Hard Attitudes for Hard Times


DickensDespite the grandiose speeches and the spin, across western democracies post-GFC austerity seems to have little to do with reducing government debt and everything to do with controlling populations largely through the expansion and oppression of the underclass – the dalits of western civilisation – the guts sucked from the welfare system leaving a wizened carcass of a once plump beast. Welfare services are corporatised, sold off to the lowest bidder whose sole concern is profit. Corporations or quasi-corporate ngos with minimal or no expertise are given tenders for aged care, counselling, women’s refuges and so on. While Australia’s Abbott government’s Benefit reforms will render destitute millions of Australia’s most vulnerable.

All the while the politico-media complex tells the noble-washed of the middle and still-working classes that the underclass are slobbering wretches with unworthy motives, scammers, scoundrels, cheats and the bone idle, pathetic wretches of Dickensian proportions whose begging hands should be promptly severed. After all, why would a decent voter wish to carry such a burden? Best to lock the worst of them up in the newly revamped and much expanded prison service, run naturally by corporations with a now established if troubled history in the industry. Once incarcerated inmates can then work for a pittance or no renumeration at all, and while the noble tax payer pays the government to pay the corporation, the corporation extracts profits from its prisoners’ labour. A perfect solution and a perfect deterrent should any other member of the underclass wish to question the system.

We are I think witnessing the rapid expansion of an underworld within an overworld, and those either unaffected, affected in beneficial ways, or who respond fatalistically and passively to avoid falling into the underworld, will support the new status quo, happy to buy the spin,  happy to scapegoat the the marginalised, the outcasts, the poor. In case the noble-washed should ever waver, a back-up plan is already in place – the cruel treatment of asylum seekers and the attendant carefully crafted propaganda. Every ideological campaign needs a scapegoat through which to harden attitudes that can then be manipulated and directed towards other groups. That the nationalistic ideology is a complete lie invoked to mask the fundamentally globalist agenda unfolding in every country the world over is of great concern. Nationalism is contagious, and in its worst and most fragmented and divisive forms leads to war. War that inevitably creates an exodus of asylum seekers in its wake. A perfect situation perhaps for the structural changes essential for the globalist project to succeed.

Nationalism has the added benefit of parochialising the vision of the masses so they are incapable of reaching any sort of understanding of matters global.

As for the those with just hearts, our governments have plans for us too. Currently in Australia Attorney General, George Brandis has plans afoot to further strengthen surveillance and terror laws on the pretext of protecting citizens from radically infused returnees from Syria – born-again jihadists with malicious intentions. While it may be true that one or two do pose a threat to Australian society, surely ASIO and the AFP can handle them? Isn’t that what they are trained and paid to do? I believe something much more sinister is at work, exemplified by Josh Allen’s piece in the New Internationalist, ‘Anti-extremism’ government programme targets student activist. Allen highlights yet again how anti-terror legislation is used to monitor and harrass activists of all stripes.

As Arundhati Roy states in many of her essays concerning big dams in India, the primary targets of the neoliberalism are always the poor and activists. Terrorism while real, is thus used as a weapon by the politico-media complex against its own people. Australia treads the same path.

I fear that under austerity the underclass are fast becoming ”asylum seekers” in their own nation, activists that seek to support them and hold corporations and their puppet governments to account are rapidly gagged, while the noble-washed conduct their affairs unaware that an even greater harm has befallen them, their hearts, perhaps once soft and kind, now sinewy and beating a callous pulse.


Dystopia is here in all but name.

dystopiaThere was a time when I believed wholeheartedly in the possibility that humanity would transcend its divisions and polarities, with all the attendant hatreds and racism and sexism; that consciousness would expand collectively and that we would embrace unity in diversity and be good neighbours within and across borders. That, I suppose, was my utopian phase. Now I consider it delusional. For there can be no disillusionment without a pre-existing illusion and this is precisely how I now feel. That while the narrative of a bright new age of alternative possibilities and ways of living was advanced in certain circles and within universities (Social Ecology, Permaculture just two examples),  and seekers of spiritual growth were out with their shopping baskets shoring up their own egos (authentic spirituality a noble and exceptionally difficult quest along a potholed road – see Chogyam Trungpa’s Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism), a different sort of new age was already drawing a blanket of darkness over the slumbering masses – dystopia.

One aspect of our dystopian reality is war.

