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Category Archives: Politics

nurembergmapa.jpgThe last time that the Federal government changed, I was working for it. I was a public servant in the Tax Office. I was also quite an active union delegate. And in that capacity, I was attending protest marches which opposed government policy.
After maybe a year, I realised that I couldn’t work for a government in the morning, and attend a protest against that same government in the afternoon. From then, I made the decision to not work for a government I wouldn’t vote for.

As you can imagine, in a city like Rome, where more than half the economy is centred on the government, that restricted my options over the last decade. That is part of the reason I left and went to Jerusalem.

Last night though, I watched Thank You For Smoking. It’s a crap movie, I wouldn’t recommend it. But in it, there was a line that so many of the world’s evils have been done in the name of paying the mortgage. So much of what we do which we wouldn’t otherwise is done simply in the pursuit of a pay-cheque.

When I returned to Rome, and began looking for work, some employment agencies found it odd that I told them I wouldn’t work for certain government departments. I wouldn’t work for Immigration (the worst of the worst!), Workplace Relations, Defence. Mainly because these organisations – under the Howard regime – were guilty of the worst crimes against the citizenry. Too many Romans though view their work as “I’m doing what I’m told” or “I’m just implementing the government policy”.

Where does collaboration end? And how deep do we have to be in before we can no longer rely on the Nuremberg defence?

Over at 2 Blog or not 2 Blog, Mick’s written recently about the proposed legislation to allow homosexual ‘civil unions’. And he wrote this the same day I had an extensive debate on email with Sioneld about this proposal. THEN, I watched the latest episode of The West Wing that I’d downloaded (S02, Ep07 The Portland Trip) which covered the topic of gay marriage as well. So it’s been everywhere in my world in the last few days.
Despite being a card-carrying member of the party that has introduced this change, I remain unconvinced. Not because I’m anti the idea. But I’ve been asking those I’ve discussed it with whether the change should be supported. Up to now, I’m yet to get a decent explanation why.
In discussion with Sioneld, the topic became about whether gay couples are discriminated against. And since the legislative changes are giving them a status that is similar, but not the same as, the straight community then the law fails. After all, if you’re stopping discrimination by discriminating, that’s just hypocritical (not to mention silly).
Sioneld then justified this discrimination on the basis that the wider community wouldn’t accept the non-discriminating position (gay marriage). But if the community wouldn’t accept it, then the reformers should be setting about changing the public’s position, rather than replacing one grade of discrimination for another. Introducing a law that isn’t supported by the community is bad public policy. One should win the hearts and minds campaign first.
I also think that introducing a law in one small part of the country that will not be recognised in the other 99.5% of the country is not only silly, but it’s bad law.

I put the challenge out to those who say this change is a good thing – show me why it’s good. Show me a need. Show me how this legislation will fix the need. If your argument comes down to “the need is obvious” you’ve lost the debate. If “the need is obvious”, then I wouldn’t be asking the question. If “the need is obvious”, it’ll be a piece of piss for you to demonstrate it. So go on.

There’s stuff I know about. Because I’ve had such an eclectic range of work and study, it’s hard though to nail down a specialty subject for me. I wrote about it kind of once before. But having said that, one topic I do know a bit about is politics. Not surprising I guess. I’ve studied it at uni, worked for two politicians and one party office, managed a candidate’s campaign in a state election and been politically active for the last fifteen or so years. So I accept that not everyone knows as much about the topic as I do, but in recent weeks, everyone’s had an opinion about it.
For the most part, their opinions fascinate me. Why do they form the opinions they do? I’m interested in the reasons behind them.
Not surprisingly for one interested in such a question, I have left a lot of comments on blogs recently questioning people about their ideas. As I’ve said before, I don’t think it’s my job to sell anyone on any belief. I’m just curious about the logic-steps they go through to get where they get.
So it’s kind of annoying when some bloggers rant their opinions and when questioned, when asked the reasons, they get abusive. Like questioning their opinions is tantamount to insulting them.

