Man as Machine – Trains Pt 18

We continue Tarquin O’Flaherty’s discussion of George Stephenson, Trains and the industrial revolution and their impact on the politics of the day.  (You can find the previous 17 pieces by searching ‘Trains’ in the ‘Search’ box, right.) 

Probably the most memorable of George Stephenson’s railway lines was that from Birmingham to London, which from its very inception, caused a hell of a stink.  Most of the stench came from the London end, where outrage at the prospect of a railway built by crude Northerners was almost too much to bear.  The London papers apprehensively observed that no good would come of it, that the steam, smoke and thunderous noise would cause cows to abort their calves, women to be struck down ‘by the vapours’ and crops of cabbages would fade away and die.  To add to this there were, of course, the usual collection of crackpots that newspapers keep in reserve for these special occasions:  ‘…no one of the nobility, the gentry, or those who travel in their own carriages….  would go by the railway. A nobleman would not like to be drawn at the tail of a train of waggons…’

The above was quoted anonymously in a London paper.

Then there was the glorious Colonel Sibthorope, MP. who observed that he would ‘…rather meet a highwayman, or see a burglar… than meet an engineer…’

London obviously believed that, no matter how original, creative or clever Northerners might be, by definition, any person from ‘up North’ was a social inferior.

This condition is surely a leftover, a stubborn pre-industrial pathway in the brain created by many hundreds of years of genuflection and forelock tugging by those close to the seat of power in London.  Perhaps the word ‘Cockney’ is actually a perjorative term, applied by outsiders to those Southerners who live so close to kings and princes that an almost permanently deferential ‘cocked knee’ is an absolute requirement.  This closeness, this ‘cocked knee’ habit, somehow mysteriously confers on the holder the right to look down on those denied this forelock tugging privilege.

The Industrial Revolution may very well have given us the right to vote, inalienable rights and a much shortened working week, but the very English psychological belief in innate superiority remains and thrives in the faintly ridiculous, class-ridden British society of today.

Poetry Sunday 29 March 2015

Firstly Ira Maine has delivered this apology regarding his comments accompanying Gray’s Elegy from last week.
“In my commentary I wrongly attributed the film ‘Paths of Glory’ to Ridley Scott, the director of “Blade Runner’.
The film ‘Paths of Glory’ was in fact directed by Stanley Kubrick in 1957.”

Now for today’s poem,Ovid’s Elegy V,  Introduced by the inimitable Ira Maine, Poetry Editor

Herewith a titillating trifle to gladden the senses. “Twas said that the Roman poet, Publius Ovidius Naso, more commonly referred to as Ovid, had been pursuing one Corinna, the young and beautiful wife of a Roman noble. This example of how the game was finally won is Elegy V in Book One of his Amores (love affairs) his books of poems dealing with the more erotic elements of sensuality.

There’s nothing to explain. Sex was as dry-mouthed, heart-stopping and thrilling then as it is now so read on and enjoy this Julian May translation.

There is also an excellent Christopher Marlowe translation, which I cannot find for the life of me.

So here it is, Elegy V: His delight at having obtained Corinna’s favours

TWAS summer, and already past the hour of noon. I flung myself on my couch to rest my limbs. My windows were but half open. The light of my chamber was like the light of the woods, or like the glow which follows after sunset; or father, like the twilight that comes between departing night and dawning day. Such is the light that is befitting for young women of reserve; in its mystery their timid modesty may find concealment.

Behold Corinna cometh, her shift ungirdled, her tresses hanging loose on either side her snowy neck. In such guise did the fair Semiramis offer herself to the caresses of her spouse, and thus did Lais give welcome to her many lovers. I raised her shift, which withal was of so fine a texture that it was but a flimsy obstacle. Howbeit Corinna was not willing to be deprived of her raiment. She strove, but not as one whose will it is to conquer. Soon she gave up the struggle and consented to be conquered.

When, her apparel laid aside, she stood naked before mine eyes, not a blemish was to be seen on her whole body. What shoulders, what arms it was my privilege to behold and to touch. What bliss to press a bosom shaped so perfectly for such caresses. How soft and smooth her skin beneath her lovely breasts, how divine her figure, how firm and plump her thighs. But wherefore should I here tell o’er the number of her charms? Nought did I see that was not perfect, nor was there aught, how thin soe’er, between her lovely body and my own. Need I tell the rest? Wearied, we rested from our toil. May many an afternoon be thus sped by.

