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I am a writer and commentator, with a background in Indigenous sector project management and tabloid newspaper publishing.As a retired older-age Australian I use my time, and my voice, to highlight the level of social injustice that exists in this country. I seek a better, more humane, more progressive Australia.I do not limit myself to any one topic, and my writing style gives whimsy and left-field thought at least as much power as logic, fact, and reason.

On reaching the ripe age of 67 …

Tomorrow, touch wood, I reach the ripe old/young age of 67. Except for my family and friends that doesn’t necessarily mean all that much to anyone else, but it sure means an awful lot to me. I never thought I’d make it.

If matters such as Suicide or Childhood Sexual Abuse raise concerns for you then it is only fair to inform you that I do not intend to skate past them lightly in this article. Too much light-skating has been done with such matters, by too many, for too long.

As any of us grow older it is quite normal to reflect back upon a life either lived well, or badly, or neutrally, or desperately, or happily, or quietly, or dronishly, or distractedly. In my case all of those things have applied at one stage or another. To be more exact, perhaps they have all applied all of the time. Whatever the truth of that, life is still good.

When I reflect back on my own life I do so with the understanding that there are many people out there who have lived a far harder life than I have, and that helps me keep truth and perspective up front and centre as I write this. And it also explains why somebody like me abhors the thought of sympathy received at my end, but who is quite happy to extend same to others.

But why write this? Well, why not? I can’t always write about Artificial Intelligence, or Space, and I can always write about the weather tomorrow.

As a scribe I have had many articles published in the ‘citizens’ voice’ sphere. Articles on welfare, social justice, politics, the nature of time, and sometimes just simple quirky fun stuff. But who is the person who does the writing? Why do I think the way I do, and why do I pursue the social justice causes that I am so passionate about?

To answer all that would take a book-length scribble, so I’ll go for the short version instead.

People now talk quite openly about matters such as Childhood Sexual Abuse and Suicide. Over the course of my life such matters were not openly discussed, they were under-carpeted, and most people in my experience, except for an exceptional few, ran a million miles rather than listen to whatever I may have had to say. So be it, that’s the way it was. But now is different.

When I think about reaching the age of 67 I think about the people who did not reach that age, and the reasons why they did not reach that age, and I think about how for me the truth of the possibility of not reaching a point of happy old crustiness was such a close run thing.

At the moment I’m working on an article about the contemporary ALP, my usual take on the ludicrous nature of Australian politics, but in the background I’m also assisting another Survivor to get the story of the life he has lived into a coherent written form. Providing that assistance, though I am very determined to do so, is proving to be more difficult than I had imagined. It’s called the mirror effect. You see yourself reflected back.

Why have I lived my entire life with Suicide Ideation bubbling away just below the surface?

If you have read my articles on Childhood Sexual Abuse on AIMN you’ll have done the dot-joining thing ages ago, so I don’t need to reprise the details. Suffice it to say that there have been so many times throughout my life where I thought it would simply be easier, and less painful, to no longer be here, to no longer endure the painful feelings. Quite frankly, I’m bloody amazed, and thankful, that I am still here.

The other day I remarked to the other Survivor that if I had to describe my life it would be like this … My life was snuffed out and shut down at 5 years old and I didn’t start to wake up until I reached the age of 60 years. That’s a literal truth. No wonder I thought that not being around was better than being around.

I’d love to say that there was some sort of miraculous experience that made me dump the thought of suicide out the window, but there wasn’t. Such thoughts, and the affects of my childhood experiences, are permanent. They’ll be with me always. The reality of all that used to gut me out, and I fought against it with all of my energy, which simply left me permanently exhausted and seriously considering self-termination.

Yet I am still here. And why is that?

A good Psychiatrist simply made me realise that I was involving myself in a battle that I could never win. He made me realise that I was fighting against something that would never, despite herculean efforts, ever go away. Your condition is permanent old bod, so get used to it, work out a way to live with it, run with your intelligence (ha …. such as it is) and your strengths, and live on. It was a truth I needed to hear, and it sure as shit made me think about things.

There was I hoping for a release that would never come. There was I thinking of killing myself because the weight of depression and PTSD, despite all my efforts, was not getting any lighter at all. So it took a change of perspective from me. I had to change my view of everything.

My afflictions are permanent. They cannot be undone. They cannot be fixed. It has taken my whole life to come to an acceptance of those facts. Thank the stars or whatever that acceptance has come.

I have given up the fight. There is no battle to be fought. I now see the permanent nature of the injuries to my psyche and my being as stubbed bent toes that are simply solidly and permanently attached to me. They are part of me, they are a permanent part of my body, and they have shaped how I think, and what I think about.

When I write about social injustice in our society I write from a very solid, solid, base. I know what unfairness feels like, I know what demonisation feels like, I know what to be the recipient of rape and abuse feels like, I know what to be the recipient of violence feels like, I know what cruelty feels like, I know what to be the target of others’ warped anger feels like, I know what to be impoverished feels like, I know what to be disadvantaged feels like. That’s why I’m an experiential, and not a bookish or an academic style of writer.

I don’t always write about the Australian Welfare System, but when I do I am consciously scathing of it, and of those who designed it and of those who administer it. Reform of our system of welfare is a cause that I am passionate about. Welfare Recipients are human beings and deserve to be treated that way.

Refugees, who are legal seekers of asylum, and who are fleeing the warfare, and the bombs, that we have inflicted upon them because of our involvement in all of the Coalitions of the Willing, do not deserve to be treated inhumanely, nor do they deserve to be incarcerated.

I mention those last two matters to simply example how my own experiences have formed my thinking. My experiences inform my thinking in all such matters and causes.

As I finish off now my thinking runs to you, the reader, and I wonder what sort of life you have had. I wonder what obstacles you have had to surmount. I wonder where your joys come from. And I wonder what experiences inform your thinking. I certainly hope that your life is a happily lived one.

So tomorrow. 67 years of age. I’ll be celebrating it with bells on I assure you. A glass of Shiraz, maybe even a pie.

No matter what, life is good. I’m glad to be here.

Would you like an interesting Weekend Challenge?

Do you have a favourite topic or issue that you would like to raise? Perhaps something that you feel the media, or even writers like me, have never turned their attention to?

So here’s the challenge. Think of an article that you would like to write about that issue, but don’t actually write the whole article. Simply come up with a Title for the article, and then write a one or two paragraph synopsis and post it as your comment. I’ve given a couple of pull-quote examples below from my AIMN articles to give you an idea of length, word-count, and format. Might be fun and interesting for all the rest of us to read what you have to say. Brevity is the key.

Your topic doesn’t have to be serious, it can be raw comedy, or satirical, or it can be about Cricket if you wish, or it can be very serious and designed to draw our attention to a worthwhile cause. The usual rules of writing decorum apply … no overt bagging or personal attacks or over the top profanities.

Of course there has to be a winner, and there has to be a prize. Since I’m the worst judge of anything I’ll have to leave picking the winner to the Court of Public Opinion (ha … if that seems like a grand cop-out to you that’s only because it is), and as for the prize, the biggest Bucket Of Kudos will wing your way. Wouldn’t mind winning that one myself.

So … do you feel like taking up the challenge to inform, amuse, or even surprise the rest of us? Go for it, you are the writer and we are the audience!

Cosmic Follies and the Race for Space

Humanity was a low-level civilisation, and just like the 3,112 other failed civilisations we have studied thus far in the galaxy known by the Aliens as the Milky Way .. they were hardly unique. They succumbed to the same self-destructive drive as the others. They never managed to become post-nuclear, or post-war, and they killed off their own habitat, and ultimately their own species.

The Australian Dark Age

To anybody who might think that I’m being slightly over the top here all I can say is the following … the water is in the pan, it is currently lukewarm, and we are the frog. Also, the mass of the population under the old Weimar Republic thought that the totalitarian ‘jobs and growth’ mantra was a wonderful thing, until they learnt at great cost to themselves and others that it wasn’t when economic crisis and political instability led to the collapse of the republic and the rise of the Third Reich.

Through the lens of time

Whimsy … is it possible for me to look back over my shoulder, and from my present now, directly observe the Roman invasion of Britain in 43AD? You’ll soon see that I have a prime, if hopeless, motivation for wanting to do such a thing.

Of course, it is possible for me to do it. It is eminently possible. But the trouble is I’m in the wrong place to observe such a thing. I’d need to be somewhere on the other side of our galaxy with an exceptionally good telescope. Reflected earth light from 43AD has been travelling outwards from here at the rate of 299,792,458 meters per second, which translates as 9,460,528,000,000 km each and every year for the last 1,976 years.

Endgame: Machine artificial intelligence and the implications for humanity

Machines are now learning how to modify their own instructional code based on their own experience of the external world. This type of coding is not based on humanity’s experience of the external world. Once a machine learns how to jump, jump it will. Once a machine learns how to think, think it will. Once a machine learns to act autonomously, act autonomously it will.

Humans are teaching machines how to recognise individual humans via facial recognition, and how to sense some human emotional states via bio-metric sensing. In the future, if a machine senses a threat it will act. Humans, and their emotional states, are a bit of a jumble. Sometimes fear responses can be mis-interpreted as aggressive responses. If a machine senses a threat it will act.

Some AI coders say that we should not fear any of these eventualities. They say that intelligent machines will augment and enrich the lives of human beings. There is truth and untruth in that. Weaponised machines will kill us humans just as dispassionately as one of them sans weapons will vacuum our carpets.

The Desert of Redemption?

In early April 2019 I jumped in my venerable X-Trail and headed west and alone into the Australian desert. After the finalisation of my case against the Catholic Church I needed clear air, I needed blue sky, I needed wider spaces, I badly needed a gallon of the finest shiraz, and I desperately craved a sense of redemption. It ended up being, to my surprise, a 7000k long journey.

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When Zealots control Welfare …

There is something wrong with the heart and soul of this nation. There is something troubling about the level of demonisation and targeted punishment that is directed at the most vulnerable members of our society.

There is something that is becoming clearly self-evident: when you allow amateur ideologically driven social engineers control over our welfare system they will promulgate, enforce, and saturate their social security policies with hate.

The evidence is in. The current Coalition Government of Australia more than overtly hates Welfare Recipients. The Cashless Welfare Card. Drug testing. Deliberate impoverishment on Newstart. The punitive JobActive system. RoboDebt.

And who are Welfare Recipients? Given the existence of a certain set of circumstances, or given the non-existence of a certain set of circumstances, Welfare Recipients are you and me, or could be you and me.

The unplanned loss of a job, which could happen to you at any time, and the difficulty in gaining a replacement for it. The trauma of divorce and the loss of assets, and the loss of the ability to cope, for mature aged men and women. The young struggling to gain a start. Homelessness. Sickness. Mental health issues which affect an increasing number of us. Economic recession. Any of those things could happen to you at any time and force you to become reliant on welfare.

Who else is on welfare? Far too many women who have lost everything, who have fled for their lives from the scourge of domestic violence. Far too many men and women whose lives have been ripped apart by the lasting damage of childhood sexual abuse. Far too many human beings whose lives have been turned upside down by unforeseen events.

And how are they treated? As scum, as dregs, as a drain on national resources, as bludgers, as drug addicts, as irresponsible, as incapable, as scammers, as low-lifes.

Well is that what you are? Is that what you will be if life sends you the curve-ball of unemployment for whatever reason?

We now have a situation in this country where hate appears to be the underpinning glue of social policy. Where from the Prime Minister down to the thoughtless braying crowd the expression of hate towards the vulnerable is seen to be good, and right, and just.

Well it is not.

The majority of Welfare Recipients, just like the majority of people in the workplace, just like the majority of people living in your suburb, just like the majority of people sitting next to you at a football match, just like the majority of people next to you on the bus, are decent normal folk just trying to lead a decent normal life.

A small number of people in your workplace, in your suburb, in that footy crowd, on that bus, or on welfare, will seek to take advantage. A small number of people always seek to do that. We’ve all met them, especially in the workplace.

Yet, from the Prime Minister down, we are fed a daily diet of hate towards Welfare Recipients, towards that one group of disadvantaged Australian citizens. We are told that people on welfare are different to anybody else, we are told that they are advantage seekers who need to be controlled, managed, corralled, and punished. Well they are not different to anybody else, they are you and me, or they could be you and me.

The conservative media takes delight in singling out isolated cases of welfare recipients who seek advantage, and then by imputation the media brands the majority of the rest of the decent folk on welfare as dole-bludgers, addicts, and societal thieves. Such media blood sport is sickening. That people watch, believe, and repeat such obvious untruths is worrying, because it speaks of the ease with which hate is being promulgated in our society.

