Union Songs

Black Armband

a song by John Hospodaryk©2002 John Hospodaryk

- [play]

Hey there Johnny this song it is for you
It's not behind the razor wire hidden from our view
That's why I'm wearing a black armband
A black armband to demonstrate my stand
White picket financial security
Leafy suburban nuclear family
The benifits of a growing economy
Middle class utopia where the market's so free
But I got a better term for all this inequity
It's not incentivation Menzies nor prosperity
Not back to the future to 1953
It's myopia which means that you can barely see

Balacava guards rottweillers and alsatians
Such is the face of your industrial relations
Anti-union tyranny right across the nation
On the waterfront and down the mines you're proud of your creation
You've got the gall to call it reforms in the workplace
When waging war on workers is a retrograde disgrace
You want us cap in hand to crawl you're smug and mean and base
You want our rights and hard earned gains to sink without a trace

And hey now Peter this song's aiming at you too
You're mean of spirit you and all your crew
And that's why I'm wearing a black armband
A black armband to demonstrate my stand
A hundred and twenty years of public education
Is being destroyed by your discrimination
In favour of the rich or some denomination
You call that a fair go it's an abomination
There's now freedom of choice in our schooling so you say
Who do you think you are fooling when most of us can't pay
Then if funding the elite with our taxes is OK
Then this nation will fall like a dingo stricken prey

And hey there Johnny this song it is for you
I see rack and ruin in all the things you do
You can tell 'cause I'm wearing a black arm band
For all those stolen generations you can't understand
Well here's your report card you dont get many marks
On greenhouse emissions and logging national parks
At reconciliation you've chained up all our hearts
You score a zero just a naught you get a buggery of arts
Of liberty equality fraternity I didn't know
Ownership of shares is democracy the way to go
But on a privatised planet I guess it must be so
Where any soul is bought and sold your marks are very low

Well I know what you stand for will shrivel up and die
We'll throw it overboard and that wont be a lie
But until that day I wear a black armband
In mourning for what you are doing right across the land
But until that day I wear a black armband
In mourning for what you are doing right across this
right across this right across this right across this land


Thanks to John Hospodaryk for permission to add this song to the Union Songs collection. Black Armband was one of nearly 100 songs entered in Wobbly Radio's 2002 union song competition and is on the MayDay MayDay CD

John writes: "This is my homage to John Howard. When you said selling Telstra would make Australia the "world’s greatest share-owning democracy", you disenfranchised a large section of the population. When you set about to replace unions with Opposition of showing "the politics of envy" in its frankly lily-livered criticism of your nation-destroying education policy, you insulted the 70% of parents who send their children to public schools. When you criticised those historians (myself included) as having a "black armband view" because we choose to explore the oppression of the Aboriginal people, you offended the suffering of those people. This song, then, is an attempt to throw your remark right back in your face"

(1) "Razor wire": type of wire used to surround detention centres for asylum seekers.

(2) "Black armband": First coined by historian Geoffrey Blainey, and adopted by John Howard, this is a criticism of those historians who mention events and conditions like impoverishment, oppression and genocide as having occurred at some stage in Australia's past. Things that are just not nice. Things that fail to mention the achievements of great men. Things that fail to paint a rosy picture of life under conservative governments. To Howard, the "black armband" view of history is very ungrateful because conservatives , after all, were born to rule and know what is good for us.

(3) "White picket financial security/Nuclear suburban nuclear family": Metaphoric reference to an 80s Federal election campaign by the Liberals which included a poster depicting a white middle class family standing in front of a prestigious heritage home...as if that was the typical Australian family!

(4) "Incentivation": Campaign catchphrase used by John Howard in a federal election back in the 80s. You won't find the word in a dictionary, either!

(5) "Peter": Howard's Treasurer, Peter Costello. It could just as easily be the disgraced former Defence Minister and Industrial Relations Minister, Peter Reith.

(6) "you've chained up all our hearts": reference to Howard's use of Joe Cocker's song "Unchain My Heart" as a taxpayer-funded propaganda weapon to sell the GST to the electorate.

(7) "I didn't know/Ownership of shares is democracy": When he suggested he would sell off Telstra, Howard asserted that it would make Australia "the greatest share-owning democracy in the world", thus disenfranchising, at least in spirit, not only any citizen who doesn't own shares, but also any citizen whose shares really don't add up to much. This is real pocket borough mentality!

(8) "We'll throw it overboard and that won't be a lie": reference to the "children overboard" lie.

John sings the song on the MUA Centenary CD "With These Arms"

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