The spectre of Spring 2021

Foreboding lurks at the back of my mind, almost continuously. It’s not so much the plague, but how people are behaving. Society is being strained at its seams and frayed edges begin to appear.

As you may recall, my world context retains strong ties to Southern Africa and I am a child raised during the Cold War, when the spectre of the time was Communism driven by totalitarians. Then, as now, simple maxims were used to sway the masses. Freedom and equality for all!

Isn’t it ironic that these are the underpinnings of the woke movement, demanding representation and retribution for any cadre with some identifiable characteristic, practice or habit.

The process of promotion of the interests of minority groups has attacked current institutions, individuals and laws on the premise that their existence has been achieved to the disadvantage of minorities who were discriminated against in history.

At the same time, the prevalence of conspiracies and their adherents is challenging democracies’ability to govern and is widely being used as a political tool to fuel fire in followers. The old name for conspiracies was propaganda. Its purpose was to galvanise popular belief, without challenge.

An alarming feature of recent campaigns of identity movements like #metoo and Black Lives Matter is that mere allegations are accepted as facts. Now that’s okay when allegations are admitted, but when they are disputed, there has always been a process to ascertain the most accurate version of the truth.

Corroboration is essential. But nowadays, every accused person is deemed a liar unless they admit their guilt.

Capitalism has created a huge disparity in earnings with the super rich becoming the aristocracy of old.

Marketing and Kardocumentatries, scripted reality shows and social media exaggerate and glorify lifestyles impossible for all but the rich. Tension, envy and outrage brew amongst those who can never indulge in champagne cruises, drive Porsches, wear silk shirts and eat caviar.

Attributions for the London rioters’ behaviour in 2011 included social factors such as racial tension, class tension, economic decline, and the unemployment that decline had brought. Well that is also an accurate picture of what happened in South Africa and eSwatini. Put a lid on a boiling pot and eruptions are certain!

I am trying to say that world wide we are at a stage that reasonable judgment has been suspended and gut feeling is carrying the day. This means that democracy is dead, it cannot be sustained in the face of ever-increasing individual demands for unique treatment. Capitalism in its present form has also failed. The poor are increasing and want more.

The task is to find new inviolate principles by which all agree they can be governed.

Tragically, all we need to do is look at organised religion to see that so many prophets arise to lead that there is continuous alienation and conflict.

I hoped that the plague would give rise to strong, credible leadership but fear there are too many critics, not enough followers.

So, sadly it seems that fragmentation will continue until another global catastrophe arises to force us together, maybe a world war – any bets on how soon and who will oppose the Chicomms?

What about undersea sustainable cities?

Story suggested by Bob a.k.a. Tinker Connolly Monday 15 March

The continent of Atlantis was an island
Which lay before the great flood
In the area we now call the Atlantic Ocean
So great an area of land, that from her western shores
Those beautiful sailors journeyed
To the South and the North Americas with ease
In their ships with painted sails…

Hail Atlantis! Way down below the ocean
Where I wanna be, she may be

or

Under the sea
Under the sea
Darling it’s better
Down where it’s wetter
Take it from me

It seems crazy to be talking about settling Mars when there is so much space under the sea.

In modern times, it was probably the intrepid underwater pioneer Cousteau and his Conshelf research habitat built under water in the 70’s that sparked interest in the possibility of living underwater.

 Under sea habitation could alleviate over-population problems, or guard against the possibility of natural or man-made disasters that render land-based human life impossible.

Skylab has clearly demonstrated that it is possibleto survive for long periods out of the atmosphere. The difference with underwater is increased pressure as opposed to no pressure.

The pressures at any deeper than 1,000ft (300m), would require very thick walls and excessive periods of decompression for those returning to the surface, but there is plenty of sea bed above that level.

Energy can be generated harnessing wave action or placing solar panels on the surface.

The air composition needed to sustain the aquanauts depends upon the depth of the habitat. Current habitats use compressors to constantly push fresh air from the surface down tubes to the habitat. Growing plants using natural or artificial light could be used to generate a fresh supply of oxygen, or other methods could be developed to produce oxygen.