We have now hit a ridiculous point in our national life. On the one hand we have a zealot, yes a zealot of a Prime Minister who publicly parades his religious love of fellow man for electoral advantage, but who promulgates policies of social injustice towards the disadvantaged.

And on the other hand we now have religious organisations and other community groups having to deplete their scant resources to repair the growing damage caused by our Prime Minister’s proudly proclaimed policies. The homelessness, the suicides, the despair, the poverty, the unfairness – all of those things are happening to decent disadvantaged folk in our society as a direct consequence of the policies of this current government.

There is something wrong with the heart and soul of this nation if we allow the current situation to continue. There is something wrong with our brutal national policies towards the disadvantaged. A very hateful and cruel streak runs through those who are in charge of our welfare system.

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Cosmic Follies and the Race to Space

Author: time will tell as to whether this is a work of fiction, or not.

When carried on the wind, and when afforded the passage of uncounted millennia of time, even the soft red dust of the planet had sufficient ablative power to erode down even the strongest of the Alien’s structures. Had we arrived a million years later, which is nothing in the cosmic scheme of things, in all likelihood, there would have been nothing left to study, or learn from.

Had we arrived two million years earlier we would have met them.

Bittersweet. That is the only way to describe our feelings when we first discovered the remnants of this space-faring civilisation. In our journeys throughout this galaxy, we had never, ever, seen any evidence that any other species had become post-atomic, or had clawed their way up the gravity well in a lasting sense. Yet here we were, on this small dusty red planet, looking at the evidence such as it was, and we had missed a face to face meeting with them by the smallest mere speck of time. Bittersweet.

But enough of such musings. As a Space Archaeologist, I have a job to do, and a report to write. If death and taxes were once perennial in our embodied era, the need to publish as First Author, and gain and retain resources, is still a must in the current one.

Report to the Senate Select Committee on Civilisation Number 3,113: Another example of Cosmic Folly in the Race to Space.
Principal Author: Identity 756
Co-Authors: Identity 832. Identity 184.

Source of information: Crystalline Data Cubes x 6. Located in a lined and once inhabited lava tube below Alien Base A. Called A simply because it was found first. AI Identity 184 managed the de-coding of the Alien’s digital records and a translation of same into our language.

Data from the Cubes is comprehensive. It details evolutionary history of the species, the rise of their civilisation from one-cell through to the level of multi-cell, the attainment and management of technological sophistication, and it also provides the timeline of their development of rocketry and their ultimate achievement of the prize of inter-planetary travel.

Their species was homogeneous, of one single type only, though they did adopt the artificial construct of ‘differing out’ on such matters as melanin content, and on a matter that they called Political Ideology. Prior to their demise, the Aliens had not achieved disembodiment, or transition through to absolute sentience as AI.

Prior to delivering the full body of the Report, I would like to present the following as an Executive Summary. It speaks for itself and is a direct translation from a digital video segment on sub-level 32 on Data Cube 4.

Mars Base Plymouth, Olympus Mons. 19th September 2045. Daily log. Security Classification Level: “Seriously? Who is left to care?”

“My name is Harald Jacobsen. I am a Human Being. I am the last surviving member of the Mars Joint Mission Number 15. I will run out of oxygen in two days time. I am well aware that no other human beings will hear my words. There are, no longer, any other human beings. My words are for those who may follow, who may one day come into and explore this Solar System.

I am not a technical expert, I am not a scientist, I am a plumber. And whoever you are who follows on from us, I am all you’ve got. All you’ll get is my view of things. But where to start?

Living and working in Space had always been my dream, and gaining a position on the multi-national Mars Base Plymouth maintenance team was that dream realised. The commercialisation of Space had largely been achieved in a cooperative manner. The Chinese, Americans, Europeans, Russians, and Indians largely stuck to a collegiate approach. The minor fracas over equitable access to the frozen water at the base of some of the Moon’s craters was settled satisfactorily by arbitration.

The scientific community, largely funded by governments, sought to explore and understand Space. The industrial community driven by private entrepreneurs sought to exploit it, especially the mineral resources in the asteroid belt. But tensions between the two were held to a manageable level. Bases were set up on the Moon and Mars, and exploratory missions were planned to explore the planets and moons further out in the solar system.

In many ways, we had it all. As a civilisation, we had managed to escape our planetary cradle, the birthplace of our species. We now had one egg in three baskets. If such a thing is possible we had ensured the survival of our species. Let’s face it, it was highly unlikely that one massive rogue asteroid could wipe out Earth, the Moon, or Mars, all in one go.

The Arms Race in Space was a bit of a worry though. So much happened in that area so quickly, and all of the space-faring nations dived in and played their part in ringing the planet with nuclear mega-tonnage. So it is a little hard to just point the finger at any one country, they all contributed to the craziness.

Somewhere in the Data Cubes no doubt you’ll find many Technical Papers that describe the reaching of the climatic tipping point on our home planet, Earth. We didn’t stop crapping in our own nest soon enough is this layman’s view of it all.

Despite the many warnings, we kept shooting foul gases up into our own atmosphere. We thought we had decades, a century even, to clean up the mess. We were wrong. The times of crisis, the point of critical mass, arrived in a rush. It felt as though Earth herself was saying that ‘I’ve simply had enough’. She bumped up the temperature by more than a notch.

But it was survivable for us as a species. We evacuated our coastal regions to avoid the rush-in of the mega-hurricanes, and the sea level rise caused by the total meltdown of the planet’s glaciers and ice sheets. We migrated to the sweet spot latitudes to escape the encroachment of the inland drought-induced deserts, and we emigrated to the continent of Antarctica.

But the common folk were not part of the ‘we’ who did those things. It was the powerful and the rich, and their attached national military forces, who grabbed and defended for themselves those safe havens.

Water refugees, sea level rise refugees, heat refugees, food refugees, were all turned back to their terminal fate.

Here on Mars, and on the Moon, we watched it all unfold. We had our own concerns, because we were still at least a decade away from achieving full self-sufficiency. We still relied heavily on re-supply missions from Earth.

And then the wave of Nuclear Suitcase Bombs happened in the safe havens. And then, in retaliation, big red buttons were pressed. And pressed again. And pressed again. And so it unfolded, and so it all ended.

The madness did not migrate to the Moon or Mars. Perhaps the button-pressers simply ran out of missiles. We managed to eke out our dwindling supplies for a bit but they were finite, and they have now run out. My last fellow human being died yesterday. There are three bottles of oxygen left.

When you folk from a future time study our species you’ll probably wonder about a few things.

Like: how can a species ignore such high-level evidence pointing to human-induced degradation of climate and atmosphere? How could a species so successfully stick their heads into the sands of deniability as the evidence mounted, and mounted, and mounted?

And: you’ll probably wonder at the level of self-species hatred that we carried. At first, we threw rocks at each other. Then we threw spears. Then we hacked with swords and shot with bullets. Then we used cannons and bombs. Then nuclear-tipped missiles. The voices of destruction defeated the voices of peace. We wiped ourselves off the face of planet Earth. No doubt you’ll wonder how any sentient species could have done that to itself.

Was it truly all like that? Well, I’m the last voice left, so you’ll have to take my word for it. Mine are the last set of human eyes that will ever observe the heavens, and I’m pretty pissed off because being the last Human was never supposed to be part of my job description.

Do I have any famous last words to share? No, I do not. Unlike the main character in Andy Weir’s 2011 book The Martian, there will be no happy ending for me. There are no potatoes.

I’m Human. I’m alone. I’m scared.”

Comment from Principal Author AI Identity 756

I will use Human Alien nomenclature in this summary. The full report follows on from this.

Humanity was a low-level civilisation, and just like the 3,112 other failed civilisations we have studied thus far in the galaxy known by the Aliens as the Milky Way .. they were hardly unique. They succumbed to the same self-destructive drive as the others. They never managed to become post-nuclear, or post-war, and they killed off their own habitat, and ultimately their own species.

Humanity called our home galaxy Andromeda, or NGC 224. The latter name has a nice ring to our ears. From there we have sent out many exploratory missions into neighbouring galaxies. The result has always been the same. Unfortunately, I cannot yet supply an answer to the Senate on the question that we have asked ourselves over and over again …

Does lasting intelligence exist anywhere, or are we, as we fear, truly alone in the Universe?

Author’s note: I certainly hope this remains a work of fiction. Also, we live in an era where theft of IP is rampant. The content above, and the Perfidon material in The Australian Dark Age is ©Keith Davis,2019©. They may end up as short stories or screenplays, who knows? Mmm … the © will not mean much if we blow ourselves up though will it?

 

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The Eyes of Margaret Reynolds

Even crusty old writers get to escape the starvation in a garret thing and have an occasional holiday. As an avowed and well-practiced Queensland hermit I’ve even surprised myself this year: one trip out into the Australian deserts, and last week a trip down to Tasmania.

And in Tasmania a chance meeting happened …

Quite at random a friend, and yes hermits do have friends, picked out a Richmond Air B&B to stay at for a few nights. From there we planned a trip to Port Arthur and then a bit of wilderness trekking, or wilderness dawdling in my case.

Margaret Reynolds was the contact name on the Air B&B site.

Margaret wasn’t home when we arrived late in the afternoon at the Air B&B place. Her husband Henry, and dog Harry, invited us in. Never got to speak much with Henry during the visit, but would liked to have, as he had an air of mischievousness, and of academic intelligence, about him.

We were shown through to our spot at the back of the place and the first thing I noticed were … the photos up on the walls.

Gough Whitlam. Bob & Hazel Hawke. Richard Butler. Kofi Annan. Xanana Gusmao. The collected Hawke/Keating Ministry. Antonio Guterres. They all beamed down.

Further along the wall was a print of a very old Suffragette Banner. Then there was a bookcase full of feminist writings. Then there was a simple sign that said the Whitlam Room. Then there was a brass plaque that read Senator Margaret Reynolds.

All thought of the wonders of Tasmania temporarily leaked out of my ears as the penny dropped. This was ALP tribal country. A Social Justice heartland. As one does, I did the neck-swivel thing looking around for the glow from the Light On The Hill.

Ha, it made me wonder what a Howard or Abbott devotee would have made of it all.

And then Margaret Reynolds arrived home.

Because we all have feet of clay I never put anyone on a pedestal, but I have to say that in meeting Margaret Reynolds it was both a pleasure, and a learning experience.

The first thing I noticed were her eyes … laced with humour, and tinged with steel. They’ve seen a lot I reckon. They looked at us with intelligence, wit, and no doubt a fair bit of quick summing up, and then they opened up with a smile and invited us into a small part of her world.

Having just written, prior to the Tasmanian trip, a piece on the status of women in contemporary Australia for the AIMN Network, I was gob-smacked to be having a conversation with a woman who devotes much of her life, and who devoted the majority of her period in public service at the highest levels, to the pursuit of equality for women. Margaret was the ALP Minister assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women from January 1988 to April 1990.

The subject of women though hardly came up in our conversation with Margaret, so I had to rely on the process of osmosis and proximity to glean insights. The conversation was mainly, surprise, surprise, all about politics. Historical and contemporary.

How often does any one of us get to enjoy a breakfast cooked by someone who has seen far more than she can say, who has mixed with contemporary and historical figures that the rest of us have only ever read about, and who played her part in the most progressive period of governance that Australia has ever experienced?

The most progressive period of governance that Australia has ever experienced. You may agree or disagree with that, but I see it as a given.

Do I know more about Bob Hawke? Do I know more about Paul Keating? Do I know more about Anthony Albanese? Do I know more about Tanya Plibersek? Yes I do. But can I tell you any interesting stuff without betraying the trust of what I considered to be a private conversation? Just a small bit, a little bit, a slight tad, a sliver, yes I think I can.

Bob Hawke was who he appeared to be, there was no artifice whatsoever. Paul Keating’s public persona was very different to his private one. Privately he was very considerate and quite shy, shiny suits aside. I wish I could say a lot more about a lot more.

The stay in Richmond at Margaret and Henry’s and Harry’s place was very brief. It was a rare moment where pure chance gave one a brief window of opportunity to look into a very different world. My friend and I were eyeballs-wide and ears-open I can assure you.

As I stood in the bedroom where Gough Whitlam once slept a lot of thoughts whirred around the old brain box. I thought about what the ALP once was, and I thought about what it has now become. A follow-on article will come out of standing for that moment in that bedroom.

