37. Easy Come, Easy Go in Australia in 1945-2021 (The Atomic Age)
OCT. 7, 2021
Ryan takes Pete down under to uncover whether the Aussies are truly the laid back, 'Easy Come, Easy Go' people they are reputed to be. How would you react to accidentally chucking ten million dollars in the bin?
In this episode, Ryan took Pete down under to discover Australia, also known as, The Great Southern Land, The Lucky Country, The Sunburnt Country, The Wide Brown Land, Down Under, Oz, Straya and officially ‘the Commonwealth of Australia’
Australia is an independent country comprising the mainland of Australian continent (the smallest continent in the world), the island of Tasmania and a number of smaller islands.
It’s the sixth-largest country in the world covering 7.6 million sq kms (2.9 million sq mi) making it 14 times larger than the not-insignificant country of France, and about the same size as mainland USA.
It consists of deserts in the centre, tropical rainforests in the north-east, and mountain ranges in the south-east, but in terms of habitalibility, 4 out of 5 of the 26 million Aussies live less than 50km from the coastline.
Going way back
65,000 years ago saw the first signs of human habitation – the ancestors of modern-day indigenous Australians, one of the oldest continual cultures on Earth.
Some early visitors to the land were the Makassan fishermen from Indonesia, followed, inevitably by Europeans.
The Dutch make landfall on 26th February, 1606 and they nams the place ‘New Holland’because apparently seafaring skills and ‘naming things with imagination’ did not go together well.
In 1688 an English ship arrived captained by William Dampier, followed in 1770 by James Cook, who mapped the east coast and calls that area New South Wales.
In 1783 – The British established a penal colony in New South Wales and the first camp opened in 1788 on the 26 January, now known as Australia Day.
It wasn’t until 1817 that the name ‘Australia’ as a name was used officially and in 1827 Britain claimed the whole Australian continent.
This was, as ever, not great for the people living there. Conflict and disease saw the decline of the first people. Eventually, in 1869 the Aboriginal Protection Act is implemented. Sounds great doesn’t it? It was not. It was used to separate children from their families, a group now known now as ‘The Stolen Generations’. In fact official government estimates are that in certain regions between one in ten and one in three Indigenous Australian children were forcibly taken from their families and communities between 1910 and 1970.
So what’s The Atomic Age (1945-2021)
Th e Atomic Age describes the period of history following the detonation of the first nuclear weapon which created a shift-change in our culture, with profound implications for technology, ethics and politics.
As a phrase, The Atomic Age was coined by William L. Laurence, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist with The New York Times, Known as Atomic Bill. He was the only journalist to receive access to US nuclear weapons activities, witnessing weapons tests and flying on the plane that dropped the atomic bomb over Nagasaki.
He wrote numerous articles and books on the power of the weapons and the ethical implications for their use.
Easy Come Easy Go
“An expression that some people say meaning that something of value that they gained without real effort can be abandoned or lost without regret”
This seems like a phrase that applies well to a people and culture which are known to have a somewhat laid-back and relaxed attitude to life. The stereotype of a laid-back aussie, a bloke or Sheila who calls everyone ‘mate’, and says things like.. No worries mate, she’ll be right.
So in this episode we reviewed three examples of ‘Easy Come, Easy Go’ in Australia.
The Millionaire Castaway
In the North-eastern corner of Australia is the state of Queensland, and in the far north corner of Queensland is the Shire of Cook. And within the Shire of Cook is a remote coastal locality called Iron Range. The last census counted just 16 people living there.
Off this bustling metropolis, a few hundred metres off the coast of the mainland is small island called Ma’alpiku island or Restoration Island. This island was made famous by Captain Bligh of the Mutiny of the Bounty who landed on the island in 1789 after being marooned by mutinous men on board his ship.
He named it Restoration Island because the oysters and native fruits restored their spirits and because they landed on Oak Apple Day, the anniversary of the restoration of King Charles II (in 1660).
Today, because Restoration Island is a place of cultural significance to the traditional owners, the island is managed and maintained as a National Park
Well, most of it.
One third of the island is leased to a man called David Glasheen
David Glasheen started life in the food industry, which he quit to pursue a career in consulting bringing in thousands of dollars a day. He used this money to start a toy company and quickly built up a small fortune (A$10 million a year, which you may not think of as small, but everything is relative eh?).
Glasheen fell in love, got married, bought three properties, and had several children - Life was going well.
Until it wasn’t. One Tuesday in October 1987, David woke up to find that all 23 major stock markets had crashed – with Australia experiencing the worst decline of them all – a more than 40% drop.
Companies around the world had lost their value as everyone sold their shares and within days, the toy company was worthless - and Glasheen was no longer a multi-millionaire. He was just a bloke.
Then it got worse. His wife and children left him. He couldn’t afford the repayments on his houses. The bank came to repossess his home
Still, easy come, easy go eh? Maybe not.
But then he met a woman called Lindi. Lindi and Glasheen shared a dream - get away from everything and escape from reality.
They formed a plan to live on a deserted island. Fortunately, Australia has these to spare. They started looking at the unoccupied islands around the coast of Australia and narrowed in on Restoration Island.
Glasheen’s inner entrepreneur kicked in and he convinced investors to fund a proposal to build a resort on the island, with one handy clause that he and his partner would live there too.
The investors, David and Lindi travelled to the island, survey it and draw up plans for a 16-bedroom resort. Planning permission to build the resort is applied for. And is almost immediately rejected. Complaints are made by the people living on surrounding islands.
But for Glasheen, it’s too late, he already had a third of the island, and he wasn’t too bothered about the lack of a resort. He and Lindi moved onto the island and into an old WW2 beach shack.
