Contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence reviews the year that was and begins 2017 with a good news message.
DEAR BROTHERS AND SISTERS,
Sometimes it seems as if our world is imploding.
Given the many horrors of 2016, it is no surprise that we are sometimes driven to near despair for the future of humanity, the earth and universe, and the injury we have ruthlessly dispensed upon all three.
Sometimes, the world seems a lonely and alien place. Once cherished values and considerations now seem steeped in political and economic depravity.
We struggle to analyse if we are becoming more nihilistic and inhumane than our forbears as a species, or whether it has ever been thus and it is simply that each nano-second our breathtaking modern technology puts an instant girdle of communication about the earth.
Napier Waller's uplifting and beautiful heroic art deco triptych “I shall put a girdle round about the earth.” Also immortalised on the facade of what was once Newspaper House on Collins Street Melbourne. I note that the words slightly differ on the glass mosaic to the triptych, probably for space reasons. (Image via ngv.vic.gov.au/artdeco)
GAME OF DRONES
How is it that, on one hand, we can care about the drying out of a verandah pot plant, and tenderly administer drinking water to quench its thirst and nurse it back to life.
And yet with the other hand we can press a single key on a computer robot, whose sole design and construction is the destruction of all things animate and inanimate — anything in the way of our ambition, malevolence; borders real, imagined and stolen.
With one finger on the remote, we can dispatch to a destination thousands of miles away, an apocalyptic drone, a messenger of death capable of the indiscriminate wholesale and industrial-strength murder of thousands of innocent people, including babies and children. Such economical killing.
Moreover, in a single hit we can destroy not only our modern civilisations, but pulverise to rubble all those ancient civilisations that led to ours. 'Look on [these] works ye mighty.' Why do you too not despair? We are as detached as those retinas sometimes torn away by the shockwaves of bomb blasts.
In this Game of Drones, we don't have to make eye contact with our victims. Nor hear their screams or witness their death throes, or smell the blood. Or hear the sizzle and smell of cooking flesh, floured both sides with concrete dust, like battered fish. No added MSG. We don't have to dress up in uniform, or even wear camouflage to kill, either. Or wear gas masks. Or gloves. Or worry about recoil from a gun, or in horror at what we've done.
We can be schlepping around in our trackie daks, jocks or bikini briefs and be eating french fries with all of that while we dispense the enemy.
Such is the beauty of modern warfare and/or long distance killing machines.
Whether they are drone planes or flying arachnid-like single drones, they lay their deadly bombs in silent midflight, dropped from metallic and plastic wombs. No milk of human kindness needed here for these mother suckers.
Sometimes, the victims below – ever watchful of the skyline and the glint of the sniper's gun – are too late caught unawares. Death by computer, by a foreigner in a foreign land several times zones away. No time even to say prayers. Or bid goodbye.
'What a piece of work is a man ... how noble in reason'; in descent how like a vengeful god.
We designate stranger and friend alike as enemies — often for no other reason than that we don't like the colour of their skin, or their religion, their ideology or their sexuality.
Or that those in power ordered us to hate them; or gods did favour them and whisper in their ear and told us to smite them.
Sometimes we seem more capable of hate than love; more willing to make war than peace or love.
Those in power seem least capable of administering to its needy attention deficit. Bullies rule, global monies and governments sell their souls to the highest tender and contracts to the lowest bidder.
Kickbacks and corruption have been almost constitutionalised — such is their prevalence. Sadly we have come to expect these venal diseases. In Australian federal, state and municipal governments alone – almost weekly – a new scandal is exposed.
Whistleblowers throughout the world are killed, tortured, disappear, and are mentally and financially destroyed and pilloried, imprisoned and identified as enemies of the state.
Increasingly, public dissent, protests, rallies, and robust argument is forbidden, discouraged and ridiculed, as we recently witnessed in Federal Parliament in Canberra and wrote about.
Civic humanity is increasingly being locked out of debate. Activism is derided and mocked.
Multinational corporations, banks, lobbyists, political donors and carpetbaggers have not only bought our governments and many politicians, but on-sold them and leased them out to foreign governments and entities.
Our future and policy are no longer determined by the calibre and justification of the bill before the house, but by the indecent horse-trading of votes and bribery.