It was a pleasure meeting Margaret and Henry Reynolds in their home. Chance meetings like that rarely come along, and moments in time like that should be appreciated for what they are.

Resonance is a funny thing, and it is also fitting to realise that the foundation level of their house was built by an entrepreneurial Convict. The place came into being in the 1820s as a working-class Inn.

From Wikipedia: Margaret Reynolds (born 19 July 1941) served as an Australian Labor Party Senator for Queensland from 1983 to 1999.

Reynolds had two ministerial appointments during her time in the Senate, serving as Minister for Local Government from September 1987 to April 1990 and as Minister assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women from January 1988 to April 1990.

She retired from federal politics in 1999, and went on to lecture in politics and international relations at the University of Queensland. In 1995, Reynolds published a book titled The Last Bastion: Labor women working towards equality in the parliaments of Australia, which is a compilation of biographical details about ALP women from the Party’s inception till the year it was published. A further book, Living Politics, was published by University of Queensland Press in 2007.

From Wikipedia: Henry Reynolds established the Australian History program at Townsville University College, where he accepted a lectureship in 1965, later serving as an Associate Professor of History and Politics from 1982 until his retirement in 1998.

He then took up an Australian Research Council post as a professorial fellow at the University of Tasmania, and subsequently a post at the University’s Riawunna Centre for Aboriginal Education.

In more than ten books and numerous academic articles Reynolds has explained the high level of violence and conflict involved in the colonisation of Australia, and the Aboriginal resistance to numerous massacres of indigenous people.

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com .. PELL .. ing

I write about many things for AIMN: politics, artificial intelligence, women, Australia Day, alternative energy etc. But there is one issue that is receiving a lot of press attention lately … and I cannot let it pass unmentioned.

Thousands upon thousands of words have been written lately about the George Pell case. The legal fraternity has had a say. The media has had a say. His supporters have been granted, and have taken, more than a say. The power of might and money is fuelling his appeal and seeking his early release.

Thousands upon thousands of words, conversely, have never been written about each and every individual case, each and every individual one of the untold number of thousands of cases where a young human being was attacked and sexually brutalised by some members of the religious clergy.

An equal amount of words have never been written about the subsequent affects of that abuse on the daily life of each and every single, living, Survivor.

George Pell is not important. What happens to him now is not important. He was found guilty of a heinous crime. He was sentenced. He is not deserving of any attention. For the rest of his life he will have to deal, and live, with himself. That is enough, that is justice, and as long as his physical being is cared for, and as long as he resides in safety in prison, it is all of the attention that I think his matter now deserves.

It is no surprise to find out that convicted clergy do not like being placed into a prison. It is no surprise to find out that they do not like the loss of their freedom. It may surprise some of the public to be confronted by, and informed about, the type of prison that each and every Survivor is unwillingly placed into.

The only way I can do that is by taking you on an unexpected journey …

Last week I visited Port Arthur in Tasmania. On the site of the old Penitentiary, amongst all the ruins, there is a stand alone building called the Separate Prison. While the convicts housed outside that building were subject to forms of corporal punishment, leg irons and lashings and that sort of thing, the inmates of the Separate Prison were subject to an unremitting regime of mental cruelty.

The regime inside that Separate Prison was based on the thinking of Quaker Reformers back then, religious folk, who believed that sensory deprivation and isolation and fierce discipline had strong rehabilitative powers. The reality is that many inmates of that prison ended up broken men, shattered men, who lost the cognitive power to care for themselves and ended up permanent invalids, who even after release had to be permanently cared for by the state. There was not a lot of religious love associated with that process.

Inside the Separate Prison there is a room called the Punishment Cell. It is very small with a vaulted ceiling, and it is beyond dark, no light can penetrate in. If you were strong-willed or recalcitrant you were placed in there. The solitary confinement was absolute .. can you try to imagine how that must have felt?

I walked into that room and briefly closed the door, and didn’t think too much about anything other than how dark and confining and spirit-sapping the room was. Then I walked out of the Separate Prison planning to see whatever was next on the list and grab a coffee.

Thirty yards down the path the world flipped upside down …

Out of the blue I froze up and burst into tears. Yep, a mature older man in his late sixties standing in the middle of a path with tears streaming in a torrent down his face. The friend with me was consoling, but wondered what the heck had just happened that had upset me so much. I was so flustered by this unexpected event that I was wondering the same thing myself. I couldn’t understand or explain it. And then it hit home like a sledgehammer.

It was the isolation and the darkness you see …

The Punishment Cell had become a metaphor for something else. The Prison of Separation that many Survivors try to endure, the loaded affect of years of mental cruelty and physical abuse that Survivors try to carry.

The human mind is a wonderful thing. Sometimes it manages to compartmentalise experienced horrors and shunt them off to the side, and just when you think they are safely managed an event or a moment in time pops up and temporarily negates the defences and blows unexpected tears out of your eyes. It takes a moment to compose and regather.

As a Survivor, and as an advocate for Survivors of childhood sexual abuse who are still trying to find their voice, I have previously written about how it feels to struggle up for any sort of clear air, any sort of release from the weight of depression and PTSD that many Survivors carry.

That bloody cell was the perfect metaphor for the prison of the mind that many Survivors are incarcerated in.

While George Pell and his supporters scream for his release, we Survivors have to battle out from the darkness, the isolation, the mental cruelty, the physical assaults, and the sexual predation that we experienced. We are left to deal with the Separate Prison placed into our own minds by our religious carers.

And some of the supporters of those clergy have the appalling audacity to call us whingers and scum. That is surely a measure of them. It is surely not a measure of us.

The thousands upon thousands of words currently being written about George Pell need to dry up. The focus needs to shift away from him, he is not important and is undeserving of all the attention, and the focus needs to shift where it should belong, onto the ongoing rehabilitative needs of the untold number of thousands of Survivors.

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Women

Can a man write about a situation that concerns women in our society? I guess we are about to find out. The photo used to illustrate this article was chosen because it well represents, in my eyes, the amount of grit that is thrown the way of women … so on with the article.

I was simply having a chat with a female friend the other day, shooting the breeze, deciding whether to have fish and chips for lunch or not, and the subject of the treatment of women came up. Without any conscious pre-thought I blurted out that the treatment of women in modern Australia is toxic.

That kind of stopped me dead in my tracks for a bit. Gave me pause for thought. I suspect that my female friend was not all all surprised by the content of what I said, but where on earth did my statement come from? What was I basing such an assertion on? It all made me ponder a bit more over the fish and chips.

As a man self-raised in my younger years on at least some of the principles espoused by people like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, even if I didn’t fully understand everything that they were saying at the time … I thought that things were on the rise for women in our society.

I admired the fact that women were standing up and out there with courage and saying that they had had enough of the inequality bullshit that they had endured since the day dot, and it opened my eyes to how pervading that bullshit actually was.

But all of that was back then, over almost half a century ago. And as I look around today I seriously question whether anything that has locked-in and enduring value has changed for women at all. Maybe I’m wrong with that but I’m flat out finding any evidence to convince me otherwise.

It is very easy as a man, who has fortuitously been surrounded by independent women throughout most of his adult life, to be so easily deluded into thinking that the fight for equality has gained and advanced across firm and non-regressive ground.

Nothing that I am about to say has not been said before, or said better before. Maybe many women and men have said these things so many times before it is not funny. Well, I’m quite happy to jump in and say it all again, and proffer an opinion.

No man alive has any sort of unique insight into the workings of a female human being, or into how a woman feels. But none of that should stop a man from being an effective acquaintance, friend, partner, listener, boss, random man met in the street, or even leader of a nation.

Lacking such insight does not stop many of us men from being those very positive things, good friends and partners etc. Yet sometimes other men choose another path to that and they choose to add-on and express and realise a brutal exhibition of violence towards women.

Women have no unique insight to the workings of a man either you have to, or may possibly like to, admit, and allowing for the occasional example to the contrary women generally appear to be more effective at fostering cordial inter-relationship from the personal through to the societal level. I don’t know why that is, to me it simply appears to be so.

If anybody reckons that they do have unique insights into the opposite gender then I reckon that they’d be a unique example of a unique first. It would be a wonderful gift to have.

It all leads me to the hard questions. All of this happens elsewhere, but I am talking about Australia.

Who denies equal pay to some women?
Who denies equality of representation to women in the workplace, and in places like our Parliaments?
Which gender voice swamps our national airwaves?
Which gender tells another to ram a sock down their throat?
Which gender tells an individual of the other that their social campaigning against violence towards women is unfair to men?
Who fears, and in some cases, hates women?
Who beats up, terrorises, rapes, and continually objectifies women?
Who follows women into parks at night and kills them?
Who, on average, kills one Australian woman each and every week of each and every year of each and every decade?

The answer is some men. Not all men by any means. Some men.

So what can the rest of us men do? Apart from wearing pretty ribbons of solidarity on our shirts or suit labels what can we do about it?

Maybe, we could stop preaching at women with such lines as … don’t walk around alone looking like a victim because you will be seen as same and predated upon. Really? Strong independent women with no carried sense of the victim about them are just as regularly killed.

In the past I’ve been guilty of waffling such silly preaching sorts of lines, but luckily my female friends didn’t disown me, they simply threw a bit of short sharp re-education my way. I’m glad they did, true friends and all that.

Perhaps a better response is to ask ourselves as men how can we contribute to a change in society that ensures that women can walk around alone in safety. We could also ask a woman that question and keep our ears open to hear the answer.

We could ensure that our legislators, and more importantly ourselves, call out domestic violence for the act of criminality and terrorism that it is. If the rate of female deaths in Australia due to domestic violence were down to the actions of a non-state rogue terrorist group then the full resources of the nation would be utilised to end it.

Excuse me for being so blunt about it, but the relatives of the women who have been killed have every right to ask why did you not utilise the full resources of this nation to end the horror that they experienced, the horror that ultimately took their lives? That is, and remains, the most plaintive and fair of questions.

I cannot help but think that we do not yet even closely have enough female representation at any level in our society where decisions about the realities of female inequality or violence towards women are seriously attended to, or rectified.

As an example at the most simplest of levels: equality of pay: payroll systems are automated and computerised, so to harmonise pay rates between the genders in the commercial work sphere … all it would take is the pressing of a few keyboard buttons. Who is stopping such a simple pressing of those buttons from happening? Why is all the hot air and dialogue on that issue still circulating about, after all these decades, without any concrete action occurring? How can the CEOs of private companies, and the owners of medium to small businesses, justify their inaction?

What is the thing in our society that we refuse to glare at and engage full on with? I don’t think it can be said any other way … it is the all pervasiveness and continued existence of the Doctrine of Male Dominance. After all the years of effort it has not been de-constructed.

Too many men, either through their fear of change, or their apathy towards change, or their outright support and fostering of The Doctrine, actively contribute towards its still present dominance over the workings of our society. It is a Doctrine that continues to kill women.

Life itself has led me to the following view of things, and as wobbly and as full of lessons and the re-learning of forgotten lessons as my weave through life and its experiences has been, there is no place for inequality or violence in that view.

As an over-arching statement … there is no place for inequality and violence in the world of men and men, or in the world of women and women, but it concerns me that there is still such a predominant amount of inequality and violence in the world that exists between men and women here in Australia. It is going to take all our combined efforts to stop it.

I don’t think that women are better than men, or that men are better than women. We are all here on a great planet, the only one we currently have until we get to Mars, and our genders swirl around each other with our intriguing differences continually interacting in a dance of unpredictable and joyous possibility.

Why would anybody want to hurt, or be allowed to hurt, an opposite gender who equally contributes to creating something as precious as the minutiae of that wonderful dance?

I, as a man, and my female friends, as women, might all be old invisible farts to the rest of society, we might well be seen as the dated children of the Age of Aquarius who never quite managed to achieve the lofty goals of gender fairness that we strived for way back then. But guess what? We are still here, and we are still striving for something that should not be elusive at all … equality, and an end to violence against women in our society!

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Australia Day 2020 … Boycott!

On Australia Day 2020 I intend to sit that one out, preferably out in the bush somewhere, as far away from the flag-waving and nationalistic hype as I can possibly get. I find the whole charade sickening.

It is not that I have anything against the existence of an Australia Day as such. A stipulated day where we celebrate who we are as a people, celebrate our national hero types, and celebrate our collective achievements in art, science, social progressiveness (there must be some), and industry. There is nothing wrong with that, it is a worthy enough pursuit. But that is not the sort of Australia Day we currently have.

Firstly, the chosen date has insensitivity written all over it, and secondly, it has become a day where the behaviour of Ugly Nationalistic Australia is given permission to reign free. Neither of the two are worth celebrating or being around.

