Peacocks and hens

My sister-in-law rears chooks at her property on the peninsula. Orange-brown feathered things that strut around her acres of green and dip in amid the buses in search of titbits to eat. One day over Christmas, I broke away from our family gathering and took to following a couple of these chooks as they darted ahead of me. 

Chooks are unlike other domestic animals. They do not stop to be patted with affection. At least not the ones I’ve met. The ones at my sister in law’s place are preoccupied with their search for food and some other tribal process among themselves where the rooster bosses around the hens who bicker among themselves in whatever rivalry exists within the chook world. 

My sister-in-law told me about a peacock who had arrived unannounced one day in her garden and fluffed out its plumage to her grandchildren’s delight. On this day I followed the chooks in hopes of finding the peacock or his partner who had arrived a few weeks after the flashy bird. 

As in many instances within the bird kingdom, the female tends towards the dowdy, but she holds the secret to procreation. The peacock must impress her in order for mating to happen, otherwise no more baby peacocks or pea hens. 

Despite my feminist inclinations I wanted to see the male with his plumage on full display. I can be as seduced as the next hen by such a glamourous display. Out of nowhere, the peacock appeared and did his stuff. All turquoise purples and blues with those magical eyes at the tip of the tallest feathers. The majesty of what people call the natural world, though I’m not sure about the word ‘nature’. A person made word to distinguish between them, the animals and us.

Privilege is a funny thing, visible to all except the privileged ones who wear their status like a ‘natural’ thing, as if it has ever been and will always be so. Thinking of my peacock and its magnificent plumage and some comments I read recently from distant friends of my husband who decry the notion of Invasion Day and consider the indigenous people of this nation to have been given enough privileges to warrant them staying silent about their situation.

Like critical parents they seem to say: look at what we’ve done for you. All this money poured into your people and still you’re ungrateful.

My stomach churns when I read the comments one person put out from the right-wing Andrew Bolt about the excesses of governmental largesse to the indigenous people.

It’s as if they pay no heed to history. As if they cannot see that we are the ones who should feel grateful for the land we stand on, land our forebears stole from the indigenous people already here. 

And if half the people in this country support continuing to host Australia Day on 26 January then we are as divided a nation as we see in the United States where around half the people are supposed to support Donald Trump.

When one group profits from the misfortunes of another group. When one group seeks to keep another group down, then we’re in trouble. 

My husband’s acquaintances wrote about how the minorities control us. And again, I question this idea. Is it that the minorities control or is it that they alert us to the inequalities rife in our world and they also prick people’s consciences? Then some people at least imagine, like Hitler, if we can silence those nuisance minorities, we can have it all for ourselves in comfort.

Only trouble is this never works. Our minorities are like Mrs Peahen. They serve a purpose that goes beyond procreation and diversify. They have a right to be here. They have a right to flourish. They have as much right to exist as anyone else who might consider themselves mainstream, white male middle aged and comfortable, white female middle aged and comfortable, going down the line of privilege into the arena of all those inequalities that exist for people across time.

It seems simpler in the peacock’s world which is about survival, whereas we humankind have taken survival up a notch and struggle with a wish to accumulate, then get more than we need for survival at the expense of those who teeter on the edge of not surviving. 

We have a problem here and if we’re not careful, we will lose our beloved ‘natural’ world to all the dark endings that come out of excess.

When we owe ourselves and our children and their children’s children a bright future where there’s room for all the chooks, the peacocks and hens and all peoples.  

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