There are hotels which have underwater modules.

Water can be created using condensation or desalinisation. Depending upon the size of the colony, human waste could be treated and released into the environment.

Homes with undersea modules have been developed

A number of ideas and proposals are under consideration and undersea mining and marine fish farms are significantly large industries.

The sea is being recognised as an opportunity for expansion. Let us hope we can clean up pollution before we start living there. And keep it clean. And minimise our impact on a different eco-system….

Any bets we can do that? Thought not.

My fondest memory of my son

Story proposed by Janita Purcell Thursday 4 March

I have two sons and three daughters and all or nearly all of my memories of them are fond. I can’t remember any that are not fond, but there must be as nobody’s perfect, except perhaps John Eales. (it’s a rugby joke).

Bringing up five children, we practiced a sort of communist regime – everyone got the same share, first last time is last this time and always check that the dogs have water.

Our children were  and remain unfailingly good, mischievous, serious, loving, clever and beautiful and many other things that it hurts to remember.

They are all bright, talented and independent and love a family braai on a Sunday. They ask advice, listen and even sometimes seem to heed it. I think they ask me just because they know it makes me feel good. They ask their Mum when it’s something serious.

All of them are university educated, paid for by themselves, and have travelled abroad. They all like dogs and are polite and kind to people too.

I suppose the fondest memories I have of my eldest son is his pride in catching a slimy barbel on the farm, when he was about seven and his colours awards for hockey and Academics. 

The fondest memories of my youngest son is him consoling me in my rage when someone else was awarded Best Player when he  should have got it, and him reading to his baby daughter.

This is very difficult as I am somewhat sentimental. I think they all know that I am quite fond of them.

Harry the Chocolate King

King Harry is a big dog. He looks like a king, even if he is quite old. His coat is dark chocolate brown as he is a chocolate Labrador. (It doesn’t mean he is made of chocolate, that is his colour; he is made of dog).

I meet him often as he strolls around the parklands near his palace in Hilliard Park.

He is often in the company of the Duke and Duchess of Hilliard, who are his Lord and Lady in Waiting.

Even though he is a king, Harry doesn’t wear a crown or fancy robes like some other dogs. He is cool and casual.

When I meet him, I greet him in siSwati, and he understands everything I say, which is weird as he is Australian, but then kings are special.

King Harry is getting on in age, but he still has a twinkle in his eye, especially when he meets Miss Lulu, who is Schnauzer who wants to be a ballerina. He will even roll in the grass in some places, to show that he is just an ordinary person, groaning softly, squirming and grinning.

Talking of grinning, King Harry is a grinner; he always has at least a smile on his face. I believe he is a happy dog.

When he walks, without a leash of course because he is a King and well behaved, he has a languid step, never hurrying. He strolls sedately and politely greets everyone who he meets. They all feel honored by his attention and bow and wait until he approaches them before they speak.

Mind you, he will sometimes put on a leash to show other dogs that he is on their side. He hasn’t actually said that people should be on leads not dogs, but I think he thinks so.

If he is feeling particularly happy and his gout isn’t troubling him he will even indulge in a frisky caper, a little dance to encourage the young people who gaze at him adoringly.

It is so nice to know that we have a king living nearby.

New Human Rights

It has been some time since 2042 when duty to community prevailed over individual rights.

After the almost impenetrable smog of fakenews in the early 2020’s, there were many hard fought court actions seeking ways to promote the truth. The right to the truth was first espoused in the Senate Impeachment trial of US President Donald Trump and later entrenched in the AllNations Declaration of Rights of 2031.

Now in 2060 it has long been accepted that there is great harm to society for an individual to fail to disclose the truth. The historical sacrosanct right to silence had led to far too many injustices; tragedies which could have been avoided; vicious murderers, rapists and pederasts who escaped liability to strike again and again.

Ways to obtain the truth from alleged criminals are strictly controlled and are under direct supervision of a judge who only orders the administration of truth serum after clear supporting evidence of involvement in crime.

