Beauty Profaned 4 Bunbury WA

by Quentin Cockburn

Perhaps it was a portent of things to come.  We’d negotiated the thirteenth roundabout.  Each in its own way deferring the planned wisdom of traffic engineers for another gateway to a new subdivision, an industrial estate or a theme park; we’d grown used to it.  bunbury Milk CartonFor Property values and ease of business.

You could see it from the distance.  The low horizon, the big, clear sky, and giving it the finger, with an assertion borne by insecurity, the incredibly ugly building.

The building, nicknamed the ‘the milk carton’ was impressively ugly, even from a distance.  It didn’t loom, it oppressed.  It proclaimed ‘the Power of One’ with a banality more hyperbolic than anything Bryce Courtenay could’ve imagined.

But so much of Bunbury had undergone the process of uglification.  We put a closer investigation on hold.  Which was wise.  Clearly the Council in Bunbury understand planning.   Arrival at Bunbury is an endurance test.  Even the Americans battle to match this ‘development’ traversty.  It seemed endless, uniformly ugly and the all encompassing sub text to Australia in the early twentieth century.  As the newly elected PM said we’re “Open for business” and bury the consequences.  Robin Boyd could never imagine this ‘Greatest Australian Ugliness’.  This GAU’ belied the usual suspects, car-yards, liquor shops, tyre marts, Bunnings, servos and a localised exaggeration of space to make things seem even bigger.  Requiring a diversion, we made our way to the harbour, to savour for a moment the alternate world of boats, piers, and the eternality of the sea.  As we cruised the “new streetscape” of the marina precinct we marveled at the sterility and standardisation of type.  Where once were warehouses, a train line, working jetties and docks, the encrusted and oil begrimed relics of shipping, there is now now a miniature ‘Darling Harbour’, a putative ‘Docklands’.  The world standard waterfront development.  No different from thousands of others the world over.  Strangely reminiscent of the Liverpool Docks post Beatles, ersatz dock for ersatz schlock, and not a real human to be seen.

Scurrying from the harbour precinct we drove determinedly towards the ‘Milk Carton’.  We arrived in the main street.  The ‘Milk Carton’ is a marvel of its type.  bunbury ugly 3The street frontage and sides devoted to ramps, air conditioning ducts, grills, vents and concrete. Zero connection to the street, or to the town.  We learnt that behind the towering crystalline steel and glass facade, office workers plied their trade, in triplicate, white, pink and yellow forms to their respective trays.

We asked who built it?  “Alan Bond” came the fatalistic reply.  Our subconscious snapped, QED.  Another bold statement by an enterprising BIG- thinking man.  The man who wrested the Americas Cup from the United States, who made one or two amongst us standard bearers of decency, philanthropy, and Arts.  Indeed for those who prospered through the era of Bond-age and Burke-ism there is beauty amid the ugliness.  The rest of “Old Bunbury” a bit like ‘Old Lowestoft’ is quaint.  The locals charming, good natured and conversational.  Though the landscape architects and urban designers had left their mark, theirs’ was a forlorn hope against the ‘Milk Carton’.  It stood for all time, an upended middle finger to notions of decency and taste community and township.  To proclaim loud enough to be heard in Mauritius, “Money is Power, and Power is GOOD”  .

And at the door of the edifice, opaque portal to the world outside, the inscription read,  ‘WA, towards a sustainable future’.

bunbury ugly 2

Man as Machine XIV

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Probably the two greatest contributors to turning the tide of government repression in early 19th century England were the death from porphyria (an hereditary disorder which makes men mad and turns their urine blue) of George the Third, (1820) and a substantial and sustained upturn in the economy.  This last eased the possibility of revolution.  ‘Prinny’, or the Prince Regent, builder of the scandalously expensive Royal Pavilion at Brighton, famous drinker and fornicator, living apart from his Queen, and carrying on a long time, quite public affair with a Mrs. Fitzherbert, became Mad King George’s successor, George the Fourth.  This liason alone was enough, considering Prinny’s already well established scandalous reputation, to bring the monarchy into disrepute.  There was very quickly no dignity, no authority and very little respect for the office of King.  This, and the economic good times, played straight into the hands of the reformers.

To this point any attempt to form a body to represent workers’ rights had been outlawed.  Unions were seen by employers and the government as unlawful attempts to restrict trade.  Membership of trade unions had been made illegal by the 1799 and 1800 Combination Acts and people who defied these rulings went to prison.  The courts of the day came to regard trade unionism as criminal conspiracies and their judgements reflected this.

