Peter Combe has prepared a generation of Australians for Our Climate Dystopia.
Climate change is happening, and we are ready.
Is it any wonder Gen Y is so tuned into climate change? We know what’s going on; we’ve always known. The sun is hot and over long; overgrazing is damaging the local ecology, which is leading to erosion and further ecological damage.
Join Official Potato Moya and Steph on an indepth analysis of Peter Combe’s influence on Australians of the 80s and 90s.
Summer’s been so dry / Turned you into brown
Will you come back? / Juicy juicy green grass.
In ‘It’s so hot today,’ Combe reminds us of the dangers of hot weather, and how futile it is to prepare:
It’s so hot today / Forty one in the shade
Pour me some lemonade
How bout a trip to the pool.
This song ends with the admonition that sticks with us: “It’s so hot today, Pretty soon I’m gonna roast, I think I can see it – almost.” Here, Combe notes to us how soon this climate change future is – a prediction which may have seemed far away to us kiddies in 1990, but here in 2015 is startlingly close. Similarly real to us now is the line in Combe anthem “Wash your face in orange juice”, a stark harking to climate change: “Fry an egg on a slippery dip.”
Combe is truly a visionary, preparing a generation of tiny Australians for the inevitability of our climate change dystopia through the only medium he had: subliminal indoctrination via children’s music on Our ABC. He needed us to not rely on our parents to save us (how many mothers in the tree? how many daddys on the phone?) but instead, to be independent and to think outside the box (wash your face in orange juice – preserve water at any cost! Fix the fence with sticky tape – use what resources you have to hand!).
Perhaps he was raising us to defeat the current world order. Perhaps the games of Mister Clicketty Cane weren’t so silly after all. What is pizza but the supreme symbol of the reign of capitalism, ushered in by the increasing Americanisation of our Australian society? Bellyflop in it – demonstrate our contempt!
Reduce waste. (Friendly old toothbrush / So how can you possibly throw him away?)
Value the rain. (And the rain keeps tumberlin’ down / Listen it’s a wonderful sound)
Take the cautionary tale in “The Billy Goats Gruff”, of being encouraged to eye a bigger and bigger meal – that is, more than your fair portion. If we act like the Boomer Generation that has come before us, we will find ourselves consumed by what we wish to consume. It is a warning against our consumption culture. This is also reflected in The Three Little Pigs; it is not that the pigs aimed to consume the wolf, it is that through its own greed the pigs were given the opportunity to defeat the wolf, and the consumption culture it brought.
This agenda is furthered in ‘Jack and the Beanstalk.’ Jack spends the first two verses conforming to the kyriarchy that keeps him down, including accepting the man’s handout and bowing to the idea that he can lift himself up by his bootstraps. But after he realises the only way he can truly be free is by cutting down the beanstalk, the literal pillar of capitalism, he is then able to release himself and his community (represented here by his mother), declared by his announcement. “Look, mum, the giant’s dead. We don’t have to be poor anymore.”
We are the future, and Peter Combe wants us to take power into our own hands. We can’t rely on institutions such as Australia Post, not even for such minor matters as transporting symbols of the capitalist regime and the distractions Big Brother forces upon us (have you ever tried to send an Opera House? An Opera House in the post?). Australia Post is, indeed, a vehicle for the declining capitalism and an inefficient use of resources, artificially imposed upon us by old people who can’t move with what is needed. “The postman came on a Thursday, and put a letter and a frog and a mouse and a spider in the letterbox.” As young Australians, we know this for the emotional and actual terrorism that it is.
“Parcel Post” is another clear scathing indictment of Australia Post. Perhaps a reflection of the ways in which, even in the early 80s, society was changing with the increasing popularity of the fax machine and even, for early adopters (ie, my dad) modems and early internet.
Perhaps Combe was successful in his clear campaign to indoctrinate children of the 80s. Please note the current decline of Australia Post.
I had a friend in Darwin / A special friend in Darwin
Decided that he’d send me / A parcel in the post
His father said he’d buy it / His mother said she’d wrap it
His brother said he’d mail it
But have you ever tried to send a crocodile
A crocodile through the post
Of further importance is the clear Dalek message conveyed by ‘Exterminate’. Was Combe likening humans to the blowflies which were endemic in Victoria in the mid-1980s? What does this say about his ultimate plans for world domination?
