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Category Archives: Your Say

I’ve never been to America

Foreword: Australia has endless flaws and whilst I’m not going to paint a picture that Australia is not in many but different ways just as troubled, in just as much danger from government corruption and just as racist towards non-whites, that’s a topic for another day. 

I’ve never been to America, but I can tell you the names of 30 different cities. I can tell you which accents are from what location. I can tell you the name of the “discoverer” who stole the land from the Native Americans which ultimately lead to the genocide of thousands. I can tell I was told this through a fairy tale that painted Christopher Columbus as a discoverer and a hero. I’m not American but I can tell you about how this took place almost 200 years before my own country’s Indigenous population was also subject to the same pain. I can tell you a detailed narrative about how the British Slave Trade stole and destroyed entire civilisations and how still today this deeply inhumane act causes immeasurable pain, for not just those stolen but for those of the mother land they were stolen from. I’ve never been to America, but I can piece together almost a 1/3 of the American National Anthem and I can clearly sing the first 3 lines. I’m not American but I can tell you the first president of the United States, some of the names of the founding fathers that signed the Declaration of Independence, why there are 50 stars on the flag and even some of the First Amendment rights. I’m not American but I can tell you that I’ve known all of this since I was 10 years old but I’ve never been to America.

I’ve not been to most countries, and by comparison what I know about them is little more than nothing. I can’t tell you why any other country’s flag is the way that it is, nor can I tell you the names of any cities I haven’t been to, nor their history or the path of their justice system, not like I can for America. I’ve never been to America but I know more about it than any other country and sometimes I even know more about it than my own, but unlike other countries I’ve been to, I’ve never been to America. I know jam is jelly, and jelly is jello, I know cookies are biscuits, lollies are candy and I know trash is garbage, gas is petrol; and that the joke ‘what’s the number for 911’ was not funny to me because the number for 911 was 000, and I have known all of this since before I was 10 years old. I’m not American and I didn’t learn this at school, I didn’t learn it from my parents and I didn’t learn it from text books or from an Encyclopaedia. I didn’t learn it by talking to people from America nor had I ever had contact with an American, but at 10 years old my knowledge of America rivalled the knowledge of my own country. My knowledge of American culture could be recalled in much the same way because I had learned it all from America through my television screen.

At 10 years old, I knew that America was the land of ‘the free and the home of the brave,’ the only place in the world with true ‘freedom of speech,’ where you were ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and not ‘guilty until proven innocent’ as it was for me. The place where justice prevailed and where freedom of speech never failed. America, the place where children didn’t wear school uniforms, and going to school was optional. The land of pushpops, poptarts and arcades; fast food and home to McDonalds and every movie ever made. The land of little league baseball, backwards facing caps, skater bois, after school hangs outs and summer camps. A place with cool mums and dads who let their kids do ‘whatever they want.’ America, the place with two story houses and white picket fences, rolling green lawns and playgrounds for back yards. America the home of Disneyland and where dreams were made, a place of magic and where dreams really do come true. This was the only narrative I would ever be told.

Over and over again, subliminal messages would fire from our screens as if screaming at us ‘America is great, America is perfect,’ in this never ending loop. Program after program, advertisement after advertisement we were told that even though we’d never been to America that it was everything we always needed it to be and the only thing we should ever care about. At 10 years old, despite that our parents tried to tell us it wasn’t really like that and despite deep down we knew nothing could be perfect, we didn’t want to believe them because for most of us who’d never travelled to the outside world, it was all we knew. To some kids, America was the only country in the world worth knowing about, nothing would ever compare and nothing would ever be as good, not our food, not our clothes and certainly not Australia. Sometimes we would scoff at the thought of having to watch our own TV shows, and they had to be good if they were to draw in our attention. America, the land of equality, freedom and justice for all and yet… we never knew this was all a lie.

I’ve never been to America, but now when you call 911 you’ll go through to emergency because so many children don’t know the number for 911. I’m not American, but two years ago I had to explain to the 6 year old daughter of a close family friend of mine, that Trump was not the president of the world, that he was only the president of America and that he wasn’t our president either. Then I had to explain that Australia doesn’t have a president – so entrenched are we that the perverse pattern still continues on to today. Take a good look, America that is what your country has done for you, ‘he’s not my president,’ and only when I say it, is it TRUE, because I’ve never been to America and Donald Trump is not my president.

I’ve never been to America, but I can tell you when I was 10 years old that I saw the country through my screen in much the same fashion that an authoritarian regime would seem but I’m 16,000 km away. I’ve never been to America but even today when I turn on my TV every single television station will be playing something American almost 99% of the time and hearing my own accent is a novelty. I’ve never been to America but I’m forced to feel guilt and responsibility for a nation I’ve never been a part of. For which even as I say this, you might still argue I was. For a history I didn’t write, for a time I’m expected to understand, for a reality I was never exposed to and was never made to understand. If I don’t, I am publicly shamed for this, for your situation, that I cannot comprehend. Because it is not my country, and I’ve never been and I have my own shame, reconciliation, progression and changes to make. I have my own apologies to make. Much like most Americans today, America shaped my world view, but there’s just one problem, I’m not American. My life is still dominated by American culture but that’s not the problem, and not even why I’m angry, I’m angry because, America, you are still telling LIES.

I learned a long time ago that if you want to be part of the Social Media Universe now more than ever you have to know as much as I know about America. You have to know what you can and can’t say, you have to know how not to offend and you have to know most have zero tolerance for acceptance if you don’t. Often you must give up your identity, put yourself second and you must acknowledge theirs first, and you’ll frequently be expected to know things no one outside America should be expected to know or else be patronised and humiliated with social discourse you’ve never known. And I have witnessed from some, the so-called unity that is really exclusion of all but your own. You have to know they don’t understand your culture, because unlike you it wasn’t shoved down their throats until you had no choice but to remember the first three lines of their national anthem. You have to know they only know America, and for many of them, America is the world and the only world they have or will ever know. You don’t know us half as much as we know you, America, and I don’t think we’ve ever told you this nor have you ever been expected to know this because I’m Australian, not American.

From the age of 15 was when the cracks started to show, when the days of high speed internet began to take off. That was when the false narrative was finally stripped away. No longer was I giddy, weak at the knees and nervous to speak to Americans anymore, it would seem Americans were not gods after all, they were just people like everyone else. In fact, they were a highly troubled and divided nation of people thwart with division, racism and vast inequality, trapped behind a smoke screen their leaders had projected to the world for decades. A smoke screen that was extra thick and especially perverse for my country alone. Ever since I can remember, I have known America, but everything I did know was a lie and I never knew the truth. For that I’m deeply angry and for that I’m deeply disturbed, not because I don’t care about Americans, for a deep nostalgia, unity and even love runs through my veins, but because I spent half my life being told by America that they were nothing short of perfect.

Perfect despite they have guns. Perfect despite that the only gun I have ever seen was on the belt of a police officer and I’ve never seen anyone fire a gun. Perfect but my neighbours don’t own a gun. Perfect despite no Universal Healthcare. Perfect, but going to the ER could mean death anyway. Perfect despite they trial children in court. Perfect despite mass school shootings where thousands of innocent lives have been lost. Perfect despite that police murder people in front of thousands. Perfect despite white supremacy, racism and oppression that I’d have never have imagined in my wildest nightmares and certainly not for America growing up. Perfect despite most voted in a sex offender and refuse to acknowledge a global pandemic that is killing thousands worldwide. Perfect because millions don’t believe in science nor the climate crisis, won’t mitigate its threat and won’t vaccinate for other diseases that threaten humanity. Perfect, despite too many do not even believe in the pandemic.

America, this world of oppression, this world of pain and great division and needless sacrifice. This world of suffering, mass homelessness and deaths from inadequate healthcare; and as an outsider and despite entrenched in their culture, this we never knew about. I’m angry because I had to wait to hear it from Americans themselves, I had to grow up before I learned the truth, they never truly had a voice, and never even tasted what I thought I America was, nor were they aware of these tall tales I had been told, for I continue to shock my friends with the only narrative America had ever sold.

For most of my life I only imagined their life was perfect, I had only imagined they had democracy more intact than mine but the truth is, in some ways they are every bit just like me; except they have never known basic human rights like I have. For some Americans learning I have never lived like them, is too much to comprehend and so envious are they that they lash out in pure hate. I want to say sorry for never knowing their world for what it is, but often I don’t know what to say because there are too many euphemisms and acronyms in the way. It’s all I see, it’s all I hear about and it’s deeply rooted in my identity but I cannot understand, as like a child I’ve watched them fall apart and like a child I’m naïve and never know what to say from the start. I’ve tried to imagine a need for guns, especially in schools, the First Amendment rights and why healthcare was privatised. I’ve tried to imagine the unnecessary pain they feel with COVID-19 and how many people have negligently died, but I can’t. Over the years I’ve tried so hard to understand, so much at times that I’ve cared more about their problems than my own. I have spent long nights and days agonising over their troubles that they often kept me awake at night.

I have never been to America, but for the first time in my life I don’t want to go there, and like millions of Americans I don’t want to be told lies anymore. I’m not American and that much I know because nobody is American like you. What I can tell you is that I stand with you, we only ask for your patience in return and we need that most of all. Please don’t be offended for what we do and don’t say or for what we don’t know, because despite that I still live and breathe American culture still to this day, I’ve never known America and no one knows America like you do.

When I was 10 years old I thought I knew America, but now I realise I never knew it at all and for that I’m sorry and for that I offer my strength and to you I say this: maybe you’re not the ‘land of the free,’ but by god for the BIPOC (an acronym I learned just yesterday) the health challenged and all others who aren’t at the top, y’all are definitely home to the BRAVE.

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The Promising Poppy Syndrome

Art, under this current right-wing government has become a dirty word … probably because in these times of economic rationalism, the spending of monies on things that cannot show an immediate “bottom-line” profitability is considered money not well spent. Curious that, as in days of yore, many far-right regimes would invest big-bucks in works of art and even use such to legitimise their governance … I am thinking of the Medici’s sponsoring of several now revered artists and architects of that era … and even several Popes in the Vatican pumped God’s lucre into creative works … But with these times of art becoming both a comercialised commodity and a thing to fear by the right, the encouragement of the serious amateur artist is something somewhat avoided … and many are left to flounder about in abject poverty at the mercy of their own devices.

It’s a curious thing, and unlike the Tall Poppy Syndrome, where a person of well-known repute is attacked for being too obvious or famous, the promising poppy is attacked by their closest people from their own class before they can scale the ladder to known or appreciated works … when they first show signs of talent or ambition to venture into a skilled area of craft or artistic ability. The curious thing is that the budding talent is not destroyed by a more skilled operator, that may come later, but first they are humiliated or debased by some of their own level of class … by their peers … those who see themselves as a kind of “gatekeeper” of the status quo … always fearfully on the lookout for that most dangerous of agitators; the “out of control talent” that may throw a spanner in the works of establishment order.

This is managed by those who themselves lack the “risk factor” to reach for that higher plane of achievement, a kind of social sloth, too scared to expose their deepest thoughts or emotions to the hard, sometimes unforgiving glare of public scrutiny, instead hitching their wagon to the safe long-haul star of established reward and flattery … I recall witnessing just such a moment where a young, keen person, in explaining a scenario in a moment of creative enthusiasm, who in lacking any sort of degree of higher education, mispronounced a word which was quickly pounced upon by just such a one of the aforementioned sloths and the conversation was rudely interrupted while the slight mistake of vowel emphasis was sneeringly corrected with a; “surely you mean … ?” and then followed by that social enforcer of belittlement; the smug and self-confident derisive chuckle … The ruse worked and the enthusiasm of the young person died and a silence of disempowerment descended over the group … The death of creativity was complete.

The objective of established social order is to control the unregulated and creative person or mind, for there has never been throughout history more threatening to authoritarian order than the new idea … a new way of perception borne on the wings of the creative mind … witness Julius Caesar, Galileo, or even here in humble Australia with Albert Namatjira … a superlative creative intellect that was crucified as a kind of “Black Christ” for daring to escape the conditioned cage he and his people were trapped in.