Of course, the reason is simple – they haven’t put enough thought into their statements, and so they have no idea how to back up what they say.  I just don’t like intellectual laziness. And especially in my specialty subject. It’s kind of like if you were a lawyer, and I met you at a dinner party and proceeded to tell you my half-formed and uneducated ideas about what is wrong with law and justice in the country. It’d just make me look stupid. (I have to admit, I have been guilty of that, but at least when I am, I know I’m not arguing from a position of strength)

When the Costello brothers first came to prominence, I was puzzled. Peter the economic rationalist and Tim the bleeding heart. One became Treasurer in a conservative administration. The other head of a charity. Clearly both able men. But I always wondered what their Christmas dinner conversation would be like.

Later though, when Peter became more established in his role as Treasurer, he’d occasionally give a speech about his vision. And just like his brother or other prominent conservatives in the past – Kennett, Hewson, Fraser – it became obvious that behind all the econocrat language and harsh policy that is required when one is hanging out with a bunch like the Tories, he had a vision for the country. Vision of the likes of Keating. And Keating’s vision was one of the things I loved most.

After my time working at the House, I developed the opinion that with economic credentials and a vision, Peter could be a very formidable opponent. If we thought Emperor John was tough to beat, he’d be a lot harder. Because he’d steal a lot of our vote. Him and his vision.

I put this theory to a couple of staffers from Labor. They scoffed. For they admitted Peter had “the vision thing” in a way John didn’t, but he never had the balls to put it out there. Never had the guts to take on a popular Emperor and take power in order to carry out his vision. “Plenty of vision, No balls” was the assessment. Unlike Keating. When the time came, Keating didn’t shy away. He felt Bob had to go, so he put him to the sword.

Last Saturday night, Peter started speaking about wanting “a nation with ambition as large as the continent on which we stand”, I thought “finally! After all this time, he’s going to start proclaiming his vision. And we’ll either have to have vision as grand as his, or be a one-term government.” At last we can live in a country that desires to be better than “relaxed and comfortable” and a lot better than the petty money-grubbing selfish xenophobic place we’d become in the last decade. We could be a land worthy of ourselves.

Then, Sunday, Peter quit.

As Keating said “Tip, and no iceberg”.

Reichsministers Howard & Brough are gone. Ruddock remains. The fools – Coonan, Andrews, Abbott – remain. But with power stripped from their hands, they’re impotent. And their best hope today announced he’d not take leadership.

I’m sunburnt. Extremely sunburnt & sleep-deprived. I did all day at the polling booth. Then sat up watching the coverage and engaging in SMS conversations. By the end of the night, the only shadows were uncertainty in Bennelong and Swan.

It’s 9 years since my excommunication. And now we’ve won one, I can forgive myself.

One aspect of life in Rome that differs from life in the provinces occurs at dinner parties. The kinds of dinner parties Caerulia & I used to have when we were married were interesting affairs. We’d invite 3-4 friends over. Everyone would bring a course, and the food would be shared at our table.
Because Rome is how it is, our guests would be people we knew from all different paths of our lives – old friends from university, work colleagues past and present, friends of friends, colleagues of mine from the Labor Party. And we’d always mix it up – we’d deliberately invite people who didn’t know each other so the social mix would be different each time.

Inevitably, the post-dinner conversation, usually while still at the table and consuming dessert or wine, would shift to solving the problems of the world, or at least our small portion of it. Caerulia had worked for some government departments, as had I. Our guests would have worked for a different mix, and so there was some overlap but generally coverage of a lot of different areas.
As people do in these situations, everyone would chip in with their small piece of the puzzle, but the solutions to most of the issues of the day were clear-cut and simple. In essence, you sit people down at a table from different sides of a problem, and they can solve it.

It always puzzled me therefore why our Imperial leaders make such bad decisions, or why policy differences seem so entrenched. I mustn’t be very bright because it took me a long time to find the answer. It’s politics.

This is highlighted by the current election campaign we’re in. Policies are not written because they are in the best interests of the country. But because they’re aimed at winning the vote in three weeks. And whoever wins, decisions wont be made sanely and sensibly next month either, because after the vote in three weeks, it’ll all be about winning votes in three years. Road funding. Health funding. Education funding. It’s all about winning votes in marginal seats. And that’s just about pandering to the self-interest of the voters who might swing one way or another.

We’re not yet in the same boat as the Americans – where their ruling class governs almost intentionally in the national dis-interest. But we’re not far off.

aus2007.pngDespite being a very political creature, and an active member of a political party, I think it’s abhorrent to tell people how they should vote. I also think it’s terrible for people to vote for a party that is not representative of their opinions.

