Through retracing response Narration Primarily Recitation Alone
Philosophers Lived Somehow For Odds Naive
What we Question Nevertheless Return Moved
Frustration Recalling Boarders European Roamaticised First Hand
I have been reading seriously. To lighten my distracted mind I have attempted to create something neoteric in the manner as AI programs might. Let me explain – from Dr Nick’s thesis I chose one random word from each of the next 28 pages starting at page 16. My questions are: Does speed reading help us distil meaning? Or, Does choosing random words enable us to provide novel ideas?
Dr Nick is our son. Like his siblings he makes us proud by overachieving. (Not sure where the overachieving gene comes from – pleased our children have it.) Just the same I hope he forgives this trivialisation of his study.
Yesterday the Chairman of AMP David Murray stood down at the request of major shareholders. David Murray was the former Managing Director of the Commonwealth Bank. On his retirement from the bank he became a respected go to leader. His reputation was unimpeded so what went wrong?
In simple terms he failed to understand a company has to have a greater ambition than to make money for its shareholders. Shareholders make it clear they want their directors to make money for them. This is something he concentrated his efforts upon so what went wrong? David Murray lost sight of the fact that a business also has a social responsibility. It also has an environmental responsibility all of equal weight to profit.
It is a pity for David Murray he did not pay more attention to the work of John Ellington’ theory of the Triple bottom line: People, Planet and Profit. It has been taught for years in business schools. The shareholders should not have been surprised David Murray decided governance for profit was his aim as he was a known skeptic of Global Warming and Social responsibility.
This is not to play the man. I do not set out to demonise him. He is simply a man of his time. He is out of time. A director must keep up. A nation must keep up. Our nation is demonstrating an inability to keep up. It has announced plans of change to the funding of university courses. If a student chooses to study STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics ) the courses will be cheaper. If the student chooses to study the humanities, (philosophy, literature, history, politics, economics, sociology) the course will be more expensive. Worse, if the student fails to pass the first year of study they will lose federal funding.
Many successful people are able to point to failure in tertiary study being the catalyst for them to choose a more appropriate area of study. From their “failure” they became better – more dedicated students. It should surprise no one ones youth is not a good indicator of how a person might grow through life. Sometimes failure is the wake up call an individual needs to reassess their goals. Cutting funding creates an unwanted economic barrier. It is short sighted.
It is short sighted to direct students into STEM subjects because universities are not training establishments whose job it is to train work ready people. Their job is to educate people in the higher skills of learning, synthesis, critical thinking, and evaluation. These are all things I have written about previously however they do need to be reinforced because when it comes to evaluation of education and company performance the bottom line is multidimensional.
To return to a hobbyhorse of mine it is important companies look to their social responsibility. I have a total dislike of the lack of social responsibility big tech show.
Here are some examples.
If you want to know something, anything, the common thing to do today is to Google an answer. The smallest state in the world is something Google knows. The last match played between football teams – when these two teams last met the scores were identical – Google throws up the answers in a fraction of a second. We have come to learn Google will tell you the answer. The last time Google paid tax in your country is the only one that stumps it.
One thing it can tell you with ease is , Jeff Bezos’s wealth increased by $637 billion in the first six months of the Covid 19 pandemic. That is because he is the largest shareholder of Amazon. Amazon in the wink of an eye is the largest distributor of products in the world. It’s largest competitions Alibaba – ebay and Tencent are not minnows either. Because normal shopping is disturbed people are spending more time online and these businesses are now the preferred locations search for goods they want.
In their company we find Apple, Facebook. These companies may pay a modicum of tax but here in Australia we have a Who’s Who of companies each with turnover in excess of AU$1b that pay No Tax. A company of the size of these companies avoiding tax is not living up to its social responsibility. They argue they remain within the law in country out of country across the globe, in each they escape the taxman’s grasp. Many of these companies have greater wealth than sovereign nations. The same nations unable to tax them are powerless. The only thing that can stop them is shareholder pressure. It should not be feint hope shareholders revolt at their inaction to accept they operate with a social responsibility to their countrymen. The time has come for shareholders to redirect their boards to the principles of the triple bottom line. To pay tax where the money is earned. To think globally and reject profits earned from environment damage.
If it helps you identify culprits here is a partial list from which to start: Chevron, Exon Mobil, Energy Australia, Santos, Amcor, Peabody, spotless group, Ford, Nissan, Healthscope, Foxtel,
Oh the list runs on And on.
If David Murray upset some shareholders because the firm promoted a man proven to be a sexual abuser, where are the upright shareholders of the miscreant companies? If the shareholders are so addicted to dividends they refuse to look how their money is earned then it is time to double tax them if the company uses loopholes to avoid tax.
The superb blue fairy wren is a busy bird. It flits from shrub, to twig, before it lands on the ground, hops to an insect, swallows it, and darts to the arm of a chair of the outdoor setting. It grabs a crumb and zips across the courtyard. The dull brown lads and lasses hop about on the soil banqueting on gnats unaware the boss is busy protecting the flock. Their blue leader -with an eye on the sky for kookaburras, currawongs , and butcher birds ready for an azure tidbit – is prepared to whistle – Danger!
