Monthly Archives: February 2014

By Their Heroes Shall Ye Know Them

“We’re setting sail to the place on the map from which no one has ever returned…” – “Ship of Fools” (subtitled “Save Me from Tomorrow”) Karl Wallinger, World Party.

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Tony Abbott is in charge now, and I am all the better for it. He is the real deal – a political fiend right out of “Wag The Dog” and an extremely sneaky foe. He can shake your hand and punch you in the teeth at the same time. He has lied to his friends and betrayed the trust of his constituency before; and before his time is done he will lie and betray again and again. Even Robert Manne, Australia’s leading public intellectual who declared “[I have] nothing whatever personal against Abbott,” wrote before the 2013 election, “I fervently hope, for the sake of the country and also for the sake of the Liberal Party, that later this year [Tony Abbott] leads the Coalition to a crushing election defeat.”

Oh well…now the people have spoken and opted to install a liar, a leaker, a plotter – and worse – as their 28th Prime Minister of Australia, I am not worried. I have been aware of that despicable bastard for years, and I am a better person for it. Tony Abbott has always possessed the unique ability to make his enemies seem respectable, and we have developed a keen sense of community. Some of my best friends have hated Tony Abbott all their lives. My partner hates Tony Abbott, my daughter hates Tony Abbott, I hate Tony Abbott, and this hatred has brought us together.

Tony Abbott smirks when he hears things like this. “I know all about hate,” he says, “I’m one of Bob Santamaria’s ultimate true believers and we hate you too.”

It was Tony Abbott who got me into blog writing, and now that he’s Prime Minister, I feel inspired. He is a miracle in his own way. As long as Tony Abbott is politically alive – oh and he will be all the way to the bitter end – we the people will always know where to find him: wallowing in the gutter politics of the American Tea Party that he introduced into our wide brown land. No need to look for him, the adoring media seizes upon his filthy lust and keeps us “informed.” He has the fighting instincts of a scorpion about to turn a hapless rodent into a hearty meal. The scorpion easily defeats his prey by a progressive attack that begins with the strategic trapping of limbs and ends with a fatal injection of poison. The scorpion is an arthropod, secretive, passionate, resolute, insensitive, steadfast, painstaking and stubborn. In the zodiac the key life phrase of the scorpion is: I will.

That is Tony Abbott’s style – and if you have forgotten the fable of the scorpion and the frog let me remind you. A scorpion cannot fight fair. It is against their nature.

As a young man Tony Abbott received a Catholic education, and breathed in the apocalyptic and fanatical world view of Democratic Labour Party leader Bob Santamaria. Those with a Catholic background account for nearly half of the 28th Prime Minister’s current cabinet; Santamaria’s DLP is alive and well, Abbott frequently jokes.

When Tony Abbott was promoted to the Cabinet in 2000, Prime Minister Howard chucked him under the chin and called him “an effective performer” (like a Navy F/A-18) with an “endearing style,” (like a leather saddle). By contrast, The Opposition described him as a “bomb thrower,”the name of a World War I weapon used to absolutely no effect by belligerent countries. It wasn’t long before the sick and dying were filing lawsuits and serving him with partitions. But the scary thing is Abbott perhaps read the Australian people better than he is generally given credit for, even though the other side of that coin meant hearing his sly, populist sentiment pandering on the Macquarie Network – not the hallmark of a great leader. But what-do-you-know; despite being captive of his own false gravitas he became a rock star. He fulfilled the prophetic words of Donald Horne who argued half a century ago that Australia was “a lucky country run by second-rate people who share its luck”. Now Tony is Prime Minister it’s hard to disagree.

That Australians gave him the job is not news to stigmatised Green Left types like me who always knew it would come to this.

Now the jackals are circling the weak and vulnerable, some Australians realise the pendulum has swung too far and fear that Abbott’s jabbering of queer values and sacrifices of a pious life will (if only for their constant repetition) not reset when the pendulum swings back. We may remain intellectual salt bush and keep the bully-nation moniker forever. It’s in keeping with Catholic policy. The first thing to remember about Catholic’s, see, is in actuality the last thing: that the body of the dead one will be resurrected and reunited with the soul when Jesus comes again at the Last Judgement. It means sometime in the future, long after 2016, long after years of enduring the most inexcusable thugs in Australian history, and successive governments misapplying their methods, there’s an outside chance that Tony Abbott’s legacy will rise from the dead to be glorified and to possibly lead the nations of the meek to vote for…. – (NOTE TO SELF: google anti-resurrection spell.)