It can’t be stated often enough – the  US Empire’s war strategy is to fund some separatist group (foster, create, invigorate, train) to stoke civil war. It is not a new technique. They were doing it in Afghanistan in the 70s and of course further back in Central and South America. I would say that since the end of WWII the US power elite has forged ahead with its own devious expansionist tactics designed to impose its own corporatist agenda (it might even be said that neoliberalism itself is an economic model and an ideology duly harnessed for the same purposes).

Today I rely on an article, written by Bill van Auken for the World Socialist Web Site. http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/07/23/pers-j23.html It was the following quote that prompted today’s blog piece.

”More to the point, the political substance of the charge against Putin—that he is responsible for the disaster [MH17] because he failed to quell the uprising in eastern Ukraine—is far more relevant to the actions of Washington itself. After all, the Obama administration has politically supported, funded and armed Islamist insurgents in Syria, stoking a civil war that has produced human tragedy on a far wider scale, with over 100,000 Syrians dead and an entire country in ruins. It pursued a similar war for regime-change in Libya, backed by NATO bombings, that killed 50,000 Libyans and has yielded similarly catastrophic consequences.
Nor is the same moral standard applied to the US, which supplies Israel with billions of dollars in military aid every year, when it comes to Israel’s mass killing of Palestinians.”

There are no moral standards in dystopia, except when imposed upon outsiders to serve some purpose of the power elite. Which of course leads to blatant hypocrisies such as depicted above.

There are times I wish I could slip on the veil of make believe and exist in a la la land of my own construction. Or turn my back on reality, shrink my awareness until all I see are the simple day to day circumstances of my own life, but I can’t. I can’t focus my awareness solely on fostering positive life-giving alternatives even as I do strive to live an ethical, small footprint life. Instead, I shall continue to go about naming spades. Why? – Because someone has to.

Stabbed in the Heart – Feminism and the Demise of Women’s Refuges in New South Wales

Embrace the base


Second wave feminism has its symbolic roots in the women’s peace camps at Greenham Common in the 1980s.


Women gave up their ordinary lives to camp out in appalling conditions to protest against nuclear-tipped cruise missiles. What took place in the camps were not only protests such as Embrace the Base depicted above. Through their very existence, the source of inspiration for women around the world, came the reinvigoration of a feminist discourse concerning the manner in which patriarchy condones and reveres violence, particularly violence against women. Greenham common peace camps were a symbol of women’s empowerment. Women’s refuges, which have their genesis in the 1970s (the first women’s refuge was opened in 1971 in Chiswick, UK), along with rape crisis centres took on fresh significance as the front line of the women’s movement, supporting women fleeing violence. Women”s refuges have been a front line service ever since. And now, in the new age of neoliberalism women’s refuges are being shut down.

The title of Wendy Bacon’s article in New Matilda ‘ – The Gutting and Gagging of Feminist Women’s Refuges in NSW – gets straight to the heart of the matter.  ”More than 25 feminist women’s refuges in NSW have lost their government funding,” she says, ”with their buildings being handed over to religious or other charities. Many shelters will no longer focus on providing specialist services for domestic violence victims. And the attack on services for Aboriginal communities has been especially savage.’

Outsourcing to the lowest bidder is a rationale that is as much ideological as it is economic. Services run for decades by dedicated women fully conversant with the feminist discourse on domestic violence, with a deep understanding of and empathy for victims, will now be provided by charities such as Mission Australia or The Samaritans, charities whose business model is little different from that of a corporation such as Serco or Transfield dedicated to securing government tenders in the service sector.

Having spent time in three women’s refuges so far, and through the services and resources they provide or are linked to, received ongoing support, I can say that the closure of women’s refuges is a much bigger loss than simply losing safe havens. Along with the bricks and mortar, what is being closed down or re-packaged under the auspices of corporate-style ngos  is feminist discourse itself and the insights this discourse provides. We are witnessing the decimation of the very language of domestic violence, language critical of abuse from physical to verbal and emotional, an understanding of the damage that is done to women and children, the bringing to light of the injustices of domestic violence. We are also seeing the demise or sidelining of the support and campaigning of feminists behind the scenes on behalf of victims – from court support, transport, help with re-housing, counselling to financial assistance. The closure of women’s refuges is the gagging of feminism itself.