If there is no direct or deliberate cruelty in such action, there certainly is no kindness, for the humiliation that is delivered on a opportune basis can be both cutting and destructive to both the individual targeted and to any relationship they may be involved with, as each moment of belittlement chips away at the base of a relationship … and it is not as if such an individual may intend to abandon their obligations and responsibilities to family and society, but would give back to that society a hundredfold if encouraged. I recall a conversation with a fellow worker in the building trade who had set aside small brackets of time to pursue their desired calling so as not to deter from family responsibilities, only to then have those moments of reserved quiet interrupted with calls to their attention or chores suddenly dropped upon their shoulders that took them away from their personal fulfilment. This created both doubt in the integrity toward their partner and a resentment to the broader relationship that ate away at the once secure bond of their marriage.

The end objective may not necessarily be to stop completely the promising poppy’s activity, just to break the continuity of practice or perfection to their chosen craft so that they never can competently work toward that perfection of the art … and once enough interruption is done, the seeds of self-doubt take over and the promising poppy grows forlorn and doubtful of its budding talent so the perpetrator can forever claim to it not being they who sabotaged a promising talent, but rather the person themselves lacking that certain skill that would have taken them to the next level of achievement, when in reality, what is most needed is patience in a personal space of time and silence to hone those skills to perfection.

Even in retirement, when one should have the time if also the health to pursue that long-held dream of finally taking up that task of perfecting their skills, the mischievousness of sabotage can creep into their corner … the continued harassment of “jobs that now can be done” … the interruption of that silence needed with calls to their time and person. There is a sadness in all this in that it seems to be mainly those of the working classes … the “useful person” that suffer most the truncated ambition to achieve a dream … If I look back into the past of three female relatives … now since deceased, I am informed that they all had desires to reach for a higher objective than what their growing years of penury dished up to them … One wanted to be a writer, another a painter and the third a more pragmatic Vet … None however achieved their goal, even though they all chipped away with their hopes … and then their parents stealing away any capacity of making their lives more promising by frittering away a chance benevolence of enough money that could have set the family up with a more secure lifestyle … the selfishness of that action sealing the fate of their daughters ambitions by necessity forcing them into marriages that took away any hope of self achievement.

Society too, has means and methods of locking out those who aspire to grace the art of their country with at least a little of their imagination … Society has framed those who “deserve” their work to be displayed with a border of “recognised training” in a certified institution that “honours” their students with an embossed paper that legitimises a certain level of imagination … a certain level and no more … some go on to a higher plane, encouraged by a network of access to openings of opportunity … while most are satisfied with that certificate of diploma that guarantees at least recognition of attendance and even less application to the chore of originality … I see this “validation” of art to be the new direction of what is little more than the old Australian “cultural cringe,” where an “authority of accreditation” must place a stamp of approval on a work before that work can be accepted as a work of art.

These institutionalised “keepers of the flame”, even though their qualifications may be for subjects completely alien to the one of artistic application, say; social science or perhaps psychology, they will still insist that a amateur scribbler adhere to their most strident interpretation of grammatical purity even while one is striving in a different direction with poetic licence … Heaven forbid that one takes liberty with such holy grail as language … and once again the low level of mockery is applied and one can be taken back to that memoried instance of the mispronounced word accompanied by the silent chuckle of derision … it is why so many “approved graduates” strive for the glittering prizes handed out to the favoured sons and daughters of those “noble institutions” solid built of sandstone but resting on foundations of clay.

It must be remembered and must be held close to the heart of the dedicated and honest promising poppy that the whole world of the established status quo runs on bluff and they have neither the right, capacity nor dignity to either correct your method or steer your ambition. Far too many decent but shy artists have been crushed by the juggernaut of petty jealousy of those who want creative originality but cannot achieve it and those who never had the courage and will not gain it.

A Place of One’s Own

Within everybody’s heart,

There is that little pump.

And in the still of the night,

You can hear its tremulous thump.

Within everybody’s heart,

There is a little room.

Upon the wall there is a picture

Of a place we silently yearn.

To some it is just a fantasy,

A desire they can’t fulfil.

Some will strive to seek it …

Some have not the will.

And some will substitute

A lesser philosophy,

To dull and blind the senses

To a love they will not see.

We will survive.

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Values and change

History gives us an imperfect picture of time past. Perspective and purpose of the author of public records can distort the view of what has gone before, but some recorded facts are incontrovertible.

Evolution and increasing levels of understanding of science have enabled societies to change over time, although, as currently being illustrated in China, the disposition of a country’s leader can seriously pervert local and world events.

Over the centuries, adventurers and governments have explored and colonised, with little regard for their impact on the existing local population of the countries they have visited – whether in peace or in war.

Power has been a significant driver for much of these activities, and nationalism has distorted the moral perspective of the methods used.

They say you reap what you sow – and the current crop of outcomes has a bitter taste.

Human rights are not recognised by many nations, while others only pay lip service.

The Australian politicians of the far right, as well as some of less extreme persuasions, who readily spout about Australian values, are rarely admirable role models. Our treatment of genuine refugees is – IMHO – disgusting, and the inhumanity of many of the policies foisted upon us, reek of the sense of privilege of those in government – and their disdain for all who do not share their view of life.

We currently face an existential threat from global warming, while we also struggle to ensure containment of the spread of Covid-19 in a population which, in some cases, has lost all faith in government.

I am by nature an optimist, but, until and unless our leaders start to show a greater sense of genuine humanity – putting the needs of the desperate ahead of the leader’s  need for self-aggrandisment and power, then we deserve to be wiped off the face of the earth by natural forces more powerful than anything puny mankind can create.

Toppling statues of (almost exclusively) men who have been renowned, but have also committed offences against humanity, will not change our future, unless current leaders develop coherent policies which truly recognise human rights.

Democracy is in its death throes and there is no sign that life-support is available – so it is up to all of us who care, to ensure that it recovers.

That is what ‘being a citizen’ demands.

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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An Australian Outcry

By Jennifer Michels  

An Australian Outcry: Political Offices, Churches, Libraries and Grave Sites Destroyed.

With #BlackLivesMatter such a hot topic around the world I have not only been challenged in many of my views lately; I have dished out my fair share of opinion challenges myself during online debates. One of the points I often find myself referring to in these discussions is the topic of Aboriginal Land Rights. Pointedly, the injustices our Traditional Owners face when Sacred Sites, with such a huge impact to culture and our way of life, are damaged or destroyed.

Recently Rio Tinto caused significant damage to a Sacred Site in Western Australia. Juukan Gorge was said to be over 46 000 years old, containing a cave showing evidence of human habitation during the last Ice Age. Now while Rio Tinto has received widespread backlash for the damage to Juukan Gorge, BHP have received approval to destroy a further 40 sites, all with significant value to heritage, all within Western Australia.

I do not dispute the importance of the mining companies within Australia, but to allow this continued desecration of Sacred Sites is sacramental to the Aboriginal People. Our ties to land do not give us the same ownership our fellow citizens value; quite the contrary, our lands own us. They own us because we not only draw our life directly from the land and sea, our bodies have become the very dirt that is being exploded across what appears to be nothing more than barren, red earth.

Many only see minerals such as iron ore ready to be dug from the ground. To the First People of Australia there is a great deal more than meets the eye. For our People, this land holds our ancestor’s bones, record our histories, are the locations our laws were made and provides our places of worship; just to name a few! In other words, our Political Offices, Churches, Libraries, and our grave sites are being blown up to extend another mining operation or increase roads within Australia.

While these sites are damaged or destroyed Australia has a long line-up of buildings seen upon heritage lists. Buildings where paint colours cannot be changed; let alone see the buildings placed upon a list to be destroyed. These buildings are aspects of Australian history without the age and in many cases lacking the same combined significance as the Sacred Sites; not to mention the fact a building can be re-built. A cave used for thousands upon thousands of years cannot be recovered once it has been blown apart, nor can the history be recovered after the fact.

Mining companies within Australia have suggested electronically recording the sites proposed for destruction; however even my eight-year-old understands the difference between seeing something electronically and the value of viewing it with your own eyes. My son would not give up the ability to see an eclipse in person for the option of having them online instead, and I doubt anyone would be happy to see a horse or a dog only available via online means.

Would a church be better captured virtually to be prayed in? Can a library share the volume of knowledge via an online image of covers stacked upon shelves? Would recording family gravesites to only see them in an online fashion bring the same comforts to our souls?

Yet this can be considered by highly educated individuals as compensation for losing another place of worship, another burial ground, and generations upon generations of history; especially when significant portions were lost generations ago.

Herein lies a furthering of the difficulties for the Aboriginal People; religious beliefs are protected within Australia. They cannot be discriminated against without legal repercussions. Nor can the rights of the various religious beliefs be overruled or undermined in other professional undertakings. For example, an employer cannot insist an employee miss Sunday Mass as it is a protected right under Australian Law. Break down exactly what the term Dreamtime means, and it quite clearly fits into the category accepted around the world as religion. Dreamtime records the history of the First People. It explains the afterlife, defines laws and teaches social structures. If one were to look at the dictionary meaning of religion these topics are exactly what you will find. Yet the cultural and religious connections of the First People are not protected in the same manner. The rights of the religious beliefs held by Aboriginal People are not upheld under Australian laws like other religions are within this country.

Personally, I have come to believe the main reason for this relates directly to the minimal understanding of what the Dreamtime is. Those outside the communities, or Aboriginal family networks, are not regularly exposed to the spiritual beliefs or the connections to land and how they affect our afterlife; or in other words the First People’s many versions of Heaven.

When the term Dreamtime was made popular the Aboriginal Elders would have had a revolt on their hands had they described Dreamtime as religion, a result of Aboriginal history that has compounded this misunderstanding of culture and religion further. Religion is the word given to what was taught to the Stolen Generations, resulting in Dreamtime being referred to as culture instead of “many religious beliefs aligned in a similar fashion within a single ethnic group.” Because the Dreamtime of one Aboriginal Person is not the same as another Aboriginal Person. Each area of Aboriginal land has their own version of Dreamtime, their own individual Heaven. And you must die upon your own land to join the Elders and other ancestors of your family, meaning those forced from their homelands, those who die in another person’s land never see their loved ones again. They spend eternity without their siblings, never again to see childhood friends, their children cannot even share the same Heaven if they do not die upon the same lands.

If this was the way of your religious belief system, would you too raise your voice against an injustice to your loved ones when your communities were closed or you had been provided no choice but to leave your homes and the land you love so dearly?

Another reason for saving these Sacred Sites are the benefits lost to scientific communities around the world! Scientific communities that can give our society a much clearer understanding of our history. The scientific benefits have barely even scratched the surface to explain to the First People what their ancestors ate, where they hunted or how they lived. With the current finds surrounding Stonehenge the world has come alive with new talk inspired by history; including the recent discoveries in the Pilbara with the amazing find underwater. Imagine the ancient discoveries that could be found if more research were done into the past of this great country!

Imagine the benefits new information could provide the next generations seeking
employment or benefiting from scientific advancements. What about tracking where the Stolen Generations came from? Enough full genomes of our descendants could potentially reconnect families and finally heal the losses felt for generations. None of these things will come to pass if we continue destroying the Sacred Sites!

Considerations shown by the Australian Government since the introduction of Traditional Land Rights can be described as nothing short of lacking! How many times do amendments need to be put on the back burner by the very people elected to run these departments?

How many more election promises need to be broken before the changes we have asked for are considered, let alone made? How many times do the voices of the Traditional Owners need to be ignored before their objections are taken seriously? How much more of our history needs to disappear forever before more can finally be rediscovered? How much longer until the value of our history and culture can be understood for the enormity it really is?

I have often asked myself; “What if the heritage listed buildings were to suddenly become the target of approved destruction? Would my fellow citizens be so silent on the matter? If other religions beliefs were so blatantly discriminated against; would Aussies sit back in complacency? If significant political buildings were repetitively blown up, would our population turn a blind eye? If our combined historical records were so keenly targeted; would our society see high value to prevent such destruction? If churches were demolished across the country with such frequency, would the protests become a deafening roar?” Personally I think there would rightfully be an enormous outcry if any of these things were to become a reality for many other Australians; yet not enough are or have been actively seeking to prevent similar losses of significance to the Aboriginal People.

Aboriginal Elders have often sought advancements in areas such as tourism as a way of creating economic value within their communities; thus, becoming a benefit to the rest of Australian society. How many people travel the world for cultural value? How much do they spend? Tourism is widely accepted as one of Australia’s largest economies; yet vastly undervalued upon Aboriginal Lands!