22 years later, now aged 77, Dave still lives there, although Lindi is long gone, having realised desert island life was not for her.
David gathers bananas and coconuts from the island. He catches crabs, fish, and oysters. He has a fruit and vegetable garden and he brews his own beer, bartering with fishermen for crayfish and prawns.
He has some luxuries - solar-powered internet access, a cell phone and a small boat to travel to the mainland.
In fact, the only thing she says he doesn’t have is someone to share the island with him. That’s how he made international news with romance search, with headlines like, ‘Robinson Crusoe searching for Woman Friday’, for whom he is still in search.
Meanwhile he has to make do with visitors such as Russell Crowe, who stopped by to visit him while on his honeymoon. Shame he didn’t have a TV to know who the heck the guy was.
So, was it all worth it?
In an interview he was asked what it was like losing his fortune:
He said “I survived physically, but mentally it was hard. I felt like a complete failure even though the crash wasn’t my fault — there was nothing I could’ve done to stop it but I felt like a failure.”
Adding in a later interview, “to experience a little bit of heaven on earth on my own island. I’m the luckiest bloke in the world to live here, and money is immaterial. I am contented and happy, and in the modern-day world that’s a precious thing.”
When he dies, he plans to ‘give the whole island back’ to the indigenous people.
Easy come, easy go.
The Throwaway Millionaire
In 2010, a young man called Campbell Simpson was living in Melbourne, working as a news journalist for Gizmodo Australia, an award-winning website which covers design, technology, science and pop culture.
Among the stories that pass by his desk, is something that catches his eye - a new and exciting thing called ‘Bitcoin’.
This is a type of money that is computer-generated, a digital currency or a cryptocurrency.
Each Bitcoin is a computer file which is stored in a 'digital wallet' on a smartphone or computer, managed because every transaction is recorded in a public list called ‘the blockchain’ which makes it possible to trace the history of all the Bitcoins to stop people from spending coins they do not own, making copies or undo-ing transactions.
Campbell was intrigue by this new currency, so he bought himself some Bitcoin. Just $25 AUD.
He then saved them to a ‘cold storage wallet’ — basically, his favourite hard-drive along with his movies and music.
Some years later, during a house move, he decided to use the opportunity to clear out some stuff that had gradually accumulated in his years as a tech journalist. Such as that old external hard drive.
A couple of months later, Campbell remembered something – there WAS something on the hard-drive that he wanted!
Yes, it was that series of Clive Owen short films that he’d saved because they were hard to find on the internet.
That then reminded him, what was that bitcoin thing all about?
Out of curiosity, he checked the price of Bitcoin and discovered that the price had skyrocketed from when he bought it at barely more than a cent to around $2.50 per coin!
His $25 investment was now worth $4000!
Whatever. $4000 wasn’t that big a deal. He chalked it up as easy come easy go.
But Bitcoin didn’t stop at $2.50 a coin, it continued going up
“When I remembered that I’d thrown away my Bitcoin stash, I was a little bit pissed off. Every now and then since, when I’ve seen Bitcoin in the news… I’ve checked the price and I’ve done a bit of back-of-the-napkin calculation, and — sometimes, not every time — had a bit of a quiet moment and a shake of my head.”
In 2013, the highest price for one coin was $1242. In May 2017 it passed $2000 per coin. In November 2017, it passed $8k. In December 2017, it passed $19k. In April 2021 it hit $60k
By the end of 2021 some say Bitcoin could reach $100k per coin, making Campbell’s missing Bitcoin worth $140,000,000 million.
“When I remembered that I’d thrown away my Bitcoin stash, I was a little bit pissed off. But.. Honestly, as far as I’m concerned, my stash of ‘coin is gone. I’ve learned my lesson, whatever it is. I don’t even especially want to find those Bitcoin. I’m really happy with my life at the moment. I don’t need them. I’d like them, sure, but I don’t need them. This isn’t trying to get philosophical — the real value was in the friends we made along the way, or some crap like that — but just to say that I’ve come to terms with losing those Bitcoin. That chapter of my life is over.”
Easy come, easy go.
The Easybeats were an Australian rock band which formed in Sydney in late 1964. They are considered one of the most important rock acts in 1960s Australia, enjoying a level of success in Australia which rivalled The Beatles.
Success came fast. "She's So Fine" - their first commercial success, reached #3 on the Aus chart. Their concerts got Beatlemania levels of fan adoration (dubbed ‘Easyfever’).
In 1965 they release their first album ‘Easy’ and United Artists sign them up
Keen to go global, they left Australia for the UK.
In England they recorded in Abbey Road and release the single ‘Friday on My Mind’. It is a hit, reaching #6 in the UK, #1 in Oz, and in the top 20 across Europe, Canada and the US. It is awarded a gold disc.
This could be the start of something big.
It is not. In 1967, they follow up with “Who’ll be the one”, but it’s a flop – not making the UK charts at all.
Still, carry on eh? They toured Europe supporting The Rolling Stones and then release their first album under UA – Good Friday.
Again, not a success.
Their next song, “heaven and hell,” was banned by the BBC and doesn’t make the UK charts.
The band then toured America, recording another flop song on the way.
Then they returned to London, change things again - recording more soft-pop records.
And.. It works! in 1968, “Hello, How are You?” gets to #20 in the UK.
But success does not last. They then recorded a second album ‘Vigil’ for UA… but it’s a flop, even though Paul McCartney is said to have called the BBC and asked for the single “Good Times” to be played again after he heard it on the radio while driving in traffic.
Just two years after leaving Australia for global success - the band starts falling apart and by 1969 they break up with no official announcement.
From nothing. To fame. Back to nothing.
Easy come, easy go.