Silencing the lambs: Asylum seekers are a metaphor for our times


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 –

Silencing the lambs: Asylum seekers are a metaphor for our times


Isobel’s first novel Asylum Asylum Cover 2is available in paperback at Odyssey Books, Angus and RobertsonAmazon and the Book Depository. Ebook available through all major outlets.

Abbott’s barrow of inhumanity

I realise I have a number of Liberal supporters in my friendship network. I am not Liberal in a political sense, but I understand and respect those who are. If I didn’t, then I couldn’t in the next breath champion social democracy. A pluralistic society includes a wide range of views/beliefs/party affiliations and so on.


Having said that, I cannot condone our current leadership. Yes, all politicians are apt to be very one-sided, to push their own barrows and in so doing make all the other barrows seem full of falsehoods and bad policies.

Abbott, however, is beyond the pale.

And he’s back to his old self. His attack on the Human Rights Commissioner yesterday took my breath away. All aggressive accusations, his defence packed with lies and omissions. He was vitriolic and entirely inappropriate. His reaction was so strong it echoed reactions of despots.

In People of the Lie, Scott Peck said the defining attributes of an evil person are the capacity to lie, and an unwavering belief in those own lies, and to deny, as if in righteous innocence, those lies. Out of that denial, comes the attack/defend dynamic.

I think Abbott displays these attributes. I find him verbally abusive, in much the same way as a perpetrator of domestic violence.

Malcolm Fraser is with me on the same page, and I have included his press release in full here:

““Enough is enough”

The government had the Australian Human Rights Commission’s report on children in detention on 11 November last year. They have tabled it on the last possible day. It is now clear that the attacks made on the Commission, especially by senior ministers, has been designed to make it easier for the government to ignore the Commission’s report.

The government’s response is a disgrace. It is based on a lie. They claim to have saved lives by stopping the boats and that the trauma inflicted on children by detaining them, is a small price to pay. They deliberately chose an inhumane way of stopping the boats.

If the Australian Government worked with our regional neighbours and the UNHCR, to process people humanely in offshore processing centres in Malaysia or Indonesia, then there would be no market for people smugglers. Refugees would be flown to their final destination. This is not supposition or hearsay. This was the policy model adopted during the exodus of refugees fleeing Indochina following the Vietnam War. It would work again.

The real question for the government is why did they choose to do this, despite the trauma and harm done to hundreds of children, when there was a decent and proven way of achieving a much better result.

The attack on the integrity of the Human Rights Commission and its President is only to be expected of this government, who uses bullying as their default tactic. The attack is consistent with the way the government has approached legal decisions that have gone against it. This government has also refused to listen to our highest Court, undermining the rule of law and ignoring International Law.

The only conclusion we can really draw is that the inhumanity inflicted on these children is part of a policy of deterrence, which the government has pursued relentlessly. Australians needs to understand that this government has chosen an inhumane path when a compassionate path was available to it.”

Rt Hon Malcolm Fraser AC CH

I’m not a politician. I’ve explored the issue of asylum seekers here on my blog, in articles such as The moral descent of Australia’s policy on asylum seekers. in which I assert that the asylum seeker strategy amounts to, “an ideological war…, one in which the victims of war and persecution in their own lands have become the victims of a war playing out in ours.

Under attack is the very fabric of our morality. We are being systematically conditioned into accepting the cruel treatment of others as necessary and inevitable…”




Abbott the Abuser?

More than seven hundred asylum seekers on Manus Island continue on hunger strike over resettlement fears, some sewing together their lips, others swallowing razor blades. It’s a dramatic mass act of protest and despair that is gaining global media attention.
150120200222-blurred-manus-island-group-large-16919 Jan 2015
Meanwhile, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre posted a press release on their website stating that, ”the Abbott government is about to become the first government in Australian history to knowingly  and deliberately let an asylum seeker die in their care.
A young Iranian man in a Darwin detention centre has now gone a total of 76 days without food. Days from death. Lost 30 kilos. Lost all hope. Abbott plans to let him die.
Today, he told us that he fled Iran to escape being locked up and tortured – only to suffer the same fate in Australia.

We call on the Abbott government for an Act of Compassion. They can relieve his suffering and save his life by releasing him into Community Detention immediately.”

This could be me, you, anyone in fact born into an unhappy fate. My head hangs in shame of my government, in shame of my country.
I hear some say in the face of domestic violence and child abuse, ”you must forgive, otherwise you will end up bitter.” – What do we do in the face of ongoing violence and abuse meted out to asylum seekers by our abusive government, a scenario in which many of us feel the agony of bearing witness? Am I to forgive? Of course not. Am I too forget, push aside as too damaging to my own psyche? Nope.
Those of us who stand in solidarity are crucified, our flesh weeping blood from so many nails as our friends on the other side of the fence are violated, tortured and oppressed every day.

Acceptance of violence and abuse always happens after the fact. I may not forgive the perpetrator but I can find acceptance in my heart, for I cannot undo time, regret is futile and I would not wish to give the perpetrator the additional satisfaction of ruining my whole life. While the violence and abuse continue however, there is no acceptance. There is only an agony of heart. There is only the awareness that we exist inside a living hell, a hell equal to all the other living hells, from the Inquisition to the Nazi death camps.

There will always be those who condone or even approve of the internment camps, just as there were those who approved of the Inquisitors.