Too often in modern democracies voters choose their political party the way they choose their football team. You know the kind of people – those who think that their full-forward is always in the right, even when he’s done a Tony Lockett and clocked the opposing fullback and broken his nose. So is it with politics – everything my guy says is right, everything your guy says is wrong. I’m the total opposite. I think that as someone who studied politics at uni, worked in the political realm and knows a lot about it, it’s my job not to tell you who to vote for, but to help you decide for yourself.

A few years ago, websites started popping up with “political compasses” on them. I always found them amusing because people who said they loved Party Leader 1 and despised Party B found themselves answering in ways that showed them more aligned to Party B.

Anyway, this election, here’s two political compasses to try. The Political Compass is US-based – it has a results page based on Australian parties though. And The Vote-a-matic is Australian. Neither are perfect, but both are better than deciding who to vote for based on who has the better hair stylist.

(Inspired by Enny)

Tonight, I am going to a dinner. It’s to celebrate the anniversary of something Wellington & I did ten years ago.

caelian.gifWhen I joined the Labor Party in 1996, at the first meeting following the defeat of Emperor Paul the Great, and the establishment of the evil regime of Emperor John, I found myself in one of the largest branches in the city. There were about 150 people at my first meeting.

After I’d been in the Party a year or so, I began to think that the Aventine – my home area – had different issues to the residents of the Caelian, who made up the majority of the branch. The Aventine was a new district, and issues there were mainly about the need for services and employment. The Caelian had been established for a few generations, and so the issues were completely different. When I began to ask other Aventine members of the Party, I became friends with Wellington. Wellington and I began to look into the question of “How does one split a branch into two?” and since it hadn’t been done for over 30 years, noone knew. But Wellington & I persisted, and eventually we found out what needed to be done. We needed to get 15 Aventine Party members to sign a request, and the wheels could be set in motion. So we did.

aventine.jpgA local MLA didn’t want the split to happen for factional reasons – he couldn’t be sure his faction would be able to control the new branch. He was thus pretty miffed when Wellington & I succeeded in forming it anyway. But given that he was the only MLA at subsequent elections who could campaign as being truly “local” for the interests of Aventine voters, he turned out to be a huge beneficiary of what we’d done.

When Wellington & I were going around getting the signatures, we impressed on the membership that the new branch wasn’t going to be run along factional lines – decisions would be done fairly and discussion encouraged. And for the most part, that’s how the branch has operated.

It’s ten years this week since the first meeting of the Aventine Labor Party branch. That’s what the dinner is for. The speaker at dinner will be the City Prefect from back then. In the last ten years, I’ve been in and out of the branch as I’ve left town, and even left the Party for a while. But Wellington’s been there the whole way through, even marrying one of the other members, and fathering a little girl born on Bastille Day a few years ago. (How lefty is that??) Hopefully, it’ll be the beginning of a lot of celebration for our little branch.

Last month, I promised I’d tell a story about my time at Duntroon. And since I like telling stories, here goes…

Once upon a time, I was working in the publishing area of the College. My job was to publish documents for the College. Things like exam papers, the little booklets they hand out to visitors at things like the Beating of the Retreat that we went to last month, that kind of thing
While working there, I was the only civilian in the office with 4 military people and the uniformed ones had some issues realising that being a civilian meant I didn’t live under exactly the same rules as they did. I didn’t have to show up at 7am for a run around the oval. I didn’t have to salute. I had set working hours, and when they were done, I was entitled to go home and unpaid overtime was something I could refuse to do.
As a result of this difference in status, there was some friction between me and my boss, Staff Sergeant Jacqui Van Beukering. So when I was told to do a publishing job that wasn’t for the College, but was a menu for a cafe run by the wife of a College staff member, my refusal to do so was taken poorly. We argued. I told her what she was instructing me to do was misuse of College resources, and I refused to carry out her orders.

Those of you who have worked for the Imperial government will know that refusing an instruction can result in disciplinary measures. I fully expected my actions to be examined and I was pretty secure in my position. I was also prepared to argue my case. After all, I was a union delegate at that stage, for all civilian staff in the College, so standing up to the hierarchy wasn’t something that overly concerned me.

