Thursday, 27 November 2014

Schooling the World: A Recipe for Competition, Compliance & Consumerism


A healthy social life is found only, when in the mirror of each soul the whole community finds its reflection, and when in the whole community the virtue of each one is living.
- Rudolf Steiner

Humans need community – planet earth built us that way. We are social animals that not only survive physically by cohabitating with each other, but we thrive emotionally and psychologically when our groups are functional and nurturing.
One of the symptoms of an upside-down, insane world, that is collapsing around us, is that the human inhabitants are running around in circles, grieving the loss of community, and wondering how on earth to recreate it. Ironically, in a world of over seven billion people we are lonely and lack a sense of belonging. People are yearning for meaningful connection with each other and with the natural world from which we evolved.  Simply stated, modern industrialised and capitalised society is not conducive to healthy, happy, human communities.
A comprehensive analysis of the causes of the downfall of community in the modern world would be a massive task. The scope of this piece will focus on one hypothesis: that the modern compulsory schooling system has created generation after generation of individuals that have been indoctrinated to be compliant consumers and competitors in a human race that effectively destroys community. That community still exists at all is due to the resilience of our true innate nature to live in harmonious groups that share and care for each other and the natural world that supports us.

‘Educating’ for economic growth

The reality of schooling for many of today’s children is approximately thirteen years – from the ages of five to eighteen – of compulsory training in highly regulated institutions. Children who are not getting this brand of “education” are deemed to be disadvantaged, and global efforts are directed towards every single child on the whole planet being gifted with the opportunity to sit in a classroom for the duration of their childhood. The craziness of this is rarely contemplated because we have either been indoctrinated ourselves by the same regime or, if we missed out on school, we have been sold the lie that school is the best form of education for children. We therefore send our offspring off for daily instruction, in their uniforms, without even a question.
During this decade-plus of compulsory training, children are delivered a prescribed syllabus that has been predetermined to be essential for success in the contemporary world. Their skills and performance are constantly measured and ranked within class groups, and even on national and international scales. These educational levels – or should they be called employability skills? – are championed by government and business leaders as essential for a nation’s economic success in an increasingly competitive world marketplace. If our children do not come out of the education system more technically adept – and therefore more economically productive – than their parents, the nation will fall behind on the global playing field. This is then sensationally extrapolated by media commentators as a certain disaster that will result in falling living standards for the populace.  Perpetual economic growth depends on the increased productivity of the next generation. We can clearly see the ethical issues related to factory farming of animals to satisfy our rapacious hunger for more, but we are essentially blind to the human factories called schools.
Children are well aware of their place in the pecking order. If it is not on a chart on the classroom wall, it is sent home to the parents in regular report cards so they can assess whether their offspring deserve reward or punishment. Imagine if adults were informed that they would be forced to attend a decade of full-time prescribed training at which they would continually be assessed and disciplined to improve their performance, behaviour and attitude. Some might argue at this point that adults, once they leave school, are actually forced into institutions (workplaces), and trained and ranked and pushed to perform for 40 years. Maybe that explains why we “school” our children – the reality of a lifetime of servitude is so entrenched in our psyche that preparing children for this is the kindest thing to do. The insidiousness of this is that we lie to our kids that doing well at school is the pathway to wealth, freedom and happiness.  The expectation to be grateful for a first class school education, so as to become a contributing member of a sick society, is surely the final insult. To actually get away with this type of child abuse, a lot of bullshit is required.

School ≠ education

The biggest lie of all is to label school as education. Most of us accept education, in the true sense of the word, as an essential requirement for a meaningful life, but the compulsory schooling of children to train them for the workforce is not education.  The Jesuit doctrine of ‘Give me the child for his first seven years, and I’ll give you the man’, has been usurped by modern secular society to ensure that we all ‘become a useful member of society’. Innate human curiosity and a love of learning are systematically and effectively destroyed by the school system. Ask any year 12 student why they are studying so hard for their final exams and they will tell you it is for the marks, not for knowledge or understanding and certainly not for the love of learning.
The school children who challenge, question, and resist the system are targeted for reform by humiliating discipline, and are shunned and condemned as failures.  It is not hard to imagine future archaeologists, sifting through the ruins of modern industrialised civilisation and struggling to understand why the artefacts of the school system obviously point to the enslavement of children. What won’t be such a mystery will be that a civilisation that did practice such universal child abuse would eventually collapse.
The mass production of unquestioning, self-loathing and competitive consumers is an art form that has been carefully crafted ever since the invention of the modern school system required by the industrial revolution. Its success has been outstanding. The human race is now seven billion people striving and competing against each other for their slice of the planet. The rapidly declining state of the planet in the wake of this madness is hardly a surprising outcome. In fact, the current state of affairs is so bad, that many humans are convinced that Homo sapiens is a fundamentally flawed quirk of the evolutionary process, and that our destiny is to wipe ourselves out.  And because we are a mistake, an evolutionary dead end, the sooner we exit stage earth the better – we truly do hate ourselves. Some have decided to give up and run away to the ‘dark mountain’ to observe the inevitable collapse. The rest of us are scratching our heads, wondering how it all went so pear-shaped, and what the hell are we going to do about it.

Educating the next generation

The evidence is steadily mounting to debunk the myth, still vociferously defended by those already on top of the heap, that studying hard to get the marks to climb the socio-economic ladder is the pathway to a good life. Unfortunately, the indoctrination has been so thorough that parents still blindly send their offspring off to school at the tender age of four or five – I know I did it without batting an eye. The cycle of abuse needs to be broken. While ever we continue to school the next generation to be competitive consumers, to not trust themselves or others, to view the planet as a resource for our own use and abuse, then we will only continue to get what we are getting now. It is not community; it is a plague.
Every one of us has a responsibility to stop and take stock of where we are at and where we are heading. Any rational assessment will uncover a very unpleasant and confronting reality. It is little wonder that so many of us distract ourselves from this unfolding nightmare with the mindless indulgences of sex, drugs, celebrity, and spectator sports. If we dare profess that we want a better future for our children, then surely a serious and critical look at why we train our kids to contribute to a society that is destroying the planet is well overdue.
Community naturally springs from the collective beliefs and actions of the people that reside and intermingle with each other. Let’s be honest, a good community is a nice place to be, a place where people feel  welcomed and valued for simply being themselves. If we are going to school our children, then humility, co-operation, kindness to others, creativity and critical thinking ought to be the core of the curriculum. The modern compulsory school system has manufactured a population of ambitious, competitive, ignorant and fearful consumers who lack the essential attributes required for healthy, happy, and sustainable communities. Decent communities must have, at the very least, decent people.
The good news is that despite the lengthy and rigorous training of our schooling system there still exists deep within us a desire to be social, peaceable and loving animals. We are hanging in there.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Does Atheism have voice?