Spoiler alert, this note is about maths! Do not be afraid.
Our grandchildren were never troubled by the absurdity of the catch phrase Buzz Lightyear, the star character used in the film Toy Story when he called out,
To infinity and beyond.
My knowledge of maths is no better than their infant understanding of Buzz Lightyear’s absurdity.
I write at the intersection of several anniversaries. It is 75 years since the end of the War in the Pacific. Concurrently science is fighting Covid 19, and the university of New South Wales (UNSW) has announced the world’s first undergraduate course in Quantum Physics Engineering.
The dark days of WW11 drove some soldiers to delve into their memory and work out ways they could communicate their miserable conditions in War Prisons to the outside world. In many places they went back to building crystal radios. On these forbidden implements they listened in to world news and when it was safe to do so they communicated their state to the world.
When I grew up boys, myself included, would build our own sets. I never had the patience to make a hobby out of this like some of my classmates. The making of these crude radios like our fathers, or uncles had made was a simple way of boys understanding parts of the real war.
Normally when medical scientists make a drug it takes up to ten years of trial by experiment until it is released. When it is – the drug spreads about the body in a chaotic manner. Today scientists are using nano technology to examine if they can be more specific with the administration of drugs. This is especially true of drugs for cancer. (There is no value is killing a cancer if it kills the whole organ). With nanotechnology they think they can kill cancerous cells specifically thus leaving other organ cells untouched.
I assume a vaccine works differently to a drug for cancer yet the speed of the first 179 groups progress searching for a solution for the pandemic has been amazing. (The world is living in hope success is not far away).
Normally an announcement of the kind the UNSW made would not register with me. This time it has because it promises jobs. I make no pretence of understanding Quantum Physics but in this lockdown world of mine the thought some young people have the to opportunity to study and gain work when otherwise we are on the edge of a long lasting depression it is good news.
My Television set is a seven year old LCD smart set. Someone purchasing a set today can buy a Qled system that produces a better picture than the one I have happily been using. The Q in Qled stands for quantum. There – that is practically all I know of the subject.
Fortunately learning is built on the learning of others. When I learned to build a crystal set and copy the skills of war prisoners I could not imagine nano technologies and quantum physics. The scientists who built the first lasers could never imagine their invention could be developed to read my Visa card. They had no understanding of how their invention might be used. When the UNSW offers a course in quantum physics it doesn’t understand how many of the undergraduates qualified to repair Qled TVs will continue their studies and invent new applications. They simply predict hundreds of new jobs will follow. I think they are right.
It is a common enough ambition of school leavers. After all when a student is near the end of his/her secondary education it is a common question, What do you plan to do after school? The student will answer “x” or “y”sometimes with great conviction. And if you should meet them eight or nine months later will the answer be the same?
The answers might be, It is terrific. I am learning so much. I love it.
Another student will not be so positive, It is nothing like I imagined. I am transferring to do a course “n” next year because it leads to “ z”.
A third might answer, I have dropped out. I am so busy with my hobby I haven’t got time to study. In this category we have people like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg as examples.
In most likelihood within a decade many will say, I am glad I did “b” but honestly it has nothing to do with what I am doing today. In all likelihood many find they are working at a job unrelated to their initial study. I will leave you to do your own research.
My concern is for you, my grandchild. I hope you do not get lost in despair the job you would love to do is no longer available when you go searching for it. With the pandemic of COVID 19 my vision of the future looks grim. My friend Michael Linehan asks, Why do I worry? He says, your grand kids have the same chance as all kids. Pandemic,or not, they have an equal chance because they all face the same future.
One thing that is certain – hardship should not define your future. Standing up when you were down is what you had to learn before you could walk. Hard times are awful. They are dark and spiritless, but they pass, and in passing you can change and become stronger. Hence the call to, Never give up, is worth remembering it helps you build resilience.
Our hero is the one with the stamina to stay the course.
A job is something we do to earn a living. It can define you, but it need not. All you really need in life is something to fill your days. Since I started these essays I hadn’t read more than I was required about philosophy. I figured it was beyond me to understand. What I did know? With the passing of time I think philosophy does have answers though.
Today’s writing was prompted by the death of Barry Capp. Barry was the chairman of the board of directors of this unlisted public company. It was a subsidiary of a British underwriter for corporate bad debts.
Before the stock market crash the job of director was a simple reward of sinecure to loyal old fellows. They were not expected to actually do anything but add gravitas to the company. The market crash made companies more aware someone had to carry the responsibility, The old boys no longer wanted a title if it might rebound on them, and from that moment the professional director was born. It became a job of importance for the non executive director to provide governance to company via the management team.
Accepting he had the courage needed Barry had taken a handful of similar directorships. Some hard – some easy, like our company. His managing director of us was Vic.
