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Shall we talk about whales and whaling? (2)

Would I be able to stand in the middle?


It was around midnight on 18 February 2010.  I was squeezed into a CityRail train from Homebush heading for Sydney Central Station.  Luckily, I secured a seat.  Then, I heard a voice saying “were you at the concert?”  It was from a guy who got a seat next to me.  “Where could I be in the middle of the night at the Sydney Olympic Park and not being at THE concert?” was my first thought, but I replied politely, “yes, sure”.  Then the answer was followed by a couple of more questions; “did you enjoy?” and “when did you get to know the band?”  When did I get to know them?  What a question!  “I know them almost from the very beginning.”  


     Obviously, he looked fascinated by my answer.  How could this foreign woman get to know AC/DC before they gained international fame?  So the friendly conversation of ours went on and, eventually, I ended up explaining why I had got to know the band in the 70s, how and why I returned to Australia as an international student.  I even got him interested in my PhD thesis topic.  In turn, he told me that he came from Canberra that day, he was a student at ANU studying biology and law and it was his first AC/DC show.


     Then suddenly, after passing Lidcombe station, he sat up straight and in a bit serious voice said “may I ask you something?”  At this point, I already had a sense that I knew what question would follow.  “Of course, go on”.  In a slight nervous manner he asked “what’s your opinion on the whaling dispute?”  BINGO!  So we started to talk about whaling … after the AC/DC show.  How cool.


     During our frank chat on the issue, he said a couple of times that he was not willing to offend me.  Although he knew the topic would be quite sensitive, he thought it was OK to ask me as I have a background studying politics and maybe used to that type of debate.


     No worries.  I am not offended at all.  I am willing to have this kind of conversation with Australians.  It’s good to know that we are still able to, at least, talk.  And I said “after all I’m somewhere in the middle in this debate – neutral”.  Then he raised his voice a bit and in a mischievous look said “C’mon!  You can’t be neutral in this debate!”


     Until we got to the Central Station, I tried to explain to him that I am not in an anti-whaling camp but, at the same time, I am not a supporter of the pro-whaling camp.  What matters to me is whether species which are hunted are endangered or not.  If yes, then stop it.  If not, go ahead.  It was simple as that.


     After parting with him at the Central, however, still Angus’ guitar riff lingering in my head, I started to think … yeah, but he may be right.  Perhaps, I am already one step into a pro-whaling camp if not a Japanese government supporter as I am looking at whales as one of the food resources which could be used if the stock out there is abundant.


     This encounter took place before I got the current Deakin postdoc fellowship, even before I applied for the position.  Now I am here in Burwood surrounded by flood of whaling/whales related materials and still willing to approach both camps equally and treat both equally.  But the conversation on the night of AC/DC show haunts me from time to time.  Would I be able to stand in the middle of this debate?


     My supervisor Professor David Walker told me, in his usual humorous manner, that I had to be hated by both camps.  This is challenging.  Hope this research will not lead me on a ‘high way to hell’ …


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