Staff Sergeant Van Beukering’s boss, Captain Davis was called in. The issue was discussed. I stood my ground. The Captain instructed me to publish the cafe menu. I refused. So a union official was bought in. The union official backed my position. The soldiers wouldn’t alter their position, neither would I. A circuit breaker was needed. The Captain suggested the issue should be “investigated” and until the matter was resolved, I was sent home on full pay.

This may seem odd to those who have never worked for the government. But I was sent home. I was being paid. But I didn’t have to go to work. I originally thought this situation might last a day or two. I had underestimated the situation.

A few weeks later, while still on paid “leave” (although not actually using up any leave) I was chatting to a mate of mine who worked for the local MP. I told him that I was being paid, but didn’t have to go to work. So, since it was an election year, was there anything the Party could use my time for? He put me in touch with a chap named Justin who worked for Mr Beazley, the Leader of the Party at the time.

I met Justin and began to work a day or two a week in Beazley’s office. I loved the work though, so I expanded the days I was there until I was pretty much full-time. They weren’t paying me, but I was being paid by the College, so I didn’t care.

My role at Parliament House grew and grew until I was administering all the volunteer staff, using them not only for my role with Justin in media monitoring but also lending them out to Shadow Ministers like Faulkner, Latham, Evans, Lee and Kerr for research work – essentially the way a temp agency works. Only my volunteers weren’t paid more than their lunch money – they were just doing it because they loved it. But being uni students who were all passionate about politics, they were living their fantasies since every day they came to work, they were spending time with the Party leaders and MPs.

After several months, the issue of the refusal to follow instructions was resolved and I was advised I was able to return to work at the College. But by that time, I was working 115 hour weeks in Beazley’s office and so when I told Justin I had to go, he offered to add me to the payroll, so I could be paid to do what I previously was doing for the love of it. Naturally, I took up the offer.

So returning to Duntroon last month reminded me of how it was the stepping stone to a path that provided one of my great adventures. It was ten years ago. But I don’t regret leaving there. I guess even the smallest steps can take us places we never expect. We have to be prepared to take that step when it comes though.

Dark VictoryAfter the end of the war in 1945, the occupied Germany underwent a ‘de-Nazification’ process. Because Party membership was compulsory for many professions after 1937, being a Nazi did not make one an evil person automatically. But Party members had to be assessed as to their involvement in evil acts.

After the death of Stalin in 1953, the Soviet Union had a similar purge of hardline actors who committed crimes. Ideological cleansing also took place, as the communists disowned many of the policies of the Stalin years. Similar disowning of their history happens when many long-serving leaders finally fall (see Bjelke-Petersen’s regime or many eastern European countries at the end of the Cold War).

As I watch the death throes of the current government, I wonder how many of the current Cabinet are trying to cover themselves against the future, against a time when Howard is no longer all-conquering, and their actions are called into question. Especially those around the 2001 “Dark Victory” win.

jwhapec.jpgWhen I studied history and politics at uni in the mid 90s, I learnt about the British election of 1945. Despite having just been Prime Minister of Britain through years of war and defeating the Nazi regime, Winston Churchill led his party to an election against Labour’s Clement Attlee, and got wiped out.

It seems that when the war started, a government of national unity was formed, and this meant that both Conservative and Labour leaders were involved in Cabinet. The result was that by 1945, after years of war (and no elections) the senior people in the Labour Party had credibility as alternate leaders for the country. So in that sense, the Conservatives had created their own defeat.

That story has come back to mind today, as I watch our Prime Minister share the limelight with Kevin Rudd. Howard wanted this conference to be his great opportunity to be a ‘statesman’, sharing media coverage with world leaders such as Putin, Bush and many others.

Instead though, the evening news is dominated by things like Kevin Rudd speaking Mandarin at a press conference with China’s Hu Jintao. The week is giving Rudd a chance to stand with such leaders along with the Prime Minister, and he’s coming across as competent and more in tune with the region than Howard.

Tonight though, a great story on the news, as Laurie Oakes claims that Alexander Downer has approached Howard and given him the word. Oakes says Howard will not be Prime Minister by the end of next week. According to the media, the biggest challenge they’ve got is convincing Peter Costello to step up. He sees it as a poisoned chalice apparently – to lead his party in the lead-up to an increasingly inevitable defeat.