Could the creation of real tourism in communities be valuable as a post-COVID recovery plan? How many new jobs could be created in building infrastructure? Would TAFE and other RTOs around the country benefit from teaching community members? What benefits would be generated by teaching the community members how to run their own businesses? How much of an injection could the Australian economy generate with a tourism industry dedicated to Aboriginal culture?

Appreciation for Aboriginal art, music and other cultural values has already spread the world over. Might opening these doors wider offset the losses felt by mining giants from denying the destruction of Sacred Sites? Please join your voice to the outcry and help our great country finally save our First Peoples’ Churches, Political Offices, Historical Libraries and Burial Grounds for future generations.

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JAGGED #3

Follows on from JAGGED #2

Chapter 6: No rock to hide behind. But the heavy stones remain unturned.

Medicolegal Report 27 January 2018: “Mr Davis presented as a relatively intense and intrinsically sad person. His intelligence is above average, and could possibly be in the superior range. He is capable of thinking in a psychological manner.”

Ah, I think about what could have been, I think about it a lot

Throughout this book I will occasionally quote segments from a Medicolegal Report written about me by consultant psychiatrist Dr Johnathan Phillips in 2018. I initially saw him in Brisbane, then at his request my legal team flew me down to Sydney for a further consult.

Dr Jonathan Phillips (MB BS FRANZCP) is involved in three significant professional activities: consultant advice to health services and other bodies, clinical psychiatry and medicolegal psychiatry. In January 2013, Jonathan was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to mental health as a forensic psychiatrist, particularly through contributions to professional organisations. In private practice in Sydney, Jonathan is also involved in the preparation and delivery of the Masters Program in Forensic Mental Health, University of New South Wales.

In other words he is big guns. He is the only professional level person in the area of mental health who managed to reach past the top layer and through to the second layer of me, and from my end he appeared to do it so easily.

When I arrived in Sydney the day of the consult I had a bit of spare time so I walked up to the Opera House and had a look at the harbour. It made me think about a couple of things.

I was born in Sydney. The first four years of my life were spent in Sydney. Before things. Before things happened. So who was that little person? What was he like? Was I a bright and happy child, was I an annoying little shit, was I both of those things or something else entirely? I’ll never know.

But I do know this. Whatever natural trajectory I would have had, whatever nascent potentials I may have possessed, were snuffed out by the rapes and the beatings that were to come.

During the consult I was asked if there was any more abuse that I had not previously detailed for the medicolegal report. I simply gave a frightened no as my answer and I don’t think that I am piss-weak for having done that. The top layer is say nothing, and I have spent the majority of my life at that level. The second layer, the layer that Johnathan Phillips dug into, is speak of what you can, and speaking of what I can has been unfolding over the last three or four years or so. The third layer holds what cannot yet be spoken of – the bastard stuff – the darkness.

Chapter 7: Brain-box blown up by Japanese bombs man.

On ANZAC day this year (2020) I sat in front of the TV in full bored-drone out of my skull mode. I was thinking that none of the damaged veterans who think that war is shit were given centre stage over the course of the televised day. Well, they never are, are they? And then something happened that made me think very specifically about one particular Australian war veteran.

As I watched the TV on that ANZAC day a documentary film that only ran for a minute or so flashed across the screen. It showed Japanese bombers scooting over Port Moresby harbour over two days in 1942 and it showed their bombs flying down and blasting the cargo motor vessel the MV Macdhui all over the place, and on the second day eventually sending it where sunk ships go. I sat there viewing a moment of shattering violence captured on film. I sat there absolutley stunned and frozen. All my lost years, and all of the abuse, flashed up and I realised that the start point of all that – the single very moment in time that set future consequence in train – was undeniably playing out on documentary film right in front of me.

That documentary film ripped my guts out and spiralled me way, way back, into the past. It took me back into a time that existed a decade before I was born. A lot subsequently flowed from that moment in time. It played a part, a seminal part, in my eventual placement in St. Vincent’s Catholic Orphanage.

How so? Well somebody who was part of the crew on the MV Macdhui that day in 1942, ten years before I was born, was a man by the name of Keith Edwin Davis. My father.

I have no memory at all of my father from my very early childhood years. As an adult I met him in Darlinghurst in Sydney for one day, just one day, in April 1989. How many days/years/decades did you get with your father? I got one day.

And I got that day through no effort whatsoever on my part. After leaving the orphanage, completing high school, becoming a young adult, and reaching the age of thirty-seven years, I never once thought about trying to find my parents or to see if they were even still alive. I now think it quite strange that I never once thought about my parents when I was a young adult. My mind just did not generate the thought. They did not exist in my mind.

But my older sister’s mind did generate the thought (I have three siblings, I was the youngest, I was four years old when the family split up) and she found my father. He wrote to me and I arranged to drop down to Sydney from Brisbane to see him.

I remember that on the drive down I was feeling disquieted by the fact that I wasn’t feeling anything at all about the looming meeting. Surely in a circumstance such as that one should be feeling something? Love/hate/curiosity/hope/yearning/pissed off/ tearful/happy/sad/why didn’t he bother to try and find me/why was I dumped in the first place? But I felt nothing, nothing at all, and now looking back, I guess I was in emotional freeze-frame mode.

I knocked on his door. He opened it. Without a moment’s hesitation we fell into each others arms. A damaged lovely father/man embraced his damaged lovely son/man. The only emotion that we both felt in that confronting moment of time was love. It still blows my socks off when I think about it.

We spent the day together. Drank far too many rieslings. And he talked about two days in 1942.

On the first day, when the Japanese bombs hit the MV Macdhui, he was blown into the air and when he came back down his head collided solidly with a railing. On the second day, when the bombs finished off the Macdhui, he was blown high into the air again and when he landed his head was smashed against the deck. He told me that he was never the same after that. He was never happy again, he was never himself again, and from that moment on he struggled with many things.

On ANZAC Day 2020, on television, I saw the exact moment when the bombs hit the
MV Macdhui. I saw the exact moment when my father’s ability to be fully there as a future father was violently torn from him by the vagaries and violence of war.

I never saw him again after that day. He died a few months later from throat cancer.

Chapter 8: The Tattoo and other lighter things.

On my left shoulder I have a tattoo of the Celtic Tree Of Life. It reminds me of the inter-connectedness of life. It reminds me that an event happening over there causes a ripple to happen over here. It reminds me how rippled I am by the litany of abuse events that happened earlier in my life. But most of all, when I look at it, it reminds me that whoever I am is still here in some form. Still alive.

Which has nothing to do with the bit of lightness I sort of promised you a while ago.

When my being gets to experience that occasional brief foray up into sweet clear air I like to write. I write because that is an easier way for me to communicate with you. I write far better than I speak. To converse with you face to face however means that I have to force myself to go out, I have to force myself to fight agoraphobia, I have to find a public face that I hope is suitable for the occasion – and more often than not I cannot dredge up enough energy to sustain something like that for anything more than a short span of time.

Next Chapter I’ll be bang back into the key-locked universe of abuse that my mind lives in. I’ll look at drug addiction and alcoholism. I want to look at those issues. I want to think about those issues. But for now, right now, I would like to share with you something that I wrote. A bit of lightness? It is either about the Fermi Paradox, or it is about climate change, or it is about both of those things.

From Wikipedia: The Fermi paradox, named after Italian-American physicist Enrico Fermi, is the apparent contradiction between the lack of evidence for extraterrestrial civilizations and various high estimates for their probability.

Cosmic Follies and the Race for Space.

(published on AIMN September 4, 2019).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m Human. I’m alone. I’m scared.”

Comment from Principal Author AI Identity 756

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

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

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

Chapter 9: Addictions – guzzle and suck.

What is an alcoholic? What is a drug addict? Are you one? Am I one? Who gets to judge these things?

If there is no alcohol in my place I don’t think about it. If there is alcohol in my place I drink it. I don’t wake up in the morning pegging for a drink. If a bottle of wine is in front of me I will finish it. When I have a drink it does not make life better. When I don’t have a drink it does not make life better. When the pain within surges (when the movie jumps into high flicker mode and I think of suicide) I drink. When the pain of my childhood abuse stays at a usual high but stable level I don’t drink.

Sometimes I drink too much. Sometimes I don’t drink enough. Sometimes I don’t drink at all.

Whoever said I have brains where all of this contradictory addiction stuff is concerned? I drink at times to stop myself from killing myself – go figure – I’d have thought that someone in my condition having a drink could well lead me to killing myself but it doesn’t. I don’t drink at times simply because I don’t think of it. So that’s where I sit with alcohol – a stack of contradictions.

Drugs. I’m definitely a nicotine addict. I know that smoking at best will give me cancer and at worst it will kill me. Smoking is not a wise thing to do. Is smoking a more acceptable though highly expensive less messy form of suicide? When I smoke a cigarette I know that it is doing me harm. When I finish that cigarette that I know is doing me harm only a small amount of time elapses before I rush in and light another. I don’t do that because I think it is fun. I do that because I am desperate for comfort. Heaping self-harm on all of those earlier years and layers of imposed abuse- harm. How is something that is going to kill me give me comfort? That sucking action – do I miss the comfort at my mother’s breast – the safe years? Contradictions rule.

As far as other drugs are concerned I have certainly tried marijuana. It did me no good at all. In my hippie phase I thought it went with the territory and the mask. I remember back in 1975 I was in New Zealand and I tried to steam open a buddha stick of hash resin over a kettle and promptly bombed-up my brainbox – spent hours after that trying to duck all the malicious technicolour rabbits that were leaping out of the curtains at me. Did me no good at all. Dope would have steered me down the path to pure fucking craziness. Tune in and drop out? If I’d persisted with dope I’m pretty sure I’d have tuned in fully to carried horrors and dropped out permanently as a result.

I’ve never tried the so-called harder drugs such as heroin or ice – not because I am a good and upright and never ever does anything wrong sort of person – but simply because I know that for me there would never be any sort of coming back from that first rush and hit of pain-free bliss/nirvana.

Society’s view of what a hard drug is seems quite hypocritical to me – alcohol and tobacco do by far the most harm, the damage they cause clogs up our health system. But they are legal and bring in a lot of tax for the government.

The addictions I have do not all fully control me. On the other hand I don’t fully control all the addictions that I have. It is a vibrating high-wire that can off-chuck a body in any direction at any time.

My childhood abuse experiences teeter me to addictive precipices. But, so far so good!

Chapter 10: Are they having us on with that Redress bullshit?

Religious politicians. Religious institutions. Quite a deadly combination. A great combination for watering down Royal Commission recommendations and setting up a second-rate Redress Scheme. Saves churches and other abusive mobs heaps of cash. That one is worth exploring later.

So is this one. The body recovers from the abuse. The mind does not.

Before I dive into the next few Chapters I am aware that at some point in this book I am going to have to write a Chapter simply called The Darkness – I want to get my voice speaking from that place – that third layer in me that cannot yet speak fully of terrible things. There is no point to this book at all if I cannot get that voice to open up.


To be continued …

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Birth of an International Tradition: The Post-Covid Commemoration Day

By Jennifer Michels  

Many agree that recognising the heroes who saved the lives and livelihoods of Australians during COVID-19 should be a very important aspect of Australian society moving forward. Scott Morrison suggests we essentially piggyback off Australia Day as a way of commemorating these individuals. Personally, I feel that is a little short sighted. COVID-19 is not an Australian problem, this is something that has impacted the entire world. Which leaves me asking about a day of commemorations dedicated to our heroes worldwide instead? How about a date to recognise the effort the COVID-19 heroes have made worldwide? Recognising the lives lost worldwide, the shutdown of economies worldwide and the sacrifices each and every member of society have made and continue to make, worldwide.

Quickly labeled as The Great Shutdown; a period in society that took us by utter surprise. Vast majorities came together in the beginning only to turn on each other, almost to the point of falling apart, before the pandemic had even finished the first sweep of the world. Fears were heard for a second spread and dare I say a third or fourth before the peak had been seen; a fear now sadly becoming a reality for many parts of the world, Australia included.

Moving forward this is a time in our life we could use to reflect upon in the future, a time used to bring us together and recognise how difficult our battle has been, and still is. Teaching our future children and grandchildren the important lessons this crushing blow has taught us. This is a time in our lives that has created unforeseen uncomfortably and unforgettable uncertainty worldwide!

