Poetry Sunday 31 August 2014

“Tiger” by A.D.Hope.
notes by Poetry Editor, Ira Maine

If you care to troll through the history of Alec Derwent  Hope, poet and academic, (1907- 2000) you will discover a highly educated critical  intelligence who did not suffer fools gladly. Born in Cooma, NSW he went to Oxford Uni. on a scholarship, returning to Australia in 1931,  He worked in various academic disciplines throughout his professional life from whence he would sally forth savagely, railing against what he saw as Australia’s habit of pursuing mediocrity relentlessly. Through the 1940’s and 50’s he probably alienated everybody who was anybody in the local  literary world by his demands for the highest possible creative standards.

As an example of the prevailing Philistinism of the period, Hope was once asked the following question by some local troglodyte:

‘What do poets do for Australia?’

Gloriously, Hope is said to have replied;

‘They justify it’s existence.’

Now to our poem ‘TIGER’,

This poem is not  difficult.  Hope simply asks of you that you do not mistake the forest for the trees.

Paper tigers are the ephemeral, the tempter, the bait the world offers you in an attempt to win you to it’s side.  On all sides we are daily battered by the paper tigers of politics, advertising, religion etc whose avowed aim is to prevent you arriving at your own independent conclusions.  Their conclusions are the only ones that matter. All else is heresy and must be expunged.

It is hard in these circumstances to resist these blandishments.  But resist we must in order to properly understand who we are and what our ‘three score and ten’ function might be.

We must exorcise the lies we tell ourselves and look at ourselves truthfully and critically, even if it kills us.  Otherwise, in Socrates’ words; ‘… the unexamined life is not worth living…’.

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonius farewells Laertes with the following advice;

‘…to thine own self be true, and it follows, as the night the day, thou canst be false to no man…’

Exactly so.


The paper tigers roar at noon;
The sun is hot, the sun is high.
They roar in chorus, not in tune,
Their plaintive, savage hunting cry.

O, when you hear them, stop your ears
And clench your lids and bite your tongue.
The harmless paper tiger bears
Strong fascination for the young.

His forest is the busy street;
His dens the forum and the mart;
He drinks no blood, he tastes no meat:
He riddles and corrupts the heart.

But when the dusk begins to creep
From tree to tree, from door to door,
The jungle tiger wakes from sleep
And utters his authentic roar.

It bursts the night and shakes the stars
Till one breaks blazing from the sky;
Then listen! If to meet it soars
Your heart’s reverberating cry,

My child, then put aside your fear:
Unbar the door and walk outside!
The real tiger waits you there;
His golden eyes shall be your guide.

And, should he spare you in his wrath,
The world and all the worlds are yours;
And should he leap the jungle path
And clasp you with his bloody jaws,

Then say, as his divine embrace
Destroys the mortal parts of you:
I too am of that royal race
Who do what we are born to do.

MDFF 30 August 2014

Our Dispatch today was first published on 23 March 2011.  The racist Intervention continues with white Australia’s complicity.

Kon nichi wa watashi-no friends   こんにちは私の友人

Japan is suffering a hat trick of disasters.

Geobiosis is greatly underrated. Google “symbiosis” and you get 13.6 million results. Google “geobiosis” and you get a bit more than two thousand.

Ethnobiology: 139 thousand results. Ethnogeology: 5,350 results.

What do Lybia, Timor Leste, Iraq, Bahrain, Côte d’Ivoire and Angola have in common. A history of civil unrest and military intervention you say? How about hydrocarbon rich sedimentary basins?

What do Japan, New Zealand, Chile and Haiti have in common. Earthquakes you say? I rest my case.

The enormity of the Japanese disasters is no reason to forget the people of Port-Au-Prince or Christchurch, nor the flooded Queenslanders and Victorians, nor the remaining “non combatants” languishing in Guantanamo Bay.

Nor is it a reason to pretend that the Intervention in the Northern Territory never happened and that we must “move forward” and that “Closing the Gap” isn’t a perpetuation of the grave injustice being visited upon remote Aboriginal Australia.

When UN special Rapporteur James Anaya came to Yuendumu I said to him that compared to the Peruvian Amazonians that had recently been massacred, Yuendumu’s woes were rather minor. Not at all he replied. Injustice had to be opposed regardless. Magnitude did not come into it.

There is no Richter Scale for Injustice.

