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Category Archives: Your Say

Opportunity lost: Trump’s presidency

By Matthew Synnott  

Could there be anyone caught surprised that Donald Trump would be the sore loser that he has shown himself to be? We hear about millennials and the entitled generation, well Trump takes the trait to Stratosphere levels that no millennial could challenge. While we are at it, his ego is up there as well. It matters not that commentators – many of whom were avid supporters have, now that he is on the cusp of being sacked from the office that he would regard as the most coveted, valued and precious – have now turned on him, no doubt disturbed, disappointed, disgusted even that this pathetic human has revealed he is possessed of most if not all of the worst traits of character it is possible to reside in just one individual.

I believe that his decision to run for the office of POTUS was not about “Making America Great Again,” but more about making Trump greater. It was going to be just another conquest, another notch on the bed head, more confirmation that he was not just a highly successful business man but a statesman as well. This would assure him a place in the history pages of the U.S. not just as a wealthy and successful self-made businessman – hell such people are as common as flies – but as the one who had achieved all the things he said he would and so much more than any of his predecessors. It matters not that the reality is very different, his self-belief is all that matters, commentators who have the temerity to disagree even question his claims and assertions are heretics, purveyors of “Fake News.”

I have struggled to find a redeeming quality I can attach to this man and I use the term advisedly, I am no closer to finding any, any man who is so bankrupt of human decency is unworthy of that title. It bears a responsibility to live a life beyond the selfish gene we all have and while it is necessary for survival, it should not become so dominant that it extinguishes our instinct to be the social creatures that we have evolved to be. I have no professional training/experience but my inclination as a lay observer is that the subject is a pathological liar combined with a paranoid psychopath, and throw in narcissist all at the extreme high end of the curve. He is such a loose cannon that he is a danger, not just his countrymen and women, but the world through his denial of climate change science. He seems so deluded that he believes his handling of the pandemic is world-class. Doing an Admiral Lord Nelson or he is in a parallel universe.

It concentrates the mind to think what might have happened during the Cold War years had Trump been POTUS then. He would have held the launch codes for the missile defence system. Those of us now in our senior years were familiar with the terms, “Arms Race, 100 Megaton Bombs/ICBMs, MAD.”

The one chance the subject had to redeem some grace and dignity, to accept that his chance to win a successive second term is lost. Condemned felons have accepted their fate with impending death with greater courage and dignity than he will ever know. Victory is a showcase of talent, defeat is a showcase of character (unknown author), no point explaining this to the subject, the only quote he gets is; “winners are grinners, losers always lose” and that is what will really hurt him. He can say what he likes, history will record that in 2020 he lost by a not inconsiderable margin and that he resorted to all the dirty tricks he could invent to manipulate the system by falsely asserting illegality and dishonesty in the postal service, the electoral service, the Democrat States, the legal system, even the party that gave him oxygen in the first place, the Republican Party, conspiracists all of them.

I predict this spoilt brat, when his only option is to take his bat and ball and wander home alone, that he will boycott the Inauguration ceremony next January. He will go to his grave proclaiming he won the election but it was stolen from him thus attending the ceremony would only legitimise the illegal acts that resulted in the injustice. And that will plague him forever. The President-elect and his Vice President-elect should not be troubled by any immature action by this aberration, it reflects not badly on them only on the ignominious ex-POTUS. The truth is that he was never going to be equal to the task he was assigned and trusted to do four years ago. His ego was such that he believed that only his ideas were worthy of being exercised, when confronted with advisers who held differing views, he found reasons to dismiss them. As the smartest person in the room, correction, the world, he didn`t need to consult experts.

 

 

The incoming administration has its job cut out restoring faith in the process and in the nation`s leader to repair the damage reaped by four years of inglorious damnable conduct.

The Republican Party also has some fence-building to do. The lights in the party room need to be burning late into many nights analysing the last four years; what worked, what didn’t and what needs to happen to ensure the Democrats only get one term (when Biden is likely to hand the baton on to his Vice President for 2024). Should their outgoing fellow decide he wants another tilt, do they support him or send him on gardening leave, or do they quietly hope that the agony of loss will fry his addled brain completely? Time will tell. Maybe he will retire to his golf courses, sorry, country clubs. Memo to anyone competing with the club owner; let him win, he doesn’t like losing … in case that fact eluded you.

 

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The role of psychology in recruiting

My career has brought me into contact with many people and many attitudes to life, so the thoughts expressed here are based on personal observation rather than in-depth expertise.

My own personal experience has also taught me that, in the wrong circumstances, I can be a horrible person! Most of the time I work very hard to try not to be! I do not always succeed!

It bought me to a realisation that we all have the potential to display a whole range of personas, depending on where we are, what is happening and who we are with, or influenced by.

As a first-time mother, I was thrown into a world I had never experienced, and with which I did not cope well. A crying child, who cannot be in any way comforted, has a disastrous effect on me!

My kids are tired of hearing me say that it is a miracle that they survived their childhood, because I do not like small children!

It is true – but they did survive and become good citizens – despite!

Yet, normally I can take problems in my stride and behave rationally! But small children delightful though they can be, take a long time to become rational beings – if they ever do!

In the 1970s, when metrication, across the board of of all types of measurement, was being introduced, I was asked to provide a short course to police cadets, to enable them to adjust their thinking to the new parameters for, for example, body measurements, or climate conditions, vehicle speeds etc, required for reporting purposes.

I worked on the basis of providing a few, easily remembered, benchmarks so that, for example, a male, 6 foot tall, weighing about 16 stone, became a male, 180 cm tall weighting about 100 kg. (Colloquially, we do use weight when we should use mass, so let that one pass!)

(Remember – a 12 inch = 1 foot ruler is 30 cm long. Weight is not quite so easy, but 2.2 lbs (pounds) = 1kg and 1 stone = 14 lbs.)

Similarly a daily temperature of 61 deg F, clearly a cool day, or 95 deg F – during a heatwave – became approximately 16 (transpose the digits) and exactly 35 deg C, (over 40 deg C is VERY hot) respectively. Of course freezing temperature is 0 deg C and 32 deg F, while boiling temperatures and 100 deg C and 212 deg F, respectively.

A car travelling at 50 mph was now moving at 80 kmph, a neat 5:8 ratio.

The group I worked with included a fairly wide age range, and was, I dimly recall, exclusively male.

As an aside – in teaching a bridging maths unit to mature age students, primarily female, I found an alarming proportion of women who thought they were no good at maths – because that was what they had been told by a male maths teacher

“Women can’t do maths!”

The fact of being a female with an honours maths degree has raised my status enormously in the “she’s only a woman” stakes!

So – back to my cadets!

They could be divided in roughly 3 groups.

There were the ones who had served in the defence forces, were used to obeying rules and commands, were comfortable with discipline, but wanted to be back in civvy street.

Then there were the younger ones, minds set on becoming whizz bang detectives, and willing to soak up knowledge.

And lastly there were the bullies.

The ones who wanted to strut around, gun on hip, and whip everyone into their idea of shape.

They would not be there to protect the law.

They would BE the law!

And, IMHO. they should not have been recruited on psychological grounds!

I had one student in this category who refused to accept the information I was giving. and argued black was white in order to not have to back down!

Underlying his aggressive attitude was clearly the fact that I was a woman, who would not cede ground to him, because my expertise was superior to his.

When, as a mature age student myself, and with several years of teaching behind me and 3 children of my own, I did my Grad Dip Ed, we did a fascinating unit on psychology, and I have since read several books by psychologists on how the brain develops, how it can repair itself to an amazing extent, even after severe damage – and, in particular, how lack of development of or damage to the part of the brain, which allows the development of empathy, can lead to psychopathic behaviour.

In today’s world, it seems, from observation, that many in control, whether in government, in services like the armed forces or the police – and particularly in security services outside the ADF – display the symptoms of psychopathy.

Certainly there are situations when preserving one’s life demands actions which would not be regarded as normal in other circumstances.

But I think serious thought has to be given to finding a suitable way of measuring psychological reactions to a whole variety of situations before giving anyone power over the lives of others.

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Small victories. Worth celebrating.

Most of you know me. The writer of JAGGED. But let’s forget all that. Let’s dive into politics.

I live on the Sunshine Coast in Qld – LNP and Independent heartland. I live in the seat of Nicklin which the ALP has never been able to gain.

Over all the years my GREEN vote has been totally wasted here on the Sunshine Coast, I vote GREEN and I preference the ALP. I rock up each election year in the tender hope that my progressive vote will have some value and will make a difference. For the first time, in this year of 2020, my progressive GREEN vote and the attached Preference helped the ALP to secure the seat of Nicklin. Perhaps I will be thanked for that by the ALP … but history tells me that probably I will not be.

But I don’t care about that. For all the evident faults and lack of courage of the ALP they are so much a better choice of Government than the LNP. In life, small victories are worth celebrating, my progressive vote helped the ALP to secure victory in this stranglehold LNP seat of Nicklin. So to my GREEN and ALP friends … let’s share a Champagne. It might be a small victory … but it is sure as hell worth celebrating!

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Momentum and global warming

Batillus – This supertanker was built for Shell Oil in 1976. The condition of the international oil market did not improve between 1977 and 1980 and the number of voyages undertaken by the Batillus was considerably reduced to just 4 trips round the year; which were further reduced to 1 or 2 trips by 1982.