It’s making the bet I put on a few months ago – against Howard winning in the seat of Bennelong – look like a good investment. 🙂

latham.jpgIn 2004, I was living in Jerusalem in the leadup to the election. Back then, Labor‘s leader was Mark Latham who I had gotten to know when I worked in Beazley’s office and so I wanted him to win. Well, I was an eight-year veteran within the Labor Party at that stage, so I guess I wanted us to win even if our leader was Tinky Winky Teletubby. But Mark being the leader gave me a personal reason beyond the ideological one.

teletubbies_tinky_winky.jpgDuring the weeks leading up to the calling of the election, I had identified, amongst my circle of friends, a few people – maybe half a dozen – who were also committed to the cause and so when the campaign period hit, I’d be able to mobilise them to help. For those of you who haven’t worked on political campaigns, I’ll tell you that every extra body is a valuable asset. I met the campaign managers for two seats in northern Jerusalem – both held by the Government by less than 3% – and for the seat of a local Labor front-bencher. So what I was offering the campaign managers was a significant resource.

During the six week campaign, I rang each of the campaign managers more than once and the sum total of requests I got for myself and my slaves was to help hand out “how-to-vote” cards on election day – for *another* party that Labor was assisting.

It took me a long time to work out why this happened. Why our side had just wasted their potential in provincial marginal seats. And the reasoning came down to one man – the local Judean GovernorKing Peter.

peterpic.jpgAt a state level, the provincial leader is so popular, so media-friendly, that he waves his magic wand, and delivers victory. At the level of the local campaigns on the ground, the party workers have come to believe that nothing they do will affect the result, because the election will be decided somewhere else. They can sit on their arses and someone will hand them a win.

I can’t say this will happen again. But given Peter’s continued dominance in Judea at the provincial election last Spring, there’s no reason to believe it wont. I’ve asked people within the higher echelons of the party organisation what has been done to avoid this problem this time around, and got brushed off. Only the member for Jerusalem bothered to respond and discuss the matter with me in detail.

bobbrown.jpgIn response to allegations Kevin Rudd went to a strip club in New York, Senator Bob Brown, leader of the Greens said “Four years ago Kevin Rudd got drunk and took himself into a strip club. Four years ago John Howard, sober, took Australia into the Iraq war. I think the electorate can judge which one did the more harm.”

I wrote about it several times when it was first in the media, and it seems that the suspicions of my local member were correct. The Immigration Minister has been overruled by a court, and Doctor Haneef’s work visa has been restored. Actually, I’ll fully expect now that the Minister and his pathetic colleagues in cabinet will find another way to throw their weight around and further harass this guy. It certainly has sunk their “tough on national security” credibility when they have their own courts ruling they acted with nothing more than “a cynical use of power”. The full article that I have just had emailed to me is below the fold.

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Has anyone else noticed that when there’s an election in the air, everything takes on a new fragrance? I usually avoid political issues, but those who know me know I am an intensely political animal, so I’m in the mood to say a few things this evening.

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I found this over at the Accidental Environmentalist.

vulture.jpg

Shock, isn’t it? It stuns me that in this country, the populace trust the authorities so much.
This month has seen a shameful performance in this country. Lying cops, politicians jumping on bandwagons, journalists going along for the ride. Until the cracks started to appear. It seems the good doctor wasn’t a terrorist after all. Public prosecutors running away from the case. Cops looking desperately for people to blame for their illegal behaviour. Politicians pointing fingers at cops screaming “He didn’t tell me the truth! It wasn’t my fault I acted illegally!” And journalists shutting up and hoping everyone forgets the muslim-bashing they were engaging in in the last few weeks.
If nothing else, it’s shattered the myth of how well our government is protecting us from terrorism. They’re just a bunch of scare-mongers looking for scapegoats.
But now that the Doctors’ Plot can’t be used as the next Tampa, who’re we gunna be told to be scared of now?

While off in Jerusalem, I let my membership to the Party lapse. And I joined and was a campaign manager for one of the minor parties. But last night, I returned to the fold, and I’ll officially rejoin next month.

mohdhanif.jpgThe advantage of last night was that the meeting was addressed by our local member of the House of Reps. Not surprisingly, one of the hotter issues was Labor’s silence on the issue of the Dr Haneef case which I have briefly mentioned previously.  Our local man though made a good point about why our side had been silent. He said that the detention, questioning and bail hearing had all been done quite fairly. Prior to that occasion, it was said that the courts approving extensions to detention and questioning would be just a ‘rubber stamp’ formality. But the magistrates involved showed they weren’t going to simply sign off on whatever the police wanted. So the laws were working fine (whatever we think of how trivial the offence was) up to that point.