Why is this happening? I contend because feminism is dangerous. Feminism threatens to undermine corporate-led neoliberal ideology. Feminism must be hollowed out and re-packaged corporate-style, as is happening with the Beyonce-led Gucci funded campaign Chime for Change, launched in 2013 at a TEDx Women luncheon in California.

I visited the Greenham peace camps many times. I joined in the protests. I was young then and had yet to comprehend the devastating personal consequences of domestic violence. Now I do know. Which is why I can’t sit back and say nothing while the heart of the women’s movement is being slaughtered and Gucci places itself at the helm.

MH17 Should be Raising Questions Concerning the Nature of Contemporary Warfare



MH17      While the Australian media is almost exclusively obsessed with the deaths of our own (notably broken down into 28 citizens and 8 permanent residents) and the adequacy of our government’s responses on the world stage, turning a global event into a navel-gazing exercise that serves to boost our knee-jerk xenophobia and parochialism and contributing nothing  of substance that can enable us to contextualise the downing of MH17, other writers from around the globe are striving to provide in-depth analyses of the situation on the ground in the Ukraine. One article that provides some insight into the situation is journalist Wayne Madsen’s piece in Libya 360.

Madsen suggests that one possible if not likely suspect in the downing of MH17 is Ukrainian oligarch Ihol Kolomoisky. Of course evidence cannot be conflated with contextualisation and it is the latter that forms the substance of the piece. However, in-so-doing, Madsen alerts me to a matter of far greater concern than the whodunnit drama surrounding this latest atrocity. As Mary Kaldor so persuasively argues in New and Old Wars, contemporary warfare is no longer fought between nation states. What has emerged in the last few decades are wars fought within borders, wars that echo the civil wars of old where a group of separatists rose up in Che Guevara fashion to oust a government. Yet in a new war scenario, as seen too in Iraq and Syria, there is likely to be not one, but several if not many separatist factions (funded by overseas government and private interests), fighting amongst themselves as much as against the perceived state enemy. As Kaldor explains, these factions are comprised of  regular military personnel, private militias, foreign mercenaries and local criminals and thugs. Each faction primarily concerned with seizing control of a city or town, terrorising its people, killing undesirables (intellectuals and humanitarian types) and engaging in ethnic cleansing.

Of course war has always been big business. Financiers of war (banks) make huge profits. But it used to be that banks loaned their funds to governments of nation states. These days another scenario exists in which banks finance corporations who then fund the private militias  –themselves corporatised, and as this link shows, there is an alarming number of service providers. For example, Ukrainian oligarch Kolomoisky raised his own mercenary army, an army whose primary purpose is to serve the interests of Ukrainian gas and oil company Burisma Holdings.  This example points to the emergence of a chillingly feudal scenario, echoing the age of pirates and privateers, as if time itself were in retrograde, catapulting humanity back about 400 years, on a trajectory that will surely down not just an international flight but democracy itself.

Which is why I get annoyed with Australian media, so annoyed that I have set aside the time it has taken me to write this blog piece.

Globalism, Empire and the Rise of Nationalisms



Guernica  With war in Ukraine and the Middle East I wake up each morning thankful for happenstance that finds me where I am.

In an age of global neoliberalist empire where the free market reigns, dollar-profit-bottom-line its beating heart, little wonder that much of what passes for catastrophe caused by others is far more likely to have been either created or constructed-after-the-fact in order to further the cause of empire and diminish apparent external threats. Enemies are everywhere, shape-shifting, one moment China, another Russia, or Iraq, or Syria…  The biggest threat to globalist America may now be the counter-globalist BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) who have have gone so far as to create their own development bank, challenging the autonomy of the World Bank and IMF. Which may account for both the West’s (the US and its cronies) dogged demonisation of Putin and the military build up against China, including the recent militarisation of Japan, the American empire having stepped behind those nations (including Philippines and Japan) in territorial disputes over tiny islands in the East and South China Seas.

Empires generally stop at nothing to retain their power. Defeat an insufferable humiliation, they will fight to the last man, they will connive and contrive every means to retain or appear to retain their power. It may be the case that the emergence of BRICs will require a sharing of global power. It may be that BRICs will surpass America and become the one dominating power. Meanwhile the rest of humanity, pawns in this elite game played mostly by and on behalf of the banks, will continue to suffer in various ways.