Now for those who would like the original latin version, here it is:

Aestus erat, mediamque dies exegerat horam;
adposui medio membra levanda toro.
pars adaperta fuit, pars altera clausa fenestrae;
quale fere silvae lumen habere solent,
5 qualia sublucent fugiente crepuscula Phoebo,
aut ubi nox abiit, nec tamen orta dies.
illa verecundis lux est praebenda puellis,
qua timidus latebras speret habere pudor.
ecce, Corinna venit, tunica velata recincta,
10     candida dividua colla tegente coma–
qualiter in thalamos famosa Semiramis isse
dicitur, et multis Lais amata viris.
Deripui tunicam–nec multum rara nocebat;
pugnabat tunica sed tamen illa tegi.
15 quae cum ita pugnaret, tamquam quae vincere nollet,
victa est non aegre proditione sua.
ut stetit ante oculos posito velamine nostros,
in toto nusquam corpore menda fuit.
quos umeros, quales vidi tetigique lacertos!
20     forma papillarum quam fuit apta premi!
quam castigato planus sub pectore venter!
quantum et quale latus! quam iuvenale femur!
Singula quid referam? nil non laudabile vidi
et nudam pressi corpus ad usque meum.
25 Cetera quis nescit? lassi requievimus ambo.
proveniant medii sic mihi saepe dies!

MDFF 28 March 2015

This post was first published on 15 September 2011, and right at the end is the following: “Have I mentioned it before? Centrelink’s motto: “Giving you Choices” ¡Que pavada!”, Lifestyle Choices no doubt.

¿Que tal amigos?

When I was attending primary school in Argentina, ‘Justicialismo’ was a compulsory subject. It had very little to do with ‘Justicia’ and everything to do with ‘Dogma’,Peronist Dogma that is.

I’m quite happy to have lived without being subjected to Peronist Dogma. I’m eternally grateful to Señor Isasmendi , my teacher, for having given me the opportunity to do so, by refusing to teach it.


To fill the void left by the dismantling of bilingual education, Yuendumu School holds a ‘culture day’ once a fortnight. Older Warlpiri people come to the school to tellJukurrpa stories and to teach children how to make artefacts. Whilst the idea to subject these Warlpiri teachers to compulsory police checks required for anyone ‘working with children’ was quietly dropped, a form none the less has to be filled in for these people to get paid. Napaljarri was asked her birth-date: “ No birthday, lawa,no birthday” she replied. There is no Warlpiri word for ‘birthday’.

Older Warlpiri people can take you to the tree they were born under, if it’s still there, not to mention the place where they first ‘quickened’ in their mother’s womb.

During the last decade a trend has emerged whereby young Warlpiri parents hold lavish birthday parties for their babies and toddlers.

Thus societies change, without the need for anyone to  force change. Self appointed arrogant enforcers of change don’t realise how superfluous and counter-productive their efforts are. Warlpiri people are too polite to tell them how obnoxious they are. White people are much more inclined to tell them to f*ck off.

Once a month Court is held in Yuendumu. One or two days. Overworked lawyers (defence and prosecution) descend on Yuendumu. The court list for 16th. August listed 57 matters involving 48 defendants (28 male, 20 female) and 134 charges. Fight/violence related charges numbered 50 (20 male, 30 female), the most common being:  “Armed with an offensive weapon”, “Going armed in public”.

Before you start envisioning Baghdad or Tripoli street scenes, I should point out that the Yuendumu weapon of choice (especially for women) is  a kuturu (“nulla-nulla”) or mulga wood stick.

Whilst over the last few decades some serious injuries have been sustained from contact with a kuturu it is fair to say that usually a kuturu is used for symbolic/ritualistic effect, a bit like the Maori Haka.

I can’t think of a single dispute in which a rifle or pistol was used, even if in the past many rifles were held in Yuendumu. In this regard Yuendumu is safer than the streets of Melbourne.

I don’t believe that there has ever been an RPG at Yuendumu, neither one of those oddly named IEDs.

There were also 50 motor vehicle related charges (60% male) plus 11 involving alcohol (55% male). By far the most common charges:  Drive Motor Vehicle while unlicenced and Drive Motor Vehicle while Disqualified.

Only 15% of defendants (5 men, 2 women) were charged with alcohol related offences. All of the alcohol related charges were for motor vehicle offences (none for violence related charges)

Not a pretty picture I grant you. Yuendumu is a nest of criminals.

But are we a dysfunctional community of perverts and violent men bashing their wives and abusing their children under the influence of rivers of grog? Look at the numbers and draw your own conclusions.

Recently in Alice Springs an Alyawarr man spent two months in gaol (he was arrested at Alice Springs Hospital maternity ward whilst visiting his wife and newly born daughter), and received a two year suspended sentence. He is not allowed to return to his community until his wife’s 16th.Birthday.

The judge’s sentencing remarks included the following:

“Because of the remoteness and your traditional lifestyle, concepts such as ages are irrelevant to you. Your day-to-day life has centred around the traditional hunting and gathering of bush tucker for the

community. You spend most of your time in the company of your grandfather who is now in his 90s, and who is an important traditional elder in the community. In terms of modern day society you are extremely unsophisticated and you are one of those increasingly rare persons in a remote Aboriginal community who did not know that having sexual intercourse with this child was wrong according to Northern Territory law. No one had explained to you the concept of your age and the age of the child.

