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Category Archives: Your Say

To woo or not to woo?

By George Theodoridis

It seems to me that we have a pronounced, a phosphorescently obvious reluctance to employ women; and by “we” I don’t just mean we, the men, though I must admit we, the men, are by far the greater culprits of this reluctance but women also, some of whom surprise me with the vehemence of their reluctance; and it isn’t simply a reluctance, it is, when one looks a little closer, an utter refusal, actually. These women, I notice, are not mere agnostics to the view that women are just as capable, just as likely to be as excellent at their work as are their male counterparts, or even just as ordinary,  just as harsh and hard-hearted and just as banal and indistinguished as men; or to the view that women should be represented in at least equal numbers and – Oh, Zeus forfend! – with equal recognition and equal pay! Nor are they merely agnostic as to the view that women have the inalienable right to be given equal opportunity during the selection process. No, these women are in fact, anti-gender equality and anti-gender balance.

And if you don’t hear their assertion that “men can do it better!” in these very words, you will certainly hear it and feel it in the tone and sentiment behind their own phraseology: “I’m not interested in gender, I’m not interested in quotas, I am only interested in merit!” What they do not utter but you can hear the words bouncing off the walls of your brain is, “but men have balls!”

They insist that when they go about selecting the people who will sit at their board or at the various offices in their organisation, they look not at the gender of the applicants but at their merit as it relates to that position. That’s what they’re adamant about. Nor do they look at – these women will assert – anything else, like race, colour, religion, and other distinguishing marks about the body of the applicant.

And then, when one has a quick look at the phalanx of the men who surround them – all looking like they’ve been pushed out of the same factory and from the same mould and sees that this “merit” thing which their selectors said they so lovingly hunted for is glaringly absent, one is very tempted to ask them what wooing tactic or tactics they employed that has caused this ear-smashing bellowing consequence of “men, not merit?” and the screeching refrain, “we want balls, not vaginas and certainly not brains nor hearts!”

What method did they use?

That of the peacock, perhaps, spreading his colourful feathers across and doing a mating dance. In other words, was this selection process a case of hormonal needs.

Perhaps they’ve used Orwell’s anti-dictionary where ‘merit’ is defined as ‘wickedness’.

Or perhaps it was the old IQ compatibility test: S/he is smarter than me so I won’t choose him/her.

Or, were they inspired by the wooing tactic of some crass, barbarous, bullying, shock jock.

Or by Trump’s “angry clown method” of “I had one beer!”

Merit!

The whole of Plato’s Republic is a search on an accurate definition of merit, of justice, of wisdom. The oracle of Delphi had pronounced him the wisest, the most meritorious man in the whole of Athens and, at his trial, his accusers turned that word to mean smartarse. “You’re a smartarse,” they shouted at him. “A conceited smartarse, going about our streets addling the minds of our youth!”

Socrates objected: “I was wondering why the oracle declared me the wisest man in Athens so I went around asking all those whom we call wise and discovered that though they, themselves said they were wise, they were, in fact, dumb. Then I thought about it,” he continued in his apology, “and discovered that the reason the oracle said I’m the wisest man in this city is because I was wise enough to know that I know nothing; wise enough to know that I am not wise!”

He was sentenced to death for being such a smartarse.

Merit, true merit, is often mistaken for smartarsedness.

This reluctance to employ the female of our species stands of course in stark contrast to the gusto and the alacrity with which we – we, men, in particular – abandon the splendid benefits of peace – serenity, laughter, love, the cooing and gargling of babies, the sound of birds, the armfuls of our harvest, the warm bed in winter, the cool gentle waters of a creek and rush off to the brutal killing fields of war.

Oddly enough we are loathe to create a board room in a corporation or a cabinet of a political party, or in the Presbytery of a religious body based on equal numbers of sex but that reluctance turns into untamed gusto and alacrity when it comes to deciding on our marching off to war; or to incarcerating children and their parents under the most brutal, inhumane conditions, or to removing those children from their parents, stealing whole generations of them and having them live lives of orphanage for the entirety of their existence. The same disposition of reluctance rules us when it comes to our treatment of the most vulnerable in our society, people who are often put into that state of vulnerability because of this disposition of reluctance on our part.

Merit?

The first known and quite arguably the best ever satirist, Aristophanes, saw all this “reluctance v alacrity” game being played out in his 5th century BC society of Athens – Athens, the womb of civilization and the beating (though, at times a little too tentatively) heart of Democracy – and he, Aristophanes, didn’t like it. So he wrote a couple of plays to express this quite profound disgust of his. The one is called “Women of Parliament” and the other “Lysistrata,” both hilarious, both scathingly poignant, both are excoriating accounts of the character of the men who made the stupid laws of his country and who loved sending the youth off to endless and mindless war. Their reluctance of having any women interfere with matters of importance relating to the running of the city and the alacrity with which they placed the city on a war footing.

It was a melancholy sight for anyone with a heart, which like that of Aristophanes, was endowed with the sentiment to feel melancholy.

Reluctance and its antonym, alacrity fought each other ruthlessly before the satirist’s very eyes so he put it up on his stage for all to see. This was a contest which was as glaringly obvious and as shamefully destructive then as it is now, some two and a half thousand years later because it seems that we did not heed Aristophanes’ warnings and the warnings of many others around him, before him and after him – and here we are now, still shouting the catch-cry, “men do it better!”

Lysistrata came first. In 411BC, at the most gruesome peak of what was called The Peloponnesian War, a war that was indubitably a “man’s war” because it was the men who declared it and the women who hated it he wrote a play that has women take over the treasury (then held in the Parthenon) and keeping the males away from it until they signed a peace treaty of their own words.

It is a play by which Aristophanes shows his men where he thinks they keep their brains. They are kept, he suggested, in their testicles and consequently, they think by them and consequently that is why they go to war with such gusto and alacrity. Men think with their balls!

Not so the women, Aristophanes says. The women think with their brains. I admit that am certainly and shamelessly oversimplifying the play and the author’s intent but that is its essence: Men are mindless, and women are mindful. One lot thinks with their balls, the other with their brains.

Lysistrata, a middle-class intelligent woman gathers all the women she can get together from all over Greece, including Sparta with whom Athens is at war and convinces them all to deprive the men of sex until the men from all sides of the war sign a peace treaty. Peace came in no time.

Thirteen years later, in 391, when the war was well and truly over with the devastation of Athens and the final exit of the Spartan dictators from the Athenian parliament, the Athenian men began to behave in the same “balls-brains” way.

This time Aristophanes writes his Women in Parliament in which he has the women dressing up as men and flooding the Parliament – a place sanctified by and for men – and there legislate laws that make living fair for all. “Men wanting to visit whores must, henceforth, first visit the ugly ones and then the pretty ones,” is one of the new laws enacted by these women. Fair enough!

It’s a stern warning to men by the satirist of the day: If you love sex so much, don’t go to war!

A glorious line is uttered by Judith Dench, playing M, in Tomorrow Never Dies, some two and a half thousand years later:

Admiral Roebuck: “With all due respect, M, sometimes I don’t think you have the balls for this job.”

M: “Perhaps. The advantage is that I don’t have to think with them all the time.”

Wooing is a tactic used for mating. How we woo, how we try to convince people – men or women – to join us in our firm, or in our political party, or in our church, our boardroom or our bedroom determines what sort of person we end up with.

Men or women, when they are in too great a majority, they can and often do constitute a power which they can use against the minority. Lord Acton put it well: “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely,” words that have become a well-worn aphorism, one which Orwell dramatised so brilliantly with his Napoleon in Animal Farm.

… Or did they woo the way the three witches in McBeth did? So as to hand a “hollow crown” to someone, a sinecure?

So the LNP want to help the unemployed. What could possibly go wrong?

By Nick Chugg

The latest “brilliant” brain-fart to escape Scott Morrison’s (or as I prefer to refer to him – ScumMo) orifice is a doozy.

As many LNP members have stated, we currently have the smartest most qualified party to ever grace the halls of Australian parliament.

Of course, according to Scotty, the LNP’s latest attack on the unemployed is all about “helping” them to get work and earn money. What could possibly be wrong with the LNP’s self-described “brilliance”?

Channel 9 reported the LNP’s latest attack on the unemployed. Of course, ScumMo coined it in more “double-speak” terminology – “helping” the unemployed. The grand plan is that unemployed people who refuse to take-on fruit picking work will have their “dole” cut for 4 weeks. (Sorry, Channel 9 – it is called ‘social security’ – not ‘the dole’ – and it is a right under social security law).

Firstly, one has to wonder how the LNP have managed to get around social security law and stop social security payments as a form of punishment. Particularly as social security is a right, inscribed into Australian law.

So, what will be the impacts of withdrawing a person’s social security payments for 4 weeks? Well firstly they would be unable to pay their rent or mortgage. Secondly, they will be unable to buy food and pay for any utilities and services such as power, water, gas, insurance, registrations, qualifications, transport, etc. The minimum outcome from stopping a person’s social security payments for 4 weeks is HOMELESSNESS! Homelessness is already a massive issue in Australia and adding to this problem is only going to make it worse. Although it may help the LNP’s mates and their share portfolios by filling up all the PRIVATE prisons the LNP have approved! Our society requires people to have money just to survive. So people without any money will be forced in to begging or crime just to survive. Combined this with the moves of LNP state governments to make begging and homelessness ILLEGAL, and you can clearly see ScumMo and the LNP truly have these people’s best interests in mind – NOT!!

It will certainly help the LNP’s unemployment figures as homeless people are unable to claim social security benefits (you need a permanent residential address to claim social security benefits).

With our current crop of LNP MPs being the smartest and most qualified to ever govern Australia we have to assume they are completely aware of ALL the negative ramifications of this evil, twisted, dysfunctional policy. The LNP seems to be masters of ignoring all academic, considered policies from sociologists, psychologists, ‘welfare’ specialists, NGOs and entities that actually deal with the unemployed. There are still 2 million unemployed and under-employed Australian’s fighting for <250,000 available jobs – of which 25% of those jobs are for highly qualified people with 5+ experience. Unfortunately, creating sufficient jobs for unemployed and underemployed Australians or enabling people to survive in our casualised workforce and society just seems beyond the “brilliance” of the LNP.