At the time, the ruling class in England was composed of two political parties; Tories and Whigs.

The Tories (originally from the Gaelic word ‘toir’(pursuit) and employed by the English to describe the outlawed and dispossessed Irish) were aristocratic Loyalists and Royalists to a man.

Whigs were a different bottle of Holy Water altogether.  Associated with Scottish Presbyterianism, they supported the Revolution of 1688 and it’s general principles but opposed the Tories and were known for their habit of asking awkward questions.  They also tended to be a bit more liberal in their views than the Tories, but not much.  Dr. Samuel Johnson believed that the First Whig was probably the Devil himself!

Undoubtedly, both parties regarded the peasantry as little more than slaves.  This seems almost incomprehensible now but for a very long time, this was the case.  The peasantry were regarded as an almost separate, sub-human group who were not really entitled to rights of any kind.  Thomas Carlyle referred to the (Irish) peasantry as …‘white monkeys….’ and is horrified to discover that their skin colour is the same as his own.  If their skin had been black, he went on, it would have been easier to bear.

But all was not lost.  In the economic upswing of the 1820’s and in a dazzling display of political wizardry, Francis Place the reformer “branch stacked’ the relevant Parliamentary Committee, repealed both Combination Acts, and made Unions legal.  It is difficult, considering the forces arrayed against him, to believe that this occurred, but it did.  Place, with his colleague Joseph Hume kept both the more militant Trade Unionists out and failed to inform some of the more reactionary employers.  In this way, and by packing the committee with sympathisers, he had his Bill read and passed into law before these elements were aware of what was going on.  That this was possible does point up how disorganised and chaotic politics was at the time, and of course how much could be achieved through careful planning.

Things were changing, including governments.  Governments were still repressive but perhaps less so than formerly.  Home Secretary Sidmouth was out and Peel was in and the main concern now was to prevent these new elements falling in with the ‘Radicals’. While the economy surged, the new and legal Unions flourished and spread.  By 1825/6 the boom had sunk to a whimper.  Employers sacked staff and demanded and got wage cuts. In 1827 things improved once more and the cycle began again.  For three years, with the odd hiccup, the economy surged and the Unions grew.

Crucially, the build up of the Trade Union Movement was largely due to the improvements in the economy.  England was after all ‘The Workshop of the World’, Europe was finally starting to rebuild, and England was there to provide every thing Europe, and the Empire  needed.


Weekly Wrap 25 November 2013

Back, by popular demand is the Weekly Wrap!

And what better welcome than a quote from Errol – Flynn, that is.
“If they say I am inconsistent let them say it, for it is true, because inconsistency is part of living nature.” from ‘My wicked wicked ways” by Errol Flynn 1959

This past week in Passive Complicity has been a bottler.  It started with a piece by George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 12th November 2013 titled ‘Why politics fails’ in which he says “Nothing will change until we confront the real sources of power.”

WCFields“Take a letter, Miss Michael” are the words WC Fields used to start our second post for the week.  This seriously complex piece defies précis.  Read it here, and don’t laugh.


Cecil Poole then entered the fray adding fueld to the carbon debate.  Carbon is Taxing discusses the “plague of Prii” in US University towns, and the corporate citizenship of Chevron. (And defines ‘Prii’ as the plural of Prius).

‘Man as Machine’ (XII) returned to our site as Tarquin O’Flarherty in which he quoted Robert Owen from the early nineteenth Century as ‘suggesting that the workers were at least as important as the owners and that they should share in the profits’  More of this socialist claptrap will see him banned from our presents – no, presence.  Our disgruntled illustrator, Sir Selwyn Smuttz, came up with this parochial banner, which in all truth is not at all bad.  (This will placate him)M a M Banner1

Our penultimate post the Editor of that excellent magazine Tracker, Chris Graham helps us “understand Indigenous Justice”, using the case of Liam Jurrah as an example.  This article should be required reading for all Australians.

The week finished with Jonathon Swift’s poem “A description of the morning”.  Our Poetry Editor Ira Maine provides exquisite, understated, and provocative commentary.  This commentary will lead to further posts on how and why the denigration of women continues.

Good reading, join the conversation.