The very people who worked night and day to save lives; who stepped up their rush of products for consumers; who spent hours longer cleaning the very places needed to provide essentials; who reinvented themselves to provide the absolute basic necessities! These are all heroes who need to be recorded upon the pages of history. Yes every worker is an essential worker during a crisis; but some are considered to have slightly more value, some deserve highlighting, some deserve more than we can ever give back! So why not honour them in the most significant manner society can and has ever provided?

Our leaders say let’s include a ceremony on a day our people cannot even agree about. I wonder how many feel the same as I do? I want to recognise the phenomenal impacts of this virus worldwide. Highlight the acts of kindness. Celebrate the lives saved while we also commemorate the lives lost. And I want this focus not just within Australia, but around the world. I want to see our countries come together after all the turmoil seen in recent times. This virus, international tensions, recessions, riots, the worldwide impacts of 2020 are going to be felt for generations. Why are our political leaders only looking to bring Australia together, not seeking the same with those we call our friends; our international neighbours. Extending the hand of healing towards our foreign relations on a never before seen worldwide scale.

Parts of the world come together for sporting events, education and for many other reasons. But have we ever had the need for such international recognition? Has anything impacted the planet with such drastic results? Lives have never before been lost on this scale, economies have never seen shifts of this magnitude. Even our impact on the environment has seen large scale change!

International partnerships have strained revealing many facets with rising complications. No single society can say they have avoided negative impacts in more than one area of their country’s ability to provide. Using these similarities can surely be a means of providing countries a deeper level of connection to each other, finding a wider understanding of each other, establishing a more open acceptance of each other. Coming together as a single people worldwide could surely go a long way to mending the cracks we are seeing in every society across this remarkable planet!

For nations who turned towards discussing commemorative events on an international scale; might aid in establishing new friendships that open up new avenues for trade between parties, while further establishing Australia’s positive relations on the world stage.

A comment I stumbled across on social media recently has stuck with me: we are humankind and should be both; human and kind. So, I for one say; “No, let’s not only celebrate on Australia Day. Let’s instead be the country that suggests generating worldwide communication, worldwide healing, and worldwide reconciliation for all of humanity in the aftermath of 2020.”

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JAGGED #2

Please look at JAGGED #1 before reading on – it will give you some context, and it contains the obligatory Trigger Warnings regarding childhood sexual abuse, violence, and rape.

JAGGED

by Keith Edwin Thomas Davis

Chapter 1: Don’t call me a bloody Survivor!

How do you start a book? I don’t have some sort of James Patterson co-writer sitting beside me. Well maybe I should start with a welcome. Welcome to you, and welcome to me, to JAGGED. I have no idea what kind of journey it will take all of us on. Wise sages say that any journey begins with a first small step, I’ve always thought that wise saying was a load of rubbish. Little did I realise, as I took my first small step across the entranceway to St. Vincent’s Catholic Orphanage in 1957, that a primed rocket of violence and abuse was about to explode under my five year old arse and blow who I once was to absolute fucking smithereens.

I think that is a very polite and understated opening paragraph.

I am feeling something here. A very, very, deep feeling of something. I have waited sixty-three years to feel it. I’m going to forgive myself if the first few Chapters of JAGGED go ballistic. How could they not?

When the maelstrom settles I will go on to talk about the Catholic Church, the legal profession, the media, society, and how all of those entities treat people who are desperately trying to recover from their childhood sexual abuse experiences. With few exceptions, and they do exist, my opinions of the majority of those entities is beyond scathing.

This book is giving me the first chance I’ve ever had in my life to trial life without the use of a mask. I’ve worn plenty of those mask things. Surfie, hippie, kombi owner, family man, safe male partner, intelligent wise dude, helpful in a crisis type soul, great to have as a friend, writer, newspaper publisher, social justice hero, legend in my own lunchbox. I’d have won first prize at the Venice Mask Festival. Maintaining those facades, maintaining all of that bullshit pretense, has been beyond wearying. I am not the mask. I am me.

This book is giving me a chance at something else as well. In the past I have written a few articles about the legacies of childhood sexual abuse, and I notice that I always reach for inclusivity. I always say how I, and others like me, are affected by this or that. Others like me, as a term, appears quite often. I say that I am not unique and that there are many others like me.

With all of that I wanted the safety of the crowd. I did not want to be seen in stand alone mode. I wanted agreeance and mutual support. Above all I just wanted to be safe. While there is nothing much wrong with any of that I do realise that it does partially come out of some seminal fear guilt-trip of the wrongness of making anything just about myself. Oh no – shine the spotlight over that other way please. I’ve always been afraid of saying, that exclusive of everybody else’s experiences or stories, this is my story.

I am well aware that one instance of terrible trauma can genuinely go on to affect the whole of the rest of a person’s life. But I did not experience only one instance of terrible trauma, so I am not outfitted to write with any assurity about how such a singular thing would feel – only a person who has experienced that can write about that. Trauma is trauma is trauma is trauma. You cannot compare one person’s trauma to another person’s trauma. I experienced multiple instances of trauma over a seven year period when I was a child (when I was a child – when did I get the chance to just simply be a child?) so I am only outfitted to write about the legacies of trauma experienced over an extended period.

That last paragraph has the smell of inclusivity guilt. I don’t want anyone who has experienced one instance of terrible trauma, that has gone on to tear apart the rest of their life, to feel that their trauma and my trauma have different weightings, because they don’t. The paragraph also shows that relating one’s own truths, without overlaying them with other people’s truths, requires a bit of mindfulness.

So this is my story. The story of Keith Edwin Thomas Davis. It stands alone. It is not linked to anybody else’s story or list of experiences. And here is something I think …

“I did not survive childhood sexual abuse, I did not survive seven years of multiple instances of physical assault, of mental cruelty, of rape – I did not survive any of it at all – I simply learnt to continue to breathe.”

Well, that certainly runs against the prevailing fucking zeitgeist of how society expects me to present myself as one of those mythical Survivors.

I am not expected to fight back against the catholic church. I am expected to be a dutiful and quiet damaged vegemite who will gratefully receive whatever, and how little of it, is thrown my way. The acceptance of the thrown bone of silence (otherwise known as a gag order) is not good enough. They deserve to be fought and I am going to fight them. I am going to expose them to the best of my ability.

Society loves tales of survivors beating adversity and winning through to some personal sort of salvation and moving on to live rich and rewarding lives. That tale is not my reality – my reality is a far more different bastard of a beast. People don’t quite realise, or don’t even remotely want to know, that the only reason that I can even sort of be called a survivor is simply because I haven’t yet managed to kill myself. I haven’t yet forgotten how to just breathe. I can’t blame people for not knowing that about me because I have never told anybody that about me.

Notice that I haven’t yet touched on what happened in that Orphanage? Well what happened, the facts of it all, will be just words for you but for me the recounting will be shitfully immersive so I will have to build up to it. Right now I just want to explode the Survivor Myth.

The media presents survivors of childhood sexual abuse in all sorts of ways. Sometimes as victims of crimes of a truly heinous nature, deserving of much sympathy. Sometimes as mere footnotes to the trials of once celebrated and finally caught out clergy. Sometimes as venal litigants. Personally I could not care less about how I am seen, how I am seen does not change who I am. How I am seen does not change one word I have already written, or any word that I am about to write. Having said that, I also live with the contradiction of being very fearful of how I am seen.

As somebody tagged by others as a survivor I am rarely asked about how I feel about what was done to me, or how the legacies that I carry have affected my life and the lives of those around me.

So here is a naked truth from my own existence. When you are raped and beaten as a child, assaulted over and over again in a religious institution, you never get over it. Nobody likes to hear the truth of that. The legacy of it all is seared into my being. Immovable. Untouchable. Deeper than deep can be. Even a nuclear explosion in the pit of my guts has zero chance of letting in any sort of light. But nobody likes to hear the truth of it. I don’t blame them.

As assessed by others my abuse experiences sit at the extreme end of the spectrum and the positive exhortations from well meaning others to buck up has about as much power as a random puff of hot air swirling in the dead centre of a vast desert. I’ve been told to transcend. Move on. Slide my arse down the positive side of the rainbow. Stand straight. Visualise happy-drippy stuff. Allow myself to be heard (but gosh please do it in a respectful ungraphic way and please don’t swear) forge ahead, embrace the light, try this newest therapeutic technique – oh for fuck’s sake it is so hard to tell the well-meaning to back off and bite into a reality sandwich for a change without running the risk of hurting their feelings.

Sometimes you know, you never get over it. Sometimes things are lost permanently, they cannot be re-found, they cannot be stuck back in. That is how it is. That is the truth of it. That is my truth and it is flayed out on my being like a never-bloody-ending Fibonacci Spiral.

Ah – but many people tell me that an understanding of my own truth will set me free. The truth will set you free. Really? That’s like saying that work will set me free. Arbeit Macht Frie. Best to avoid being shoved under banners such as that.

The knowledge that I am permanently damaged has set me free from fucking nothing. When you as a society look at me, don’t tell me that I am a Survivor, see me as somebody who endured some terrible things that cannot be gotten over. That is a more truthful view of things.

So scrap the word Survivor. It might have relevance in the world of reality TV where people treat each other badly on some island somewhere in order to win a lot of money – but in the stark world of childhood sexual abuse the word Survivor is not only irrelevant and disconnected from reality – it is quite damaging because it continues to allow society to brush away terrible things under a simplified mantra-like banner.

Chapter 1 has to end somewhere. By now you may have well realised, as I certainly have, that JAGGED is not going to follow some book writing sort of formula. Nothing is going to be presented in chronological order and there is no final crescendo to build up to. Each page is a crescendo in and of itself. My mind exists in a closed key-locked portion of the wider world of childhood sexual abuse and this book, this thing that you are reading and that I am writing, is my voice splitting out from constraint.

According to the professional experts my psyche remained intact and was not rendered asunder by my early experiences, and I am thankful for that granted mercy. My mind, and how it works or does not work, and how it comes at me from all directions at once, is another matter entirely.

Chapter 2: Your brain. My brain.

Why does your brain allow you to achieve things? Why does your brain allow you to feel happiness and contentment? Why does my brain not allow such things? What is achievement? What is happiness and contentment? What do such things feel like?

Chapter 3: A small overview of St. Vincent’s Catholic Orphanage – the easy stuff.

Well, I’m not about to praise it am I. Not by a long shot. I was under the control and the power of the adults there between late 1957 and early 1965. Seven full years. The feel of a fist smashing into my ear is not a good one. Being stuck in a cupboard did not light my fire either.

But I was something else before St. Vincent’s worked it’s own deadly sort of magic on me. I was born in 1952 in Sydney. Other people seem to remember many things about their early lives but I don’t. Between zero and almost five years old all I remember is wearing a ludicrous set of star-spangled pilchards to kindergarten, catching a bus into the city with my siblings to see a movie, and being on a train that I now know was heading north towards Brisbane. That’s it, there is nothing more, apart from a generalised feeling that I was loved and cared for. We are all very lucky that I am not trying to write a book about the first five years of my life – at best it would be rather brief.

But this book. Yeah, there is a bit more material to fill it out.

In another Chapter I will talk about my parents and what I have learned about how things came to be, and I will also talk about my siblings and why, for me, nothing ever came to be with them.

But right now I would like you to zing the following organisational names into your memory, they are certainly zinged into mine. The Order of the Sisters of Mercy. The Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane. Fate presented me to them and they owned me. I am not being dramatic when I say that if I could catch up with a certain few individuals from those institutions, a certain number of priests and nuns, I would kill them. You might think that is a terrible thing to say, but I know that it is quite a safe thing to say, because they are long dead. But if they fronted up before me right now I would kill them without a passing qualm.

The Orphanage fed me shit food, and because I was so under-nourished they stuck me on a skinny-kids’ bench and made me double up on the shit food. I never put on much weight. Being placed on that bench marked me out as belonging to that tribe of ‘others’ – it attracted derision from the other kids (well, they had to take their own pain out on someone) and it labelled me as a benchee fuck-up. It was all so very hard to take.

The Orphanage also educated me. They taught me how to spell and read and write. They also taught me what violence is, what rape is, what mental cruelty is, what absolute and unfettered power and control over a human spirit is, and what the love of god is not. Quite an education all in all. I very much doubt that they would have won school of the year.