So let us assume a person decides to try and work picking fruit, rather than becoming homeless.

With less than 1% of rental properties being suitable for someone receiving Newstart or Youth Allowance, and no ability to save even a minor deposit what happens when an unemployed person force to do fruit-picking needs to find accommodation? What happens when they return to an urban centre to find work again after the 2-6 weeks of fruit-picking is over? As most fruit-picking jobs pay less than the minimum wage how will someone doing temporary work be able to afford two lots of rent? As surely under the current housing and rental crisis no one would want to give up their current rental properties! People on minimum wage are already in rental and mortgage stress, so what are the ramifications for someone on less than the minimum wage having to pay lots of rent, or rent and a mortgage?

Have you actually calculated how many people will end up homeless, ScumMo?

Remember this is the very same LNP which wants unemployed people to move to places where there is a greater chance of finding employment. Under social security law, if you move to a region with higher unemployment (and cheaper rent) you can have your social security cancelled for 13 weeks!

People on social security are already living well below the poverty line. How will they afford transport and relocation costs? Particularly as they have no savings.

So, are ScumMo and the LNP going to pay for their rent on their existing accommodation, relocation costs and transport, when people are forced to move into a rural area for a few weeks work; while the fruit picking lasts? It appears ScumMo is unaware of the rental crisis going on in Australia (most likely ignoring the state of play), where ~1% of Australian rentals are suitable for someone who is on social security. Also, landlords are reticent to rent out their properties to people who are working casually. Nor can casuals get loans or mortgages. Will the LNP provide monetary assistance to people they force to move to rural areas for fruit-picking?

So, is ScumMo going to guarantee landlord’s rental payments while he forces the unemployed to go and fruit-pick in rural areas? Will ScumMo also provide accommodation, schooling and/or childcare for unemployed single parents? Will ScumMo provide suitable accommodation or pay for pet-sitting while unemployed people are forced to travel to rural areas to pick fruit for a few weeks while the work lasts? Or will the unemployed have to share a mattress on the floor with their children and pets, sharing a room with 4-16 other people? (As is currently the case with many people picking fruit).

Of course, said fruit pickers will get a $280/night for accommodation, $188 per day for their food allowance and free childcare and pet care, just like all our politicians? Lol

Will ScumMo guarantee a minimum wage for every unemployed person forced to go and pick fruit? I doubt it, as the LNP currently allow people on internships to be paid far less than the minimum wage; and those forced into ‘work-for-the-dole’ programs, to not be paid at all for their work! The current stories from people on working visas and working-holiday visas to Australia tell a story of chronic underpayment, abuse, substandard accommodation, substandard food, and constant intimidation and threats. Here are just a couple of the many recent stories regarding the abuse of fruit-pickers and seasonal workers in Australia:

One-third of backpackers paid half the legal minimum wage, study finds

Aussies are being ripped off more than ever before, study shows

ScumMo, only 2 days ago you were spruiking you wanted to help people on social security. ScumMo, you and your criminal LNP cronies really are some bizarre form of bipolar, schizophrenic, evil, DUMB, psychopathic numpties.

On climate change, ‘we will adapt’: LNP

By Stephen Fitz

Record breaking hurricane slams Florida. Increased global temperature equates to energy in the atmosphere, equates to extremes in weather, ocean expansion, ice melt and rising sea-levels.

The Liberal Party’s rejection of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, and the subsequent climate change denial is a lie. The word on the street is that the Liberal National Party’s intention, all along, has been that we will adapt to climate change and do nothing else about it.

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation has launched a bid to secure further donations of as much as $400 million. With $100 million of that earmarked to double the funds set aside for the reef restoration and adaption plan.

“Adaptation plan” What they are saying is, the reef needs to adapt to increased global temperature. No mention of taking remedial action to prevent climate change. The Great Barrier Reef Foundation have shown their hand. They don’t care about rising temperatures … the reef can adapt!

The resistance by the LNP government tells us they have no intention of taking action to prevent climate change and their denial and inaction proves that. Their thinking is the same. Bring on climate change, we will adapt. Screw the electorate, screw Australia and screw the planet and don’t bother trying to fix the problem.

The Liberal government has lied to us by omission. Their intention all along has been to adapt and do nothing about reducing the cause of global temperature increase. Do nothing about reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Along with big business they would throw us to the wolves and they need to be exposed for that betrayal.

Traditionally, right wing conservative government ideology is to cling to the status quo. Extreme right-wing governments have no intention of taking action to limit increasing global temperatures. They have lied about their denial of climate change and, one again, their intention all along has been to adapt to extremes in weather and sea level rises. This also plays into the hands of the fossil fuel industry as Morrison backs coal in defiance of the IPCC report.

The United Nations (UN) has urged if people want action on climate change, in some countries, that will require a change of government. In Australia that will mean evicting the extreme right-wing Morrison/Abbot/Dutton LNP government to the political wilderness and in America removing the right-wing Republican government. 35 million Americans experiencing utter devastation from unprecedented hurricanes in the Carolinas and Florida will agree.

Australians experiencing severe state-wide droughts, tornados in Queensland, extreme bush fires conditions, month early cyclones off Queensland, unprecedented extreme weather patterns and the hottest year on record will also agree that something needs to be done.

So, there we have it, the UN the IPCC and the scientists who have prepared 6,000 research papers, on the subject, are urging action on climate change. We have been told that we need to remove extreme right-wing governments to be replaced by more progressive thinking governments prepared to take up the challenge.

The solution then for this new government and, mechanism to gain across the board public support, would be a positive response. This aims at atmospheric Co2 management including, in particular, carbon capture at point of emission, removing Co2 from the atmosphere, reforestation, incentive-based emission reduction guidelines, electricity storage and support for alternative energy.

This has been promised by the Labor if they win the next election. Both government and big business need to take affirmative action on behalf of each and every one of us. If the fossil fuel industry wishes to survive they need to participate and work towards reducing or eliminating their carbon footprint.

‘Political Correctness’ and ‘Cultural Marxism’ – Why the Right is Wrong: A Response to Kevin Donnelly

Above:  Conservative Social Commentator, Kevin Donnelly is a high-profile ‘public intellectual’ – best known for his opinions on Education.  Donnelly also regularly challenges multi-culturalism and radical views on ‘gender fluidity’.  Like many Conservatives, he criticises so-called ‘Cultural Marxism’, (arguably capitalising on fear and ignorance). He argues that ‘Cultural Marxism’ is a threat to Western Civilisation and the legacy of the Enlightenment.  But Donnelly’s opinions deserve to be challenged – For the sake of ‘genuine pluralism’; and for the sake of clarity when it comes to understanding the modern Left.

This is the first of what I hope to be two essays in response to Kevin Donnelly

By Dr Tristan Ewins

Australian Catholic University based public intellectual,  Dr Kevin Donnelly has established himself as one of Australia’s most prominent big ‘C’ Conservative voices: and undoubtedly as an important influence on the ethos of the governing Liberal Party.  This essay is a progressive response to Donnelly’s book, ‘How Political Correctness is Destroying Australia – Enemies Within and Without’.   (probably to be followed by a second essay into the future)

As part of the so-called ‘Culture Wars’ in Australia, Conservatives have decried what they call the ‘Black Armband’ view of the nation’s history, (Historian, Geoffrey Blainey’s term): a view of Australia’s complicity in imperialism and colonialism; and a past Conservatism which disadvantaged minorities.  Instead, Donnelly and those like him emphasise a narrative of Australia’s broad liberal and Christian traditions, (and even of how liberalism developed in tandem with the broader Enlightenment tradition).  Donnelly argues that these have involved pluralism, freedom and intellectual rigour.  

What is ‘Cultural Marxism’ anyway?  Double Standards in our ‘Historic Memory’

While most on the ‘broad Australian Left’ could probably still fit comfortably into the ‘liberal left’ category, Donnelly and other big ‘C’ Conservative thinkers see something more ‘sinister’ at work. The term ‘Cultural Marxism’ is increasingly thrown around with abandon. (Donnelly seems to prefer that to the use of the alternative term, ‘Critical Theory’)  He cites ‘the Left’s’ ‘Long March through the Institutions’ as leading to ‘Politically Correct’ thinking in schools and universities; and more broadly in popular culture.  Importantly; this so-called ‘Politically-Correct’ (PC) outlook often has a tendency to emphasise gender, sexuality, culture and race, (a shift from ‘old left’ emphasis on social class and a critique of capitalism).

Despite most of the ‘broad Australian Left’ arguably identifying as ‘liberal left’, ‘Marxism’ in particular is cited as the ‘bogeyman’.  The reasons for this are obvious: to capitalise on fear, ignorance and confusion. 

Many Conservatives identify ‘Marxism’ as an ‘unbearable evil’;  even though most of them cannot pin-point what the term actually means.  Donnelly refers to Pol Pot and Stalin amongst others as examples of ‘Marxism’.

A more thorough investigation might have identified the place of US bombing in Laos –  in facilitating social collapse, and the consequent rise of Pol Pot,  (this is before mentioning the place of Pinochet’s coup and the mass murder in Chile 1972; the Assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador, 1980; and of the massacre of over half a million Leftists and labour movement activists by Suharto in 1960s Indonesia; or other ‘Cold War atrocities’).

Also, the place of Western intervention in giving rise to an outlook of utter desperation amongst the Bolsheviks in the period spanning 1917 through the 1920s – could accompany a more thorough investigation.  As would the place of the First World War – which set the scene for Russian social collapse, and itself resulted in approximately 20 million deaths.    

Bolshevism specifically degenerated into Stalinism. Other Marxist thinkers such as Karl Kautsky and Julius Martov identified the effective likelihood of this, and the damage consequently done to the broader socialist cause – relatively early on during the Bolshevik Revolution.

Marx himself had identified the threat of ‘Bonapartism’. – whereby a political leader consolidated themselves above social classes and other interests. (That could apply to both Napoleon Bonaparte AND to Louis Napoleon Bonaparte III; and finally to Stalin himself).  Arguably Stalinism – and the Cult of Personality around Stalin – saw this taken to a level previously unthinkable.  Even before Stalin’s rise, ‘Jacobin’ strategies of revolutionary Terror were also an important factor – but that was not the whole story.

