Stay strong, hold onto your dreams

It's that time of year when people dream about what they want, next time round the sun.

i'm sure you have dreams about a better world, and you're probably working in some way toward those dreams. Well hang on in there, cos you know the agents of fear won't win.

YOU are gonna win, with your dreams of inspiration and balance, creativity and love.

So, if you're dreaming of bringing more love and connection, more strength in community, more safety and peace into this world, or more pleasure to yourself, i say thank you. Thanks for your dreams, thanks for your actions of love and caring, no matter how small or fleeting.

Take some heart from Ben Harper, "Don't let them take the fight out of you".

i once went to a Ben Harper concert, with jude and Jody-Lee. Such a good night!

My dreams for '008 include these:
1) Garden full of yummy vegetables all year round
2) More time camping in the bush, away from the city
3) More time singing with friends
4) Melbourne recycles storm water instead of going "desal"
5) President bush is impeached, and democracy is repaired.

What about you? Wanna share your dreams for '008..?

Go right ahead and pop your thoughts in the comment box, right hereio. One or more dreams, very welcome :)

Hope your year is full of joy, healing and fun; lots of dancing, and great books.

(click below where it says "Comments" or "Post a comment"
(lemme know if you need assistance:
(mic at michalk dot id dot au

(img: thank you Alberto+CerriteƱo and also mick y )

Watch out - i'll Read at you !

The shiningly witty Ms Fits has had a book-related brush with some patrons at Meredith.
Story involves a Dog with a dog during Dr Dog (?! yes, read up.)

Apparently, it's Not Okay to read while Dr Dog is playing. Not even quietly in the distant background. Interferes with other people's enjoyment. Too freakish. Too girly-swot.

What is going on in this crazy old world. i know we've never really been a bookish nation but what happened to live and let effing live. Aren't Australians supposedly renowned for our laidback and tolerant approach to life?

Oh, i remember tolerance, that was before the time of darkness.
img fahrenheit 451 by sidelongFor about five minutes, after the previous time of darkness.

Not as if Ms Fits was crouched motionless in the mosh pit, reading aloud over the band. The book wasn't anything like 'How to Destroy Swamp Rock Fans in One Easy Sitting'.

i guess we just hate interLekchoools. SmartRRRses!
Watch out! They'll be burning witches next, on piles of books. You mark my words. Lucky she got out alive.

Too much ignorant hooligan-ism-ality going on for my liking !

(image: thanks florianB, and sidelong.)

chalki on faine

So yes, i had an interview with jon faine (a month ago now). It was a strange experience for me, as i don't often appear on radio. You can hear it all over again .. right here.

Or tune into his more recent work on the abc site.

provided by ODEO

Listening back, i mildly regret implying that people in the bar were not likely to be literary critics. It was funny at the time, a standard knee-jerk dig at people you don't know, insinuating a lesser intellectual sophistication, and flag-flying the stereotype that "rednecks can't read and probably wouldn't want to anyway".

(When in fact a whole heap of well-educated people are ignorant and prejudiced too.)

However i have worked for many years with people whose self-worth has been destroyed by the stigma of low literacy. Believe me, if you can't read in this society, you get looked down upon by everyone.

On top of this, having a low level of literacy is about more than your own personal abilities; in fact the overall levels of health, wealth, employment and social cohesion in the local community all contribute to a person's ability to learn at school. There was some great research recently that highlighted the interconnectedness of all these factors.

Apart from that, i'm okay with the interview.
i'd recommend following up that research - Tony Vinson and Peter Norden. Brilliant.

Related: Research on Social Disadvantage in Australia.

(image: thanks mrtwism)

thanks 4 support + humour !

Throughout this bizarre saga, i have found colleagues, friends and family to be wonderfully supportive, and genuinely hilarious. So thanks to all of you, especially:

Tim - always on the lookout:
"Did you say
fertiliser? Michael, you don't know who's listening! (Louder) i am not associated with this person."

Bushy for his crack-up comments:
Think we got ourselves a reader", "Whatcha reading for?" and "Read any good books lately?"

Amarina for leaning across to the window of her ute and drawling,
We don't like your type around here."