Your family and the family of the child were also unaware that it was wrong for the pair of you to engage in sexual intercourse. The victim has told me in her victim impact statement the following about her belief and about you, and I quote what she has to say: ‘I didn’t think it was wrong and was happy to be with him. In our law it’s okay. He’s been good to me. He looks after me. Our families are happy that we are together, even though I am young, because they know he is a good man and will look after me. ….The lack of knowledge by everyone concerned in this case about the law of the Northern Territory in connection with sexual intercourse with children under the age of 16 ….While it may be increasingly rare, there are sections of our community who do not have this knowledge and understanding. It is a sad indictment, indeed, of our community as a whole that we have not been able to educate everyone in our remote communities about these matters… (my emphasis) We don’t need no thought control… 

This Justicia from a society that in 1789 sentenced 10 year old Mary Wade to hang. The sentence was not carried out, instead Mary was transported to Australia.  By today’s standards, all of the Convicts sent to Australia had only committed trivial crimes. The serious crimes, such as rape, murder, or impersonating an Egyptian, were punished with the death penalty.

Mary Wade was 14 years old when she gave birth to the first of 21 children.

The legal age of consent in many Latin American countries is 14.

Romeo wooed Juliet when she was 14 years old.

The ‘victim’ in the Alice Springs court case was 14 years old when the Alyawarr man committed his heinous crime, because he hadn’t been properly ‘educated’.

Just as well no Warlpiri or Alyawarr person has impersonated an Egyptian.

This judgement has very little to do with ‘Justicia’ and everything to do with ‘Dogma’, Assimilationist Dogma that is. Being subjected to Assimilationist Dogma is something many remote Aboriginal Australians would be quite happy to live without.  They are not given that opportunity. They have no choice.

Justicia, Tierra y Libertád….

También Respeto y Dignidád….

Hasta pronto,


PS- Have I mentioned it before? Centrelink’s motto: “Giving you Choices” ¡Que pavada!


Man as Machine – Trains Pt 17

We continue Tarquin O’Flaherty’s discussion of George Stephenson, Trains and the industrial revolution and their impact on the politics of the day.  (You can find the previous 16 pieces by searching ‘Trains’ in the ‘Search’ box, right.) Fast Train

It is difficult to comprehend the enormous change in the public’s attitude to railways between the opening of the earlier Darlington line and that of the Liverpool-Manchester.  The Darlington line was built despite enormous pressure for it to fail..  George Stephenson’s dogged persistence, his absolute belief in himself and the project, were the only factors that kept the enterprise alive.  The official society of engineers had poured scorn and ridicule on Stephenson’s presumption.  What he was attempting, they’d said, was, in engineering terms, absolutely impossible.  This presumptuous, uneducated Northerner was made a laughing stock, and removed from his new post as head of the barely begun Liverpool-Manchester railway.

Reinstated, he was again ridiculed by the London based company of engineers.  Finally, financial interests demanded the London engineers and Stephenson prove or disprove the viability of the railway system.  A proper set of trials of these new fangled machines was arranged.  At Rainhill, as we have seen, George kept his head down and trounced all comers.

Quietly at first, but steadily, financial interest was growing.  Money could see that railways were much faster than traditional waterborne vessels, and one train could carry many times the vessels’ cargo weight.  All over the world, George Stephenson’s railway genius was about to trigger an explosion in railway building.

Undoubtedly, August 1830 was George Stephenson’s finest hour.  By Christmas of that year his railway’s passenger carrying service had driven horse drawn coaches off the route almost entirely.  From September to December the railway carried over 71,000 passengers.  In 1831 it carried almost half a million.

Farmers, who’d initially tried to block the railway, now found huge markets available for their animals and produce.  All they had to do was get them to the station.

Very respectable profits were being made and the world began to clamour for a piece of the pie.  Associating George Stephenson’s name with a new railway was a guaranteed way of attracting investors.  George was as busy as a bee.  He was now thoroughly respectable, respected and much sought after.  He had worked hard, very hard, all through his life, proved his detractors wrong and now, at fifty was seeing some considerable rewards for his efforts.

But it would be the younger engineers, Robert Stephenson, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Joseph Locke, George’s star pupil, and others, who would take control and drive the railway forward.  (It had been young Locke at the wheel of the Rocket on that fateful day when Huskisson had been so horribly injured.)

Nevertheless, George Stephenson built many major railways in the years that followed.  He also bought himself a grand house and invested in new and highly profitable coal.

Man as Machine – Trains Pt 16

man as machine banner 5

After too long a break Tarquin O’Flaherty continues his discussion of George Stephenson, Trains and the industrial revolution and their impact on the politics of the day.  (You can find the previous 15 pieces by searching ‘Trains’ in the ‘Search’ box, right.) 