These are harsh words considering the government was recently anointed by yet another jump in the popularity polls. Never mind; I have written worse things about Abbott’s gang, many times, and the record will show that I laid the boots in repeatedly long before they got the better of the Australian electorate. I will continue to whip them like it’s the dark ages every chance I get, and I’ll be proud of it. They are cancer.

Look beyond the hallelujah chorus from News Ltd and it’s plain. The Abbott coalition is vicious to the core – vicious in a way that only those who believe in cloven hooves, leathery wings, and faces in strange places can understand. They are utterly without ethics or morals or any bedrock sense of decency. Nobody trusts them – except maybe Georgina Rinehart – and any honest journalist will declare them a pack of hounds who keep returning to their vomit.

It is fitting that the coalitions latest gesture to the Australian people is the bloody orchestrated riots on Manus Island and The Immigration Minister’s cone of silence that leaves we the people free to assume the worst: parliamentary gangsters better suited to Russian politics rather than Australian. Let just enough fact seep out and infect the entire system. Operation Sovereign Borders is designed to transmit the correct dosage of fear up the food chain to the ears of people languishing for years in Indonesia. Come to Manus and languish further before having your skull crushed by fanatical beasts.

Many are incensed by Operation Sovereign Borders – but we know there is nothing we can do about it now – not with former Prime Minister Howard sitting in the front row looking baffled at the unsubstantiated claims of guards wielding sticks and iron bars. It is Tony Abbott’s war, and he is winning.

The news updates are a tedious affair, finely crafted for television and astutely dominated by Angus “cow” Campbell and his revisionist defence force. Malcolm Fraser, still sprightly and expressive at the age of 122, pops up to remind us how far we’ve fallen, but his postulation is cut off mid-stream by Billy “boy” Shorten stamping his foot and demanding the government explain until the poll numbers cripple him and he’s blown off stage by Joe Hockey, who reminds us that the future of Medicare is unsustainable and utters such a shameless, self-serving justification for hiking up taxes that even he bursts into tears at the end of it.

Joe Hockey, still recovering from the “single-punch” Tony Abbott landed on his Fred Flintstone jaw years ago, continues to see his fearless leader as more than the sum of his many filthy parts. He seems to think history will not have to absolve Tony, because he has already done it himself in a gigantic act of will and crazed arrogance that already ranks him supreme, along with other comic book heroes like Thor, The Hulk, Human Torch and Judge Dread. In point of actual fact, all of Tony Abbott’s cabinet have catapulted him to the status of multiple gold medal winner, claiming that when the definitive history of the Liberal Party is written, no other Prime Minister will come close to Tony in stature. “He will be greater than Howard and Menzies,” said Christopher Pyne in a stolid speech containing little more than a high rate of perspiration.

It’s all bullshit, of course. Tony Abbott is no more a gold medal winner than he is Mother Teresa. He’s more like Idi Aminn than Billy McMahon. He is a lucky thug and a merciless western chauvinist who regards the dispossession and destruction of the Aboriginal people as merely a failure “to extend to Aboriginal people the kind of sympathetic understanding that was readily extended, say, to the Irish and their predicament” and the decades-long forced removal of Aboriginal children as “a mild enough form of racism”.

Certain people will say that words like thug and vicious have no place in Objective writing which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Tony Abbott to slither into Canberra in the first place. He had so much ministerial experience you could almost vote for him sight unseen. He seemed so typically Australian, so much like a life saver, that he was able to slip through the cracks of Objective writing. One has to get Subjective to see Tony Abbott clearly, and the shock of recognition is often painful.