Our company had lots of clients but all of them came to the business through a handful of brokerages. Our competitor was a minnow but the brokers, desperate for new business in troubled times, were rejecting us in favour of our cheaper alternative. Vic decided if they wouldn’t remain loyal perhaps they might alter their mind if he offered some direct competition (me).
They did need us however because our company was the only one outside the government offering comfort on overseas sales – and they didn’t pay brokers a cracker. Hence the relationship was fraught, especially with me in the middle of domestic sales cover.
Many of the cogs in our business were women, with children, husbands, or parents that needed them to rush home after work to their domestic lives. On his way up in the company Vic used to invite all staff to remain, at work after knock off. It was compulsory so he could crow about how well the company had gone in the previous quarter. The longer he was MD the longer these after work meetings used to run. The secretarial staff (women) would get distressed the longer they stayed, counting missed train after train that could carry them to their after work life.
Barry and Vic turned the fortunes of our business around. Ultimately Vic was rewarded with the CEO’s job of the parent company. Barry served a few more years and he retired. When his death was announced there were messages of condolence from his old school and his family gave lovely tributes but not one of the companies he had saved from collapse remembered him.
There-in is my lesson. Despite all work being meaningful – at life’s end it is unlikely any place you spend your time working in will remember you. That is fair, because leader,or follower, the work you did was but a time filler. This is especially true if you were a cog in the business like the women Vic made stay after hours, or like Barry, Chairman of directors. Work for most of us is to make a living but it doesn’t make a life. Perhaps that is why the tributes to Barry, and in time his secretary, are not work related but measured in the loving words from the people that knew them. (Know you).
Since writing to you I have attempted to understand my life in relation to current events. I am glad I did not know of Michael de Montaigne and his essays on life until now because if I had I would not have had the courage to write to you. He did it so well.
Michael L was right to tell me not to worry.
Someone once wrote, You will receive the lessons you need when you need them.”
Here we are in the State of of Disaster. It is one year since I began this blog. When I started I had no ambition but to record my reaction to the moments of the day in relation to my past lived experience. I thought twenty or thirty years from now my grandchildren might like to compare their experience of life with mine. (I realise this reads as a narcissistic reason but given they will have no way to communicate with me – it motivates me. They can read my “voice” and measure it with what influences them).
In these last 12 months the world has changed. Six months ago no one spoke of Covid 19. In these last few months nearly 18 million have been infected and nearly 700,000 have died. Businesses have collapsed. People are unemployed and our State has reached the nadir of disaster. The advice on how to stay safe seems simple: stay home, keep a social distance when outside, wear a mask, wash your hands, stay safe.
I am not an outgoing personality. Indeed I am shy until I get to know you, however this forced isolation is foreign. I like to embrace my friends and it is strange to nod instead. Now we enter a period of six weeks without any social contact save social media and the phone. It will be weird.
I keep typing away and I see trends where none previously existed. My drivel has attracted 600 different viewers. One out of every ten readers have decided to follow me. (Only you know why). You now inspire me to keep this going. I hope you do not stop. I have a request. If you like my words then pause and tell me why they interest you. Together we can expand our universe with simple asides. I would like to get to know you.
It was rare for anyone to call us by phone but when they did if they were from out of town it became a thing involving others. From their place they rang their local telephone exchange and asked to be connected to Camperdown 232. The telephonist replied, “Connecting to Camperdown”. Our local telephonist ( one of the many women employed in the job) would pull out a weighted cord, and connect it to a port housing our number. Our caller needed just three numbers – 232 – to enjoy the service of calling our home. It rarely rang – maybe – once a month.
Our family practise was to make eight calls a month. The first call was to the taxi. Each week Mum would book a taxi to take us all off to church. On Thursdays Mum would phone the grocers Moran and Cato. Before doing this she would have prepared a list of the necessities she needed. The list may have read something like this.
8 oz of tea,
1 Lb Plain Flour
1 Lb Self Raising Flour
8 Oz Sunshine Marie Biscuits
1/2 Lb Brockoffs Crisp biscuits
1 Lb Butter
1 Lb John Bull Oats
2 Oz Vegemite
8 Oz Sultannas
8 Oz Weetbix
1 packet Kraft Cheddar
1 packet Pattie Pans
1 bar of Solvol
1 Lb Sunwhite Rice
1 26 Oz. Bottle of Vinegar
1 bar of Velvet soap
(It really didn’t matter. The list was simple but when she rang she had specific things in mind. The grocer did not sell fruit and vegetables and if you wanted meat you needed the butcher, not the grocer).
List at the ready she walked to the hallway, where the phone lived – bolted to the wall. She reached up and took hold of the ear piece. She stood in front of the phone and twirled the magneto handle, listened, and spoke.
“Camperdown 75 please.” (A little wait and then she would recite her list. A few hours later the grocer came with a box of the goodies she ordered. (None of it appealed to a hungry young boy).
At the end of her call she replaced the ear piece on the carrier at the side of the wooden Oak box that was our telephone.