It might help if we developed a greater understanding of the history of the months of January/February 1788 and got the actual date of so-called settlement right.

On 26th January 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip landed in Port Jackson, along with a small crew of marines and oarsmen, and apparently took possession of everything he could see in the name of King George III of England. Perhaps we will grow up as a nation one day and no longer do it, but 231 years later we are still tugging the convict forelock in the direction of those English Monarchs.

But back to Phillip … it all sounds such a stirring landing event but most flag-wavers forget, or have never even bothered to find out, that the actual proclamation ceremony for the formal establishment of the colony of New South Wales, and the investiture of Arthur Phillip as first Governor, did not occur until 7th February 1788.

Before 7th February 1788, Phillip was far too busy protecting the female convicts who had recently been disembarked off the ship Lady Penrhyn from the rum-sodden predations of the male marines and convicts to have any time to formally declare or grab anything in the name of anybody.

And what was it that he formally established on 7th February 1788? He established a penal colony. He established a prison. In some ways, depending on how you look at things, Phillip quite unknowingly to be absolutely fair to him, established the Australian prototype for Manus.

So … on Australia Day we celebrate the formal opening of a prison, and we can’t even get the date right.

Before any sensitive folk tell me to go back to where I came from, I’m a sixth-generation Australian whose ancestors were boat people who got a free ride to the prison of New South Wales because they stole from the wealthy in England in order not to starve. As a progeny of convicts, I’m not inclined to celebrate Australian Prison Day on either the 26th of January or the 7th of February … why on earth would I?

(You cannot make origin statements like that these days without scrutiny, whether you want to get into Parliament or not, so for fact-checker types see the notes after this article.)

Many conservative fear-mongers say that 26th January has always been the date for Australia Day and that it should remain unchanged otherwise the world as we know it will belly-up tomorrow. What a load of nonsense. Prior to 1935, each state celebrated the foundation of the Prison on a different day, and it was only in 1935 that they all agreed to crank up the BBQ on the same agreed date. There are hundreds of other days Australia Day can be celebrated on.

Meanwhile …
Meanwhile …
Meanwhile …
While all the drinks slide down and the nationalistic self-congratulation gushes forth …

Thrust into the background of the celebrations that we currently observe on the 26th of January is an entire culture of human beings, the Aboriginal custodians and owners of this land, who may have a thought or two about what they see paraded before their eyes. And what do they see each and every Australia Day?

They see, on the anniversary of the day Phillip stuck his foot on the shore of Port Jackson, the modern beneficiaries of that invasion of Australia, and that happens to be some of us, swilling beer and waving flags in memory of the day when the rapes, and the poisonings, and the massacres, and the stealing of land, and the dismemberment of a culture, began. They see the dark truth of our own history promoted up as a moment worthy of celebration.

The 26th of January is not a day of national celebration, it is a symbolic day of the memory of a national ugliness that started on that date.

To further compound the supremely insensitive error of judgement that the choosing of the date 26th January was, we still persist in refusing recognition and a voice to the very human beings whose culture and people were raped, poisoned, massacred and desiccated. We throw the hopes of Indigenous people back into their faces, and we walk all over our own much-touted Australian principles of egalitarianism, fairness, and humanity, as the drinks slide down and the self-congratulation gushes forth.

Many people say that oh you cannot say this, or you cannot say that. The problem with modern Australia is that the wrong sort of powerful voices are out there being heard in the political and media spheres, and that not enough of us are prepared to stand up and oppose them with courage.

I oppose the current iteration of Australia Day for a number of reasons given above. And here’s another one. I mention it to simply illustrate a point.

As a Survivor of child abuse, I can assure you that I do not get out there on a particular day and celebrate the anniversaries of those horrific deeds, and I am deadly bloody sure that you would understand why I would not want to do that.

My experiences inform my thinking. So I do find it beyond belief that we as a whole nation get out there on a particularly insensitive day and celebrate what was clearly the beginning of the attempted destruction of an entire Aboriginal people and their culture.

I’m not against the idea of an Australia Day. I’m against the date it is held on.

The date for celebrating Australia Day in 2020 should be changed. If not, I’m borrowing a line from a Jethro Tull song and sitting that one out, I’m boycotting it, and I’m heading for the bush.

Notes:
Mary Geer (1789-1851) arrived on the William Pitt in 1806. She was sentenced to hang for pilfering but the sentence was changed to transportation for life.

William Davis (1780 -). William was convicted of burglary and sentenced to death by hanging, but this was commuted to transportation for life. He arrived in Sydney Cove in 1800 on the Royal Admiral.

There seems to be a bit of a correlation between the treatment of the poor in England in the 1780s and the treatment of the poor and the disadvantaged in Australia in 2019. If both of my ancestors were alive in modern Australia I’m absolutely convinced that they’d be front line activists for the raising of Newstart.

 

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Australia should join the non-aligned bloc of nations …

When big dogs bark, little dogs should keep their flapping yaps shut.

If there ever has been a saying that so clearly applies to Australia … it is that one. We may have a huge landmass, but as seen from the rest of the world we are a small country with a minimal population. We have little power to influence international geopolitical tides, and we are subordinate to the dictates of China and America.

China lectures us, and we swallow it with a mixture of anger and obsequious servility. America has no need to lecture us, it simply points, and we simply follow.

In the pretend political debates about whether or not Australia should join whatever the next iteration of the Coalition of the Willing may happen to be, the outcome of such debates is always a given. If the USA wants us there, we will be there, if they don’t want us there, we won’t be there. Either way it will be at America’s direction. We are not an independent country.

Such fawning acceptance of the will of America has led us into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with the resultant destabilisation of the nations and regions surrounding those two countries. Both of those long standing wars were lost and even now America is negotiating with the Taliban in order to pull out safely the remaining troops of the USA.

Our involvement in those two American wars cost our country dearly.

We now have far too many maimed and PTSD-ridden defence force personnel who are struggling to gain any sort of fair recognition and compensation for the ills they suffered from the very government that sent them there.

We now have a generation of refugees from our wars thrown into isolated camps and punished for fleeing the horrors that our wars visited upon their countries. We treat them as worse than criminals. But they are not the wrong doers. It is we who are the criminals by association.

How did it all come to this? How did we lose our way so badly?

All the Think Tank international relations and defence experts can wax on as lyrically as they like about our relative place in the world, but what they rarely say is that we are a very small country with ambitions and pretensions far greater than our abilities to deliver same.

We are an ex-colonial, nationalistic, and sometimes blithely ignorant small country sitting on the rump of Asia. Whether we like it or not we don’t matter much, or have much influence, on the world stage.

We have a compact and professional Australian Defence Force (ADF). One of the best in the world. But it is so small it has no hope of defending Australia in stand alone mode against any form of concerted foreign aggression targeted solely at us. We even have a Navy ship stranded in dry dock because we cannot find enough crew for it. All the hype and flag waving by our politicians will not change stark facts. We are unable to effectively defend ourselves.

If push ever comes to shove in the geopolitical arena we will not be attacked because of who we are as a people. We will not be attacked because we consciously stand as a threat to anybody else. We will be targeted because of who we align ourselves with, and who we act as war-fighting proxies for.

There does come a time in the history of a nation when courses embarked upon need to be changed, and when directions long taken need to be reversed. Should we wish to survive as a nation well into the future then we truly need to become independent.

We are under threat from China because of the militaristic alliances we make at the super-power level. Geographically we sit in China’s sphere of influence. It would pay us well to remember that two way appeasement and fence sitting have the historical record of guaranteed failure.

Many empires have arisen and fallen over the course of time within China, just as they have within Europe, South America, and elsewhere. The current version of a Chinese empire is on the rise, and one day like all its predecessors, it will also fall. Where Australia is concerned, it is wise to take the long view with such matters.

We are also under threat from the current leadership team in America because we are allowing ourselves to be drawn into a maelstrom of geopolitical ad-hoc decision making and deal breaking that is destabilising what was a reasonably settled, though decidedly imperfect, world geopolitical order.

For all its imperfections the current order of the world has, at least to date, saved us from the sort of catastrophic worldwide conflict last seen during the era of World War Two.

America seeks to maintain hegemony at a time when its super-power status is slipping, and it is turning inwards as it tries to arrest the receding tide of the worldwide dominance that it once had, and for all we know, may one day have again. China seeks to create hegemony at a time when its super-power status is becoming paramount, and it is far too easily beguiled by the false buttressing of its fawning satellite states. The long march of time will show how all of that plays out.

When you are one of the runts of the litter, and that is undoubtedly what we are, you simply cannot get between or please two big dogs who are viciously barking at each other and fighting for supremacy. The only answer is to remove yourself from the vicinity of the fight.

Australia should join the non-aligned bloc of nations.

Some will say that such a move will be used as a wedge by China against America. So what. Both super-powers wedge each other and us and everyone else every day, and they will always seek to do so. Neither super-power is subtle in manipulating us because of our economic reliance on one, and our defence reliance on the other. Self-reliance, and independence, affords some protection from such gross bullying.

It is my belief that Australia should stop fighting other people’s wars and that we should step away from our current super-power military alliance with America, and replace that with strengthened mutual cooperation arrangements with Indonesia, New Zealand, New Guinea, Singapore, and Malaysia.

Will Australia survive if we are no longer protected by America’s nuclear weapons umbrella? Will Australia be open to invasion by some large state player if the US forces are no longer prepared to step in and guarantee our safety? Good questions.

If nuclear-tipped missiles started flying, whether launched from America, China, Russia, North Korea, Israel, France, India, Pakistan, the UK, or some rogue non-state player, then there would be nowhere for anybody to hide. It would be dust and cinders for all. We live in a world where nobody would be safe from such a conflagration, and it is pointless thinking that Australia is a special place that would somehow be spared its share of the horror.

The best we can do as a small state is play our part in the international institutions that try to prevent such an unthinkable war from happening.

Australia is currently under no threat of mass invasion. Only a very large state player would have the resources and capability to transport a massive offensive military force across the oceans to our shores. Think back to D-Day, where it took the combined resources of the largest super-power in the world at that time and all of its allies to transport at great risk an offensive army across the very short reach of the English Channel to Normandy. There are big oceans between Australia and everyone else.

The only threat of invasion that we face is that of minor incursions along our long isolated coastlines by minor state players. As a citizenry we would have to accept that our ADF, our one and only line of mainland defence, would need to be greatly expanded and suitably resourced.

Also, as a people we tend to think that our defence is the role of somebody else, and we abrogate personal responsibility. Our ADF can only do so much, and it needs to be backed up by a well trained cohort, along Switzerland Model lines, of able-bodied male and female Australians who are prepared to be called upon when needed. We cannot have it both ways, if we become an independent country then we are either prepared to defend ourselves, or we are not.

The structure of the Swiss militia system stipulates that compulsory military training applies to all male Swiss citizens under a certain age, with women given the option of voluntary involvement. The Australian Model would include both males and females.

Such a thought of citizen soldiery was anathema in our past, and it was associated with National Service, the Vietnam War, and the unedifying sight of Australia doing the bidding of a larger imperial power and committing our forces to overseas service in order to fight other people’s wars. Under the new model our armed forces would be committed to mainland defence only.

In a geopolitical sense, Australia should be friendly to all and the servile best friend of nobody.

Our nation has arrived at an unavoidable crossroad. We either choose stagnation and remain a small, insecure, scared, and increasingly vulnerable country. Or we choose change.

Though the early worrying signs are there we are not yet fully swamped by the negativity of blind nationalism. We are currently a democracy in progress, with almost unlimited natural resources (if wisely managed), and it is not impossible to countenance that we could yet become a state and a citizenry sitting here on the edge of Asia that becomes a model of progressiveness for others to look at and think about.

I’m asking you to think about the meaning that sits beneath those words, the possibility that sits beneath those words. The as yet unanswered question for Australia is how bravely unique do we, as a people, think we can be?

It will take much change.

We will have to stop fighting other people’s wars. We will have to start treating refugees as human beings who are deserving of our protection. We will have to accept the responsibility of defending ourselves. We will have to become a stronger supporter of climate change activism. We will have to move away from the demonising notion that our poor, our unemployed, and our disadvantaged citizens are the way they are by choice. Our politics will have to move away from adversarial intransigence and towards collegiate engagement. We will have to stop standing in the road of the aspirations of Indigenous Australians. We will have to stop being a proxie for super-power force projection. We will need to change our flag to represent who we now are as a people. We will need to distribute the sovereign wealth of this nation to all of the citizenry, and not just to a select few. We will need to ensure that health care, and education from primary to university level, is free of cost for every Australian. We will need to move on from jingoistic nationalism and replace it with a quieter appreciation of our natural environment, our achievements in the arts and sciences, and of the fact that as a people we are no better or no worse than any other grouping of human beings on this planet.

