Colin Raison

field of red poppies

What will move us?

Anyone over the age of 50 years will no doubt remember seeing the photograph shot by a news photographer in Vietnam in 1972 of a small nine year old girl running towards the camera, her clothes burnt off and screaming. This image, known as the “Napalm Girl” became an icon of the Vietnam war and a powerful motivation to not only bring an end to this immoral war, but it led to a U.N. declaration banning the use of napalm and other indiscriminate weapons of war.

The plight of this little girl redoubled the public resolve in the United States in calling for the end of the war and the U.S.A. finally withdrew in November 1973. (Australia had already withdrawn in November 1971).

The girl, Kim Phuc, survived the ordeal thanks initially to the prompt action of the photographer in cooling her burns and getting her to hospital. She is now a Canadian citizen and an advocate for peace.

The publishing of this photograph in 1972, so shocked the pubic that it led to change, but today we are confronted daily with news images of terrorist bombings, suicide attacks on people in markets, trains and buses, aerial attacks on suburban areas of middle eastern town and the plight of displaced people and refugees.

Have we become inured to these events? Do we no longer feel for these people? Is there a sense of helplessness that dulls our response? How do we demonstrate our outrage? Or is it a case of OK so long as it doesn’t happen here.

There may be hope though. Consider the outstanding response demonstrated by people and nations when natural disaster strikes, here we seem to be able to put aside our prejudices and work together for the greater good. Such is the paradox of the nature of man.

This is the dilemma for the 21st century.

Make up

“The roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd” an oft quoted line by somebody on the opening night of a stage show. But of course we all knew it was the other way around.

After 30 years in amateur theatre the smell of Leichner’s grease paint make up still evokes the excitement, nervousness and anxiety of the first night of a new production.

In the dressing room, the unmistakable odour of coconut butter and cheap hairspray pervades the air and there is a buzz of activity, costumes are fitted, lines are rehearsed in low voices, while the old hands sit in front of the mirrors confidently applying base No 5. The first timers sit passively and mildly shell shocked as their characters are brought to life by the skilful work of the company’s makeup artists.

With the makeup, blemishes disappear, good and bad features are emphasised, ages change, heroes and villains are created and Rod the dentist becomes Heracles the hero, while housewife Mary emerges as Antiope the Amazon Queen, and a class of Year 10’s become a troupe of Japanese No Players.

The stage manager calls on the intercom “curtain in five” openers please! and as the players wait in the wings and the call for “house lights down” is relayed to the lighting tech. it is the smell of the greasepaint that pervades the senses.