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The Degenerate Gambler The Degenerate Gambler
by Nikos Laios
2022-05-08 06:33:29
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Gambling is an interesting topic to write about and this article on gambling has been something that this author has wanted to write for a while now, having witnessed firsthand the toxic results of gambling both in my own family and those around me, and the acceptance that gambling is indeed a societal problem. This theme is especially relevant for first world countries, and most particularly in Australia. Now when one thinks of gambling, one would have thought that the USA was the world’s biggest gambling nation; the bright lights of Las Vegas or Atlantic City come to mind here, but one would be mistaken.

nik001_400Now the title of this article ‘ The Degenerate Gambler’ is a very strong one indeed, and one would be right in asking whether this a reference to a particular person? The person who inspired this article is mainly this writer’s late father, but also indirectly applies to many others that this writer has observed over the years. To give the reader some background and context, a brief family biography is required here to understand the genesis of this article on the theme of gambling, and on the wider themes of materialism and consumerism. This writer’s late father was from the highlands of Greece and learned card playing in Greece, and his gambling blossomed upon migration to Australia. I was still a young boy when my father would take me to tavernas in Greece and gambling dens in Australia to watch him gamble.

He was a card-shark who chain-smoked and gambled heavily and revelled in taking his friend’s money in countless card games, and though he was a simple welder, dressed like a dandy in gabardine suits at home. This writer witnessed this gambling in sleazy dens filled with billowing cigarette smoke, the loud voices of the drunken grown-ups, and I would fetch them new ashtrays and take away empty glasses. I was no more than eight years of age and witnessed this toxic behaviour from an early age. My father had a family, a wife and four small children, yet he would squander his welder’s wage as soon as it came in on smoking, drinking and gambling. He was a loser and degenerate gambler, a misogynist who was a tyrant to my mother and would call her ‘woman’ instead of by her name; who abused both this writer and his older sister. Now with the benefit of hindsight, this writer also identified the patriarchal misogyny that was so rife (and still is in Greece) and how the expatriate Greek community in Australia also enabled this bias and misogyny, where men like my father hard a virtual carte blanche to do anything that they wanted, regardless of any ethical or moral considerations.

The hero of the family here was my late mother, a noble lady by the name of Angela who only died in October of last year. She was from western Greece; her father was from the Ionian Islands and from an aristocratic family; educated merchants with merchant trading houses throughout Europe, Africa and the Black Sea during the 19th Century, poets, artists, academics, politicians and generals. One must understand here that the Ionian Islands were never under Ottoman occupation but were ruled by Venice after the fall of the Byzantine Empire. This writer’s Greek ancestors on the Ionian Islands were accordingly western leaning and educated, and a complete contrast to the rest of the Greeks under Ottoman occupation.

As a girl my mother would listen to opera and classical music, listen to ancient Greek theatre that was broadcast on the radio, would attend ballroom dancing, loved cinema. My family survived through the wage of my heroic mother, who worked as a seamstress from home making suits and dresses for fashion houses. Her wage supported herself, her four children and my degenerate gambling misogynist father, and continued to do so after the death of my father. Teaching us etiquette, manners, social graces, culture and civilisation. So, against this background and with a thoroughly European upbringing, when we migrated back to Australia, the gambling culture here shocked this writer to the core and continues to do so.

One needs to understand how deeply ingrained that gambling is in Australian culture and the Australian psyche. Here this writer must make a brief societal observation of life in Australia before outlining a critique on the gambling habits here. Australia is a prosperous country rich in mineral commodities, a self-sufficient gas producer, and a net exporter of wheat and food. The inflation rate at-the-moment in Australia is 5.1%, the Debt to GDP is 41.8% and the current unemployment rate is 4%; economic statistics that are the envy of many other first world nations, and which places Australia in a better position than most to overcome any negative economic headwinds resulting from current world geopolitical events. Australia is a big, beautiful exotic land, a stunning natural environment, wide open spaces. This writer lives on the affluent north shore of Sydney Harbour, and jogging around the Sydney Harbour foreshore is a joy and a privilege.

Having lived both in Europe and Australia – whilst this writer sorely misses Europe and its cultural delights and milieu – living in this beautiful, wealthy country located at the end of the world has suddenly become very advantageous, where one can rest one’s head on one’s pillow every night and have a peaceful sleep without a care in the world. Yet there are perplexing contradictions to life here in Australia. Where this writer is perfectly placed to give objective opinions and facts as one who is thoroughly steeped in European arts and letters and considers himself a bohemian, and thus an independent observer. This writer’s world and milieu are the arts; poetry, literature, drama, philosophy, art, architecture, classical music, jazz and opera. Where this writer is thus immune to the toxic ‘delights’ of the materialism, consumerism and gambling that are rife, and are some of the major obsessions and central focus of Australian life here.