This from my dad’s anecdotes:
Toen Kropveld, een Joodse kennis van ons, eens langs kwam droeg hij zo’n gele ster. “Ben je belazerd dat ding te dragen?”zei Guurt, en heeft het voor hem eraf gehaald. Zover ik weet, heeft hij, ondanks dat hij er als vijf joden uitzag, de oorlog overleefd. Hij handelde stoffen, en vroeg mij om hem te helpen aan de Duitsers te verkopen. “Zeg niets, laat mij maar handelen” (Kropveld kon namelijk geen Duits spreken). Keller had een hele stapel stof gekozen, en het kwam op 3,200 gulden. Kropveld kon het niet laten en bood korting aan “Hij mag het voor 3,000 gulden hebben”(ik had hem wel kunnen wurgen!) “Was sagt er?” Toen ik Keller vertelde wat Kropveld had gezegd, zei hij “Ha, Ha, Ha, das hat er wohl von den Juden gelernt!”

Once, when Kropveld, a Jewish aquaintance, came to visit, he was wearing the yellow Star of David. “Are you crazy, wearing that thing?” said Guurt, and took it off. Despite looking very Jewish, as far as I know, Kropveld survived the war. He dealt in textiles, and asked me to help him sell to the Germans. “Say nothing, let me handle this” (Kropveld couldn’t speak German). Keller chose a pile of material that amounted to 3,200 guilders. Kropveld couldn’t control himself: “Tell him he can have the lot for 3,000 guilders” (I could have strangled him!) “What did he say?” When I told Keller, he replied “Ha, Ha, Ha, he must have learnt that from the Jews!”

Googling I discover that Kropveld did indeed survive the war as did his youngest daughter. Mrs.Kropveld and their elder daughter were picked up in Amsterdam on the 10th.May 1943 (the third anniversary of the invasion of the Netherlands) and gassed at Sobibor (Poland) eleven days later. At Sobibor there were 34,313 victims from the Netherlands. Lest we forget.

Not since 1972 has so much rain fallen in Central Australia. Our roads keep getting closed. The Ginger Bread Man came and saw me: “I’m worried about Food Security for Yuendumu”. I told him that if FaHCSIA were truly worried about Food Security they would not have pursued a deliberate policy of trying to send the “non Income Management” stores broke.

The GBM said “Some people are in favour of Income Management”. Yes, and some people think the earth is flat, and that if we keep looking we will find Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, and that the Holocaust did not happen, and neither did the Armenian one.

In the 2000 Sydney Paralympics, the Spanish basketball team won gold in the intellectually handicapped section. They were subsequently exposed as being of sound mind and had to hand back their medals. In 2008 Jenny Macklin boasted that the Nguru Walaltja store was a great success (“After opening in July, the shop was an instant success, with turnover doubling in months”). She won a gold medal. When it becomes generally known that customers had nowhere else to go with their Income Managed money, and that the other stores were deliberately handicapped, will she be asked to hand back her medal?

“Food Security” is the new mantra. The Nguru Walaltja store has run out of bread. Yuendumu residents are presently unable to buy bread with their Basic Card. Basic Card cannot be used at the other two locally owned stores that have ample stocks of bread. Basic Card can be used at one of the stores to buy fuel.

There are well founded rumours that fuel pumps and tanks are being considered for the Nguru Walaltja store. Yuendumu will have three fuel outlets, how is that for Food Security?

A multi million dollar new store, funded by ABA money, is planned for Yuendumu. Yuendumu is also getting a new Centrelink building. We have been declared a “Growth Town”!

La Macklin is aiming for another gold medal. Not satisfied with not being handicapped herself, she is making sure the other competitors are. All in the name of Food Security.

All in the name of Liberty….

Man does not live by bread alone. Food Security isn’t worth much without respect and dignity….

Respect and dignity- I am a Man…

My parents survived the war with not much bread but lots of Dignity. They were much better off than the disempowered marginalised members of Australian Society.

People in detention centres and the Intervention Refugees in Alice Springs have no shortage of bread, yet they set fire to buildings or drink and fight themselves to death.

Man does not live by bread alone.

Oid mortales el grito sagrado: ¡Libertad! ¡Libertad! ¡Libertad!… Hear ye mortals the sacred cry: Liberty! Liberty! Liberty! (from the Argentine National Anthem)

Ngakarnanyara nyanyi



PS- a little known fact: the NTER (Intervention) legislation not only suspended the Racial Discrimination Act, but also certain parts of the Trades Practices Act dealing with unfair competition.

FaHCSIA controls ORIC (the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations), Outback Stores (that manages the Nguru Walaltja store), the ABA (Aboriginal Benefits Account- a large pot of money derived from mineral royalties on Aboriginal Land) and the Community Stores Licencing process.

They are their own umpires. They move the goal posts and then tell us that we missed.