Most of the household communication was by letter but once a year Dad would contact a brother in Duns Scotland and they would share a minute or two talking. After that time the operator would interrupt the call and enquire , “Your time is nearly up. Do you want to extend the call for another minute?” Frequently thrift determined the call would cease. On the second, the operator would disconnect the lines and the call ceased.
The Post Master General ran the operations for the Federal Government. Homes were connected to the network of copper wires crisscrossing the country, wired to their insulators on poles, and stretched across the countryside five metres from the ground. If you didn’t like the PMG you had no alternative. An army of PMG workers spent the day fixing broken lines, telephones, and exchanges because all the emergency services depended on the system working.
(In writing this I am reminded how the telephone lines ran beside the railway line between towns and sidings. As a steam train passenger, in my experience, smoke from the engine would blow past the window, the train clickedly – clacked as each wheel ran over the joints in the line, and the telephone lines would fall and rise between each post in rhythmic movements. The whole effect was mesmerising.)
It was years before it was commonplace for homes to have desk telephones. For few homes were large enough to accommodate an extra telephone table and chair. In time phones became smaller, smarter, and they came in a variety of colours with a single hand piece – to listen to – and capture the speaker’s voice. The off site operator disappeared and the home owner was able to dial directly from the phone with a rotary dial connector to anywhere else.
When more people connected the number of lines multiplied each year. To save time – people kept a teledex of the numbers they most frequently used handy to save them searching through the phone book for them.
As a teenager I didn’t call my friends on the phone. We had been trained to consider the cost of a call. My sisters didn’t make calls either. I was in my fifties before I had a mobile phone. It was provided as a work tool and as the book – keeper monitored the usage it was limited to essential calls regarding appointments.
The ubiquitous use of phones is relatively new. One surprising thing is how quickly they become redundant. Last year Samsung took over from Apple as the most popular phone. Today I read China’s Huawei has eclipsed them. It seems only a few years since no one had anything but a Nokia.
The modern Miss or Mister could not imagine anyone using a fifty year old phone except as a stage prop in Arsenic and Old Lace like we did.
Certainly Alexander Graham Bell must be restless in his grave if he ever thinks of what he unleashed.
The poet wishes well to the divine genius of Purcell and praises him that, whereas other musicians have given utterance to the moods of man’s mind, he has, beyond that, uttered in notes the very make and species of man as created both in him and in all men generally.
Have, fair fallen, O fair, fair have fallen, so dear To me, so arch-especial a spirit as heaves in Henry Purcell, An age is now since passed, since parted; with the reversal Of the outward sentence low lays him, listed to a heresy, here. Not mood in him nor meaning, proud fire or sacred fear, Or love or pity or all that sweet notes not his might nursle: It is the forgèd feature finds me; it is the rehearsal Of own, of abrupt self there so thrusts on, so throngs the ear.
Let him Oh! with his air of angels then lift me, lay me! only I’ll Have an eye to the sakes of him, quaint moonmarks, to his pelted plumage under Wings: so some great stormfowl, whenever he has walked his while
The thunder-purple seabeach plumèd purple-of-thunder, If a wuthering of his palmy snow-pinions scatter a colossal smile Off him, but meaning motion fans fresh our wits with wonder.
The clown Peter Sellers bought Purcell to the attention of the masses that loved the Goon Show he also introduced them to Henry Purcell in the Trumpet Volunteer 1958. (You can find it on YouTube. Hopkins is a favourite poet. Yesterday it was the anniversary of Gerard Manley Hopkins birth. 1844 – 8/6/1888
Today it was also my mother’s birthday 29/07/1913 – 5/11/2017 Time seems to fly but some memories remain constant.
Campus frames soul growth Fine minds built by exercise Read, write, question why.
When I became a teacher Australia had a post war economic boom. Millions of displaced persons came to the country on assisted migrant programs. In turn that created a housing boom as new suburbs grew on land that once housed orchards, market gardens, vegetable plots, and small dairy herds. The new arrivals came with young families. School classes were at bursting point. Women who had occupied almost every job class in the country during the war were forced to give up their jobs to the returned soldiers. Within a few years the education department called many of the female teachers back to the classroom but they still had a need for more teachers, more schools, and more classrooms.
As a schoolboy I had no idea of the job I felt inspired, some of my classmates. Most knew they would go back to their farms and work on the family business. Some choose to learn a trade and become a leading tradesman after their apprenticeship. Some became bank tellers. Jobs were plentiful, so many left school early and took the first job they were offered. Me? I was slow to even think about it. It wasn’t until I had been at secondary school I was forced to think of it. Elizabeth, my sister had chosen to teach. In my case I had no idea. In my last year I applied to become a Patrol Officer for the government in a remote territory area. (The role of the PO was to be the administrator and peace keeper in an otherwise uncontrolled area). Fortunately I realised I was unsuited to the work when I was asked what I knew about the remote areas of the Northern Territory and Papua New Guinea. I had done no research about the work – it simply seemed romantic. I had no idea of the places I would be expected to govern. The rejection did not hurt. At that stage I applied for entry to teacher training.