Cecil Poole



‘Brickdust Moll’ and the denigration of women

Our Poetry Editor, Ira Maine commented on Sunday regarding: “…Brickdust Moll…’ from Jonathon Swift’s poem, ‘A description of the morning’ as follows:

The Swift poem tells us she went ‘screaming’ through the streets. I have tried hard to discover an alternative to the idea that ‘..Moll’ was selling brickdust. I think Swift was saying something else here. The chimney sweep and the Smallcoal Man had recognisable  ‘cries’, but Moll was ‘screaming’… This does not suggest a cry that people might recognize and respond to in order to buy her wares… rather it suggests to me a madwoman ‘screaming’ as she proceeds about.. There is also a familiarity about this character, this ‘Brickdust, Moll’. She is (to Swift) someone we recognise easily, or she represents a condition we recognise.. I don’t want to read too much into this but simply calling her ‘Moll’ is surely significant. According to the OED, ‘Moll’ in the early 17th century  was a euphemism for a prostitute. This, within a few years, is precisely when Swift was writing. And why was she screaming? Well, perhaps, and I am on unsteady ground here, perhaps we are dealing with the madness associated with the disease of syphilis which was rampant amongst sex workers of the day. Alternatively Moll is perhaps a metaphor for the  all that is rotten, uncaring and ruthless in any big city.

it is interesting too that in Australia, in modern common parlance, the guaranteed way to defame a woman is to describe her as ‘…some old mole…’

Back in Humphrey Bogart’s time, a baddie’s girl was described as a ‘ gangster’s moll…’

The word still has currency, and  is still used to denigrate women.

I still don’t understand the ‘…Brickdust…’ reference.  One day…

To which ‘Spongedoll’ rejoined

One thing I ponder on sometimes, as one who warps in and out of numerous caricatures of woman, is how you find yourself feeling (railing against being denigrated) by other’s modelling of you …aka the box they’ve fashioned for you in their own perception… whether as mother, boss, older person in general, member of small town community.  Just want to lash out and surprise them.  I remember being in the kitchen of a close friend of Mum’s when I was a teenager, feeling very secure in my perception of her as housewife and mother of 5 (and completely missing the point that she’d just graduated from uni with English Lit honours). I must have said something that hit the denigration nerve in her, and she tossed a raw egg across the kitchen at me with a casual “Here catch!”. I dropped it of course.  Completely took me by surprise and changed my perception of her forever – broke the box so to speak.  I didn’t realise the significance of that moment till years later when I was well modelled into role perception by others!  She was ‘fascinating out-of-the-box person’ in tandem with irreplaceable unconventional ‘mother-friend role-model’.

Back to the bigger picture:

Can’t help noticing the mop and broom reference here but I can’t quite see Sue Butler of the Macquarie Dictionary running screaming through the streets :

On ‘brickdust’ – when googling Swift’s poem just now, saw a reference to brick-dust being used as cheap rouge by prostitutes in the 17th century…

Enough for now
Spongedoll …wailing at the moon

 Ira Maine, concurrently wrote:
Bear with me, ole socks, but something else has just occurred to me regarding the Swift poem.

Before the Church of England came into being, (Henry the Eighth and all that)  Catholicism held sway.  A principal, monumental figure amongst the Cafflicks was Mary, the mother of God.  She was Catholicism’s version of a much older tradition.  The worship of the Earth Mother, the female principle (corrupted of course by a celibate priesthood which by it’s very nature rejects the female principle).

When the Church of England took over control of English Christianity, Mary’s importance went out the window and the new God was Male, a vengeful, unforgiving, business oriented, ruthless, empire building God who would brook no deviation from the line.

Of course, to bring people round to this new, crime and punishment way of thinking, the pre-Christian Earth Mother idea had to be utterly rejected and the new pulpit-pounding ‘You’ll all be damned to Hell!’ male hellfire stuff took centre stage.

The hugely popular name ‘Mary’, (and it’s pet name ‘Molly’) was deliberately downgraded in a calculated attempt to divorce the Marian principle from the new English Christianity.  (It is fair to say that the Catholics brought this upheaval on themselves because of their church’s endless corruption.)

Very quickly, through deliberate church propaganda, the name ‘Mary’ or ‘Molly’ fell so low as to become synonymous with prostitution.  The names were demonized, much as Muslims are demonized today.

Sadly, in modern times,the Church of England still has no room for for the Marian, Earth Mother idea even though their clergy now are free to marry and produce families!

In my estimation we absolutely must take up the female principle again, and rid ourselves forever of our present adolescent male, macho man sniggering behind the lavatories way of life.

Women surely deserve better than this.