Never-ending Sex

We have not yet, despite our age, finished with sex.  Today’s post is from David Allyn’s Make Love, Not War the Sexual Revolution: An Unfettered History Little, Brown and Company New York, 2000. This comes from the introduction to his epilogue.

IN 1994, SURGEON GENERAL JOCELYN ELDERS, RESPONDING TO the AIDS crisis, recommended that schools discuss the safety benefits of masturbation over intercourse.  She was summarily fired.  Virtually no one in the nation rallied to her side.

There are several ironies to the Elders incident.  Two decades earlier, Elders would have had numerous defenders.  Her suggestion would have been interpreted in light of the ongoing sexual revolution.  Her ideas might still have seemed provocative to some, but many educated adults would have recognised the obvious importance of teaching children a pragmatic approach to avoiding an incurable, life-threatening disease over maintaining reticence about a practice as timeless and widespread as masturbation.

The man who fired Elders was non other than President Clinton.  As the Monica Lewinsky affair later revealed, clinton is no exemplar of traditional morality.  Or, rather, Clinton is just that: a man who practices the traditional rites of hypocrisy.    When it came to the health of the nation’s children, Clinton was unwilling to speak up for a secular, rational approach to sexuality because it might cost him public approval.  When it came to his own personal pleasure, Clinton was quick to act on his desires and lie as necessary.

The point is not to blame the resident for his all too human failings.  The real point is to recognise how deeply ambivalent most of us remain about human sexuality.  We remain ashamed of our own desires, alienated from our own bodies, fearful of the judgement of our neighbours, calmly hypocritical and deceitful.

Fortunately, the sexual revolution did accomplish many positive things.  Even though various religions still disapprove of contraception, there is no longer any real social stigma attached to using birth control.  The double standard is less pervasive than it once was.  Premarital sex is acknowledged as a reality by the mass media.  Abortion is still legally available.  Censorship is much rarer than it used to be. . . .  Gays and lesbians enjoy unprecedented visibility and freedom.  Interracial marriages are legal and interracial romances are represented in film and on television.  . . .

But overall, the sexual revolutionaries of the sixties and seventies did not accomplish nearly as much as they had hoped they would.  First, as the Elders incident reveals, many of the backward attitudes that existed prior to the sexual revolution have persisted despite the best efforts of sexual liberals to stamp them out.  Adolescents of both sexes still look down on girls who are too ‘easy’.  Birth control remains expensive . . . Abortion providers must fear for their own lives.  Politicians still say one thing about sex and do another.  The religious right still tries to appeal to ‘decency’ in order to censor provocative art.  Gay unions are not legally recognised, while homophobia and gay bashing are still rampant in some areas and may even be on the rise.  Gang bangs still occur at college fraternities.  Many young men still possess callous attitudes towards women.  Nonsexual nakedness remains almost taboo in family films and television and even in news magazines.  Depictions of violence and simulated violence remain staples of popular entertainment while the portrayal of sex and simulated sex continue to provoke controversy.

Violence against Women

Some men – Australian sportsman and activist Phil Cleary for example – believes that all men are responsible for violence against women, as each and every man reaps benefit from the ongoing subjugation of women and that this is reinforced through violence.  Thus, goes the argument, each and every man needs to take an active stand against this violence and against the social structures that inherently support it.

Todays 11 minute French uTube film explores this in stark terms.

watch it here

Thoughts on cohabitation

(The timing of publication of this article is purely co-incidental.)

By Gavan Naden.

There comes a point in every week when I walk out the door and don’t come back.

I leave behind her Scandi interior design, so white and crisp it’s like tunnelling through a snowstorm. Fluffy cushions are piled high on the permanently plumped sofa and an array of colour-coordinated plants cascade out of old teapots and ribboned wicker boxes. It’s a world that looks so pretty you could eat it.

And I leave not because I don’t love her, but precisely because I do. It’s just that I feel living together is so overrated.

Sure, I could get used to it. There are fantastic benefits. She cooks using unpronounceable herbs in Le Creuset pans that only see sausages when it’s my go. My clothes, draped over the back of a chair at night, are never there in the morning and she says strangely alluring things such as, “Do you think that wall would look better emulsioned in Misty Buff?”

When I draw the curtains in her home in leafy Hertfordshire, she waits until I leave the room then re-adjusts the folds. And I have absolutely no idea why. However, I say nothing, distracted by the search for my laptop, which has been silently shifted from my place of work into a far corner. She believes that change is progress. It’s the drug that drives her. So the entire house is painted a marginally different shade each season, otherwise it unbalances her chakras.