There is something about all of this that I would like all of you to understand. Back then, back in the 1950s, if you were a lost kid bunged into institutionalised religious/state care you had no agency – you had nobody in your corner – the society surrounding you was constipated with conservatism and hypocrisy and did not even remotely want to deal with an issue such as child abuse – indeed priests and nuns were seen as beautiful beings worthy of veneration – so as you, as that kid, crumpled under the abusive horror you did it absolutely alone. I did it absolutely alone. I defy anyone who says that they would have come out of such an experience without any sort of permanent damage. Many who went through it have killed themselves, and I’m still surprised that I haven’t.

What has never changed for me is that sense of aloneness. Yes I have been married, yes I have had children, yes after the failure of my marriage I had other long-term relationships with women, yes I have worked, yes I have had some friendships, but no – I have never lost that sense of aloneness.

You know, in my introduction to JAGGED I mentioned that this is a seen-from-within Case Study compiled over sixty-three years, and that I hoped that professional therapists like psychiatrists and psychologists, and other mental health workers, would spare the time to discuss and study it. As we progress along I hold fast to that hope. I am taking myself somewhere that I have never been before – I cannot tell you where or what that is – all I know is that the door is open and I’m going through it.

Chapter 4: The mind I live in.

This Chapter, firstly, is for all the mental health professionals out there and then, secondly, for anybody else who wants to understand what some of the affects of childhood sexual abuse can be on the mind of a human being.

This is a very long Chapter. If some of what you are about to read becomes a bit of a wild ride for you, please understand that it is the daily reality that I live in.

There is a bit of history to this Chapter. It comes out of the earlier version of JAGGED, completed in January 2020. I posted it up on AIMN as an article and then soon, riddled with fear, I took it back down. Fear is a powerful and constant thing.

This Chapter is about the permanent state of mind of the person who is writing this book. I’ll try to describe my state of mind to you, but that will only get us so far, because it is a shitful-for-me state of mind and hard to describe. After that, I’ll ‘show’ you my state of mind without any sort of protective filters in place at all.

In describing my mind I would like you to understand that I have been assured that there is nothing wrong organically with my brain. I have no lesions, chemical imbalances, schisms, or anything like that. I am not bi-polar, or schizophrenic, I don’t wander around muttering to myself on street corners, nor do I take any sort of prescribed medication. Yet, my mind does not work the way it was originally intended to, and parts of it have been turned off. Manually turned off, fucked apart, and not by me.

Can you imagine this picture? Imagine my mind as a spherical universe. That spherical universe is closed off to everything else that surrounds it. I’m stuck in there. However, somewhere in the wall of that globular universe there is a tiny little rend, a small split in the fabric, and sometimes it finds me. I say it finds me, because I cannot find it by looking. But when it does find me I stick my head through it as fast as I can and gulp in as much sweet clear air as I can. Then I fall back inside because there is no structure beneath my feet to keep me in position.

So, having my head in clear space, and being able to ‘breathe’ does not last for long. That short span of time, accidentaly replicated now and then, is all the time I get to meet you for coffee, be a workmate, a lover, a partner, a father, a friend, a writer, a neighbour, some random person you have just met .. etc. For those of you who know me as a friend it will probably explain to you why I am hopeless at small talk, and why my conversation immediately targets the nub of an issue, and why I then without obvious reason quickly fall away and fall within.

Those small sweet moments of clear air. This book is being written in such moments and it is why it will jump all over the place. I cannot write with any coherence from within my closed universe so everything you are reading comes out of those small limited moments of escape. For the rest of the time, the majority of the time, I exist in a place of fucking darkness.

Darkness … that cannot be described .. it can only be shown. Generally I don’t swear, but that reticence is fully, if temporarily, going out the window right now.

So here is my mind. The ‘showing’ of my mind. This is what sustained childhood sexual abuse and mental cruelty did to my mind. This is why I want to kill those who did this to me …

“The plaintiff has broad-ranging and chronic symptoms of persistent depressive disorder, from which he cannot escape.”

Depression is not a black dog. One black dog is easy to deal with. Depression is an ocean of black dogs who snarl and rip and tear at my bones.

When 35mm film runs across the cogs in a movie camera it makes a flickering sound. Flicker. Flicker. A movie plays across the inside of my forehead. I don’t want it to. But it does. Frame after flickering frame. No pretty filters to soften the view.

You are now looking through my eyes. My fucking eyes. You see what I see. You feel what I feel. You are in my mind. This space of fucking darkness. If I could swap places with you I would. All of this goes through my head all of the time. I cannot stop it.

Flicker.

Can’t breathe, the bastard is pressing me down. He’s ripping me apart. Can’t breathe. Bless you my son. The punch smashes my ear.

Flicker.

I don’t know you. We are just meeting. You’ve just picked up my book. To me, until proven otherwise, you are a predator, you are a killer. Your eyes are measuring me, looking within, seeking advantage. I don’t, and cannot, trust you.

Women and men. You damaged me. I don’t trust you on first meet.

If male, are you a killer of women and children, a rapist of women and children, a shit dressed up in artifice?

If female, are you one of those rare killers of children, a mental torturer of children and men, a purveyor of malevolence?

I hope that you are none of those things, I desperately hope that you are none of those things, but history proves that some of you are. Are you one of them? Yet I’m human, I want friends. Loneliness is fucking awful.

I am absolutely hopeless at small talk with you. I’m on my guard, but I don’t want to be on my guard. I’m waiting for the attack. Who cares who is winning the cricket, who cares about that bargain at Aldi, who gives a shit about the weather and your new house and your new car and your view of how good you are? How about the murder of refugees in your name?

Run away now. Trot trot for the shallow.

The freedom to say anything I fucking like. No editing. The freedom to say What Is, for me. Oh, he is such a gentle man, never says anything harsh. A real hippy.

Wow, what a couple of lines for all the psychologists and psychiatrists of this world to peruse. Some are good, but ha, the others. Case study wet dreams for their bookish edification. Haven’t lived it, they don’t have a clue, chasing their own intelligent tails around in circles. Fucking me off with their useless techniques and their games.

Haven’t sworn so much in all of my life.

Flicker.

Her punch shatters me, rocks me, here’s another hail mary, she does it again, the belt whips, god delivering love, oh boy the nuns of christ, the nuns of fucking christ. If I could hide I would, I can’t.

Flicker.

That movie plays on the inside of my forehead, it is on a never ending re-loop. Flicker. Flicker. I have to look through it to see you. You are out there, we are trying to meet, trying to talk, trying to connect, trying to have a coffee. I am sick of what the bastards did to me, sickened by what the bastards did to me. I write. I write. I try to reach you.

Damage. Worst seen. Worst expected. Worst received. Damaged. Where’s the exit from the bloody cinema?

Birds fly free, freedom, the lift of the wind, beautiful lucky little winged shits. Soaring in the sun. Beautiful lucky little winged shits.

Women are killed all the time, they know what rape feels like, society makes no more than a passing reference to that but oh we do have jobs and growth for the mindless. I am not killed all the time, what do I know, I know what being raped feels like.

67 years of living? Jesus Fucking Christ I want my trip money back, I want a refund. I want to be four years old and starting all over again.

Flicker.

You. You with your white collar and your church and your phallus. You predatory scum. If you weren’t dead I’d kill you. I’m a shot-child man. I’d fucking kill you.

Flicker.

Sitting at the table, looking out the window. Looking out the window. Desperately trying not to think.

Love. It spins faster than a neutron star. My children. Love.

Women, making love, making love, making love. Spinning faster than a neutron star.

Oh! So you are a Survivor of childhood sexual abuse? I’ll fix it up for you. Here’s three tears, how generous of me. Snuffle, snuffle, Parliamentary tearful apology be grateful. Job done. I’m sure I’ve helped. The head has been patted. Now piss off and don’t mention it again.

Mention it again. It killed us. No Survivor survives. Not a zombie movie, just ghosts of the living fucking dead. We walk, we talk, our feet wade through molasses in a vacuum, stuck, stuck, stuck.

Go shopping. Try to appear normal. Hide in the crowd.

I feel your pain, I feel your pain, I look into your eyes and I feel your pain. No you don’t. Rejoice in the fact that you don’t feel my pain. You are a lucky sod.

Beauty, the blue sky, the grass, the trees, a woman’s smile. Will she see my damage? I can love you know, it is not an impossibility!

Get up in the morning. Sit on the verandah. Stare at the sky. Go to bed after dark. Get up in the morning. Sit on the verandah. Stare at the sky. Go to bed after dark. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

I do not recognise your authority over me. I will fight you. You will not defeat the bit of me I have left.

That amazing thing called truth that everybody says that they want. Truth is, they don’t. They want the veneer of it that’s all.

Australia is a fascist country, that’s truth. Aboriginals are treated like dirt, that’s truth. We torture refugees who flee our bombs, that’s truth. Tinder is a fuck-fest for the brainless owners of ovaries and balls, that’s truth. Take note nuns and priests: if you fuck a child you will fuck them up for life, that’s truth. Nobody gives you a tax break without somebody else probably the poor having to pay for it, that’s truth. You won’t escape, AI and robotics will eventually blow you out of your job, that’s truth. Men like sex, women like sex, men fuck, women fuck, that’s truth. That’s truth. That’s truth. That’s truth.

What’s truth?

Oh, we are getting married! That white dress, that pin-striped suit. The church is bigger than a cathedral. Blessed by an unknown priest I could kill. I wanted succour at your breasts, I wanted your beauty, and your love, and your friendship. I failed. We ended.

Oh, we are having a relationship. I like your passion, your guts, your practicality. Let’s move away and start afresh. You in the fields, a sight to behold. I failed. We ended.

Oh, hello there. We both carry damage, we are both aware of that. We understand each other. If I could buy your zest for life, I would. Let’s give it a go. I failed. We ended.

I wanted security, and love, and family. I failed. We ended.

Depressed. They saw me as I am. Depressed. Joyless. Ended. Swimming in an ocean of black fucking snapping dogs.

Depression kills relationships. Wish I’d read that when I was four years old, wish I didn’t have a future need to read that when I was four years old. Wish the nuns and priests had read that when I was four years old. The bastards couldn’t read, wouldn’t read, didn’t want to read. The bastards were too busy fuck-killing children to read.

What’s truth?

So you think that my blue eyes are piercing, and that they look right into you. They don’t. They are watching the movie that is running on the inside of my forehead. I am trying to see you through the flickering of the frames. No Oscar for me. I didn’t want to be in the movie.

Plod plod. Go to work. Stick on a smile. Plod plod.

Light up another cigarette. Suck the breast. Suck for comfort. Light up another cigarette.

In my time did nuns and priests screw each other. Yes. Did priests screw each other. Yes. Did nuns screw each other. Yes. Did upright community matrons in all their frocked and gloved hatted finery deliver casseroles and head jobs to their venerated local neighbourhood priests. Of course they did. Did nuns screw orphanage old boys. Yep. Furtive thrusting. So if the bastards received all that sating why did they come after us?

Write an article. How come I can do that yet I can’t step forward and do other things ?

Flicker.

That’s a nice tall fence. Orphanage fence. Clinging to the top looking down the entrance road. Will they come and get me out of here? Nuns circling in the background, Sisters of Mercy, you’ve got to be kidding me they call themselves the Sisters of fucking Mercy, clawed hands reaching out.

Flicker.

Hello Lawyer person. I’m so desperate for justice, for damage to be undone. Thank you for running your I believe you script. What a legal actor you are, it drew me in. What? Do I have any money? No I don’t. Oh, ok then, I’ll piss off.

Don’t talk about suicide, the squeamish will cringe. Bang. Bang. Maybe nirvana, probably not. Time is a painless method, but very long. Hang on, hang on, it might get better. Better than what?

It is quite true. All you find at the bottom of a bottle is the view of the bottom of a bottle. Let’s have another Shiraz. Let’s not. Didn’t needle, the thought was never attractive simply because the thought was so attractive. Can’t smoke the Dope, it rushes the movie into starker focus.

Men are lucky. One of the most beautiful things in life is to be there, right there, when your child is born. The little eyes try to open, the little fingers curl around your thumb. But we are not lying back there thinking that shit I’ve just had ripped out of me something ten times the size of Manhattan! Men are lucky. One of the most beautiful things in life is to .…

Hey Keith, you are supposed to be this happy long-haired hippy person. You’ve got a Kombi and you wear Indian cheesecloth shirts but I don’t want to talk about anything real with you because that would mean that I’d have to momentarily drop my own shallow mask too.

