“Illness is the night side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place” Susan Sontag, “Illness as Metaphor"
The metaphor of citizenship and passports used by Susan Sontag is a good one. When we identify ourselves as citizens of a country - we carry the passport of that country. It says that it is the place we call home - in the words of the Peter Allen song, now more familiar to those who travel using QANTAS “but no matter how far - or how wide I roam, I still call Australia home”, but it is more than that. When we identify ourselves as citizens of a country we are saying we accept the culture of the country, the language of the country, the way things are done, the myths, the legends, the origins of that place. It’s footy and cricket, meat pies, good coffee, Ned Kelly, Gallipoli, Australian English - all that amalgam that we accept as citizens of Australia. We are not citizens of the land of the well occasionally visiting the land of the ill, we are now citizens of that land. We may travel for a while in the land of the well, but it is on the passport of the Kingdom of the Sick.
BC we were citizens of the Kingdom of the Well. We may have occasionally travelled in the Kingdom of the Sick, but we were there on a visa. Our passports were stamped at border control with the expected length of time we would be there. Sometimes that stay was extended, but we always returned to the country of our citizenship. Then without much ceremony we were deported from the land of the well into the Kingdom of the Sick. At border control our first passports were taken from us and we were identified as citizens of that other place. From time to time we can visit the Kingdom of the Well and we can even reside there for long times, but we know that from now on that is not where we are citizens. We travel back to our country, we visit the town of Regular Checkup, and if it is a good visit we can travel back to the land of the well on a visa that says ‘next time’. If it is not a good visit we travel on to the town of More Tests, even to the city of Further Treatment and perhaps the shire of Rehabilitation.
AC our culture, language, myths and legends have changed. The people we meet and associate with are more likely to be fellow citizens and we lose contact with those in the other country. It is now where we belong.
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill. R L Stevenson
Cancer Council NSW would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work.We would also like to pay respect to elders past and present and extend that respect to all other Aboriginal people.