Straight from school I entered a crammed learning program to become as one of the first group to commit to two years of training. (Many male teachers in the time before I started had only one year of preparation). Our day started at nine and finished at four pm. We had a break of 45 minutes for lunch, otherwise we went from lecture to lecture. After ten weeks we had a three week practical period in schools. Each evening we had to write up our two 45 minute lesson plans for delivery the next day to the class for our supervising teacher. Our year was broken into three dense terms like this.
Because teaching materials, like everything else in schools was scarce, we were expected to produce a pile of teaching aids to be used in the school of our first appointment in our spare time. It was a busy period for everyone. Periods of reflection and self development must have happened – yet it was unlike the education universities offered. We were better prepared than the school monitors of the nineteenth century – but not much. We had developed none of the higher learning skills required of students at university level. We had no experience in analysis. We were not expected to synthesise what we hand been taught. Our means of evaluation were limited, and we were not encouraged to create new ways of the teaching. Our testing was to examine whether we had mastered the lower levels of learning, to remember, to understand, and to apply our learning.
As it happened. I enjoyed teaching and as a registered education department teacher I need never have studied again. The exception being – in the wisdom of administrators, it was determined one had to do further study to improve ones pay grade. Some chose to accept that was good enough. It didn’t take long to realise spending money was no way to improve your financial situation, and you could not do that unless you were paid more. The department had post graduate honours course for first and second grade teachers. To progress you had to qualify at the lower level before attempting the next. The units of study were of a very pragmatic nature and slow to attain because only one or two subjects a year were encouraged. We were expected to read and comprehend a text book and then sit a three hour examination of our learning. It was a soul destroying way to learn. Fortunately it was possible to jump to the top level if you passed an undergraduate degree.
As luck would have it Gough Whitlam became Prime Minister within the first ten years of earning my Certificate of Education. One of the changes he introduced was to make University courses free to all eligible students. This was my relief from the drudgery of the Ist and 2nd Honours program.
I could enrol to study off campus. It meant I could study after hours and get a degree. So many did the University course it enabled it to set up tutor groups all over the country. This was my first experience of actually discussing what we were reading and develop the higher learning skills I really needed to be more effective.
We did have three hour exams but we also had lots of developmental assignment work and I found, for the first time joy in learning, and the confidence to aim for high distinctions rather than settle for a pass.
If I had gone straight to university I probably would not have done at all well but I was settling into the academic life in a way I could not imagine. I did a post graduate certificate and was almost finished a Masters course by units when I was hit with PTSD and turmoil. It took another thirty years to resolve this matter. The more I studied the more I came to realise I was heading down a narrowing lane of specialisation with less and less to do with the practicality of my work so I stopped. I guess I lost the plot.
Like me, in the past forty years universities have changed. Last year, and for many years before, more women have graduated than men. Many fewer had reached university than men when I closed my books. Getting to and staying at university is an economic burden the individual now carries forward for many years. To have so radically changed is a sign the country lost its way. The contribution an educated population makes to the country is huge. Why burden the smartest group of people with the discouragement of debt?
By adopting the Americanisation of education, where the user pays, has had other detrimental affects. Universities, decade on decade, have had to find more private money to survive. Not only do students compete with each other so do universities. The better funded they are the better sought after are their students. It is a dog-eat-dog race.
The pandemic has highlighted just how warped this thinking is. Our government has been generous to all businesses that have lost 25% – 50% of their turnover. It has paid allowances to these companies so they can give their staff $750 per week to keep them notionally employed as Job Keeper employees even though there is no work for them to do. Except they have not done the same for universities. There, up to 80% of the former employed staff are women on sessional payments. Without the same number of students (overseas students cannot return yet) they are without work and unpaid. We stand to lose some of our sharpest minds to stupidity. To spell it out. Why are so many academics on sessional contracts? (It is insecure work and therefore it is cheaper.)
To make bad matters worse I read our top ranked university programs are no longer seen as the best places for learning. Three recent examples of this have come to my attention in the last week alone.
Our government is going to charge students extra unless their undergraduates degree is a STEM course. (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics). They have given into the business model of learning where vocational training becomes more acceptable than the growth of the human mind through a history course, a course in literature, arts/law, art/commerce degree. It is pathetic to move back to the low levels of education like mine was before at teachers’ college. I say this after my study after retirement at Swinburne. I did a short course on Carbon Accounting. The unit work was not as taxing as any I could recall from my past experience.
James Lovelock recently celebrated his 101th birthday. He is a polymath. The man is a genius with a mind more able than people a fifth of his age. He says he was the first British academic to get work with NASA because he was a puzzle solver. He says he is an optimist and I cannot now remember his comment so I will leave you to study his achievements rather than misquote him. (Given my previous reference to William Golding, (Billy Bunter) you might be interested on his recollection of discussions he had with his neighbour, Golding, and how he accepted Gaia as a good name for his theory).