As an atheist I am finding it harder and harder to fathom all the bullshit pandering to religion going on at the moment. I am all for peace and human beings being decent towards each other but I am not going to be bullied into accepting, without question, belief systems, and their associated practices, that are at the root of so many of the world’s current problems. I understand that many decent and peace loving people do proclaim a belief in a God and and allegiance to a particular religion. But I will not for one minute accept that any religion can be ignored, or exempt from scrutiny, by simply claiming it is a religion of peace. Calls for peace and calls for violence can be found in any so called sacred text. Christianity, Judaism and Islam, the big three, are inconsistent, antiquated, intolerant faith systems that are based on superstitious bullshit and a disdain for the innate nature of human beings. I have no tolerance for them.

I was baptised and initially educated within the Catholic faith. I rejected it outright at quite an early age as a consequence of exercising my human capacity for free and rational thought. It appears that that type of thinking in many areas of modern life is not acceptable - not politically correct. Religion, the current human population and economic growth are three big no go zones for open and critical dialogue – they are essentially taboo. I thought religious bullshit and tyranny was done away with 500 years ago with the Enlightenment. I guess I have underestimated the power that fear and ignorance can have over people.

Monday, 22 September 2014

The Human Race: Tackling the Population Taboo

By the time you finish reading this article there will be an extra 1,200 human beings on the planet. If that doesn’t seem too bad, let’s extrapolate. This time tomorrow there will an extra 200,000 people on earth, and this time next year there will be an extra 73 million of us – yes, that’s correct, 73 million extra humans, out there, all over the bloody place: eating, shitting and competing against each other to get ahead in the madness of the human race.

The general consensus is there is no need to worry, because if we just stick to the current plan until we all have university degrees, are all millionaires, and all live to 120 years of age, then the population will magically stabilise and we will all live happily ever after. If you find that a bit hard to swallow and want to talk about population, be prepared to be labelled racist, elitist, ignorant, communist, anti-freedom, inhumane, non-human, emotionless, anti-god, stupid, backward or anti-progress. In short, be prepared to be categorised as a “crackpot”. The topic is taboo. Both religious and secular forces guard with ferocity the sanctity of human procreation. (As a point of observation and not criticism, note that human population is not one of the nine planetary boundaries.)

There are two absolutely inalienable human rights in operation at this moment in human history: one is the right to accumulate as much material wealth as you are able to, and the other is the right to reproduce and create as many new human beings as your mind desires and gonads can deliver. These two unwritten rights, as opposed to the other universally declared rights, are exempt from the condition about not impinging upon the rights of others. So being filthy rich and reproducing as much as humanly, even biotechnologically, possible have been accepted as either having no impact upon the wellbeing of anyone else, or, if they do, then that’s just too bad.

The objections faced by those who do wake up and smell the humans can be categorised as follows:

  • Overpopulation is a myth
  • Carrying Capacity is within our control
  • Growth will solve the problem of growth

and, last but not least:

  • Don’t tell me what to do

Challenging any of the above positions will require thick skin and a tenacious commitment to reality. If you do manage to penetrate the taboo here are some thoughts on those areas of objection.

Overpopulation is a myth – Can’t you fit everyone on Earth into the state of Texas?

“An Essay on the Principle of Population” was first published in 1798 by Thomas Robert Malthus and “The Population Bomb” was published in 1968 by Paul R. Ehrlich and his wife, Anne Ehrlich. Because the predictions made in these works failed to materialise in the precise time frames suggested, they have been boldly held up as ‘proof’ that overpopulation is a myth. For deniers of this ilk we will have to be actually drowning in our own excrement before they will concede that there is a limit to the number of humans that can survive on planet earth. These well-known scholarly works that have applied basic ecology to human beings did stir up a bit of controversy – probably because their basic premise is sound and irrefutable. However, predicting the future, especially putting a time frame on it, has always been a risky business. But just because we can’t see the timer set on a ticking bomb, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a bomb.

If you can manage to debunk the nonsense that just because something hasn’t happened yet it will never happen, don’t get too cocky. The die-hard growth nuts are out there in force, albeit mainly in cyberspace, and they’re not afraid to make accusations of conspiracy theories to defend their position that 9 billion, 10 billion, 11 billion more is nothing to get claustrophobic about. For example, did you know that you could fit the whole of the human population into the state of Texas. That sounds like a whole load of cosy fun. Who knows? George W Bush might be your neighbour! Some people actually believe this stuff though, which you can check out for yourself on sites such as overpopulationisamyth.com1 – and if you’re after some light entertainment, you can trust that Youtube2 will deliver.

Whatever tactics are used by the deniers, the outcome essentially boils down to adopting the “no need to worry” attitude. Ironically, raising the issue of human population has been deemed a nuisance and a distraction when so many other important issues like food security, refugees and human waste management need to be addressed. The mind boggles.

Carrying Capacity is within our control – Just tweak the dials a bit to fit in the next billion

Putting aside the Texas solution, some serious efforts have been made to try and answer the question of just how many people planet earth can reasonably support. It is a simple question without a simple answer. Earth systems are complex, and human beings, believe it or not, are just one variable in the big picture of interdependency.3 What does seem to be gaining some traction in the debate about carrying capacity is the number of planet earths required to sustain the current population: about one and a half (not sure where the other half is supposed to come from); and that if everyone wants to live like a typical middle class North American or Australian (and by and large that seems to be the case), we will need about 4 or 5 planet earths so we can all be obese and own the latest smart phone. 4 Even though deep down we despise ourselves, we pretend that we have mastery over the universe and that carrying capacity can be endlessly increased. An equation developed back in the 1970s can be used to illustrate this delusion of control.

IMPACT = Population x Affluence x Technology

To reduce IMPACT (more fashionably called ecological footprint these days) – and to avoid the need to round up a few extra planet earths and put them in the pantry – we console ourselves that everything will all right because we can simply tweak the affluence and technology dials. *Remember: the POPULATION dial has a big red DO NOT TOUCH sticker on it. The global sustainability movement is looking at both of these, and in a simple sense LEAN and GREEN have become the goals to address affluence and technology.

Disregarding those who preach the dawning of a higher level of human consciousness that will usher in an era of universal infinite abundance and lightTM, many of us adopt the slightly more realistic belief that lean and green practices will save humanity from being flushed away by a rising ocean.  Hard cold maths applied with an understanding of the Law of Entropy shows that even if we all recycle, reuse, conserve, car pool, walk, convert to solar, plant trees, become vegan and share everything with impeccable equality, if we do not stop the growth of our species we will all be shoulder to shoulder (please bring deodorant) watching the planet degrade into a wasteland. Whether it be with a whimper or a bang, it will be game over.

Some technophiles still refute this scenario. The irrational optimism in future technology as the saviour of humankind stands on par with a faith in a supernatural being already having decided and planned our destiny. So in the meantime, until God or machine intervenes, eat, drink, be merry and have as many offspring as your liberal humanist free will demands.