To consider the prevailing ‘selectivity’ in our ‘historic memory’: Trotsky’s march against Anarchist dissident Sailors at Kronstadt in 1921 might be compared in nature to Winston Churchill’s sinking of the anchored French Fleet during World War II (July 1940) – following the French surrender to Germany.  While the Bolsheviks responded to what they saw as an existential threat to the Revolution, Churchill considered a scenario (Nazi capture of the French fleet) which could have turned the tide of the War in Hitler’s favour. In Churchill’s case over 1000 French sailors (until then Allied to Britain) were killed. In the case of Kronstadt total causalities were over 10,000, (considering both sides).

(As an aside; If the Bolsheviks had heeded the voice of Rosa Luxemburg (in 1918) a maintenance of liberties may have provided an ‘outlet’ through which the whole situation may have been avoided in the first place in Russia.  But in reality, now we will never know.)

Both acts could be questioned morally.  It could also be argued that desperate circumstances lead to ethically challenging dilemmas, to put it mildly. What is often missing with ‘Conservative critiques’ as usual – is intellectual and moral consistency.  Critics of Trotsky, for instance (and I am not a Trotskyist), are often silent when it comes to other ‘fateful decisions’ such as that of Churchill.  Dissident Marxist critiques of Bolshevism and Stalinism (eg: Kautsky, Martov, Luxemburg) are also largely absent from popular memory. It should not be like this.

Donnelly points to the ‘Frankfurt School’ as the source of the so-called ‘Cultural Marxist’ movement.  The ‘Frankfurt School’ began as an intellectual movement in interwar Germany, before migrating to the US in for fear of Nazism. (Some ‘Critical Theorists’ were to re-establish themselves in Europe following the defeat of Hitler).  Forming the ‘First Generation’ of Critical Theory; thinkers such as Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Eric Fromm and Herbert Marcuse, while retaining a critical disposition against fascism, could not delude themselves about the direction of the USSR under Stalin.

Also, the prospects for the organised working class and traditional socialism had appeared increasingly questionable as fascism rose in Europe.

‘The Frankfurt School’ increasingly became synonymous with ‘Critical Theory’.  Broadly speaking; ‘Critical Theory’ developed a critique of Western culture and an emphasis on minority perspectives and rights.  Some self-identifying ‘Critical Theorists’ tended to suppose that the ‘traditional’ socialist movement’s ‘historical moment’ had passed.

In other words – that the working class had largely been co-opted; in part because of the role of popular culture, to which you could also add other factors, including religion and nationalism. In more recent decades, the decline of ‘Fordism’, factory labour and so on in many countries – has seen an accompanying decline of organised labour as well.

Nonetheless, Marcuse – with his work, ‘One Dimensional Man’ (originally published in 1964) – focused on the socialist project as one of ‘radical negation’ – of ‘a Great Refusal’ (of capitalism) involving ‘minority’ perspectives, including racial minorities, women, students and so on.  This was a break with the traditional (Marxist) view of socialism arising primarily from ‘a Dialectic of Class Struggle’.

Marcuse especially was influential in the late 1960s with the wave of ‘student uprisings’ which swept Europe, (and the rise of the ‘New Left’). Marcuse was notable in rejecting modern society’s emphasis on an outlook of ‘social closure’ for which there is no room for deep criticism or negation; an outlook for which ‘the system delivers the goods’ and should not be questioned. “Democracy”  was becoming increasingly tokenistic and shallow on account of its manipulation; a tendency which continues still.

But importantly, some examples of ‘Critical Theory’ are radically at odds with Donnelly’s caricatures.

‘Second Generation’ Critical Theorist’, Jurgen Habermas argued about ‘Legitimation Crisis’; a decline and perhaps even collapse of public confidence in the State and other institutions.  For example, the perceived legitimacy of the State (and indeed capitalism itself) – could suffer in the wake of attacks on welfare, and other hard-won gains of working people, such as labour market regulation and workers’ rights and liberties.  (all the more so where Social Democratic and ‘Left’ parties actually refuse any ‘consensus’ around austerity, and other policies harmful to the working class and the disadvantaged)

Habermas also argued about the conflict between ‘System’ and ‘Life-World’  – a consideration of capitalism’s economic-system-imperatives; its priorities; and the way these conflict with peoples’ ‘quality of life –, especially for the working class.  ‘System’ effectively ‘colonises’ ‘life-world’; becomes detached from the real-world needs of human beings. Economic insecurity and increasing intensity in the processes of exploitation are part of this.  (eg: falling  wage share of the economy; less free time; increasing class ‘stratification’ or ‘bifurcation’)

Drawing in part from Habermas: Arguably, democracy is increasingly reduced to ‘administration’ in the interests of capitalism.  Real pluralism is ‘hollowed out’.   And the inability of governments to resolve the economic and social crises which follow intensify the consequent crises of legitimacy.  As an aside: the ‘Identity Politics’ which Donnelly opposes so strongly – actually helps maintain an illusion of greater pluralism.  This outcome is ironic in light of Marcuse’s original vision of a ‘Great Refusal’. All the oppressed of the world need solidarity more than ever.  But to paraphrase Marcuse; objectively, without this ‘Identity Politics’ society and politics would have been better-exposed as being otherwise ‘One Dimensional’.

Also importantly: democratic socialism more broadly is part of what we might call ‘The Western Tradition’.  (which Donnelly argues he is defending)  Capitalism increasingly puts the gains of democratic socialism – including labour rights, broader liberties, the mixed economy, progressive tax, the social wage and the welfare state – under threat.   

But rather than ‘rejecting’ the Enlightenment project, Habermas instead refers to it as ‘unfinished’.  So without rejecting ‘Modernity’ and ‘Enlightenment’, Habermas defends the potential for what he calls ‘Communicative Action’ and the achievement of a ‘Perfect Speech Situation’.  (that is, perfectly free and rational exchange and engagement without distortions or coercion; And hence: social actors striving for agreement on the substance of human liberation through Reason and Ethics-inspired dialogue).

There is more than so-called ‘Cultural Marxism’ on today’s Left; Past Conservative and ‘Centrist’ traditions also opposed hard economic Liberalism

There is a different emerging tradition on the Left, also, that is worth mentioning. ‘Agonistic’ ‘Post-Marxists’ such as Chantal Mouffe assume enduring pluralism and a permanent place for dissent. That enduring pluralism is at the heart of their perspective. In other words: they assume consensus will not ensue.  Indeed, for many either it is thought to be overly-optimistic to seek that consensus – or maybe even it is undesirable.

There is also the question of class struggle; which can be exclusive of communicative action and any ‘Perfect Speech Situation’ in contexts driven by interest. When capitalists have been increasingly (and successfully) dictating terms in response to various economic crises from the 1970s onward – they are not necessarily interested in dialogue which involves compromise.  (unless forced)

Crucially, though – in practice, both Habermas and the Agonist democrats assume a need for pluralism, liberty and engagement.  The examples they provide ‘fly in the face’ of Donnelly’s characterisation of ‘the modern Left’ and ‘Politically-Correct-enforced-conformity’. 

Continuing our consideration of Critical Theory:  To assert the centrality of Habermas to Critical Theory is also to assert that the broad Critical Theory tradition cannot be boiled down to post-modern and deconstructionist rejection of Modernity, Enlightenment, Reason; or what might be called ‘the Western Tradition’. ‘Post-Modernism’ itself also has meant radically different things to different people.

While some people claim it as a rejection of ‘Modernity’ and its assumptions, Australian social theorist Peter Beilharz (in ‘Postmodern Socialism: Romanticism, City, State’)  suggested it might be constructed as ‘the critical moment in Modernity’.

Here ‘Modernity’ refers to societies and economies of increasing scale and complexity; developing further with industrialisation, and with themes of Enlightenment, Reason, and so on. We’re talking about a frame which in a way is inclusive of certain tendencies in socialist, liberal and capitalist traditions – even though these are historically in conflict with one another as well.

Again we are in highly-contested terrain.

It might be noted, though, that there is also a now-mostly-forgotten tradition – a tradition historically associated with the Catholic working class – a tradition which styled itself as ‘Centrist’.  (Though notably, those such as Giddens and Blair have also tried to resuscitate a kind of ‘Centrism’)  Yet intellectuals such as Donnelly have apparently chosen to ‘side’ with big ‘L’ Economic Liberalism and big ‘C’ Cultural and Political Conservatism.   (if this is not so, Donnelly does a good job of hiding or avoiding it)  

The old-style ‘Centrism’ emphasised ‘corporatism’, welfare state, and some labour rights including labour market regulation. Today, Giddens and Blair identify as ‘Social Democrats’ or ‘The Radical Centre’.

But looking back to the original ‘Centrism’: amongst some, there was a clear authoritarianism. Some ‘Centrist’ leaders such as the ‘Christian Social’ President of Austria, Engelbert Dollfuss – beginning with his seizure of power and dissolution of a democratically-elected Socialist government in 1934 – historically chose to side with a kind of fascism;  (ironically, not long before the formalisation of the ‘Axis’ of Germany and Italy, Dolfuss sought the protection of Mussolini from Hitler – in return for the suppression of Social Democracy!).

‘Corporatism’ –including state mediation – or forcible suppression – of class conflict and differences– was itself part of the broad fascist tradition; though arguably different kinds of ‘corporatism’ (eg: re Swedish Social Democracy) were much more ‘democracy-friendly’; or even co-existed with a kind of ‘democratic class struggle’ (see: Walter Korpi), (the ‘Accords’ under the Federal Labor Government in 1980s and early 1990s Australia could also be considered corporatist ; not fascist in the sense of Dollfuss ; but compromising the interests of the working class on a number of fronts).  Importantly: though a right-wing authoritarian and fascist, Dollfuss was not a Nazi.  Indeed he opposed Hitler and was assassinated by Nazi agents.

