I’m sharing a poem I first came across in the 80s when I was studying a course with the Open University, UK, called, ‘Third World Studies.’ It was a brilliant multidisciplinary introduction to the North South divide. Hats off to the OU for that seminal moment in my life.
The 80s seem a distant memory but so much of what we see happening and complain about today has its roots in that time of transition, from widespread social democracy in the North, with Keynesian influenced economies holding Capital in check, to Neoliberalised economies in Northern nations, whose citizenry find themselves going through the same sorts of austerity strictures imposed decades earlier by the IMF on the South. The South could have told us what would happen and how it would feel.
Savvy Southerners have devised all sorts of strategies to survive. Colonisation in reverse is one of them. The logic of it goes something like this: “Since you invaded our lands, took us over, came in your thousands and squeezed yourselves in, stole our resources and rendered us destitute, we will do the same to you.”
I’ve reposted the poem from where it appeared in New Black Magazine, May 6, 2007. It is written in Patois. It’s hilarious, and I think we could do with a little laughter right now.
Colonisation in Reverse
(You can hear Louise Bennett tell her poem here – go to 4.48mins
Wat a joyful news, Miss Mattie,
I feel like me heart gwine burs
Jamaica people colonizin
Englan in Reverse
Be the hundred, be de tousan
Fro country and from town,
By de ship-load, be the plane load
Jamaica is Englan boun.
Dem pour out a Jamaica,
Everybody future plan
Is fe get a big-time job
An settle in de mother lan.
What an islan! What a people!
Man an woman, old an young
Jus a pack dem bag an baggage
An turn history upside dung!
Some people doan like travel,
But fe show dem loyalty
Dem all a open up cheap-fare-
An week by week dem shipping off
Dem countryman like fire,
Fe immigrate an populate
De seat a de Empire.
Oonoo see how life is funny,
Oonoo see da turnabout?
Jamaica live fe box bread
Out a English people mout’.
For wen dem ketch a Englan,
An start play dem different role,
Some will settle down to work
An some will settle fe de dole.
Jane says de dole is not too bad
Because dey paying she
Two pounds a week fe seek a job
dat suit her dignity
me say Jane will never fine work
At de rate how she dah look,
For all day she stay popn Aunt Fan couch
An read love-story book.
Wat a devilment a Englan!
Dem face war an brave de worse,
But me wondering how dem gwine stan
Colonizin in reverse.
Isobel’s first novel Asylum is available in paperback at Odyssey Books, Angus and Robertson, Amazon and the Book Depository. Ebook available through all major outlets.
On Line Opinion have just published my latest piece on asylum seekers, for which I am very grateful. The photo here sums up my belief in what Australians are capable of. If this many can gather behind a banner in a tiny village in the middle of a wilderness, then we can only imagine the swell of people standing up, standing for, standing behind this one banner, a banner that represents solidarity with those at the pinnacle of all that is wrong with the world today – asylum seekers.
Here’s the article –
Isobel’s first novel Asylum is available in paperback at Odyssey Books, Angus and Robertson, Amazon and the Book Depository. Ebook available through all major outlets.
Are we a world at war?
Surely for a world to be at war there should be some cohesion behind geographical lines. There should be advancing fronts. There should be a war office and sirens in the streets.
‘Where are the bomb shelters?’ we in Western nations cry. Go away and leave us be! We are at peace, not war!
But that doesn’t account for all of us. Maybe less than 1% is small, too small to care about, but not when it translates into 60 million.
60 million refugees. That’s according to the UNHCR; nearly 60 million people forcibly displaced in 2014.
One person in every 122 on the planet is either a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum.
These are the highest levels since 1945.
So is the world at war? I think it is. I think that we are in the midst of a monumental crisis and we are for the most part blind to it.
Saying that world war exists starts the search for causes and solutions.
It could be argued that the main cause lies in history: in peoples lumped together with other peoples whom they may never have much liked or got along with as the globe was carved up under the auspices of Empire. It could be argued that each situation has its own unique history: The Rohingyas of Burma, the Kurds of Turkey, Iraq and Iran, the Darfuri of Sudan, the Hazara of Afghanistan to name some on a long list.