You cannot be helped. Well I sure as shit had hoped for a better response than that!

Bloody hell. Here I am at a party with a glass of wine in my hand. There are all of those other people here with a glass of wine in their hands as well. All those eyes. I’m anxious. I’m afraid.

Roll up, roll up, grab your popcorn, take your seat, dim the lights. Here’s a movie produced for you by the media arm of catholicism, by god’s holy rolling fuckster company pty ltd. They’ve directed thousands of movies. Many thousands of movies. Survivors are the unheralded Stars.

You are a beautiful man, and I love you. Am I? Did you?

Friends fade away from me, I fade away from friends. I can’t small talk. My talk is intense. I talk about what I see, can’t do otherwise.

Anger and hate. Visceral anger and hate at the bastards who killed me. If I let anger and hate rip I’ll implode. If I don’t let anger and hate rip I’ll implode. If I do I’m fucked. If I don’t I’m fucked.

I’m fucked!

There is always the dog. Zoe the dog. Beautiful loving Zoe. Bullshit speakers say that dogs don’t have a spirit. Bullshit speakers are wrong. Zoe became dead after I did, what a conundrum that is, because I’m still alive and she is not.

Predatory male on a dark night street. I’m not a predator. I’m a male. Why are you afraid of me? I’ve met a few predators in my time. I’m the one full of fear.

Hello famous celebrity type person. You’ve got to be kidding me! Someone called you a name and you are going to sue them for two million dollars! In a comparative sense of damage done then I and other Survivors should be able to sue for 10 billion dollars each for fuck’s sake! But oh, I do see your point, you are a celebrity after all, and society is far more interested in the insignificant slight you suffered than they are in the fact that our childhood vaginas and anuses and mouths were stretched and ripped and bloodied by stiffed-up clerical cock. So please accept my apology for playing down the immense amount of suffering that you went through. Gosh, you were called a name. It must have been awful for you, it has probably wrecked your whole life. I feel your pain. Here’s your three tears back. Oh, you’ve stubbed your toe as well.

Lonely lonely lonely lonely. If you have a companion do you value them? I sure as hell would.

Beauty. How do you measure that? When a woman looks you in the eye and throws you the biggest shit-eating grin that you have ever seen in your life, then you will have just seen the most beautiful thing you will ever see in your life. If she does it twice you just have to tap dance down the corridors of love.

Hello next Lawyer person. I’m so desperate for justice, for damage to be undone. Thank you for running your I believe you script. What a legal actor you are, it drew me in. What? Do I have any money? No I don’t. No problem. Glad to hear it. No Win No Fee. I’ll bare my soul to you. Come in spinner! Here’s your pittance. Fuck off. Apology? Don’t be silly.

At the height of erotic and loudly proclaimed mutually enjoyed passion I never mirrored the screamed out request from the woman to ‘fuck me dead’, because I figured that it must have been pretty obvious to both of us that, in my case, somebody had already beaten us to it.

Children, children, children. Love them. Protect them. Die for them.

Sitting at a desk writing. Keyboard thump. Keyboard thump. Keyboard thump. Writing truth, writing open truth, writing unfiltered truth, writing swearing truth. Just skimming the fucking surface. The well’s much deeper than that.

Many people who have not had a hard life like to say that they did. They go pretty quiet when you show them what hard really looks like.

Standing in the middle of the road with my placard. Save the ABC. Save the World. Save the Universe. We are all behind you, you say. Hang on a sec while I turn around. No you’re not.

Pillars of the community. You are aspirational arseholes. You’re sucking up to the god of greed, twenty houses isn’t enough, you’re shafting the poor, you’re voting for those I love god politicians, you’re a proud shareholder of a company that is polluting the planet, you’re a rich and fat and compliant drone, a killer of the future of our children.

Flicker.

Her fist smashed into my teeth. She cut my buttocks with the edge of her razor strop. She head-locked me and covered my mouth and nostrils with her sweaty fat hand. A bitch of christ. Take off your clothes, show me your waggle bits. That fucking bitch of christ. Thump.

Flicker.

Flicker.

Well hello young Altar Boy. Come into the Sacristy with me. Let me bless you. He did. With his seed. The bastard. The stinking-cocked holy bastard. Let me bless you. Keep your mouth shut or I’ll thump the living daylights out of you. I’m a priest, everybody loves me. I don’t. I hate you. I want to kill you. I’m a child. I can’t.

Flicker.

god. No capital G for that bastard. And those dumb prats sit in their pews and kiss his arse. Dumb prats who can’t think for themselves. Smarmy dumb prats. Kissing the arse of the venerated molesting priests.

I can look after and care for others. But not myself. I’m the movie, I cannot care for that.

Keep losing my jobs. Can’t get a job. So much wrong here. Everybody just puts up with it. I can’t stand it. Ha, social justice for the workers? Keep fighting with management. Sacked. Sacked. Sacked. None of you have beaten the little bit of me that is left to me. I’d rather be me than you.

Oh, sad sod, depressed sod, PTSD sodded sod. Chin up chap. Endure. Move on. One foot after the other. There’s gold at the end of the rainbow. Fake it until you make it. Here’s your six step plan. Silver lining and clouds. Think positively. Smile and the world will smile with you. What sort of idiot believes that nonsense?

Looking through that window I can see the ocean, the blue sky, the coastal strip, the buildings, the concrete, the greed, the exploitive middle class, the fascist rich. Beautiful view. Shit view.

Have a glass of wine. Eat a pretzel. Smile at your friend. Make appropriate eye contact. Whoops, that was too long, look away, look back, look away, look back. I’m not even fucking there.

Flicker.

Your special pants are dirty you skinny little shit. Shit-filled pants. Blood-filled pants. Semen-filled pants. And then she, the bride of christ, launches into me. Could kill her, I’m a child, I can’t. Punch. Punch. Another fucking punch. Into the cupboard you go. Be grateful for the love of god you skinny little shit.

Flicker.

Fathers. Where’s mine? Dead. Damaged by war man. Brain-box blown up by Japanese bombs man. Loved him.

Mothers. Where’s mine? Long dead. Dumped us all. Three years old and on her knee. What was she like? Who was she? Loved her.

Religion. Don’t make me laugh! Pillocks in pulpits. Rapists in pulpits. Killers in pulpits. god loves you. Bend over.

You ask me if I believe in god. I ask what put the need in you to believe in something that does not exist.

My anger at them is vaster than vast. Spewing out pointlessly into the sponge of absolute shitty nothingness. Blown away on the wind. Phut!

Oh, gosh Keith, you are so brave and courageous for sharing your story and not enough people do it and I am genuinely inspired by you and do you want to repeat all the lurid details especially the dirty bits please and I love who you are and I want to hug you and I hear you and I feel for you and I empathise with you and I think you are amazing and I also do the same for celebrities and movie stars and musicians who have died or been zapped and other people who I don’t know and neighbours who have been murdered and I drop lovely flowers on the spots where they all carked it or had things happen to them and I can cry on cue for the television cameras which they love and I love and which makes me look great and gets oodles of sympathy sent my way even though nothing bad actually ever happened to me and just because I’m a professional at mourning by proxy and a bit of a grief-fiend and even though I’m a you should bare it all for my wrapt delight workshop junkie it doesn’t necessarily mean that the flowers I just pinched from that most recent dead celeb’s shrine weren’t plonked down at your feet Keith with love and sincerity and care does it? “I wasn’t speaking to you. I don’t want your sympathy. I was speaking to people who can gut-stomach truth. So pick up your flowers and fuck off.”

According to tests that test such things I have a reasonably high level of intelligence. Yet, all things considered, I cannot even tie the shoelaces of my own life.

Flicker.

White habit and glaring eyes. The back-hand sent me sprawling. She grabbed me by the scruff of the fucking neck and shoved me into that darker cupboard. The darkness. The darkness. No wonder I cried in the isolation cell in the Separate Prison at Port Arthur.

Get on the bus. Nobody will notice you. They will not be thinking anything. It will all be ok.

Fuck. You think this is all over the top? You’re getting the light polite version. The let’s not go the whole hog or really offend anyone version. Flicker. Redact. Hide. Hide. Gosh, you can’t say that.

Why did they weaponise their penises? Did they hate themselves that much?

Go the whole hog.

Survivors were fucked and beaten, fucked and beaten, fucked and beaten, over and over again. Thumped into the dirt and then the boot was jammed into our neck. Do you get that? The Royal Commissioner said that the problem with the catholic church was that they saw the rape of children by their clerics as a moral dilemma, but not as a crime. The church is still as sick as it ever was.

I’ve sworn more in this Chapter than I have in my whole life. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck to the tenth fucking degree of the tenth fucking degree of that tenth of a fucking tenth degree of that tenth fucking degree. With piles of shit on top. We live with this stuff each and every day. And some of you call us whingers, and whiners, so fuck you if you do, and hello to you if you are a reasonable person who does not.

Do you dream? I don’t. Well I do, but they are never remembered. I wonder what I dream about? Early on my mind learnt to shut some things away in little boxes and that apparently is where my dreams go. That’d be an interesting little dream box trip, wonder what would be in there, free flying birds probably. I wish there was a box for the movie. How come that shit of a movie didn’t go into a little box? That’s a bastard of an unfairness.

Damage done. Neil Young sang about damage done.

Let’s go to church, let’s be seen to go to church, let’s be the pillars of our communities, let’s get into politics as well, they’ll pay us to fuck them up. Let’s give them a mantra, they suck that shit up.

Hello therapist. Hello psychologist. Hello psychiatrist. Can you fix me up? So I’m not bi-polar. So I was not rendered asunder. So I’m not psychotic. So I’m not a denizen of Bedlam. So you can’t fix me up. So what I see is fucking unfortunately really there. Really there. Trouble is mate, you see what is there, you’d be better off with the understanding level of a newt. So me is still mine, minutely. I knew all of that already, but here’s your bucks anyway.

Flicker.

Predatory-eyed nun. What’s your problem you little shit. It is my job to sit here and watch you naked in the shower. Don’t turn away! Face me and keep your hands by your side! That weren’t no arty little life class that weren’t.

Flicker.

So I’m saner than sanity can be. What a fair measure of the damage that being an uber sane observer of my own killing really is, it should have sent me crazy. Being able to think isn’t costless.

Hello Appeal Type Lawyer. I’m so desperate for justice, for damage to be undone. Thank you for running your I believe you script. What a legal actor you are, it drew me in. Oh, do I have hundreds and hundreds of thousands of spare dollars? No, I don’t. Oh, ok then, I’ll piss off.

Flicker.

Come into my room young boy. Why is the nun leaving? Who is that man? Why is he grabbing my head? Can’t breathe. Smothered. That stick bit of him is hurting my throat. Thump. Thump. Keep your yap shut. Say anything I’ll come after you. Scurry away. Hide. Hide. Hide. Where’s my little toy car. Curl up under the covers.

Flicker.

Cook a meal. Say hello to the landlord. Try and make a new friend. Maybe volunteer somewhere. Watch television. Do the washing. Look in the mirror, you are getting old. Hello old friend let’s meet up, have a coffee. Pretend all’s good. Sit on the verandah, stare at the sky. Pretend, pretend, pretend all is good.

He is such a quiet and friendly man. That’s the bit of me I have left.

Flicker.

In the shower I scrub myself with soap. Over and over again. Every time in the shower I scrub myself with soap over and over again. But it stays the same. It never goes away. It never goes away.

Flicker.

Fuck them all, the tears are coming again. Fuck the nuns, fuck the priests, I cannot unsee what was done, I cannot unfeel it. I cannot escape it.

My mind IS the Separate fucking Prison.

Sit on the verandah. Stare at the sky.

Flicker bloody depressive ocean of snarling black dogs flicker.

Where is the curtain? I want to draw it across the screen. I want all of this to end.

Flicker.

The barrel was in my mouth, my finger was on the trigger. I opened the door and stuck my head inside the gas oven. I stood on the edge of the cliff. I accelerated the car and looked for something solid to aim at. I picked up the razor. I did those things. I did those things. I did those things. I can’t believe I did those things. I can believe I did those things.