Australians are very happy and some of the most down-to-earth and friendly people that one would have the pleasure to meet, thoroughly sporting and very outdoors orientated, free and egalitarian. Australia is indeed ‘the lucky country’, and this writer is indeed fortunate to live here, and the outdoors and sporting lifestyle suits this writer down to the ground. Then on the other hand there are the negative obsessions of gambling and materialism, which are strange contradictions to what is an otherwise glowing and positive picture of Australia; and the question arises, what exactly are these obsessions and why? Here one would be shocked to know that Australia is the biggest gambling nation in the world by far, and the table below perfectly illustrates this. (1)

Rank

Country

Gaming Losses Per Adult

1

Australia

$1,288.00

2

Singapore

$1,174.00

3

Ireland

$588.00

4

Canada

$568.00

5

Finland

$553.00

6

Italy

$517.00

7

Hong Kong

$503.00

8

Norway

$448.00

9

Greece

$420.00

10

Spain

$418.00

nik002_400The explanation of this gambling obsession and addiction is in the context of culture, and here certain sociological factors need to be briefly fleshed out. If we firstly make a brief comparative observation with society in Europe; the cultures there have a very long continuous and homogenous history, deeply established myths, archetypes, a history of religion/religious cultural traditions, and a moral and ethical superstructure. Unlike the ‘American Dream’ and the ‘Australian Dream’, there is no such comparison of a ‘European Dream.’ Europe just is, millennia of history, culture and meaning, of Europeans living in the now and striving to find their authenticity and self-actualisation, of living life with a rich texture and meaning. American and Australian societies post World War Two on the other hand are very much secular cultures, devoid of longevity or homogenous cultures. Where the central focus of these cultures is a shallow materialism and consumerism, to fill the void of a lack of an existential search for true meaning. Where the ‘American Dream’ is to become rich and famous, and the ’Australian Dream’ is to own property.

Property is the central reason for being in Australia and the central ‘deity’ here, the whole society is geared for home ownership, and any goals other than this are anathema. Accordingly, the other central and related societal obsessions here are materialism and consumerism; the attainment of the latest televisions, electronic goods, cars, boats, holidays, home renovations. Sports and the outdoors are certainly positive aspects of life here, but they are only lifestyles and are no replacements for true meaning. Australian society is somewhat superficial and hollow, with a distinct absence of any focus on self-actualisation or existential meaning, where these should be the central focus of society here. Now there is nothing wrong with the purchase of housing, material goods and consumerism, as long as they are only a means-to-an-end, and not the central civilisational focus.

In Sydney for example, the average price of housing is well over a million dollars, and most Australians borrow most of the purchase price and become heavily indebted for the rest of their lives. Against this background, the theme of gambling in Australia can be better understood. Gambling in Australia dates to the very foundation of the British colonisation of Australia, and the absence of god, belief, a moral and ethical imperative or an existential reason for being left a hole which was quickly filled in by a crass-kitsch obsession on housing, materialism and consumerism as the main gods. The cathartic issue to be faced now is the acceptance that gambling is a problem, and that individuals affected need to address this. There are many stories here of people losing all their wealth and becoming bankrupt and leaving their families in perilous positions; fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, addicted to the rush of the quick win. The question then needs to be raised here is what sections of Australian society are affected by gambling, and how?

The main methods of gambling in Australia are through poker machines, sports betting, betting on horses, and playing cards. Gambling effects predominantly the blue collar/working class in Australia more than the middle class or the upper class. While all pubs in Australia have poker machines, in Sydney for example the suburbs that are the most affected are the blue-collar working-class suburbs located in Western and South-western Sydney. There are also other outer metropolitan towns like Wollongong, Newcastle and Central Coast for example in the state of New South Wales (where this writer lives) that are also deeply affected. A journey to one of these areas and entry to any one of the many big clubs or pubs there, one is met with what can only be described as a forest of poker machines. People glued to these machines, the jingle-jangle of the turning reels, flashing lights and music; people glued to the poker machine screens like drug addicts waiting for their next hit, their next fix, fortunes and lives flushed down the drain. The gambling bug is so severe, there are many here that have now liquidated their assets and are flushing them down the drain of the next gambling addiction, Cryptocurrencies.

The gambling addiction in Australia can only be described as a tragedy and one that this writer has personally witnessed in his own family through the actions of his degenerate gambling and misogynist father, and many here and overseas have asked this writer how he has resisted these powerful gambling forces, and the peer pressure of buying a house and of being sucked into the addictions of consumerism and materialism? The answer is that this writer comes from Europe, that he stands on a firm grounding of culture and civilisation where the main focus is in fulfilling an existential imperative of that of a writer and an artist, mingling with a small circle of Bohemians and partaking in both the open and free outdoors and sporting culture here, but most importantly the high arts.

From an early age this writer has rejected gambling and the Australian dream and accordingly at times has been ostracised for this position, as Australians find it strange that one can reject their societal obsessions and find an alternate and better reason for being and a way of living. This writer is free and cashed-up, and freedom for a writer and an artist is one of the biggest commodities. From a personal position, Australia is indeed the lucky country, its raw and exotic beauty, its happy and egalitarian people, a home on Sydney Harbour. A relationship with nature, and where every day wild tropical birds visit this writer and eat literally out of his hand. It is indeed a safe haven located far away from the unhappy and unfortunate events that are occurring in other parts of the world at the moment. There’s a certain motivation and a bold New World confidence here, and the words of Ricky Bobby from the movie ‘Talladega Nights’ come to mind; “ I wake up in the morning, I piss excellence.” Yet a reckoning is coming in respect to the gambling addiction in Australia, and the first action on the road to improvement is identification and acceptance that problems do exist.

 ***********************

1.      Countries That Gamble The Most - WorldAtlas

 

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Photo and digital paintings including the cover from Nikos Laios

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Don't miss Nikos Laios eBook
The Silent Symphony
A collection of poems and paintings,
you can download for FREE, HERE!

life_112_400

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Also check Nikos Laios' EBOOK
Ida & Her Magic Camera
is online now and you can download for FREE HERE!
 
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