Jun 132012

There is a quality of post that circles the internet with regular glee, post that whips up disenfranchised sentiment like a curly meringue and relies on two things for its longevity:

* disempowerment

* human hunger for an enemy.

Put simply, such posts peddle conspiracies and always always always result in division: them and us. Typically, the language of such posts is blather – the kind of pub talk one might expect late in the evening when beer sloshes stain the table, common sense has left with the late hour and everyone’s pissed off because they’re outside smoking cigarettes.

These posts tell you about your ‘rights’ and how, typically, government and lawyers are abusing them. These posts always ensure you get the message that you are  purposefully kept in the dark and that ‘no-one can save you but (the righteous one who has penned the post)’.

Folks, let’s stop a moment and have a look at one in particular that crossed my Facebook path recently – I’m not going to validate the information further by posting a link but here is an extract:

In fact, the main reason we’re losing so many of our rights these days is precisely because so few know their #1 Right!
That’s right! (No pun intended.)
Ask yourself this, “What good are “rights” that can’t be enforced?”
Your #1 Right is the right to know how to enforce your rights!
Yet, government isn’t telling you!
Your tax-supported schools aren’t teaching your children.
Lawyers certainly aren’t leaking their money-making secrets to the public.

Now, a quick background check on the author of this post revealed two things:

1. he is a lawyer

2. he is building an empire by selling DIY legal courses to those who have a) a desperate need for entitlement, and/or b) a desperate need for legal assistance.

Marketing 101 – be provocative. Zero in on people’s vulnerabilities. Rally them to action. Offer to save them. And count (all the way to the bank) on their disempowerment.

Yay! Another mad man leading a revolution. Yay! Another barely clad emperor maxing out on ignorant, self-serving comment to reinforce an innate human need to be ‘right’ – and therefore belong to ‘the right’ tribe (and thus make an enemy of others). Yay! Another Bible-thumper dressed as a messiah (personally I would have thought this reason enough to be aware, be very aware).

And those who support the post use words like ‘sovereignty’ and ‘awakening’ to peddle their association with this new tribe – and you too can belong to if only you believe in an enemy, enough.

This man – like a zillion others using the same tactics, and they do in fact have their gender in common – is peddling fear dressed as righteous propaganda.

Here is a modern reality I’d like us to consider – we live in a cyber democracy.

Every time you click, you vote.

Extreme views taken on face value – without pause for a quick google to find out who is zeroing in on your vulnerabilities – are the real risk not just to your ‘rights’ but to peace itself on Earth.

The reality is there are three rights all creatures inherit when we arrive on this good Earth – and humans inherit a fourth:

They are:

* the right to air

* the right to water

* the right to land from which to source our food.

The fourth, specifically human, right is the right to creative expression.

These are our birthrights.

The rest of our ‘rights’ are noble intentions, legal standards we set in place to make sure we play nice with each other. And it is not by chance that in our little corner of the world – the great southern continent known the world over as Australia, here the legal foundation of our society has given us one of the most progressively organised communities on Earth.

Yes, really.

Did you know our Constitution is the only Constitution in the world voted on by the people it is designed to represent?

And did you know our Constitution is the only Constitution in the world whose people must vote to change it?

For all their faults, a century of Australian governments have stood for it and and been bound by it. We also have a courageous current government, by the way, that is tackling head on the global mining, private health and tobacco industries – for all its perceived faults, believe it or not, this is a government we’ve been waiting for.

Blame the government and those who work in the governing elite as you please – but you might wanna be careful what you wish for when you mobilise an assault on those mostly invisible values that hold our fragile world in place.

Think Arab Spring. Think 1930s Germany. Think feudal England. We humans have natural tendencies to madness, foremost of which is the need for an enemy.

Those who went before us envisioned a fairer world in which human beings – by birthright – could be defined beyond class, beyond religion, beyond fanaticism – this nation is their gift to us.

I for one will work with what we have to fine tune the model.

 June 13, 2012  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Apr 272012


The Rio Grande.

Who’d have thought the Rio Grande would be a puddle?

Tell me that brown blink-and-you-miss-it pool outside the train window is not the Rio Grande!

And who’d have thought those bright patches of sunlit white at the top of the hills in Arizona really was snow?

For fifteen hours I have rattled my way across the southern border of the United States of America, most of it in darkness bookended by a small brown river and glacial snow.

Everything I know about El Paso I have learned from songs, movies and stories.

In Australia it is a Mexican food line.

In my current reality, perched at the counter at Starbucks milking free internet alongside the locals, it is a wide clean town filled with people who don’t see strangers very often.

I don’t know what it is about me that declares stranger like a neon light, because I haven’t had a chance to open my mouth, but heads swivel on the street and they wave and grin.

I’ve only been here five minutes. I’m exaggerating – I’ve been here long enough for the wonderful Sylvia to cook me a Mexican breakfast and her husband Jim to offer to take me out to a cavern in the desert tomorrow.

Across the fence, and this time I really do mean a stone’s throw away, is Mexico. Lars who invited me to the game last night warned me not to go there.

‘They’ll shoot you just for bein’ white,’ he said.

By ‘they’ he meant the drug lords and cartel hooligans waging a war on the streets of Juarez, apparently one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico.

I was reminded of walking through the Balkans, where we heard different versions of this story from tip to tail, the locals warning us against visiting their neighbours.