Without wanting to make any absolute claims or cause mass panic, it does appear that our best efforts at calculating a sustainable carrying capacity for earth come in between 600 million and 2 billion. The cognitive and emotional realisation that we may be at least 5 billion human beings over the limit is so uncomfortable that, perhaps understandably, we continue to deny the issue and pin our hopes on some technological wizardry that will save us from ourselves.

Growth will solve the population problem – just like petrol puts out fires

To drown out the likes of David Attenborough, Michael E. Arth, Jonathon Porritt, Sara Parkin, Crispin Tickell, Dick Smith and Bindi Irwin, the voices of government and business chant that economic growth is the one and only pathway to a glorious future. The growth of the economy, as it is currently structured, fundamentally depends on the growth of human population. The argument goes something like this: economic growth will allow us to develop the technology that will put ever increasing amounts of food on the table, clean up the mess as we go, and raise our standards of living and education to the point where we will simply stop making too many babies. If you are now laughing you are excused – insanity can be funny. What is not funny, though, is that a continual fear of scarcity is used to keep growth on everyone’s agenda. In the real world though, an environment degrading rapidly due to over population – by any species – will only be restored to balance by natural systems – through reduction, not growth.

The paranoia, illustrated by when Bindi Irwin was branded a neo-Malthusian5 by the Hilary Clinton machine, and the outrage stirred up by the “psychopath” David Attenborough6 referring to humans as a plague, are evidence that  insanity prevails. And anyone who dares to challenge the religion of growth is persecuted with a fervour once reserved for heresy.

When I was born the human population of the planet was around 3 billion, it is now over 7 billion, and will be around 9 billion by the time I expire. No wonder that as we age and observe our fellow humans we contemplate just how crowded it is going to get. The ubiquitous mantra of growth, however, drowns out the ponderings of us old-timers. The good old uncrowded days are dismissed as sentimental nostalgia. The politically indisputable position is that the horrors of the past such as slavery, racism, tyranny, sexism, disease and so on were only overcome by the growth of the economy that facilitated improved technology, health and education.

Advocates for steady state economies, or steady state anything, are looked at as having a screw loose, and advocates for powering down or degrowth are dismissed as total lunatics. Our deep self-loathing is a primary force that drives us onwards and upwards even when we do comprehend that the end point is a crowded, filthy and desolate planet. The enculturated fear that if we stop progress we will fall back into some abysmal form of our true innate human nature comprehensively negates all challenges to growth. Populate or perish burns strong within our loins even when cool heads see the reality is populate and perish.

Don’t tell me what to do – what are you, a communist?!

So, if the public arena isn’t yet ready to tolerate discussion on human population, what about bringing it up in our private worlds? Convincing someone to use solar energy instead of burning coal is a bit less daunting than raising the question of how many children we should have. Have you encountered any of these arguments?

  • Children should grow up with lots of brothers and sisters; it is good for them, only-children are spoilt and selfish.
  • You can’t tell people how many children they can have – they tried that in communist China; you can’t really want that sort of government control over the people, we here in the West have fought long and hard for our freedom. (*note: The Chinese communist regime originally encouraged population growth; it was their successors in the late ‘70’s who instigated the one-child policy – which only applies to just over a third of the population – to address the consequences. 7)
  • I came from a family of four and that’s how many children I want to have.
  • Contraception is against the will of God; besides, a condom reduces my sense of pleasure.
  • I’ve got six daughters but I haven’t had a son yet to carry on the family name.

When population is on the table for discussion, as rare as that unfortunately may be, the issue, like many other issues, can get bogged down by complexity and erupt with emotion. Immigration, education, religion, contraception, carrying capacity, renewable energy, consumption and welfare are all relevant spaces within which the debate rages. These topics ought to be reflected upon, and discussed in public and in private. However, even if we do develop more benign means of existence, the issue of population will not disappear until we accept that there is a limit to the number of humans that the planet can support in any sustainable and desirable way. Simply put, political objections do not render scientific realities moot. Sufficient global solidarity on this point will only be achieved when moral responsibility for the problem is taken on by individuals. While the topic of human population does remain taboo, then simply encouraging and engaging in dialogue, as complex and as uncomfortable as that may be, at home and in public, is perhaps at present the most effective action that anyone can take.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The Tyranny of Me

The world is moving so fast. Its pace is matched by its exponentially increasing size and complexity. All together it’s not an easy task to make sense of it all. A huge amount of observation, study and contemplation is needed to even get a little bit of understanding happening. I think I’m just beginning to understand the 1970s, and I wonder whether this 40 year lag between events and any substantial form of true awareness – about what the heck is really going on – is normal. If so, this would explain, to some extent, why the people who are protesting the state of the world, and who are wanting positive change, are having such a tough time of it. The current crop of change agents (the awkward but so far best attempt to describe themselves) have strong and honest gut feelings that the world is upside down, but without the luxury of 40 years of hindsight and consequent wisdom they struggle to explain, in any simple and convincing way, that the world is actually broken and that we are madly accelerating to an unimaginable, but certainly unpleasant, future.

Most of us, even with the “something’s not quite right” nausea kicking in, find that it’s much easier  to be pragmatic, to not ask too many questions, and to commit oneself to playing the game of life as hard and as clever as possible. The fear of drowning – in measurably rising waters – feeds our frantic struggles to stay afloat and dulls our curiosity to wonder “why is this so?” The frequent lament that it is the conservative controlled mainstream media that keeps us toiling in the dark, by selective editing and downright lies, is becoming a tired old excuse when deep down we know that the truth – when eloquently and sensitively articulated – will spread faster and permeate deeper than any sensationalised headline, titillating celebrity gossip, or cute internet meme that goes viral for a day or two.  At least that is my opinion. I propose that, as yet, no one or no group has been able to voice, in a universal and profound way, the what, why, who, when, where and how of the current state of human affairs. With the ever-increasing pace required by us all to maintain a foothold, even for basic needs like a roof over one’s head, it can seem unlikely that philosophers and artists of a new breed are waiting in the wings to appear and shake us all fully to our senses.