Where our side has serious reservations is in the visa revocation. And this morning, with the Deputy PM contradicting the relevant minister, it is looking even further like the visa revocation was not done properly. And is soon to be examined in court.

But why isn’t our Party speaking out more on this issue? I liked his answer to that one. He said that this issue is the Government’s fuckup, and why should we say anything when the media and other sectors of the community are doing a good job of showing how badly the Government is tying itself in knots? So I guess he has a point there.

I can’t help agree with the Judean leader when he says the current debacle is undermining the public trust in the “anti terror laws”. Police lies, ministerial lies and general incompetence is showing every time a new angle to the story hits the media. From my side of politics, it makes for an entertaining sight.

And it was nice last night to once again get the story of what’s happening on the inside fo the Party.

Some days, I am disgusted to live in this country.

Mohammed Haneef, an Indian doctor who worked for a local hospital here has been held in custody for two weeks because he gave a SIM card for a mobile phone to his cousin. He was leaving the country, the card still had credit, so he found someone who could use that credit. Unfortunately for him, his cousin got involved with a terrorist group, and the SIM card was used to make calls to dubious people. A court today determined he was not a danger to the community, so the doctor was let out on bail.
But the fascist scum who are in government here have revoked his visa, so he cannot work or live in the community. So he’s been taken to one of the detention camps for illegal immigrants.

reith.jpgTen years ago, this government minister (right) gave his phone card to his son. The son clocked up fifty thousands of dollars of calls, and the taxpayer footed the bill. The minister denied knowledge of the calls, never had to pay the money back, and was promoted to the Defence portfolio (where he lied during the 2001 election and tried to blame the Air Force chief for his lies).

This country makes me sick.

Last night, ABC TV showed the controversial film “The Great Global Warming Swindle”. I didn’t watch it last night, but I have seen it on TV Links. So I didn’t need to. But they also hosted a debate amongst some Australian scientists about the claims made in the film.

ABC Radio’s Science Show put up a counter-episode here.

I think this raises an interesting question about the levels of public awareness about issues. For example, if you can make a glossy film that looks like a documentary, and you can use captions on screen to say someone is a scientist from such and such a university, then the format and the information presented gains some credibility. Even if everything they say, and the positions and qualifications you say someone has are completely false.

So who can you trust? Not just on this issue, but on any issue? Unless I know someone personally, or have their legitimacy vouched for by someone whose judgement I do trust, how can I tell if someone is really a professor of atmospheric climatology or an actor with a subtitle on the screen?

Over at George Marshall’s blog, he explains that the main reason the Swindle film gained traction with many people, amongst other reasons, is that the public want to believe in it. They want to believe that their lifestyles aren’t threatened.

Personally, my views are a mixture of what I have gained from study, absorbing the words of Will over twenty years, reading New Scientist each week, following the issue in the media, attending talks and seminar like the Earth Dialogs last year and my own readings.

end-su.gifWhen I was a teenager, there was a Cold War on. Two superpowers sat watching each other, expecting to be attacked. Both countries spent huge amounts of money on weaponry to deter the other from moving against them. In 1961 and twice in 1983, wars almost erupted. Millions of men lived their whole lives, dedicated to the cause of maintaining their countries against their opponent.
Then, in 1991, it all ended.
The Soviet Union ceased to exist not because of an external attack, but because its own people opted out.

So all that effort, all those resources, all those people dedicated to maintaining the state simply failed. A superpower was unable to keep up the momentum to just exist.

There’s a tendency in our culture to believe that states are so all-powerful and all-controlling and all-capable that they control their own destiny. But if one the size of the Soviet Union couldn’t keep it together, can any nation-state? We’ve grown up where for the last sixty years, states have been mostly static. But the generation before that saw massive changes. Perhaps our stability in this has lead us to believe in the inevitability of the world as it is now. But as any Russian over the age of 30 knows, nothing lasts forever.