And what of the African migrants in South Africa? That’s a different sort of ethnic cleansing. Workers pitted against workers.
What of the Haitian descendants in the Dominican Republic, who face expulsion back to Haiti? All 250,000 of them. Different again. This time it’s been legislated.
The victimisation of minority ethnicities has a long long history. It could be said that these examples show a world not at war but disunited.
But what of the cleaving in the Middle East between Sunni and Shia? A faith dispute between two versions of Islam? Or a manufactured cleaving feeding off the schism. A cleaving cultivated, funded, sought. To answer that we need to examine America’s interests. And Saudi Arabia’s. And Britain’s. In fact, the entire military complex that seeks war, especially when times are austere.
As they are now.
As they are now thanks to the biggest sting against the 99% the world has ever seen: the GFC.
Is it the case that, done with the casino, war is now sought by the banksters, by elements of big business, by the 1%ers whose ambition is only to acquire more wealth?
Or is it simply the case that the cankers of hatred festering in the body of many nations, cankers that have fed on fear and on poverty for decades, are bursting all at once?
Maybe it’s all these things.
My little blog post seeks only to ask questions. The answers would fill bookshelves.
It is my impression that a world at war is what we have. War invisible to those of us who deem ourselves unaffected by it. What a privilege that is! What a convenience! It gives us the power to thumb our noses at asylum seekers. To regard refugees as the scum of the earth.
This is Refugee Week. It’s about time we told ourselves over and again that those 60 million refugees on the planet are the casualties of various forms of ethnic cleansing in countries involved in some sort of war.
It’s about time we tell ourselves that just because the tanks are not rolling down our streets, doesn’t mean we are a world at peace.
It’s about time we tell ourselves that casualties of war are not collateral, are not so much garbage, are not takers and chancers.
They are people, people who bleed just like us.
Isobel Blackthorn’s first novel, ASYLUM, has been released by Odyssey Books and is available through all major booksellers.
I’ve been dipping into the introduction to a slim book entitled Propaganda by Edward Bernays. It’s the story of a long slow con, the main text written by one of its key proponents, who cites the enormous benefits of propaganda to the politician and the corporation.
The book has me wondering about the rise of shifting shape of propaganda over the last century. I’m no expert but here are a few thoughts.
Many would agree that Thomas Kuhn, in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) was spot on in identifying paradigm shifts in science. His insight is so powerful it has been used as a metaphor with much explanatory power in history and the social sciences ever since.
I’m hardly alone in recognising a fairly recent paradigm shift that is affecting the entire world, one rooted in the economics of neoliberalism.
When I was immersed in Umberto Eco’s The Prague Cemetery I kept thinking that the protagonist, Simone Simonini was a typical unscrupulous self-serving totally amoral toad who was happy to do the bidding of various secret services who, in order to accumulate power, were keen to besmirch the Jews and the Freemasons, both groups used as scapegoats.
The events in The Prague Cemetery took place in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Much has changed. Not least a scientific revolution, or paradigm shift in which the new science of Quantum Theory has challenged the old Newtonian physics and a new age of science and technology born. Everyone recognises that.
In contrast the neoliberal paradigm shift is subtle, covert and involves the manipulation of collective thought and emotion. Propaganda is no longer simply about convincing citizens to go to war, or to buy a particular model of washing machine, and it no longer solely serves to promote the various hegemonic ideologies of the day, for example beefing up nationalistic pride.
From Abbott’s “team Australia,” and “death cult” slogans, the overt use of propaganda is screamingly obvious to anyone who paid attention in Year 10 English. These are simply the techniques used by all politicians since 1915, when governments, “systematically deployed the entire range of modern media to rouse their populations to fanatical assent,” (Propaganda p 11) in the build up to World War I. The author of the introduction to Propaganda, Mark Crispin Miller, states that propaganda was used before and with success, particularly by Napoleon, but not systematically and it was this systematic use of propaganda that enabled governments to so successfully manipulate their people.
The hidden use of propaganda functions differently. More covert still, it operates far behind the scenes and is obvious only to those who really look. This is the sort of propaganda deployed by the likes of Eco’s Simonini.