Man as Machine XIII


M a M Banner2In Britain, from 1814 to the 1820s, (the period of the Napoleonic Wars) unemployment was so great that those in control became fearful of revolution.  The people, driven off their land by successive Enclosure Acts, now had no means whatever of providing for themselves so, unsurprisingly, isolated and sporadic food riots broke out.  The British Government, in ‘enlightened’ response to this appalling threat of revolution (There had been, in recent times, revolutions in the New World and in France) forbade public meetings, and threatened to suspend tavern licences if they were shown to harbour ‘radicals’.  Forbade ‘treasonous’ conversation, moved ‘suspicious’ people out of reading rooms and coffee houses and threatened the owners with closure.  Even the mail was intercepted and examined for ‘sedition’.

Lord Sidmouth, Home Secretary in the government of “Mad King George’, had spies everywhere.  They were more than that.  These spies were expected to act as agent provocateurs, to act as double agents by infiltrating political or radical groups and then encouraging these groups to take direct action.  The moment these poor unsuspecting people followed the agent’s urging to march or attend clandestine meetings, they would be set upon by soldiers and driven off, their leaders arrested, tried, imprisoned, or, very publicly, hanged. Lots of these unfortunates were transported for life to Australia.

The Americans nowadays literally invent enemy groups like El-Qaida so they can ‘protect’ us from them, much as Orwell’s OBrien did in ‘1984’.  So the entire US military machine becomes an agent provocateur for their contemptible posturing.

A huge (1819) public gathering in Manchester, in St Peter’s Fields was set upon by soldiers, on horseback, with drawn sabres, slashing away.  The crowd fought to escape the swords, trampling others into the ground.  Eleven people were killed, most by sabre cuts and slashes, and literally hundreds were injured in the stampede. I n memory of Waterloo, this horror is remembered as ‘The Peterloo Massacre’.

Aghast at the slaughter, eminent people and politicians protested vigorously and were dismissed from their posts.  The government shook the hands of the troops involved, praising their efforts, and promptly introduced even more repressive measures.  A huge tax was introduced on newspapers, and penalties were cranked up against anything that might be interpreted as seditious.  Famous periodicals like William Cobbett’s ‘Register’ or the equally well regarded ‘Black Dwarf’ were in real danger of failing.  Possession ofTom Paine’s “Rights of Man’ was now an offence.

This situation could not be allowed to continue.  The government, the old order, was treating people with contempt.  Something had to be done.


Poetry Sunday 24 November 2013

A Description of the Morning

Now hardly here and there a hackney-coach
Appearing, show’d the ruddy morn’s approach.
Now Betty from her master’s bed had flown,
And softly stole to discompose her own.
The slip-shod ‘prentice from his master’s door
Had par’d the dirt, and sprinkled round the floor.
Now Moll had whirl’d her mop with dext’rous airs,
Prepar’d to scrub the entry and the stairs.
The youth with broomy stumps began to trace
The kennel-edge, where wheels had worn the place.
The small-coal man was heard with cadence deep;
Till drown’d in shriller notes of “chimney-sweep.”
Duns at his lordship’s gate began to meet;
And brickdust Moll had scream’d through half a street.
The turnkey now his flock returning sees,
Duly let out a-nights to steal for fees.
The watchful bailiffs take their silent stands;
And schoolboys lag with satchels in their hands.

Our  Poetry Editor, Ira Maine, comments thus:
Jonathon Swift, Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, famous pisser-offer of Lords and Ladies, Kings and Queens to the point where preferment was regularly denied him.  One of the shining lights, the bright jewels of English Literature.  Swift was born in Dublin, went to school with Congreve, was the lifelong friend of John Gay and and Alexander Pope, and who famously proposed , considering how many children were found either abandoned or dead every day in 18th century streets, that they be gathered up and butchered for food.  This satire was an attempt by Swift to bring this disgraceful state of affairs to public attention.

The title of this piece?.  ‘A Modest Proposal’.

If it’s not on your shelves already, seek it out and settle down, a good glass of claret by your side, but remember; this is a slower paced, 18th century English, a prose intended to be relished  by people with enough time to savour it.  Do not expect to read this quickly.  This is  an 18th century jewel.  It will not reward haste. 

Now, to the matter in hand; How was the early morning in 18th century London or Dublin?

First, the rattle on cobbled streets of a ‘Hackney-Coach’ heralds the ‘..Ruddy Morn’s Approach…’

Then, as we’ve all experienced, the half asleep and headlong dash from one bed to another before some Nosey-Parker notices, (or, God help us, a spouse!)

