Much of it is right… Some of it twisted or presented in a way to justify someone’s opinion while a lot of it is false (Fake news).
Conspiracy theorists, flat Earthers, 5G nut jobs and anti-vaxers, just to name a few groups, really hurt my soul and presenting them with undeniable fact’s only ‘strengthens’ their resolve! Deep down inside, most of them know the truth but choose not to believe it or be opposed to it. If someone were to cure cancer, there would be a group of people crying out because of oncologists being put out of work! Then there’s the ‘Mandela effect’, where these people remember an event that had never really occurred. That’s the thing…
The evil and the stupid have a voice…
Being a reporter, I sought the truth… in its entirety but I would often battle with my editor as far as how it should be presented to the public. Most of my reports were filmed on location then edited and spliced at a later date and time but I would only see the finished product when it went to air. I can’t tell you how many arguments I had with family and friends where they hated my news story and I would try to explain,
“They cut out the most important part!”
People would then remember those distorted or edited facts. Disenchantment was a nice way to explain what I had been feeling lately and after ten years of busting my butt to get where I wanted to be, I became disillusioned and burnt out. The drive that I once had to become a reporter was well and truly gone so I now did it for the money – a pay-check.
This was what I considered while on my way to another news story about an elderly woman that had been set upon by two teenagers, who robbed her of her meager pension but fortunately, she was apparently helped by a young neighbor. Dave, my camera man drove the media van while playing INXS on the van’s stereo. He was the total opposite to me as far as the way we dressed, because while Dave was ‘behind’ the camera, he was able to wear hipster glasses, jeans, black ‘Pink Floyd’ t-shirts and a three-day growth, while I was in a dark blue suit, was freshly shaven and my hair was impeccable.
That didn’t mean we didn’t get along and in fact, we were good friends. Both of us were good looking but in different ways, were thirty-two years old and single. Dave looked over to me and sensing my funk said,
“Cheer up, mate! This might be the one. The story to get you ahead in the game… Maybe get a promotion or get headhunted!”
I faced him and said in reply,
“Yeah… Headhunted by a tribe of undiscovered cannibals.”
Dave laughed and said,
“Man… You are down today, aren’t you, Jake!”
He left me alone while we drove out to the story with ‘A New Sensation’ blaring from the speakers.
Twenty minutes later, we arrived at the tiny inner-west suburb of Redfern which was a funky and cosmopolitan hamlet bordering Sydney city. Its proximity to town had led to the gentrification of the place which had been a poor Aboriginal ghetto until about fifteen odd years ago, depending on who you asked. It’s still a little rough around the edges but the people that knew Redfern or live there, love the place.
Dave pulled up in front of a classic two-story terrace on Redfern Street then quickly hopped out and grabbed his gear while I exited and knocked on the front door. An elderly lady appeared from the front door of the charcoal grey terrace but only after spying me through the peep hole. The diminutive and frail Mrs. Agnes Caruthers spotted the channel Ten news van then seemed to feel more at ease.
“Mrs. Caruthers? My name is Jake Collins from channel Ten and I’m here to speak to you about what had happened to you yesterday.”
“Oh, yes! I’ve seen you on the tele’! Would you like to come in for a cup of tea?”
She asked in a familiar grandmotherly way, and I accepted her invitation, just as Dave walked up with his camera gear. Having been led to a small lounge room that contained very old pieces of furniture, Dave and I sat side by side on a burgundy corduroy love-seat, while she sat on a paisley wing-back chair.
I began by being friendly and spoke about the weather, so we could build some rapport then after about half an hour, I dove right into it.
“OK, Mr’s Caruthers. Is it OK if we asked you some questions about what had happened to you, yesterday?”
The poor grandmother’s expression changed as she recalled the prior day’s events and before she agreed to proceed, reached up and touched the bandage on her left cheek. I then looked down and found that her right hand was also bandaged, and it shook a little as she began to tell her story.