Gayle, a
s i was dancing in the doorway at the launch of i dream a highway, northcote high st.
"I'm sorry we're going to have to ask you to leave. Heard about you and your inappropriate dancing."

Rhi and Ben:
"Gotta get you a t-shirt that says 'Northcote's favourite terrorist'"

My fabulous sister for sending me the "I'm a tourist not a terrorist" t-shirt from amsterdam.
Lou for reading through the first letter to the editor.

Plus thanks to people who've joined in this online storytelling experience:

  • Rhi and Jo for posting brilliant comments to the blog, and twice!
  • Katie, A.Duck, BiddyB, Howard, for their delightfully supportive comments.
  • Susan for her limerick all the way from Canada ..
Colleagues who applauded my entrance at a work celebration day, the morning after this whole thing hit the headlines.

My mother for showing her protective side and saying, "I just want this to go away. i think it's over now."

Okay mum, i'll write about other stuff now. Hope, the future, and being polite.
i won't talk about the fear and hysteria gripping the western world, or the possibility that governments are using this fear to destroy civilian freedoms. No no no.

End of America? Ten step program

I've found some references to Naomi Wolf's latest book, and it is scarier than the one by Richard Flanagan. "The End of America" is apparently about the ten steps any would-be dictator can take to rapidly shut down a democracy. She's done her research on the early years of several dictators .. and here's the crazy stuff - she suggests that Bush's US government has taken all ten steps.

This caused a storm earlier in the year, but i missed it. There's an article in the Guardian, and some youtubed interviews with Noami, including this one:

In this interview she speaks mainly of the first four of the ten steps:
1) Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy (Osama, Saddam ..
2) Create a gulag - an off-shore prison with different laws (Guantanamera ..
3) Develop a thug caste -
a paramilitary force not answerable to the people (apparently a private army called Blackwater already operates in the USA?
4) Set up an internal surveillance system aimed at ordinary citizens (make sure everyone has a fridge magnet, break down trust and stir up discontent between different social groups ..

Having a vote doesn't mean you're living in an open society with the underpinnings of civil rights and freedoms; because closed societies (countries without freedom) do have elections, and they do have newspapers.

Why does the President have the right to federalise the national guard, to torture people, to detain citizens without charge? Naomi sees this as a war on the citizens of democracy.. that our apathy and our terror has blinded us to the rapid onslaught of tyranny.

People in Alabama being put in prison for donating to the Democratic party? Time to wake up, says Ms Wolf. Now! Every day counts. Let us restore the rule of law.

Blimey! Surely it can't be that bad? I mean America is land of the free, isn't it?
You don't think we're going to see vigilantes in the streets? Concentration camps? Invading other countries for colonialist gain .. oh ..

First Tuesday - mixed response

When the First Tuesday Book Club on reviewed "The Unknown Terrorist", the book didn't come off so well.

  • Marieke said it was "Earnest" and would only convert the true believers (the people who don't need converting).
  • Jason Steeger enjoyed the book, and said it was more of a tragedy: "Not a thriller, it's dressed up as a thriller .. it's more of a contemporary horror story."
  • The other guy (?) said it was "Too stark, too stereotypical .. but a bit too raw," although "the Flanagan brothers are very good news for Australia." More like a film script in novel form.
But Germaine stole the show with her wild and angry commentary, calling the preface "infuriating, pretentious bilge" .. to begin the book with a weave around Jesus and Nietszche. Ms Greer found the narrator and The Doll to be "inextricably tangled", and the plot to be nonsense: "couldn't have got it past a harlequin editor".

"Greatest load of old nonsense!" Germaine says she will cut her throat from ear to ear if this book wins the Booker (she toned this down when asked to compare Flanagan's supposed exaggeration with her own).
Oh Germaine, your vitriol is unsurpassed! What a delightful roller-coaster!

i'm glad i'm not the author of the book. i felt nervous enough just having enjoyed it. i'm also glad i can enjoy reading a book without having my internal critic give me angst all the way through. Must be awful being a critic.

Ooh, look, they've reviewed Chris Womersley's new book, The Low Road. This won a premier's award for unpublished manuscript, and my mum gave it to me for my birthday. I wonder if it's the sort of book i can read in public places...?

all the best, and happy reading :) !