Once respected institutions are riddled with ineptitude. Consider the recent debacle with the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Others have been denied government support and funds.
Our apprenticeship systems – once enshrined within our public services and institutions, and the envy of the world – have been trashed and destroyed. They have been privatised and public funds shamelessly rorted, with the full knowledge and awareness of successive governments, and what may laughingly masquerade as regulatory bodies.
WE LIVE IN AN ERA OF WHAT I CALL 'POP-UP PARTIES'
The decayed old parties have little or no relevance to most of us — nor do they in some instances to their own cabinet and shadow cabinet.
We live in the era of what I call the "pop-up parties" — partly born out of frustration with conventional parties and a craving for leadership, plain-talk and walking the talk.
Some of the pop-up leaders shamelessly court bigots and racists, elitism and neo-nazism, and cultivate hatred of "the other". Among power's besties is fear — one of the more contagious of diseases in our community. It makes enemies out of friends and friends out of enemies.
Little wonder then, that we start to question codes of political and civic morality, ethics, values. They seem to be anachronisms in our social and societal environments.
The world is sometimes troubled. We are sometimes troubled. Our behaviour as a tribal species is sometimes troubling. But think of the great happiness this wonderful world more often brings, though we have sorely abused her and her children.
Even those of us who are news junkies, and enmeshed in news and current affairs, sometimes become overwhelmed with what seems impossible and intractable problems in our own backyard, and beyond our hearth and heart.
But against the backdrop of gloom and insecurity is the reality that there are so many good and wonderful human beings within our own friends and family orbit, and beyond, who truly feel we are part of a shared humanity — the human family, people who care and are caring and who support others in a thousand ways and not always with money.
Sometimes, a smile will save the day. Save a human being from going over the edge.
We need to better acknowledge our everyday heroes. And to salute them. No less the tens of thousands of volunteers of all kinds in Australia who save the public purse, as I understand it, almost $9 billion dollars annually. How many of the new submarines to be built in Adelaide have they paid for during their years of dedicated service? All of them.
It's not just about the money. It's about building communities and commitment — and a willingness to serve and give back to the community. And so often such volunteers have been "giving back" for decades.
You, our readers, are clearly among these heroes. Your comments are also part of the emotional and social infrastructure that not only makes up Independent Australia, but also the wider community's interest in its own affairs and future.
You give us an insight and reality check, and constantly remind us why we do what we do. We do it for you. Not for proprietors, not for shareholders, not even for the managing editor, but for you — the reader.
You are our touchstone; part of the IA family and I hope likewise you think of us as part of your ideological family at least.
The relationship between IA and our readers has never prevaricated on being in total agreement with one another.
I shan't single out anyone in particular, but it is clear that many of our contributors – and some, in particular – have displayed not only personal but great professional courage in their articles.
Going against the tribe takes its toll and regardless demands personal sacrifice. Exposing corruption, likewise. Simply calling the shots and telling it like it is can bring great admonishment and acrimony upon the writer.
For us, publishing such an article is good news! Exposing wrongs, whether perpetrated against an individual or against the nation is good news! Shining a light on dark secrets that are owned by you, by we the people – and not governments – is our duty and raison d'etre. It's good news!
It is our duty to bear witness without fear or favour. It's not always an easy thing to do. Nor are such things as Indigenous affairs, entertainment, environmental, cultural, banking and other financial matters, satire and whimsy exempt from this caveat.
Nothing will change for the better if we are content to remain mere bystanders. We have borne witness to a number of winters and now summers of discontent, despite our youth.
On IA, the new year will see us continuing to work hard to deliver to you the best we can be in all of our various endeavours, and to grow our beloved journal and further increase its inherent potential.
Public discourse and debate are critical for the health and well-being of a free society. Our optimism and exuberance do not decrease as we grow but increase!
Thank you for continuing to support us financially, as well as in your comments. It all helps. It makes such a difference. And please spread the word about us and introduce us to your cobbers and associates. Encourage them to put in their two bob's worth and leave a comment!
One thing is clear — that the world collectively would not have made it to this very day and the start of this new year if the good did not outweigh the bad.
Sweet blessings and peace to us all!
Happy News Year!
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
Support independent journalism. Subscribe to IA for just $5.