To her, the disruption is worth the effort, it brings a joy and puts a spring in her step (I’ve seen her break into song with the arrival of a new lampshade).

I have to admit where once I’d nod and listen with genuine interest, now when she asks what I think of her startling plans it’s all too apparent that I’m staring intently at the loose wire in the plug. Being caught out is my own fault.

But the addictiveness of change dulls my brain. So each week I leave and return to my own flat and we never have to get to that point where it feels like the walls are moving in.

Except the clock is ticking and there is a huge elephant sitting in the middle of her brightly polished living room. My son is 17 and on the verge of heading off to university. So my place in London will soon be seen as surplus to requirements. Can I really justify keeping my own flat that will only be fully occupied during the holidays?

But my flat represents far more than some random I’m-an-independent-man bolt hole. There’s a fencing foil on the wall, doors that don’t quite fit and a bike hanging from the ceiling. There’s a sofa no one sits on, which is only there to fill the gap between my speakers. Geezer chic.

And when I walk out my door, on the horizon the haze of London shimmers in all its noisy, dirty glory. The Shard rises like a glinting unfinished arrow, there’s the stench of diesel, and Crystal Palace supporters yelling (strangely, when I mention these marvellous benefits, she looks decidedly nonplussed).

After years of responsibilities, bringing up children and watching over pet goldfish, I had assumed that this would become my time. I was on the verge of a breakthrough and newfound freedom when I could flamboyantly toss a teabag into the sink, where it could sit happily untouched for days. No more early morning dash to the school bus stop, or late-night pickup from the cinema. It would be a time free of mental anguish when I could sit back and rebelliously eat a meal for one, microwaved to perfection in under five minutes. I was, I assumed, about to enter Shangri-la.

But she wants us to throw it all in and head off to the coast together. Sell up so we can see grey crashing waves and walk along drizzly beaches. Open spaces leading to no fixed point make her stride with real purpose. That’s when she really smiles, places a hand to her ear and says, “Hear that?” I cautiously shake my head. She gives me a seductive smile and yells, “Exactly!”

Yet even if I squint all I can see is a mass of endless green leaves and trees blocking my view. And sometimes all that silence gives me a headache.

Living under the same roof would not prove we are any stronger, it’s not a panacea to the perfect relationship. Breathing the same air all the time can take the edge off its freshness.

Fine, we can be together all the time on holiday. The odd week away, I understand. It’s a nice break from the norm. We’ve even cycled the length of Cornwall and climbed Snowdon. I can see the point of that. There is a sense of achievement, of shared moments, which are fabulously bonding. But to idly wander the byways of some nondescript coastal eternity for ever doesn’t quite do it for me.

The truth is I don’t really want to live with her, certainly no more than I want to eat steak and chips each night. It’s a road I’ve already pedalled and fallen from, and there is something freeing about love when you have somewhere else to go.

When I appear perturbed or confused as we scroll through fine-looking properties with Agas and open fires on housing websites, she gets frustrated. She claims I’m damned awkward. In fact, I am just perturbed and confused. It’s not that I am being deliberately uncommunicative, rather I struggle to find the right words to justify indifference.

How am I to engage in a conversation about a place I’m having to view via a fisheye lens? “Nice” is to condemn it with faint praise and “excellent” is the equivalent of Hugh Grant sarcasm.

She raises her eyebrows, saying it’s obvious I don’t notice my surroundings and that all those delicate finishing touches don’t matter to me. “Life is about change,” she says. “It’s time to stop dressing like a gap-year student and start making plans.”

The trouble is, she thinks she knows me rather well and believes the finer things in life will pass me by. That’s where she’s wrong, of course, as she is one of the finer things in my life and I love her all the more because of our differences and the fact that we’re not together all the time. But that’s a hard sell.

Inhabiting the same property makes perfect sense in lots of ways. It would save a fortune on disposable toothbrushes and I would no longer arrive wearing a rainproof baker boy cap during an unexpected heatwave. I wouldn’t have to load my Oyster card or have one eye on train times. It would mean an end to that joyful moment when you say hello, a slice of life that never becomes stale. But that all sounds rather lame.

If we threw it all in and headed off into the sunset, the one thing that would remain the same would be us. And what would become of my rather strange paintings? She might not like them. Blimey, come to think of it even I don’t like them.

Now whenever I walk out the door it gets more scary with decision time another week closer. I’m edging nearer to that moment when I should commit, make up my mind and move on with life. All this potential freedom is proving to be a pain.