Have you ever realised how far out from port a super-tanker or an ocean liner needs to start reducing speed, to ensure it can safely dock?

Check it out – the answer might surprise you.

But think about the last time you were approaching traffic lights in an empty lane, as the lights change to green.

Moving your foot from the brake to the accelerator, you sail through, ahead of the pack – because of the momentum you are carrying.

Students of physics know that momentum is calculated by multiplying velocity by mass, so the greater the mass of the vehicle or vessel, the greater its momentum – and the higher that is when it meets an obstacle, the greater the damage done.

“So what?” you might say.

Well in many ways, this is analogous to the situation we face with global warming.

Unchecked emissions of greenhouse gases have been building momentum and causing ever greater forces to spark fires, boost floods and create droughts, with increasing levels of damage resulting.

We need to apply the brakes to this process, yet the longer we delay, the harder it will be to dissipate that momentum.

AUSTRALIA’S CLIMATE HAS WARMED ON AVERAGE 1.44C SINCE RECORDS BEGAN IN 1910, LEADING TO AN INCREASE IN EXTREME HEAT EVENTS (STATE OF THE CLIMATE 2020 REPORT).

And we have barely touched the brakes, despite our awareness of the consequences of failing to do so!

A change of President in the USA, to one with a commitment to tackling climate change, and, believe it or not, a growing awareness in China that more needs to be done – and remember, the ruthlessness of the current leader in China can be turned to produce good results, just as forcefully as it is being used to less desirable effect – both give us a hope that all is not yet lost.

Whether it is stupidity, ideology or some other flaw that drives our current leader in Australia, we have got to force a change of policy, if our children’s children are not going to inherit an uninhabitable world.

Concentrating on ‘growing the economy’ is a total waste of time and effort if, in doing so, we totally destroy the quality of life of a majority of those who survive the increasingly hostile environment which our government’s efforts are creating.

The failure of the Coalition government to use the hiatus caused by COVID-19 to enable a whole new approach to planning for the future – instead they are refusing to accept that ‘normal’ is a memory of the past and the future is uncharted territory – has got to galvanise us to take over the reins and plan for a realistic future.

The very way they are proceeding to penalise those least able to help themselves – re-introducing the ‘mutual obligation’ approach for job seekers, and extending the introduction of the cashless debit card – shows their contempt for those who are unable to aspire to have all they want – let alone an abundance!

Greed is NOT good.

Caring for the welfare of others is NOT a weakness.

Being guided by a sincere moral compass is NOT related to religious beliefs, but to a desire for a cohesive society, where at least a majority strives to live in harmony, following a ‘do as you would be done by’ approach.

Recent events and disclosures make it very clear that those who boast of their religious affiliations are, too often, among those whose behaviour is truly selfish and antisocial.

Do we really want people like this in control of our lives – particularly when it seems their selfishness is destroying lives?

Now that borders are opening up and – with suitable social distancing, as the pandemic is merely in abeyance – activism is becoming an option, those who care, need to be out there making it clear that the current national government is out of step with what is needed.

Step up, shape up – or go!!

We CANNOT change the past but we CAN change the future!

This is the message we need to get out there!

Look to the future and avoid the mistakes of the past.

Change is inevitable.

Embrace it!

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On Empathy, Sympathy and our Pets

In these days of the news of so much brutality in many places in the world, of domestic violence, military massacres or social collapse in far away places or here in our own backyard, it may appear self-indulgent and facile to shed a tear or two for the loss of a domestic pet when we can but turn our gaze away from the hurt of humanity. An indulgence of sympathy some would say.

But there is the thing about a knowledge of love and affection. I believe we as humans are born with the innocence of love already in our self, while affection is a thing that can grow in our hearts … There is the interpretation that affection can be a stepping stone toward love … which is true, I’d say, but love is not a learned thing but a indelible emotion of the human spirit … to be capable of love is to be human.

The same with empathy and sympathy … With all those suffering peoples we see every day on the news, there is both empathy and sympathy … I would say that the combination of those emotions as between the separation of those emotions is the major difference between the Right and the Left persuasions of societies:

“To sum up the differences between the most commonly used meanings of these two terms: sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for the hardships that another person encounters, while empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of another.”

I recently finished a project I have been working on in fits and starts for many a year … the result gives little evidence of that time … and perhaps the quality of the finished product may be viewed as a wasted effort on my part! … But it had to be written … and some of you have read it to which I am very grateful … after all, it was directed to be read.

It is the story of the Italians interned in the 2nd World War to cut and burn mallee here near the Murray River … and the “play” … which I called a “reading opera” … ”A Ukulele Opera” describes a microcosm of their situation in those camps … The “opera” starts and finishes with a character named “Gemano” who is lamenting for his fiancé who he left behind in Italy when he came to Australia (with my father) to start a new life and then to go back and marry the lady and bring her to Oz to start a family … It was a true event … But the war broke out and he heard nothing of her … whether she be alive or, like so many millions more … dead … what were the odds? … Yet he held out with a belief and conviction that she lives … for five years! … five years of despair and internment … and then came the letter of joy …

In these days of “instant gratification”, how many can hold onto a desire or a commitment a person to love or hold affection with for more than a “clickbait” moment? … We seem to live in a time more of “want” than desire …

Which brings us to the love of our pets and the loss felt at their parting. With the death of a pet, in most cases we are there at the dying, we touch the body and witness the fading life and say a gentle goodbye with the stroke of the fur … or a gentle twist of the pet’s ear or some other favourite touch or word … I would think, in that moment of death, we are more in sympathy to that loss of mute, innocent love with the parting than with the empathy of the loved one. But once we are parted from that unconditional continuity of mutual company and aware of that loss of mutual confederacy between two close companions … I believe we then feel the sympathy of camaraderie so much that the weld of empathy to sympathy can become seamless, a stepping stone from affection to love is complete and that knowledge learned through the companionship of our love toward a pet takes over as instinctive behaviour into our adult relationships between fellow citizens, is what guides decent and civilized attitudes toward our fellow humans no matter what their circumstances. And it is fairly said that one can judge a person by their treatment of their pets or animals. It is a pity our leadership cannot seem to travel far enough down this route to become civilized barbarians!

It has to be fair to ask: Where would we be without our precious pets?

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Truth can be a potent weapon when used against corruption

Let me explain my headline. The words in quotations – unless stipulated otherwise – are written by my Facebook friend, Mike B. Mike has a habit of commenting on my work in a way that can be frustratingly affronting but at the same time challenges me to think more deeply about the truth of my communication.

Often, when I am left thinking my words are just a portrayal of left-wing bias, he forces me to rethink and refine. Think deeper. (I recall saying to my children in their teenage years. “Think beyond the answer. There’s sure to be another one lurking somewhere.”)

This time his comments referred to my previous post that was extremely critical of the past, current, and ongoing corruption of the Liberal and National parties.

Mike B writes:

“Most political commentators indulge themselves in invective, which is by definition ‘Abusive or venomous language used to express blame or censure or bitter deep-seated ill will’.

Praise is rarer, that is ‘expressions of approval and commendation’.

Both, when addressed to politics, are irrelevances. A discussion and understanding of human nature might be opportune. Political behaviour, our historical narrative informs, expresses what humans fundamentally are: honest and devious, cruel and kind hearted, violent and peaceful, primitive and sophisticated, clever and stupid.

The bifurcation of opposites in our nature and behaviour is endemical. Nothing has changed in our nature since our time on this planet began.

How, John Lord, do you set about changing human nature to something better? Start maybe with an appraisal of individual self-interest opposed to species imperatives. (Toffler) Otherwise human failing become simply a boring endlessly repeated litany.”

To cut to the chase, what Mike is saying to me is that it is one thing to identify the corruption that invests itself in politics and society, then be critical of it, but it is another to write about how we achieve social change.

To prove that I have given the matter some thought. Allow me to throw into the ring one of my quotes that addresses this issue:

“Will we ever grow intellectually to the point where we are able to discern, understand and act on those matters that seek the good within us?”

I also use another quote:

“Question everything. What you see, what you feel, what you hear and what you are told until you understand the truth of it.”

In my article I asked:

“What is it in the hearts and minds of men (l declare women more honest than men) that turns them into liars, robbers, cheats-men of ill repute, corrupt scoundrels who would take from the public purse that which is not theirs in order to feather their own nest?”

When I write and I use muscular language to describe wrong-doing, I constantly ask myself if what I’m doing is really important? Is it what I believe in, or have I just adjusted to what I’m doing?

If wrong-doing or the temptation toward it is intrinsically endemic in us all then identifying the problem is central to changing social attitudes.

Since I posted my piece more wrong-doing has come to light. The head of ASIC has been caught dipping his fingers into his expense’s card. The head of Australia Post has been giving staff expensive Cartier watches. It has become a never-ending story.

Novelist Ayn Rand said that “social change has to start with a moral revolution within each individual.”

Wikipedia tells us that the person Mike referred to, Alvin Toffler, was:

“… an American writer, futurist, and businessman known for his works discussing modern technologies, including the digital revolution and the communication revolution, with emphasis on there effects on cultures worldwide. He is regarded as one of the world’s outstanding futurists.

In his early works he focused on technology and its impact, which he termed ‘information overload.’ In 1970 his first major book about the future, Future Shock, became a worldwide best-seller and has sold over 6 million copies.”

