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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