Bang fucking Bang. I’m still here! It is so dark I can’t see or feel a bloody thing. Looks like time will have to do the job then.

Flicker.

This next sentence has been written in a moment of sweet clear air …

Right, the ballistic missile has returned to earth, somewhat. That movie is on constant re-loop in the front of my brain, permanently flickering away. It ‘shows’ the state of my mind. The scattered state of my mind. All of the content of the movie and more comes at my mind from all directions at once, it saturates my mind, all of the time. If I didn’t have fingernails I’d have slipped off the edge a long time ago.

Medico/Legal Report 27/01/2018: “Left as he is now, Mr Davis is highly unlikely to show improvement. There is risk that his various symptoms may become more problematic as he ages. His prognosis in this situation would be poor. He is unlikely ever to be symptom-free, given the pervasive acts of abuse/cruelty which he experienced whilst he was a resident at the orphanage.”

And when all of this was pointed out to the Catholic Church when I approached them for a hearing three years ago … their response was simply to go for my throat again.

Chapter 5: Is he ever going to give us a bit of light reading?

Yes he is. Yes I am. This is a very short segue Chapter. It has only two points to make.

There was a lot of swearing before this Chapter. There will be very little after it.

It is difficult to be heard when you are not yet able to speak of terrible things.

to be continued …

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Will They Linger with Hope or Contempt

The black summer smoulders in his veins
There are those who won’t forget his reign
The resilient fought on as he soaked up the rays
Desperate people are still without homes … but he prays

He sighs in relief … the anger’s all gone
But the global pandemic now lingers on
With doors shut hard in our faces
Poverty is now winning all of the races

The quiet ones he said he adores
Apathy voted like a zombied Horde
Will they linger with hope or contempt?
That sea of pained faces of the JobKeeper exempt?

The broken hearts of crushed lifelong careers
The precarious abandoned, newly jobless in tears
Will he pray away the pain?
Or sing us his songbook of smirks and refrains

The walls caving in on the class paying rent
Staples so bland in palettes are spent
Will they linger in hope or contempt?
Shoulder to Shoulder with those JobKeeper exempt?

Has the Murdoch Press got their tongue?
Melting their thoughts to a silent stun
Do they still think of lives taken by flames?
Will they survive their own hunger games?

At the crossroads, Oh Toto which way
Discombobulated. Fight, pray or stay.
A Yellow Brick Road paved with corruption
Good Job Angus, Well done Son

Scared Jobless and Workers flipped off as Marxist voices
Johnny took all of our rights away by Choices
Musos and Artists cry out in traumatised dread
Scott killed the Arts – we are already dead

Gough’s Grandies hock it for Education
Howard’s children controlling the nation
The IPA’s invading their classroom
Hey! Scomo – leave them kids alone!

Social distance borne a cleaner climate
But donors and barons they have decided
No Covid Climate Renewal of minds and hearts
No new regional industry. No leadership smarts.

Will they linger with hope or hunger for change?
Do they see Covid helped Houdini escape disdain?
Will they linger with eyes wide open or shut?
Will they praise him for jobs lost and wages cut?

Will they linger instructed by polls?
Caring nought for those on the dole?
Will they take his IR changes on the chin
Stare at their empty pay packets with a compliant grin?

The black summer still bubbles away under that smirk
Will they linger in hope or remember that Hawaii jerk?
Will they linger for a handshake or call him harsh names?
If HE lingers, we must ALL take the blame.

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JAGGED #1

In approximately a week or so time my book JAGGED will start to appear in serial form on The Australian Independent Media Network platform. I would like to thank the owners/editors of AIMN for affording me this opportunity – they are brave and beautiful people.

JAGGED is nothing less than a seen-from-within Case Study compiled over sixty-three years on the long term affects on the human spirit of sustained exposure to violence and childhood sexual assault while under the care of the Catholic Church.

I have been case studied to infinity and beyond by mental health professionals such as psychiatrists and psychologists, and at the end of the book I will put up their assessments of me. Nothing that they ever tried, whether it be this technique or that technique, ever helped or ever changed how I am. That fact is not a reflection of their abilities or any failure on my part to strive for something better, that fact simply exposes a very stark truth that for some survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and I stress the word some, the damage caused by those early experiences runs too deep, and cannot easily be repaired.

What may well prove unusual about this book, both for you and for me, is that it will be unfolding live on AIMN. Unfolding live in the sense that I will be posting up the Chapters in blocks of one or two as they are written. Sure, I will be drawing on my first halting attempt to write the book, which I completed in January 2020 just before COVID dropped in, and sure, I will be drawing on some previous articles that I have written on this subject matter – but all of that combined will simply just give me some guideposts

In many ways this book called JAGGED, this Case Study, will be an unfolding experiment, both for me, as well as for AIMN, as well as for you. I cannot predict where it will take us all. This wonderful site generally carries articles on all sorts of topics, and over the years to a small extent I have contributed to that by submitting articles on subjects such as AI and the punitive nature of the Welfare System in Australia – but I would like you to understand something about me – in order to write articles such as that I have had to step outside of my true self and create an artificial fugue state where I can at least pretend to be an objective writer – sometimes I can manage to do that, but generally I cannot. The subjectivity of my own state of mind owns me.

So who is writing this book? Well, I could concoct a flattering version of me and create some sort of happy photo to personalise things (much as most writers do on the dust-jackets of their books) but I don’t see that such falsity or fantasy would serve any real purpose along this path, along this reach, for truth. I am soon to turn sixty-eight. I am permanently clinically depressed, and have been so for as long as I can remember. Everything, and everyone, scares me. I cannot, as desperately as I would like to, I cannot trust. In my own assessment I operate at about 50% capacity (professional assessments rate that one slightly higher or slightly lower). Unless my friends really encourage me – I hardly ever go out, or socialise, or do anything. That is why the book is called JAGGED.

I am writing this book for that percentage of survivors who endure permanent damage; for the children of survivors who have struggled to reach through and understand why their parent/parents cannot easily communicate or talk about what had happened to them; for my own children; for my own partners (beautiful women all); for the professional mental health workers who try to understand and who try to help people like me, and others like me; for the members of the legal profession who supported my pursuit for justice, and whom I so admire; for the members of the legal profession who opposed my pursuit for justice and who chose to represent the Catholic Church, well, detest is too polite a word to use; and finally, for anybody who has a genuine wish to understand why survivors like me are the way we are – why we are so difficult to reach – I will do my best to inform your understanding.

I have no personal need for Trigger Warnings but I understand that others genuinely do. So I would like to point out that some sections of JAGGED, but by no means all, seek to comprehensively deal with such issues as mental cruelty, mental health, rape, physical assault, the nature of violence, childhood sexual abuse, depression, addiction, religion, power, silences contained within our society, PTSD, suicide, and what the legacies of all such matters can do to a human being.

Everybody comments on everything these days, and that is just the way of it, but if it is possible I would request this of you – if you can reserve your commentary until the presentation of fact, thought, and context, has been fully played out (I’m assuming that will happen when the last Chapter has been posted) then I will be in a solid enough emotional space to be able to respond fully and respectfully to you.

A while ago one of my best friends said to me … you have a book in you … you have THE BOOK on a certain subject in you. I don’t know about that one, I don’t believe that one, but I do know that I have this book in me.

The following quote comes from a book by Jon Krakauer entitled Into Thin Air – A Personal Account of the Everest Disaster (Pan Books, 1998).

“I distrust summaries, any kind of gliding through time, any too great a claim that one is in control of what one recounts; I think someone who claims to understand but is obviously calm, someone who claims to write with emotion recollected in tranquility, is a fool and a lier. To understand is to tremble. To recollect is to re-enter and be riven … I admire the authority of being on one’s knees in front of the event.” (Harold Brodkey “Manipulations”)

Well I am not calm, I am not tranquil. I am in control of nothing that I am about to recount. I cannot possibly re-enter a world that I cannot possibly leave. To understand continually tears at my guts. I have never not trembled. The rivening does not decrease. I am angry because of every bloody thing that has been lost.

Will I be judged for what I write? Will I be supported with what I write? Both of those things will happen.

Will what I write be studied and discussed by mental health professionals? Will they take up and seek to understand and learn from this view from within the closed world of a permanently damaged survivor of childhood sexual abuse? I hope so – I will not let my fear of standing up and being seen get in the road of that hope. I want the experience of my life to be of informed benefit to somebody, I want it to mean something, I want it to create value and understanding in somebody else’s life.

What happens now, what I do with JAGGED, what I recount and how I recount it, will finally define who I am as a human being.

Keith

Link to JAGGED #2

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Change the Meaning not the Date: Australia Day, Meet ANZAC Reverence

By Jennifer Michels  

Australia’s special day of celebration; 26th January, the date Aussies have branded Australia Day. For others, a date for mourning. The Aboriginal people have heavily objected to Australian Day since its introduction. For those who do not understand why; 26th January 1788 is the date Captain Arthur Philip raised the Union Jack (the flag of Great Britain) and Australian soil was proclaimed British Territory. For the Aboriginal people, this date signifies the beginning of 200+ years of war, loss and hardships that can only be described as slavery by many who are still alive today.

With all the discussions regarding racial discrimination lately, I have taken time to contemplate both sides of the story as they apply to me personally. Considering I am a descendant of Aboriginal background, and as much as I may wish to just close my heart to what for years my own prejudice called “that other side” of my ancestry; I should not! My hands were not responsible for what we now know are “atrocities.” And although I grew up with family members who experienced some of these “atrocities,” my hands did not personally experience these either. Therefore, I should not feel the guilt as I believe a child does not shoulder the errors of their forefathers. Yet I cannot escape the guilt or the other emotions that travel hand in hand with both sides of the Australian story.

My eyes cannot close to these injustices as the effects are still relevant in our society today. This means my feelings are amplified in January. Amplified because it seems my fellow citizens show a lack of empathy towards the pain celebrating and discussing Australia Day creates. Because we chose this date to celebrate a special patriotic connection to each other. While simultaneously failing each other in recognition of the sacrifices and benefits, both parties have and still do bring to the table.

Drawing my own conclusions from discussions flying around social media I will admit some of my opinions have changed forever, but not in the way I would have imagined! If someone asked me last month what I thought about changing the date, I would have instantly replied with a blunt explanation backing the call. Yet I have been forced to admit the prejudices and ignorances within my views; after the frenzied replies to online comments challenging my opinions regarding Australia Day and the call to change the date. I was forced to admit I feel the same way about other dates of mourning within Australian history and culture, namely Remembrance Day, ANZAC Day, and the bombing of Darwin.

After contemplating these challenges of my opinions, it is hard not to draw parallels between ANZAC Day and Australia Day. Especially as it seems to be a popular reason to undermine the call for changing the date.

I am by no means trying to say these days should not be celebrated. They are extremely important dates for me, as they rightfully are for many Australian and New Zealanders in the case of ANZAC Day. Without these heroes in our history, I might not be here or have the freedom today to even write this. Especially when one considers the fact my great grandmother was evacuated from Groote Eylandt during the bombing of Darwin.

However, the biggest difference I personally draw from these days is the reverence applied to our days of mourning such as ANZAC Day. Reverence that brings us together.

Australians memorialise the sorrow and celebrate the freedoms saved by some aspects of our history. Each year speeches are heard around the world recognising not only the support, but also the losses of our fellow ANZAC heroes. Including acknowledgements of these same impacts on those who were on the opposite side of our lines. Ceremonies are conducted to commemorate the Australians who fought to protect Darwin when it was bombed in 1942 by Japan. Commemorating those who paid the ultimate sacrifice saving a country they never saw again.

Those same principles of reverence have not been applied to a date that left a deep scar in our history books, a date that is of similar significance to many Australians. The date that changed everything for both sides. The date that signifies the conception of the Australian society as we know it today. The same society the ANZACs and our other heroes in history fought so hard to protect.

This deep scar that has been talked and argued about for decades, without successful resolutions agreed upon. Remove either party’s involvement in the Australian story and our country would not be the multi-cultural community it is today. Nor would our fellow citizens know and understand the sacrifices nor the benefits both our ancestors have contributed to this beautiful land.

Now I ask, if our ANZAC heroes are so highly regarded; if the Bombing of Darwin and Remembrance Day have ceremonies still held in their honour; why are similar ceremonies not practiced around Australia to commemorate the founding of the country we all love today?