On the subject we are discussing he identified management and leadership as a means of changing sociality morality. The way we think.

Toffler stated many of his ideas during an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 1998:

“Society needs people who take care of the elderly and who know how to be compassionate and honest.” Furthermore, he said. “Society needs people who work in hospitals. Society needs all kinds of skills that are not just cognitive; they’re emotional, they’re affectional. You can’t run the society on data and computers alone.”

 

Image from igorbeuker.com

 

Changing the way we think about temptation and corruption is a big subject because we are not just talking about financial gain but all manner of things that might lead us into ethically bad temptations.

Manipulating others so that they might participate in our temptation is a particularly bad side effect.

Corruption permeates every facet of society from religious institutions, education, sports: even law enforcement isn’t immune. It takes on many forms from bribery, nepotism, bid-rigging, embezzlement, extortion, vote-buying, price-fixing, protection rackets, character assassination and a hundred other varieties of fraud.

Yet our conceptual understanding of this evil – let alone our capacity to understand and combat it – is rather thin.

If change is to take place then it must first take place in the very hearts of men and women who are leaders in our community. Parents, teachers, law enforcers, faith leaders, media proprietors, business leaders, and of course politicians.

Avoiding temptation and corruption needs to be built into the syllabus of every course with an element of leadership.

Human nature, being what it is, we can never hope to eliminate bad decisions but if our leaders demonstrated a larger accommodation for truth and transparency that invited itself into the recipient’s ear then we would be a much better society.

My answer to Mike is that even though corruption has outlived all predictions of its demise, I will continue to expose this regrettable feature of our natural condition with my harshest words whenever corruption crosses my path. I will, however, from now on do so with an eye open to its cause and its elimination.

In the meantime, I will continue to advocate for some form of national ICAC. The use of truth to fight corruption remains a vital weapon.

My thought for the day

There is often a subtle difference between what you are tempted to do and what you should do.

 

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A Study in Scarlet

Can we see a pattern emerging?

Do we see a certain fear … no! … wrong word … not “fear” but rather a wariness in being seen to join in any seemingly “suggestive” activity, even if only looking or reading something that may hint of impropriety?

Recently … a couple of weeks ago … I put up a post; The Eroticism of Hildegarde Hempel … it got several hundred clicks on it … that’s alright … but only one actual comment on the piece from the reliable and perceptive Anne Byam … who correctly observed what I was trying to convey in the writing:

“Anne Byam October 10, 2020 at 2:42 pm

A delightful read again Joseph, with great visual imagery which sent me to a place I believe I might have been many decades ago – but certainly to the people and their actions, speech and body language etc.

An excellent portrayal of people and not so much of a by-gone day, either. Just as relevant today, as far as whispers and rumours, as it was in the yesteryear.

Cheers ~~ ”

No … not so much of a by-gone day … You see, I drew inspiration for that modest social observation from a story by Guy de Maupassant: The Piece of String, where a thrifty peasant stops to pick up a piece of string from the road, and in doing so is spotted in the action by a person he dislikes and the coincidental loss of a wallet is misconstrued and reported by that peasant’s enemy as the action in picking up that piece of string and the consequences thereof … no spoiler alert from me! … a great story …

In the story, the peasant ends up dying of the stress to clear his name and there are none who believe his simple explanation of the piece of string … in my story, the main character is already deceased before her good name is put under suspicion … indeed, the simple mention of the one word; “Erotic” … was enough to throw suspicion on the innocent Hildegarde Hempel, and so the rumour mill grinds on … certainly the same today as of yesteryear … on nothing but the strength of one little word or action …

And I’ll tell you why I can say that with a degree of certainty …

I put my stories up on my Facebook page, where I have a modest readership of relatives and frenemies, who usually place at least a “like” to my posts … yet this particular post drew absolutely zilch “likes” or comments … even no “visits” to my blog where I first placed the story from Facebook … unusual … I then experimented and put up a picture of little consequence with no explanation at all to accompany it … and almost immediately there were the usual suspects gracing the post with likes … So I have to conclude that with the insertion of the word “Eroticism”, that previous post was just that little bit “over the line” of acceptable decency to warrant a look … a “blush” of modesty?

I confess that the use of the word “eroticism” was a deliberate choice … rather than … ”innocence” or “mistake” … or even “guilt” … to name a few considerations for the title that passed through my mind … I chose “erotic” for the hidden voluptuousness and suggestiveness of that word … that directed the mood of the story … vis: that people are more driven by salacious rumour than actual fact … that gossip and suspicion can play a greater part in a person’s demise than actual action … and to this end I feel I was proven correct … and the fact that it was only Anne Byam who dared to make comment on a perfectly straight story as against any number that comment on the most banal posts everyday shows a bent toward avoiding being drawn into social commentary that could mean taking sides.

Truly … a “Study in Scarlet” … if not the scarlet letter …

And this is why I think many people now are over-cautious in such a degree concerning matters of women’s eroticism.

I suspect that the image of heterosexual women has become captive in a web of perceived fraudulent “ownership” of the gender by extremist feminists and dominant political “identity queens” so that a manufactured image of what they perceive womanhood should look like and what should be looked at, is the only one permitted on the “stage of life” … Any perception of the “erotic” or “sexualised” heterosexual woman is verboten and as a result, about the only “permitted imagery” we see these days of attractive women is of either sterile anatomical observation or “soft” pornography … even those moments on screen of men and women in a lover’s sexual embrace are so woodenly enacted as to become brutal, sharp and brittle, that the sensitive male has to wince and turn one’s eyes away … ”that’s no way to treat a lady” … no more room or allowance of admiration, fully clothed or otherwise, of the curvaceous classic lines of female beauty for beauty’s sake in itself, lest one attract the condemning eye of ferocious accusation from the “owners” of the gender demanding remorse or guilt for any act of visionary delight!

But I am fully aware that any heterosexual woman, confident of her own sexuality and capacity to attract attention to themselves to fulfil her social needs does not need to heed or make acknowledgement of those more fanatical elements of society … and more power to them for it!

I wrote on this situation a long while ago and the article was taken down after protest from some of the above-mentioned cabal … I post the link to that piece here; I’m worried about you ladies, (lurve those 40’s fashions and hairstyles!)

I again write of this conundrum to provoke some commentary on such an important subject, lest we all become too accepting of an artificial construct of the gender issues that only suit a small percentage of us all.

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Creating the Australian New Deal

By Christian Marx

Right now, here in Australia we are facing the biggest job crisis since at least the Great Depression of the early 1930s. The COVID-19 virus is the final straw that has broken the camel’s back. The ugly truth is that we have had three decades of rampant globalization via the weakening of import tariffs and the complete offshoring of manufacturing, and now even the service industry.

Try getting technical advice for an electrical product here in Australia. You have more chance of getting a job! (And that is saying something). Almost all technical advice comes from places as exotic as India, or as far away as Manila in the Philippines. These poor buggers get paid about one fifth of what an Australian worker would. Corporations love to exploit cheap labour!

This current morally bankrupt government has no intention of creating jobs. It suits their neoliberal dogma to keep the masses desperate for an ever-dwindling amount of jobs. This of course benefits their donor class. The millionaires and in some cases, billionaires need people desperate as this creates willingness to work for poor remuneration and increasingly precarious conditions.

The usual jackals in the media howl down any raise in Newstart for fear of upsetting their puppet master in New York, and the LNP`s grand plan for a brave new world. This author finds it unconscionable that in the middle of a near depression with nearly 14% out of work, or almost two million Australian adults jobless!

In the middle of a job’s crises to pair back the temporarily-raised Newstart and JobKeeper programme is economic suicide. The poorest tend to spend any money they are given, namely on rent, food and essential items. This money then goes straight back into the economy.

Instead, what do these reprobates do? They give more tax cuts to the upper-middle-class and the very rich. This money is unlikely to be put back into the economy. Rather, it will end up in shares, trust funds or some other investment.

The only way to get this country back on its feet economically is via a New Deal jobs programme and robust social safety nets for those who have fallen on hard times. In fact, even that bastion of capitalism, America embarked on their own ‘New Deal‘ under Roosevelt in 1933.

America was on the brink of collapse due to the stock market crash and the greed of the capitalist class of 1929.

Private capital had no stomach for creating jobs and large projects that benefitted the populace as there was no profit to be made in the short term, and they were unwilling to spend what was needed to kick-start the economy. History is now repeating throughout much of the Western world!

This new deal consists of three key goals: Relief from the harshness of unemployment and poverty, re-starting the economy, and reforming the corrupted financial system (which caused the depression in the first place).

Neoliberal capitalism was already failing badly before COVID-19. Now it has totally collapsed. Only the very rich and their cronies in media and government benefit from this hard-right dogma. Neoliberal capitalism is all about transferring public institutions into private, for profit hands. We have seen how disastrous this has been across a whole range of services.

One of the greatest failures is the bloated, for profit job agencies, which do bugger all to find people jobs while pocketing huge subsidies from the government. This system is financed to fail. Contrast this to the wonderful Commonwealth Employment Service which was run not for profit and was excellent at placing workers into jobs.

Under a New Deal we can create 100% employment and provide full-time jobs for all those who need it. There is plenty of work to be done! Infrastructure and community service is crying out for more help! Added to this is to create a robust social safety net to at least above the poverty line. $500 per week indexed to average wage increases would be a good figure.