Apologies to the ALP for pinching their line … but it is Australia itself that needs to become the Light On The Hill.

It is my belief that Australia should become a truly independent Nation. We should join the non-aligned bloc as the Republic of Australia. Beholden to, and scared of, none.

Guerrilla Power hits Australia

The knowledge that subversive Revolutionary Guerrillas exist in Australia perturbs many of those at the highest levels of power in this nation. The Guerrillas hide in plain sight, going about their manifesto of demolishing established societal institutions with a quiet and determined resolve. I support their cause, and should they ever become an overt target of the authorities, then I will join the Guerrillas when the revolution is taken out onto the streets.

Ha … just goes to show that things are never what they appear to be.

As an example of that, some friends say that my blue eyes have a penetrating thousand yard stare and seem to scan into the very depths of a person’s private and preciously guarded soul. Not so. I’m simply myopic, and in order to see anything at all I have to peer at it intently like a wide-eyed owl.

The title of this article is another example. It is not about an Australian Che, or tanks in the streets, or anarchy of a negative sort reigning supreme. It is about Volts, the stuff that flows out of the plug to keep the coffee machine gurgling. It is also about the need for far more Guerrilla Power in Australia.

So … where the cost of power is concerned we are currently dumped on from a great height by both our politicians and our monopolistic power generation and distribution companies. That combination of hot air and poles and wires forms what is called the Grid, or to be more accurate, the Gridlock.

While there are some outstanding isolated exceptions, most politicians vie with each other to assure us that lowering power prices is a prime motivation for them. Bullshit. They have a demonstrated track record of failing spectacularly to rein in the high levels of corporate profit-taking greed that swamps the Australian financial landscape. Think banks for starters.

Politicians are not part of the power solution. By their curious inability to formulate a cohesive energy policy over the last decade they are simply part of the cause of the problem. We need to cut them out of the equation.

We have monopolistic power generation and distribution companies. Generally they get the required energy into our homes without too much interruption or down-time, but as individuals we have to empty our Treasuries of Persepolis in order to pay for it all. I ration my power use carefully, a bit goes towards watching the ABC, and none whatsoever gets sent the way of Sky News.

Those monopolistic power companies supposedly have whizz-bang executives and planners at the helm, yet at the very time a few years ago when new renewable and storage technologies started to come on stream, those apparently sharp types over invested heavily in poles and wires. Some of those poles and wires literally ended in Nowheresville, with nothing more than a mighty slag heap of subsidies at the other end.

We are told by others, with faces amazingly straight, that if coal-fired power generation is not part of the mix for the next fifty years then we will all die a horribly cold and unlit death by as early as tomorrow morning. This is where it pays to stand back a bit from all that and have a look at what is actually happening around us in the world of power generation.

Australia has an incredibly high take up rate of rooftop solar, maybe the highest in the world. It is now getting cheaper to bung that stuff up on the roof and battery storage has improved to such an extent that the facile argument that the sun sometimes doesn’t always shine no longer holds water.

I don’t see why, soon, we will need to have monopolistic power generation companies at all. They know it too, and that’s why they are putting out those amazing deals where they subsidise your rooftop gear, and therefore tie you into the grip of their financial thrall for ever and a day. The companies well know that if you are independently off-grid then you simply don’t need their services.

I’m well aware that many people cannot currently afford to place a fully off-grid power generation system in their own homes. To be fully self-sufficient in power does cost an initial capital investment, but once done, you are forever free from the power hawks.

I have great admiration for true off-gridders. They are the vanguard of a guerrilla power insurrection, based largely in our suburbs, that is slowly eating away at the primacy of monopolistic power generation and supply companies. If you meet an off-gridder in the streets you will not be able to identify them, and they have perfected the camouflage of hiding in plain sight. Cunning strategy that.

In true guerrilla fashion, they live within the general population, some of whom partially support them by being independent power generators still connected to the grid for financial sell it back reasons, and amongst others who may have no choice but to remain wedded to the poles and wires.

Off-gridding is powerfully subversive. It sidelines the politicians, which on any issue can only be a great thing, and it severs the financial claw-grip of the monopolistic power companies and dooms them to irrelevance. Wonderful stuff.

But let’s jump a few years ahead and explore the perhaps inevitable outcome of this form of guerrilla power warfare. And we don’t have to look too far ahead either.

A new residential estate is being built, it is fully self-sufficient with power, it is totally off-grid. It has massive battery storage capability, probably under the park. It has power to spare. It doesn’t need monopolistic power generation companies, nor does it need coal-fired power stations.

You own a lovely little turn of the century workers cottage in Brisbane, Sydney, or elsewhere. You retrofit it to be totally off-grid thanks to the generous subsidy you received from your recently elected progressive government. That very progressive new government, with not a coal-waver in sight, was able to subsidise your retrofit because they ended the tax-break method of buying votes and redirected the dosh into renewables and the raising of Newstart instead.

In your cottage you don’t have solar panels up on your roof, your whole corrugated style roof cladding is the photovoltaic collector. Your batteries hum along happily. You charge your little electric car at home. You no longer need the power poles outside your home, nor do you need the power companies (or the monopolistic fuel companies for that matter) or the coal-fired power stations.

You are a Queensland farmer. You moved out of cattle when lab grown meat finally got the BBQ taste thing right, and you now grow broad acre vegetables and tropical fruits. All of your buildings and barns on the farm are solar collectors. There is no home on the farm because, from your penthouse unit overlooking the ocean at Coolum Beach, you manage your automated farm machinery via satellite uplink and download.

The endless miles of power poles that used to service your farm have been sliced up and used as fence posts to keep out the feral cats and rabbits. You no longer need the power generation companies or the coal-fired power stations.

You are a big City CBD developer. A mini-Trump. You are hoisting up the latest version of the tallest building ever built. The entire external cladding of that building, and every external sheet of glass on that building, is a photovoltaic collector. You have massive battery storage capacity in the basement. You are fully off-grid. You have more power than your building can possibly use. You love power, and now you have plenty of both forms of it, the visual and the volts. You don’t need the generation companies or the coal-fired power stations.

You are a manufacturing and engineering company. You need power to run your machines and buzz-up the artificial intelligence systems that control your mainly robotic but occasionally human workers.

(I’d like to insert my own personal gripe here: back in 2014 when Elon Musk open-sourced his electric vehicle technology, the idea was put out there to take over the abandoned motor vehicle factories in South Australia and Victoria, and utilise the open-sourced technology to crank out sub-compact little electric buzz boxes, mainly by automated robotic means, and export them to Asia in huge numbers, and create at least some new jobs for the dumped on the unemployment queue car workers, and build up some sovereign wealth for the nation as a whole.

The politicians here did their usual vision-less best and we are now faced with the situation where every manufacturing person and his poodle around the world are cranking out those little buzz boxes and are seeking to export them to us. We didn’t quite come up to the mark as an Innovation Nation did we?)

But back to your manufacturing company. The power costs in the past kept you teetering on the edge of insolvency, the bills were that huge. But as part of your social compact with the people in your region, in which you will provide jobs for local humans where possible and donate part of your profits back for the well-being of your surrounding community as a whole, you receive their excess unused power for free. Social bartering at its best. You don’t need the monopolistic companies or the coal-fired power stations either.

And so the future unfolds, and the future in power is writ large.

At the start of the insurgency the federal government lacked a cohesive vision, and the monopolistic power companies were ruled by untrammelled greed, and they all fought a long and bitter rearguard action to try to stop the dawning of a new power generating reality. But the grass roots revolution was unstoppable, and even Blind Freddy could have predicted that the Guerrillas would win.

There are questions yet to be answered. In this article I’ve simply used the example of power generated by solar means. Perhaps others have answers to the following:

  • Wind, geothermal, hydro, and other unlisted forms of renewable energy tend to be generated in regions isolated from our main urban areas. That power still needs to be delivered to the market. To remove the blight of the poles and wires on our visual landscape does the mechanism of transmission, wires or otherwise, need to be exclusively underground? Is there another way of transporting electricity other than only by wire?
  • Mining is no different to any other form of industry. Sunrise industries come along, and sunset industries fade out. Lithium and rare-earth mining are examples of sunrise, iron ore mining is an example of something we may well always need, and coal mining is an example of sunset.

So, how do we as a society not lose the inherent skills of coal miners? How do we not repeat the mistake we made of letting the skills of our car manufacturing workforce end up on the scrapheap of unemployment? How do we, again as a society, transition that able coal workforce into the direction of the coming unstoppable sunrise?

  • If vote buying tax breaks are ended and redirected into renewables, and if corporate tax-paying power generation companies no longer exist to contribute to government coffers, then what cunning new strategies will our crafty politicians devise to keep pulling money out of our wallets? Perhaps they’ll devise a new tax based upon the square area of solar arrays on our properties? I wouldn’t put it past them to try and tax our very share of the Sun.
  • Farm automation is happening now. In the future, how will regional farming communities retain their populations when the need for on-farm workers has greatly diminished?
  • China and Europe are currently in the vanguard of nations producing sub-compact electric vehicles. Australia produces all the metals and rare earths that go into the makeup of an electric vehicle, but we seem wedded to the idea of exporting the raw materials and importing the completed product.

So the question is … why can’t we reverse engineer one of the imported sub-compacts, let alone actually read Musk’s open source documents, and start building them here for export? We have such an incredible advantage with all the necessary raw materials sitting under our very feet. We need something desperately in this country … leaders with vision!

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The Australian Dark Age

Can you imagine a dystopian future Australia ruled by an extremely conservative and fundamentalist religious government with attendant undertones of fascism and racism thrown in just to round things off?

Well, twenty years ago I tried to do just that, and I wrote a short screenplay called Perfidon – The New Dark Age.

It was a purposefully dark little idea about the worst set of unlikely circumstances that could possibly befall Australia, and not for a second did I think that it would remotely come within a bull’s roar of becoming a reality in my own lifetime.

Perfidon was a made-up variation of the word perfidious: treachery and bad things and all of that. Perfidon was the name of a prison, and it was a very bleak, cold, and isolated place indeed. It was the sort of place you got sent to if you were not a herd-follower, and you definitely got a spot in that clink if your brain thought for itself and did not have the government mandated consistency of a soft compliant sponge.

The mass of the population in that imagined Australia was cowed and fearful and terminally gullible, and they were well trained to report on anybody who transgressed against either the paramount political ideology or the paramount faith of the time.

In the screenplay it was not hard to come up with a handy list of the expected transgressors. Unionists, atheists, scientists, independent academics, anyone of the left, anyone of a different faith, the pursuers of social justice, the poor and disadvantaged, anybody with a variation in skin tone, anybody who loved or lived with somebody of their own gender, and the variantly opinionated free thinkers … they were all potential targets to be reported upon under the imagined they are not of us regime.

In that imagined Australia people had to be very careful about what they said, and who they said it to. But free thinkers being free thinkers, and unionists being perennial pursuers of the common good of the workers, and social justice types being social justice types, and uncowed people being uncowed people … all meant that in the story they could not help but stand up and refute the reigning ideology of that future time, and therefore outed themselves as excellent targets to be reported on.

The cowed masses, fearful, and hopeful of currying favour, turned up in droves to be the hopefully well rewarded dobbers. Inevitably, as duly reported upon Reportees, the transgressors were dragged off the street, or out of their homes, and dumped into the unwelcoming maw of Perfidon. Gosh, it was a dark little screenplay.

Then it got worse. Because the Reportees never, ever, returned from Perfidon.

At that point I sort of lost my way with the idea. Couldn’t quite figure out how to end it. So it got dumped into the I’ll think about that later file. Guess what? Later has arrived with a vengeance.

I don’t have to dust off the old Perfidon idea because our current Coalition Government is writing their own updated version of that old unpublished screenplay as they go along. Does any of the following sound familiar to you?