flymeetsmcp.jpgI kind of pity those who grew up behind the iron curtain. All their life, they were told that their way of life was superior to the Imperialist West. Yet after 1991, the news hit that they’d been lied to. Capitalism and imperialism was good, not bad. Communism and socialism were failed theories. As U2’s slogans during the ZooTV days said “Everything you know is wrong.”
If you’d grown up under one system, and then all of a sudden been told that everything you’d been told was wrong, would you believe it? If the west had turned to communism, do you think there’d have been Americans secretly thinking this new era was flawed, and that, deep down, capitalism and the rule of markets was really the right way after all?

dé·jà vu: (dā’zhä vōō’) n. An impression of having seen or experienced something before

Last year, at the Earth Dialogues Summit in Jerusalem, I rediscovered my past.
The summit was essentially a series of talks given by some very interesting people, including Mikhail Gorbachev, Noel Pearson, Tim Costello and many more. Their message was clear – if the civilisation we all inhabit continues the way it’s headed, a crash is inevitable. Which is a message I’d been receiving from Will for years. About 20 years actually. But like most people when confronted with such news, I denied it.
Will, for those who haven’t met him (and that’s most of you), has two modes of belief when it comes to this topic. When he’s an pessimist, he thinks Mother Nature is gunna come along, slap us down, and put us in our place. And it’ll be fucken ugly. When he’s feeling optimistic, he thinks we’ve got the potential to avoid the ugly bits, if we extract our digit in a manner rapid.
For a long time, I tended to fall into the mindset of most people who Will talks to – I’d give some of his ideas credence, but most of them are so stark raving mad that I’d ignore them. But Will talks. And talks and talks and talks. Being his friend for twenty years means I’ve learnt to switch off when he’s going on, and on, and on. But even though I turn off, and most of what he says washes over me, the way the waves wash over a rock on the shore, what he says must soak in. Because sometimes, the larger world will throw up something and it’ll register in my brain “Will predicted that ten years ago”.
So here I was at the Earth Dialogues last year, and people of the calibre of Gorby were speaking Will’s words. And executives of large companies. And high-level politicians. And bureaucrats. All saying things Will had been saying for years, and had been scoffed at for.
Since then, and it’s been almost a year now, the message has begun to be reinforced. Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. ABC’s Four Corners’ report on Peak Oil. Numerous media articles.
So I’ve been revisiting twenty years of talks with Will, and what they mean. And the direction my life’s gone, and where it should go next.

The Family CrestLast spring, when the idea first began to take root, the idea to return to Rome, I began to wonder – if I went back, what would my life be like? What do I want to do? How do I want to live? Very early, a few central themes began to form.
About ten years ago, I was working in the Martial College in Rome. It was there that young men came to be taught how to be officers in the army. My job was in the publishing area. I worked on the preparation of teaching documents, and the “text books” the student officers used in their lessons. I was the only civilian in an office of five people.
One day, I was told to do a publishing job which was the menu for a cafe that was owned by the wife of one of the instructors at the College. Since it was unquestionably not an official document, I refused. For those who’ve never worked for military bosses, I’ll let you in on a secret – they don’t take refusal very well. A standoff developed, and the result was that I was sent home until the dispute could be resolved.
The other thing about military people is they like to do things their own way and at their own pace. And when it came to resolving my dispute, my refusal to follow my boss’ instructions, that pace was positively tectonic.
I was home a fortnight before I began to realise that this waiting game might take a while. So I decided to use my time more productively. I had a friend who worked for the local MP, and so I asked Jase how a party member with plenty of time on his hands could help out the movement. Within days, I was working in the office of the Party Leader. It started off as Thursdays, but since I was still being paid to be at home, it rapidly escalated until I was working fulltime as a researcher for Kim’s office. Later, I expanded the role I was doing until I was supervising more than a dozen part-time staff (mostly uni students) and lending them out (like a temp-agency) to the offices of Shadow Ministers.
Over the next few months, I geared up until I was working 16-18 hour days five days a week, and 10 hour days on weekends. And I was loving it.
It was from this period that I learnt that for me to truly be happy in my work, I needed to be working at something I believed in. I needed a crusade, something I could throw myself into.

Today’s edition of YouTube Sunday is political. But in a beautiful way.

I know some of you are great fans of this man, as am I. I’m even trying to work out how to get this as a ringtone for my phone.

I give you, the Placido Domingo of Australian politics…..

Even though the main purpose of this new blog is to tell a story and outline a new direction for me, I’m still going to intersperse with that some commentary on the world around me in real time. Hope you don’t mind, don’t really care if you do.

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