TOE BY TOE
By Cliff Baxter
I remember a newspaper cartoon a few years back where the then Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser is sitting with a psychiatrist who asks him to say the first word that comes into his head.
In the next frame Fraser's face is blank, but in the following he has the word:
At that time Fraser did not have much a reputation of being a song-and-dance leader. We did not know, of course, that behind that rather wooden mask there was a man concerned with human rights, human dignity and the fight against racism.
Malcolm, a tremendously shy man, now finds himself being invited to demos and all kinds of rabble-rousing because of his opposition to human rights abuses.
He once told me that as a tall rather gawky student from a grazier family he found an Aboriginal friend who accepted him as he was.
This indigenous come-as-you-are acceptance marked his development to the human rights defender you see today. Malcolm is helping us to maintain the Rage! Goodness knows what Gough Whitlam thinks about that.
The point is our early experiences have profound effects. But to return to the word that is in my poor brain:
Is it the same thing as righteousness? Am I being unrighteous when I burst into laughter as I read a Reuters news report that the Dutch Labour party wants to pass a law making unsolicited toe-licking an offence after police were unable to prosecute a would-be Casanova with a taste for female toes, because he had committed no crime.
A police spokesman said that a man had been detained after women sunning themselves in Rotterdam's parks and beaches claimed he would sneak up on them and begin to lick their toes.
"The officers had to let him go. Licking a stranger's toes is rather unusual but there is really nothing criminal about it," the spokesman said. Dutch press reports said the man, who is about 35, had been licking strangers' toes for about three years, but was only recently caught by police.
Peter van Heemst, a Labour member of Parliament, asked Christian Democrat Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner on Friday to explain why Dutch laws forbid littering but not uninvited toe-licking.
Mr van Heemst demanded an amendment prohibiting it.
Well, let me ask you, dear reader, when did you last see a set of toes that stimulated unhealthy desires in you? (those associated with the Royal family are exempted from being required to answer).
If you are a woman from the Fifties it is very likely they will be casualties of war, from cramming into small footwear.
Nor are brightly painted red toenails amidst corns, scars and bunions likely to send out a siren call so strong that Ulysses has to be bound to his mast.
Let's face it, toes are usually unattractive little buggers that are kept usually out of sight, all twenty of them, and get little attention apart from when their nails start cutting through stockings and socks.
Or when one of them stages an ingrown toenail rebellion that requires a visit to a surgeon. In that case, the toe gets curses, not kisses!
So, how has the human toe become a source of desire and. . .
So far it has been confined to Holland, but who knows?
'Australian Catholic schoolgirls have been advised to be modest and discreet when exposing their toes at surfing beaches.
'Bless me Father, for I have sinned - I exposed my toes at Bondi.' The whole thing further increases our paranoia. We know THEY are out there: bag snatchers, drunks, bashers, thieves, druggies, molesters. Now we have to watch out for the Toe Kissers.
Surely John Howard can say something about this? He is never backward on moral issues, for he, too, is a believer in. . .
There is a new program in Australian prisons aimed at helping prisoners to read. An astounding proportion of people in custody are unable to read a book. In this program one prisoner teaches another to read. It is proving terribly successful.
It is called Toe by Toe.
It is based upon a system devised in the UK. You can read about it at www.toe-by-toe.co.uk
Toe By Toe aims to provide information for anyone involved in the teaching of adults or children who suffer from specific learning difficulties (dyslexia). The name Toe by Toe was chosen to signify that a student makes progress by the tiniest steps.
One toe at a time!
For anybody interested in the Toe by Toe program:
Australian distributor: www.toe-by-toe.co.uk/ordersoz The program is currently being piloted in 10 prisons in NSW with 20 prisoners.