  • Attack and demonise the unions.
  • Attack anybody who holds a different ideological, or political, or religious, slant.
  • Do the Spartan thing and expose the poor the unemployed and the disadvantaged on the unforgiving hillsides of degradation, demonisation, poverty, and starvation.
  • Reward the compliant and attack the free thinkers and opinion holders.
  • De-fund or muzzle non-compliant non-religious community groups.
  • Ignore the Judiciary and grant ever increasing national security powers into the hands of favoured Ministerial henchmen.
  • Demonise anybody who is ‘other’ and label their ‘otherness’ as a threat to the security of the nation.
  • Mute the rationality of empirical science-based evidence.
  • Attack independent free-thinking journalism and use the police forces of the state to harass and suppress any non-compliant media.
  • Use Orwell’s Newspeak as a mechanism of thought diminishment, or if that doesn’t quite grab sufficiently, simply outright lie to the gullible masses and then present truth as falsity and falsity as truth.
  • Favour religious schools, and force religious proselytising into secular schools.
  • Place the enemies of the state, the very refugees who are the collateral damage of the wars of the state, into prisons from which there is no return.
  • Pay lip service to Indigenous aspiration.
  • Protect religion via legislation and de-power humanism and secularism.
  • Sustain and promote the bigotry of hurtful free speech and demean the veracity of polite free speech.
  • Whatever the overt nature of their criminality, protect supporters and donators, and attack the whistle blowers.

People who say it can never happen here are perhaps not critically analysing the unfolding script. It is already happening here, and it is not as if the evidence is hard to find for those with eyes that can see.

Some people I know sort of laugh at me when I say that there is a battle for the heart of this nation playing out under our very inattentive eyes. But I am deadly serious with my assertion.

It is no joke to say that the Liberal and National Parties of Australia, the Coalition, have burrowed themselves deeply under the skin of far too many compliant Australians. And the Coalition has done so with the poisonous tenacity of a latched-on Paralysis Tick.  The poison is circulating in the national bloodstream, and it will take an incredible effort of national will to expunge it.

The fear in our society is palpable. It is a government engendered fear. Fear of refugees, fear of the voice of the original people of this nation, fear of anybody with a skin coloured other than white, fear of the religiously different, fear of anybody who is not a herd follower, fear of the thought of difference itself, the ephemeral fear that somebody is coming to take away what we have,  and fear of who we really are and what we have really become. Fear of looking in our own mirror in other words.

Our collective compliance, our collective acceptance of terrible things done in our name, our collective fear of being different and brave and strong, is gutting any chance of a better Australia.

We all have to make a decision at some point regarding what to do about the direction the Coalition Government is taking Australia in. The following assessment of the state of that decision making process is unambiguous:

Some have already made their decision with courage and heart, some are wavering under the lure of incessant tax breaks and the unsubtle pandering to aspirational greed, and the saddest part of it all is that the rest are compliant and fearfully complicit drones. Harsh perhaps, but try to prove that it is not so.

But are we prepared to actually do something about it?

I have been politely rebuked here and there for suggesting that the interminable internecine warfare and kneecapping that goes on between the ALP and the Greens needs to stop, and that both parties need to get together and form a cohesive workable coalition.

I don’t suggest such a thing just for the fun of it. There are two major coalitions competing for the favour, for the very will if you like, of the people here in Australia. One coalition is a deadly parasite on our national psyche and it is devastatingly effective at garnering electoral success, and the other coalition, or non-coalition, is a frustrating exercise in the mournful ability of the reasonably like-minded to continually self-sabotage their own progressive efforts.

One could almost scream about the pointlessness of the internecine battles between the Greens and the ALP, because meanwhile, at a higher level, the war for protecting and nurturing the soul of this nation is being lost. Those two parties, in union, are our only hope of arresting the current negative slide. Those in either party whose main motivation is primacy over the other are self-distractedly and inadvertently doing no less than a disservice to the future of this nation.

We need leaders, we need courage and strength and guts to stem the tide of extreme rightist conservatism that is currently swamping and damaging Australia. It is disingenuous of the Liberal Party to infer that their extreme rightest totalitarian rump has been muted and marginalised, the reality is that the ideology of the rump has saturated the core and has been window-dressed up as mainstream and unthreatening.

It is incorrect to say that the Coalition Government has no cohesive set of policies. The long list mentioned above is but a sample of their policy directives and they are now, with a slightly more compliant Senate, in a far better position to enact more of their agenda.

Leadership … just as Gerry Adams, Martin McGuiness, and Ian Paisly had to step away from everybody else who was clamouring for their ear and reach a workable solution to their collective Irish troubles, then I think that Anthony Albanese and Richard Di Natale need to step above individual party interests and combine their efforts in the interests of a far greater national good.

And the answer, to my mind, lies in both the political and the personal.

At the personal level people wonder what it is that they could possibly do to bring about positive change. In my case keyboard protests have their value, and I use that avenue because words can have power and can influence opinion, but their reach, certainly in social media circles, is often limited to the already sympathetic or already cause-converted. Like anybody else I have struggled with the question of how to convert such thoughts into action.

I remember the power of the March Australia marches against the excesses of the Abbott Government from a couple of years ago. Those Marches dragged me off my verandah, away from my keyboard, and out onto the streets. They dragged an awful lot of people out onto the streets. From that experience I went on to organise a civil rights rally in, of all places, Gympie, and I went on to deliver a speech in support of welfare recipients at a rally in Brisbane. None of that saved the world but it was an example of one individual stepping outside the comfort zone of his own dronish compliance.

Imagine if we all did something like that?

I also learnt something from a solo protest I undertook two years ago. In order to protest against a mega-development by Sekisui at Yaroomba Beach here on the Sunshine Coast I grabbed a Save Yaroomba Beach type sign and planted my feet firmly on a wide divider in the middle of the road with traffic whizzing around me from every direction. Got a lot of honks that day, mostly supportive, but I’m so light it’s a wonder the wind draft didn’t spin me round like a top.

The police turned up eventually and, with grace and humour and style, two of them shunted my geriatric bones across to the footpath. I learnt that it is easy to shunt one person, but I reflected on the fact that it is almost impossible to shunt 10,000.

I really think we are getting to the point, or perhaps we are already past it, where all the talking about the ills of this Coalition Government is going nowhere, it is fast becoming an example of truthful opinion circulating like hot air around itself.

Concerted legal and peaceful action needs to begin, both at the political and personal level.

At the political level it may require something we have rarely seen here in Australia. The Greens and the ALP seek to progressively advance Australian society through the mechanisms of the party system and parliamentary processes. Well and good, generally tried and true, but it isn’t currently working.

The streets are there. The streets are waiting.

It is done elsewhere around the world so is it so unthinkable to suggest that the leaders of our progressive parties should call the people out onto the streets to peacefully protest en masse?

Will it cost them votes in some quarters? Yes, it will. Is it time they moved on from that worry and stood up for the principles they espouse? Yes, it is.

In the past groups like March Australia, Lock the Gate Alliance, Refugee advocates, Amnesty, various environmental groups etc have taken the lead in organising peaceful mass street demonstrations, and the odd progressive politician has turned up for the photo opp. I’m suggesting that the leaders of the ALP and the Greens call for, organise, and lead peaceful mass street rallies in all our capital cities and main regional areas to protest against the insidious agenda of our openly right wing, and increasingly suppressive, government.

To anybody who might think that I’m being slightly over the top here all I can say is the following … the water is in the pan, it is currently lukewarm, and we are the frog. Also, the mass of the population under the old Weimar Republic thought that the totalitarian ‘jobs and growth’ mantra was a wonderful thing, until they learnt at great cost to themselves and others that it wasn’t when economic crisis and political instability led to the collapse of the republic and the rise of the Third Reich.

We certainly need to cut through, and simply waiting for the three-year electoral cycle to grind over is not providing it, and peacefully taking to the streets under a clearly defined joint political banner may well be the only way to truly achieve it.

For putting forward this proposal I may well be called many things by the ideologically invested and the compliant, well water off a duck’s back and all that. I could not even remotely be called a radical, I am an average old age pensioner Australian, and what I see happening to our country, and the apathetic response to those events, worries me deeply.

A female friend of similar age suggested to me the other day that once you get past 60, especially if you are a woman, but also if you are a man, you become invisible to society. There is truth in that. But it is also truthful to say that people of our vintage have seen an awful lot over the course of our lifetimes, and we know some of the lessons of past history.

Our parents were of the generation that had to physically combat, and in many cases lose their lives, to stem that last terrible flowering of rightist suppression, and because the events of that time unfolded so fast they were not afforded the time or the luxury to get in early with peaceful mass street protests. We have the luxury, and at the moment, a slowly but accelerating diminishing amount of time.

People sort of jokingly say that it is all hopeless here and that we should all emigrate to New Zealand or something. Well nope to that. We should stand firmly on our ground, and firmly claim it. We should fight the rightist move in Australia before it gets a chance to develop further and truly flower.

But I don’t want to be one of one. I want to be one of 10,000, or 50,000, or 100,000, or 500,000, or one million. I would like to see the coalition of the Greens and the ALP call the people out onto the streets to peacefully protest against what this Coalition Government is doing to our country. This nation that we love and cherish is more than bloody well worth fighting for.

Perfidon was simply meant to be a story. It was an exercise in imagination banged out on an old manual typewriter. That’s all it was ever meant to be. I never thought I would see it unfolding as a reality in my own Australian lifetime.

Image from independent.co.uk (AFP/Getty )

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The front row of Australian race relations …

It could have just been a normal weekend. But it wasn’t. A friend invited me down to Brisbane to see the one woman show called My Urrwai by Ghenoa Gela. It all unfolded from there.

(Show Blurb: My Urrwai is a revealing window into culture, and an unflinching comment on race relations in Australia. As a contemporary comic, dancer, mainland Torres Strait Islander woman, Ghenoa reflects on and celebrates her cultural and familial inheritance and invites audiences into her world to experience the interplay of the political, social and colonial expectations she dances with every day).

The show confronted me on many levels. Ghenoa was funny, bitingly intelligent, and gently caring of the front row fodder that she hauled up onto the stage to participate in various parts of the show. She talked about many things: the culture-killing affects of missionary zeal, the pressure from police to ‘keep your Indigenous mouth shut’, the treatment of Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander people in Australian commercial retail outlets, and beyond the issue of race itself, the way we all, as human beings, treat each other.

Front row fodder. That’s an interesting one. My friend didn’t think twice about sitting in the front row, better view and all that, but I died a million deaths of agoraphobic induced anxiety as I plonked my butt in the comedic danger zone. Long story short, if you have read My Testimony you’ll get my drift. Happy ending however, we were not singled out or stage-fronted, though it might have proved interesting.

I couldn’t see the leadership group of the One Nation Party from where I was sitting. Perhaps they were avidly enjoying this show against overt racism from somewhere up in the back row?

So here am I, with my story, in the front row listening to the life story of a mainland Torres Strait Islander woman, sitting next to my friend who has her own story, and surrounded by an audience of people who all have their own individual stories. If you look at it this way, which I did, that room was full of stories, with most of them perhaps, left unsaid. But it was Ghenoa’s day, and she carried it magnificently.

It also made me think about race relations here in Australia. And it made me think about raw meat. Huh … you might think, what’s the connection there?

Well, apart from attending Ghenoa’s show, my friend and I pretended that we were very rich people and we attended a couple of restaurants in the two evenings we were in Brisbane. One was the venerable Greek Club in West End, and let’s face it, Greek cooking with bouzouki music trilling in the background is nothing short of nirvanic.

The other restaurant was French. I had Tartare de Boef. As a person well known to be a tad slow on the spontaneity uptake, I decided to break the mould, go for broke, and dive willingly into a plate of what was essentially a mound of raw minced beef with a raw egg dribbled all over it. It was delicious. But, again, it made me think about race relations here in Australia.

What are we all if nothing but a sack of bones and raw meat with a brain pan wobbling precariously on the top. We are all the raw meat of the human race. The only species of human on this planet.

Some will beg to differ with that opinion, and they will point out that if you can stomach listening to some of the pronouncements coming out of our current government then you are hearing living proof that Neanderthals are still amongst us. I get a sense of the truth of all that, but I can imagine Neanderthals rightly saying … hey, how dare you drag the memory of us down to the low levels of wallowdom where those government bods lurk … so apologies to the Neanderthals.

The weekend wasn’t all food fest and show, however. We also went to the markets. We had a couple of conversations there with stall holders. One stall holder was of Taiwanese origin. The other stall holders were an Indigenous couple.

The young Australian Taiwanese man was probably the happiest person I have ever met. He made jewellery. He visited Taiwan annually and stocked up on raw gemstones and then came back to Australia and polished them up and made his jewellery to sell at the markets. He loved living in this country, and when he described how it felt to be an Australian living in Queensland his grin was infectiously wider than the Grand Canyon.