Today – to overcome an ensuing negative electoral response to austerity and other associated attacks, fear of ‘Political Correctness’ is played-upon.  This means  ‘papering over’ the contradictions which could ‘get in the way’ of preserving right-wing footholds amidst the working class – parts of which feel ‘abandoned’ by ‘self-styled social democratic’ parties for whom issues of economic inequality and exploitation have been largely ‘relegated to the Too-Hard Basket’.

To elaborate: in this context, modern-day Conservatives attempt to make inroads into traditional social democratic working class support bases.  They exploit often-exaggerated discussions around ‘Political-Correctness’; with the assistance of the monopoly mass media. This is in a context where much of the working class is relatively conservative on culture compared with the so-called ‘cultural Left’.

In light of the tendency of Critical Theorists to emphasise what they saw as the almost-totalitarian nature of modern popular culture and capitalism in achieving ‘systemic closure’, it is ironic that today some Conservatives see its own perspective as a totalitarian, ‘politically correct’ threat to everything laudable in Western Civilisation.  In reality, today’s Left is highly plural.  While some still identify with the theoretical lineage of Marxism, many (perhaps most) post-modernists and deconstructionists do not identify as ‘Marxist’ at all. 

That said, it would be dishonest to simply ‘deny’ ‘The Cultural Turn’ and the transformation of what passes for progressive politics. The point is to establish that the retreat of a ‘more-traditional’ socialism has not been ‘total’ ; that ‘culture’ and ‘economics’ need not and should not be considered exclusive of each other ; and for much of the Left economics and social class still matters ; though the project of an alternative democratic socialist economic project  in ‘The West’ has arguably been mainly in retreat since the 1970s.  To some extent, it has been a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Much More to Marxism than The Conservatives Understand

Donnelly’s emphasis on ‘Stalinist Dystopias’ and ‘Political Correctness’ also side-steps the matter of Marxism’s original ‘Cultural Project’.   For Marx – and many who followed him (including, for instance, Karl Kautsky, Rosa Luxemburg and Julius Martov) economic abundance under Socialism was not to lead to surveillance, Terror, Cult of Personality,  labour militarisation and labour conscription (In short: Oppression) – but rather to cultural and social opportunity arising from material plenty, including free time.  For instance, this might mean freedom to partake in Art and Philosophy –  amongst other pursuits.

To take the example of Austrian Social Democracy (or ‘Austro-Marxism’) in the 1917-1934 period: this meant promotion of working-class culture including sport, radio stations and libraries; and involving amenities for working class people.  This included impressive public housing estates, including hot running water, communal pools and communal laundry facilities. (rare for the time).

And even before this timeframe; going back to the original theorists of Marxist orthodoxy during the height of the Second International and earlier (ie: pre-WWI):  this might even have meant assisting people in seeking after the highest truths for their own sake.   In addition to ‘freedom from oppression’ that also includes ‘enabling freedom’: empowerment for the purpose of self-realisation.  Understood thus the tensions between collectivism and individualism can also be mediated, and socialism can provide opportunities for individual self-realisation which do not arise under capitalism.

To conclude: Donnelly portrays a Left that has nothing ‘positive’ to say about ‘Western Civilisation’. He totally misses the whole point made by thinkers like Marcuse – that societies which refuse to accommodate debate whereby a significantly-different kind of future can be envisaged and communicated – are not genuinely free!  This must also involve the inclusion of dissenting social movements in public debate. But also, the idea of a ‘teleology’ (or ‘necessary direction’) of history – as presumed by orthodox Marxists – is questioned amongst today’s Left.  Following the lead of ‘Post-Marxists’ and ‘Agonists’, the future is considered by some a matter of ‘collective will formation’, strategy and choice. (indeed, a matter of ‘counter-hegemony’, or the mobilisation of the broad social forces necessary to facilitate change)  Hence as part of a pluralist agenda, we ought to strive for a tolerant Left; though still: radical democrats ought not to be naïve or complacent in the face of existential threats to democracy. (eg: the resurgence of fascism in Europe).

Also, arguably capitalism has always been ‘repressive’, ‘regressive’ and in some senses even ‘progressive’ – at the same time and in different ways.  As Marx argued in ‘The Communist Manifesto’ (1848):  Capitalism unleashed an unprecedented wave of economic growth and innovation; (establishing the preconditions for socialism).  At the same time, capitalism has involved waste, exploitation, excesses, and warped priorities. These conditions gave rise to various movements; for Socialism – but also the Centrism which we have mentioned, and more recently environmental movements.

So in that context: For today’s socialists, the socialist project should still be about ‘radical negation’ in the sense of class struggle (and broader struggle) against the exploitation, warped priorities, injustices and excesses of capitalism.

But socialism can be about affirmation also.  We can acknowledge the progressive economic contributions of capitalism: and of ‘modernity’ considered more broadly.   And along with the original Marxist Social Democrats – who trail-blazed in their pursuit of Free, Equal and Universal Suffrage as early as the 19th Century (when almost all others neglected that cause as ‘too radical’) – we need not reject the place for some kind of parliamentary democracy and far-reaching liberties.  Most definitely we should also be striving to extend the reach of democracy; including economic democracy – whether through the restoration of a robust mixed economy; or through workers and consumers’ co-operatives; or through other avenues such as ‘wage-earner funds’ and comparable projects.   

While the perspective of ‘class’ should not be considered ‘sufficient and exhaustive in its own right’; We should not shy away from ‘class struggle’ in the broad sense. We should embrace the fight for social justice; for economic security and distributive justice; and a fulfilling life for everyone.  Again, that does not have to mean rejecting the very humanity of individual capitalists; (we must avoid the ‘brutalisation’ of politics where we can). It does mean questioning the morality and outcomes of capitalist social and economic relations. 

Finally: we should work to decouple the view of liberties and capitalism- whereby they are seen somehow as ‘essentially and inextricably linked’; (to the exclusion of socialism).  In fact, ‘liberty’ and ‘capitalism’ are often in tension and conflict with one another and depending on the specific expression, the causes of liberty and socialism can be mutually sympathetic.

The cause of democratic socialism is not forever exhausted, but ‘hope’ requires of us that we take a stand.  Donnelly’s narrative on so-called ‘Political Correctness’, and his ‘beating up’ of the bogeyman of ‘Cultural Marxism’ – is part of the problem.  So too is the abandonment of the cause of economic justice by significant sections of the self-identifying Left.

As an Australian Labor Party member of approximately 25 years, it is painful but necessary to acknowledge that for decades Labor has been at the heart of a range of policies which have undermined certain rights of labour, as well as the mixed economy, and at times the welfare state.

Importantly – the Trans-Pacific Partnership has recently been endorsed by the Federal Labor Opposition: a move which could leave governments open to being sued by foreign corporations should they facilitate policies (eg: on the rights of labour) which affect company profits. Even in Victoria under Daniel Andrews of the Socialist Left we see ‘Public-Private Partnerships’ and ‘Asset Recycling’;  (‘code’ for privatisation).

It is those kinds of scenarios that leave the broad Left vulnerable to Conservative and Far-Right strategies of ‘divide and conquer’.

We should have learned that lesson by now.

Bibliography

Beilharz, P. (1994), ‘Postmodern Socialism—Romanticism, City and State, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne.
Donnelly, K (2018), How Political Correctness is Destroying Australia – Enemies Within and Without, Wilkinson Publishing,  Melbourne.
Eley, G. (2002), Forging Democracy, The History of the Left in Europe, 1850–2000, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Galili, Z. (1989), The Menshevik Leaders in the Russian Revolution—Social Realities and Political Strategies, Princeton University Press, New Jersey.
Gruber, H. (1991), Red Vienna—Experiment in Working-Class Culture 1919–1934, Oxford University Press, New York.
Hudis, P. and Anderson, K., eds, (2004), The Rosa Luxemburg Reader, Monthly Review Press, New York.
Kautsky, K. (1964), The Dictatorship of the Proletariat, University Of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor.
Korpi, W. (1983), The Democratic Class Struggle, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London.
Lenin, V.I. (1996), Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, Pluto Press, London.
Marcuse, H. (1968), One Dimensional Man, Sphere, London.
Marx, K. and Engels, F (1989), Selected Works I, Progress Publishers, Moscow.
Mouffe, C. (2005a), On the Political, Routledge, Abingdon.
Mouffe, C. (2005b), The Return of the Political, Verso, London.
Outhwaite, W (1994), Habermas – A Critical Introduction, Stanford, California.
Rabinbach, A. (1983), The Crisis of Austrian Socialism: From Red Vienna to Civil War, 1927–1934, University of Chicago Press, London.
Trotsky, L. (2007), Terrorism and Communism, Verso, New York.

From Aristophanes to Knight Or “Is something else going here?”

By George Theodoridis

It is a case -as it bloody nearly always is- of relevance deprivation and diminution, thanks mainly to the prodigious proliferation and ever burgeoning of social platforms and the largely bored hoi polloi, bored by celebrities who have nothing to offer but the empty, irrelevant minutiae of their lives. The celebrities, like the emperor in the famous tale by Hans C. Anderson, have shown the full nakedness of their existence.

So, they’re out and about -celebrities of all sorts- and they are using anything and everything they can, including cartoons, as platforms (already well lit up by their adoring hoi polloi,) to stand upon it and yell at us, “hey, look here! Here I am! This way! I am a celebrity, listen to my rants, watch my outrages! I can still perform! I’m still a celebrity. Someone give me another contract!”

This includes the cartoonists themselves, of course, the tennis players, the hollow-headed authors like Rawlings whose credentials as moral and art arbiters are questionable if, quite arguably, non-existent.

This is a cartoon by a satirist and all satirical messages, from those by the very first ever and arguably the very best ever, Aristophanes, (c. 446 – c. 386 BC) whose world was no better nor worse than ours, if political chicanery is the measure, to Knight (born c. 1960s) all satirical messages are about exaggeration, exaggeration about everything from the shape of one’s nose to the shape of one’s words, to the colour of their budgie smugglers and the pitch of their Hanson-like squealing. Cartoonists are satirists and the identifying first sign of a satirist is exaggeration. No exaggeration, no satirist. It’s that simple! The other sign is that they condemn or criticise, or ridicule someone in a powerful position, be it in the political sphere or in the social one. From fathers of children to fathers of the Church or the State. Aristophanes depicted most brutally politicians Cleon among many, a Military man, Lamachus among many and philosophers, Socrates, among many. Most brutally!

