Friday thoughts-Winter, 2023

“….. a bullet at dawn is better than being dismebered by a shell…” a line from a Sebastian Faulks novel Snow Country“.

A soldier’s realism making desertion and the entailed disparagements of cowardice a better choice than savage maiming or horrible death. Life choices can be brutal.

The context was involvement in the Brusilov Offensive of World War 1 which probably turned the war in the Allied favour and incidentally, had one of highest casualties rates of that terrible war.

It was fought in North West Ukraine, about 107 years ago. That poor country.

Today I harvested two granadillas from my vines, which have a promising crop. I will trade them for some of our neighbours navel oranges which glow on their tree and are the sweetest, best oranges ever!

Lulu was attacked by a white ball of fur and had her tail pulled – fortunately Rosie saved her and calmed the neighbours who were aghast by their pet’s aggression. She is a wonder, that woman!

We have seen a Koala in the vicinity – he is a local lad, difficult to spot, but has been around for years.

The Higgins/#metoo/Parliamentary sex scandal is gaining traction…. evidence is emerging of secret support and lies in Parliament. Will a few more Ministers crash and burn in this sordid saga?

It seems the Voice may be getting a wee bit hoarse. There was a suggestion that focus thereon was a way to distract the populace from the pain of a shrinking economy, housing shortages, rising inflation and high minimum wage increases.

Looks like the Reserve Bank Governor is going to be sacrificed for raising interest rates to combat the inflationary increase in wages by the government and its agencies. Jim Chalmers seems to be quite a nasty chap!

The Australians are well on the way to walloping the Indians at the Oval – I amhorrified that Ashwin was omitted, so maybe it is deserved. He is a wonder!

Thank God for cricket, rugby has been getting a bit boring…

Per me si va la perduta gente

“Through me go the lost people” written on the gates of hell according to Dante’s Inferno, which is part of his Divine Comedy.

It was quoted in a novel, but it gave me pause. Recently, I was debating with a good friend, a pious and patient Christian, who has never hesitated in his efforts to persuade me to make the leap of faith required to be given the keys of heaven.

I am a sceptic, a Catholic who reversed to be a questioner, not a believer. To be honest this was because I lapsed and stopped following the disciplines of the religion in which I was baptised and confirmed. It was too hard to live the good life and still get up for mass and confess my sins in order that I could receive the body of Christ. Domine, non sum dignus,  ut intres sub tectum meum, sed tantum dic verbo et sanibitur anima meum – the legionnaire’s words to Jesus: I am not worthy, … say but the word and my soul shall be healed.

So I rationalised that I could leave it to God to forgive me (if I deserved it). My later thoughts and cursory research has instilled in me a great distrust of man as a purveyor of God or the Gods’ words.

The mere fact that there are estimated to be more than 45 000 Christian denominations with new prophets and witnesses, each with their own interpretation of the Christian God, suggests that since before Moses, religion has been a fertile field for creativity … and a comfortable living?

If we include the myriad of different sects amongst Muslims, Hindus, Jews,Buddhists, Taoists and many more, all with their own gods and dogma, how can we tell the good news from the fake news?

I believe that Gods exist as an answer to our need for Them. In order for us to be able to see our way forward, gods show us Heaven/Nirvana/ Valhalla at the end of the road, guide us and welcome us when we die…

if we believe in them.

So I have been given pause for thought by Dante. Looks like I may be bound for the inferno.

I am reassured that my friend has a firm hold of my coat tails and may still pull me back! So, while I may not have the required faith, I still have not abandoned Hope.

I hope that unaddressed prayers still get delivered!

Using my Voice

David Pocock was a great rugby player and I admire his impetus and integrity as a Senator. He recently called on Rugby Australia and all sporting bodies to support the call for a Voice in Australia.

I take exception to that – to me it’s like telling all sportspeople they must take a knee.

Consequently, I read the Uluru Statement from the Heart*. I regret that I was disappointed but not surprised.

I accept this document represents the views and beliefs of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and that these various indigenous peoples were the sovereign rulers of Australasia at the time of European colonisaion.