In 1970 I was nine years of age, that’s about when I consider myself as having some degree of consciousness, or some level of free will, or whatever you want to call it. I had already rejected God and religion as a source of knowledge or meaning, and was diving into “The Golden Book Junior Encyclopedia”. It was an American publication and I – for a while – could name the capital city of every state, and most of the state birds. Forty years later, with a somewhat bigger picture view of the world, I can see that the 70s was a time when humanity was really starting to pick itself up again after two world wars. It has been argued that these devastating events signalled the end of a long history of tyranny of one sort or another.  By tyranny I mean the acutely hierarchical societies which evolved from flawed human beliefs and ideologies built around concepts of religion, or bloodlines, or brute force, or survival of the fittest, or some nasty combination of two or more these crazy or corrupted ideas. The rise and fall and rise of hierarchical civilisations appears to have dominated the world for most, if not all, of recorded history.  One of the most obvious and abhorrent features of any tyranny is that primarily each and every individual’s status, role and destiny, is largely pre-determined at birth. Gender, race, nationality, religion, genes, and family history are some of the attributes one is born into and, these often permanently recorded labels are extremely hard, if not impossible, to change, lose or deny. Most civilisations have tales of heroes who rise above their lowly rank to conquer the oppression of the state, but for the masses these myths typically serve to instil a false sense of natural justice in obviously corrupt and dysfunctional societies.  It was about 500 years ago that some big thinkers started to get some well-ripened public attention and sympathy after the centuries aptly named the “dark ages”. Slowly but surely the enlightenment managed to wake up the Western world to the injustices that became inevitable when we structured society as a rigid pyramid of hierarchy, from an absolute authority on top of everything, all the way down to the very lowest class of human; secular humanism was born. Since then, tumultuous periods of high drama and massive change ensued. An optimistic view of the world today can quite confidently report that, by and large, many of the injustices of the past such as slavery, racism, sexism and poverty, if not totally eliminated, are well on the way to becoming history, once and for all. On closer examination though, it can equally be argued that the rise of secularism, the increasing freedom of the individual, and the equality of both wealth and opportunity for all peoples actually peaked in the 1970s. And the decline of these conditions has been steady ever since.

The 1970s can also be viewed as the decade when our understanding of ourselves, as a species interdependently connected with the finite earth and its other inhabitants, blossomed. In the 1960s the public was exposed to both photographs of earth from space and a series of environmental catastrophes.  The evidence of our place in the universe and our impact on the environment was so compelling and irrefutable that it was taught in public schools.  I myself, with a youthful and innocent trust in the public education system and the popular notion of Australia being pretty damn lucky, eagerly looked forward to the modern life on offer, and consequently dived right in to participate in just about anything and everything on offer. The promise of science and technology to give us unprecedented comforts and increased leisure time in this life, without having to wait for some post-death paradise, was a pretty easy sell. The optimism of the era was reflected in a confidence and belief in ourselves that we had the capacity as intelligent and industrious beings to find new and better ways to eke out a harmonious existence on this, our only planet.

The vision of the future on offer back in my high school days has spectacularly failed to materialise. On two measures alone – the distribution of wealth and the health of the environment – we have collectively failed. Sure, there are good news stories – on the material or money side of things we hear tales of rags to riches, the triumphs of modern medical science and the adventures of ordinary people creating and ticking off bucket lists. On the environmental front, small wins against big corporations, advances in solar technology, and successful breeding programs in zoos, are examples posted occasionally on the telly or in the daily rag. This is mainly a sedative for a public waking up to alarm clocks and commuting to “jobs”. Any serious analysis clearly shows that the exceptions are not the rule. The so-called winners love the world, thank God, and preach that anyone with hard work and determination can achieve their wildest dreams. Excuse me while I just step outside to vomit. The celebrities of the modern world have come up with all sorts of mythologies to justify the human race to succeed at all costs. They aren’t often asked, but when they are they invariably invoke some flawed logic or metaphysics to ignore the widespread atrocities still being committed by the successful upon the earth and its inhabitants. And worse than that, they encourage the rest of us to follow in their footsteps.

What has gone wrong? With the eradication of the old-style tyrannies, has a more subtle but equally devastating hierarchical tyranny risen up to coerce us all into a diabolical trajectory toward self-extinction? (If you think I am being a bit dramatic here, pull out your Year 11 Biology prac book and look over the bacteria population experiment in a petri dish of nutrient agar). Has all serious collective dialogue about the human condition died, just as God died with Nietzsche? Has this vacuum left only the possibility of an individualistic free for all? Have the historical failures of large collective efforts permanently replaced the notion of “we” with “me”? Have we taken the notion of liberty, enshrined in the classic enlightenment documents, too far? Has the power and experience of working together for the common good devolved into a world of over seven billion emperors and empires of the self? The distrust and disdain for our most basic collective power base – democratically elected governments – as demonstrated by the popular and brag-worthy pastime of beating the taxman, is symptomatic of a world of individuals out there acting purely for themselves. How ironic that a species that evolved successfully largely due to social cooperation has culturally evolved into a society of “every man for himself”, or “dog eat dog” if you prefer, that is destined to annihilate itself. The modern affliction of ignorance of our own humanness is not the basis upon which some vision of a successful life ought to be built.

If my personal 40-year lag in getting some sort of handle on what the world is really like is the norm, then maybe our species with its current breakneck rate of acceleration is doomed. Humans are adaptable and we will no doubt cling to survival for as long as possible. Psychologically, we are good at washing our brains so that we don’t go stark raving mad at the horror of it all. Drugs, religion, sex, celebrity, fashion, technology, and the relentless pursuit of money, are some of the major distractions that keep us half asleep at the wheel while stomping down firmly on the gas. The latest panacea being touted as the most likely salvation for naughty humanity is for the internet (along with burgeoning catalogue of sleek and shiny devices) to hook us all up to some utopian world of social media. Is the World-Wide Web really liberating us from mindless participation in a global economy that benefits the very few and is fuelled by the destruction of the earth’s life support systems? Or will it be 40 years before we can really understand how the advent of the internet did not, as predicted, save the world, but was just another distraction that further divided us, rather than uniting us as a force to conquer the latest tyranny – the tyranny that we haven’t even got a name for yet?

PS: I am working a bit more conscientiously on understanding the 80s and 90s in an attempt to reduce my 40-year hindsight time lag. Join me if you so desire!

Sunday, 3 August 2014

The Human Race - An Open Letter to the Inhabitants of 2084

Dear future generations: Please accept our apologies. We were rolling drunk on petroleum.
-          Kurt Vonnegut