Art of Suspicion

Hasan Elahi - the Visible Man - found himself on the wrong side of federal government agencies. "Where were you on september twelfth?" they asked him, before grilling the guy with nine lie detector tests.

So Hasan decided to publish every tiny morsel of his life. Many times during each day, images from his location are broadcast live in the name of art and safety.

Will this transparency be required of all citizens in the future? Are we heading in the Right Direction? Would you be prepared to wear a GPS Ankle Bracelet for your own safety?

Here's an interview with the artist.

(Read more on this fascinating suspect: Wired on Elahi, Live tracking, article in World Changing, Wikipedia, CBS News, Wired article about Sousveillance)

(image: thanks for what are you looking at by nolifebeforecoffee, and under Surveillance by Naccarato at flickr)

Latest Auzzie Fashion - Burqini

Enough reacting to the desperate and vicious attitudes of media commentators!

.. here's some good news. Unfortunately i missed the SBS documentary, but Martin Flanagan (Richard's brother), demonstrates his delightful flair for interviewing Aussie sporting greats, in this piece on Mecca Laalaa.

Mecca has hit the headlines because she represents a change in attitude at Cronulla Beach, Sydney. Following the riots of 2005, the local council decided to encourage non-anglo people (especially Muslim people) to become lifesavers. But they only invited the men. Ms Laalaa however has always wanted to be a lifesaver. So she fought the discrimination, and joined the lifesaving forces.

Now she's pioneering a new Australian fashion .. the "burqini", which is a wetsuit with a hood. Yeah! Go Mecca!

Let's all keep an eye out for the positive and healthy changes in our cultural environment. It's not all bad, is it!

From a "Provocative Interloper"

More from the media: book reviewer Rosemary Sorenson, writing in the Weekend Australian Review (02 dec), reckons that it (that Cairns pub incident) all depends where you were standing at the time, and regurgitates the patrons' version of events.

(.. a version i heartily disagree with ..)

Rosemary also claims that management have declared they were acting to protect the 'provocative interloper' from potential violence.

Well a blessed relief. Good to know that any (allegedly) potentially violent people are left inside the hotel, where they can't do any damage. Wouldn't want them out on the streets.

It's an interesting version of events: i've read similar things on comment pages all around the country. One web cruiser wrote that Queensland must have gone soft because "a few years ago he would have been shark bait".

I guess that the security workers were protecting that Indigenous woman too. She was probably escorted to the door for her own benefit. Don't you reckon?

Still i'm glad to learn that management didn't seriously think i was a security threat. Because it would be disturbing to learn they let a potential threat go to the next pub down the road. Wooden it?

ugh, i'm sure i'll get over the whole thing very soon. Smile.

Love to youse all.
from the unknown reader

(thanks a bundle for fighting statue by mmarchin, and the attacker by kodama (home); both from flickr, licensed under Creative Commons.)

Do the Motionless, Yah

Do the Nut Bush. Do the Funky Gibbon. Do the Expressive Chicken. Yah!

Or .. Do the Motionless Standstill.
It's the latest craze.
Mm-hm, the Stock-still (apparently).

Would you believe the Very Slow Robot?
The Freeze Frame? The Matrix Slow-Mo?

Sigh! Will i ever live this down? Standing still on a dancefloor !?
No way .. i wasn't .. i didn't .. those people, they're being disingenuous!

Look i'm sorry you got called 'paranoid'.
i know you're just Normal within a Paranoid Society.
Can't we just be mates? Maaaaate?

That's it for me and dancefloors, we're over!
I'm just going to sit still at a table with my beer and a my mates,
staring at the chicks on the chequered squares
.. like a Normal Aussie Bloke.

"You say, Everything's All right. I Say, Nothing can go right Babe. Chequered Love."
Yah. Right.

(images: thanks Carf and aardvaark)

Been Bolted !!

Other online comments have included Andrew Bolt's suggestion: that any hotel ejecting a reader of Flanagan's novel is a sane and cultured place. To back up his controversial (outright rude) claim, the columnist dipped into the book's preface which contends (in a literary way) that Jesus was "the first suicide bomber".

okay, i admit i had some issues with that beginning too (wasn't sure whether to take it seriously), and it took a while for Richard's style to grab me. But i persevered with the novel, and found it a very worthwhile read. Challenging and insightful, it echoed many powerful themes for me. A good story.

i'm not sure that Andrew read the whole book. i think the preface may have been too morally outrageous for him. Or too politically correct. ("it's so PC to attack JC.") Or something.