MKIn the early 90s, Milton Keynes ran a saccharine advert featuring a little boy peering wistfully out of a car window while leaving a horrid, noisy city. He was delighted by all the exciting things he was seeing – clouds, cows, trees. It ended with the slogan, “I wish I lived here.” Because I guess they don’t have clouds and trees in the city. Or maybe the grass is always greener, even when it’s actually AstroTurf.

I try to imagine living together but all I can see is a lonely bloke on a windy beach with a metal detector, a long way from Brixton Academy.

My mind just doesn’t do Misty Buff.

From The Guardian 22 August 2014



Inequality Matters

by Harry Maher, from Eureka Street,  19 August 2014

Inequality matters. Inequality is dangerous. And inequality is at a near all-time high. At its core, the Government’s recent budget not only engenders but actively exults in the creation and maintenance of inequality, a phenomenon rapidly expanding not just in Australia, but around the world. Generations of economists have promised that free markets and competition would bring an end to disparity in society. But the statistics are out. And the statistics don’t lie.

French economist Thomas Piketty’s ‘Capital in the 21st Century’ presents a comprehensive history of inequality and capitalism. Lamenting the never-ending arguments between economists regarding the effect of capitalism on inequality, where each side of the political spectrum merely asserted their views and pointed to the other side’s lack of evidence as proof of their own views, Piketty presents a comprehensive, impartial and statistical view of income and wealth inequality over the last 150 years. His statistics demonstrate conclusively that the free, uninterrupted and unfettered operation of capitalism inevitably leads to widening inequality, as is occurring around the world and in Australia, even without the help of Hockey’s inequality budget.

Piketty’s history shows inequality climaxed in 1913, at the end of a period of uninterrupted capitalism, before rapidly diminishing as the First World War, Great Depression, Second World War, and finally the Cold War effectively disrupted and prevented the free operation of capitalism. Post WWII, economists heralded the return to peaceful capitalism and a drop in inequality. But Piketty’s stats show the exact opposite. Since 1960, global income and wealth inequality has steadily and consistently increased, climaxing in the present day at near 1913 levels. Capitalism and inequality, Piketty shows, perpetuates inequality, which under the hegemonic operation of free market economics, has grown to unconscionable proportions.

However Piketty, as a mere statistician, stops short of attributing the series of global crises beginning in 1913, the highpoint of global inequality, to inequality. That bold link is made by Hannah Arendt, who in examining the origins of totalitarianism and the dark 20th century, cites explicitly the heightened inequality of income. Capitalism leads to inequality (that much is clear from the stats, that don’t lie), which in turn inevitably leads to the problem of over-saving in the rich and superfluous capital. Yet superfluous capital cannot remain idle – due to the very rules of capital itself – and hence becomes a major destabilising force, as money pursues more money pursues more money. It was the destabilising force of inequality and superfluous capital in the early 20th century that led to imperialism, an attempted outlet of capitalism, and inevitable conflict over scarce resources triggering WWI and WWII vis Arendt. The 20th century was soaked in the blood of the innocent, resulting directly from inequality endemic to the modus operandi of capitalism.

Yet inequality is not a problem of the past, and world leaders would do well to heed the lessons of history lest they be devoured by history, as inequality reaches near 1913-levels. The GFC, the greatest economic crisis of our generation, was caused by the age-old problem of superfluous capital; inequality created excessive savings in the rich, which sought further profit through risky sub-prime mortgage derivative products, that eventually unravelled, triggering a disastrous halt in our global system. But if the lessons of the past century are to be heeded, the GFC could be just the first dire warning of worse to come. So long as inequality is treated as a tolerable and necessary economic problem, rather than a social and moral problem, our leaders continue to lead us, like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, obediently over the cliff’s edge, just as in 1913 (while we don’t look up from our iPhones!).

But surely, many would reply, capitalism has delivered immeasurable prosperity and progress, and a luxurious quality of life? As the tide rises, all boats are eventually lifted, the popular argument goes. Yet this view is based on an unbalanced snapshot of global capitalism. Sure, capitalism and free trade may have brought prosperity to Australia, but this is at the direct expense of those labouring in the sweatshops of the developing world, and the starving children of the parents who grow our coffee in the African sub-Sahara.

That is why ‘boat people’ unsettle Australians on such an existential level. They give us a brief glimpse of the global economy, of the widespread institutional inequality and of the suffering and poverty just beyond our fortified borders. They are indeed ‘economic refugees’ fleeing from our global hegemony that brings nothing but poverty, conflict and ruin. That is why a usually humane population is prepared to have desperate human beings shipped off to prison camps on faraway islands, out of sight, out of mind, because they remind us that our incredible privilege in Australia comes at such a heavy cost, a cost no man or woman should be willing to pay.