Whilst this flurry proceeds another ‘…slipshod ‘prentice…’ has cleared the accumulated rubbish from ‘…his Master’s Dore…’ and then lazily goes about his tidying duties, sprinkling the floor (with water, sawdust, rushes, or herbs?)

Moll prepares to scrub her entry (I regularly have my entry scrubbed and always feel the benefit afterwards)

The ‘…Kennel Edge..’ is the drain at the side (or edge) of the road.

Kennel comes from the Old French or Middle English  canel  meaning  channel and is where we get our modern  ‘canal’ from.. TV channels in French are described as  “Canal A B or C’ etc.

Kennel on the other hand, as in dog kennel, has more in common with the Latin word ‘canis’  meaning dog, but I digress.

The morning is becoming brighter, the streets noisier

‘…The Smallcoal-Man…’ and the ‘Chimney-sweep, add their cries to the general din.  The Sweep’s cry was’…shriller..’ because only children could get into the narrow chimney spaces. 

 ‘Smallcoal’ is literally small bits of coal, like coarse gravel.

‘…Duns at his Lordship’s Gate began to meet.  This is ominous.  ‘Duns’ are debt collectors. All is not well at the Great House.

‘Brickdust Moll’*. The lady was ‘screaming…’ her wares.  Not sure on this one, perhaps selling brickdust as an abrasive cleaner?  PUBLISHER”S NOTE more of Brickdust Moll has come to light.  All that we have will be revealed this week – look for it.

And now for something absolutely unfamiliar.  Can this possibly be true?

‘…The Turn-key [jailer] now his Flock returning sees…’ who apparently have been let out  ‘…to steal for Fees…’

In Swift’s time, the incarcerated were required to pay for their food and lodgings.  Failure to meet these obligations could mean you might remain indefinitely locked up.  It seems almost incomprehensible to us that prisoners would be released like this and encouraged to steal to pay off their ‘Fees’.  The very idea that they would come back at all seems unimaginable.

‘…the watchful Bayliffs take their silent stand;..’

To all intents and purposes,this refers to cops, either in private or public employment, whose job it is to guard particular premises, or particular persons against thieves and robbers.  A type of security guard rather than a police officer.  There was no national police force then, not in the modern sense of the term..

And the morning has now advanced sufficiently for school children to be abroad, and dragging their feet on the way to class..

Here’s history in a nutshell, a detailed description of London waking up and going about it’s early morning business, in the first years of the 18th century.  Worth a guinea a box!

I hope my  rambling additions did not make the journey too tedious.

MDFF 23 November 2013

Last week we noted that Liam Jurrah was a victim of the NT Intervention (NTER). The Editor of Tracker magazine, Chris Graham explains Liam’s situation in this article first published in July 2012

Different world: understanding Indigenous justice
by Chris Graham

Less than a month ago, the Federal Government passed legislation extending the Northern Territory intervention for another 10 years. It barely rated a mention in the mainstream media.

But this week, Aboriginal people – and one in particular – are very much in the media spotlight.

Melbourne Demons star Liam Jurrah is currently appearing in an Alice Springs court, charged with assaulting his cousin, Basil Jurrah.

The circumstances of the alleged violence are part of a court proceeding, and getting plenty of play in other media. So I won’t revisit them here, save to say that Liam, Christopher Walker and Josiah Fry are alleged to have assaulted Basil Jurrah and at least four others in two incidents at the Little Sisters town camp in Alice Springs in March.

Prosecutors claim they led a 20-strong group because of tensions over the death of another Aboriginal man, Kumanjayi Watson, in 2010.

That death came about as a result of ‘payback gone wrong’, but that only partly explains the media interest, because the story ticks quite a few other mainstream boxes as well, including drunken Aboriginal violence and dysfunction, sport, and most importantly, celebrity.

Jurrah, in case you’ve been living under a rock, is a big deal in the AFL. His great skill aside, he’s the first Aboriginal man from a Central Deserts community to play in the big league. But the fact is that while AFL is as much a religion for blackfellas as it is for whitefellas, and while Liam Jurrah’s status as a player affords him a special respect among Aboriginal people in Central Australia, he could walk away from the AFL tomorrow and it would mean very little the average blackfella.

As good as he is at it, football is just something Liam Jurrah does. It doesn’t define him.

What does define him is the fact that he is a young Warlpiri man, a freshwater blackfella from the Central Deserts region. His skin name is Jungarrayi, his mother is Corrina, his father is Leo (also a great footballer) and his grandmother is Cecily. From the Warlpiri perspective, those are most of the things that really matter.