At the grand opening of the Liverpool to Manchester railway line, eight trains were employed.  The most important and newest of these, the Northumbrian was driven by George Stephenson himself and carried dukes, earls and important personages by the dozen.  Amongst these rather grand dozens were the Prime Minister, (the Duke of Wellington), the Austrian ambassador, Prince Esterhazy, Earl Grey, Sir Robert Peel, Lord Melbourne and William Huskisson, one time President of the Board of Trade and now Mayor of Liverpool.

Two railway lines had been built, an out and return, but for the grand opening,both lines would carry trains to Manchester.  The Northumbrian, with the Prime Minister on board, used one line exclusively.  At a good vantage point along the line, this newest engine would stop to allow the Iron Duke a magnificent view of the other seven trains as they steamed past on the other line.

At first this plan worked extremely well.  The Phoenix, driven by Stephenson’s son Robert, followed by the North Star with George’s brother Robert at the controls, sailed by without a hitch.  The next train due, the Rocket, was delayed.  Against all advice Esterhazy and Huskisson decided to stretch their legs.  When the Rocket appeared it took both men by surprise.  Esterhazy managed to jump to safety straight into the Duke’s carriage.  Huskisson, much less agile, with a semi-paralysed leg and considerably overweight, tripped and fell.  Unable to stop, The Rocket passed over the man’s thighs.  Two doctors were immediately available to apply tourniquets to Huskisson’s terrible wounds.  When they had done all they could, George Stephenson, using a single carriage towed by the Northumbrian, took the wounded man to Eccles, outside Manchester.  Despite the best available medical attention, Huskisson died that same evening.

Following much fierce argument, it was decided to carry the trains on to Manchester.  This was in retrospect, a very wise decision indeed.  Unaware of the tragedy, a delay of several hours had created almost mob rule amongst the expectant thousands at their destination.  Had they not arrived, the police, reinforced by the army, were of the opinion that the mob would have unleashed their frustrations on the whole of Manchester.  As it was, as Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington suffered the twin indignities of having hoi-polloi almost completely block the line and scream abuse at him through his carriage window, whilst a hail of missiles rained down on his roof.

The glory of Waterloo was long gone.  In its place was the common people’s hatred of a right-wing, monarchist Prime Minister who seemed unaware of the momentous changes the Industrial Revolution was bringing to the country.  Wellington was a hugely unpopular leader and would very soon be replaced by a new government in constant fear of a local version of the French Revolution.

Lifestyle Choices

Home, by Larissa Behrendt, UQP, 2004

Reviewed by Joe Blake

About 5 years ago, right-wing columnist Andrew Bolt wrote a series of articles focussing on nine Aboriginal people, all of whom are highly successful in their fields. These people, he wrote, used their Aboriginality to win grants, prizes and career advancement, despite their apparently fair skin and mixed heritage. The nine brought a class action against Bolt and the Herald and Weekly Times, claiming a breach of Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Not surprisingly, they won.

This case had a thunderous effect on the Liberal Party, who were determined to change the law to allow their favourite cheerleader to attack at will. ”People do have a right to be bigots, you know” proclaimed the Attorney-General. Equally thunderous was the reaction from vulnerable minorities, who saw the prospects of floodgates of abuse opening against them as never before. The law never got changed.

After all that noise, you have to wonder how the articles came to be written in the first place. Did Bolt really believe that the subjects of his article had never suffered because of their ethnic background? If only he’d talked to some of them first, he might have got a different idea. If talking was too difficult, he at least should have read this brilliant novel by Larissa Behrendt. By the way, she’s had a few other successes in her 36 years. After graduating in law in Sydney, she studied at Harvard, gaining a Master of Laws and a Doctor of Juridical Science, becoming the first indigenous Australian to graduate from Harvard Law School.

This amazing book starts and ends in the present, but spends most of its life tracing the story of one family, the Boneys. The grandmother, Garibooli (or Elizabeth, to give her whitefella name) is a very happy Aboriginal child living with her extended family on Dungalear Station in outback New South Wales. Although there have been massacres in the past, that sort of threat seems to be over. She has a loving mother and brother, as well as a host of aunts, uncles and cousins. One day when she is just 12, the unimaginable happens: she’s stolen by white authorities and delivered hundreds of miles by train to work in a rich person’s home. It’s tough there; not only is the work exhausting but she’s continually reminded that her skin colour makes her less than rubbish. She has only one friend, a Chinese girl who’s similarly an outsider.

Things change dramatically for Elizabeth when she turns 16 and the boss cocky sexually abuses her nightly. She’s horrified and terrified by this unwanted attention, but there’s worse to come. When it’s realised that she’s pregnant, she’s almost completely shunned by the other staff. The mistress of the house has a different tack: she decides to keep the girl on, as a constant reminder to her hated husband that he’s betrayed her. Naïve Elizabeth thinks the baby will be allowed to stay too, but he’s snatched away from her even before she’s had a chance to see him.