We can like that sort of thing or we can hate it and we can express that love or hate by any means we can. Cartoonists do it by drawing cartoons.

Knight is a satirist and he did his satirical work, not only on Serena but on many other people, and did it in his own inimitable style which we all know and -as I said- either love or hate, laugh at or spat the dummy at. I can’t remember any such similar bellowing noise and social media turbulence generated by any of his other drawings, all of them satirical, all of them critical of someone or other.

Serena mucked up badly. Knight portrayed that.

Here we have a glowing emblem of an athlete, an icon of the best of them, rightly adored and admired by millions, acting like a spoilt child, “spitting her dummy,” as Knight put it. Something that does not fit that icon. Not at all! She happens to be black. Her opponent was an American-Japanese. Both were women, both non-anglos. The umpire was a non-anglo too and would most definitely have felt the excruciating pains of racism -as have I and anyone with even the slightest difference in the spelling of their name or the shape or colour of the skin on their face. No doubt, Carlos Ramos, the umpire would have heard the word “dago” as I have heard the word “wog” (among many other equally vile epithets) countless of times and felt its mind-numbing, stomach-churning jab often. He would know the excruciating hurt that racism can cause and he -as do I- would try his utmost to avoid delivering racism to anyone.

It also so happens that he is a male.

Would this ridiculously outraged, bigoted crowd, feel better or as bad if the incident were reversed and it was Osaka on the receiving end of the umpire’s penalties?

What the fuck are they on about?

Knight did the same thing many times before and is unlike to stop now -probably especially now and probably especially because he is now a celebrity. He sees the bullshit and he calls it for what it is and he draws a cartoon about it, satirising it. The bullshit, that is.

The Herald reminds us of these cartoons, also by Knight: Tony Abbott depicted as Hannibal Lecter with the caption “Banned: Big ears, cannibal mask,” and a topless Kim Jong-un with the words “Blocked: Belly fat, Asian stereotype.”

I can only conclude that all these “celebrities” from all over the world who have added their penny’s worth, thinking it was worth a pound, commented on this issue because they are desperate to be seen again and to be read again and to be listened to again and to be re-admired and, so as to jog our memory about their vacuous existence. They did so because they saw this incident as a platform, a stage where they can jump on and once again play the prima donna or the primo uomo.

The rest of us, the non-celebrities, we are either rational enough to see that there’s nothing to see here or not rational enough and so we behave like gangs of cowardly thugs who put the boot into some who’s down. A boot, by the way, which I and as I said the umpire, have felt and still feel now, at times, most painfully. Being kicked like that leaves great scars on you, scars that can flay not only your body but also your soul, scares that never leave you.

And, let us not forget that the umpire is a male who sits high up, above a couple of females -in the form of an idea as well as in that of reality- and it is therefore unequivocally and duty bound, in fact, ok for us to put our boot into him!

And that the cartoonist, of course, is a male also and also with a power mightier than a sword, and therefore it is also unequivocally and duty bound in fact, ok for us to put our boot into him as well!

The other reason is that, as a gang, we love to hate. We love to kick, we love to shout and show outrage. It’s an easy thing to do and, to some sick minds, it’s also an entertaining thing and something that gives us the power we have lost in almost all other areas of our lives. We’ve been made lesser in worth and dignity than overloaded donkeys, so we “kick.” We kick at anything and anyone, given half an opportunity. Knight’s cartoon has all the makings of such an opportunity for us to exert some of the power that’s been taken away from us.

Are we saying that the umpire is racially prejudiced against blacks but not against yellows?  What sort of racial prejudice is that?

Are we saying that Knight has similar predilections to those of Carlos Ramos? WTF  ARE we really saying? Whom are we accusing of what exactly and why? Based on what evidence?

Racial history of the world is brought into the court. Questions about the umpire’s integrity are raised or comments are made about Serena’s glowing sportsmanship, or about the umpire’s inconsistency of awarding penalties and Zeus knows what else, are all proffered to the judge as evidence that something is dreadfully wrong here! But none of these questions and comments and exhibits should even be heard or seen by the judge or us the jury.

They are all irrelevant to what had happened in that court on that day. They have nothing to do with the participants playing that particular game of tennis. They are simply hollow drums beating wildly! Loud shouts of wannabe celebrities. Loud shouts of hollow heads. Blistered tongues talking bullshit like our Prime Minister is so keen to do almost non-stop!

None of it should persuade the Goddess Justice, who should be blindfolded and unable to be persuaded by anything outside that single event on that single day in that single court.

Racism, misogynism, prejudice of any sort is disgusting. Utterly unacceptable to a society that wants to call itself civilised. So is bigotry, even if our erstwhile attorney general, George Brandis is otherwise convinced. According to him, we have the right to be bigots… but not be racist!  

Well, Zeus be praised now it’s all made very clear!

Over sixty thousand years of Indigenous history of white torture has always and still is being treated with neglect, scorn and disdain but we’ve spent copious amounts of ink and intolerable decibels of noise arguing about the depiction by a cartoonist of a tantrum thrown by a tennis player. The hypocrisy is exasperating! The outrage is baffling.

Is it racism, sexism or is it cultural supremacism by the supreme supremacists we all know supremely well?

Just asking.

Serena has done wrong. The umpire penalised her.
END OF FUCKING STORY!

Henceforth it has become a boring ochlobabble!

Can we now shine our torch on the new champion, the new real sportsperson, the youth, the serene, the graceful and gracious, the true lover of tennis and not of vacuous notoriety, Naomi Osaka, please?

She beat the other player. She won the match. She did not yell or insult the umpire and -may the gods bless the young woman- she played by the rules, such a rare thing these days of spoilt sports and overpaid celebrities.

Yes, Naomi Osaka had won the match and the day. Three cheers for Naomi!

PLEASE?

Australia – Free Nation or Penal Colony

By Stephen Fitz

In L.A., I dropped in on friends of friends and the first greeting was “Oh, you’re from the country with no human rights?” My response was “And your government has a wonderful human rights record.” I stayed in a motel that night and pondered the average Americans view of Australia.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights UDHR is a declaration of freedom and, in the words of Malcolm Roberts “You can only have human progress if you have freedom” – Ignore human rights and you oppress that freedom.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an international document that states basic rights and fundamental freedoms to which all human beings are entitled. No nation may rightfully deprive a person of a human right. Human rights are fundamental rights universal to all human beings and are considered to be the necessities of human existence. They are internationally recognised personal guarantees and freedoms that the Government cannot abridge, either by law or by judicial interpretation. The UDHR is generally agreed to be the foundation of international human rights law.

Australia was a key player and one of 8 nations involved in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948. Australia is a co-founder and signatory to the UDHR and yet, here we are with no human rights protection written into Australian law? We should not have to battle through the High Court of Australia for fundamental human rights or the civil liberties embraced by our contemporaries, they should be automatic.

Examples of human rights oppression in Australia include: Anti-protest laws, invasion of privacy, freedom of press and censorship, right of assembly, anti-association laws, age discrimination, inhumane treatment of refugees, abuse of children in detention, our right to participate in government, protection of family and so on. These are violations of UDHR Articles 20-1, 13-1, 12, 3, 5, 19, 7, 16-3 and 25-2.

To stop the abuse, our rights need to be acknowledged by Government and then written into Australian law either through amendments to the Australian Constitution or an Australian Bill of Rights. As a Nation, maybe then, we can rejoice.

From the mouth of Malcolm Turnbull: “For Australia to flourish we need to be seen as the innovation nation”. This suggests being ahead of the times. To hold our heads up high, on the international stage, first, we need to step out of the dark ages and lose the penal colony mentality.

We should be seen as the country who leads the world in human rights issues and yet here we are… Until we change Australia will continue to be looked upon as the country that abuses its children, has no regard for human rights and has a disregard for international conventions. Besides being oppressive, it’s shameful.

Who stole justice?

By Stephen Fitz

I’m as deaf as a post but I hear the call “We want justice”. Here’s another little problem that haunts our precious society. Our adversarial legal system favours those with the most money. Like the LNP, it’s been manipulated and corrupted to favour corporates and the top end of town.

After reading the article in the Financial Review ‘Shadow lawyers’ barred from advising on Fair Work Commission cases the Law Society would have us believe that “justice system” and “legal system” are the same thing. They are not! It’s a deception. Justice is the result of a healthy legal system and does not happen if the legal system has been manipulated and corrupted. Banning defence lawyers from proceedings in the FWC supports this argument but in no way resolves the problem.

Since they have no real defence these unscrupulous lawyers use trickery, deception and theatre to protect their cosy little nest of clover worth $475 an hour. They have no shame, and no excuse, as they destroy the innocent for a hand full of dollars from the guilty who employ them. What is truly disturbing is that this goes a lot deeper …

The corruption of our legal system being condoned by those in authority, is a shameful disgrace and, is the worst possible form of social oppression. A legal system that shows bias towards money and power encourages unlawful and illegal activity to the detriment of society. The Australian public expect high standards from their elected representatives.

More importantly, we demand even higher standards again, in our state and federal jurisdictions and from our career public servants! We pay their way, we put a roof over their heads and we feed their children … It’s our right to be protected that supersedes all else and, their obligation to protect our legal system so that we not only have justice but also, that justice is seen to be served!

Don’t get me wrong, people are entitled to defence but, it’s not defence if it corrupts our law, clutters the legal process to the point where the truth is buried and then persecutes those seeking justice. Then it becomes a vicious attack on the individual and society.

If it’s any consolation – Knowing how the world works makes it easier to navigate.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivers immediate drought relief, delivering rain in NSW & Queensland

A satirical post by Alan Nicholas

Hitting the ground running, the 30th Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison delivers on his “immediate priority” to fix the drought, delivering a reasonable drizzle of rain on drought-stricken NSW. Bypassing his contentious party room, ScoMo spoke directly through prayer in a private conversation between himself, his god and the Bureau of Meteorology weather app.