That and the fact that notwithstanding football stardom, Liam Jurrah is not excused from his cultural obligations, payback being one of them.

As brutal as it can sometimes be, the whole purpose of payback is to rule a line under an incident and allow people to move on. Sometimes payback goes wrong, although if you’re familiar with the number of deaths in custody – black or white – then you’d hardly suggest the white system of justice is flawless either.

I don’t excuse the death of Kumanjayi Watson – it should not have happened. But nor do I believe that Australians really understand how their justice system has impacted on this whole saga.

The man who killed Kumanjayi Watson was jailed. As a result, properly controlled and sanctioned payback never occurred. Much of the violence that we’ve seen in Yuendumu since has been a direct result of that. More payback. And then payback for payback. And on it goes.

The irony is that white people intervened in the belief they were doing the right thing. But the reality is we’ve made things a whole lot worse, and a whole lot more people have been hurt as a result.

It all harks back to the five most dangerous white words in Aboriginal affairs: ‘At least we’re doing something’.

It’s the ‘something’ that is the problem.

We can’t speculate on his reasons for the alleged assault, however if it is caught up with payback it is important to understand the obligations of Indigenous Australians to their kin.

Jurrah’s obligation to his kin is something very foreign to most non-Aboriginal Australians. I have an obligation to ring my mum on her birthday. I have an obligation to turn up to annual family events, weddings, funerals etc. In Liam Jurrah’s world, his family obligation is the whole reason for his existence. It’s at the core of Aboriginal being, and there are very good historical reasons for that.

You don’t survive and thrive for 60,000 years in one of the harshest environments on earth if your countrymen don’t understand their obligations. You don’t feel like hunting this week? People starve. That’s just one of the many reasons why the fabric of Aboriginal society is built on obligation.

To get your head around obligation and the Warlpiri perspective, you need to understand how Warlpiri (and Aboriginal people from Redfern to Ramingining) think.

What is important to them is not necessarily what is important to us. Like the elderly.

As white Australians, we have a tendency to stick our old people in a nursing home. Aboriginal people, by contrast, prefer to have their elders not only live out their years with their family, but actually lead their clans until their passing.

The irony is that Australians often lament our treatment of the elderly. Aboriginal people got it right a long time ago.

Sharing is another good example. Aboriginal people share everything because it makes good sense and again, there’s good historical reasons for it. You might have something to share today, but if you refuse, then tomorrow when you have nothing, you get nothing. That’s a feature of poverty as much as it is of Aboriginality, but regardless, it makes sense when you think about it.

Of course, we call Aboriginal sharing ‘humbugging’. So do many Aboriginal people, and it can often lead to problems. But it can also lead to solutions.

Many ancient virtues of Aboriginal culture are these today considered by white people to be modern flaws. But the gap in understanding is not just about the way Aboriginal people live, it’s also about the things Aboriginal people value.

Ochre is used by Aboriginal people in ceremonies and in art. It is, and always has been, an extremely valuable commodity. The Warlpiri ochre mine, for example, is a sacred place and is still used today. But to most white people ochre is just dirt. It has no real value or purpose.

If you flip it around, white people believe gold is extremely valuable. It can be mined and sold for a profit. Nations have prospered, and whole economies built on the rush for gold. To Aboriginal people, it’s a bit of rock in the ground. It has no real value or purpose.

Neither is right or wrong, they’re just different perspectives.

Another example is ceremony. Aboriginal people today still place great enormous importance on the ceremonies they’ve practiced for tens of thousands of years. Why? Because it has helped to sustain them. Ceremony is where law and history are passed on to the young. It makes Aboriginal people feel connected to each other. But to many white people, it’s just a group of blackfellas dancing around in the dirt.

Switch it around and many non-Aboriginal Australians believe one of their most sacred ceremonies is Anzac Day. Why? Because it pays homage to people who sacrificed so much to ensure we enjoy a free and privileged life today. But to many Aboriginal people, it’s just another day in April. They have their own warriors and their own wars, most of them waged against us (although we rarely acknowledge them).

The fact is, blackfellas at Yuendumu or anywhere else are not simply going to abandon their beliefs or world views because whitefellas think they’re weird, anymore than blackfellas expect whitefellas will abandon theirs.

Celebrating Liam Jurrah as a footballer is a good thing, because he’s a great player, but if we want to also celebrate him for who he is – an Aboriginal man with a vibrant, important and complex culture – then we have to start at least trying to understand his perspective, and that of his people.