Mr’s Caruthers had lived in Redfern for decades and had only had good experiences with the Aboriginal communities that lived around her. She always had a biscuit or a boiled lolly for the children of the neighborhood and they in turn, grew up being men and woman who loved and respected their ‘white Deman’.
She ran out of milk yesterday evening and dreaded the thought of drinking her tea without it and against her better judgement, walked the marathon like hundred meters to the corner shop to buy some. Agnes never believed in having debit or credit cards and kept her entire pension in a small purse, which was plain for all to see as she paid for a one litre bottle of milk and a packet of Scotch Finger biscuits. Especially by two young teenagers that stopped by to buy a bottle of Coca Cola.
The two boys watched her cross the street while she headed back home and decided that her money should become theirs. They waited for her to walk far enough away from the streetlight so they could be better hidden then ran up to her and grabbed her purse. Poor Agnes’s hearing was quite good for her age, and she turned around when she heard the rapidly approaching footsteps, instinctively clutching her little shopping bag and purse as he did.
The two teenagers became angry when she didn’t let go of her purse then began screaming and swearing at her but as the front yards were quite small, their profanity and her cries for help were heard from inside the nearby terraces. A young aboriginal boy emerged from a dark eggplant colored home, turned on the front porch light and recognized the kind grandmother that always said hello to him. Without thinking of his own safety, he jumped the short front gate and tried to protect the old lady. The teenagers attacked both the good Samaritan and poor Agnes then ran off with her purse, leaving both victims laying on the ground.
Mrs. Caruthers then ended her account with her visit from the police and her report, which her young friend helped her with, followed by her phone call to channel Ten and I found myself… moved by her story. Before asking her for the young man’s name and phone number, we were interrupted by a knock at the door, so the dear old lady went and answered it. As luck would have it, it was the young man in question, and he was accompanied by an older gentleman and a young girl.
Mr. Collins… This is the young man that had helped me last night. Jarrah… This is Mr. Jake Collins from Channel Ten.”
Dave had the presence of mind to keep the film rolling while I was also introduced to Jarrah’s sister, Jedda and his father, Ngarra. Jarrah had a big smile on his face as he handed Mrs. Caruthers an envelope so the surprised grandmother looked up and asked,
Answered Jarrah excitedly, so she did what she was asked and began to tremble when she found almost a thousand dollars in small denominations.
Ngarra then explained,
“Mrs. Caruthers has been looking after the kids in the suburb for years and I don’t think she has ever known what her kindness and generosity has meant to all of us here. Me, Jarrah and my daughter have been knocking on doors in Redfern all last night until this morning so we could ask for help and have just come from our last stop.”
“This… This… is far more than I had to begin with! I can’t accept it!”
Responded a tearful grandmother but Jarrah said,
“This is just a little way of saying thank you… We look after our own.”
“This way, you can by more of those boiled lollies that we love!”
“I always called them ‘hard candy’ because that’s what Americans know them as.”
Jarrah explained with a chuckle, then we all sat down and had more tea. I was pensive on my way back to the studio, considered what I had just experienced and even Dave was profoundly touched. He didn’t even have the stereo on! The story was edited with nothing cut, then we added a few by-lines before presenting it to the editor and it seemed that everyone that watched it was moved in the same way that we were!
It was played later that night in its entirety then continued to be replayed and picked up by other news services and social media. It was the latter that tried to put a negative spin on it by focusing on the violence and indigenous aspect - Making it a story of fear and hate rather than love and kindness. It was this angle that made it overseas, unfortunately. Some of the stories were called ‘Unrest with Aboriginals’ and even made it out as if it were Aborigines that had attacked the poor old lady!
Luckily, only a few morons jumped onto that band wagon and the story became a blinding light that pierced the clouds of fear, anger, and ignorance… for most people. I was praised for my account and was rewarded with more ‘feel good’ interviews which were rarely cut and edited.
The stupid and ignorant had a different memory of what had happened that day but my whole outlook changed and my faith in humanity and the news industry were restored. All because of kindness, hot tea, and boiled lollies…