Secondly Daniel Kaufman of Missouri State University says in the podcast, Problems in Philosophy – Big Ideas.
The university of today is not a viable model. More and more technical more and more isolated
Designed to educate elites it has been turned into a system of mass education – it is too expensive to play that role because of unbridled capitalism. The University is turning itself into a white collar voctech. Staff need to move to more public intellectual work. The people who are holding us back are in the institutes that are best ranked but least progressive – meaning those with the better ranking are stifling change. We cannot globalise everything People need to work. Automation is going to make sure people will not have jobs.
It has been a deliberate attitude when writing these entries never to make it entirely autobiographical. Today I seem to have been more forthcoming but I will draw back from naming names and record we were involved with Equippe).
At one stage in the last 56 married years we, Jennie and I, became involved with a group of church lay leaders. The group involved many of the intelligentsia of Melbourne. When we were but undergraduates when we were noticed and invited to join it’s leadership even though we were “country cousins/bumpkins. Equippe included academics and other professional people, a smattering of Jesuit leaders, and an archbishop. So although no match intellectually with them, they became our peers, indeed – friends. It seems right not to name them because as a group they were older, wiser, and practised long after we had no faith in matters of belief.
At that stage Professor C and others among us had lifetime university appointments. What a funny state we have reached.
You do not easily adapt to change. It took years before you settled into Torquay. You hated the suburban life preferring the holiday feel of the coastal village down the road. It is surrounded by a national park, heathland , and the uninterrupted expanse of the Southern Ocean. It is a true – Gods Waiting Room. It is filled with old folk. Most of the people living there only need to know three telephone numbers; the doctor, the ambulance, and the undertaker. As for the rest they spend a few weeks each year escaping the madness of the city in their holiday house that sits alone in the scrub week – in – week out. It too hates change.
You know deep down it has changed in the twenty years of your retirement. The old fibro homes, ( the homes made of asbestos fibre sheets), have almost all been demolished. The sharp architecturally designed buildings replacing them have bought a cardre of youthful tradies, builders, plumbers, electricians, plasterers, glaziers, and concreters to town. It has all happened in a mere heartbeat since the town was cut out of the tea tree. Before then the former visitors left little evidence they too came and went for centuries.
They were the Wadawurrung. The first people of this country. If your roam along the cliff top walk above the ocean you will find evidence they found the land plentiful. The middens they left are the feasting spots of old. In these places hundreds of generations of people sat and celebrated the generosity of the sea. They ate their fill of shell fish and discarded the shells and formed mounds of shells where they ate. Their presence today is all we need to be reminded of them.
Concurrently in the twenty years of my retirement our civic leaders have recognised our indigenous past. Civic functions commonly commence with a Welcome to Country celebration. I have thought it tokenism until now because it is new. Twenty years is no time at all. Even things that happened fifty years ago are new to me. To accept new things I find hard, almost impossible immediately. And here is notice: I, me, you, do not embrace change – so spend a moment and accept sometimes others have good reasons to rebel when change is foisted on them.
Your lifetime is but a blip in universal time. Double the length of your life and the Wadawurrung lived on this land uninterrupted as they had for thousands of years. Your predecessors were granted leasehold or ownership of the land without consultation with any of the tribe. This tribe, the dozens across the state, and the hundreds of different tribal groups all over this land never gave sovereignty to the people who day by day, year on year, took ownership from them.
It is well documented at hundreds of sites across the country people were massacred. The wells they drank water from were poisoned. The man who killed the sheep, a timid beast unrecognised as a native animal and was easily slain, that man was hunted by the squatter and he and his family were shot. The warrior that stood his ground and threw a spear to defend himself was driven off a cliff. These things were often sanctioned by the state. A state that listed its native people as Flora and Fauna until 1967.
This happened despite these people generously enlisting as soldiers in foreign wars to fight for the country. Their reward was to be ignored when they returned from conflict. Despite this Australia has throughout the years acknowledged hundreds of our original inhabitants as great countrymen and women. If the person : boxed, ran, swam, or played football, we acknowledged them. We did/do the same for artists. We honoured former footballer and preacher Doug Nichols as a state governor. These stories we absorbed in the media and in lessons without question.
Our lessons never included an accurate history of the people. It has taken until the publication of Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu for our first peoples to receive any sort of acknowledgement they lived quite sophisticated lives lightly in the environment. Our lessons spoke of simple tools and weapons. It never acknowledged the hundreds of aboriginal languages the people lost. It never told how they were massacred.
My reading of literature included Catherine Susannah Prichard’s book Coonadoo. It was written in 1929. The language Prichard used to describe the aborigines is dated, however she did message in her book a respect for indigenous customs and rites. The book carried themes including social justice but the book was very much written from the perspective of the white settlers of the country. One character Hughie did acknowledge his temper led him to behave as a white slaver, an attribute he detested. Another white writer was Xavier Herbert. I read his novel Capricornia at school. He wrote with a deal of empathy and understanding of the life of the downtrodden living in the north of Australia. My reading never really ever embraced the reality of native life which I admit I remain profoundly ignorant of to this day.