And that’s the point. When you strip it all back – when you take out all the politics and the history – one of the main problems between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians is a massive gap in understanding.

Aboriginal people like dirt. We like rocks.

The differences are by no means insurmountable, but I don’t see a hell of a lot of effort on the part of white Australia to bridge the gap.

And that’s why Liam Jurrah’s story – his life story, not the story around the violence at the Little Sisters town camp – is the REAL story, because it affords white Australia an opportunity to better understand the Aboriginal perspective.

That opportunity, however, will be missed if we don’t demand that our media – and our governments – look beyond the violence and the celebrity, and find out what is really going on.

If you’re interested to look, a great place to start is in legislation like Stronger Futures, the very same thing our media are ignoring and our politicians are passing.
One of its provisions is to supplant Aboriginal law with white law, precisely one of the things that got us in this mess in the first place.

Chris Graham is the managing editor of Tracker magazine, and a Walkley Award and human rights award winning writer. View his full profile here.

Man as Machine XII

man as machine bannerTARQUIN O’FLAHERTY.

In England, before the Industrial Revolution, the common people were used by the aristocracy as both cannon fodder and labour.  In return the common people used the aristocracy to provide them with food, shelter and work.  There was a recognition that neither could exist without the other.  The labourer needed the work; the farming upper crust needed the worker.  Individuals acquired skills, carpentry, blacksmithing, farm husbandry and a host of other trades absolutely vital to the pre-industrial way of life.  These were skills (and jobs) which could be passed on from father to son in a world which was constant and unchanging.  There was an interdependence, a very real sense of knowing one’s place in the world, of certainty, of permanence, and no real sense of us versus them.  With industrialisation and the rise of the ‘middle’ class, it rapidly became us versus us.

In England, in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, (early nineteenth C) the demand for wheat plummeted and millions of displaced working people faced starvation.  Despite this, the  British industrial system was in an enviable position.  England had not been overrun by Bonaparte’s Grand Armee, and it had a vast pool of surplus labour.  Europe, from the French coast to Deepest Russia had had it’s infrastructure devastated by Napoleon’s ambition.  It would take a long time to recover

Robert Owen believed that an unemployed and impoverished class would reject his ideas initially and would therefore need to be ‘educated’ if his essentially philanthropic ideas were to be accepted.  After all, he was trying to point out to them their own importance, the absolutely essential nature of their contribution to society, and that without them there wouldn’t be an Industrial Revolution.  To achieve his ends he approached the rich, the ruling class to help him implement his ideas and bring about his vision for society.  What must be remembered here is that Owen, in the Age of Reason, and by ‘cogito ergo sum’ reasoning, discovered that treating your employees well actually increased production markedly.  Owen was initially very successful in getting this point across.  Influential people listened to him, but only because of his success as an industrialist.  To begin to treat employees as anything other than as an expendable commodity was unthinkable, absolutely unheard of, and smacked of ‘The World Turned Upside Down’, a reversal of the traditional Master/servant relationship.    This, despite the fact that almost all mill owners at the time were drawn from the working class themselves.

Basically, Owen was preaching Socialism.  Owen knew that nothing could be achieved in any industrial situation without workers.  It followed therefore that the most important people in any factory, were the work force.  Their importance in Owen’s view could not be overstated and their remuneration should reflect this.  This was tantamount to suggesting that the workers were at least as important as the owners and that they should share in the profits.  Industrialists were horrified and support for Owen’s Utopian ideas either faded away or were diluted to the point where they became unrecognisable.  Clearly Reason, in the much touted Age of Reason, had it’s limits, especially when it interfered with an employer’s right to exploit his workforce by paying them starvation wages.


Carbon is Taxing

by Cecil Poole

I’ve been riding my bike quite a bit lately.  A push bike, not a motorised one.   The energy needed to accelerate is substantial, just as we were taught in elementary physics.  Starting off, climbing hills, are all energy burners.  Interruptions to a smooth constant pace are deplored, cursed at.  Just cruising along is so easy, the stop and starting is the killer – the fact that every ride is all uphill and into the wind is ignored, please accept that.  So I have gained extraordinary insight into the energy required just to get things going, to accelerate.  Travel is now looked at differently, smoothness of flow sought and where found, applauded.