Nobody needs to be in poverty in a country as rich as Australia. This is just a political decision to favour a small number of business scions and power brokers in the media. In fact, we had one of the best social security systems in the world in the 20th century, and we didn`t collapse into insolvency!

Which brings me to another great myth that needs to be smashed. The lie perpetuated by sock puppets in the mainstream media, and sadly even lately by the ABC! The bulldust that financing social programs and raising unemployment benefits will create more debt. This is garbage, and the politicians know this.

A sovereign nation that owns and controls its own public Federal Reserve cannot go into debt to itself. Money can be created and be allocated to where it is needed. Yes, it is true that we need to keep an eye on inflation, but this is what federal taxes are for. Taxes provide a break on runaway inflation by taking some money out of the system.

State taxes do operate on a different level to federal taxes however. Federal tax just takes this money out of the system… however state taxes are used to fund important public works such as infrastructure etc. I believe that Modern Monetary Theory is the way of the future and will free us from the ideological nonsense of neoliberal capitalism, which has proven to be an absolute basket case in every major Western nation!

In summing up, the only way out of poverty and joblessness is for the public sector to work again and to regulate the worst excesses of private capital… which even pre COVID-19 had driven us to the point of extreme hardship, transferring wealth to the very rich, while making it harder for every day folks to survive let alone thrive. Scandinavian countries are an excellent example of what could be achieved with the political will. So far, the only major party that has touched on creating a New deal is the Greens, who are advocating a Green New Deal.

Under this radical new approach, we could eliminate poverty, create an abundance of well-paying jobs, and in turn kick start a very moribund economy. Be bold and be visionary, people! We can do this if we embrace Modern Monetary Theory. Of course that would mean the wealthy job creators would have to compete with the public sector and provide decent wages, full-time jobs, and good conditions… which is exactly what they have been avoiding for the past 30 plus years!

Christian Marx is a political and social activist interested in making the world a fairer place. He has a Bachelor of Social Science and has a keen interest in sociology, politics and history. He was one of the organizers of the March in March rallies in Melbourne and is the founder of the progressive news and information site: Don`t Look At This Page.

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The best laid schemes

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy! (A portion of To a Mouse – by Robert Burns).

Scott Morrison might be well advised to remember this quote, and cease trying to set in concrete any plans for some sort of restoration of the system.

Job Keeper and Job Seeker CANNOT be phased out yet or even soon – not without some appropriate alternative measures being offered.

Nor can anyone on ‘the dole’ survive on the pre-COVID-19 rate, so don’t even think about it!

While some people might have been being overpaid and others may have got back into regular employment, there is a more than a significant number of people whose circumstances are already dire, and would become even more so if government-funded benefits were reduced or withdrawn. And there are some who have already been totally ignored!

Why cannot Morrison and Frydenberg stop best-guessing the future – which would be a nightmarish task for anyone – and accept that life now consists of living with changing circumstances which carry one imperative – keeping people alive, fed, clothed and housed?

During WWII in the UK, lives for civilians were necessarily put on hold in order to prioritise the war effort.

Food rationing began in January 1940, and followed fuel rationing, which began almost as soon as the war was declared, while it was 1958 before all rationing ceased.

YES!

For nearly 20 years, life in the UK was anything but ‘normal’ but we survived – and thrived in beating the challenges.

And having spent my pre-teens life living though bombing and shortages, I actually feel many benefits from not having been able to have what I want, when I want it!

You would be amazed how much more pleasure you can get from anticipating and preparing for a rare treat, rather than having so many options, you get bored!

Surprise, surprise! There was a Mandarin orange or a pomegranate in the toe of my Christmas stocking.

The UK has always been dependent on importing food and many other requirements, and, clearly, wartime conditions at sea had a massive impact.

Australia is basically self-sufficient in many of the necessities of life, but many of the jobs available here are dependent on tourism.

Close the borders and what happens?

What the government should be doing is making use of incredibly low-interest rates to issue bonds to raise funds to develop manufacturing, giving priority to areas like renewable energy, making our own steel and recycling, while also legislating to make it mandatory for single-use plastics to be totally phased out.

Training courses, funded by government, to re-skill those whose jobs are related to the fossil fuel industry must be a top priority.

In fact, if the government were to throw open the doors of all educational establishments and see education as an investment rather than an expense, they might be amazed at the benefits which might ensue!

At a practical level, the skills needing to be developed are largely related to the survival of the planet – and us with it!

Marine life is suffering from waste plastic in our oceans and this has to be ended.

We have to stop thinking that we are wasting our time making an effort because so many others are not.

While that might be true in some areas, many other countries are already making efforts.

What the present situation is proving, beyond reasonable doubt, is that the old system is broken.

Neo-liberalism has failed. The ‘market’ is only serving shareholders, and privatisation of ‘industries’ like hospitals, aged care homes and medicine generally only serves to further enrich the wealthy, while denying vital services to those who cannot afford to pay.

Over the last few decades, ‘user pays’ attitudes have defrauded the disabled and the needy of services they urgently need, and the continuing failure to build a sufficiency of social housing has left too many living on the streets in poverty.

Yes – we have problems with drug abuse – but that should be seen as a health problem. Criminalising drugs and drug users usually fails to catch the dealers, yet decriminalising drug use would put the dealers out of business!

Punishing people, without offering opportunities for rehabilitation is a total waste of resources.

There will always be people who cannot live peacefully in society, but the vast majority of those who appear before magistrates and judges could, with appropriate resources, have been diverted from becoming a problem.

We have an ideal time now, with reduced numbers of visitors to our shores, to re-think what matters in life – and find ways of increasing equality of opportunity, to which we are all entitled.

Introduce a Universal Basic Income, to replace the ridiculous mass of benefit categories.

Refine and simplify the tax laws – after all, it is the loopholes in the tax system which enable the already wealthy to further deprive the needy of resources for the services they desperately need.

Somehow we need to develop a coherent Human Rights Law.

We need to look more closely at the calibre of people we employ in our police services – and elect to our Parliaments!

We need to more highly value compassion. In general, people do not choose to steal unless they are either without necessities or they have mental problems.

Victoria has shown us, without a shadow of a doubt – as has the USA! – that we cannot assert our rights as individuals if that means damaging the health and lives of others.

We are a society – no apologies to Maggie Thatcher! – and that places obligations on all of us to respect other people’s rights.

What we need from government at present is acceptance that we do not know what will be regarded as ‘normal’ in future.

What we must be doing is making people’s lives as livable as possible, with everyone having somewhere to live, enough to eat, sufficient clothing, the ability to be educated as appropriate, and the opportunity to obtain work which is compatible with their talents, as soon as possible.

It is definitely not acceptable to have government members, whose income has remained unaffected, to be prepared to force people out on the streets because they cannot find a job, cannot pay rent and cannot even afford to feed their children in many cases.

If we are going to be pushed in that direction by current government policies, then let’s have an election before Christmas!

We need a government which does not ask; “What will it cost the economy?” but, instead asks; “What more do we need to do to make sure people are not struggling to survive.”

I end as always – this is my 2020 New Year Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

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Australia’s poor old women

By Jane Caro  

Despite women facing the wage gap, eventual poverty and possible homelessness, the government is quite happy to blame us for our fate.

As soon as the Federal Government understood that millions of Australians were likely to find themselves living on unemployment benefits for the foreseeable future, they realised just how politically untenable the previous rate actually was. They clearly couldn’t care less when it was just a bunch of old women and other marginalised people forced to eke out an existence on $40 a day, but millions more who had become unemployed through, as our politicians love to put it, ‘no fault of their own’ was a bridge too far.

So, in their self-interest and embarrassment (sorry, I can’t call it generosity), they added the $550 Coronavirus supplement to the usual Newstart rate, now called ‘JobSeeker’.

On the 25th of September, this supplement will drop to $250 a fortnight. This will be a blow for the newly unemployed – particularly as it is meant to drive them back into jobs that don’t exist. Nevertheless, even halved, the supplement remains a bonus for the long-term unemployed, most of whom are older and many of whom are women.

In that way, (as long as they don’t catch the virus and die, of course) the advent of COVID-19 has actually made the lives of many older women easier. The extraordinary dark irony of that fact seems to have passed most of our leaders and commentators by.

The terrible penalty we exact on women as they age in this wealthy country is horrifying. According to a report released in March this year by think tank Per Capita ‘Measure for Measure. Gender Equality in Australia’ 34% of single women (divorced, widowed or never married) are living in poverty by the age of 60. That number rises to 50% of them once they are living on the aged pension. These figures are pre-COVID.

The most galling part of these figures is the reasons why so many women in our society find themselves facing poverty as they age. There are too many to enumerate here, suffice to say it is directly a result of the sexist and misogynistic assumptions that dog women from the cradle to the grave. They include the fact that women – despite outperforming men and boys in all levels of education – are paid less from the minute they enter the workforce. They include the high cost of childcare, the tax disincentives deliberately designed to make it hard for mothers to return to full-time work, the gender-segregated nature of the Australian workforce, the assumption that women will do the lion’s share of unpaid work including domestic and caring duties, and the resulting over-representation of women in part-time, casual and low-paid jobs. And let’s not mention sexual harassment in the workplace or domestic violence and the thousand and one other things that can conspire to fling women into penury.