When questioned as to why his prayers were not made or met sooner, PM Morisson pointed to the previous Labor government. “What we inherited from Labor when we took office in 2013 was a spiritual disaster,” specifying “we had a Labor Party worshipping volcano gods by goat sacrifice, strongly influenced by the Greens who believe in some far away sun god. An absolute basket case of spiritual mismanagement.”

A spokesperson for the Bureau of meteorology concurred that this was indeed an unexpected rain event prior to the seven-day forecast being released at 4:10pm a week earlier. “We at the bureau have faith in the power of prayer to create both major and minor rain events and faith that our funding will be renewed in the next federal mini budget.”

Labor leader Bill Shorten congratulated the Prime Minister on his election to the “top job” and on “making it rain”, before defending his parties record, “During the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governance we had strong growth in annual rainfall, but no one will ever know because they don’t read these articles all the way to THE END, do they?”

Population: It’s the environment, stupid

By William Bourke

Australia has a rich history of migration, with around 7 million permanent migrants calling Australia home in the 20th century alone. That’s 70,000 migrants per year – or a bumper ANZ Stadium crowd.

By the turn of the century, our population had reached 19 million and the Australian Bureau of Statistics had recently predicted we would reach about 25 million 2051. But now, over 30 years ahead of schedule, we are at that number. Why?

At the same time as cracking down on asylum seekers arriving by boat, John Howard cunningly increased overall annual permanent immigration from well under 100,000 per year to over 200,000 – around three times the 20th century average. We’re now feeling the impacts.

Given our fertility rate is just below two children per woman, immigration policy is our de facto population policy. Other than our humanitarian intake of under 20,000 per annum, immigration policy should of course be run for the benefit of Australian citizens. It should complement major policy objectives including secure jobs with wage rises, affordable housing, better urban planning and most importantly, a sustainable environment. But now, these public policy objectives are being made harder by too many people too soon.

The sad reality is that our record immigration intake is not for the benefit of everyday Australians or even the migrants themselves. It was really put in place to feed the ‘growth lobby’ of property developers, banks, retailers and other big business beneficiaries. It also helped John Howard – and all successive governments – to create the illusion of bigger jobs and GDP growth.

The cost of growth – most worryingly on our environment – have our scientists warning us loud and clear. But is any politician listening?

The latest federal government State of the Environment report, released last year, stated that Australia’s natural environment is being placed under acute strain from rapid population growth, and that it’s amongst the main drivers of environmental problems such as land-use change, habitat destruction, invasive species, and climate change.

There are few better policy solutions to help protect Australia’s environment than abandoning plans for a ‘big Australia’. We’re not just headed for 40 million by 2050. It’s 80 million by 2100, and so on.

When Julia Gillard took the Prime Ministership she immediately declared she does not believe in this big Australia and that the nation should not ”hurtle down the track towards a big population.” She added that we need to stop, take a breath and develop policies for a sustainable Australia. That means a population that our environment, our water, our soil, our roads and freeways, our busses, our trains and our services can sustain.

But Ms Gillard abandoned her very first promise to the Australian people and Labor buried the issue. This is despite being in government with The Greens, whose ongoing silence on the population issue is deafening.

Our annual intake has remained at around 200,000 per year, when returning it to the historic average of 70,000 seems prudent. I ask again. Even as we hurtle past 25 million, is any politician listening?

William Bourke is president of Sustainable Australia Party.

Human qualities v animal behaviour

By Stephen Fitz

Who knows what evil lurks within the hearts of men? It was in comic books and Marvel movies and there was mention of it in early editions of the Bible – so it’s been around for a while – dare I say it … “The battle between good and evil.” That’s being a bit bold so, let’s call it the battle between human qualities and animal behaviour. It strikes me that in a civilised society we would be promoting human qualities like empathy and sharing and trust and compassion and a fair go for everyone. I’m not seeing much of that in Australian federal politics right now. I’m seeing a Liberal Party blinded by power and greed at the expense of a society struggling to survive.

Maybe, there are some among us who haven’t evolved human qualities yet and are still struggling with deep rooted animal instinct … still driven by greed and a “all for me and nothing for you” mentality. If we wish to progress as a species and become more human, the animals among us need to be rounded up and, so they don’t feel rejected, perhaps shipped off to a military dictatorship where they will feel right at home. Hun Sen has already shared champaign and rolled out the red carpet for the Liberal government. A privileged life is waiting if you don’t mind walking in blood.

O.K., Malcolm Turnbull, Peter Dutton, Michaelia Cash and in fact the entire Liberal Party are the product of a corrupted system and manipulated democracy. In the words of Noam Chomsky; “Corporates lobby politicians for legislation that favours corporates and corporates donate to election funds in return for favours and corporates are experiencing record profits at our expense.” It’s called the money/power loop and that is how western capitalist democratic society is run. It runs on lies, deceit and corruption hidden from the people by mainstream media.

I had no idea what was happening, and like the majority, I was kept in the dark for so long. I’d heard about corporate and political collusion and corruption but, I have faith in human nature and, I needed proof. There are two things: “the facts” which are the truth, and then you have “I reckon” which, in academic circles, is considered to be the hallmark of an idiot. Well I’m no idiot and I reckon something really sucks. Something’s fundamentally wrong within western society and it’s being exposed by social and independent media as we speak. Yeah, shock horror to the boys and girls at the top!

Well, I heard about it, so I went looking for evidence on the court record to prove it, and here it is. The Turnbull government is corrupt and has been pandering to corporates at the expense of the Australian workforce. It boils down to the Liberal government believing they have a mandate to give corporates whatever they want and screw the rest of us. Something essential to the human condition are our hopes, our ideals, our aspirations and our dreams and when I found out what was going on well, they faded, along with innocence … You Bastards! Look what you have taken.

As an example of what corporates will do with government sponsorship look at what they did in America with the ensuing global financial crisis and the unimaginable suffering by the masses to make a few people filthy rich. You see they don’t care and, this is what corporates will do when they are off the leash. The first battle line, if you wish to protect society from the ravages of corporate greed, would be accountability, harsh penalties and well-informed voters. We can’t let these animals hold us back, we can’t let them stifle our humanity, and there are steps we need to take.

[1] Corruption can only be contained if exposed to investigation and a legal process. Something lacking at a federal level. I couldn’t believe it either – there is no federal corruption watchdog in Australia. With hard evidence of corruption and with the prompting of Transparency International and some prominent QCs, Bill Shorten has promised the establishment of a national independent commission against corruption (ICAC) if he wins the next election. So that’s a starting point.

[2] It’s our ABC, not theirs … “Turnbull government hits ABC with $84m funding freeze” (Sydney Morning Herald). Because they didn’t like the editorials – first of all the Liberal government makes Pauline Hanson a political prisoner and then they impose censorship – so much for democracy. Second step is to reinstate the ABC’s finances and promote editorial independence. Have a section on the ABC that runs through what’s happening on Australian Independent Media so that all Australians can be well-informed.

[3] Human rights equate to freedom. Take away human rights and you take away freedom. Australia is a co-founder and signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and yet, there is no provision for human rights protection in Australian Law. When it comes to corruption, someone always suffers so there is always an element of human rights abuse woven into it. The UDHR needs to be written into the Australian Constitution and a Human Rights Court set up, accessible to all Australians. We, the people of Australia, can tackle corruption head on.

[4] Gee, no human rights protection and no federal ICAC in the land of OZ! We are getting screwed! The public demand transparency in government – no more corrupted decisions behind closed doors. If a federal minister or senator is asked a question they don’t like, the strategy is to ignore you and stick their head in the sand. We want answers and no more lies and deceit by omission. If politicians are held to account and the decision-making process is open to scrutiny, we have more chance of a better outcome for the bulk of Australians.

If you are an elected representative engaged by corporates and the top end of town, you will try to block these steps like you have in the past. If you do that, you will be telegraphing to your constituents and the people of Australia that you are in it for yourself and you don’t care about the rest of us. You don’t care about crippling inequality and poverty. You are telling us you are full of lies and you are laughing at us behind our backs.

If you are a Liberal politician reading this right now – you will be telling us what a total wanker you truly are and, we don’t want you and your smug look. In which case, do us all a favour and get out of politics – never to be seen or heard of again. It’s time for the good people to make a move for humanity and put a leash on the evil bastards who are driven purely by animal greed.

 

An open letter to Andrew Bolt

By Christian Marx

Once again, the shrill cries from Andrew Bolt can be seen in his latest crusade for “free” speech. According to his warped world view, hate-speech is acceptable and should never be censored.

Bolt has been all bent out of shape by the news that many sponsors have withdrawn their funding of Sky News after the white supremacist, Blair Cottrell appeared on Sky voicing his opinions. Bolt’s scatter-gun rant against Metro trains and public transport minister, Jacinta Allan is typical of Bolt. All deflection and no substance. Maybe he needs to be told …

Dear Andrew,

Once again you rave on about censorship. Interesting. Can you tell me why mainstream media is gagged from reporting on your boss, Rupert Murdoch`s Middle Eastern interests? I have never seen mention of this either at the ABC or any commercial networks. Could it be that the ABC is being silenced by the hard-right apparatchiks infesting the ABC boards? Or perhaps the relentless attacks from the LNP/IPA have cowed the ABC into silence? Or at least it seems that way. Your hypocrisy appears to be breathtaking! For those who are unaware of Murdoch and his Middle Eastern financial interests, here is an expose on his company Geanie Energy that you might like to read, and here is another.

In your article from last week, you go on to accuse the ALP state government as “Tin Pot dictators”. Absolutely laughable. You then assert that $400,000 has been stolen from taxpayers. Really? How about the 30 million given to Rupert Murdoch in tax payer’s money to Foxtel?

You bet it was a mistake to have Blair Cottrell on Sky News … but this was no accident. Rather, I believe it was another deliberate attempt by Sky to push the envelope and test the waters. A very cunning attempt at normalising a toxic agenda of racism. I mean, you and Blair share very similar belief systems. True, you have not claimed to admire Hitler, but many of your articles are filled with racial and ethnic scapegoating. Your ridiculous article on immigration was yet another hard-right spin-fest, tailored to the lowest common denominator of your sub-normal IQ demographic.