Abbott’s meteoric rise from John Howard’s bitch to the highest office in the land would never have happened if Labour had not imploded so thoroughly. It allowed him to get away with the denigration of Parliament and cast Bob Santamaria’s “spell” over ignorant voters already duped by the headlines of their local, Murdoch newspapers. When Abbott finally had to face the TV cameras for real in the campaign debates, he whipped Kevin Rudd simply by asking what most voters were asking at the time: “Is this guy ever going to shut-up?” Even Alan Jones was impressed by his nasty and faintly menacing persona. Interestingly, most people who saw those debates thought Abbott was at times intellectually dried up, disjointed, loutish, and even policy perilous. But they just loved watching him punish Labour on their behalf so they voted accordingly. A decision as embarrassing as it is bizarre. For Tony Abbott is not a Liberal, he is not a neocon, he is an ultra-conservative, fundamentalist Catholic, an alpha Democratic Labour Party male. Most people that voted for him had no idea what they were getting. Some still have no idea. There’s plenty who don’t care.

If you don’t, take a good, long hard stare at Tony Abbott’s front bench: Hockey, Pyne, Bishop, Morrison, Brandis. A group photo of these despots should be enough to make even a zombie care.

The Age of Abbott is still gathering momentum, but it’s already safe to assume the spirit of his administration will be with us for the rest of our lives – whether you’re me or Tanya Plibersek or you or Kylie Minogue or David Marr or Guy Sebastion or Kyle and Jackie or Lance Armstrong’s lawyer or your hair lipped bass playing dyke girlfriend who has to do it in back with a can of Red Bull or else she goes ape-shit. This is not a generational thing. You don’t actually have to “care” about Tony Abbott to be a victim of his ugly, tyrannical spirit.

From the Gascoyne River in the West to the Flinders River in the East the Abbott blight has sullied our waters. He will be remembered in common parlance as the bush mechanic who built his shit-house in the kitchen. But thanks to him we all have a shit-house in our kitchen, and that is the sin that will sink his place in history to the very bottom like cement shoes. By degrading the Rhodes legacy of sympathy for and protection of the weak, by constructing the role of The Prime Minister of Australia not around pure politics but around him, by simply walking away from questions like the craven little pipsqueak he is, Tony Abbott has turned Australia into what Captain Cook was searching for all those years ago: Terra Incognita.

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Buckberry’s “The System” – A Distinctive Folk Song by an anti-stylist.

From time to time, many people will read an article on some website someplace about a “real deal” artist who has created something sensational. Generally, it’s a crock of shit, as much of the press appears to have been bought off by the entertainment industry and other related markets, but occasionally, something filters thru the cracks and someone gets it right.

Spruiking an artist and their particular work is not something I usually practice. Something like Neil Young once sang: “Ain’t singing for Pepsi, ain’t singing for Coke, ain’t singing for no one, makes me seem like a joke.” The exception to the rule is when I personally like the artist and their work – that, and – to “keep it real” – when there is no financial incentive attached to said spruiking.

The following is such an exception. I speak of a rough hewn folk song in waltz time by a fellow citizen name of Buckberry. He’s created a song called “The System” (and for those astute readers amongst us who have noticed my profile picture for the 96 Rosevale Place blog you will appreciate at least some of my interest).

“The System” is about a lot of things, in particular, a society that subjects people to conditions that make them terribly unhappy and then gives them the drugs, the gadgets, the wealth, the distractions to help them forget about their unhappiness. In case you haven’t looked up from your digital device in a few years this is happening in our own society right now. Instead of removing the conditions that make people depressed modern society gives us whatever “medicine” necessary to keep us inexplicably tied to the system. It is necessary because the system must prevail at all costs; no one is bigger than the system. In effect, all of our 21st Century distractions are a means of modifying an individual’s internal state in such a way as to enable him or her to tolerate social conditions that would otherwise be rendered intolerable. I reiterate: This is happening now. “The System” addresses such issues, and that’s why I like it.

Buckberry pounds out this message on his six string guitar, and the message is clear. Our society tends to regard as a sickness any mode of thought or behaviour that is inconvenient for the system. When an individual doesn’t fit into the system it causes pain to the individual as well as problems for the system. Thus the manipulation of an individual to adjust him/her to the system is seen as a cure for a sickness and therefore seen as good.