When people dismiss conspiracy theory holus bolus as quackery for the paranoid and teenage boys with runaway imaginations, they overlook, as many conspiracy theorists themselves also overlook, that conspiracy is a methodology not a theory. All conspiracy theories are a product of this methodology. Conspiracy, in other words, is a modus operandi, a conspiracy theory generator on the one hand, and much much more besides.
Existing within the thick complex fabric of the world, at work in this country and that, responding to matters arising while seeking to influence those matters, choosing how best to proceed to achieve short and long term goals, employing any shady Simonini to do their bidding, are what might be called the Conspirators. I suppose we can imagine their existence in the inner sanctums of ASIO and embedded in various think tanks and elite groups such as the Leo Strausseans.
It could be argued, and with some force, that the vast social, cultural, political and economic web unfolds chaotically, unpredictably, guided by numerous agents who respond to conditions and make decisions, that this vast complex is impossible to control since there are unexpected consequences at every turn.
Yet this very chaotic complexity has opened up new opportunities for a certain kind of navigation, in part involving the manipulation of dissent. It’s as if Simonini’s ilk have stumbled on a smoke screen generator, one so persuasive and deceptive it can be used at will to both burn up the energies of dissenters and deflect the attention of the populace from unpalatable, if or when scrutinised, policies. Toxic policies that are neatly packaged in spin so as to appear entirely virtuous.
Diversion tactics are hardly new. Nothing these Simonini people do is new. What is new is that in Simonini’s day such types operated on behalf of one nation’s secret service or another, to serve various geopolitical ends and to enhance the power of one country over another, or one group, such as the Catholic Church.
Today, in a globalised world where it can be easily argued that 147 corporations run (or rule) the world, geopolitics itself is a smoke screen. All social unrest, including war and terrorism, and the consequences of war – refugees and asylum seekers, are smoke screens. Anything that occurs and is reported on in the media and seems terribly important at the time, is part of the haze.
This haze is cognitively toxic. For those who do not recognise the toxicity, the damage is invisible. For those who enter the haze with values and beliefs that are counter to it, who contest the injustices, the haze might be deadly.
Today, for humanity, there can be only one fundamental reality and everything is in service to it. Profit. The social or common good is long gone. We have passed the tipping point and entered a new age of the corporation and all that remains is the tying up of a few structural loose ends.
The new paradigm is one in which the Conspirators have taken centre stage in a dark theatre thick with haze, haze so dense spotlights create mirrors. We have entered an age in which, as many of us are saying, 1984 and The Castle are being used as instruction guides, and heinous acts are choreographed, everyone is watched and our leader’s read from double speak scripts.
An age in which in Australia a joker card (Abbott) is played with a straight face that makes the progressives among us rise up alarmed that we are sliding backwards into gross societal unfairness.
Welcome to the age of the Conspirator, the conman and the adept. A new age of narcissism and happy pills. An age of spells and labyrinths and trickery.
An age where mental health equals fantasy. An age ruled by giants who look down, foot poised, on a colony of sugar ants. An age in which defecation is used as syrup to further corrupt our souls.
I used to teach Religious Studies at a high school in the UK. Best subject ever, from trawling through world faiths in the lower years, getting hot under the collar following the GCSE curriculum where moral issues such as Wealth and Poverty were explored, all the way to A Level, when it morphed into Philosophy of Religion.
I was teaching in 2001. The day the twin towers fell I’d just come out of a class on Islam. I was teaching Islam to four classes of Year Eights at the time.
In those classes we explored some core beliefs such as the five pillars of Islam. We did a historical cook’s tour and we thought about what we as white non-believers could learn from the faith.
Bang! A light bulb switched off.
It was the day the Dark Age began.
I’m not getting into the whodunnit side of things. All I know is the pudding was already cooked and ready to serve.
Welcome to the era of the terror monger.
Before the dust had settled on the towers, ‘war or terror’ and ‘axis of evil’ were rolled out. War in Afghanistan and then, to the horror of the world at large, the invasion of Iraq. A sorry recent history full of bloodshed and fomenting hatreds.