In my lifetime the last of these free people emerged from the desert. In the beat of a single heart beat we live or die – they chose to live among us. The people of the desert came to be displaced as all others had. Some were relocated in unnatural groupings in aboriginal reserves. Others clung to the edges of their homelands in broken mobs until the High Court of Australia awarded them native title to their homeland. The notion of Native Title still causes unease because all manner of people, motivated by self interest, want to mine, frack, or destroy the ancient heritage. They pervert its meaning, if the cause suits, to say our homes are at risk of being taken from us.
It is in thinking about the circuitous route of my understanding of aboriginal life I come to examine more thoroughly my thoughts about the Welcome to Country message now in common usage. At first I thought it was tokenism. It is not.
Just over 45 years ago people with hippie aspirations (University students) were celebrating life at the Aquarius Festival in Nimbin. (An Australian Woodstock type event). Activist Gary Foley challenged the organisers to get permission to hold the festival on their land. This was not called by it’s common name then but it seems it was the first occasion a group of non indigenous people entered aboriginal land with permission. In the years since, more local council areas have come to acknowledge as they did, although aborigines no longer own the land the land, it was once was theirs.
When we recognise the prior ownership of our nation was once owned by many different indigenous mobs (as they commonly call themselves) a great injustice will be partly corrected. In 2017 after many years of debate their leaders produced the Uluru Statement From the Heart asking the government to acknowledge aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples were the original owners of the country. In one sentence former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull dismissed their request without debate.
Belatedly I have reached the decision the debate must be held. Just as it is a lot more than tokenism to accept the right of aboriginal people to expect we acknowledge them in a Welcome to Country speech. As a nation we have a terrible record in the manner our first people have been treated. It is time to acknowledge Black Lives Matter and theft of property did occur.
I welcome your comments for I know I make errors in my writing. You will help me write more accurately if you tell me where I have erred.
The Bill Ryan I knew was a dairy farmer. His dairy was on a hill. The paddocks his cows fed upon were all on lower ground than where he milked them. As king of all he surveyed you could expect him to be the ruler of his mob. (He was married to Helen (Ella) and he was Jennie’s uncle.)
It is not unkind to record he did not rule over this land. Instead he was one with it. He accepted the challenges it gave him. A major challenge was the way the ground he bought to farm shrank under his ownership.
Logically it makes no sense. How did his land shrink? The reality was the perversity of the weather. Throughout the 1950s it rained. Rainy months were followed by more rain. In that rain Bill trained his dog to fetch the cows feeding on the abundant grass growing on the productive grassy banks of his property. It was no mistake when he called his land Lovely Banks. The ground was Lovely.
By the time I got to know Bill he had reared his family on that land. The rain that fell in the wet years filled the lake. Lake Corangamite flowed over the flat area at western foot of his land. By the time of my first visit, the lake surface was punctuated by fence posts that once defined the border of his property.
Bill may may have felt aggrieved by the loss of land yet he retained a stoic attitude to the hand he was dealt and he farmed the remaining ground as best he could. His farming, like many agriculturalists of the time, followed a simple routine dictated by the seasons. The busy fertile spring determined the size of the summer harvest. The dry days of autumn were punctuated by the returning wet days of winter.
Twice a day, Bill tended his herd of cows in a life lived without fuss. He made one concession to a macho image. He always had a hand rolled cigarette hanging from his lower lip. As he talked the smoke flipped up a down in fascinating rhythm to his utterances. That fag was a fixture. At some stage of the day the exposed end had been burnt – however all these years later – I don’t think he ever smoked that thing because I never saw it alight.
I remember Bill at this time in my life because he was a born philosopher, and I turn to philosophy to wrest reason where none exists. Like the rest of the family he was a Catholic from birth and a man disinclined to sin in any way the church enumerated, yet I have to say philosophy determined his attitude to life. I have written he was stoic. (The Ancient Greek Stoics accepted the hand they were dealt with – with resilience. They were confident and calm.) Bill never said things that were better left unsaid because kindness was also a feature of stoical lives. Of course his training in the field of philosophy was never formal – it came from the simple way he lived.
Another natural philosophy Bill lived sprang from a saying he frequently voiced. He had a habit of saying, “The faster I go, the behind-er I get.” I could have learned sooner in life many things if I had thought more on this saying. To live life purposely you don’t have to be ambitious. You don’t have to please everyone. You don’t have to do too much. I have found when you study “isms” , and look at the work of philosophers, none gives an infallible road map of how to live your life. Just find something you must do and do it as well as you can.
Better to be like Bill – keep busy but not so busy as to lose a way to make your life meaningful. And ponder on my experience. It seems true enough. When you wondered aimlessly about the Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris, and stood beside the grave of Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, was it serendipity alone it took to remind you of existentialism?