On the train back to LA an elderly woman’s eyes just about popped outa her head when I said I was going to El Paso, before she spluttered another warning about crossing the border.

And George, a near blind man who won this year’s LA Times biography prize, seated two seats up on the train that took us through the night to El Paso. He lives in Los Cruces, just up the road, and his last words were a reminder not to cross the border to Juarez.

What’s a woman to do?

I decided to wait and see.

When I was walking through the Balkans my head was wild and my body frozen with stories. It pleases me that fearful stories about other people no longer shape my world.

El Paso.

Ghost of childhood Saturday afternoons spent watching old Westerns on TV.

The desert.

The train (the Sunset #2 and the Texas Eagle #422 to be exact).

Bandits with red triangles plastered on their faces ridin’ down from them there hills.

It took a while before we left behind those stupid palm trees tickling the sky in southern California – I reckon they’re no more native than the gum trees along the line to San Diego.

The train steams east, retracing the tracks of the pioneers.

People go on and on and on about how internet changed the world like never before. Try tellin’ that to those who envisioned a railroad coast to coast. Or a telephone network hookin’ up the world.

To the people of the 19th century it was just as big. Just as exciting. Just as pioneering. Just as big an opening to a whole new world of possibilities previously undreamed.

There’s big sky out there. Big sky. I’m Australian. We too have big sky.

I try to picture what the world looked like before.

What and where were the animals?

The people?

Just like Australia, a history of hate took this land. Yet that is the agony of hindsight speaking, the outcome of a mission that was true not for all, perhaps even not for most.

All I have to do is put myself inside the heart of any human being from any time or culture, native or settler, and I can feel their courage, their spirit, their dreams, their vision for a new world, all layered each upon the other, rights and wrongs and outrageous improprieties committed in the name of righteousness and the need to settle somewhere else.

In this way I can love them all. Well, almost all.

The puzzle of nativity takes my attention as desert plain blazes pink in the dying light.

Who is more native to this land which in the asking raises the immediate question: who is most entitled to his land? Or should that be ‘more’ entitled?

I can see three groups in my ignorance – the native Americans, the Mexicans and the new settlers who poured in from the coasts and before that from Europe.

And what of those whose ancestors broke their backs and their plows turning this land into what it wasn’t, but is now, at least mostly, when it rains.

These thoughts lull me to sleep.

I’m fortunate enough to have two seats to myself and I sleep relatively well, considering.

I wake to Texas dawn.

Only to realise a short time later I am really in New Mexico.

As I stare out the window at the new light sweeping the land, the porter whispers into the PA system.

‘Eggs,’ he whispered.


‘Waiting for you in the dining car.’

Pause to reflect on that whisper. I cracked up.

How many years have the trains ridden this plain? And the stage coaches before them? I could google and find out, but of course the question is rhetorical, a reflection of the layers of human story brought to consciousness. That this is not and never will be all there is.

Oooo, cattle on the plain.

I imagine they are Little Big Horns.

I stare at what must be a ranch.

It is beyond me how one man can walk to a place he likes, claim everything he sees and beyond as his own, stick a few sticks in the ground and call it a fence, and then proceed to tell everybody else there what to do or, more likely, where to go.

The same principle is true for forestry and mining companies – men who claim the Earth for profit and proceed to tell everybody else what to do or, more likely, where to go.

Perhaps I’m being too generous presuming they care where we/they go; probably it matters only that they/we do.

And the biggest question: what happened to the animals?

The train crosses the famous Rio Grande and pulls into El Paso, where straight outa the station I meet my first live Texas pick up truck reversed in to greet me.

And Mexico, in my face.

And there, folks, we have it, the difference between one country’s history and governance and another’s, nudging up against a fence.




 April 27, 2012  Tagged with: , , ,  1 Response »
Mar 212012
Dear Australians, particularly those who value social, political and economic reform – it is time to Pay Attention.
Who among us has not promised someone the world and then changed our minds?
At present we have a team of women in our federal parliament who are taking on the tobacco, private health and mining industries, who have delivered an incredible amount of funds to schools and hospitals, who have won pay equity for women in the public sector, who have led significant action on climate change, who are even giving gay marriage a fair crack of the whip.
It is time to rally behind them, to thank them, to show them our support, to publicly defend them, to tell a different story to that peddled by haters across the media, social and political spectrums.
The media may not be whipping up the leadership story – but they sure as hell are obsessing about the minutiae, indulging in a fanatical frenzy whose only aim is to tear the flesh from prime ministerial dignity.
Democracy is precious. One glimpse at the Arab Spring ought to slug home to us that democracy is ours by design, not right.
The time is now, before we lose them, to thank our current leaders for their courage and give them our public support. Because if things go on as they are we will lose them. Imagine that, we will lose them.
We have one of the most progressive governments on Earth at this time. And it is led by women who are devoted to the same things the people I know are devoted to, even if we don’t agree on everything.
These are women who boldly and unapologetically marched through the gates left open for them by the ones who came before.
It’s time to stand with them, to tell a different story. Perhaps one that begins ‘thank you Julia for weathering the incessant storm and taking a stand on climate change’, ‘thank you Tanya and Nicola for having the courage to tackle Big Tobacco and Big Private Health’, ‘thank you everyone involved for delivering pay equity to the public sector’.
Just ‘thank you’ would be fine.