Our New Dark Age has the stamp of terror all over it. A stamp of indelible ink wielded on soft skin by the anti-terrorists.
The New Dark Age is an age of Security and Surveillance.
The hordes of bloodthirsty nutters with guns are doing nothing but serving this agenda. I wish they could see their own complicity. I wish they could see that they are empowering the very beast they fight.
As for the rest of us, while we sit around hoping we don’t get caught in the crossfire, we’re already ensnared. Our freedoms constricted by a raft of new laws. Our journalists gagged.
Islam is a fine faith and I, as a non-believer, will always defend it. Islam teaches that within each of us is a divine spark, something pure and sacred and connected to God.
My wish is for that spark to flame and light this darkening world, light up the hearts of those consumed by hatred.
And as for the greedy who are behind everything that is wrong with this world, I have yet to figure out what’s to be done about them…
I woke this morning at about five o’clock to the sound of cock crows and magpie chortles, knowing that my third piece, Welcome to Australia, would appear in On Line Opinion today.
It’s a controversial piece and in the pre-dawn darkness I feared some would misread it and accuse me of being anti-Australian. Then I thought that if they did, it would only serve to strengthen one of the themes.
My thoughts wandered on to all the different sorts of people who are against our treatment of asylum seekers. From human rights lawyers such as Julian Burnside, to doctors, actors, musicians, writers, teachers, religious groups and social advocates, Liberal voters, Labor voters, Greens voters, all sorts of people motivated by all sorts of factors.
The bottom line for all of us is that we care.
Why do I care? What motivates me? Before the break of dawn I recalled my relatively late entry into the asylum-seeker cause. It was entirely the result of investigative journalist Antony Loewenstein’s book, Profits of Doom. A fast-paced read taking the reader from Curtin to Christmas Island, then on to PNG and beyond. Of concern to Loewenstein is the role that transnational corporations such as Serco and G4S and Transfield play in the detention of asylum seekers. He calls them vulture capitalists. I think that’s an apt description.
And such corporations don’t restrict themselves to running detention centres. They run our railways, our hospitals, our courts, our prisons, our defence services, anything in fact that governments outsource. Even, if our government has its way, Medicare.
I can only conclude that asylum seekers held in indefinite detention are profiting these vulture corps in exactly the same way as we profit the very same corporations the moment we hop on a train. Corporations who also profit from our taxes, which our governments hand over in payment for their services.
Asylum seekers are the ultimate victims of this system. Like prisoners, the longer they are there, and the more of them there are, the greater the corporate profit.
Yet there is no separation here. We are all victims of the same system.
I think that is why I am so passionate about the mandatory detention of asylum seekers. They are lambs, sacrificed in the name of a dollar god.
I was troubled this morning to read of the 10,000 people who lost their lives in the UK in 2013 as a result of fuel poverty. Fuel Poverty Action is taking action. ”They’re targeting Energy UK, the lobbyists for the tax dodging, huge profit making, Big Six energy companies.” http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/blog/guest-blog-no-more-deaths-from-fuel-poverty/ And I was troubled for a second time in the face of the injustice that has caused citizens to take to the streets of Ferguson; in a nation where the police are in service of corporations and not the citizenry. https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=482387718569407 And at risk of bathos, here in Australia, our government has just axed the budget of our much loved and non-commercial ABC and it’s sister television station SBS, both known for their cutting edge news and documentaries, their efforts to present balanced and alternative views, and their coverage of serious issues.
All this news caused me to pause. I knew instinctively that all three dreadful bits of news were connected. I needed to do a reality check. I had to remind myself of why these things are happening and happening in Western democracies. I thought again of that fabulous book Democracy Inc by Sheldon S Wolin. I share with Chris Hedges a passion for Democracy Inc. for it explains what is happening to democracy and why. It isn’t a light read. But sometimes things are too damn important to treat lightly. The more of us who take the trouble to give the book a go the better, for it does more than offer an explanation. The book occupies the ground otherwise too easily labelled conspiracy theory and what is going on behind the scenes is in fact a conspiracy and not theoretical at all!!
Here’s the way I see the con.