Devastated by this, Elizabeth has no choice but to return to the house, but finally escapes when she meets Grigor, a German communist who’s come to live in Australia. They marry, move to the Blue Mountains and she has six more children. Grigor is emotionally distant from the children, but Elizabeth is happy living at home with them, even though she wishes she could see her own family and her first child again.

The youngest child is just four when the family is hit with the hardest luck imaginable: Elizabeth dies, and Grigor, shattered by inconsolable grief, allows the three smallest to be taken to a home. The middle one, Bob, lighter in colour than the other two, survives as best he can, but the others are treated terribly: both Daisy and Danny suffer racist taunting and exclusion because of their background, and Danny is sexually abused. Bob is aware of their struggles, but tries to keep himself out of any conflict.

Eventually, when they reach school leaving age, Patricia, the oldest sister, gets Bob, then Daisy and Danny out of the home, providing a place under her roof and getting them jobs. Although self-conscious about his ethnicity, Bob fits into the society, but the others are too damaged to succeed in the outside world. While Daisy and Danny leave the story for a while, Bob and Patricia both marry and have kids. Unfortunately both have the same heart problem that killed their mother; Patricia suffers her fate, leaving behind three youngsters, but Bob is operated on and fixed.

While recuperating, Bob suffers a crisis brought on by the treatment he’s received as an Aboriginal person. Like his father, he’s always been emotionally distant with his children and overbearing with his wife. He leaves them and goes off to find himself, discovering information that leads him back to Dungalear Station and his relatives, who welcome him with open arms. It’s a wonderful thing for him, and he is transformed into a loving husband and father, and gets a job in Aboriginal Affairs. Both his children survive the problems of growing up with these problems, as well as abuse about their skin colour, and grow up to become lawyers working in the field of Native Title and Land Claims.

The end of the story all sounds a bit like a fairy tale, except for one thing: it’s almost a carbon copy of Larissa Behrendt’s family story. How could you not be affected by a history like that?

Post Script:  Larissa Behrendt launched Lionel Fogarty’s latest anthology Eelhroo (Long Ago) Nyah (Looking) Möbö-Möbö (Future)  Vagabond Press 2014,  last December.

Poetry Sunday 22 March 2015

Poetry Editor, Ira Maine has chosen “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard By Thomas Gray 1716–1771 as our poem this Sunday.  His comments follow the poem.

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
         The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
         And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
Now fades the glimm’ring landscape on the sight,
         And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
         And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;
Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow’r
         The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such, as wand’ring near her secret bow’r,
         Molest her ancient solitary reign.
Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree’s shade,
         Where heaves the turf in many a mould’ring heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
         The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.
The breezy call of incense-breathing Morn,
         The swallow twitt’ring from the straw-built shed,
The cock’s shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
         No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.
For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
         Or busy housewife ply her evening care:
No children run to lisp their sire’s return,
         Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.
Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
         Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
How jocund did they drive their team afield!
         How bow’d the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!
Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
         Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
         The short and simple annals of the poor.
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r,
         And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike th’ inevitable hour.
         The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
Nor you, ye proud, impute to these the fault,
         If Mem’ry o’er their tomb no trophies raise,
Where thro’ the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault
         The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.
Can storied urn or animated bust
         Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can Honour’s voice provoke the silent dust,
         Or Flatt’ry soothe the dull cold ear of Death?
Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
         Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway’d,
         Or wak’d to ecstasy the living lyre.
But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page
         Rich with the spoils of time did ne’er unroll;
Chill Penury repress’d their noble rage,
         And froze the genial current of the soul.
Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
         The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flow’r is born to blush unseen,
         And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
         The little tyrant of his fields withstood;
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
         Some Cromwell guiltless of his country’s blood.
Th’ applause of list’ning senates to command,
         The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
To scatter plenty o’er a smiling land,
         And read their hist’ry in a nation’s eyes,
Their lot forbade: nor circumscrib’d alone
         Their growing virtues, but their crimes confin’d;
Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
         And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,
The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
         To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
         With incense kindled at the Muse’s flame.
Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife,
         Their sober wishes never learn’d to stray;
Along the cool sequester’d vale of life
         They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.
Yet ev’n these bones from insult to protect,
         Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck’d,
         Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.
Their name, their years, spelt by th’ unletter’d muse,
         The place of fame and elegy supply:
And many a holy text around she strews,
         That teach the rustic moralist to die.
For who to dumb Forgetfulness a prey,
         This pleasing anxious being e’er resign’d,
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
         Nor cast one longing, ling’ring look behind?
On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
         Some pious drops the closing eye requires;
Ev’n from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,
         Ev’n in our ashes live their wonted fires.
For thee, who mindful of th’ unhonour’d Dead
         Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;
If chance, by lonely contemplation led,
         Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate,
Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,
         “Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away
         To meet the sun upon the upland lawn.
“There at the foot of yonder nodding beech
         That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high,
His listless length at noontide would he stretch,
         And pore upon the brook that babbles by.
“Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
         Mutt’ring his wayward fancies he would rove,
Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn,
         Or craz’d with care, or cross’d in hopeless love.
“One morn I miss’d him on the custom’d hill,
         Along the heath and near his fav’rite tree;
Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
         Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he;
“The next with dirges due in sad array
         Slow thro’ the church-way path we saw him borne.
Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay,
         Grav’d on the stone beneath yon aged thorn.”
Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth
       A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown. 
Fair Science frown’d not on his humble birth, 
       And Melancholy mark’d him for her own. 
Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere, 
       Heav’n did a recompense as largely send: 
He gave to Mis’ry all he had, a tear, 
       He gain’d from Heav’n (’twas all he wish’d) a friend. 
No farther seek his merits to disclose, 
       Or draw his frailties from their dread abode, 
(There they alike in trembling hope repose) 
       The bosom of his Father and his God.
Comments by Ira Maine, Poetry Editor