As a result of all this, women retire with an average of half the super of men (and men don’t have enough) and fully one-third of women retire with no super at all. (The same third who end up facing poverty at the age of 60, I wonder?)

Despite decades of feminism, all of these circumstances remain intractable, which is why me and my contemporaries (I am 63) are watching in horror as yet another generation of women race headlong towards the same abyss, especially if they remain or become single. For as long as I can remember, women have been told that a man is not a financial plan, but when I look at my contemporaries and who is secure and who is at risk, it seems that is a big fat lie.

The current generations of younger women – especially those just entering the workforce – are actually in the scariest place of all. We know this pandemic has disproportionately affected women. They have lost the most jobs, they have lost the most income and they have shouldered even more of the domestic, caring and home learning duties. Their super will be disproportionately affected. Our government in its infinite lack of wisdom has actually helped people access their super balances early to tide them through a contracting economy. The costs of this in later life will be huge, especially for women, who will never make good the loss.

The job stimulus packages offered by our government are so entirely focussed on male-dominated industries that it almost feels like they are trolling us. They even keep being referred to as ‘shovel-ready’ jobs. To absolutely rub women’s noses in it, the first group of workers removed from JobKeeper were childcare workers – overwhelmingly underpaid women. No one has been able to explain the logic of singling them out.

The confusion around childcare (ours is already one of the most expensive systems in the world) has forced many families to throw their hands up in despair and decide that – you guessed it – mum will have to give up her job. The message is clear: ‘go home ladies and help us make the unemployment stats look more politically palatable.’ At least, if they are young they may still have a home to go to. In a couple of decades, they may not. The fastest-growing group among homeless is women over 55, leaping up by a terrifying 31% between 2011 and 2016.

And what has been the Federal Government’s response to the pressure being brought to bear about the fate of half the Australian population – the best-educated half, by the way? Apart from some vague promises about plans to do something about the super gap, it’s all the stuff beloved by neo-liberals: an ‘economic security pack’ whatever that is, more parental leave flexibility, scholarships for women in economics and finance, specialist DV units (at least they mentioned it) and a female entrepreneur’s program. All well and good, if vague on detail, but where’s the social housing? Where’s the paying people’s super whenever they take time out of paid work to care for others? Where’s the free fucking childcare available to every family?

But the bit that really infuriated me about Assistant Minister for Financial Services Jane Hume’s package was the potted lecture she gave women and the super industry about the need to improve women’s financial literacy. The implied blame in that suggestion is at best tone-deaf and at worst utterly cynical. Once again, we blame women for their own fate. We turn our faces away from the very real barriers, biases and prejudices that hobble women at every turn and tell them they are poor because they are stupid and lazy about money.

In fact, women are poor as a direct result of doing what they are constantly told is their duty and putting the needs of others ahead of their own right to earn an income.

As I have said before, in today’s Australia we tell older women; ‘look, its lovely you put the needs of your kids, elderly relatives and anyone else in need of care ahead of yourself, thanks for that. Now, can you just go and live in your car?’

 

This article was originally published on The Big Smoke.

Jane Caro has a low boredom threshold and so wears many hats; including author, novelist, lecturer, mentor, social commentator, columnist, workshop facilitator, speaker, broadcaster and award winning advertising writer.

 

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The big lie

By Leonie Saunders  

A little over two weeks have passed since I listened intently to the presenter of the ABC’s Statewide Drive program, Nicole Chvastek interview the owner of a popular Kyneton restaurant to get his opinion of the COVID-19 Roadmap aimed at taking Victoria out of lockdown that Premier Andrews announced the previous day.

With an open mind, and my humanitarian instincts fully engaged, I listened to the restauranteur voice his understandable dismay at the toll COVID-19 has taken on his small business and his staff. However, when he expressed his displeasure with Daniel Andrews simply because he expected the Premier would announce on the day how much financial support business owners can expect to receive from the Victorian government, my critical faculties kicked in.

Perhaps the Premier may have been able to placate the restauranteur had he stipulated that the Roadmap he laid out was the public route, and all secondary roads on the map would be outlined in due course. Then again, bearing in mind no matter what size the business, good old hubris is rife in the mindset of the business community. That being said, I somehow doubt there would be any circumstances under which business owners would abide secondary status in the realm of political considerations.

To be fair, at the beginning of the interview as I listened to this restauranteur expressing not only his concerns for his business but also for the economic hardship his staff were under; I judged him to be somewhat empathetic. Nevertheless, as he went on about the Premier not announcing on the day any offer of financial support for business, his solicitude for his staffs’ financial stresses soon waned. In truth, there would need to be more than a soupçon of empathy to assuage my ire at his and all business owners hypocritical bleating for social handouts.

The question is, why should governments provide financial support to business in a capitalist free-market economy? From my perspective, this fundamental contradiction in terms warrants serious debate. Accordingly, as is my wont, living up to the integrity of the allegorical meaning of my name being Lioness. I thought it high-time to put the cat amongst the pigeons. It was on that basis that I decided to ring the ABC to express my views during the talkback segment.

While I cannot recall verbatim the entirety of what I said, I remember beginning with words to the effect that it is important to take stock of the fact that one of the main reasons people are motivated to go into business is to make lots more money while being top dog with no-one looking down on them telling them what to do. And that is fine. But in the process of making a profit off the skills, time, and labour of workers, to then expect the rest of society – the majority of whom are workers – to pick up the tab for the profit-takers in hard times is a bit rich. Especially coming from people who think themselves morally superior to their employees. These are the people who begrudge paying taxes, and who hate having to comply with red tape despite the social and environmental safeguards that red tape affords our society.

There are common threads in the discourse of business owners worth noting. For example, whenever anyone dares challenge people in business to justify the way they go about deriving profits, it is reasonable to assume by the mechanical uniformity of their responses that collectively, all have learnt the Capitalist Handbook 101 by rote. This is more than evident in the obvious lack of deviation in their language when they assert themselves to be deserving of lucrative returns because they work hard and take all the risk.

Incredible as it sounds, I am yet to hear any business owner say my employees work as hard as me, if not harder. And they also face any number of workplace risks. So they too deserve to profit just as handsomely from the product of their labour.

The resentment that runs through the veins of the filthy penny-pinching rich is echoed in the attitudes of all the wannabes (otherwise known as aspirationals) in the ranks of the upwardly mobile sole traders in small to medium businesses. United in their jaundiced view of humankind they are predictably hostile when it comes to debating questions relative to the equitable distribution of wealth. Likewise, they are typically vitriolic in their condemnation of socially-conscious empathetic lefties who argue strongly for increasing our nation’s social safety net that for too long has failed abysmally to provide reasonable financial support for the less well-off in our society.

That being the case, I thought the irony of the restauranteur’s expectation for a hand-out was particularly pertinent in context to the presupposed benefits to Australia as a profit-oriented free-market economy. Why the lie? If the material benefits of market economics were tangible and evenly spread, then there would be no need for governments to apply socialist interventions in markets whatsoever.

Paradoxically we have COVID-19 to thank for exposing to the air the lies that journalists in the employ of this country’s self-serving commercial news media outlets have been complicit in suppressing. While they leave misconceptions and blatant untruths to fester like a puss-filled carbuncle on the bum of our society, the pandemic has laid bare the inherent defects in capitalist economics and the copious flaws that exist in globalised market economics. Importantly, Rona has brought into public view just how much business owners expect the freedom to capitalise their profits while in the cycle of economic downturns. They are reliant on governments enabling them to socialise their losses. Ergo, one must ask the question; if businesses rely so heavily on governments to bail them out in a crisis, what is their risk?

Truth be known, other than failing in business arising from their own mismanagement, the risk to the restauranteur and other small business owners comes from the people they typically vote into government.

Behind closed doors, government ministers beholden to monopoly capitalists cherry-pick which industry sectors get the most hand-outs. Take for example the unscrupulous extraction industry receiving fuel subsidies and a raft of other tax-breaks designed to offset the operational costs of doing business. While the working class suffer the financial burden that comes from the inequity of a 10% regressive goods and services tax, rent-seekers and other capitalists benefit handsomely from government wilfully leaving gaping loopholes in the tax system.

 

 

What is it with our political class? Is it nest-feathering, seeking a soft landing post-politics? Is it political careerist geared only to serving their self-interest? Or is it sheer unadulterated venality?

Perhaps it is all of the above that holds leaders in government so captive to rent-seekers that they allow billions in profits from raping this country of its precious resources to be channelled offshore tax-free? The only thing that is free about trade in this country is how our nation’s government facilitates its donors in big business to unceremoniously screw Australians over freely by making billions in untaxed profits while we pay the price.

Which brings me to another lie lifted straight out of the capitalist handbook. Out of all the people who erroneously claim that taxing businesses cost jobs, it is the rent-seekers who take the most but return nothing of any value to society that rail the loudest against paying company tax. No matter how one looks at it, rent-seeking is a protection racket and the fact that our so-called elected representatives entertain these racketeers dressed up in thousand-dollar suits designed to convey a veneer of respectability, is beyond contempt.

Overall, monopoly capitalism predetermines who wins and who loses. Big business leverage governments with the prospect of more jobs and political donations shape government budgets. Corporate wholesale shareholders engineer movements in markets. And this goes to the lie of there being a hidden hand of competition in markets as it proves market systems are never impartial.