His readers take the bile much further: "Pillow over the face is a good solution for people who take the first page of this book seriously. After that, a shotgun is acceptable." (from 'MareeS' - does she mean me or bolt?)

Give credit to mr bolt, he did add, "Incidentally, I’m told by someone who has talked to him that Chalk is a nice, shy guy, so ease up on the personal criticism, please."

But then he let the pillow / shotgun comment through. Ouch.

What am i doing reading bolt's readers anyway?
Publicans and punters in Cairns have nothing on these folk. Am i completely mad, a Glutton for Punishment? Stop it, right now!

(imagez: thanks so much for jesus says .. by RobertFrancis, and text hope u can handle it! by foTommEn, both creative commons licensed images at flickr)

a good hose down

Big it up for the remarkable Paul Keating (on abc world today), who never fails to produce a juicy metaphor. To him, the Ruddslide wasn't something to be happy about .. rather a source of immense relief! He compared the election result to being hosed down after working in a toxic environment. Yes that describes exactly how i felt too. Thank you Paul.

(audio from abc, also available at their site)

powered by ODEO

Other people enjoyed the wit of Keating:

(image: by Johnny Huh)

Catch up: the story so far

If you've just tuned in, i've started writing because my story appeared in newspapers around Australia (and Europe): cairns, brisbane, adelaide, sydney, melbourne, perth, tassie, england,, ireland and yes - sweden. (plus: front cover of cairns post! pdf 900kb)

This was a bit of a buzz for me, especially as the story was faintly ridiculous. People ge
t kicked out of pubs all the time for being not-what-the-locals-ordered. Or a bit weird. Maybe even "socially undesirable". In fact an Indigenous woman got kicked out the same pub five minutes before i did - and her face didn't get in the media, did it?

Yes i got kicked out of a pub for having a book with me. A book with the T-word in the title. Plus wires hanging out me pocket. And staring in shock when that dark-skinned lady got chucked out the door. She was a good dancer.

The locals thought i was going to blow the place up. Apparently.

My friend Avril was shocked and wrote a letter to the Editor of the Cairns Post who found it a worthy headline and chased me down. Thank heavens i had the wits in the interview to pose as a tosser, and claim that i was "Absolutely flabbergasted". Yeah, go michael !

Many people, gathered around water coolers, found this to be a sign that we've lost the plot, gone to hell in a hand-basket, and that hard-right governments are turning to tyranny. Also that the government and media hype is really about subduing Western populations and centralising control.

Following this, the people of Australia kicked out their conservative government. Yeah, go The People!

So, what do you think? Are we on track? Should we be going to war to stop all this anti-civilian violence. Rounding up folk who
look different? Surrendering our civil rights in the interests of public safety? Sending suspects overseas where we can torture them 'legally'?

Time to get some ring-ins .. yep just ring this number and chat to us now .. oh how do i make the switchboard work?

(images: thanks for takin it to the banksy by guano at flickr)

Fingerprint those foreigners

Stating its reasons as public safety, the Japanese government is passing legislation to enforce fingerprinting for all foreigners. Vegetable Japan posts a strong protest, noting that all of the anti-civilian violence in Japan has been carried out by the locals rather than Gaijin.

She believes that the government is using widespread fear to crack down on individual liberties, and refers to an article by John Mueller. Writing from the US, for Foreign Affairs, Mueller wonders whether the threat of the T-word is now used primarily to curtail civilian freedoms, rather than to maintain public safety.

(image of delicious food taken without permission from Vegetable Japan)

End of mean-spirited era

Before the election Julie Macken, writing for New Matilda, recalled some of the hard-core nastiness of the outgoing federal coalition government. She called it "The Bureaucratization of Evil".

Julie wrote about a 2003 summit into mental health, examining the effects of detention on asylum-seekers: "But my note taking came to a halt when I heard Dr
Louise Newman, one of Australia’s most respected psychiatrists, say during her presentation: ‘What I’m describing here is State-sponsored torture and child abuse.’"

