‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ is often used to describe and sell some kind of flashy grand Big Top circus show. I often use the concept of a circus in attempts to explain and provide insights into the inner workings of my family. And indeed this comparison is extremely harsh and unfair – to the circus. Because even the circus as a commercial enterprise has some manner of standards; restrictions on its performances regarding the extent to which the audience should be shocked and baffled. In fact this is the case with any kind of performance – whether it’s in the movies, on television or up on stage in the theatre. Even fucked up feral material like people shitting on each other or people trying to hump animals, vegetables, dwarfs etc has classifications to enable degrees of choice and control with what you see & hear.
There’s no communal cross-shitting or pet pumping going on in my family (that can be proved) but I wish that sometimes I could just be pre-warned about their relentless show-time antics – so I can at least prepare to cover my ears, close my eyes, change the channel, boycott the theatre or just fucking get the entire show banned (and the ‘cast’ deported) altogether. The family’s a recurring theme in my blog – because the family’s an unavoidable theme in my life. And I’m arguing that it’s also one in yours whether you currently choose to have anything to do with them or not. I’m an adult now but there remain things both said and done by them that still continue to unsettle the fuck out of me, behaviours and choices that won’t cease to confuse and unhinge me making me go ape shit crazy whether they’re near or far:
Episode 1: There’s been a long running feud between my mum and her younger sister in China. It started a few years ago after my mum’s last visit to see members of her WuTang clan back in the motherland. One moment they’re all close like some fucking ching chong version of Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen and then they abruptly morphed into each other’s public enemy number one. What trouble brewed in the province? Who the fuck knows? I don’t want to know (just like I don’t want to know why cash is so strictly enforced as the primary method of payment in the Chinese community). All I know is that it went from them addressing each other on the phone traditionally according to Chinese custom, ‘Greetings elder sister/ Greetings younger sister, how is you?’ to behind the scenes references by my aunt of my mum as ‘that cock sucking fat slum hag in Australia’ (a loose translation has been applied here, but the overall sentiment is the same). But then my aunt arrives in Australia recently for a visit and they chat, giggle and cook their way through the month of September. They were making happy good time wok stir fry music together without addressing to anyone, and I suspect even to each other, the insignificant side matter of their 3 year term of resentment and estrangement.
They don’t trust each other and it’s likely they thought nothing of talking shit about each other behind closed doors … even while living under the same roof. But as the bystander watching their reunion and the farcical insincerity of it all, the ‘scene’ made me feel sick because it all seemed way too familiar – because it hit me then that this same show has been played out before way too many other times from the core to amongst the most far reaching branches of my extended family. It’s a show that’s been staged continuously amongst various family members throughout the past like some mass money making Broadway hit. And it’s most likely being played out right now somewhere in the present as I write and later on, as you read. There’s too many multi layered secrets, criss-crossing claimed loyalties, and corrupt versions of re-written history and face-saving cover-ups to ever really know the details of the what, why and how of who’s playing and hustling on who. I don’t get the plot but I do know this: there’s a large cast with a variety of different actors and many of them were born with the same surname. It’s the way it goes – it’s the Greatest Fucking Show on Earth, everyone acting their fucking flat arses off.
‘What the fuck was that?’ Indeed. Stay tuned, the above is just a scratch on one patch of the mind’s surface. Like with all 1st episodes of any show, not everything is clear and not all questions are answered.