Seventy years down the track I imagine you might be pretty pissed off with us. Especially since historical records will show that we were well aware that the party we were having on fossils fuels was destroying the planet upon which you are now trying to have a good life. The question “what were they thinking?” must be on your mind, just as it is on our minds as we look back at many of the actions of our ancestors. Here and now  in 2014 we are confused and anxious about the sorry state that we have found ourselves in, and which we are passing on to you.  Why do we, with all the accumulated knowledge and experience of human history, continue to proceed with increasing pace and effort toward certain collapse? Perhaps Mr Vonnegut’s retort about being drunk is the best answer we have for you.
A relatively small number of humans, those who have taken on Socrates’ advice to contemplate life, have realised that collapse is inevitable, that it is now, in 2014, highly likely that it is too late to stop. On a planet of seven billion-plus humans, though, the few that refuse to ignore the looming precipice are just a drop in the acidifying ocean. The many, many, many others are out there in the world competing, faster and harder than ever, against themselves and everyone else for the largest slice possible of an illusionary pie. The minority calling out “STOP!” are at times ridiculed, attacked and ostracised, but mostly, and worst of all, they are just ignored. They are ignored not only by the powerful and wealthy, but also by good and humble people who for no fault of their own have found themselves in debt to a landlord or a bank.  They prioritise making the next payment needed to keep a roof over their heads, and who can blame them for that.
All of us, no matter who we, are have been enculturated by the world we live in. In a large and complex global civilisation individuals have become specialists, sometimes to the point that we can’t actually explain to others what we do, or why we do it. Our scope of activity, thought and even language is so specific that big picture stuff like the interdependence of everything or the limits to growth on a finite planet are simply off the mind’s agenda. The analogy that we have each become a small cog in a giant machine that marches forever forward is well known and accepted by many as “that’s just the way it is”.  This position has become so entrenched that the very idea, the crazy notion that humans are capable of large scale collective efforts to utilise technology and energy sources for their own existence, is currently up for debate.  Many who foresee and speak out about inevitable collapse propose that civilisation is impossible. So to you there in the future I am telling you, even though I have confessed to our large scale ignorance, what we are beginning to think is that if you too, after we have failed, embark upon anything resembling civilisation, you will be destined for yet another rise and fall. That proposition is an unsettling thought. Isn’t the whole reason we wake up in the morning and participate in life with each other, because we innately want to be civilised? Is there any credibility to the argument that the highest level of complexity for human living arrangements is agrarian anarchy? Are cities even possible? The argument itself is a distraction. Those who view civilisation as an abomination never to be repeated are guilty of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  The boom and bust history of civilisation is difficult to ignore, but does that mean being a hunter-gatherer, or perhaps a Luddite, are the only possibilities? On the other side of the fence, the advocates of perpetual economic growth and technical advancement are similarly guilty of throwing out the baby. They will deny that the simpler, smaller scale, closer to nature societies that existed in the past have any benefits over the industrialised urban set-up we currently find ourselves in.  This, unfortunately, is the popular belief – that every human society of the past, and the contemporary societies that resemble them, are primitive, backward and to be avoided at all costs.
The polarity of opinion about big, fast and high tech versus small, slow and low tech is evidence of how confused we actually are with regard to how we can live sustainably on this planet. Deriving our values from our culture-specific beliefs and social context renders us cultural relativists, and we are unable to agree upon our parameters. The acceptance of a position that you can have no position is effectively chopping off any and every leg we ever stood upon. Sure it chopped off the heads of some tyrants as well, but has relativism undermined our ability to gain at least some foothold on reality? It appears so, and by and large we live in a world where there is no truth, no right or no wrong and therefore no collective unified direction that is so desperately needed for the sustainability of life as we know it. Consequently, cultural relativism gives permission for the world to just keep on ploughing ahead regardless, because nobody can legitimately judge any actions as absolutely right or wrong, whether they be harmful or not.
All the accumulated knowledge and wisdom gained by our species – and even a small application of common sense – is screaming at us to stop what we are doing. Regardless, the rags to riches narrative prevails. It has become both the motivator and sedative that keeps ordinary people slaving away as the ship is sinking. The lure of fortune and fame is so loudly and widely broadcast that voices of reason are barely audible. The so-called success stories of the human race, the ones that have outcompeted the mob, as devious and as aggressive they may be, have centre stage and do not tolerate dissent or scrutiny. They have seized their oversized slice of pie and will protect it to the bitter end. They know that the best strategy for maintaining their position up high on the heap is to keep perpetuating the lie that the world is your oyster and that anyone and everyone can achieve wealth and status beyond their wildest dreams – they just have to want it bad enough and keep  their noses to the grindstone. It reminds me of a scene in the children’s fantasy Peter Pan, the boy who can fly and who never grows up, where the fairy Tinkerbell is wished back into existence by a chorus of children chanting repeatedly “I do believe in fairies, I do believe in fairies”. This genre of narrative – call it rags to riches, call it fantasy, or entertainment, even call it propaganda – has been so well enculturated into the modern psyche that even as we begin the plunge over the cliff we still can’t seem to accept that the whole thing is a big lie. The ones who do dare to call it what it is are the only true humanitarians because they know, and commit to, the reality that the wellbeing of each and every individual depends upon the wellbeing of all of life. A world of winners and losers can only be a world where everything will be lost.
The increasing awareness of the power of story is accredited to people like Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, George Lucas, Steve Jobs, Joseph Goebbels, BeyoncĂ©, and Mum and Dad.  The current analysis of, and dialogue about, the human story has been taking place in the ivory towers of academia, in chambers of governments, in  boardrooms of corporations, at global environmental summits, in media newsrooms, in lounge rooms awash with reality TV, and  in churches and temples. In terms of stopping the exponential rush to oblivion, all this human-induced hot air has, to date, been ineffectual. The inability to stop or even slow the trajectory to collapse is proof that the current debate, nicely contained within the parameters of our predominant stories, is pointless.  Something is fundamentally wrong.
I ascertain that what is wrong is that the character Homo sapiens, be it hero or villain, has been cast as a flawed, imperfect, sinful, greedy, corruptible, violent, competitive, and deceitful animal. The inevitable demise of our civilisation and the extinction of our species is written not in our genes but in the portrayal of who we are in the narratives that we create. The power of the word has so entrenched this belief in our consciousness that we see ourselves as a project that must be continually worked upon to lift ourselves up from some despicable, frightening and unacceptable condition that we are born into. How else can we justify the atrocities we perpetrate upon ourselves our fellow humans and every other feature of the planet we are stuck on? The myths, the stories, the narratives, the heroes’ journeys, the spiritual revelations, the moral codes and practices, the political ideologies and governmental policies that contain any trace of the germ of innate human deficiency will infect individuals and civilisations with self-loathing and dysfunctionality. A sentient species that believes it is flawed will, in effect, cause its own extinction.
Putting the stories and the Hobbesian philosophies aside, we actually do find that we are social beings that survive and flourish because of cooperation not competition, kindness not violence, generosity not greed. We have evolved on this planet into exactly who we are, and our present day existence is all the evidence we need that, biologically, we are built just fine as we are. It is the story, not us, that is flawed. The continual race to get ahead is the direct consequence of a lie about our true nature that somewhere, somehow, crept into our neural software and, through culture, has replicated itself to become the dominant belief that underpins all the destructive thoughts, feelings and actions that threaten our very existence. We know we are heading along this trajectory, and the map, story, software code, narrative, dogma or whatever you want call it, is false and must be eliminated.  Some of us back here in 2014 are trying to unschool our brains that have been saturated by the dominant stories built on the belief that humans are flawed. We are doing it first and foremost for ourselves. At first we see the insanity of fighting for that meagre slice of pie, and then we try to stop punishing ourselves for participating in the whole sorry affair.  We are trying hard to see and accept ourselves as legitimate and as beautiful as everything else on this planet.
The sunrise and the tree,
The mountain and me,
Each as it is, as it can be no other way.
-          Thomas Blackmore
When we start telling ourselves that we are not some broken, degenerate piece of organic matter that needs to be whipped into shape, then, and only then, we will truly be able to exist in a sustainable and peaceful manner upon the planet.  While ever we ignore the ineluctability of our appearance on this planet we will not only be selling ourselves short, but will only be able to write the stories of our inevitable demise and disappearance.
Getting drunk and wrecking the joint, whether on fossil fuels or ethanol, is the certain outcome when humans have such a low opinion of themselves. If in 2084 you are starting again after this latest collapse of civilisation, can I suggest that as you begin to write a new narrative for humanity can you cast human beings as gregarious, generous, empathetic lovers of nature?  Because that is what we truly are.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