Sovereignty relates to power. So, prior to colonisation, the indigenous people had the power over the land. They certainly were not united as one people and battles were common ** and it is assumed sovereignty over land changed over time – that is the explicit nature of mankind.

Colonisation is an economic force and those who are technologically superior will prevail, by seduction or force or both. The colonised are suppressed until over time they are assimilated or rise up and overthrow the colonists. That is the history of mankind.

The Uluru statement infers that longevity of possession confers eternal sovereignty over the land and states that the indigenous people “must one day return thither and be united with …. ancestors”.

It is remarkable to note the religosity that surrounds this concept of custody and ownership of the land – it has permeated Australian social values and is pronounced at every major public spectacle. A remarkable public relations coup!

Attachment to the land and access to the graves of ancestors is not just an Aboriginal thing – but they have made it iconic.

It cannot be disputed that Aboriginals have proportionally higher representation amongst the incarcerated and that children are alienated from their families at unprecedented rates. There are protestations that “we are not innately criminal” which suggests that while there may be evidence they committed crimes or abuse, they should somehow be exonerated as the victims of rapacious colonists.

Whatever and wherever, there is a strong case for effective and cohesive actions to be taken to facilitate opportunities to escape the spiral of ignorance, indulgence, poverty and crime.

However, the guilt scars left by the treatment of the stolen generation are strongly etched in the Australian psyche and the Voice is possibly seen as a simple way to ease that guilt. Virtue signalling is very fashionable at the moment…

The statement talks of possession of the land i.e. ownership … does that not suggest that ultimately there must be compensation for historical dispossession at today’s values?

It seems that the Voice is saying: Show me the money…!

In the US, some local governments are contemplating compensating present day African Americans for the hardships of slavery.  The Canadian government will pay A$3billion in compensation to hundreds of Indigenous communities for decades of abuse suffered by First Nations, Métis and Inuit children in residential schools. The Maori in New Zealand have wrung millions from the Crown in recent years, which is an enticing precedent.

In the African sub-continent of my birth, there is a great push by Nguni tribes for return or recompense for land they once possessed for a while, and they are not even of First Nations aristocracy, just recent tenants!

Let us be clear on what is being sought:“substantive constitutional change and structural reform….to empower our people…... a Makaratta Commission to supervise a process of agreement making between governments and First Nations”

This is needed to end “the torment of our powerlessness

The indigenous people are seeking more power than that which they share with non-indigenous Australians.

This is a classic manifestation of Woke thinking: generate guilt and moral wrong by highlighting historical inequalities and injustices and impute the blame on the current electorate and demanding rectification by reconstructing society and its institutions.

This is a modern application of democracy based only on sentiment.

Looked at objectively, granting more power to Indigenous people will only differentiate them more and cost more, with no guarantee of upliftment.

Beneficial action to uplift segements of society does not require constitutional amendment it requires clarity of purpose, consultation and adherence to a course of action.

Before you vote in the referendum, think carefully about the implications and why you are doing it.

Is it just to show you are sorry or do you believe it is right to give more power (money) to a differentiated sector of the population, based on that difference?

And who will be next? L G B T Q I … ?

*Uluru Statement from the Heart referendumcouncil.org.au/sites/default/files/2017-05/Uluru_Statement_From_The_Heart_0.PDF

** https://international-review.icrc.org/articles/indigenous-australian-laws-of-war-914

Are you a leader or a follower?

Daily writing prompt
Are you a leader or a follower?

I tend to go my own way. I sometimes lead and sometimes I follow. I’m a slow thinker and don’t react fast, so sometimes I follow then stop. Sometimes I dash out the door to do something … then stop and think about it.

I often follow my wife’s lead

Thoughts at Easter

The long Easter weekend was often a lonely one for me as a young man when I lived in Rhodesia, a country at war. My friends were either on call up for military duties or visiting their families; my family was too far away for a long weekend.

So, I often pondered the meaning of life, god and my own trajectory, making myself melancholy by listening to Kristofferson’s “Sunday morning coming down”

Now I listen to old, sad Easter hymns on Good Friday and Handel’s Messiah on Easter Sunday. I am still moved by the memories and emotions of old beliefs.