Dalek sympathising is excusable when you consider that humanity is the enemy of the earth. Exterminate all blowflies – clearly, humans are the blowflies in this analogy.
Combe never wants us to be off-alert; ‘Big Yellow Ball’ is an unequivocal message that nobody of the Boomer generation is to be trusted, not even him. His message is coded in the size of the sun: The sun is 1,391,684 km wide, so would only be about 4 million kilometres round, not the 100 million he professes in the song. It is a clear message to trust in science, and not our elders.
Further, our “mothers” and “fathers” have abandoned us. Daddy is disengaged – he never nurtures the children, but instead, sits by the phone making lots of phone calls. Mothers are either up trees screaming for help (“1 2 3 4 5”) or running with their children to kindy (“Jellybean Road”) – except, of course, in the ultimate verse of the song, which is a message clearly for the children.
When Jessica goes to kindy / There’s no time to play
She races all the way / With a hurry and a scurry and a rush
To the top of Jellybean Road
And she calls out to her Mum, “Come on Mrs Slowcoach!”
Combe’s message is clear. We must run from the Boomers, the authority figures. We can no longer be constrained by them. We can call out to them to hurry, but if they will not heed our call, we must run on alone.
On this topic, see also “Nutrition Blues,” an undeniable rejection of the sustenance thrust upon us by the Boomer generation, which we are encouraged to roundly reject. We cannot take any more of this “healthy” food (the word ‘healthy’ can only be read with deep sarcasm, an undercurrent running through much of Combe’s work).
Combe’s message was not limited solely to the lyrics. The lyrics and classic video clip of Chopsticks in combination reveal a similar message:
We know what we want, and at what we can succeed, but we are constrained by the opinions of our parents, from whom we must unshackle ourselves.
“Baghdad” not only critiques the role of the father in our lives, who cannot be relied upon to care for even his bag, let alone “his” children; but also the Gulf War and Australia’s role in it. The only question is, was he critiquing Australia for entering the Gulf War under the auspices of US-imperialism, or was he critiquing Australia for entering Iraq and then leaving it again, have desolated its people and culture in the name of US-imperialism? Having anecdotally admitted that the song was played frequently on the radio in Baghdad during the Gulf War, we can only assume that its release and timing was intentional, as a call to arms and an anthem for anti-imperialism.
Combe’s “Father” represents the worst of capitalist society, the hollowness of a life spent on the phone, the failure of the world we grew up in to care about us or to present us with any other options than anarchy and revolution.
Newspaper Mama is not a direct reference to a mother-figure – it is instead a prediction of the death of print media. The red “all over” represents the blood and the defeat of print. The black and the white, so integral, teaches us about the racism and the artificial divide inherent in the mainstream media and the publishing universe that has been forced upon us by Rupert Murdoch. It is “thrown over the fence and into the garden every day” is a call to arms to overthrow the mainstream media.
Was Combe a hero or a villain? He was (and still is) grooming us to engineer and assist in the collapse of the capitalist society his peers helped us inhabit. But perhaps society must collapse. We cannot carry on as we are. The climate change dystopia and the fall of capitalism will have its leaders – and they will be us. We will survive where others fail. Because we had faith. Because we cleaned our teeth with bubble gum.
There is no ethical children’s entertainment under late capitalism.
Is it ever ethical to groom children? Whether or not you’re grooming them to destroy society or not?
I think the answer is no. But it was necessary. Combe was doing what needed to be done, and there will come a time when we thank him.
Further questions to be answered:
What else was Peter Combe doing?
Programming a super-race?
Are Coombe-era kids (now in their late 20s and early 30s) the Midwich Cuckoos of our era? Are we a weapon waiting to be used for the downfall of humanity?
Who, exactly, is the Newspaper Mama?
Who was Daddy on the telephone to?
Why did all the kids follow Mr Clicketty Cane so blindly?
What special friend in Darwin? WHOSE special friend in Darwin? Is the special friend in Darwin whom we contact in our dystopic world?
Peter Combe wants us to end the world. When shall we begin?