Scandal has always been centrepiece to many of our most esteemed and respected throughout history. I was one of the guest speakers at the recent annual Rotary International District 9800 Conference in Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia. The district conference is a major event in the annual Rotary calendar. Hosted by the District Governor and his wife, it brings members together, united in the cause of implementing its many and varied services to the community. District 9800 weren’t out to disappoint with a highly organised and professionally managed event.
Rumour however had surfaced about a somewhat “colourful” past of the Governor’s wife. But surely such a significant event of this nature couldn’t afford to be marred by a scandal associated with the Governor’s wife. I was curious. I needed to find out more. This took me to the small nearby rural town of Timboon. Set in a picturesque wooded valley, Timboon is one of those quaint little sleepy towns. It was hard to imagine this delightful little town could be the setting for a scandal. It was at the old railway shed where this secret past was about to unfold.
Central to the story is a character by the name of Tom Delaney. Tom was great uncle to our well respected wife of the Governor. Back then in the 1880’s, Great Uncle Tom was clearly a man who could identify an unmet need. And that need was Whisky. His boot legged brand of whisky was so popular he was producing up to 100 gallons a week of his “Mountain Dew” as it was called. Unfortunately, his enterprising efforts weren’t as popular with the local law enforcement. The law eventually caught up with Great Uncle Tom, finally being arrested.
Poor ol’ Great Uncle Tom went from local hero to villain. Thankfully the history pages now have him back to the status of a revered hero. It’s a curious quirk of our society. One minute in history we vehemently oppose a social issue. Next minute we openly accept what was previously so bad. I guess it’s our haphazard way of dealing with problems that confront us. Alcohol was unquestionably causing broad havoc in our communities and families. So, its banned. Prohibited. Unfortunately, one of the famous consequences of prohibition, as in the USA, was the rise of gangs, such as the Al Capone era. Other efforts back in the sixties to control alcohol usage was Australia’s infamous 6pm closing timing. It became known as the six o’clock swill. It may not have resulted in gangland warfare, but in some ways it caused as much havoc on the family and community with this sudden shot of booze.
Of course, we live in modern times now. That means we can look back on history with much wise reflection. To reflect how much more sophisticated we now are managing our current issues. Or are we? The problem is, we seem to have an inherent issue not see the forest for the trees. We find it difficult to look beyond what is normal at the time.
Take our modern day issue of drugs. It’s a view I have changed as a result of My Senior Gap Year. Are we simply repeating our history of mistakes banning drugs? Like alcohol, it’s not going to magically go away. Nor is the demand. Drugs are not my thing, but after speaking to many young people in my journey about drugs, I’m since yet to find one person who disagrees with my view that we should ban the prohibition. The bottom line is, if a young person wants any illicit drug, they all say it’s easy to get. If they choose not to, they don’t take drugs. Simple as that. So, young people are already making choices. The argument is, wouldn’t we be better off to take control of this market. Thereby taking the money away from the drug gangs, thereby removing the drug traffickers and therefore the pressure to get people involved with drugs. Plus, by legalising it, what we spend on fighting drugs, use the money to educate people and parents on managing the use of drugs? They’re already making that choice. Why not help them make a more informed and safer choice?
Great Uncle Tom may have provided our Governor’s wife a colourful family background. But he was part of history that for the better has brought us to our “modern” times. When it comes to the issue of drugs, I wonder who will be one of the next Great Uncle’s of the future that will be part of the next chapter of bringing us forward to our next “modern” era?