My mind seems to be stimulated by the four quiet days of the long weekend – in fact it is in a whirl, tormented by the mess the world seems to be in.

We are in need of a Messiah in our world today, or several Messiahs….

Peter Turchin is a complexity scientist who works in the field of historical social science that he and his colleagues call Cliodynamics

He has done extensive analysis of historical societal collapses and writes:

…. data indicated that we were well along the road to political disintegration. The structural factors undermining social stability in past societies—popular immiseration, elite overproduction, and state fragility—were all trending in negative directions in the early twenty first century America.*

I would extend his analysis to the the whole western world, at least, if not the whole world. We do not need another world war in less than a century since the last one…. or do we? Maybe we deserve the pain and horrors of holocausts and brutality in order to get our world straight?

Back to what I see as a global mess: Russia /Ukraine, China, Africa in general, some of the South Americas, the whole of the Middle East, all in the grip of corrupt autocrats who have little regard for the worth of individuals other than themselves. (Dare I add the US to that list?)

The bickering over climate and the lack of common environmental purpose. The iconoclasm of the Woke erosion of free expression and re-ordering of morality, the inertia of the worlds’ middle orders, the universal reverence of mammon.

The total disintegration of morality apparent in the Trump phenomenon can not and is not being denied. A huge number of US citizens are rallying around a man being pilloried for lying about paying off women with whom he committed adultery. He denies the adultery … so why did he pay them? Duhh!

Mind you it seems that almost as many US Presidents were philanderers as were not!

But it is so serious, the very fabric of politics in that country is being tattered. Couple it with the whole Woke wave demanding and receiving remuneration for injustices perpetrated on long dead people by long dead people – history is going to become expensive. That is state fragility and popular immiseration.

Elite over-production describes the condition of a society which is producing too many potential elite-members relative to its ability to absorb them into the power structure. This means too many people with too much education accompanied by higher expectations than can be accommodated.

Just look at the issues with student loans in welfare societies – it is too easy to get a degree on borrowed money. Attempts to cut off that flow is a suicidal political move which will generate radical reaction from the most volatile segment of the demographic. Collecting the debt is risky enough for government!

A Marxist would probably call this bourgeois overproduction; these days we would call them wannabe elites.

That encapsulates the root illness of modern western democracies: too much entitlement and not enough individual responsibility – anything is ok if it is NIMBY (not in my back yard).

It takes catstrophic societal upheaval to get citizens to recalibrate their expectations.

Well, looks like we may be headed there…

*https://peterturchin.com/cliodynamica/an-intermediate-retrospective-on-ages-of-discord/

Rectitude

I suppose it’s the first 4 letters which generate in my mind a sort of carrot up the arse, stiff upper lip, holier than thou image .

I think maybe it was a desirable trait in the days of Queen Victoria, when it denoted a moral, conservative stance. Nowadays, it is a trait of the progressives who are awake to any opportunity to denounce.

It is also the armour of the petty bureaucrat, who will follow the letter of the law despite great injustice being the consequence. e.g.:your visa renewal is refused because you paid the wrong fee; you must quit your job and leave the country.

These thoughts have been kindled by a recent article on Celebrity Slavery*:

The fashionable pursuit of reparations from celebrities, who might shell out rather than run the risk of ‘cancellation’ and humiliation, smacks of extortion. 

Certainly the latter suggests a commercial morality: a skeleton of a rich man’s ancestors is far more valuable and attracts greater media attention.

Much easier to apply leverage to an individual than governments of former colonies where there are many of the estimated 40 million people still in slavery.

Researching rectitude, I came across this graphic of virtues:

They seem pretty wet to me, grounded as I am in the more traditional cardinal virtues of prudence, fortitude , justice and temperance.

Be careful, be brave, be fair and moderate in all that you do.

If you practise those virtues you don’t need to be woke, righteous, progressive or vociferous.

*Article by Peter Kurti, The Spectator, 21 January 2023,

What will be in twenty twenty threee?