I have no doubt that if the Cottrell interview was well-received, Sky would have been very pleased with the results. It is only because the backlash was so severe and sponsors pulled away from Sky that this interview was quickly pulled. Predictably as always, instead of management getting the sack or demoted, it was the presenter who copped a hiding. So typical of conservatives, really.

Michaela Cash and her grubby attacks on unions and the silly police raid on union headquarters and leaking to the press, springs to mind. Who copped the flak and the blame? Certainly not Cash! It was one of her junior underlings who took the fall.

You go on to say that Sky is the only broadcaster to ban Cottrell. I say to you, only because they began haemorrhaging sponsors. Stop your virtue signalling! It is true that the ABC once had Cottrell on, but it was on a panel and others were challenging his ideas in a robust debate.

Sky was different. They had him on to propagate his manifesto unchallenged. This was a blatant attempt to manipulate an already rabid-right audience into further dangerous waters.

You then go onto whinge about Sky being pulled from state rail. Why the hell should a public entity be forced to peddle extremist far-right dogma from a far-right, private media platform?! It has no right to defile the ears of ordinary citizens going about their business in a public space!

You go on to say that the opinion shows from Sky are very popular. Bahahaha. Give me a break. Sky opinion shows rate dismally compared to the ABC. Sky News rates on average 12,000 viewers from 6pm to midnight. As I said, absolutely dismal!

Which is why I suspect that Sky is now going to be broadcast on free-to-air media.

The ugly truth is that you are giving the impression that you are a paid puppet for Rupert Murdoch and his extremist views. Sky and Herald Sun etc push one man’s opinion and vision for the world. That vision is an ugly dystopian, neoliberal capitalist model. Unlike myself, who bows to nobody, I am a free agent who is able to expose the truth and all the lies peddled by the rich and their toady politicians. This is ultimately why commercial media is a dinosaur. It only reflects the views and wishes of the extremely wealthy.

Seeking to divide the nation through race and culture is the only way the far-right can win votes. In my opinion their policies are so toxic to the average citizen, that scapegoating, fear and hatred is all they have. I’m reminded of the Wizard of Oz: A booming, hateful exterior, but once the curtain is pulled back I can see strings manipulating every move, and there is nothing but a sad, embittered old man who long ago sold his soul to the devil for easy money.

Christian Marx is a political and social activist interested in making the world a fairer place. He has a Bachelor of Social Science and has a keen interest in sociology, politics and history. He was one of the organizers of the March in March rallies in Melbourne and is the founder of the progressive news and information page, “Don`t Look At This Page”, and is also a co-founder of “The Global Revolution” website.

Emma Husar – Yet another institutional failure

By John Tons

By now most Australians will have moved on from the Emma Husar episode. For those who managed to miss it – here is a brief synopsis: Emma Husar is a first-term politician. There were indications that her staff were not happy with her management style, in addition some of her staff made some serious allegations concerning her conduct. The ALP conducted an investigation, and although dismissed the serious allegations did note that her management style could have been better. Emma agreed not to nominate for the seat in the forthcoming election, and all went quiet again. Success had been achieved; another ‘mouthy’ young woman had been removed from parliament.

I do not know Emma and know next to nothing about what she is supposed to have done or not done. But I do know a little about institutional gender powerplays. The key thing to note is that we are blind to those everyday practices of a well-intentioned society that creates a form of oppression whose causes are embedded in the unquestioned norms, habits and symbols that are blindly followed. It makes assumptions about the structure of occupational distinctions, the definition of tasks within them and the relations among people occupying differing positions within an enterprise. One of the more common examples that one could not help but hear about concerns the walking of Emma’s dog. Apparently, that was delegated to one of her staff members – people fulminated that this was an abuse of tax payers’ money – she should not use her staff in that way.

I will assume for the moment that this was a true account of what happened. Emma Husar employed staff to enable her to carry out her job as a parliamentarian and some of these staff were tasked with various domestic chores. I understand perfectly well why this created such a furore. We know why it created such a furore – domestic duties are seen as menial tasks – not tasks for paid professional staff. For me it highlights how deeply embedded are our prejudices about occupational differentiation. It is that same prejudice that leads us to accept a situation where a CEO is paid 200 times the annual salary of the janitor who cleans his toilet. (It is almost always ‘his’ toilet). We have lost sight of the fact that to get anything done requires a team of people – for anyone of those people to relate themselves as more important is a nonsense.

Yet we persist in supporting an organisational structure that gives credence to the belief that some jobs are more important than others, that defines people by what they do rather than the quality of their character. Parliament and Australians generally lost a valuable opportunity when they closed the book on Emma Husar – it had been an opportunity to question our assumptions about the structure of occupational distinctions.

Note: Some of this may sound familiar to some people; the commentary was influenced by Young, I. M. (1990). Justice and the Politics of Difference. Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press.

Can the citizen body (social) litigate a political body (corporate)?

Here’s a little teaser for the weekend … But first let me make a disclaimer: I have no training or standing in any platform of the study of law and I place this debate on site for whomever may be inclined to contest the proposal …

It has to be admitted that the fair state of security anticipated and expected as compensation in what we call “A Civilised Society”, comes at some cost to both the citizen and corporate body. This civilised state is trusted to be implemented by those political representatives elected and remunerated by The Citizens of The State.

When we attend daily to our work, business and social activities, we expect to do so with a sense of security and calm deliberation as can be best achieved in the civilised state that has authorities and policing arms to maintain law and order in such a manner as to give that sense of calm deliberation that all is under control and we need not be afraid nor concerned.

And, in a civilised state, that is how it should be.

Necessity of settlement and all that comes from an established population that is self-reliant and all-inclusive, demands legal boundaries that give clear understanding of the rights and obligations of both corporate and citizen body … These boundaries are the obligations agreed upon by representative members elected to oversee a Parliament that makes such laws and agrees to such social and infrastructure changes as required when needed. It is when these political bodies lapse in their duty of care or deliberately institute legislation detrimental to the citizen(social) body in the majority that it has to be asked if such action calls for the Citizens of The State to instigate legal action against the political (corporate) body to recover and compensate for damages done?

What is a legal person or “citizen”?

“A legal person (in legal contexts often simply person, less ambiguously legal entity) is any human or non-human entity, in other words, any human being, firm, or government agency that is recognized as having privileges and obligations, such as having the ability to enter into contracts, to sue, and to be sued.

The term “legal person” is however ambiguous because it is also used in contradistinction to “natural person”, i.e. as a synonym of terms used to refer only to non-human legal entities.

So there are of two kinds of legal entities, human and non-human: natural persons (also called physical persons) and juridical persons(also called juridic, juristic, artificial, legal, or fictitious persons, Latin: persona ficta), which are other entities (such as corporations) that are treated in law as if they were persons.” (Wikipedia: Legal person).

So it would appear, to this lay person at least, that there is some scope to name both the citizen (social) body and the political party(corporate) body as “entities” with similar rights and obligations even while they are held apart by a necessity of legal identity.

“While human beings acquire legal personhood when they are born (or even before in some jurisdictions), juridical persons do so when they are incorporated in accordance with law: (Juridical person : Entity (such as a firm) other than a natural person (human being) created by law and recognized as a legal entity having distinct identity, legal personality, and duties and rights.)”

Given then that both citizen and political party can be seen as having identity obligations toward civil law and order, and the breaking of an “agreed contract” between those two parties by either of those two parties, would it then allow a case of litigation to be measured against the offending party? In other words; When we have a political party (say, the LNP) deliberately enacting legislation favourable to a vested interest embedded within that political party but detrimental to the citizen body, would there be scope for a class action by the citizen body to recover damages from that individual political party?

“In some common law jurisdictions a distinction is drawn between corporation aggregate (such as a company, which has a number of members) and a corporation sole (which is where a person’s public office is deemed to have a separate personality from them as an individual). Both have separate legal personality. Historically most corporations sole were ecclesiastical in nature (for example, the Archbishop of Canterbury is a corporation sole), but a number of public offices are now formed as corporations sole.

The concept of juridical personality is not absolute. “Piercing the corporate veil” refers to looking at the individual natural persons acting as agents involved in a company action or decision; this may result in a legal decision in which the rights or duties of a corporation or public limited company are treated as the rights or liabilities of that corporation’s members or directors.

The concept of a juridical person is now central to Western law in both common law and civil law countries, but it is also found in virtually every legal system.” (Wikipedia: Legal person).

“Incorporation of political parties Parties are required under the definition of ‘political party’ in s.4 of the Act to be an organisation before they can be eligible for registration …“ (AEC: Party registrations/Incorporation of political parties).

Given that most well-established political parties are registered corporations, surely that would place them under the obligations of corporate law? And even though they can claim “mandate” by gain of office to frame and pass legislation, if they promise one set of objectives before gaining office and indeed, used such claims to gain office then do a turn around (as was denied and then done by the Abbott LNP government) and institute political actions and legislation that are destructive to civil institutions and civil infrastructure when in office … surely there is scope to construct a class action by the affected citizen body to recover and claim compensation not from The State (a separate social body from the corporate political body), but from that particular political party?

“Sovereign states are legal persons … The concept of legal personhood for organizations of people is at least as old as Ancient Rome: a variety of collegial institutions enjoyed the benefit under Roman law: “Ius Naturale, Ius Gentium”: Law of Persons, Law of Property, Law of Obligations … ” (An Introduction to Roman Law; Barry Nicholas).

Go for it: Discuss …

Walking wide awake into a fantasy world

Many of you would remember an extraordinary film from the early seventies. At a time when the lives of the Baby Boomers was reaching the explosive years of their twenties … LSD, cannabis, other illicit drugs and good ol’ reliable booze had reached epidemic proportions among the itinerant youthful population … WE … were the “sons and daughters that were beyond your command” … of the Bob Dylan song. Into this world of lived freedom of thought fell several films of what could be described as “The Fantastical Genre” … Films like “Zabriski Point” (official trailer), with the accompanying music of Floyd (“Careful with that axe, Eugene …”), The Grateful Dead, Patti Page: (The Tennessee Waltz), The Stones and others. Then there were the Fellini films; “Satyricon”, “Cassanova”, “Roma”, all played out in voluptuous settings and peopled by the most bizarre characters in a fantastical dialogue.