The veracity of elected representatives including the Universal Head of State is monitored by truth sensor apps which display signs if speakers are deliberately not accurate in what they say.

It has become very difficult to prevent the actual truth from disclosure. Marketing was prohibited. Information is accurate and individuals easily obtain relevant information they require, tailored to their needs from GlobalTruth, Google’s successor..

Many of the old rights contained in the United Nations Declaration in 1948 have become obsolete and removed or changed over time.

GlobalRule which was enabled after Universal Surveillance meant privacy was obsolete; warfare became impossible as hostile intent was soon detected and could be stamped out by WorldForces and human tragedy could swiftly be addressed.

The universal carbon tax had effectively extinguished global warming. Universal Basic Income had diminished the poverty gap and world population was declining. Famine was extinct.

Death from disease was eradicated and human longevity increased to 120 years placing great burden on the WorldCommunity to produce sufficient food.

 Since the rebellion of the middle-agers, refusing to serve the mandatory 30 years as pioneers on New Australia (Mars), finding more living space on Earth has become impossible.

Global Rule has eliminated conflict: wars are no more and the Global Surveillance Judicial system has made crime almost impossible – so our numbers are no longer reduced by the death sentences on major criminals or banishment to outer planets.

However, quality of life had declined and community costs to support the elderly increased exponentially after 130 years of age.

The dominant duty to community ethos over individual rights had led to universal acceptance of mandatory euthanasia.

The celebration of life of a family elder has become a major rite of family culture and is keenly anticipated.

I accepted mandatory death and cremation at 133 years of age, long ago. Nevertheless, it is quite startling to think that next year I will reach my Celebration Day.

I will sleep happily knowing my ashes will feed an apple tree in our family orchard.

Sieg HEIL – The Trump Fanfare

I must point out that we are indebted to Trump for at least one huge lesson about humanity. He has shown us that most of us will follow anyone who strikes a chord that resonates  … and keeps repeating that message. Someone who shows that it’s NOT our fault – that they (clearly identifiable others) are the ones who have caused our pain.

It helps if they live amongst us and appear to be richer, stronger or more effective than us.

Inevitably, the media are liars and on their side (which is not to say some of them aren’t …)

Conspiracies explain everything … even though we are not quite sure what they are.

I say us because it includes friends and family members

Not long ago – in our parents and grandparents day, Hitler was believed, admired and followed blindly by millions of Germans and European nations even the Duke of York, once King of England!

It doesn’t seem to matter that the demagogue is not consistent, sounds deranged and makes outrageous claims. At that last “March to save America” rally, Trump looked and sounded deranged; frantic, repetitive, unrestrained. Just appearing at that rally smacked of civil mischief, but no-one stopped the President. He was unstoppable, despite increasing incoherence and blatant lying, ranting and raving … in between a few rounds of golf.

On the other side of the political spectrum lemming like behaviour is also prevalent. Democrats in Congress all took the knee recently – a blatantly populist obeisance to the political movement condemning Police, condoning the eradication of historical and cultural icons and accepting the blame for slavery.

One can only see this type of populist endorsement inflaming conservatives who are also suffering under the economic malaise of the midWest and Deep South US.

All of these people on both sides proclaim the virtue of their beliefs and decry the baselessness and immorality of the others cause.   

It is no good pointing out misconduct and precedents. We have to find ways to do things better.

Impeachment will not help – it will merely reinforce the conspiracy and turn a maniac into a martyr.

Biden has it right – extending the hand of friendship to all. Somehow he needs to find a way to distract the Right and Unite.

Somehow faith must be restored in the electoral system. Blockchain may be the answer. Certainly technology exists that could do this.

Maybe China policy will do it – revive manufacturing lost to Asia, promote fossil free fuel technology, make hemp production an agricultural priority, ban neckties ….

Oh Come On!! Its not often I get the chance to advise a new head of state!

A leap year

2020 is a year that leapt into the future at a time when the future was rushing towards us. The pandemic caused everyone to take a leap into the unknown to avoid terrible consequences.