RAGE against the incessant news cycle

A bit miffed that Rage was bumped off the ABC airways on Saturday morning because they decided to run a news program instead, can only assume because of the downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine - isn’t that what ABC NEWS 24 is for!! The absolute horror of this event is indisputable but do we have to have it rammed down our throats by each and every media outlet. And I know that this may seem a bit callous but hasn’t this all happened before? Many times? On September 1, 1983, KAL007 was shot down by a Soviet fighter plane, killing all 269 passengers and crew. On July 3, 1988, an American cruiser, the USS Vincennes, mistook Iran Air Flight 655 for an F-14, and launched two missiles, downing the plane and killing all 290 passengers and crew. These are just two examples of militia downing passenger aircraft. Russia, the US, China, Israel and even NATO have done it. So it really should not come as such as a surprise – when you create such diabolical weapons, for whatever purpose, someone’s gonna get hurt.  If you think this is worse because this time it involved Australian citizens, think again. 

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Mal Brough has got a real hide.

My local federal member, Mal Brough (LNP) has just emailed me wanting me to donate money and recruit others to donate money for an individual on the Sunshine Coast who has some serious health issues.

Below is the email:

Dear Sean,
You won’t be expecting an email on this matter from me, but I feel that that it is so important that it warrants this contact and I hope you won’t be offended.  If you have any concerns please do not hesitate to contact my office on 07 54 444 888.  You may have seen this story on the Chanel 9 News tonight and in local media.
James is a 6 year. old Sunshine Coast boy who urgently needs surgery and treatment for a rare brain tumour.
We need to raise $40,000.00 by 5:00 pm tomorrow plus another $40,000.00 by close of business Monday and another $20,000 by the end of next week.
James’ Tree of Life has been planted and we need you to take 4 simple steps to keep James’ tree growing:
Step 1. Donate your $5  or more right now!!! Click here to donate now!!
Step 2. Now personally ask 2 friends to also donate $5 (or more)
Step 3. Have your 2 friends confirm their donation and have them contact 2 of their friends to continue the growth of James Tree of Life within 24 hours.
Step 4. Share this email, post on your facebook page and tweet it,  #jamestreeoflife & #lovejames .
Give this beautiful little boy the best chance at life, DONATE NOW! 
Donations are tax deductible (over $2)
The Hon.  Mal Brough MP
Federal Member for Fisher

This is my response:

Dear Mal,
I was not aware that your position involved raising money for individuals with health issues. Could you please spend your time working for the general public and not distracting the electorate by opportunistically exploiting the suffering of a six year old child.
Yours sincerely,
Sean Crawley

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

A Bold Comment Declaring Education’s Failure (excluding my alphabetical sensibility)

In attempts to get some sort of handle on the world’s current problems, a neat label, the three Es, standing for Energy, Economy and Environment, has sprung up. These three systems are massive, complex and interconnected, but so are Facebook, Fashion and Fame – let’s call them the three Fs. So when someone claims that the problems of the world are too big and complex to think about, I say bullshit.

What I believe has happened is that our culture, primarily perpetuated by the 13 or so years of Compulsory, Competitive and Commodified schooling  (the three Cs), has effectively stopped us from questioning and thinking about anything of real importance - and don’t try to tell me that celebrities, or tourist destinations, or professional sports are important.

Now we do get all puffed up, even politically, about Education, but all that hot air boils down to throwing money at ways to increase the measurable performance scores of the next generation. Any decent parent will inform you of the financial sacrifices they are prepared to make, and that are necessary, for their kids to get ahead in the real world.  They know that the bits of paper handed out on completion are the tickets to a prosperous and happy life that they are happy to pay for  - and even happy  for the government to tax us for so they can chip in as well. These same parents, when their 17 or 18 year olds, who didn’t get into medicine or law, run berserk at "schoolies”, don’t ask “what are we actually doing to our children?” but instead judge the youth of today as lazy, spoilt, disrespectful and ungrateful.  So the oft touted remedy that kids these days should get away from their computers, and off their iphones, and get outside, and climb a tree, is an insult considering we lock them up in classrooms, demand they master the latest technology, and when we do allow them outside, say on an excursion to the beach, we tell them they can’t take their shoes off because of Health and Safety Policy!

The predicament that the human species finds itself in needs serious and critical contemplation, not by the privileged few with time on their hands, but by the masses -  who despite years of schooling and further education find themselves on the 24/7 treadmill of consumption and debt slavery.  Unfortunately schools, and now even the universities as well, have become institutions that, with impunity, effectively crush the innate human capacity to question and learn.


A Poem for the modern world from C to F

Compulsory, competitive, commodified  culture, crushing curiosity and creativity.
Damning all denizens to a destiny of debt, dullness, denial and doom.
Exponential exploitation of energy, environment and economy to the edge of extinction.
Fumbling in a farcical fog of facebook, fashion and fame, in fear of food, famine and failure.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Birth, School, Work, Death