The world is dominated by the big 3 from last year: Ukraine, China and Covid.

The latter two are intertwined: I fear Covid will generate even more desperate measures in China, now that imprisoning those affected has failed.

The lack of data from China leads to speculation, which is the breeding ground for conspiracy theories, so I will try not to conspire.

Apparently huge numbers of Chinese people have been stricken by the virus since movement restrictions lifted with hospitals unable to cope. It is said that millions are likely to die in a very short space of time.

Most of these people are likely to be the elderly, people over 65.

That will greatly impact the ability of families to work, as grandparents were the main child carers – so widespread adjustments will be needed in highly emotive areas.

It seems possible that there will be greater discontent with the government who are likely to seen as the source of the misery and mortality.

The Chinese economy is likely to take a huge hit. International markets have all been rattled by their dependency on China and will have made significant moves to reduce that dependency.

So, will the CCP decide to distract the population and stimulate its military industrial complex with a war – the invasion of Taiwan has clearly long been planned…?

Frighteningly, the same could be said of North Korea!!!

Let us pray that they will not do so.

(Maybe western governments should cut China a break on Covid testing?)

I hesitate because I am aware of the commentator’s curse, but I think we will see peace between Russia and Ukraine and maybe the end of Putin (no tears here)

Covid outside China is a dead duck as an issue, being treated like we handle ‘flu.

Of course there will be alarums, rumbles and recriminations, but it has been moved into a boring conversation status.

The disruptions to the global economy will reverberate well into next year.

So what else?

Having become a conservative liberal as I age, I see the greatest challenge to the world as the Woke movement. Because this is a well entrenched movement based on emotion, it defies objective argument. Indeed part of its campaign is the cancellation of opponents.

I believe it was born in USA in the 1950’s with the Civil Rights movement legitimising radical opposition to goverment policies. It has always been fashionable for students to be left wing and radical. Che Guevarra spawned generations of revolutionaries and became the ubiquitous countercultural symbol of rebellion and global insignia in popular culture.

Aluta continua!

American imperialism in Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East, Afghanistan has alienated many people , who regard America and capitalism as the Great Satan.

Many attacks on western institutions such as democracy, freedom of speech, the rule of law and criticisms and protests have been levelled through universities, which have become the home not only of intelligensia, but the idle rich too. They also have become fertile grounds for agents provocateurs who know the untrammeled reverence the western world has for Freedom.

Social media has become the bludgeon of the wokesters, but seems largely disdained by conservatives.

The people of the US, which is a supposed torchbearer of democracy and the free world, have become deeply divided to the extent that further insurrection is quite feasible.

Maybe the world woke war will be fought there? I am repulsed by the idea that Trump may be the leader of anti-Wokesters, but that seems somehow to be how the narrative is shaping up.

For most of the 20th century left-of-center politics was defined by class struggle between the rich and the poor. Now the left has been completely subsumed by identity politics, the struggles for historically disadvantaged demographic groups for equality. Unfortunately the class struggle (which largely drove the oppression of women and minorities) has been all but forgotten by mainstream liberal politicians and political parties.

In Australia, the battle of Woke will be the the referendum for a Voice.

Africa will definitely be Woke as they see new sources of money in reparations for slavery and colonial conquests. Notwithstanding the endemic corruption, nepotism, discrimination, xenophobia, female subjugation and genital mutilation, which are ignored and if mentioned attract immediate cancellation of the mentioner . (Oh dear…maybe I’ll be canceled too!)

Cultural values have changed and now appear to be totally under the influence of prevailing media.

I think 2023 will see clarification of the division between Woke and the Tories

The huge gaps in wealth between the very rich and the rest is eroding capitalism’s credibility.

The antics and influence of corporate billionaires appear to proceed unchecked and we should pray that they remain philanthropic and benevolent.

In Europe, right wing factions will grow in direct proportion to the waves of Third World refugees flooding over their borders.

If you do not like something speak out, do not avoid the issue

de l’audace, encore de l’audace, et toujours de l’audace is what is needed.

Hmm! I better stop now…