"Then there was the 10-year-old Afghani boy, who in a fit of rage and despair sat down in the dust and carved ‘freedom’ into his arm."

Tony Knight wrote in the same journal about the tragedy that was SIEV-X. Nearly four hundred people drowned at sea during that 2001 election campaign, and it barely made the papers. The Prime Minister at the time said it wasn't our fault, despite reports that nearby ships knew what was going on. Tony writes of the beauty and grace of the community-built memorial in Canberra, and closes with the words, "Lest we forget".

These two articles sum up the callous disregard for human life and digni
ty that really epitomised (the dark side of) that man and his government. They also remind me that all along, there were people speaking the truth and asking for healthier solutions.

Yeah, anyway he's gone now. I know why so many Australians liked him: he offered safety and retreat from the world of difference, the comfort of denial, permission to blame other people for our problems, the freedom to believe in lies that would protect us against the great imagined horrors of invasion and destruction.

But i hope we get more optimistic and honest people in charge from now on.

(image: thanks for you lie - banksy by niznoz at flickr)

Thank you !

Huge thanks to the people of Australia for this very fair and timely dismissal. Thank you so much.

Will this mean the end for the politics of fear? What sort of changes will emerge? At the very least, surely we'll see an end to the mean-spirited social division that characterised the autgoing federal government.

This new government will need help finding its feet, i imagine .. probably a good time to get involved in influencing policies from a grass roots level.

(Image: thanks for time by FABIOLA MEDEIROS at flickr)

Push through the fear of change

One of my favourite movie quotes is Wayne's buddy Garth scrunching his face and weaselling out the words: "We fear change." This sums up the Australian body politic for me over the last eleven years.

It is time to push through this fear. Australia i'm asking you to make the change.

My all out favourite quote from this election campaign has been Paul Keating in the Age:
"When things become errant, a wise country adjusts its direction. It understands that it is being granted an appointment with history. On this coming Saturday, this country should take that opportunity by driving a stake through the dark heart of Howard's reactionary Government."

My fellow Australians, i urge you to embrace your inner "Buffy the Slayer of Vampyres". Let's use our power to clear the undead out of office.

Okay that's harsh. Calling the leaders of our elected government "the undead" (or rodents) is abusive and inflammatory. If offended, please note that this is intended to be a satirical metaphor for how i perceive their behaviour over the years.

I believe governments have a responsibility to work toward social harmony, not against it.

(images: thanks for sounds of terror by dogwelder and vampire hunting by G2 Pics, both from flickr)

but Jackie, Chaser is Funny Ha Ha

Today's letter-to-the-editor writers suggest that the Liberal party hacks caught distributing fake pamphlets are another example of a party machine that is thoroughly "beneath contempt". There's plenty of community anger over this episode.

Of course the wives knew nothing, and the heads of the party knew nothing.

Just like the heads of the party knew nothing about the Wheat Board giving kickbacks to Saddam. Just like the heads of the party knew nothing about the lies and deliberate deception involved in the 'children overboard' case, or in the 'evidence' for going to war.

Just like that radio host knew nothing about the effect his words would have on a mob in Cronulla. Just like the Minister knew nothing about the effects his words would have on locals who viciously attacked a young Sudanese man in Melbourne.

What i believe is this:

  • African people DO integrate well and happily into mainstream Australian culture, the same as Middle-Eastern people, South-East Asian people, European people and people from all over this wonderful world.
  • Nobody threw their children overboard from that boat, but the heads of government happily lied to the people of Australia.
  • There was no real evidence to build any case for illegally invading Iraq.
  • "Divide and conquer" is a very old and useful strategy: (social division + fear = power)
  • As people get more fearful and desperate, they're more open to irrational suggestions of blame.
  • Targeting minorities is a way to conceal the deep imbalance in your economics.
  • People at the top knew all about those kickbacks to Saddam.
  • People at the top are prepared to try anything to grasp onto power.