You see, it’s not capitalism and liberal democracy that I don’t accept, Alyosha, only I must most (dis)respectfully return my ticket. Is not the cost of salvation too high? How can one live on our edifice of unrevenged tears, of starving sick children. Surely my humanity, my Christianity, or my secular humanism tells me that I must reject an economic system in which I eat three meals a day, while next door, a neglected child dies of starvation? How then does one square the limitless opulence of parts of Australia with a world in which 3.1 million children die each year due to poor nutrition, according to the World Food Program?

Even in wealthy Australia inequality exists, in Indigenous Australia, in the working poor, and the underclass of impoverished unemployed that the budget enshrines. A recent Oxfam Report showed that the richest 1 per cent of Australian’s own the same amount of wealth as the bottom per cent, a rate of inequality below the OECD average. The ironic contradiction of the budget’s Christian-capitalist led attack on the poor and marginalised has not been lost on many. A generation of Christian leaders appear to have lost their moral compasses, engaging in a deification of money-making, and a reduction of the human person to nothing more than an economic asset; those that can’t ‘earn or learn’ are liabilities to be exploited, marginalised or abandoned.

How else but by a complete moral deficiency can one explain the brutal attack on foreign aid in the budget, cloaked in the pathetic excuse that ‘we can’t give away borrowed money’ (only one country in the world has no debt, meaning under Hockey’s normative conception of foreign affairs, no one but Norway gives to the starving)? How else but with a Faustian pact with the god of capital could one explain the attacks on pensioners, disability support recipients, the unemployed, and the sick, while negative gearing, mining super profits and the big banks are left untouched? The poor scream and suffer, while Pilate washes his hands and laughs. Sure, the rich can only enter the Kingdom of Heaven on a loaded camel through the eye of the needle, but who needs the Kingdom of Heaven when money reigns as deity supreme?

Inequality remains the greatest danger of our century, both in Australia and overseas. Again according to Oxfam, as of June 2014, sixty-six ‘devils’ control the same amount of wealth as three and a half billion people, half the world’s population. Such staggering global inequality is not only morally unjustifiable, it is unsustainable. An estimated 1.3 billion people living below the poverty line cannot, must not, be allowed to continue.

But what is the alternative? Revolt? Revolution? Democracy? I have neither the time nor economic expertise to delve into the need and means to effectively tax wealth and the trillions in tax havens and offshore accounts, and to open up economic and political opportunity to the marginalised. Instead, I hope to highlight that somewhere we have gone dramatically wrong, and created a world that on the dawn of the 21st century is inherently immoral. A world in which a sixth of the population subsists on less than $1.25 per day, in which over 3 billion manage on only $2 per day. Forty-five years ago we put a man on the moon yet today 1.5 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water. It is only when the economic inequality at the core of our social organisation is recognised as a moral problem that we can properly eliminate extreme inequality, and all the dangers it brings.

Yes, there is hardly a straightforward solution, and the gods of money and power stand directly in its way, but the alternative is dire. If inequality is allowed to continue its meteoric rise, against the backdrop of the desperate voices of pensioners, students, and the unemployed rising in lament, the GFC and the inequality budget may only be the pre-tremors in a devastating earthquake precipitated by our inequality. Exactly a hundred years on from when greed, wealth and inequality plunged the world into thirty years of catastrophic conflict, disregard history at your peril.

Harry Maher is a second year Arts/Law student at Sydney University. His interests include politics, liberation theology and Russian literature. This essay is the second prize winner in the 2014 Margaret Dooley Award for Young Writers. 

Poetry Sunday 24 August 2014

Ronald Stuart Thomas (b.1913)  was the son of a sailor which meant that he and his mother lived around various ports in the British Isles whilst the father was at sea.  Eventually Thomas’s father retired from the navy and set up home in Wales where the father found permanent work on the ferries between Wales and Ireland.

The younger Thomas, a deeply spiritual man, married and became an Anglican priest.  He was very proudly Welsh and wrote extraordinary poetry.  He hated the cultural dilution the English visited on Wales by buying up country cottages as ‘holiday homes’ and putting the same cottages out of the financial reach of locals.  He supported anti-British movements who burnt these same cottages to the ground!

Thomas saw the peasant Welsh farmer as the backbone of the country, and a lot of his poetry celebrates the harshness of their lives and their capacity to endure.

There is a deliberate harshness, a bleakness in this wintry verse which magnificently captures that Stoic fierceness that keeps men farming this difficult land when they might so easily abandon it all.
Independence and a sense of place creates a passion, a fierce love of the land in individuals, and, at the same time, a real contempt for those  who, by sins of omission, by doing nothing, would destroy that bond.