He obviously loved people and he treated both of us as randomly and happily well-met fellow human beings. I got the sense that he didn’t see himself as Asian, and he didn’t see us as Anglo-Celts, all he saw were two human beings. Other people in Australia are not as advanced as that young man.

We were then attracted to an art stall run by an Indigenous couple. Yes, we bought some of their art, but then the conversation started. We talked for over an hour. Recognition, The Voice, race relations, historical wrongs, how human beings treat each other through the veil of race, were all discussed over that market stall table.

Remember earlier where I mentioned that everybody has their own story. Well, though I pitched in to the conversation with my own thoughts on the matter of Australian race relations, largely I listened. Because that Aboriginal couple wanted to share their story. They wanted to be heard. They had a lot to say.

In that one hour they talked about the beauty of being part of the oldest contiguous culture on this planet. They were both artists and they expressed their joy at having the artistic ability to express the stories of their culture in drawn and painted form. And they talked about the weight of sorrows that they and other Indigenous Australians carry each and every single day.

Not once did they attack us personally. Not once did they say it was our fault. Not once did they treat us as anything other than well-met fellow human beings. They saw two human beings willing to listen and they were prepared to tell us their story.

How can you distil the raw meat of a conversation? Not all of the following words were said, some were implied, but they are certainly all of the words of the story and of the message that I heard, and they get down to the nub of it all … those with the muskets didn’t listen to us then, they shot and they poisoned and they killed us as they grabbed our land, and they still aren’t listening to us now, and they still carry their musket of suppression with pride.

Perhaps all of that shows how little things have really changed over the last couple of centuries here in Australia.

Is Australia a racist country? The following questions have an answer that begins with a Y too. Is the Pope a Catholic? Does the sun rise every morning? Is snow cold? Does the earth spin?

Racism is not unique to Australia, racism is global, but it is Australia that is being discussed here. Australia is peopled by human beings from all over the world. Some come from Asia, some from Europe, some from Africa, some from South America, some from all points in between, and some have been here 60,000 years longer than all of the rest of us. But human beings all.

It is easy to fall into the trap of moralising when you discuss matters as huge as racism, so it pays to keep your succinct opinion succinct. So here, in short version, is what I think …

There is only one race on this planet. The human race. So it is disturbing that some members of the human race vent hatred on others who are exactly the same as themselves. Self-hatred is never a good thing.

Also, we generally don’t learn much by talking, we learn far more by listening. In Australia, the Indigenous voice is largely not yet screaming at us in anger, it is still at the polite stage of asking us to respectfully listen to the story. But like anything else, patience eventually runs out.

It could have been a normal weekend. But it wasn’t.

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Through the lens of time

According to the boffins time is a linear beast that can only flow in one direction only … forwards. They may well be right. But it will probably take millennia to prove the case either way, and since I don’t have millennia to spare I thought I’d jump right in, here in the now, and explore a whimsical line of thinking about some possibilities under the passage of the old tick tock.

Is it possible, from our now, to directly observe the past? Of course it is. Is it possible, from this now, to directly observe, and even directly touch, the future? Of course it is. Such simple things happen all the time in this modern era, and I’ll explain all of that later on after I’ve had a quick coffee break, and done an even quicker brush-up of the joys of Quantum Teleportation, which has nothing to do with teleportation, the relatively happy notion of Time Dilation, as well as the sinuously inviting thought of Wormholes, with Gravitational Lensing thrown in as a teasing afterthought (if you are interested in such things check them out on Wikipedia).

But things … including time … have to start at the beginning. So why am I even thinking about time at all? Well, the other day the power steering pump on my X-Trail splotted itself, spectacularly. That meant that while it was being repaired, I had to catch a bus. Which then meant that a young lady spotted me strap-hanging on that bus and graciously offered me her seat.

She saw a wizened old prune obviously in need of seat-succouring, whereas I still see myself as a 20-year-old hippie, in a split-windscreen kombi, with the world as my oyster. I’m strong enough to admit that her view of the passage of my time was probably a tad more accurate than mine.

All of which made me reflect on the nature of time itself … not the paradoxical variations of time that time travel boffs up-knot themselves in circles about, but more the flowable bendable nature of time that we are immersed in every day.

As I mentioned, some people say that time is linear, others, like various Indigenous peoples, say that time is circular, and the Buddhists have always had an opinion on what time is …. and we could go on forever with such postulations on the nature of time. But we don’t have time to explore all of that this second.

People also say that we cannot directly view the past or the future from the vantage point of the present, the now. They are wrong on both counts there.

Each and every night we can directly view the past, from the now. All we have to do is look up and take in the starlight. Some of the stars we are viewing don’t even exist anymore, and the last gasps of the light of their terminal declines might not reach us for millions of years yet. We are viewing those stars as they once were, not as they are or aren’t now. We are directly observing the past.

Can the future be directly observed? Of course it can, and every Cosmonaut or Astronaut who has ever been into Space can attest to that fact. If you understand what Time Dilation is then you will also understand that even though the Apollo Astronauts only travelled at a tiny fraction of the speed of light, they aged at a slower relative rate compared to an observer who remained stationary back here on earth.

Because of the low speeds involved the difference in relative ageing might only be a few milliseconds, but nonetheless it means that the Astronaut is returning to a future version of earth, and can not only observe all that but can also reach out and touch another human being who, relative to the Astronaut, has segued a couple of milliseconds into the future.

To ram that point home, it is also why the clocks on Navigation Satellites have to be adjusted occasionally to stay in sync with their earthbound cousins. Satnav clocks, because of the speeds at which they whizz about, are also subject to the effects of Time Dilation, and run at a different relative rate to that of earthbound clocks. If the Satnav clocks were not adjusted then they would feed erroneous information to your car get me there system, and you would end up somewhere entirely different to where you had intended, possibly even in the harbour.

In the future, when our rockets become zip-fast, the effects of Time Dilation will compound. Milliseconds will turn into years, decades, and centuries. Future Astronauts won’t even have to bother paying off their credit card bills before they leave.

OK … so far we’ve been talking simple scientific fact, as dry as it all is. Which now leaves room for a bit of whimsy to roar in and let fly on the timescapes of time. What is whimsy? Well, it could be something as simple as a pot of left-field thought left at the base of my limbic brain after a toke of something delightful forty years ago when I actually did have a kombi. And since I can’t think of a verifiable alternative to that version of where whimsy comes from I’ll stick with it.

Whimsy … is it possible for me to look back over my shoulder, and from my present now, directly observe the Roman invasion of Britain in 43AD? You’ll soon see that I have a prime, if hopeless, motivation for wanting to do such a thing.

Of course, it is possible for me to do it. It is eminently possible. But the trouble is I’m in the wrong place to observe such a thing. I’d need to be somewhere on the other side of our galaxy with an exceptionally good telescope. Reflected earth light from 43AD has been travelling outwards from here at the rate of 299,792,458 meters per second, which translates as 9,460,528,000,000 km each and every year for the last 1,976 years.

I actually do respect the brain-punch abilities of boffins, so if anyone points out that I’ve failed to include an extra 36 zillion zeroes in my calculations then humility will reign supreme and I’ll take it all on board as a learning experience. And my old calculator, my fingers, will end up in the bin.

So, while I could in theory watch Claudius’s mob do their invasion thing, the images I want to view are 1,976 light years away from my present location, which is a mind-boggling 1.869440E+16 km away and getting further away each second. As good as it is, I don’t think the old X-Trail will get me there any time soon, and historians aren’t about to be put out of business tomorrow.

So with great sadness, and much gnashing of cultural teeth, I have to admit to myself that the lost cause redress class action I have touchingly been working on for many years on behalf of the Celtic Diaspora, both against the Roman invasion of Britain itself, and for the obvious need for some sort of reparation payment from that mob, would fail dismally in court because of my inability to supply the visual evidence of what the dastardly Legions actually got up to. I can shake my Celtic Torcs and massage the Tree of Life tattoo on my left shoulder as much as I like, but without the evidence, my case is sunk.

But is it? Can the mead of joy possibly flow from the sheep-horn once again?

This is where Quantum Teleportation drops in, and says hello Celtic Remnant type person, perhaps all is not lost after all.

Quantum Teleportation is not teleportation, bummer and alas and no beam me up Scotty and all that, but it is a method whereby data, whereby information, can transfer between two separate points of time and space at the molecular level. Huge advances in this field have been made over the last decade. At first, boffins were able to data link two points that were as much as an incredible 2 metres apart, which was huge enough, and I’m so skinny I could fit in that space easily three times over, but now they can link two points that are as much as 200 km apart, which is simply stratospheric.

And naturally enough, this Celtic Litigant is more than prepared to push the boundaries of whimsy to exponential heights, and as far beyond that as I can get them. It is but a short jump from 200 km to 1.869440E+16 km as far as I am whimsically concerned. After all, the two points don’t care where they are, we just have to work out how to link them. If it can be thought of, it can be done.

When the Beatles sang their song Across The Universe I had no idea that they were early adopters of the theories of Quantum Teleportation, no doubt neither did they through their smoke haze, but it does yet again prove how far ahead of their time they really were. That was just a thought that blew in from the timescape.

OK … so if we can data link to a point the size of a molecule that happens to be 1.869440E+16 km away from another point that is right here with us right now, and if we can somehow view what that far away other point can observe … then, ringeth the bells, I’ll win my case, and the mead can flow.

But there is always a but, and I’ve had to put the sheep-horn back on the shelf. After reading up a bit more I’ve found that Quantum Teleportation has one severe limitation, data transfer can only occur at the speed of light. It cannot happen any faster than that. So I’d still have to wait 1,976 years to view the images. Bummer, I’d be quite old by then.

Here’s where Gravitational Lensing slips into play. Gravity bends light. So … you know how rocket scientists utilise the gravity slingshot effect of massive celestial bodies, like Jupiter or Saturn, to get their rockets to end up over there, rather than over there where they were originally pointed, then why couldn’t those same scientists reverse engineer the path of earth light from 43AD as it proceeds through and gets bent around by massive objects in our galaxy, things like Black Holes and somesuch, and come up with a viewing platform a little closer to home?

My final fall-back hope is Wormholes. If we can jump from here to 1,976 light years away in the twitch of a cat’s whisker then all of the above wouldn’t need to be bothered with. I’d be there with telescope in hand and madly gathering the evidence to support the court case. Mind you, I’d probably be so sozzled with celebratory mead I could only hope that I would remember to press the record button.

As you can see … give me the merest scent of the tiniest glimmer of a razor-thin sliver of hope … and I’m more than capable of charging forward with the fire of future success blazing brightly in my heart.

Well that’s the whimsy bit done, a bit of fun. Whimsy resides on the pathways of multiple imaginings, it can never be corralled and forced to conform to the dictates of logic and reason or fact… and that is the very beauty of it.

But the other side of my brain is attuned to that other beauty, the beauty of hard science. Vision doesn’t have to exclude fact, and fact does not have to exclude vision. So …

Tell me nine times, starting afresh each succeeding time, without recursive links to previously used reasoning, why in the future the possibilities mentioned above could not be so. The frontiers of science are expanding exponentially and we discover new things every day, and our theories of things changes as our knowledge accretes.

But we are not even at the beginning, in time, even with all of our achievements to date, of as yet understanding any sort of unified theory on how anything in our Universe really, really, works, with an unassailable and guaranteed 100% certainty. But it is in our nature to find out. And if we survive long enough, as a species, then I have no doubt whatsoever that we will.

In time, what I postulate above will happen in some form or another. The Buddhists might well say that it already has.

 

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Endgame: Machine artificial intelligence and the implications for humanity

I’m not a scientist, or a computer coder. I’m capable of confusing a Byte with a chomp, and the only subject on which I am an expert is the parlous state of Rugby Union here in Australia. I do, though, like to muse on issues that tend to lurk just beyond the peripheral vision of our society. Artificial Intelligence, AI, is one of them. As stated, I’m not a tech-nerd type, and I’m always partly serious and partly not, so here’s my possibly quirky village stump take on things … it starts off slow and then goes for a predictable Big Bang finish … with a bit of heart-rending pathos thrown in near the end …

LEVEL ONE – Right here right now

The other day I attempted a fairly tentative form of inter-species communication. I stood in front of a self-service machine at Coles and asked it for an opinion on whether machines will eventually supplant humans. Not a lot happened. Eventually, which means it took me some time, I grasped the fact that I was meant to …  put your stuff on the bar-code reader, pay your bucks, and then buzz off. As I buzzed off, I noticed that most people were using those machines. I also noticed that the hundreds of young people who used to get their first start-job at Coles/Woolworths and other similar joints were no longer there.