The following article was published in Issue 2 of SHIFT MAGAZINE

 “There is no greater modern illusion, even fraud, than the use of the single term “work” to cover what for some is … dreary, painful, socially demeaning and what for others is enjoyable, socially reputable and economically rewarding”
JK Galbraith
In good faith, many of us accept the conventional wisdoms of our times and get on with life according to the scripts already written for us by society. Parents, schools and workplaces enculturate us to believe that being a member of a modern progressive liberal society is a blessing that we should grateful for. Respect for the traditions of family, education and work is expected and if one does adhere to the rules a rewarding and comfortable life is the widely advertised outcome. Governments and business promote a strong narrative that the current versions of democracy and capitalism are the essential (and only viable) foundations that guarantee the peace, freedom, equal opportunity and material standards that humankind deserves. The implication is that, without the business as usual model, where governments – under the guise of protecting an individual’s basic human rights – allow the unfettered and unlimited accumulation of private wealth to continue unabated, we would all likely descend into some sort of pre-Renaissance and Enlightenment chaos.
Consequently citizens of the modern world, with tacit consent, have no option but to get on the economic treadmill and follow the simple script of birth, school, work and death. The dream, promised by the western world’s doctrine of progress, which promises abundance for all, and increased leisure time (yes you can stop laughing now), is vanishing in front of our closed eyes. The party is over and all that’s left is a nasty hangover and a lot of rubbish to deal with. The privileged few who got in early, and who have benefited from the obscene flow of wealth their way, may still be enjoying the twilight hours of materialism, but even they are waking up at night with fear in their own stomachs as the discontent amongst the financially indebted working class who have realised that their mindless participation on the employment/consumption treadmill is what is really driving the aging and tired economic beast.
An increasing number of parents are starting to “educate” their unborn children in an attempt to give them the very best start in life. The frequent and disturbing vision of three year old violin virtuosos and other pre-schoolers  that have been trained by hyped-up parents to perform feats of intelligence and skill is bad enough; now it seems that the peace and solitude of our very first moments of life are being interrupted, in utero, by ambitious parents determined to give their children a better life than the rest of the teeming mass of humanity that they are being born into.
It’s likely too that these very same parents have already decided upon, and wrangled their way onto the waiting lists of, the very best schooling options for their progeny. This can, and is, argued by many as a pragmatic strategy, as the truth that their child will need every last qualification on offer to secure a decent paying career is hard to refute. In a world where literally everything has a price tag is this not the best way to play the game?
Gestation has now, along with the other stages of childhood and adolescence, been hijacked as valuable time for moulding the next generation. The days of a cosy, warm and quiet womb to develop some of your finishing touches as a human being are well and truly over. We are observing and measuring their every parameter and behaviour so we can design programs of development under the pretence that without exploiting every last opportunity for our unborn children they will be disadvantaged in the human race to get ahead of the pack. To leave them be and just be embryos is deemed as unacceptable, even irresponsible, now that leaving children alone to be just children is  a long-forgotten figment of the past.  The whole practice of preparing the next generation to be smarter, faster and harder than their ancestors so they can enter the workforce to pay for an existence in a world where everything has a market value is a crime for which humanity is yet to be judged.
Check out if you want to learn more or, should I say, if you want your unborn baby to learn more. As one of the so-called experts, Brent Logan, says:
 “Every Child Deserves Giftedness, Every expectant parent owes their offspring at least consideration of a choice that simply as well as safely furnishes those means by which the individual, family, and entire human community will benefit beyond measure.“
When I accepted a voluntary redundancy as a science teacher from the only senior high school in the region many of my peers thought I was mad.  After 13 years of compulsory schooling, three years at teachers’ college and 15 years as a high school teacher, I admit I was ready to leave school. However, the main reason was that the vast majority of students, especially those in my favourite subject, Physics, had absolutely no interest in learning or understanding the world, and were only concerned with getting the highest mark possible so that they could gain entrance into a university course that would lead to the highest paying job. The list of most desired careers for senior high school students correlates very neatly with the list of highest paying careers. Future income was the main, perhaps only, motivation for attending school at all. My experience was that the education system, by Years 11 and 12 – if not earlier – had effectively extinguished any semblance of innate curiosity or love of learning in the youth that we are hoodwinking to do their best and study hard.
What I was unable to understand then, and now, twenty years later, is why institutionalising our children from five to eighteen into a compulsory and competitive education system, primarily designed as preparation for participation in the workforce, is largely unquestioned. The public debate about education, which involves parents, teachers, employers and politicians (note the absence of children here) chiefly centres around raising academic performance for the purpose of boosting the productivity and economy of the nation. History will judge harshly the intention and methods of this era of compulsory training of children for the workforce.
Nowadays, after a succession of different jobs, my paid employment has decreased in hours and pay rate. My aim since leaving teaching was to find work that, at the very least, did not induce nausea from about 2pm on a Sunday afternoon. Some people, including some very close to me at the time, tried to enlighten me that people did not enjoy work but simply did it as a means to gain sufficient money to enjoy the time that they were not at work. When I refused to swallow this upside-down maxim I was branded a dreamer and told to “get real”. What ended up being “real” was that, as I did find meaningful employment that consequently paid less money, the happier I became. The script dictated that as a member of the society I was required to work full time, until 65 years of age, and up until then I ought to be grateful for weekends and holidays to compensate for five full days of drudgery. I was not blind and knew of many people who loved waking up each day because of the work they did. If that was unrealistic, and was an illusion for dreamers, then I wanted to reside 100% in dreamland. The realistic option was way too depressing and reeked of submission, submission to cultural norms that I had always been suspicious of.
The ubiquitous mantra of economic growth and job creation is understandable when one considers the financial processes that rule every aspect of our lives. In simple terms, if everything is a commodity with a price tag, then everyone must work to earn money to buy goods and services to survive and join in the world as it exists. Everyone must pay their way. Today for the first time humans must face the reality that our population has reached a point where there are no commons left for people to be free, and there are no new lands to start afresh. When every cubic metre of the planet is owned or controlled by someone or something there is no option for newcomers but to enter into the fray and compete with everyone else for an ever-decreasing share of space and time to lead some form of, at best, satisfactory life. Equal opportunity in a capitalist market place, made free under the rule of democracy, is becoming harder and harder for the corporatized mass media to sell to the mass of people chained to the treadmill of unhealthy workplaces and meaningless activity. But the general apathy, chiefly caused by a lack of time to even contemplate the fear and ignorance that bind us, plays into the hands of the wealthy elite. The dream is over, unlimited wealth for all was never viable in the first place, and what is needed now is a stock-take of the remaining resources, and some just and rational decisions about distribution, conservation and future sustainability. The race for individuals to get ahead is only intensifying, and dividing humanity further and further.
Relentless and increasing pressure in the workplace to lift productivity and profits is taking its toll on many. The belief that your income or salary is a measure of how hard or smart you are working only adds insult to injury to the masses who are finding that the working life is actually detrimental, and not beneficial to the quality of life.
Because we are all living longer does that mean we have to retire later? Does that also mean we have to populate the world with a fresh new generation of highly skilled young and fit specimens to get on that treadmill to grow the economy even further to pay for us oldies? Is in utero training for the next generation starting to appeal more and more to the prospects for my retirement?
The treasurer of Australia recently announced that the age of entitlement is over. The ideal that as we age we will be looked after is also vanishing before our eyes. Those of us who entered the workforce believing that our hard work would pay off in the end must surely be justifiably pissed off. The cost of our health care is now deemed to be too much of a burden for the public purse. How this sentiment can be even uttered in a world where bucket loads of money seems to defy gravity and every other law of nature to float effortlessly upwards to those heavenly members on the rich lists gnaws ferociously at every bone of common sense in my earthly body. The growing number of ordinary people who went to work for 50 years or so cannot expect to be looked after anymore. If you are not a self-funded retiree, you are simply classed as a burden on society. To top this off, in middle age many of us feel guilty that we are not able to care for our own ageing parents. The irony is that many of us are working – or seeking work – in the growing industry of aged care because we are prepared to care for the aging, but we still have mortgages or rent to pay. We cannot afford to do it out of love or duty to our own aging parents; we can only do it for money. Logistically, as well, the diaspora created by outrageous property price growth means that many of us live further out on the expanding fringe of suburbia, hours away from where our parents still cling to their over-valued homes. In many cases mum and dad have actually had to reverse mortgage the family home to purchase adequate aged care from strangers in profit-making retirement villages.