Imagine you are busy as a bee, the feet rushed off you, a thousand and one things to do, and no bloody time at all.

In the midst of it all, out of God knows where, there’s this whispered, gentle voice;

‘The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly o’er the lea.
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way
And leaves the world to darkness and to me’.

There’s an astonishing winding down here, a hugely skillful poetic imagination at work  which deliberatelyseduces the senses, easing us into an end of the day reverie where we are left with nothing but ourselves.

The solemn quiet of evening descends slowly, disturbed only by  a very late beetle’s homeward droning flight, and the sound, in the distance, of sheep bells.

‘…and drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds…’

In the dark, in this quiet, all there is, as night gathers, is the sound of a disgruntled owl, not exactly pleased to have ‘…his solitary reign…’ disturbed by other nocturnals.

The poet sits on in the little graveyard, a little less mindful of the awakening night and curious now about;

‘…the rude forefathers of the hamlet…’,  those unsung people, that unsung person;
‘…in his narrow cell forever laid…’

None of them, not one of them, will ever again hear;

‘…the breezy call of incense breathing morn… the swallow twittering…the cock’s shrill clarion…’ the hunter’s horn….

‘For them no more…the busy housewife, the blazing hearth the kids and the welcome home kisses…’

Yet… these people, these dead were great amongst their peers. They knew precisely how to win a harvest, to plough, to drive their teams afield and burst apart ‘…the stubborn glebe… beneath their stubborn stroke…’

They were poor, unsung, miraculous people and deserving of our respect. Never in any sense ambitious, never pursuing the …’ boasts of heraldry, the pomp of power…’  all of the vaunted…’ beauty, all that wealth e’er gave…’

Aware instead that inevitably
‘…paths of glory lead but to the grave…’

Gray suggests that every life, every body in this churchyard is worthwhile. Simply because these dead failed to rise above their lot in life they are not to be ridiculed as hayseeds and idiots.

Court life demands a man be ambitious, be forward, that he make the best of his opportunities. But what the hell is this business of ambition all about?

‘…can storied urn or animated bust,

Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath…’

In other words fame and honour and bloody glory are not worth a cracker in the end. None of it will make a bit of difference when you are dead. Judging yourself by how others view you is a stupidly dangerous business.

Judge yourself by your own standards. Set them for yourself and live by them and then; ‘…thou cans’t be false to no man…’

But in the end it was penury which made decisions for these people. Poverty, grinding, souless poverty, wears down the best of us, and freezes;

‘…the genial current of the soul…’

And then the most quoted…

’full many a flower is born to blush unseen,

And waste its sweetness on the desert air…’

Gray’s sympathies are writ large;

How many Mozarts, Heaneys and Shakespeares have been lost to us through deliberately engineered poverty?

These people, through their circumstances were never afforded the opportunity to;

‘…wade through slaughter to a throne,

And shut the gate of mercy on mankind…’

Ambition, Gray is saying affords no mercy and believes slaughter to be a legitimate tool if its objectives are to be achieved.

Yet, away from all this;

‘…far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife…

…they kept the noiseless tenor of their way…’

As an aside here, you might remember one of Hardy’s most memorable novels was called ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ and that one of Ridley Scott’s early movies was ‘Paths of Glory’, all nicked from Thomas Gray.

In the end, even the most obscure people are remembered. Rough calvary’s are constructed and the unlearned peasant knows precisely how to do homage. There is no difference whatever between the death of a king and that of a penniless peasant. Only idiots make a distinction. Nobody wants to die and everybody wants to die surrounded by friends,

‘…on some fond breast the parting soul relies.

Some pious drops the closing eye requires…’ (Extreme Unction perhaps?…)

Gray quietly observes that none of us, not one of us would be here were it not for the poor.

Since time began a level of society has existed to provide the rest of us with time to think, for ambitious ideas… and poetry.