Recognising the fallen Aboriginal ancestors? Commemorating the fallen British Settlers, Convicts and Soldiers? Bringing an aspect of recognition? Clearing the misunderstandings? Resolving at least some of the feelings of both sides to our historical story?

Ceremonies from both sides of our proud cultures provide platforms for all Australian voices to be heard equally. Finally achieving political correctness, with what should be one of the most highly regarded and celebrated days in Australian culture.

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‘Parent of the nation’

By Robert Wood  

In the national discourse around violence, there seems to be a fetish for land, for resource, for nature. This comes in everywhere from bushfires to mining to farming. It is all about land be that burning or sacred site desecration or settler colonialism in general. That is where we see the common invocation of terra nullius as a guiding principle and a fiction that nevertheless has real world effects. What we know as part of this is that terra nullius is a dangerous myth that justified and reflected the white invasion of the continent. We must remember that. And yet, we must also make another entry in the ledger when we consider violence here. This is the violence done to people, not only country. And so, if terra nullius is something we all know, something that gives rise to the response of land rights and other actions of sovereignty, perhaps we should also learn about parens patriae.

Parens patriae is the doctrine that connects children in foster care to prisoners to mental health detainees. Here violence is not only done to land, but to sovereign individuals. Parens patriae is what justifies how people are treated and it disproportionately affects Aboriginal communities.

But it is not exclusive to them. Terra nullius not only affected Aboriginal people, but also their trading relations with Macassans and others, then we know parens patria impacts on many individuals. You might know this legal concept through the term ‘ward of the state.’ I myself have been a ward of the state. I was institutionalised in 2010, where I spent three blacked out days in a public mental asylum before waking up for another four days of treatment before being released into the community. I was technically, and legally, a ward for a further 23 days. Once committed, this was the minimum time of my sentence before I was allowed my freedom. Thirty days was a short stay and the people I met were very different to my usual set, but I am grateful for the experience. It was humbling to realise my privilege. I was in Locked Room Ward B of Graylands in Perth with homeless white drug addicts in their twenties and Aboriginal Elders from remote communities. I am not white nor Indigenous, and, people like me, people of colour from migrant backgrounds made up the majority of nurses if not doctors.

The lesson I learnt most of all from being inside is that the state is failing in its parental responsibilities. It is failing when we consider parens patriae. Translated from the Latin, this means ‘parent of the nation’ and is often used as a way to recognise the leader of a state, say a monarch or a ruler, or even a dictator like Julius Caesar. It is also the principle that underpins the justification for taking parental responsibility away from traditional custodians and replacing that with institutional forms of authority. My parents committed me and then the West Australian state government became my legal guardian. This was because I was not of sound mind, but you can have your rights taken away for protest, for addiction, for racist reasons. Why does this matter?

Parens patriae matters because it is the logic that allows the state to remove children from their parents, to incarcerate people, to lock people up if their ideas are insane. The response, of course, would be that the state is an adequate parent, maybe even a good one. That Queen Lizzie does a fine job looking after her subjects. It undermines though the responsibilities of individuals, and, as we know from terra nullius, it justifies violence on the pretext that there is no pre-existing expression of care. Quite simply, it attacks the role of parents, especially First Nations people, who are more likely to become wards of the state as children, people in custody, prisoners, mental health detainees, and others who are not free.

Parens patriae is a dangerous fiction that has real effects on real people. It undermines a more complex, diffuse, and co-ordinated network of care, and seeks to make a sole authority replace a parent or a guardian. The pastoralism in communities is often one that permeates to many members and people share the burden when it comes to looking after each other from the vulnerable to the sick to the elderly to the wronged and the accused. What matters for sovereignty is how we re-imagine what our governance can be and how people are looked after when it comes to state treatment of our most vulnerable. That parens patriae continues to be invoked does a disservice to what we are truly capable of.

Robert Wood’s writing has been published in numerous literary and academic journals. He has interned for Overland, edited for Peril and Cordite, been a columnist for Cultural Weekly. At present he works for The Centre for Stories.

 

 

 

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Prejudice springs from ignorance

Before coming to Australia, I lived for just over 10 years in Gravesend, Kent – directly across the Thames from the Tilbury docks.

This was a time when anyone born in the British Commonwealth, was entitled to a British passport, and Tilbury was the destination for hundreds of Indian and Pakistani migrants.

It is still standard practice in both these countries, for marriages to be arranged by the families. I was briefly acquainted with a young woman from the Punjab, who had been sent to Gravesend to marry a man whose wife had died, leaving him with one or two small children needing a mother.

We had no common language, but I did establish that she was in hospital over a threatened miscarriage.

It was quite normal in Gravesend for schoolchildren to shop with their mothers to act as translators, since the women lived fairly secluded lives, socialising only with family and other women. It took a few generations for the women to become fluent in English and adapt to their new environment.

There was a degree of mild discrimination in the local ‘white’ community, but it was never intense. It often related to different food practices, as some of the possibly over-sensitive objected to the smells of the spices used in the preferred foods of the migrants.

Those migrants who worked hard and were able to buy a house, generally decorated the house in the distinctively bold colours that were also used in their clothing. More conventional members of the local community rarely even used bold colours for the external doors, let alone on the brickwork! These houses were mostly semi-detached, 2-storey houses, with small front and larger back gardens.

Some existing residents, fearing their properties might be de-valued, sold out and moved elsewhere, until one street was locally dubbed the Khyber Pass!

I was never aware of any real hostility, but when the migrant families form what is virtually a ghetto, and the women do not speak English well enough to socialise outside the migrant community, it can be hard to bridge the gap, and even harder for the ethnic community to keep up to date with official information.

There would be similar situations in Australia. Just as some older Australians lack internet skills and often fail to receive information from governments – which now rely heavily on the assumption that everyone can be contacted electronically – so too there will be pockets of migrant groups which require particularly close attention in a situation like the current pandemic.

I get the feeling that Daniel Andrews is falling over backwards to avoid any remarks  about the cluster of COVID-19 infections currently causing concern, where prejudice about the communities involved might be the outcome.

I have a friend, who is only a smidgen younger than I am, but whose aversion for most forms of technology means that I have to make sure she knows when notices to members of the bridge club where we both play have gone out!

I do not know to what extent governments use ethnic community groups to help ensure that those for whom English is not a first language receive accurate information about matters of community concern. I hope they do so to a meaningful extent.

To ensure that both the facts and the gravity of the situation are fully disseminated among all communities is a matter of real concern for us all.

Last night’s Four Corners exposé of the Newmarch Nursing Home debacle was a clear reminder of the dire consequences of failing to ensure that plans and communications which affect life and death have to be well thought through and delivered.

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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The “open secret”: when men do nothing

In an independent investigation by a former inspector general of intelligence and security, former High Court judge Dyson Heydon has been found to have sexually harassed six junior court staff during his period on the bench.

More stories of Heydon’s predatory behaviour are coming to light as I write this piece.

Law Society of Australia president Pauline Wright commented after the revelations that harassment is pervasive in the legal profession. In 2019, the International Bar Association found that one in four women had been harassed in their workplace.

Heydon’s sexual impropriety has been acknowledged as an open secret in legal circles. Which might cause one to wonder about the integrity of a profession dedicated to upholding the law, that protects men who transgress that law.

It really is the same old never-ending story. In 2015, surgeon Dr Caroline Tan found her career derailed after she spoke up about being sexual harassed by a colleague. The prevalence of harassment in medicine is not known, however, it is considered sufficiently serious to cause problems for women across the profession. It is likely an “open secret” in that profession as well.

The only way sexual harassment is called out is when victims speak up. We are dependent on traumatised women putting themselves at further risk to tell us what is going on.

Women who disclosed are frequently disbelieved, especially if the man involved is a powerful figure. Women are blamed, both for the abuse and for disclosing it. Women lose their jobs or promotions. Women can be branded as troublemakers or worse, as sexually problematic in the workplace. It isn’t the perpetrators who are subjected to punishment, retribution and shunning. It is the victims. Women are frequently left without sufficient support and face inadequate complaints processes. Women can be further traumatised by the reactions of others, and the all too real fear of losing their livelihoods.

This is far too much responsibility to put on women in these situations. It is beyond appalling that traumatised women are the only ones who disclose these behaviours, and the only ones who name the men who indulge in them.

If the harassment is an “open secret,” as has been confirmed in the case of Heydon by accounts from senior lawyers, men who are in on this “secret” are enabling and protecting the perpetrator. Men who know this secret and stay silent are signalling their willingness to let this behaviour continue. If men stay silent, women can assume they agree with the behaviour. Women can assume that they will receive little assistance if they approach a man with their story.

There is absolutely no doubt that sexual harassment can only happen within a structure that tolerates and enables it. That would appear to be practically every institution and workplace in the country where men are employed.

Men in the workplace must be aware that sexual harassment is taking place. They must hear about it, see it, and suspect it. And yet, they do nothing. As angry and disgusted as we might be at the behaviour of one individual, he could not continue in that behaviour without the enabling silence of other men. It’s time we started demanding of men, why didn’t you say something?  It’s time we started holding men responsible for the behaviour of other men they do nothing to prevent.

Men harass women because they can and one of the reasons they can is because other men let them. It’s called complicit assent.  Men are complicit in a culture that encourages the sexual harassment of women. Men who are complicit betray women, and abandon their ethics. The wide-spread harassment of women will not substantially change until men step up.

The careers of six promising women lawyers have been derailed by the direct action of one man, and the tolerance and complicity of that action by every other man who knew about it. In these situations, there is no such thing as an innocent bystander. Men need to realise they are culpable in their silence.

Not all men are sexual abusers and harassers. But as long as they don’t speak up, all men are responsible for their complicity with those who do abuse and harass in their workplaces. It’s time to hold men accountable for that complicity, and remind them that failing to speak up makes them assenters. It’s way beyond time to demand that men start taking responsibility for the actions of other men. Way beyond time.

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In whom can we trust?

According to Ernst & Young (EY), the renewable energy sector is approaching a situation where it does not need government subsidies.

By contrast, “G20 countries are subsidising oil, gas and coal explorers to the tune of $US88 billion ($100 billion) annually through grants, loans, and tax deductions.”

We have to ask ourselves – WHY???

Have governments sold their collective soul to fossil fuel and mining companies for a post-politics sinecure?

They sure as hell do not put the electors high in their list of priorities when it comes to providing much-needed assistance!

As far as Robo-debt is concerned, the government has not only admitted it acted unlawfully, and has undertaken to repay the money demanded from a multitude of Centrelink beneficiaries, many of whom paid up while not accepting that the demand was legitimate, but it has gone further, and is trying to head off a class action seeking damages for their illegal behaviour.

There will always be a few bad eggs in every basket, but the flawed process used by the government to identify those whom they then accused of having defrauded Centrelink, wrongly identified hundreds who either owed nothing or at least less than was being demanded from them.

And this is in a situation where Gestapo-like tactics are being used with people who are largely highly vulnerable.

It appears that the ill-fated algorithm was developed by Centrelink in response to a requirement from government that Centrelink raise revenue by recovering funds over-paid to recipients.

And this is the same government which has been begged to take action to recover outstanding tax from corporations.

Almost simultaneously, it is alleged that the ATO required its tax collectors to issue garnishee orders on hundreds of debtors, ignoring the circumstances of those affected. An investigation is underway, but the whistle-blower who revealed the situation is being sued by ATO, with more than 100 years imprisonment at stake.

What faith can we have that our elected government develops policies for our benefit, when it creates super-departments like Human Services (a ludicrously mis-named organisation, the way it offers its services is far from humane!), the ATO and – it has to be added – Home Affairs, all of which appear to create more misery than happiness, while allowing the corporate sector to flout the rules.

Is this really the sort of government we want?

And the fact that they are currently hiding from scrutiny, by preventing Parliament from doing its proper job, is further cause for concern.

The National Cabinet has done a good job to date, but they must still prevent the Coalition from withdrawing desperately needed financial assistance, and throwing thousands if not millions into penury.

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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When I went through my secondary education at a state-funded C of E Grammar school in the UK, we had a very good general education, which included Art, Biology, Chemistry, English Language, English Literature, French, Geography, History, Latin, Mathematics, Music, Physics and Scripture. We also, being an all-girls school, spent a year on needlework and…

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