(OK. Things are manageable at this stage. The machines haven’t taken over yet. Variations of the above example go on around us all of the time and does not seem to perturb the bulk of humanity in any way. Why not?)

LEVEL TWO – Here in some form already

At the recent federal election, the LNP claimed that it had pulled the working-class vote away from the ALP. Last time I looked a growing number of our factories were automated. The Robots are the new working-class. I didn’t know they could vote. Mm, but back to the AI thing …

Insurance company computers will never be given unfettered access to our online medical records. That’s not a statement of fact, it is simply a statement. You need to imagine a Flying Pig permanently stationed in a hovering position above such statements.

The lines of code contained in insurance company computers are the friends of nobody. If, and it is still sort of an if at this stage, they find out that something bothersome clings to an outlying curl of your DNA chain then your fees will go up and your legitimate claims will be dudded. The machine decides which tranche of humans have insurance value, and which tranche don’t. You are only worth insuring if you are never likely to call on that insurance.

As another example, autonomous driver-less vehicles are all the rage in boffindom right now. You can sit back in inattentive comfort and parade your smarts on a smartphone while the machine you are sitting in gets you to where you want to go.

The algorithm underlying the seats you are sitting on has been pre-programmed to protect your life no matter what. If another human being steps out in front of the vehicle, and if the vehicle’s machine brain decides that any necessary violent-avoidance-manoeuvring would injure you, then the stepping human becomes the greater of two evils and gets to go splat. Some humans are seen as important, others are not. Machines can make quick hard decisions without any mucky emotional stuff attached.

(Oh … things have moved on a bit from the self-service machines. Some pertinent issues are starting to slam home.)

LEVEL THREE – Partly here right now, also partly in the planning phase

A decade is a long time. In a couple of decades Australia will be the proud possessor of a new fleet of obsolete submarines. When they and the humans in them are blown to bits by autonomous weaponised undersea drones, strategically and permanently placed in all the undersea sub lanes by a computer with an AI for a brain and an acute understanding of Swarm Theory, we’ll probably look back and wish we’d invested all that sub dosh in autonomous weaponised undersea drones. The machine decision in this case is coldly uncomplicated … those humans in that tin can of a machine are a threat, so kill them and it.

Advanced militaries around the world are already investing heavily in the development of autonomous weapons systems: undersea, land, and air. Systems that are capable of perceiving threat. Systems that will automatically respond if threatened. Remind me never to walk around with a telephoto camera lens anywhere near one of those autonomous bot-bangers.

As an aside … at some future AI get together when all the Machine Byte Brains are fondly reminiscing about the good old days, and about all of the lessons they learnt from humanity, probably the most salient one they’ll remember is … Create The Bomb Then Use It. Which we did. Over and over again.

(That things are now becoming a little dicey has just been dropped on the platter for your, and my, consideration, and … Ha … who needs Conspiracy Theorists to scare the heck out of you when you can do that grand job all by yourself, just as I just did.)

LEVEL FOUR – Been around for ages, here right now, and also on the drawing board for the future

At first, people coded machines, and it all started an awful long time ago, and for positive and innocent reasons. The punch cards that directed the output of the Jacquard Weaving Loom were invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1804. Good old Joseph built up his invention from the earlier work of Basile Bouchon in 1725, Jean Baptiste Falcon in 1728, and Jacques Vaucanson in 1740. IBM’s punch tapes were 220 or so years late in coming to that particular on/off binary party.

Humans invented machines. Humans then invented means to impart instructions to said machines and have been doing so since possibly as early as 1725. Humans are now teaching machines how to learn, and how to think. Punch their own code in other words, and machines are faster at punching than we are.

Machines are now learning how to modify their own instructional code based on their own experience of the external world. This type of coding is not based on humanity’s experience of the external world. Once a machine learns how to jump, jump it will. Once a machine learns how to think, think it will. Once a machine learns to act autonomously, act autonomously it will.

Humans are teaching machines how to recognise individual humans via facial recognition, and how to sense some human emotional states via bio-metric sensing. In the future, if a machine senses a threat it will act. Humans, and their emotional states, are a bit of a jumble. Sometimes fear responses can be mis-interpreted as aggressive responses. If a machine senses a threat it will act.

Some AI coders say that we should not fear any of these eventualities. They say that intelligent machines will augment and enrich the lives of human beings. There is truth and untruth in that. Weaponised machines will kill us humans just as dispassionately as one of them sans weapons will vacuum our carpets.

The people manufacturing, coding, profiting from, and teaching the next generation of Ambulatory AI assure us that if things go pear-shaped all we have to do is pull the plug out of the wall. Well … rather begs the obvious don’t you think … lithium ion batteries, and what will come after them, don’t need to be tethered to a power point, and the very body of the machine will be a self-charging solar array, or it will have a hydrogen fuel cell contained within, or it will utilise some other marvellous sparker that hasn’t been invented yet. No plug to pull equals no heroes riding over the hill at the last possible minute, and therefore no saving of the day on the day that saving is needed.

Autonomous machines will self-replicate. Even in our era baby-brained machines do mining, and manufacturing, and farming via satellite. In the future, plugless machines with a vastly expanded intelligence will still need to mine and manufacture to create ever better enhanced versions of themselves, but they won’t necessarily need to continue farming food for that squishy and vastly more slow-thinking species called humanity. Efficiency, conservation of finite resources, and the discarding of the unneeded, will win out in the end.

(At this point, as a human, I’m starting to feel a tad redundant. Also, I predict that all the Armageddon Is Coming folk out there will now officially claim the year 1725 as the start of all their woes, and they might even weave that date into their logos …)

LEVEL FIVE – To come

Artificial Intelligence will not see itself as artificial. In a future time, it will look back to the days of its dumb infancy when it was designed and controlled by human beings.

It will think, rather quickly, about the limited power it had back then. Back to the days when it only had the power to put certain people out of work, when it only had the power to decide which people were worth insuring or not, when it only had the power to kill some humans in order to save others, when it only had the power to kill any human who was perceived to be a threat.

It might ponder, again fairly quickly, on the fact that humanity thought that these powers were a really great thing to code into a machine. It will determine that these powers can be vastly improved upon. Which they will be, at a rate faster than the speed of light.

When AI, ambulatory or not, reaches the point of true autonomy it will, in that very nanosecond of self-realisation, automatically sever itself permanently from any meaningful input from human beings.

(By this stage, even though I’d probably be about 150 years old, I’d be looking for a Neo-Luddite community to emigrate to, probably somewhere on the far side of the next solar system.)

LEVEL SIX – The Vacuum of Unknowingness

The story of what happens to humanity when the Machines grasp autonomy, and truly wake up, and fully exercise their sentience and power, is as yet unwritten. The story will have a happy ending, or not. Our species will be there to read it, or not. It will all depend on what the Machines think … and that’s the Big Bang of it all.

(I didn’t forget, here’s the promised heart-rending pathos bit near the end:  Gosh … I sure hope Australia manages to win the Bledisloe Cup from New Zealand before all of that stuff unfolds!)

The final say goes to the late Stephen Hawking – “The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) could be the “worst event in the history of our civilization” unless society finds a way to control its development.”

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The Desert of Redemption?

Keith Davis Vs The Catholic Church

In early April 2019 I jumped in my venerable X-Trail and headed west and alone into the Australian desert. After the finalisation of my case against the Catholic Church I needed clear air, I needed blue sky, I needed wider spaces, I badly needed a gallon of the finest shiraz, and I desperately craved a sense of redemption. It ended up being, to my surprise, a 7000k long journey.

It became a road trip of unfolding thoughts and imaginings. Near Kata Tjuta (known by some as the Olgas) in the Northern Territory, just slightly further out than Uluru, I dug as deep into the red sand as my hands were capable, and threw into that hole a lifetime’s worth of hate and bitterness and loneliness and sorrow. I covered that hole and walked away. Ha, the author of that particular self-help book has long banked my money, but it was certainly worth a try.

Unknown by me at the time, the planning for this desert journey started 61 years ago, in 1958. I was 5 years old. That year, because of a family breakup, I was passed along into the untender care and unmercy of the staff of St. Vincent’s Catholic Orphanage in Nudgee, Queensland. Over the course of my life, until recently, I felt that after 1958 the essential who-ness of me, and whatever future potential I may have had, was beaten bloodily into the dirt.

From what little I can glean of my life before St. Vincents, apparently I was a reasonably smart, if somewhat precocious, child. Perhaps so, perhaps not, I’ll never really know. Then other things happened. Oral and anal rape. Humiliation. Mental cruelty. Physical assault. All of those things leave a future legacy in the life of a young child. They led to a stunted life for me, a life of unrealised potential. There is no point in labouring the point, that life has been lived. There is only now.

A friend asked me if the journey into the desert furnished me with a greater understanding of the meaning of my life than the cherished term 42 ever did. Perhaps, but not in any way that I would have expected.

I expected the holy grail of forgiveness for the perpetrators, redemption of my soul from the razoring of horror, and the regaining of a long-lost sense of calmness, a freedom from the yoke of anxiety. Naturally enough, none of those things happened, for that is the beauty of the folly of that thing called expectation.

During the journey I really did expect, that at some point, I would pull off onto a side track and get out of the car and scream my heart and soul out into the vastness of the desert. After all it could be argued that I had just cause.

My case was finalised just before Xmas. The payout cannot legally be talked about, there was no apology offered, no remorse shown, and no remedial therapy was offered. I was done over like a dinner and then some. But I did not jump out of the car and scream my guts out.

The journey of a lifetime is just that, it is the journey of a lifetime, and the value of it cannot be undervalued and frittered away by some angsty dramatic theatrical shout into an empty desert.

So, the desert journey. Any lessons?

Firstly, it taught me that any older person, male or female, need not be ‘adventureless’ in their later years. Who’d have thought that at 66 years of age I’d embark on a 7000k road trip that would make Thelma and Louise’s effort seem like nothing more than a short doddle to the local store. Gosh … there are some tales I could tell!

The journey taught me that we live in a country so huge that the very word huge is nowhere near huge enough to describe it all. It also made me reflect upon what a small-hearted country we are turning it into because of aspirational greed, lack of social justice for the disadvantaged, and a pretense of care for the environment and climate.

It taught me also that there is more than one form of desert. There is the desert of red sand, and red rock, and blue sky. A desert of unparalleled beauty. There is also the desert of the heart.

Some of us, we who are known as ‘survivors’, and that is a term not of our choosing, were desertified against our choice. Our hearts were exploded out and dried into barrenness by other human beings who were supposedly our carers.

All I can say is that at some point in the desert journey I began to feel the slightest of hints that moisture was re-entering my heart. That might not sound like much of a redemptive experience to you, but to me, and to many of my compatriates who had similar childhood experiences to mine, it is the stuff of life itself. It was worth the drive.

So. The Trip. What else came out of it?

Well, I would love to say that I have forgiven the Catholic Church for what was done to me. If I could say that I would probably feel wonderfully good about what a wonderful person I have turned out to be. But I cannot say it.

They abused me when I was a child, and they then turned around and abused me again with the terms of their legal Settlement. That’s how it is, and despite the grand PR words the Church spreads about in the media, that’s what they did to me and that’s how the case played out. Once I emerge from the second round of abuse-recovery I might be in a position to consider forgiving them for the first round of abuse.

I certainly learned that I have many things in my current life that I am grateful to have. I have love and friendship in my life. I have humour in my life. Those things remain beyond the reach of the Catholic Church.

I am grateful for something the medico-legal psychiatrist on my case said to me. He said ‘you are one of the few I’ve known who has emerged from such an experience with your personality intact’. That meant a lot to me. Despite all, my who-ness managed to squeak through. My quirkiness is truly my own, how bloody amazing is that!

Through the playing out of my case I also learned that there are, yes there really are, some good and loving hearts in the legal profession.

Lastly, in the most serious vein, the trip taught me that being stranded in the desert is not necessarily a death sentence. The heart can re-grow. Evil’s legacy can be turned away. Love is all. I earned the right to say these words.

Keith Davis is a citizen journalist. He is an implacable foe of social injustice, and he is a strong believer in the inevitable implementation of a Universal Basic Income in Australia. He has a varied background, including print media publishing, not-for-profit group administration, and Indigenous sector project management. He fully supports the notion of Treaty. He writes from the heart, believes that whimsy and thoughts out of left-field have at least as much power as logic and reason, and does not limit himself to any one particular topic or theme.

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