If we are invested intellectually in the 17th Century philosopher Adam Smith’s microeconomic theory on supply and demand, in which he warned that equilibrium in markets can only be achieved through the hidden hand of competition. And that competition is driven by demand. How can politicians call Australia a free market economy based on supply and demand when government intervenes to serve the interests of monopoly capitalists dominating the supply side of the ledger? This is but one of many questions that should be raised concerning the efficacy of capitalism and to the social and environmental probity of deregulated supply-side market economics.

Not to put to finer point on the fact that 48 years have passed since the last political leader was fearless enough to introduce meaningful socioeconomic policy changes for the betterment of our society. It is fair to say courage is not the forte of today’s political class. Nevertheless, I contend that at this juncture in time, with our international borders closed, dampening the power of outside economic forces. The pandemic provides the political class with the perfect opportunity to show some mettle and test my long-held view that business owners are analogous of shark’s teeth – when one fails another pops up immediately to replace it.

Of course, that is just my pie-in-the-sky idealism sneaking out. Sadly, they won’t take the risk because they truly are cowards. They fear not being able to rely on aspirational mercenary capitalists starting in a business having the moolah readily available to line the right pockets in time to fund their Party’s election campaign. That is absolutely the domain of well-established capitalist class elites, here and abroad.

The likes of Murdoch, Rinehart, Forrest, Triguboff et al, understand only too well the raison d’être of political parties is winning power for power’s sake, and as a consequence politicians will go to extraordinary lengths to protect their benefactors. The capitalist class also know that contrary to the core tenets of representative democracy, governments first and foremost govern for them. This is evidenced by the fact that whenever governing in their best interest clashes with governing in the best interest of the electorate. There is no question of who wins and who loses.

While it is certainly true that not all business owners exploit workers or the environment and the tax system by setting up family trusts to dodge paying their fair share of taxes, it is also true that not all business owners begrudge government red tape because they know that it is red tape that safeguards Australia’s high standards. They understand the added time it takes to meet those requirements is a cost-benefit they pay in the social good. On the other hand, given the capitalist system encourages greed, it is equally true that capitalists including aspirational capitalists in small business are inherently monopolistic. Thus, it is an inexorable truth albeit, in varying degrees, business owners who exploit workers, society, the natural environment and the tax system are most definitely in the majority.

Which brings me to the source of my disgust. Every time the dyed-in-the-wool marketing man Scott Morrison smugly gives voices to one of his favourite right-wing shibboleths; “if you have a go, you’ll get ago”, I am reminded of how slimy capitalist puppets operate. The lie is evident in the subtext of Morrison’s typically pious mantra that all men are created equal. When in truth, he knows all too well that monopoly capitalism guarantees all men and women are not born equal.

Despite being media savvy, the marketing man’s glib façade of aspirational “if you have a go, you’ll get ago” rhetoric, cannot conceal his smug countenance. Morrison’s smirk betrays his lies, including his particular penchant for proselytising the farcical idea that the self-made man is a common occurrence in capitalist economies. This is another lie he and his ilk use as a means of harnessing deference to capitalist ideals. Make no mistake, this nation’s Prime Minister invests a great deal of religious fervour in conveying the cock-and-bull narrative that life is conducted on a level playing field.

To that end, there are days when I despair over the wretched credulity of the great majority of Australians who in their apathy and ignorance give sustenance to the biggest lie of all. Contrary to the narrative propagated by the mainstream media, social media is not responsible for the great majority of Australians buying into the lie that capitalist growth must be allowed to flourish unfettered by taxation and regulations. Social media is not to blame for the level of political illiteracy in Australia. Indeed, social media is not to blame for the impediments to the democratic process that comes from political illiteracy and indifference. That failure must be laid at the feet of mediocre leadership.

The mean-spirited state of politics in this country is testament to the public sphere being dominated for more than 40 years by right-wing politicians in both Liberal and Labor. It is testament to the dominance of misanthropic right-wing neoliberal leadership that a media landscape was created that gave a select few monopolistic media owners more power to foster witless passivity to ensure a culture in which Australians would unthinkingly give deference to capital. And to that extent, the general public’s predisposition for self-sabotage evident in how economic artifices of debt and deficits that allow the government to shirk their responsibilities go unquestioned. Is to be expected.

Yet despite all the lies, as oxymoronic as it sounds, this melancholy optimist continues to live in hope that the penny will drop before Mother Earth’s patient indulgence of our stupidity that is already showing frightening signs of being worn thin, runs out completely. As a socialist, I fight on in the belief that the multitudes will soon wake up from their political slumber to discover there are no second chances.

Doubtless to say, my position is clear and that for the sake of my grandchildren and all living creatures on this planet; I and we have no other choice than to keep raising our voices to awareness in the public good the cavernous pitfalls that come from buying into the lies told by Morrison and his ministers. To be perfectly frank, I cannot conceive of any finer aspiration than being a valid contributor in the quest of safeguarding the future by sounding the alarm that if heeded will ensure Morrison and his capitalist cronies in politics and business will be listed as a breed on the threshold of extinction.

This article was originally published on Connecting the Dots.

Leonie Saunders is benevolent dictator of Connecting the Dots, proud lefty feminist. Adores children and animals. Despises greedy union-bashing, power-abusing corporate polluters.

 

 

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Will the pandemic force us to recognise how privileged we are?

By Claire Harris  

With a pandemic sweeping across the globe, I’m wondering if this is the moment when we finally realise how fortunate we are.

I think we can all agree that it has been an exhausting week. And month. And year. Australia was only just beginning to recover slowly from the horror show of the worst bushfire season in history, when we – as everywhere else – were struck with a global pandemic.

It happened gradually and then all at once. It’s hard to believe now, but just a fortnight ago I was in my hometown of Sydney planning two birthday events: one for myself and one for my mother who was turning 70. As I watched the spread of Coronavirus, I made the difficult decision to cancel both celebrations.

At the time, it seemed perhaps overly-cautious. How much could possibly change in the week that these parties were scheduled to occur?

The answer was… everything.

Within 24 hours of my birthday drinks that didn’t happen, a travel ban was imposed, “social distancing” became a common term, and non-essential businesses were slated for closure. I spent my first (and I hope only) quarantine birthday with just the few family members I was staying with. We all stopped leaving the house. For my mum’s birthday, we decided that her children and grandchildren shouldn’t even visit – it simply wasn’t worth the risk.

Cutting short my visit to return to Melbourne where I live, I said goodbye to my mother on the doorstep of her home, not knowing when I would see her again. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. We are fortunate that she can be isolated, but worried – as so many are – about the growing likelihood that she will spend months on her own.

A few days ago, a friend messaged me to ask whether I should come back to Sydney before the state borders close, so as not to be on the opposite side from my family for an indefinite period of time. The thought of this twists my stomach into knots, as I ask myself when I will see loved ones who are overseas and interstate again. I have a sister who lives in Prague and another in China (and currently in government quarantine following exposure to COVID-19).

With all international flights grounded, they suddenly seem the half-world away that they actually are. We used to be able to count on the fact that we could always get on a plane to visit each other – the only obstacle, of course, being money.

But as the walls come down indefinitely, it also occurred to me that this is the reality that most people in the world live with, pandemic or no pandemic – being separated from loved ones with the uncertainty of not knowing when a reunion will occur. For the first time in my life, I’ve actually felt the physicality of borders which have always, for me, been invisible lines in the dirt.

We are so used to being able to do pretty much what we want when we want it: swim at the beach, get on an aeroplane, have a haircut, buy toilet paper. It makes us furious that these privileges, one by one, are being taken away – so angry, in fact, that we fail to even recognise them as privileges. We believe this kind of freedom is our birth right.

The display of 20,000 Australians at Sydney’s Bondi Beach despite government warnings to stay home – like the thousands on spring break in Florida and flocking to seaside towns in Britain – demonstrates just how fiercely we cling to our sense of entitlement. It is evident in the Hollywood celebrity refusing to stay home, declaring “some people value freedom over their lives” and in the wealthy people returning from ski resorts and cruise ships infected with the virus and failing to self-isolate. As a result, they are being quarantined in luxury hotels and complaining of prison-like conditions.

While this is an unenviable situation to be in, I do wonder whether the people who have unexpectedly found themselves in it will discover empathy for the boatloads of desperate asylum seekers who have been languishing on Manus and Nauru for seven years – in actual prisons.

As we fought each other over toilet paper, I wondered whether we will emerge out the other end of this crisis with greater empathy for the people in the world who constantly struggle with access to toilet paper – along with other things we consider basic necessities. I’ll admit that the scenes of Australians filling their shopping trolleys to the brim and brawling in supermarkets don’t fill me with a lot of positivity.

But there are reasons to feel optimistic about how the world will be re-shaped after this is all over. People are connecting in ways that we haven’t for a long time: for example, the amount of time I’ve spent actually talking on the phone this week instead of texting, the number of messages I receive (and send) just “checking in”, and the fact that I now play virtual board games with my family.

Will this newfound connectivity continue as we grow used to self-isolation? (And will we finally work out how to solve the unceasing technical issues?) What about once life goes back to “normal”? And, most importantly, when we finally resume our lives, will we have a lasting appreciation for just how good we’ve always had it?

We can only hope that one positive outcome of this terrible experience is a brave new world where we hold a greater awareness of how lucky we are  – and a stronger sense of compassion for those who don’t have our privileges. That we will no longer take any of it for granted.