This song is as plain and simple a tonic against such hogwash as you’re ever likely to find. Just about any rudimentary guitarist/performer could play and/or sing this song. I think that’s the point. I’m sure Buckberry has enough talent to have put these words into any format – funk, jazz, hip hop, metal, whatever – but what would be the point of that? Popular music forms are largely ignored; the music form as a learning aid, as a guide, as advice, as a tool…that brand doesn’t really exist anymore (and Buckberry strives to correct that). Contemporary music is entertainment. It’s on tap 24/7 and so consequently we notice it more when it’s not there. Music is devalued in the 21st century to the point where a man with a seagull on his head is more entertaining than a guitar veteran with 30 years experience. Ironically, it is Buckberry’s experience that advises him that 3 chords and the truth will be ignored just as completely as an orchestra performing a 2 hour suite. Despite that, or in spite of that, he performs anyway and in the simplest of terms. The prevailing logic being for those who have ears a more accessible format will ensure that the message is passed along without great haste or tarrying.

“The System” might catch on – that is, if we’re lucky. Buckberry has put it out there as a gesture of hope. It may well inform the right people. Those individuals that do not focus on defeat and despair, those who still believe that in this hopelessly comfortable, distractible world there are a handful of like-minded souls who believe that accomplishing a change thru rational calculation is doable.

“The System” is shamelessly political, while containing enough substance to transcend the limitations of that genre. Take note: for those amongst us who enjoyed The Beatles “is Paul dead?” clues, you may be surprised to learn who the journalist in “The System” film clip is. Likewise as to whom “…the ballsy rookie” just might be…how does the name Mario Savio factor into this song…and so on and so forth.

Any sudden impact of this song may warrant a follow up article. As the author himself concludes: “Pick each battle wisely, and good luck….”


Social Media & Solitary Confinement.

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THE LEARNER (TL): Now in his early 50s, TL had dedicated 30 years of life to studying American folk music, contributing his own words and low strung acoustic guitar music to a tradition steeped in lessons. Life is for learning lessons. A dedicated student could translate a song’s meaning to a way of life, choices, consequence, a clue to what a chance meeting might mean. A way for a person to live and not only live, but to flourish, to survive and retell the truth and the lies learnt to the best of one’s ability so others may learn. TL sang such songs for a living, sang them in all sorts of places, just about anywhere where a voice could make itself heard. TL was good at it; not the best and not the worst: talented enough to glean more good than bad and just enough peace and harmony to be philosophical about any short-comings. According to the standards of us and them, TL was a success.

THE SCENE: A sunny week-end Quayside of Sydney Harbour, the promenade from Harbour Bridge to the Opera House where on such a sunny day a good busker can make a respectable three figure income for a few fun hours of work. On this particular day, TL had arrived early and secured a prime spot adjacent to The Museum of Contemporary Art. “Wow,” said TL, looking around, happy for another chance to sing and be heard and grateful for a ways and a means to get by.

THE LESSON: It was 2:30pm and TL had been playing for three hours. The crowds were friendly. Income was a little slow but people had bought a few CDs so it was still a good day. A small crowd of a dozen or so people were gathered around listening to TL’s rendition of a Lightning Hopkins tune called “Aeroplane Blues.” It lasted around four minutes. It was a convincing performance met with a light applause and some generous donations. As the appreciation subsided, somewhere away in the crowd a female was heard to giggle and exclaim “Oh!” in a squeal of amusement. It wasn’t a loud squeal, but loud enough to make a few people turn around to see where the sound was coming from. Next came a few random fits of male laughter before people began reaching for their cameras to capture not where the sound was coming from but the sight which had caused the girl’s reaction. It was Cook, the old laughing Sambo of First Fleet Park who was so gentle and kind that seagulls would perch on his hat. Today, to encourage such behaviour, Cook had placed a few crumbs of bread on the hat’s brim, and within a matter of seconds he was engulfed by forty or fifty squawking seagulls, perching and flapping around his body much to the snap happy amusement of all in the immediate vicinity. TL watched, despite having seen this spectacle a dozen times or more. The snap happy crowd turned their backs and began happily capturing this amusing content on their devices, content that would, no doubt, be given away free to Google, Facebook and Twitter under the guise of “Posting.”