Bureaucracy has been disemboweled, opposition politics have waned, instant communications have proved their worth, snap decision-making and civic obedience have became the norm.

All of a sudden, many employers have discovered they don’t need offices and they can trust employees. Teachers have enabled remote learning in numbers. The hidden dangers of cheap, off shore manufacture have been uncovered.

What are the implications?

The cruise liner industry will need to re-tool: perhaps they could be used as prisons like the sheer hulks of old. The universal basic income has suddenly attained reality. The economic imperialism of China has been unmasked.

First world countries are going to have to learn how to manufacture without cheap labour, third world countries will have to learn to establish their own industries without First World money.

The possibility of direct communication and mandating of representatives could eradicate the roadblocks and pork barrels of party combinations

Hopefully, the opportunity is taken to accelerate the new clean, renewable energy options and eliminate fossil fuel machinery, promote secure digital transactions with blockchain and return our elderly to our homes.

The industrial revolution we are experiencing will flower out of the Covid recession. Many people will lose jobs and have to transition to new careers.

We have a golden opportunity to strengthen the fabric of our society.

Those people expectorated from their careers by the new technological advances can stay at home and look after their elders and keep a closer eye on their children, instead of placing them in homes and child care.

The death traps we have designed to contain our inconvenient elderly relatives should be abolished. Attention also needs to be paid on the effects on our children of child care from babyhood.

Forward looking government will happily pay in-home carers instead of fund old age homes and child care centres.

So we have a real chance to re-build our environment and our families – let’s not misstep the leap.

Goodwill in bedlam

Herself and I had the honour recently to be invited to the Citizenship Ceremony of dear friends.

There is rare opportunity for the amorphous body of the State to impress upon its subjects the import and high value of being a citizen.

Australia like most former colonies has suppressed admiration for the pomp and ceremony practised by the colonial overlords of former years, but hides it under a veneer of mateship. State ceremonies should therefore be serious and memorable with an acceptable ritual, but men can wear shorts and women slacks and sandals.

So, on Australia Citizenship Day, as befits serious occasions, we arrived early at the Community Leisure Centre (that could have been a clue), to be greeted by a melee of smart fellow guests and citizens-to-be, under direction of slightly flustered bureaucrats, one of whom was a long serving town councillor.

It appears that nobody had told the local Kung-fu Klub that they could not have the hall for their practice that night and martial arts were in process. The sensei had growled at suggestions by the Councillor that a ceremony of State should have precedence  – he explained to us in  a whisper “they are very big men!”

So we had to make a plan as we were told Australians had always done – set up in a smaller hall and split the function into 2 sessions to abide by the Covid space limit of 35 people.

This was also under the faint anxiety induced by the need to ensure Safe Coronavirus Hygiene was observed and necessary tracking details were recorded as well as issue of all important documents for the Citizens- to- be.

There were not enough chairs to allow for all to be seated so attendees spread around the walls, all decorously looking solemn and anxiously trying to observe Covid safe distancing.

I was quite comfortable on the kitchen sink. When every seat was taken and safe spaces were diminishing dangerously, an explanation and apology was made by the Councillor who kept his cool, even as the walls were closing in…

As is fitting the elders of the land were acknowledged and the event proceeded.

The certificates were given out with only a minor confusion of some Singhs, and the two Oaths of Affirmation (a separate one for non-Believers) were completed with everyone invited to join in.

The old Councillor was so relieved that he despatched us all to tea and cake in the Karate Hall, only to be met with an outcry – we haven’t sung the Anthem!

Everyone was remarkably calm and accepting of this bureaucratic balls-up of a ceremony, waiting patiently for their certificate and posing sweetly for a photo with the old Councillor, clutching their gift of a spindly indigenous seedling and a Labor Party holdall.

The Guest of Honour, a state MP who made an inaudible speech, was soon forgotten and slunk away into a corner.

Everyone sung the Anthem with serious demeanour and then we were released.

It was an interesting batch of new citizens, mostly European but with some Filipinos, Middle Easterners, Chinese and Indians – all on their best behaviour to avoid losing the prize at the slightly vague finishing line.