I’ll say no more, except to offer this poem to you as a mere sampler of Thomas’s quality. He should have the Nobel Prize.

R.S. Thomas, ‘A Peasant’

Iago Prytherch his name, though, be it allowed,
Just an ordinary man of the bald Welsh hills,
Who pens a few sheep in a gap of cloud.
Docking mangels, chipping the green skin
From the yellow bones with a half-witted grin
Of satisfaction, or churning the crude earth
To a stiff sea of clods that glint in the wind—-
So are his days spent, his spittled mirth
Rarer than the sun that cracks the cheeks
Of the gaunt sky perhaps once in a week.
And then at night see him fixed in his chair
Motionless, except when he leans to gob in the fire.
There is something frightening in the vacancy of his mind.
His clothes, sour with years of sweat
And animal contact, shock the refined,
But affected, sense with their stark naturalness.
Yet this is your prototype, who, season by season
Against siege of rain and the wind’s attrition,
Preserves his stock, an impregnable fortress
Not to be stormed even in death’s confusion.
Remember him, then, for he, too, is a winner of wars,
Enduring like a tree under the curious stars.


MDFF 23 August 2014

Our Dispatch today was first published on 28 February 2011.  The racist Intervention continues with white Australia’s complicity.

Kia Ora,

Ko te Whakapuakitanga Here i te Ao ki ngā Mana Tangata
Kupu Whakamahuki
I runga i te mūhio he mea ātaahua te rangatiratanga o te tangata, he ūrite hoki ngā mana tangata o ngā uri o Papatuānuku e kore e taea te wewete, ā koia nei te pōtake o te noho herekore i roto i te ture me te maungarongo i te ao,

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

In previous dispatches I have had cause to contrast the status of Aotearoa’s first inhabitants with that of the first inhabitants of Australia.

Australia the lucky country, Australia the clever country, Australia the land of the fair go.

It should be noted that Australia is one of the few countries in the Western world where there is no constitutional protection of human rights. New Zealand’s first inhabitants are protected not only by the Treaty of Waitangi , but also the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and the Human Rights Act 1993 applicable to all New Zealanders and presumably also visitors and refugees (including “boat people” and “queue jumpers”).

Well may we take the puss out of their exent and make jokes about unnatural acts with sheep, but a bit of humility and respect towards them wouldn’t go astray. In some respects they are light years ahead of us.

New Zealand has just suffered a natural disaster, an “Act of God”. Several dispatchees are New Zealanders, and undoubtedly some will have been touched by the disaster.

It was a previous disaster in New Zealand that prompted the New Zealand parliament to express their sorrow and empathy in song and a minute’s silence.

Let’s pause and watch it again:

A revealing experiment in psychology consists of flashing pictures of a dog that slowly changes into a cat. The point at which subjects change their opinion and declare the picture to be that of a cat varies from person to person. Some people keep asserting the picture is that of a dog even when obviously they are looking at the picture of a cat. Such people could be called dogmatic.

Climate change sceptics are such people. Such people have no problem with a sentence such as: “we have had three one hundred year floods in two years”

Such people will respond to a statement such as: “there were no weapons of mass destruction” with “does that mean you’re in favour of Saddam Hussein?”

Such people will respond to a statement such as: “the most effective way of teaching is by using the mother tongue of the student” with “but they must learn English!”

Such people will declare that Aboriginal Australians should change their behaviour. They should send their kids to school, take a job when it’s offered to them and stop drinking, and “the Gap” will miraculously disappear. Such people refuse to contemplate the possibility that perhaps it is them that need to change their behaviour. To them it is still a dog in the picture.

She don’t like that kind of behaviour….

Disasters are classified into “natural” and “man made”.

Floods, droughts, earthquakes, storms and bushfires are natural disasters.

Wars, riots, genocides, chemical spills, dam bursts, acts of terrorism and economic depressions are man-made disasters.

To what extent human activity is responsible for climate change and hence the “100 year floods” can be argued.

Similarly for example to what extent famine resulting from drought is a cause of civil disturbances can be vigorously debated.

How you classify a deliberately lit bushfire is a moot point to its victims.

A home destroyed by a bomb is no different to a home destroyed by an earthquake.

None the less, a distinction between “natural” and “man-made” can be made.

In the face of natural disasters people are powerless. Our leaders can do nothing but offer words of solidarity and solace and to make resources available immediately the water retreats or the dust settles.

Helicopters pluck people off roof tops, and nations rally to donate food, clothes, accommodation and money. Teams from all over the world descend to help to rescue the too few survivors or assist the wounded and traumatised. Parliaments pause to offer bi-partisan support and minutes of silence, before they resume their silly bickering and electioneering.