I’m always amazed by how many who choose to stand on the side of the abusers, the perpetrators, those prepared to deny the horrors, the truths. Mothers who blame their daughters for the bruises on their faces, bruises from marital punches. Citizens who vilify victims of terror for fleeing the bombs, the bullets and the blades.

As I hang from the nails embedded in my flesh, my wounds weep all the more knowing this.

Reality Check


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.” 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. 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.

Reality check:

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.

Changing the whole system

130227-WestleySocInnLab1 I might have titled this piece Big Brother. It would have been in keeping with last night’s 7.30 Report on the ABC. A title that would have mocked Tony Abbott’s, ”Team Australia,” his speech masters clearly seeing merit in the co-opting of the language of sport for the purposes of reinforcing a Nationalist ideology. And in Strengthening the Surveillance State,  Louise O’Shea certainly supports the observation that the most recent amendments proposed by the Australian government do indeed carry the big brother connotation. According to O’Shea, ”The National Security Amendment Bill (No. 1), introduced into Parliament in July, has so far caused little public outcry. It appears set to pass with virtually no serious opposition either from the political establishment or the liberal media. Yet the proposed changes constitute the most significant modification to Australia’s anti-terrorism laws in nearly a decade. They provide sweeping new powers to ASIO to spy on the public, act with impunity, collaborate with corporate interests and jail whistleblowers and those who support them.”

In this piece I find most disturbing of all the collusion of the Labor party, the political establishment and the liberal media. Yet again I ask myself when will people realise we no longer live in an authentic democratic society? That what should be preoccupying the concerned citizenry isn’t the latest debacle from Abbott and his cronies at all, it is the implementation of a new wave of structural reforms that have already swept through America and Europe. This is not about Labor or Liberal (in my view they are both on the same side), it is about a paradigmatic shift away from social democracy, one that effectively inaugurates what Sheldon S Wolin (Professor of Politics and Princeton University) calls ”inverted totalitarianism.” In other words, it is  a whole system change.

While we grapple with the old paradigm, the Elite is forging ahead with its implementation of the new. We are sounding like chattering monkeys, nit-picking the latest outpouring of scandalous revelation, from the fact that the Budget disadvantages low income earners (something I consider to have been transparent from the first), or that Bob Hawke had the audacity to recommend to indigenous Australians that they store nuclear waste on their land. Here we are, bickering and bemoaning  amongst ourselves over the multitude of injustices that are befalling us. In other words our thinking is locked in the old paradigm, which is exactly where those advancing the new paradigm want to keep us.

The closest those of us concerned for human and planetary betterment have come in our thinking towards an understanding of this new paradigm of inverted totalitarianism is, seemingly counter-intuitively, to be found in complexity science, ecology, social ecology and the very notion of paradigm shift inspired by  Thomas Kuhn. That the power Elite have also cottoned on to complex systems theory should come as no surprise. That complexity thinking is already firmly established within organisational management of corporations should also be of no surprise. That the sharpest intellects of the world, groomed through the private education system all the way through academia to work in the Elite’s own think tanks, are also no doubt working with whole systems theory, the most esoteric of scientific models applied in the fields of economics and the social sciences and driving this new wave of change across the globe should also be acknowledged. I contend that whole system change is the engine driving the ideology (rolled out like a red carpet) that is in turn informing the new raft of reforms. Reforms designed to weaken the power of the citzenry through fear and uncertainty, achieved partly through removing support for society’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged and (among a range of other means) partly through the new surveillance laws cited above, implemented under the guise of a looming terror threat.

What is wrong with models of whole systems theory? A full answer is beyond the scope of this blog. Instead, here is a brief critique of whole systems theory as utilised by the corporate world: Primarily that whole systems change models are based upon a set of abstract descriptors divorced from the reality most of us live in. These descriptors are of profound ideological import, typically using language that is cool and clinical (successful corporate evolution will maintain a high level of cohesion to minimise entropy); these models legitimate the corporation as a given, they therefore provide no critique of the new corporate system. If we want to know what the brave new world looks like, we need look no further. For example, even when those using systems theory to ostensibly advance socially beneficial change, such change has been subsumed beneath the new corporate ideology. As is evident in the following quote by Satsuko VanAntwerp of MaRS. ”Where are the key constraints that stop change from happening? Frances advocates moving up through scale to find the leverage points that have an impact on changing the rules and relationships that govern the system in the first place. For example, with regards to youth offenders she [Frances] says  innovation in government ministries may make more of an impact than a program or initiative on the ground.”

Yet paradoxically whole systems change may offer our best hope for human and planetary betterment such as can be found in Understanding Whole Systems Change by Andrew Gaines. One that at least contests the new world of inverted totalitarianism on its own ground, from within the lexicon of complexity thinking, rather than through the lens of the old paradigm that overshadows the rest of us like a ghost, an old paradigm that is I suspect strategically employed by the ideology web-spinners to impede any gains we might make in fostering genuine change.

Or is the reverse true? Is it that the vanguard of holistic thinkers seeking to further a paradigmatic shift towards a brighter better world have themselves become subsumed under the conceptual weight of complex systems theory, appropriated by the corporate world and are now found working in universities teaching MBAs? Perhaps we must work in the ghostly world instead, trying to hold on to and at other times resurrect what was good, the gains that we, the people, had made. For it seems to me that to pursue complex systems thinking and sacrifice the discourses embedded in the Left, is to seek change from within the new paradigm of inverted totalitarianism, tacitly accepting the lexicon and the ideology that it advances.