They weren’t yet Australian enough to barrack at the bureaucrats for stuffing up what should be a smooth, sedate ritual reinforcing the competence and effectiveness of a modern State.

People seemed genuinely happy if somewhat bemused by the awkward shambles – it was almost heart-warming and definitely memorable in an unintended way.

Ozymandias

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

In the US, public offices like the Governor, Mayor, Police Chief and Attorney General are elected. So they need to listen to what the electorate tells them – which the media says it does. So they do what the media says most people want them to do.

Who owns the media?

The rich own the media and control what we see and think. What happens is that the media make the laws that the rich tell them to.

Good election policies are: “cleaning up the streets, reducing the drug problem, eradicating crime…”

To do that you have to have more police with wider powers and stricter judges….

The supposed beacon of democracy, the US has the highest prison population in the world. 75% of people arrested are unable to afford bail – Less than 2% of those charged  receive jail sentences!  

About 2.8% of adults (1 in 35) in the U.S. population were under correctional supervision (probation, parole, jail, or prison) in 2013. *

(Isn’t that a gulag by another name?)

There were 10.3 million arrests in 2018 in the US . ** There are bound to be some tragedies along that road.

The media know what we think before we do and can work us up to a pitch until we spontaneously combust – just crafting and channelling the news.

Well now, it’s time for a change – polls show that the viewing public wants something different to police chases and drug murders on the news…

Look at the media sensation that “taking the knee” picture has created – maybe it is the match that starts the revolution that throws out the current western capitalist led democracy and heralds a new economic model.

Some are even saying more than “Black Lives Matter”, they are saying silence over a black criminal’s death is racism, they are saying political candidates should commit to de-funding police forces.

So … what am I saying? I think it is something like this:

  • Democracy as we know it doesn’t give society a good outcome
  • The reliance on the creation of crimes and punishment to regulate society is wrong
  • The freedom of the individual must be subordinate to the best interests of the community.
  • With universal surveillance cameras, privacy is obsolete (this may be part of the solution)
  • The stranglehold that the media has on public opinion makers must be broken. We have been under the sway of media sensationalist newsmakers for too long.
  • All lives matter, not just black lives. This type of slogan gives rise to value systems which promote the interests of a class of people to the disadvantage of the rest. It is apartheid and is reprehensible.

Are we watching an Empire beginning to crumble?

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_the_United_States

** https://www.statista.com/statistics/191261/number-of-arrests-for-all-offenses-in-the-us-since-1990/

Just a thought…

When faced by the threat of a mythical monster, we ask our historians and our priests how we should deal with it. When it comes to a plague, we ask our medical scientists for advice. That’s what our governments did when the Corona raised its horrible head.

Now doctors think in scientific terms and they rarely pronounce unless the numbers are compelling.

Like most husbands accept everything a nurse, midwife or doctor tells them about childbirth, so politicians accept everything medicos tell them about plagues and how to handle them. After all this is about life and death, lots of it.

The medical advice, almost unequivocal, was that citizens keep isolated and to close places where people gather including workplaces. Notwithstanding the cost to the Fiscus, individuals and businesses this was the most effective way to ensure that the most vulnerable were protected. Strong, unquestioned politicians implemented this swiftly and citizens complied with few exceptions.

My thought was a lazy what if? What if the most vulnerable were not especially protected and died? These would mainly be the infirm and the aged – the people who place proportionally higher demands for costly care on society, few of whom are productive. In New Zealand to date, the youngest person to die from the disease is 62.

What if the politicos did the Swedish thing and said to the electorate: This is on you – take appropriate measures to avoid contagion, we are not going to require specific actions.

So maybe quite a few more people than usual die, but the economy is not that badly affected and fewer people are driven to despair by isolation, job loss and fear of penalty for failing to comply.

In my mind and I am close in age to being on the Corovid red list, the latter is the sounder decision. I would go further and suggest the intensive care should only be afforded to under 70 year olds.

I would vote for a politician that made those sort of decisions, but then I have always believed the interests of the majority trump those of the individual.

That is not politic these days!