Magnificent acts of heroism are carried out by some, and peoples are united in their grief and compassion and determination to overcome their darkest hour.

We shall overcome…

It is their finest hour.

Like the wisest of the three little pigs, we can build stronger houses, to diminish the chances of the big bad wolf succeeding


but when it comes down to it, as a cyclone approaches or an earthquake hits without warning, people can do little more than cross their fingers or pray.

On the other hand for “man-made” disasters, just as “man” can create such disasters, it is within “man’s” capability to prevent them.

I consider the destruction of societies, of ways of being, of languages, of world views to be man-made disasters.

Humanity is not powerless to prevent such, nor would it take the resources that it will take to rebuild flood ravaged Queensland and the city of Christchurch.

Unfortunately Australia doesn’t seem to have what it takes…….people in authority who see the cat in the picture.

Kia piki te ora- Aotearoa

Kia waimarie   




PCBYCP has taken a keen interest in sex.

“New research proves that a generation of women knows there’s nothing wrong with having sex – no matter what the purity-obsessed crusaders say” writes Jessica Valenti in the Guardian 19 August 2014

It’s been six years since Miley Cyrus showed off her purity ring alongside her virginity-touting teen pals. It’s been 18 years since the US government made its first major (and ill-advised) investment in abstinence-only education. But in the year 2014, with the Disney-approved virginity pledges and federally-funded, fear-mongering sex-ed classes fading away, extensive research now shows that women feel less and less guilty about losing their virginity – indeed, that those feelings have been on the decline for an entire generation.

Is this the beginning of the end of virginity – at least, “virginity” as we’ve been bullied into knowing it? Are there even any virgins left?

Because, really, “virginity” doesn’t mean much of anything. As I reported in my 2009 book, The Purity Myth, there is no widely-accepted medical definition of virginity. At the time, historian and author Hanne Blank told me that despite vast libraries of medical knowledge, there is no “diagnostic standard for virginity”. As far as I can tell, there still isn’t.

There can’t really be a definition of something that’s so subjective, but we’ve managed to create one anyway: virginity is normally understood to be heterosexual vaginal intercourse. Is this not the 21st century? Oral sex doesn’t count? Do only straight people lose their virginity? Virginity is an outdated standard that has been used more to shame than mark sexual initiation.

Not only is first-sex guilt declining, but according to that University of Illinois study, conducted over 23 years, following nearly 6,000 young people and published this summer in the Journal of Sex Research, women are enjoying their first sexual experience more than in years past. This is important, because as writer Amanda Marcotte points out, there’s been a lot of effort put in by the Christian right “pushing the idea that virginity equals purity”.

Making women feel dirty or somehow tainted by sex has been a linchpin in conservative efforts to roll back women’s rights and maintain traditional gender roles. Hopefully this study is an authoritative, unambiguous sign that the strategy is failing. We already know, of course, that abstinence-only education was a huge public health failure and that virginity pledgers don’t keep that up for too long, either. And now that young people are online and more active than ever, they’re less likely to fall for purity talking points. Teens are taking to Tumblr to protest dress codes, and students are recording the shame-based nonsense they hear from abstinence speakers.

Little things like scientific research and basic human decency haven’t stopped purity pushers from continuing their crusade, of course. Abstinence-only education programs in the US, Canada and elsewhere are still trying to convince students that condoms don’t work; organizations like the National Abstinence Education Association are still claiming that teen sex is comparable to drug and alcohol use. But the truth has put them on on the defensive – so much so that virginity-obsessed abstinence programs like Choosing the Best, one of the largest suppliers of abstinence curricula in the US – have had to directly address their lack of facts and love of shame right in their FAQs. (Their case isn’t helped by lessons that force students to pass around a rose, taking petals off – when the petals are gone, teens are told the rose “represents someone who participates in casual sex” and that every time someone has sex, they “lose a sense of personal value and worth”.)

It looks like the only mass cultural and political relevance the purity movement still has going for it … is held up by the Duggars, which may add up to a lot of folks in one family, but 20 kids and counting does not a movement make.

Don’t get me wrong: people should wait however long they’d like to have sex. Have a lot of it, don’t have it at all – it’s none of my business. But holding on to antiquated notions of sexuality that makemen feel confused and women feel dirty, obsessing over whether or not young people have had sex instead of whether or not they’re healthy – it’s not just damaging to young people, that’s ensuring you’re on the wrong side of history. Maybe it’s time we all just, you know, lose our “virginity”.