What did THE LEARNER learn from this? – “Thirty years dedicated to learning the guitar so I can impress upon people some valuable lessons of life, and people are far more impressed with a seagull on a man’s head. What am I supposed to make of that?” Immediately TL began to play The Ells song “I Like Birds,” a perfect accompaniment to Cook’s shenanigans and a move that was worthy of a few dollars. “Good,” said TL, “I’m already famous…just gimme the money.”

CONCLUSION: It’s important to remember any feeling of insult may have corrupted the learning – that is, compromised the truth behind the lesson. The quality of the answer depended on the attitude of TL the person – philosophical: don’t take it personal.

Simple – what TL was dealing with was less a personal attack and more about responding to the collective mental attitude of the public. An attitude that in recent years had been massively sculpted by the black-smith of the Internet, the code-owners who in one sense had forged an idea that life is one long episode of “Funniest Home Videos” to which a user may contribute several episodes. In another way, the code owners had dragged and dropped ye olde journo’s code onto their subject’s hard drive: what’s happening now is news, news is information, information is power, and to be in control of how that news is disseminated is to have the keys to the kingdom.

But every kingdom needs its subjects, its lords and ladies, its gentry and peasants. The kingdom needed its subject’s contributions. But no one wants to pay more tax; and the kingdom would not consider buying content from the public. So the code owners made working for the kingdom fun; so much fun that millions joined them for free and gave their valuable content to them willingly. The coffers of the kingdom filled with advertising dollars and in return each “user” received notoriety and a possible degree of fame.

This quest to control the keys began when Yahoo first asked a user for their personal details; deconstruction of privacy began when Amazon asked: “Do you want us to keep your credit card details on record? This will help speed up the process next time you shop.” Google introduced corporate ownership of privacy, and Facebook showed us the effects such ownership can have upon the mind of Western democracy.

Now, social media is like talk-back radio; it’s nothing without the audience. An audience wants to be entertained and entertainment comes at a price.  So the kingdom keeps costs down by making “the public” content work for them. Before one can say “…advertising dollars” the kingdom’s driving “public opinion,” the tyranny of which can be amplified immeasurably via digital technology.

Is it enslavement? Hardly – social media and its effects upon Westernised society has not produced a “dystopia” because there is always a “fuck this shit I’m out of here” button. No subject is deliberately coerced; last time I checked, taking a picture of a man with a seagull on his head and uploading it to social media doesn’t actually feel like you’re working for the man. It actually feels like fun.

“You know, uploading a video of some busker singing the blues is okay, but I don’t know if it’ll impress my friends too much. I mean, this guy’s all right but he ain’t Steve Vai, you know? But a man with a flock of seagulls on his head, I mean, my friends will piss themselves laughing.”

…and in return the subject received notoriety and a possible degree of fame.

The kingdom is savvy. It’s shown all its loyal subjects that while a secret is potent, disclosing a secret can be just as potent, even intoxicating and on some lucky occasions, even rewarding.

Picture a face with a lovey-dovey gaze and a love poem is never far away. Think of a vacant or hostile stare and quickly it’s a nightmare at a visceral level. The parent on a bus instructing their child “Don’t stare” or the menacing duffus at McDonalds wanting to know “What’re you looking at?” is at the core of a sweeping array of privacy laws. Unfortunately, the digital age has flipped the gentle admonishment of “Don’t make a spectacle of yourself” on its head. People who make spectacles of themselves are famous. Even if it’s for 15 minutes, they are somebody. So any nobody can be blindly led up the garden path by the kingdom’s bad intentions as well as the good ones. The nature of looking and being looked at can pivot in favour of one or the other – “like [CLICK] that!” It’s all the same to the kingdom. Some incidents are funny, some are appalling, and some are both at the same time. It’s all content and so the kingdom never loses.

Everything human beings do in public is in part a performance; publication on social media is now a part of that performance. However, at least at this point in digital evolution, no one really wants to stand before an audience stark naked delivering a speech; the majority of people still prefer to be the up-loaders rather than the uploaded. But that might change. We live in a time now when being “in public” already means we are “on” all of the time.

Maybe everyone – us and them – maybe we’re all being led up the garden path.

Is that a prison up ahead? Wait, no. There are no walls, just the twenty four seven glow of artificial light making everything transparent. A perfect environment for capturing everything that moves.

TL gasped. “…my god…we’re all in solitary confinement.”

Here endeth the lesson.