1/ The Sting. The GFC was caused by the banks who were then bailed out by governments with tax payers’ money. Government is now in debt to the banks. Citizens pay the banks (again) via austerity measures. Bankers are laughing all the way to their own front doors. Read Matt Taibbi’s Griftopia for a punchy and entertaining portrayal of what went on.
2/ The Second Sting. Behind the veil of budget deficit every small fragment of social democracy that can be privatised is being privatised. Once privatised the operating systems will be corporatised (asset stripped and so on) and services rendered both expensive and inadequate. The minimum will be provided, for the maximum profit. For an insight into how corporations operate as vulture capitalists read Antony Loewenstein’s Profits of Doom.
In the corporatised scenario citizens often pay for services that used to be provided for by government. Citizens also pay for the same services through their taxes, which go into the government outsourcing coffers to pay the new corporate service providers. So we pay for the same service twice. And the corporations are dizzy with delight.
3/ The Third Sting is the corporatisation of government itself. Imagine that our elected representatives are not representing us at all. They have been swallowed by the corporate sector. They have been bought, groomed, placed or otherwise corrupted to serve the interests of Capital and not the people. They wear false cloaks and false smiles. They hold our babies and steal our wallets. The best encapsulation of this sting is the revolving door, where individuals move back and forth from plum jobs in government to plum jobs in the corporate sector.
Studies have shown that the Corporation is psychopathic The hallmark of a psychopath is a distinct lack of empathy. As an entity a corporation is also a breeding ground for psychopaths. For people who lie, who deceive, who con, who cheat; heartless bastards whose capacity for cruelty is vast, whose capacity for blithe indifference equally vast.
It’s been six years since the GFC turned the screws on social democracy and created this latest horror show. Dystopia is upon us and many are accusing their governments of blatant fascism. We can and we must fight this beast. Not by following the ruthless cruelty of organisations like Islamic State, which are both corporate democracy’s nemesis and mirror, ( in effect a Fourth Sting fomented by corporate democracy to engender widespread fear and tighten security and surveillance laws). Instead, we must protest and campaign and educate and keep on shining a spotlight on reality. To that end I will from time to time hold up my own thin candle and shout.
I woke this morning with Mauritania on my mind. I heard the nation mentioned yesterday and realised I had forgotten where in Africa it was located. I was shocked at this, normally priding myself on knowing more or less where every nation in the world is. I am also motivated in reaction to some neatly curly haired Harvard scholar waxing on the telly last night about how the world is way more peaceful today than it ever has been, that killings are down, down, down and the only reason we may think otherwise is that we are overly influenced by crisis-focused news bulletins. The chap cited his statistics but I remain doubtful. I am always doubtful about statistics. Data collection is a precarious research method, there are always limiting criteria, much that is left out, and many ways that data can be manipulated. I always ask how such research is funded and in whose interests in serves. I listened to this expert’s slick presentation of his findings, my attention fixed on his too-neatly curly hair. Besides, I thought, even if true, his argument leaves out other issues, tons of them, from the rise of slavery and quasi-slavery on a global scale (Mauritania was the last country in the world to abolish slavery, apparently), ethnic cleansing (with millions displaced and in border camps – I don’t know what this Harvard dude did with this information), environmental decimation of epic proportions and so on.
So, back to Mauritania. Who in Australia gives a rat’s arse about Mauritania? Who even knows where the place is? It is easy enough to find out. Search Mauritania and News and much is revealed. Today I found the All Africa website and headline news for Mauritania reads Harnessing the Country’s Natural Resources to Promote Economic Growth and Sustainable Development by the World Bank. The article reads like Big Brother telling a wayward scamp how to live his life. The usual neoliberalism underpinning every paragraph, where concepts such as ”inclusive” and ”sustainable” must be interpreted in terms of their neoliberal hollowed-out meanings. I am still no closer to finding out what life is like in that desert land so I went to the Guardian website and found an article a year old on the enduring issue of slavery. Slavery is a living death.
Why bother taking a short detour to ponder the lives of those living in Mauritania? Maybe to contest slick curly-haired dudes from Harvard whose claims serve the interests of obfuscation not reality.
If anyone happens to be curious about Mauritania, the CIA fact book is a good place to start. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/mr.html