 

This article was originally published on The Big Smoke.

Claire Harris is a writer in exile who has spent the last decade travelling and working around the world. This is not nearly as glamorous as it sounds and usually involves scraping by on a diet of muesli and cheap wine. Occasionally together. You can find her at www.clairejharris.com.

 

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Pedantry and selfishness

For some of my readers I will undoubtedly come across as a snob, because I grew up in the UK at a time when how you spoke, dressed and presented yourself was important – particularly if you were looking for a job.

England is, traditionally, much more class conscious than Australia, and, in my youth, in order to get a white-collar job required your spoken and written English to be impeccably correct.

Even to get a job in the BBC, it was once also necessary to have a Southern Counties accent, but fortunately that is no longer true.

Marrying in 1931, my mother had to resign from a job as Personal Private Secretary to a very senior Civil Servant, for which she had required high level skills in shorthand and typing – from dictation.

So, long before we had school lessons in English Grammar, my mother had instilled into my siblings and me most of the finer points of spoken and written English (as soon as we could write, we had to pen, on Boxing Day, ‘thank you for my Christmas present’ letters to every relative, with spelling and grammar up to standard!) – and a few other subtleties as well, which are too often overlooked.

I still wince when I hear someone say something like “Me and John went out to dinner last night.”

I realise that saying ‘I and John went out to dinner last night” sounds both clumsy and just plain wrong, yet if she had gone alone, she would have said “I went out . . .” and sounded perfectly correct.

Now I am not trying to give a pedant’s grammar lesson, but pointing out a far more important point in my upbringing.

Always put other people first.

“John and I went out to dinner where we were joined by friends who gave John and me an anniversary present” embodies correct grammar – plus a modest degree of self-effacement.

But when it comes to politics – self-effacement flies out the window, and what is good for the politician in government is much more important than what is good for those governed.

Again, in England, the monarch was also head of the Church of England, Catholics were kept in the background and lip-service was paid to the idea that the United Kingdom was a Christian nation, which tolerated all other religions.

(Much may have changed, but I have only visited the UK on holiday twice in the last 50 years.)

And being Christian embodied the idea that we have a duty to help others and, when possible, put their needs and interests before our own.

Hard work, in truth, and failure to meet those obligations was not uncommon – but nowadays it seems to be completely forgotten!

The most important duty of any modern politician, it seems, is to himself and his party  – in ensuring re-election and a cushy retirement.

I have watched Morrison’s performance this year with dismay and disbelief.

Having used social distancing as an excuse, he has manufactured a situation which has enabled him to be transformed into a petty dictator.

He has cut himself off from the people he is supposed to support – the electors and their families – and curried favour with industry giants – no doubt in the hope that he will reap the benefits once he decides to leave politics.

He clearly – like many others in government – does not understand the meaning of a ‘conflict of interest’.

I personally believe that without the National Cabinet, we would now be in a much worse mess than we are.

Not only in terms of physical health, but also on financial grounds, because the Coalition’s continuing criticism of Labor’s hand-outs and policies in the GFC would not have allowed Morrison to follow a similar path unless forced to by the Premiers.

My personal opinion is that now is the perfect time to introduce a Universal Basic Income (UBI) and adjust the tax system so that the payment is taken away from those whose incomes have not been drastically affected.

Easily done, much more equitable than the current plethora of welfare payments, and it allows for the fact that the financial crisis will not be over in a matter of weeks!

But I have spent the past 7 or 8 months talking to people, face-to-face and through social media, about Global Warming, which, for most of them, is at least as great a crisis as is COVID-19, and they almost unanimously want to phase out of fossil fuels into renewable sources of energy NOW – not after months and years of pouring more fossil fuel emissions into the atmosphere, thereby ensuring more and greater crises from extreme weather events.

Current discussions are already indicating that bush fire containment is not exclusively an issue for the states.

State borders are not respected by fire, and we need a national system which recognises that.

Planning now should be concentrated on dealing with the known consequences of fire, flood and drought while also developing every available weapon to ensure that power moves completely away from short term and long term dependence on fossil fuels.

Our politicians can, to our knowledge, work their butts off to ensure they pour money into the electorates which support them and to ingratiate themselves with business and industry which supports their party.

PLEASE PUT THE NEEDS OF THE ELECTORATES ABOVE YOUR OWN. POURING MONEY INTO YOUR FAVOURED ELECTORATES DOES NOT BENEFIT THE COUNTRY AS A WHOLE, AND THE RIDICULOUS IDEA OF USING GAS TO TRANSITION INTO RENEWABLES HAS TO BE KNOCKED ON THE HEAD HERE AND NOW.

I don’t apologise for shouting because people seem to have been distracted and deafened by misleading propaganda from the fossil fuel lobby.

We elect governments to satisfy OUR needs – we are not there for THEIR convenience or as a stepping stone to a bigger and better career!!

And before I am accused of bias – I think the Opposition has made a pitiable attempt to keep the government honest.

Forget about policy for the next election – you need to start convincing people NOW that you can offer anything worth voting for!

I end as always – this is my 2020 New Year Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

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Problems demand solutions

It is one thing to criticise, when those in charge are failing to act in ways which seem likely to reduce existing problems.

It is another to be constructive and suggest possible solutions.

And then again – on the part of those whose failure is being criticised – refusal to listen to suggestions has to be dealt with in some effective way. And that may prove to be the biggest problem we face!

Since the start of February 2020, I have sat outside the NT Parliament House on 32 Wednesday afternoons from 1 to 3 pm, to remind people that global warming is a major issue, requiring urgent action, and it cannot be ignored because of COVID-19 taking priority!

It is worth explaining that the Northern Territory is the safest part of Australia as far as COVID-19 is concerned. We have had no community transmissions, we quarantine visitors effectively, and we rarely, if ever, have double digit numbers of active cases arising from those visitors.

We also have warm weather in the Top End, which includes Darwin, and I cannot remember when it last rained – possibly a sprinkle in May – so I use an umbrella as a parasol to be sun-safe!

We will get rain later in the year – so the umbrella will perform its proper function when that happens. At least it is warm rain!

Not unexpectedly, I am deliberately ignored by a few people, but many stop to chat. They generally agree on the need for action, and criticise the refusal of the national government to make appropriate plans.

I have permission from the Speaker of the House to repeat this exercise until Christmas and have every confidence that I shall continue to do so for as long after Christmas as I feel necessary.

Each week I wear my Extinction Rebellion T-shirt, and my expectation is that, once larger crowds are no longer a threat to public health, the XR organisers will be getting members out on to the streets to increase pressure on governments to take the action which is increasingly urgent.

This is being reported as already happening in other counties!

I am willing to be involved in civil disobedience, as long as it does not involve violence on my part, and also avoids damaging property.

The problems which we are facing are many-faceted, affect nearly everyone, and will not be solved by following any of the policies the current Coalition government is recommending.

The first thing that strikes me is that the government does not seem to realise it has a part in the process of recovering from the pandemic shut-down and the chaos it has created, apart from throwing financial support, mainly to business.

Talk of a ‘return to normal’ shows a total misapprehension of the current state of affairs.

We are in this mess because of the way governments were behaving before the pandemic!

I read this article today (09/09/20), in the New Daily and it sums up the government’s attitude to perfection.

The ECONOMY is the permanent centre of attention, followed by ensuring that business is enabled to ensure that it returns to a state of constant growth.

Increasingly, Scott Morrison has shown his true colours as a would-be petty dictator.

This was never more clearly shown than when he used his slim majority in the most recent session to try to ram legislation through the Lower House, cutting short ‘debate’ and denying the Opposition a chance to speak.

How much longer can we tolerate this refusal to act democratically?

To solve problems, we first have to identify them, then we have to consider possible solutions.

There are plenty who are far more expert than am I who can carry out this process but – if we really are a democracy – it must be done in a non-partisan way, so we are not ruled by an ideology which, for many of us, is an anathema! Again I refer to the article mentioned above.

We are all equal before the law and are entitled to equality of treatment.

If the government needs money, then perhaps it should consider ways in which those with the greatest wealth should make the greatest contribution! Staying good mates with millionaires while children sleep on the streets is not on!

Economics is not a science, but those who have studied it could still make a useful contribution to discussions.

All discussions have to both lead to solutions which will relieve people of poverty, brought about by necessary government actions, and also take account of the lifestyle changes needed to combat global warming.

As a member of the general public, I have a fair idea of the overall sources of anxiety – particularly for women – that need urgent attention.

We all need the security of a home.

The present rather shaky moratorium as regards mortgage payments, rental arrears, and accumulated debt that flows on from that, must be stabilised and clarified ASAP.

An initial step could be to stop putting financial assistance for individuals into a ‘welfare case’ situation, and introduce a Universal Basic Income.

It can be set up in ways that enable taxation to balance it out for those who really don’t need it, but ensure that everyone can afford to pay their housing costs and other essential basic expenses.

(Oh! And by the way – have all those defrauded by Robo-Debt been fully recompensed yet? And did they get paid interest on the money, just as they were expected to pay interest if they failed to pay a claimed debt on time?)

A top priority should be government funding for social affordable housing!

Many jobs have not only been lost, but disappeared for ever.

Many businesses are being propped up by government grants when it would have been better had the business owners gone into receivership.

That situation can be closely examined and decisions made on realistic grounds – not using across the board rules that businesses should not be allowed to fail.