Then Gray rounds the poem off by having some ‘hoary headed swain’ observe that although he has seen Gray many times about the place, walking in the early morn, or sitting and ranting on to himself under a tree, he has not seen him of late about his usual haunts.

Like everybody else, Gray knows Gray will die and, conveniently, before this happens, he provides his own epitaph.

The Epitaph generally says he wasn’t a bad chap, taken for all and all.

He was in fact, quite a bit more than that.

Gray’s poetry caused a sensation at the time and quite changed how poetry was written.

We shall not look upon his like again.

Ira Maine.

MDFF 21 March 2015

This dispatch left Yuendumu on 13 March 2015.  Assimilation  – “Alas (they) could not know that the assimilationists hadn’t finished:  The latest they’re taking is people’s life style choices.”
With grateful thanks to our Dispatcher

Hola amigos,

In 2000 there was a brilliant BBC TV series called ‘The Sins’. The main character Len Green (played by Pete Postlethwaite ) is an ex-con trying to get straight, and confronted by temptation (one deadly sin per episode). Whilst I can’t remember much of the series, the final scene, in which Len Green leads a horse drawn hearse in a funeral procession, is one that I doubt has been forgotten by anyone that saw it. Such emotional solemn splendour! Cinematographic art and acting at its finest.

Some considerable time ago someone gave or sent me a DVD ‘Liyarn Ngarn’. I can’t remember who someone was, but whoever you are ¡Muchisimas gracias!

I finally got around to watch it and what a true pearl was enclosed in that video casing!

LibraryFor those that can’t enlarge this image, this is what it says:

“Our language is like a pearl inside a shell.

The shell is like the people that carry the language.

If our language is taken away, that would be like a pearl that is gone.

We would be like an empty oyster shell”

“When you lose a language,” he told a reporter, “you lose a culture, intellectual wealth, a work of art. It’s like dropping a bomb on a museum, the Louvre.” Ken Hale

Liyarn Ngarn is like a Musical Dispatch. Songs by Archie Roach, and pearls of wisdom from Patrick Dodson are interwoven into Pete Postletwaith’s story telling. It is a story of more than language loss.

It is a story of injustice and resilience. Beautifully told. All Australians should see it. I’m glad I did.

Archie Roach- Beautiful Child…

One of the musicians featured in Liyarn Ngarn is Patrick Davies.

Rocky Old Road:
It’s a rocky old road that we travel
All the tricks that are tried are not new
They’re just wrapped in gift wrapping paper (Mr.Barnett)
And handed as favours to you
And no you can’t take all that you’re given
Oft times it means selling your soul
And all they can take has been stolen
…find you are the last one to know

This was posted to Youtube two years ago.

“And all they can take has been stolen”

Alas Patrick Davies could not know that the assimilationists hadn’t finished:

The latest they’re taking is people’s life style choices.


Que les vaya bien



Sex and the dismal science

How could we not?  Two of our favourite things combined in the one package.  Sex and Economics.  Irresistible.  So here we are with an article by Sean O’Grady, published in the Fin Review, 17 March 2015.

Putting “sex lives of politicians” into Google yields 6820 hits. The Roman emperors score 3220. For great artists, it’s a respectable, if that’s the word, 2090 hits. But “sex lives of economists”? “No results found”.

JM Keynes, Pantsman

JM Keynes, Pantsman

Perhaps that’s to be expected for what Thomas Carlyle described as the “dismal science”. Yet the greatest and most revolutionary economist of the 20th century, John Maynard Keynes, applied the same sort of unconventional adventurism to his sex life, and this most intellectual of men was also possessed of considerable carnal curiosity. In the latest biography of him, by Richard Davenport-Hines, we learn a great deal more about his habits.

Basically, Keynes collected and catalogued his sexual activities as obsessively as other men did postage stamps (indeed that was an early hobby of his – make of it what you will). He kept detailed records of encounters, with names or initials of partners, allocated by year from 1901 – his first sexual experience, with a fellow Etonian, at age 17 – though the classification had ceased by 1925, when he married the Russian ballerina Lydia Lopokova. She was no beard – they were deeply in love, and apparently greatly enjoyed foreplay: “I want to be foxed and gobbled abundantly,” he once wrote, while she referred to his “nimble fingers”. He wasn’t a perfect lover, however, and was rumoured to suffer premature ejaculation. Wittgenstein went on honeymoon with them, which can’t have helped.


