A Patriot

I spell the word with a capital letter. A Patriot to me has always been a person worthy of the highest praise, possessed of the highest virtues.

Until yesterday, when I saw the title of a photograph in an exhibition that I visited with my daughter. It was one of a series of photographs depicting the “unite the right” rally in Charlottesville, USA. The picture was of a bearded older man in camouflage, clutching a rifle with a sort of blank fervour in his eyes.

I am conservative, a white male (oh dear!) with, I hope, a modicum of balance and perspective. But I didn’t like that label, nor could I criticise it. I talked with my daughter, a teacher, about it. I mentioned that I had once written about the need for the institution of learning about the cardinal virtues and the need for iconic models for our youth and that my view had been criticised. What virtues could beat Courage, Prudence, Temperance and Justice, as proposed by St Thomas Aquinas?

courage  temperance prudence (2) justice for one side

She responded obliquely in the way of the New Age; not contradicting but offering a different viewpoint. She felt that diversity was the key and that inclusiveness and tolerance would yield a good basis for future societal foundations. I felt my gorge rise with hot words of … watering down values and standards to reach a common denominator that would suit all which would not be a standard at all, which was the fault of liberal democracy and… and …  

But I stifled them, stumped by the thought that she was probably right and that I was a dinosaur, out of time and that my steam would be obsolete and silly.

Anyway Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Mao Ze Dong, Pol Pot and Robert Mugabe were probably Patriots too!

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Raucous cacophony

Australian birds are numerous, many are garishly coloured; they are not very shy and when together frequently create a raucous cacophony. It seems to have  rubbed off on to a number of Aussies too!

bluebirdIn the early morning we are stridently informed by the blue ring-necked lovebird that there are insufficient sunflower seeds for breakfast.rainbow lorikeets

No sooner is the feeder topped up than rainbow lorikiets chase him away and colonise the feeder in  a mass of scarlet, electric green, purple, orange and yellow, squawking and crooning.

noisy minersA sudden intensified chattering and shrieking from the local noisy miners indicated that there might be a snake about. Sure enough – coiled on a branch above another seed feeder is our local carpet python. Still a youngster at about two metres and the thickness of a pick-handle, his brown paisley camouflage makes him nearly impossible to see.

31.1.18 Our python 001

The noise attracts the attention of a family of sulphur crested cockatoos who perch in the trees about the area, grinding out their harsh shrieks.

To make matters worse this corella cacophonyattracted a flock of correllas, which circle above like helicopter gunships, adding further creaking shrieking.

Finally, the local crows croak by adding their indignant comment to the whole affair.aus crow

The noise is a raucous cacophony.

 

The snake slumbers on, unperturbed; none are brave enough to engage.

Lewins honeyeaterEventually they all get bored and move off,  leaving only the Lewin’s Honeyeater which chatters on all day every day, a Spangled Drongo  and spangled drongothe crested pigeons  (kuifie duifies) which are practising for Spring because the sun is out.

Later, my wife who has been trying too sleep after a night shift, is awoken by a crow and a butcher bird on the verandah,  arguing over a dazed spotted dove that had taken refuge behind a pot plant. I rescued it and had to go inside to avoid the butcher birdclose attention of the persistent and clearly hungry butcher bird.

 

So much for the stillness of suburbia – it’s worth its weight in gold!

What I am / not

Regrettably Profundity is not really what I do.

It’s too deep and accurate;

Too honourable and wise.

Though sometimes, coincidentally, a time or two

I create a phrase or thought

Which may click or resonate.

But that is not my aim:

I prefer irreverence and whimsy,

quirks and stabs at the overfilled balloons of conventions

which have outlived their function.

To my granddaughter, at 5 days

In my day and my Daddy’s day, grown-up was 18, when most people finished school, got a driving licence and ordered a beer in a bar. You won’t need a driver’s licence, my beloved, as the cars that are still around won’t need drivers, they’ll drive themselves far better than we could ever do. Try to give beer a miss.

My grandfather used horses to get around. He never owned a car or a telephone. CMR Officer

He was a soldier and rode into battle on his horse, with a sabre and a rifle.

I hope that I will be able to read you stories, but I suspect that books will also have largely disappeared. I know your Dad has already started reading to you.

Sharing anything with anyone is always a good thing, because even if it is a bad experience you will be able to share the pain and if it is a happy one you will be able to double your joy!

It is very important that you take time to talk to other people and do things together. Try to eat one meal a day with your family – no distractions, just talk to each other.

You will probably be a vegetarian, although you will eat stuff that looks and tastes like meat – we have a braai tradition. But real meat will be too expensive so we will cook vegieSteak and goggaPrawns on the barbie…

If you are lucky, your family will have its own vertical TerraFarm next to your house, which will produce most of your food. Maybe one of your first tasks will be feeding the chickens and collecting the eggs.

mzikiWe had a fine rooster called Mziki when I was young. He was very fierce and crowed the loudest of all roosters in town. I hope you are able to keep a rooster so you can wake up when it crows in the morning.

I hope you will love growing things as well.

When I was a boy, this world was still being explored. New societies were still being discovered in deep jungles. You will be able to work on Mars and explore outer space. Remember to call home. Parents never stop worrying about their children. Perhaps you could rather send an avatar so you won’t miss dinner and your Mum won’t fret.

Do your best, be brave, be humble, help others.

Sing

dance!

Smile

Dance

Justice fails

It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer“,  known as Blackstone’s ratio.

Avoid legal punishments as far as possible, and if there are any doubts in the case then use them, for it is better for a judge to err towards leniency than towards punishment”  is a statement attributed to Muhammad.

These are fundamental precepts in the administration of justice.

But the systems in practice fail terribly:

On the one hand, most crimes are undetected and unreported. Because of the above precepts an extremely low percentage, possibly less than 5% of reported crimes result in prosecution.

Where is the justice for victims?

jail birdsOn the other hand,  many people are apprehended by the justice system, processed, imprisoned and almost invariably degraded, dehumanised and criminalised by that experience.

This article was prompted by a TED video presentation by Robin Steinberg on the injustice of the bail system in the US.

The statistics presented were horrifying: on any day in the US, 75% of people charged cannot afford the bail set.

There are over 400, 000 people in custody awaiting trial, unable to pay bail.

jail life

We are talking of one of the wealthiest countries in the world, where bail is rarely refused. Imagine what it must be like in less sophisticated societies!

  • If you can’t pay bail, you likely can’t afford a lawyer, are unemployed and struggling to feed your family.
  • If you are employed you will likely be fired, your family .evicted from your home. In jail there is a high risk of assault and rape;
  • you are exposed to hardened criminals and gangs who enforce their demands. You have limited contact with your loved ones.

Jail is an ugly and terrifying place to be.

The bail project is an organisation which pays the bail of those who are unable to do so.

  • 96% of people sponsored in this way, return to face trial
  • Over 50% of these cases are dismissed
  • Less than 2% of those charged  receive jail sentences.

Of those that remain in custody, 90% plead guilty, many just to get out of jail.

The criminal justice system is a cruel failure where most crimes are undetected and many innocents plead guilty to avoid prolonged incarceration.

 

What are the options?

Probably some subordination of individual rights to community interest as universal surveillance becomes the norm..

Can you see that getting through existing Parliaments in western democracies?

nice day for rev

That is a topic for another day.