People running the government for the last ten years know all about FEAR. They know the effect it has on people, and they know they can scare the bewittzies out of us; twisting people's hearts and guts to fill their minds with bunk. Which they've done in every single election campaign this century.

i'm over the fears and lies, and i pray that the Australian people are finally coming to their senses. Wake Up Australia!

One of the wives (a former minister in the current federal government) said the pamphlet was a joke. Just like the Chaser. Ha Ha. Hoo hoo hee. Ho. What a chuckle. Would you like a video re-enactment with that?

Sure and Pauline Handsoff was just a joke too. Well that i could believe if she hadn't exposed the frightened underbelly of Australian society and given the Leader of the Party something to tickle while he suffocated our freedoms with a huge legislative pillow in the night.

Yeah, no .. the Chaser team is actually Funny!

(Thanks heaps for these great images: toxic by what what, and banksy on the banks by Riv, both flickr)

Limerick from Bookninja

Thank you Susan of Book Ninja for this limerick:

There once was a fella named Chalk
who wanted a book with his bock

but inside Shenanigans

they don’t allow Flanagans
so poor Mr Chalk had to walk.

( bock .. a beer of course! If only i'd ordered a beer none of this would have happened. This is what happens when you go into an Irish pub and don't get a beer. What was i thinking. )

Great commentary from George on that page too! He's a fiery writer, worth reading. Big it up for the Canadian literary scene ..

Redneck Competition?

Jon Faine asked me if Cairns was competing to be the most ignorant, rednecked place in Australia. i said it was in the running, but that this was just one pub. Let's not go overboard with the generalisation, i tried to imply.
(But respectfully. Faine is one superhero.
(Link to interview below :)

Before i state that abusing people (and their cities) because of their behaviour isn't always helpful, i'd like to add that Sydney is still in the lead for that competition, after the Cronulla riots of 2005.

A couple of people getting kicked out of a pub really doesn't compete with that.

When you add in all the dog whistling coming out of another NSW town .. Canberra, then Cairns isn't in the running at all. Did i say Canberra? Maybe the messages of fear and suspicion, of hatred and social division, have been emerging from Kiribilli all along.

So lets leave Cairns out of it. Cairns is a beautiful city full of wonderful people. So is Sydney. Wonderful people that deserve all the safety and first-rate public education we can muster.

Still, by crikey, i know what Jon meant: don't you wish we'd all just get over it.

Calm right down. Get mentally healthier, and see things in perspective.

Don't shoot Brasilians because we think they look Middle Eastern and carry a backpack on the Tube. Stop blaming minorities for our global imbalances.

Elect governments that are far less committed to spreading social division and fear like honey on toast (just to conceal their out-of-balance economics).

Fund public education properly, so that people have a clue about how to live in this world.

(Link to radio: chalk on faine, abc melbourne, mornings (thursday - nope you've missed it now)

.. but i might have a copy if you missed out. Okay, here's a listening device:

powered by ODEO

Thanks for reading.

(thanks kalandrakas at flickr for "how to pray the japanese way"; abc images used without permission)

Consider Myself Lucky

This quote from a reader in the UK (The Register): "In the UK he'd get a bullet in the brain, Canada tasered until he stops moving and US shipped off to Guantanamo? He should consider himself lucky."

Well honey, thanks for your blessings and the kind reminder.

i really do consider myself lucky. i'm living in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. i'm alive, i have a working fridge plus a roof over my head, and i currently have a huge whac
king degree of freedom. This freedom i am celebrating every minute, with every breath. Albeit somewhat nervously right now. A misunderstanding can really turn your world around.

Way too many other people haven't been as lucky as me.

Many have fallen into the clutches of a horribly murderous cult, and given their lives to kill, which they were brainwashed into thinking was the right thing to do.

Many have died because of the (insanely misguided) actions of these people.
Many have fallen before the armies out hunting for the leaders of this cult. Many in these armies have died also.

A fair few have died from mistakes in the hunt for the cult leaders, and
Plenty have been locked up for time without charge, while
The rest of us are apparently living in fear.

none of that seems good to me.
So, yes i feel very very lucky. Don't you worry about that Joh.

Lucky to be alive, lucky i didn't get beaten up, lucky i never joined a cult. Lucky to still have my freedom. If i'd been reported to the security hotline, it seems unlikely but i could in theory have been detained for fourteen days without charge. With nobody knowing why i didn't come back from Cairns.