Bi, bi-curious, gay, straight, or what? Keynes seems, successively, predominantly homosexual and then mostly heterosexual, changing his mind – radically – about the balance of his sex life in middle age, much in the way he rejected classical economics for his new theories. (“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”) Before then – it’s not known whether he was monogamous after his marriage – he was promiscuous and in Edwardian times, as now, there was plenty of cruising, if you wanted it. And Keynes did. He went “feasting with panthers” in railway carriages, Cambridge colleges, and across London – Soho and Bloomsbury were centres of this demi-monde, as were public parks and baths. One list reveals his catholic tastes: “Stable boy of Park Lane; The Swede of the National Gallery; The Soldier of the baths; The French Conscript; The Blackmailer; sixteen-year-old under Etna; Lift boy of Vauxhall; Jewboy; Grand Duke Cyril of the Paris Baths…” He had 65 encounters in 1909, 26 in 1910, 39 in 1911…

Thus did Keynes at least meet people from less privileged backgrounds and less clever than he – which may have made him more liberal and tolerant. That in turn gave his economic mission – to ensure everyone had the means of life and to enjoy the arts – a personal motivation. There were longer lasting affairs too, the most significant being with Duncan Grant, an artistic dilettante and former lover of Lytton Strachey. When the latter found out about Maynard it sparked a bitchy reaction; “Oh heaven! Heaven! The thought recoils, and I find myself shrieking and raving.” Keynes was “reeking of that semen”.

Rent boys were not ruled out, nor menages a trois. A Mrs Anderson, for example, was picked up because she wanted to watch “you two boys having a bit of fun together”. This later developed into a foursome, with a bowler-hatted young man from Ealing joining in: Keynes nipped out to get him much as you might pop to the shops if you’d run out of milk.

The Cleveland Street Scandal of 1889 alerted wider society to the practice of men procuring GPO telegram delivery boys for cheap sex in makeshift brothels (four shillings the going rate – about $45 now). Yet even after the life sentence laid down for sodomy in an 1885 law (it’s an apocryphal story that lesbianism was omitted because Queen Victoria couldn’t understand it), and the trial of Oscar Wilde for gross indecency, things were less repressive in Keynes’ day than in the 1950s, when police persecution and entrapment of men such as Alan Turing, John Gielgud and Lord Montagu peaked in its cruelty. One wonders what we might have lost had Keynes, who died in 1946, suffered what Turing did.

The mighty mathematician Keynes did not discover a correlation between his luck in bedding his conquests and movements in national income. A link between gross domestic product and gross indecency would have been a great discovery: about the only opportunity this econo-sexual missed.

‘Universal Man: The Seven Lives of John Maynard Keynes’ by Richard Davenport-Hines is published by William Collins in the UK.


blame it on the Blog-Meister.

For days the eagerly awaiting postings of Passive Complicity have failed to materialise.  For some time your hard working editor has been a nervous wreck.  After countless days with absolutely nothing on the blog, in fact not even a blog at all, we finally we have a successful, yet quite boring post..  In fact it is not worth reading as it is a tale of abject failure, of incapacity, of lack of leadership, of incomprehension.

I will tell it as I remember.

Like any good financial manager I decided to go through my credit card statement.  (Obviously I was bored and the television was just that.)  To my surprise I discovered an entry for a sum which seemed inordinately large, to the order of a certain web hosting service.  I scratched my head.  That did not help.  I thought perhaps if I could find the statement for the same period last year I could check what was paid then.  But where would the statement be?  With the accountant?  Filed in my orderly archives?  Aha, use the internet banking service that my bank so vigorously promotes.  So I log on, making a cup of tea while it decides if my ‘user name’ and ‘password’ pass muster.  Of course living in a rural remote area my internet connection is not of high speed.  Sometimes it is of zero speed, and from time to time it drops out completely, usually after some two to three hours of filling in a form or attempting to make a booking, invariably resulting in loss of data.  If it was meta data I feel sure our Attorney General could help me get it back.  I must email him and ask if that very public service is available.  Surprisingly, and before my tea was either finished or cold I had logged on to my bank and found the relevant statement – Heavens to Betsy I proclaimed.   And there it was, a payment to my web host, for an amount one tenth the debit this year!   So onto the email and tell my host that I am displeased and wish not to spend that amount of money.  My web host responds almost immediately through ‘Veena B, Billing Specialist’

I had been charged for ‘Site Backups and Restore’, ‘SiteLock’, and ‘Domain Privacy’, all services I did not require.   I scratched my head again and realised that I had only recently and at my Host’s urging updated my credit card details (No, I will not repeat them here).  At that update I had numerous forms to fill in and nothing seemd very clear.  It appears that inadvertently I had ticked the boxes on the renewal form asking for a plethora of add on services.

So after a number of emails to and fro – the Host being quite prompt in response, and corresponding with Suwarna P,  Shantharaj G,  Chithrashree P (twice), Reetha R and Jnanesh U, all Billing Specialists, then with Puneeth C  Technical Specialist,  I am finally back on the air – at least I will be if you are reading this.  And if you are, and if you reckon you could hadle the pressure of being a Blog-Meister give me a call.  I’ll be able to tell if you are suitable just by your name.


Cecil Poole

PS Our Web host, who I would recommend without reservation has a name that strikes me  strange given the probable nationality of the operatives whose names appear above.  Our HOST is FatCow.