Setting aside all advances of theory and discovery, the key difference between the empire today and the empires of old is that technology has made it possible for so many of us to be aware and informed. We know straight away the atrocities, the displacements, all the human tragedies occurring in the name of empire. We bear witness to the rising of nationalisms the world over, as groups within nations struggle for autonomy, for identity. And we see the bloodthirsty, the basest, of all humanity given freedom to enact cruelty upon cruelty. Indeed, such types are paid for their services. Yet they are no different from their employers who  unleash upon the planet wave after wave of destruction.

I often think the problem humanity faces is one of power, not awareness. That many are manipulated by propaganda, swayed by mainstream media this way and that is not the fundamental battleground. In my view humanity faces a crisis of will. The will to human and planetary betterment (with all its connotations of inclusion, empowerment, sustainability, humanitarianism and so on) versus the will-to-power itself. This latter a corruption, for the power sought is selfish, acquisitive, greedy and destructive.

We are governed by greybeards with arthritic minds. Greybeards cultivating a new wave of technophiliacs whose principal reality is virtual, empathy quotient minimal; compulsive and reckless gamblers with sharp minds for finance and a marked lack of moral fibre; and spin doctors who like nothing more than to rip the conceptual ground from beneath our feet through the hollowing out of meaningful and significant terms such as the notion of empowerment itself.

I do not believe for one moment that a BRIC empire would be any different from the American empire we now endure.

In the face of this reality, unlike those who respond to empiric globalisation through group closure (and inevitable xenophobia) and violence of nationalism (often fascist), my instinct has often been to flee to the hills, live out a life inspired by ideas expressed by Epicurus or Voltaire. Finding myself in just such a place I am thankful for my own circumstances. Yet there is no escape. I am doomed to suffer the suffering of others. And like millions of us the world over, that suffering turns my head back to face the beast.

An Assault on the Downing of MH 17




10505548_493119704152891_8326171427034740122_nI had to watch the news last night, on SBS and ABC. And of course I endured the tedious repetition, the over-dwelling on the usual crisis dimensions from the flowers and the tears to the stock phrases of politicians. And I felt sorry for Putin. Not because I am suckered in by his hang dog looks on camera, but because he has been made the fall guy in such a direct and ruthless manner. The West hailing in the process the old Cold War ideology of big bad Russia (with the attendant sub-text of big bad communism).

I abhor hypocrisy. Since when does the West point a finger at itself? Since when does the United Nations condemn it’s nursing mother America for supplying weapons that kill innocents?

There is every chance that MH17 was shot down by the ultra-right wing Ukrainian government. Every chance that this single atrocious act was orchestrated by an inner circle (possibly with ties to Uncle Sam) in order to elevate tensions, justify all manner of sanctions and retaliations, garner support from a wavering Europe and of course further demonise and ostracise Russia.

Last night I knew I was being indoctrinated by mainstream news. Even the matter of access to the crash site, apparently thwarted by separatist militia, was no doubt a construction of circumstances. Mainstream media was on this occasion so unashamedly predatory and melodramatic, squeezing every last drop of  milk from the udder of catastrophe, that I stood up and went to do the dishes.

Peace be upon those two-hundred and ninety-eight who lost their lives and those who are suffering their loss.

Peace be upon the millions of innocents in Iraq, in Syria, in Gaza, in Sudan, in the Congo, in the Central African Republic, their dead and maimed and the families who mourn, peace be upon the displaced and those huddled in border camps, and peace be upon all those who seek a return to their peace…

War? – Not in MH17’s Name.



BlakeFerdinand moments – The swift and hysterical escalation in Gaza over a crime that may have been perpetrated by any old psycho beggars belief. And now in Ukraine we have a magnificent trigger, one that will justify to all the justness of any act of vengeance or ”punishment.” – Why air Malaysia? – probably no reason, but the number of AIDs conference attendees makes the act all the more an outrage.

The crash is another whodunnit – whether perpetrated by Russian-backed rebels (by accident or design) or the far-right Ukrainian government (by design), we can be sure that we will be told the rebels did it.

The best question to ask in these situations is who benefits? Whether by orchestration or opportunism the warmongers are the primary beneficiaries.

And the warmongers are champing at the bit for war as ever they are. Better a plethora of proxy wars than one fought by own armies or worse, on own soil.

I am so sorry for the human loss. For all the suffering families. But I do think we owe it to all who are gone and to all who suffer not to follow Israel and allow hysteria and intense emotions to cloud our judgement. WAR? – Not in MH17’s name.