And also there was this:

“A Clockwork Orange is a 1971 dystopian crime film adapted, produced, and directed by Stanley Kubrick , based on Anthony Burgess’s1962 novel of the same name. It employs disturbing, violent images to comment on psychiatry , juvenile delinquency, youth gangs, and other social, political, and economic subjects in a dystopian near-future Britain.

Alex (Malcolm McDowell), the central character, is a charismatic, antisocial delinquent whose interests include classical music (especially Beethoven), committing rape, and what is termed “ultra-violence”. He leads a small gang of thugs, Pete, Georgie, and Dim, whom he calls his droogs. The film chronicles the horrific crime spree of his gang, his capture, and attempted rehabilitation via an experimental psychological conditioning technique by the Minister of the Interior, named Ludovico. Alex narrates most of the film in Nadsat, a fractured adolescent slang composed of Slavic (especially Russian), English, and Cockney rhyming slang.

The soundtrack to a clockwork orange features mostly classical music selections and Moog synthesizer compositions by Wendy Carlos. The artwork for the poster of A Clockwork Orange was created by Philip Castle with the layout by designer Bill Gold.” (Wikipedia).

A most visually assaulting on the senses experience for those times … and even for today (though somewhat dated in production), it can be a strange fruit. Here is the original trailer.

And here, Thamesmead South Housing Estate where Alex knocks his rebellious droogs into the lake in a sudden surprise attack.

But these trips into the fantastical world of make-believe were tempered in those times by the hard reality of having to get to work on the Monday morning in at least some sort of state fit for the job … a level of expectation sometimes way above the possible! … So they resided in the mind’s eye still as little more than a visual experience.

Now, in this post-modern, super-sized world of CVR (cinematic virtual reality), anything seems possible … fantasy becomes “reality”… and the world of the everyday melds very quickly on the screen to a world of illusion with seamless ease: “Unlike traditional VR (virtual reality), CVR limits the level of control users have within the environment to choosing viewpoints rather than interacting with the world itself. This means that CVR production arguably represents a new type of filmmaking.” … (Journal of Media Practice). The film maker now has the control of how the viewer will interpret the film … no longer through attachment with lived experience, but through psychological infiltration and interpretation.

Social Media; Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, all allow us to create our own identities. If we don’t want to be seen as one person, we “construct” another identity … We attach pseudonyms and “Gravitars” more in keeping of what we want others to see us as … and perhaps as we want to see ourselves … we have moved a little bit closer to the abyss of lost souls. We seek out the camouflage that hides our real person and from behind these ‘hides”, we take pot-shots at whatever riles and annoys our perceived notions of the world.

Also at play has been the falsifying of history in regards to Australian settlement … a confected illusion replete with heroes and villains, the righteous civilisers and the barbaric natives … in any land, any colonising situation … This illusion of reality in history is no better manipulated than the “ANZAC myth” … played upon the heart-strings of jingoism with the deft touch of a master propagandist … all that is needed is another Leni Riefenstahl to complete the picture. The national history has been one long lie that is now fast unravelling at the same pace (coincidentally?) as a false reality of CVR film (can it be called “film” anymore?) is becoming such an integral part of our everyday entertainment. The online streaming availability of these visual creations filter into our living rooms nearly every day, as do the online “games” and click-bait sensuality. Our eyes have become a direct link to our wallets … the cost of digital technology a necessity budgeted into household “outgoings”.

There is more than a danger of us walking wide awake into a fantasy world. I think we are already in it! We see many lash out on Twitter and other social media against these or that “harridans” and “whores” … ”pr#cks” and “a#seholes”, unrestrained by any form of decency and modesty … indeed, there are those of unbridled nature who go even further and call on past atrocities of the most repressive regimes, the likes of Joe Stalin and use them as examples for a “deserved treatment” for a favoured victim of their animosity … We have truly crossed into the fantastic when such dire reprisals become imaginatively possible!

I suspect a point has been reached where the social cost of realisation of witnessing ultra-violence on screen that has all the reality-like structures conjured up with CVR imagery, IS leading the first-world down a rabbit-hole to fantasy so much more dangerous than anything that original first-tripper; Alice ever went down:

“In that direction,” the Cat said, waving its right paw round, “lives a Hatter: and in that direction,” waving the other paw, “lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they’re both mad.”

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.

“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here.”

Essay: The Joy of Walking …

I’m beginning to think we; collectively are losing the plot …Time to chill out a tad …

Essay: There’s a Whole World Out There! or The Joy Of Walking.

I now have no car. That statement in itself may require an explanation in these self-commuting times. But no … too tangled and tiresome a story, sufficient to state that the reason reaches back into the mists of time to when I once committed myself with a vow of: “I will”. And speaking of another thing that has ended, I feel I can state quite categorically (as an observant walker) and declare it official that the daisy bush has replaced the geranium as the stalwart mainstay of verdant flowering flora in the suburban front garden! The long-lashed cheeky button flower of the daisy, has edged the precocious petals of the geranium off centre-stage. I suppose in this age of “go-get-‘em” attitude and “in-your-face” aggressiveness the battling geranium could hardly match the many blossomed, fast growing daisy-bush might … is now right!

I notice these small things on my walks into the town where I live. Hybrid roses too have muscled-in on a place next to the footpath, all bright and starry-eyed like the budding stars they are, their many-hued blooms huge and alluring to the passer-by although I myself, religiously adhering to the adage: “Always take time to smell the flowers”, find little delight in discovering so scant a scent in such wonderful blossoms … and I feel a little cheated, like false advertising that encourages false expectations, for surely, if there is any flower that looks delicious enough to kiss, it is the rose … and like any kiss, a fellah needs to take away with him an exotic, lingering scent of delight to caress and steel him against all the crassness of the outside world and … but I think I have made my disappointment plain … the hybrid rose, without its scent is, to this man at least, as a woman without mystery!

It is Summer where I live and the fruit trees are bearing wonderfully! None more so than the cherry-plums along the railway track that I cut across on my way into town. For some reason these delicious trees are shunned by the public and much of the fruit is left to fall and rot on the ground. Bearing no such animosity to this sweet harvest, I make feast on their berries! … These, and plums galore accompany the walker on his journey and I make note the fruit of the nectarine tree leaning precariously over the corrugated iron fence of “Such and Such Ltd … motor repairs” is deepening its crimson blush and fattening itself up for the pickings not long now!

A Serbian I once worked with told me of the struggle against hunger in his youth after the 2nd WW, and how he made it his business to note when every fruit tree, every vine in every back-yard or lot in his village was ready to be raided! such are the necessities of survival … In Australia where we take such things for granted, it is one more joy to be embraced on my walks.

Another thing I have noticed, although it has fallen out of fashion with the onset of “Estate Housing” is the front fence. The front fence is one of the last and lasting expressions of individuality in a world of shrinking imaginations.

In Australia, indeed, the world! … the front fence like certain hobbies, was open slather to any fetish of taste or tastelessness. I have seen them constructed of everything from shells to bits of ironmongery and even bones … “TAKE THAT!” was the creed for some of the monstrosities separating the incumbent from the innocents in the outside world … From bits of off-cut wood to animal bones and noduled limestone rocks! and what was the flower that inevitably graced these icons and filled the gaps in the masonry? … The geranium! Alas, it is gone now, as is that generation of front fence builders that, although predictable in all other mannerisms pertaining to suburban life, could be counted upon to equal or maliciously out do the neighbour in design or complexity the Bastille like structure of the front fence and gone also, is the geranium … alas, alas!

Windmills, simple in structure were a regular feature of front gardens, but these too have been replaced by more complex: “paddling duck” or “rowing men” and even by mass produced “cupid” bird-baths. Some of the more bombastic citizens plant spread-winged eagles gargoyled on top of gate-pillars which gaze threateningly down on the walker as he moves past. I remember seeing a young woman innocently walk past a live wedge-tailed eagle perched on a fence at eye level next to the footpath. Obviously a pet of the house there … I was watching from a train at a station. As the woman drew abreast of the bird, she turned her head toward it (there is an impish spirit that provokes these actions!). I presume she didn’t expect to see such a large creature a foot or so from her face, the sudden leap to the centre of the road was Olympian to say the least! and when her knees buckled under her, I thought she was going down for prayers on the bitumen! but no, she as swiftly regained her composure and with only a few deft pats of adjustments to her bobbed hair, promptly moved on … against such nerves of steel, the male of the species has no chance … though to this day I don’t know if it was the bird that screeched or the woman.

I keep a small box at home in which I place all the “treasures” gleaned from the roads when I walk. There are shiny (I prefer them to be shiny!) bolts and hose-clamps, a squash-ball, a mobile phone, spanners and other miscellaneous objects, some unidentifiable but interesting … what few coins I find I spend.

The gutters and the shrubs are receptacles for all the detritus of mankind. Bits and pieces that fall off cars end up scarred and scraped into the kerbside gutters. Drink containers and waste paper end up stuffed, like bodies up chimneys in Poe’s: “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, into any nook or kicked under bushes. At nesting time any excess chicks forced or pushed out of nests end up little mounds of fluff on the footpath or flattened on the roads. I can’t help but feel pity for these helpless chicks. who don’t even get a start in life before it is brutally taken from them. But then, what animal in the wild ( even domestic) does not meet with a violent end? Though once, when a flock of starlings flew over me, I saw one fall, for no apparent reason, out of the flock almost to my feet, dead as a doornail … heart attack? old age? who knows, but it was only once that I saw that.

Walking can be very educational, peaceful and fulfilling. One’s thoughts fall into the rhythm of the step and rare is the worry or problem that cannot be resolved in oneself in the space of a good long walk. The relaxing contrasts of sunlight and shade, water sprinkler and breeze, the chlorophyll’d odour of fresh-cut lawn near the lake, the idle paddling of the ducks mixed with the joyful cries of children at play lend a certain visceral ambience to the atmosphere of the clinging world around us that we call life!

Ah! The joy of walking …

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