I'd still be asking for my mobile phone, so i could send a text to my mum.

(Thanks Eric Kilby for the image "All your needs .. and Coke", at flickr and Cowtools for "how to enjoy better meals")
(There are some other funny comments on that Register page. Lot of people running down Australians for not being able to read.)

That Cairns Pub Story

When i went dancing in that hotel in Cairns, i really didn't think too much about the consequences. But i did think about how people might perceive me - a fortyish male caucasian on my own. So i tried to be discreet, non-threatening .. not stare at anyone.

i moved about on the dancefloor for four or five songs.

(Including Dexy's Midnight Runners, and Billie Jean. Okay, i was desperate for nightlife. i was on my own in a strange city. i was feeling a bit lonely and uncomfortable. But trying to look cool and relaxed about it.)

Then i stood to the side of the dancefloor watching the action for maybe three songs. Again, trying to be unobtrusive.

Whoops! It didn't work. Somehow i came across to some people as potentially threatening, and the bouncer asked me to leave, saying that several patrons had complained about the book i was carrying. When story hit the front page those patrons wanted their say too.

Now i find out it wasn't just the book.

Different Perspectives

Some of the patrons from that night are now upset at being labelled paranoid. They say that they saw a man "behaving strangely", and that they felt intimidated. These people saw

  • wires coming out of a man's pocket (my mp3 player and headphones),
  • a waist pouch (with my sunglasses),
  • and a book with "the T word" on its cover (novel by Richard Flanagan).
They saw a man standing motionless on the dancefloor for twenty minutes ..
(that really baffles me. i'm sure i was dancing vigorously, and i meant to be friendly, but in my own space - intending fully to respect other people, not intrude on anyone else's fun.

(Anyone who's seen me on a dancefloor would be puzzled by that one. The reason i hit the dancefloor was because it was active. Usually i'm the one who gets up first, and starts other people going.)

Other people were also asked to leave
At the moment that the bouncer (#181) came up and moved me to the pavement, i was wondering whether to leave or to have another dance ..

.. because i'd just seen an Indigenous woman escorted out the door. She'd been dancing too. A very funky dancer, she was striking in appearance. Recalling the moment, I realise now that i did stare pointedly around me at that moment. i was stunned. This woman had also been dancing on her own, very well. She was well dressed and good looking. She looked to me like a good and interesting person.

i somehow leapt to the conclusion that she was asked to leave because she was "too black". If that were true, then this was not the kind of hotel i wanted to dance in.

At that moment i stared around me in shock, trying to fathom why this had happened. i was outraged at the possibility that my conclusion could be right. i did stare at people then, wondering why everyone had let this black woman be kicked out for no reason.

Perhaps other people saw this "staring" behaviour as strange and confronting. Perhaps this cemented the suspicions that had been growing in their mind.
  • A man who looks different,
  • who has wires coming out his pocket,
  • who has a pouch around his waist and
  • a book with the T word on the cover,
  • as well as long frizzy black hair,
  • who stares, indignantly.
Clear signals, to someone on the lookout. Someone who feels threatened by the world of difference. Someone who perhaps doesn't notice an Indigenous woman being kicked out of the pub.

Atmosphere of fear
i've got to say that i think labelling people paranoid could be a mistake. i always thought Keating's biggest mistake was to abuse his opponents, rather than lead them to a better place. People do get afraid, and their minds can leap to unfair conclusions. Abusing or making fun of people who feel threatened, or are in the grip of fear, is perhaps not the best approach.

This culture we live in has been brought to the point of hysterical frenzy, and individuals are not immune from these emotional currents. Most people don't have much protection against the pressure-cooker emotions of the mass media, or from politicians who seek to embed their power by preying on those fears. i too have looked at strangers in bars and found myself wondering.

We urgently need leaders who can empathise and allay people's fears, while at the same time evolving our understanding and our behaviour, sensibly and responsibly.

Personally i feel vulnerable and disturbed. Now i know how easy it is for people to get the wrong idea.

Just what the book is all about.

(image: thanks for "is that an iPod in your pocket by thespacesuitcatalyst at flickr)

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