Monthly Archives: October 2014

Our world in transition

Petra White wrote this evocative poem, published in The Age on Saturday October 11

A History of the Siege

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Dark days are here.

Nothing can stop them,

they crowd like hair around the temples,

everyone knows

and now we can say, at last, it is dark.

On Manus, they are walking along fine edges of themselves,

under a borrowed moon, a borrowed sun.

Nobody follows them, they would lead

only to an end of the world.

When was it darker than this?

Oh it was darker.

And the darkness is genuine,

our fingers have been dipped in it, it is felt

by all who would feel.

Where does it come from?

Us, in our masses, the massing cloud?

Our politicians, they who balance us

in their thready hands, and then plunge portions

of us and them into the pit?

Up there, a human form lies over the land.

 

I really appreciate this poem; it speaks of our world today.

Our dark times was the subject of a recent article by Joseph Camilleri, Emeritus Professor of International Relations at La Trobe University, in which he wrote: 

We appear to have reached one of those extraordinary moments in history when people everywhere, communities and even entire nations, feel increasingly stressed and vulnerable. The same may be said of the planet as a whole.

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Last night I attended the second of Joseph Camilleri’s  public lectures called Rethinking the Future. His topic:  Coping with Risk and Uncertainty: Volatile Markets, Anxious States and Tentative Social Movements. He described our world as one in transition where people, goods & services, capital, technology, arms, information, images, carbon emissions, and viruses move across borders at ever increasing scale, speed & intensity. Such rapid transition, he claimed creates certain risks and stresses experienced by people, communities and the planet. We’re familiar with the stresses and we also understand that these will only get worse.

But what was really disconcerting was his assessment of our governments’ abilities to handle the many crises facing us – describing this as very limited. You can give up any hope that those in power will come to their senses and govern ethically with concern for the wellbeing of the planet and its inhabitants. For they are accustomed to finding themselves trapped between competing pressures and maintain the tendency to overstate certain dangers and understate others. For example: The Australian government’s overreaction to refugees and on the other hand its understating of the need to act on climate change. We witness this happening of course but it is good to have it explained, and more debate and discussion on this state of affairs can only be a good thing.

So where is any change or agitation to come from? During the lecture we were reminded of the wonderful social movements that graced our lives in the 1960s and 70s: feminism, student activism, gay liberation, civil rights, peace activism, and environmentalism.  Such movements:

  • politicised technological change
  • called into question the legitimacy of the state, its decision making processes, and in particular its inability to manage risks to life, health, security and identity
  • insisted on bringing ethical considerations into bureaucratic and technical discourse
  • Expressed a new conception of space & time

These social movements are still in existence but are less visible and less active. They are unlikely to gather sufficient numbers to force change.

Joseph Camilleri concluded rather optimistically that though the future will be difficult, all is not lost; dynamic knowledge remains, our technical skills enable greater transparency and accountability, and there is increasing disenchantment with politics and business as usual.

This is a good sign although disconcerting as unrest is sure to ensue as the public sector shrinks and with it diminished access to public health, housing, and a healthy, happy environment.

Bring on the revolution!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Frightened of Ebola?

On the ABC’s Q&A program last night, one of the viewers tweeted ‘there is no oil in ebola’. At this time the panel was debating why Australia wasn’t sending over teams of doctors and nurses to help West Africa cope with ebola. This tweet wasn’t as inane as it first appeared. Continue reading

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Constancy and tranquillity are trashed in our market-driven world

Are you sick of this market-driven world? You should be, writes George Monbiot.

These words speak to those of us who feel at odds with life.

I live across the road from a new housing development, the creation of which has disrupted my tranquil mornings, my peaceful days, and heightened my angst with ‘the self serving con of neoliberalism’ that Monbiot claims has eroded the human values the market was supposed to emancipate’. The 300 new dwellings have no gardens to speak of  and are cluttered so closely together that any semblance of privacy will be nigh impossible. Human values and common courtesy have no place in the rush to transform this once quiet green neighbourhood. Both young and mature gum trees have been sacrificed to this altar of greed where  bulldozers and excavators fire up at 7 and don’t stop until tea time. But it will be all worth it in the end, won’t it? Mass produced, shoddy dwellings for 1100 more residents – whatever it takes!

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On my nature strip I have a large tree – a constant feature and the provider of ample shade in the hot summer  months. Without consulting me, the construction company dug a deep hole  around the tree exposing its roots in order to access infrastructure. Calls to the company resulted in mere excuses that the work is delayed and the backfill of the tree is not imminent. Although the council arborist has assured me the tree will not suffer, I am not so sure and have taken photos of the tree in its splendour and again in its present state- with its roots dangerously exposed. Constancy and tranquillity are trashed in our market-driven world and as a result I am at odds with the world and not ashamed to say it.

My angst is common, for it is now recognised that we are witnessing a time in history when individuals, communities and countries are becoming increasingly stressed and vulnerable.  Writing for The Conversation Professor Joseph Camillleri  asks:  Is a vulnerable world teetering on the edge of a new Dark Age? And how do we explain the long list of financial, environmental and humanitarian emergencies, epidemics, small and larger conflicts, genocides, war crimes, terrorist attacks and military interventions? Why does the international community seem powerless to prevent any of this?

He explains that a new cold war is in the making amidst our costly military interventions in the middle east . But our unease about endless wars and the future of humanity are not shared by those whose dominant narrative is that of market fundamentalism. Many seek to do very nicely out of our intervention in Iraq once again. Stock prices for Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman set all-time record highs last week as it became increasingly clear that President Obama was committed to a massive, sustained air war in Iraq and Syria. In fact, It’s nothing short of a windfall for these and other huge defense contractors, who’ve been getting itchy about federal budget pressures that threatened to slow the rate of increase in military spending.

Monbiot reminds us that : The market was meant to emancipate us, offering autonomy and freedom. Instead it has delivered atomisation and loneliness. I don’t envy my new neighbours who are buying into the housing development and taking out huge mortgages they can ill afford. Screen shot 2014-10-01 at 6.15.12 PMTheir massive houses are surrounded by concrete, they have no cooling gardens. There will be little time to walk in the park , most will spend the best years of their lives working at meaningless jobs that do little to foster humanity. It’s no wonder so many of us feel at odds with the world.

Monbiot offers reassurance as he writes:

So, if you don’t fit in, if you feel at odds with the world, if your identity is troubled and frayed, if you feel lost and ashamed – it could be because you have retained the human values you were supposed to have discarded. You are a deviant. Be proud.

 

 

 

 

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