The dream of modern democratic capitalistic society is suffocating in the limited finite world in which it was dreamed up. A free-for-all competition of everyone against everyone was never going to be a suitable model for human existence on this planet. The unlimited growth required for such an ideology is hitting the wall north, south, east and west. The mad scramble for what is left is getting uglier by the minute. The treadmill we are all on is spinning faster and faster and the axles holding it all in place are wearing mighty thin. Those who profess that collapse is inevitable, and who are building the lifeboats, have given up on any trust in human nature to wake up and do something to avert disaster. I salute you for a virtuous display of human foresight and planning. I personally am hedging some of my remaining energy and time on a new revival of human consciousness and collective action to change course, even if it that needs to be a 180 degree about-turn, for a while at least. My personal actions at stepping off, to some degree, the treadmill of Birth-School-Work-and-Death has been something that others have had a geek at. When I smile and laugh and write and question, and when just one person with their head down, racing against the clock and seven billion others, slows down just a bit to have that geek at me, and in puzzlement wonders why the hell  does that guy look so happy, that’s when I know it’s been a good day.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Democracy - you get who the majority vote for

Last Federal election I volunteered for a few hours and handed out how to vote flyers for the The Greens in my electorate, Fisher on the Sunshine Coast in Qld. It was to no avail and Mal Brough for the LNP won the seat. Anyone who did even the most preliminary research on this man would never have voted for him. I recently wrote to Mal to ask if he believed that the planned massive coal operations in the Galilee Basin would damage the environment. He disagreed with me and stated that mining this coal and selling it to India would actually be good for the environment. (see: )

Regardless of my dissatisfaction with the election outcome, the overwhelming feel that I got from the voters on that fateful day last September, was that they were pissed off that they had to take time out from their precious Saturday to vote. The general attitude of apathy was appalling. The consequences of the Australian public’s apathy, have become crystal clear just eight months after the LNP were voted in. The cries of “I didn’t vote for Abbott” are too late. The attitude that it doesn’t matter who is in government, because their all as bad as each other, has been blown out of the water. Sure it could be argued that Labour lost the election, but does that mean that to mindlessly vote in the other team is the right thing to do?

The current focus on Tony Abbott breaking election promises is a thinly veiled attempt to cover up the disappointing apathy and ignorance that the general public displayed by voting in a right winged conservative political party. The disdain and contempt that they are showing for ordinary people at present is hardly surprising.

Did anyone seriously believe that the LNP were ever going to look after the interests of the common people? 

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Bonfire of the Vanities

With Jet fighters, retirement age and Medicare co-payments jumping from $6 to $15 overnight, the dismantling of the 18-month old Australian Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission (ACNC) seems likely to slip under the ever increasingly inefficient media radar. This was originally lumped into the "red-tape bonfire" but was postponed thanks to some sanity remaining in the senate. Submissions to a Federal Senate Commission will be closed today. For more background see:

I had a go and this is my submission:

Submission to Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (Repeal) (No. 1) Bill 2014.
I strongly urge the Federal Government not to abolish the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.
·         This legislation, and Commission, have only been in existence for a very short time period and, therefore, it is totally unreasonable that the legislation should be ‘lumped in’ with outdated and irrelevant legislation in the so called “red tape bon fire”.
·         The reasons for the establishment of this Commission are sound and supported by the majority of registered charities and not for profit organisations.
·          I have worked in both paid and voluntary positions for not for profit organisations that have charity status and have first-hand experience of the invaluable work that they do. Much of this work has been handed over to the not for profit sector for various reasons, though usually economic, by the governments of the day. An independent regulator for this huge sector of Australian endeavour is vital for both the accountability and protection of this sector.
·         Not for profit organisations with charitable status deliver cost effective and essential services that are fundamentally within the charter of the government’s responsibility to both its citizens and our environment. Considering the current government’s obsession with the state of the economy, and considering the massive contribution and savings to the public purse, directly attributable to this sector, it would be absurd to proceed with any actions that could potentially damage it.

Sean Crawley

Disappointment with "The Monthly" - Mag turns to Rag

Have you ever read the magazine "The Monthly"?  I have, I really like it and subscribed for six months. When the subscription ran out they sent me a complimentary copy in April. It was a nice gesture - sure they enclosed an insert to encourage me to "get reacquainted, resubscribe today and save 36%" - fair enough. I considered doing just that. However, when I opened the issue for a cursory perusal, I found on page 5 a full page add for the ANZ Bank and page 7 a full page add for Chevron (coal seam gas junkies). Frankly I was astounded and disappointed and left my credit card in its wallet.

I felt obliged to write to them:


To whom it may concern

Recently you sent me a complimentary issue (April 2014) of The Monthly after my subscription had expired. As I do regard your publication as excellent in many regards I was thinking of renewing the subscription. However, after opening the magazine and finding full page advertisements for the ANZ Bank and for Chevron (Natural Gas) I immediately decided not to subscribe.
I am totally bemused by the fact that a publication that, refreshingly, offers, in quality of journalism and diversity of content, an alternative to mainstream publications that are largely constrained and biased by their reliance on large corporations, would accept advertising from such companies. To accept money from a major private bank, that profits immensely from both outrageous fees and the debt slavery imposed on most Australians to put a roof over their heads, is disappointing at the very least. To accept money from a multinational corporation that will basically steal our natural resources and, in the process destroy the planet's environment, is simply unbelievable for any ethical business.

Yours sincerely
Sean Crawley.

I have not received a response, but yesterday did receive, the May issue of the magazine - again complimentary. A quick scan through the magazine revealed that on pages 5 and 7 the full page ads are this month for the Sydney Film festival and an SBS DVD release. This was quite encouraging and maybe I had actually struck a chord and influenced their choice of advertisers. My delusions of self importance were revealed to be just that. As I flicked through.  I found on page 31, a full page advertisement taken out by Lockheed Martin. The ad is shamelessly promoting their F-35 fighter Jet - "FOR SECURITY. FOR JOBS. FOR AUSTRALIA". 

Not sure if I will write to the subscription department again, but am certain the debit card is staying in the wallet regardless.