Early Childhood Education is an essential that government has again ignored. By reducing or removing assistance for childcare centres, the government has damaged the most important stage in the lives of our children.

Free childcare must be reinstated, salaries of all employed in the caring sectors – childcare, aged care, nursing, etc, must all be significantly increased, and numbers employed could be among the first ways to enable the ‘economy’ to start to recover.

I can only assume that neither Scott Morrison nor Josh Frydenberg regularly helps with the weekly household shopping.

If they did, they might appreciate that shopping needs money, and many of the goods purchased carry GST. And where does GST go? And does the government need money? So is refusal to provide the needy with succour a sensible policy?

We are not mendicants at the knees of a ruler.

We are citizens who demand to be treated fairly and we should not sit back and allow inferior policies from a government which is clearly out of its depth.

For example, here is another source of investment which is being spurned because superannuation is, for some strange reason, not in favour with the Coalition!

Let’s see the necessary, multi-partisan bodies being established to ensure that everyone has a roof over their heads, sufficient food and clothing, a proper education – particularly for the very young – and equality of opportunity.

I haven’t heard any tales of politicians complaining of not having enough of the necessities of life so why would they not accept that we are also entitled to respect and opportunity for a viable life?

I end as always – this is my 2020 New Year Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

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Trump doesn’t matter

By Kirsten Tona  

What’s happening in America has already happened and there’s no going back.

Donald Trump is one fucked-up individual. And he’s a problem. But he is not the problem.

He’s a symptom.

What’s the US going to do when they wake up after the election to find they’re still about to crash into the moon, even if that particular piece of trash is in jail?

All those good souls whose eyes have been opened and are still hoping you can close them again if you get rid of this particular Buffoon-In-Chief: you can’t finesse your way out of it this time by signing pro-choice petitions and saying you marched with Dr King. There are too many elements at play and too many lost souls in charge.

You should have listened when revolutionaries warned you against liberals, but you wanted a quiet life and it was too easy to not live in the dark ghettos.

It’s hard to see how Trump can win on the day. Even 21st century democratic republican elections require some degree of input from the voting public, and who will vote for him? His base, of course, but they’re insane, they’d vote for the Cookie Monster if he offered them cookies. Literally. I mean they literally would. They already have. They did with him. And they’re still saying the cookies are tasty even though they’re yet to bite a single one. They’re insane.

The working class vote he captured last time with his “I’m not a politician” spiel have been disillusioned, they know if they have jobs or not and they don’t.

The silence from the nasty evangelists with their nasty Shining City on the Hill agenda has been deafening; maybe they’re all too busy deleting videos they took of them themselves, Mrs Nasty Evangelist, and the 3 Mexican pool boys?

Mind you, the Democratic Party are so far up their own arseholes they are entirely capable of losing; they listen to each other on MSNBC and genuinely seem to believe it matters what is said, but they have no strategists capable of telling them what they need to hear about where the “flyover states”* get their news and information from.

*(What a disgusting term. No wonder the “coastal elites” are hated, they really are vile, arrogant little pos. Second up against the wall.)

Nobody who isn’t being paid comes to the Trump rallies anymore (because COVID-19? Really? The Trump base believe in COVID-19? Do me a favour…) except the absolute die-hard base and there’s not enough of them.

But the ones who jumped off the Trump bandwagon when they realised the ride was too expensive and it was heading for the cliff really, really don’t want to vote Dem. And I don’t blame them.

Some disillusioned ex-Trumpers will vote Dem anyway, they’ll hold their noses and do it. Some of them will hold their noses and vote Trump even though they know what he is now, because change is change and change is needed. It largely depends on what they believe about Portland and Kenosha, which largely depends on where they, their friends, their family and their church folk get their news.

How much longer he can keep the Megachurches, is an issue. They got their payoff for bringing him the numbers last time — the payoff being Mike Pence — but what good did it do them? Tax breaks can’t help you if you don’t pay taxes in the first place, they haven’t had any really major wins in the Supreme Court, a lot of them may be of the opinion that Ted Cruz would have been far better at pretending he’d read the Bible — Cruz probably has read it, the VeggiTales version of it.

And even the religious extremists must be thinking: if Trump-Pence win again Mike Pence may have to move his neck and I don’t know if the Earth’s gravitational field could cope.

For them it’s all about the Supreme Court. If Trump is the Promised One he has to deliver on that, and frankly, he hasn’t. Last month’s decision that Civil RIghts Act covered LQBTQI was a loss for conservatives, and the majority opinion was written by Neil Gorsuch—Trump’s first Supreme Court appointee! The evangelists want their rigid worldview supported by the people they backed into power if they’re expected to support them again. Last week’s decision supporting employers’ rights to religious exemptions from paying for contraception in health care plans was the result they wanted, but don’t even mention June Medical Services v. Russo to them, their narrow little hearts can’t take it. It means no movement on Roe v Wade, the white whale of the anti-choicers… And Ruth Bader Ginsberg keeps refusing to die. Trump has not really delivered.

Big Oil are haemorrhaging money. There’s a hole in their back pocket through which they’re losing a lot of the spare Senators they usually keep there, and Russia with its well-oiled Kompromat machine has been hoovering them up instead. So Big Dirty Energy is not going to be able to sway as much influence as it’s used to. Rats deserting sinking ships over in that quarter, the writings on the wall for US gas and oil companies. Look for a coming influx of female CEOs… it’s called the Glass Cliff.

The cat-and-mouse game between Russian and Chinese social media engineering and those Americans still left in the FBI who are smart and motivated enough to stop them (about 3) will be interesting to watch.

Zuckerberg almost broke a sweat last time he was congressional-hearing-questioned by AOC, and that’s pretty amazing for an actual android.

But however well foreign influencers can use Zuke’s Kompromat, kidnap people’s Chinese relatives, and cook vote-counting machines, they can only move a certain number of percentage points. It may not be enough to counter the anti-Trump feel. Which is pretty fervent. For good reason. The man’s a Russian asset for a start. You’d think that alone would be a fair reason to disqualify him.

I’m not suggesting evangelicals and conservatives will vote for Biden, who despite his Catholicism has firmed as pro-choice. Just that more of them may stay at home. Anti-Trumpers won’t stay at home, believe it.

There will be other factors, of course, but none of them on their own will be enough to control this particular election: the element of surprise has been lost. Now all the players are bunkered down spying on each other and launching counter-offensives to prevent the other side’s counter-offensives from being launched… it’s like a really boring game of chess where people don’t care about winning so much as they just really, really, really don’t want you to win. It makes one nostalgic for the Cold War.

From here, I can’t see the Trump ship people controlling enough of the game for a win, but strange things happen at the one-two point, as they say in the game Go. Nobody really believes Trump will lose, it just hasn’t been that kind of a year, decade, century. And nobody thinks he will go even if the poll numbers are clear. He knows he’s going to jail as soon as he does. He’ll play war games from the underground bunker before he’ll do that willingly.

But Trump doesn’t matter. What’s happening in America was built into its foundation. Genocide and the rape of an entire continent will never and should never end well for the rapist. The Declaration of Independence was a lot of pretty words, from wealthy white men. Hint: fellas, if you want a Constitution and a Declaration of Rights that will last, hand it over to old black women: they’ve got nothing to lose and they care more about their grandchildren’s futures. And they won’t be writing pretty words in pretty libraries while females and slaves cook, clean, and take out the trash. So they’ll remember to include who does those things as a core component. Because that’s what a society boils down to, in the end: who does the work no one wants?

* * * * *

What’s happening in America has already happened.

It happened when Isabella of Castile and her imbecile husband funded Columbus; it happened when that authoritarian compact was signed on the Mayflower, strangling the hope of an inclusive democracy before its birth; it happened when the Puritans massacred the Wampanoag and barbarously called their victory feast “Thanksgiving”; and it happened when Thomas Jefferson took Sally Hemings to France to wash his socks and warm up his bed while he sat in coffee bars planning the writing of the words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”

It happened when slave-owners, hypocrites and control freaks ignored their own Bible and tried to build a lasting edifice on genocide and sand.

And it’ll keep happening until the world ends or power-hungry white men get the fuck out of the way, whichever comes first, and this year the smart money is on the former.

* * * * *

I admit I’ll enjoy my schadenfreude moments as much as the next sad, tired, person. I’ll enjoy seeing the Bad Orange Man in a good orange jumpsuit. I’ll especially enjoy seeing Incest Porn Barbie and the Overbite Twins go to jail, they are just horrible. Maybe they’ll finally let Tiffany talk to them then.

But I’m beyond thinking it will help.

If America wants to avoid utter catastrophe it is going to have to do a lot more than throw the First Family Lumpen-Trash in jail. It’s going to have to get rid of the jails, too, and the systems for keeping them full.

It’s going to have to not just re-fund the education system but completely reform it so their children learn not what to think but how.

It’s going to have to jail, exile, or guillotine a lot of billionaires and a lot of their running dogs with them, and those feckers will be slippery to catch.

And it’s going to have to do all that without simply setting up another system of power bases with a new set of tyrants at the top table, a new class of the-animals-that-are-more-equal-than-others.

It could be done, but it would require a lot of humility and I just don’t think there’s enough to go around, in that place.

Good luck, though. We’ll watch the American collapse from Australia with our hearts in our mouths, because it will be our turn next.

© Kirsten Tona

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