By the by I’ve spent some time in a certain University Town in the USA where there seems to be a good understanding of the above and of the relationship of carbon emissions to environmental degradation, even to climate change.  In this town there is adoption of mitigation measures to such an extent that hybrid cars a highly popular.  Some say there is  in fact a plague of Prii*.  Now these highly educated environmentally aware and responsible citizens know that acceleration is deleterious to the environment.  So much so that if there is a Prius stopped in front of you at the lights it is highly unlikely that you will get through the intersection on the next change.  (There were reports a year or two back, of accelerators sticking on in these cars; unlikely in my opinion, as they seem in my experience to have no accelerator at all)

Quentin and Cecil have recently competed their mission to the South West of this great country of ours – you know, the one we stole from the Aborigines – Australia.

Quentin and I drove a rental car from Perth 270 km south to Margaret River and, despite this being one of Western Australia’s busiest rural highways we were faced with frequent changing speed limits and many lights.   Speed limits seemed to change almost at random.  80 km/hr on some dual carriageway, then just as it narrowed to single lane the speed limit would go up to 100.  The major town bypasses now seem to be arteries to the industrial and logistics areas, not bypasses at all.  Frustrating yet hardly worth writing about except that this is a fairly new road system, WA is a wealthy state, yet here is third world infrastructure that seems to be designed to profit land developers rather than help reduce emissions through smooth traffic flow.

At Margaret River we stayed with an artist.  The chosen medium was glass.  The raw materials need to be heated to around 1300 degrees C to transform into glass, then held at 1100.  Most glass blowing is done at between 900 to 1000 degrees C.   Could there be a more energy intensive art-form?  Maybe it was appropriate that they were doing a large commission for Chevron “Dedicated to Developing Innovative Energy Solutions to Power Australia”. (Oh dear, Chevron have been found guilty of causing environmental damage in the Amazon basin, fine $19bn, now halved on appeal.)

Another of our carbon related activities was helping prepare for the coming fire season, so fuel reduction was in order.  This was achieved with a wonderful flame gun that in time managed to burn even the greenest of grass.  We also helped burn a very large Blue Gum stump.  We felt suitably virtuous.

According to the Carbon Calculator we each added close to 1.5 tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere in our return flight to Perth.  (I suspect Quentin added considerably more, although that is still to be confirmed.)

So in essence the trip consisted of pumping large quantities of carbon into the atmosphere.  This seems most apt in light of our new government’s commitment to abandon the recently introduced carbon tax and with it any pretense at recognising that climate change is accelerated principally by the actions of western homo sapiens.

*Prii: plural of Prius
carbon is taxing illus


Take a letter, Miss Michael

WCFieldsfrom Robert Lewis Taylor’s W.C.Fields His Follies and Fortunes

Field’s favourite dictation was done in collaboration with his pal Sam Hardy.  They would set up shop in the comedian’s study, looking very serious, and send for Magda Michael, (Field’s secretary).  Then, without changing expression, they would dictate horrifying letters, profane and blasphemous, to the most notable figures in the land.  It was tragic, Miss Michael felt, that these scenes were lost to posterity.  Fields and Hardy played them with all the artistic finesse at their command, and each sharpened the other’s skill. “Sit down, will you, Miss Michael?” Fields would ask gently, his tone full of significance.  “Thank you, Mr Fields,” she would reply, with a good idea of what was coming.  Fields, wearing his bathrobe, its pockets stuffed, as usual, with thousand-dollar bills, would shuffle through his papers, then consult Hardy in an undertone.

“Do you have those notes we prepared?”

Hardy was an impressive looking man, and his demeanour on these occasions would automatically have got him bids to many corporate boards.  “I believe I returned them to you, Mr Fields.  Some of them were carried over from our last meeting.”

“Ah, yes,” Fields would say.  “Here they are.  Will you take a letter, Miss Michael? To Mr Henry B Meyer, Moronic Pictures, Hollywood, California.”  He would go on for a few minutes, perhaps breaking off for portentous whispered conversations with Hardy, then say, “Now, let’s see, will you read that back, please?”

Miss Michael, whose expression had not altered since the session began, would clear her throat bravely and read, “Dear Mr. Meyer, you ignorant son of a bitch, I wish to take this opportunity to tell you what I think of your goddamned movies.  If I ever catch you out on the street, you thieving horse’s ass, I’m going to break both your legs.  Of all the low-down bastards ——–  You stopped there, Mr Fields.”

“On bastards?”

“Yes, Mr Fields.”

“Read all right so far?”

“It’s very well composed.”

“Punctuation sound throughout? Comma after bitch?”

“Everything’s in order, I believe, Mr Fields.”

“Then let us continue.”