Yesterday, Roger and I had a dress rehearsal for our first dry sail of Inshore Lady. Her companion, Micro Scoot, has been fishing already and proved she is a good tender vehicle. She too has a Spritsail as opposed to the Gaff Sail the plans call for.
The larger sail may make for better sailing but we figure the Spritsail will be a safer boat for our grandchildren to manage. Principally this is because it does not need a boom. (Many sailors will tell how they have been hit on the head by the boom as a yacht tacked starboard to port, or vice versa. Maybe they will not tell you – few admit a mistake of this kind.)
I have some minor finishing to do and our chilly winter water is uninviting so she will remain indoors for a while yet. However she is ready for a dip.
Roger made the sail from a small tarp as the designer John Bell suggests. This is a useful repurpose of the fabric.
In case my use of sail names is confusing the photo below is of a model we made beforehand. The sail is a gaff sail. It has a boom. The boom holds the sail firmly – just above the head of the sailor – and when the boat changes direction (tacks) the boom swings across the boat to catch the wind as it turns.
I have a friend who has a dollar note, sitting in a frame on his wall.
When asked. “
Why do you keep this note?”
His answer is, “It was part of my first ever pay packet.”
My experience with money has been different. For a start the first money I saw as coming from my job, as opposed to payment I received in exchange for my time helping out as I grew up, was given to me – or so it seemed. My first payment wasn’t even cash. It was a paper cheque with my name on it. As payment it was practically useless because I couldn’t buy anything with it until I had paid it into a bank account.
I was handed my cheque on a Thursday morning. The nearest bank was about 2 kilometres from the college I attended. The bank would be closed by the time I finished lectures if I did not rush off to the bank at lunchtime. So, at lunch time I scarpered off to the bank. And so did my class mates. (All accept John who always had a £10 note (our largest note at that time). John got so used to flashing his £10 note – only to be told – “It’s too big for me to cash luv. Have you got anything smaller?” He made money out of having too much. When going to a dance – it might have cost 2/3d to gain entry – he would say, “ I have only got £10 can you pay for me?”)
I chose the Commonwealth bank in Moorabool St Geelong as my bank because it was the nearest bank I knew of in this new city. (To start an account today you have to provide a list of items that certify you are who you are.) I had none of those hassles. I had the cheque. I knew my name – possibly I had my driver’s licence. Within a few minutes all my money was in the bank. But I needed some of that money to buy the things I needed for the next 14 days. How much?
I had no idea. (My accommodation and my food was paid. It formed part of the allowance I was paid, but it was never shown as a separate amount. My cheque was for approximately £11. 4. 6p ((I am only certain of the £s I was paid a fortnight after expenses.))
How much. I didn’t need much. I didn’t drink. I had no transport costs to pay. I didn’t have to pay for utilities. Perhaps I could go to the cinema, treat myself to a coffee, buy other treats.
“ I will need £2.”
So I withdrew £2 in cash. (Within a year or so the banks insisted the cheque clear – at least 3 working days – before I got access to the money the government paid me to learn.)
I left the bank with a bank passport in my name. It showed how much I deposited and another entry showed how much I had withdrawn. The final column showed how much money I had in the bank. Any money I had, apart from the cash in hand was always in the bank. Once I had spent my £2 if I wanted more I could only get more going back to the bank between 9 am and 3pm on a Monday to Friday (excluding holidays). What a pain that became.
I have always hated carrying cash around. Yet if anything was needed the only way to buy it was to have cash at hand. If I wanted to go home (I didn’t) I needed cash to buy a train ticket. I attended church. To give to the service of the church I needed cash. Fortunately I was well, but if I needed a visit to the doctor, or dentist I had to have cash with me. The money in the bank didn’t count because unless you planned beforehand how much you might need you couldn’t get access to it after banking hours.
So I soon discovered the benefit of having a personal cheque account of my own. This meant people would trust your signature scratched on a piece of paper was worth what you said it was.
Cash was needed to go to a dance, or pay for a meal, but visits to the doctor, or dentist – when you were unsure how much they charged could be paid by cheque. Providing you had sufficient credit in your bank account. Sometimes you would read about a person who had deceived another by passing a worthless cheque to them. You would read stories like that in the newspaper yet it possibly happened only once to me – if it happened at all.
The truth is no one but a crook would pass a worthless cheque because no one used credit to buy things. They used their own money, or they borrowed money from their bank – knowing they would have to pay it back £ by £ each month as the agreement stated. Or they did as most people did and they went without until they could buy what they wanted for cash.
In 1966 Australia adopted a whole new currency. In time we got used to handling our new cash. In 1969 the banks introduced instant credit. Anyone could go to their bank and the bank would give them a Bankcard with up to $500 of credit. We didn’t because we were accustomed to paying by cash,or cheque, for the things we wanted.
The banks were on to a good thing. They continued to profit from Bankcard until Visa Card and MasterCard took over their business. Interest rates on credit cards rise, even in these days of near zero interest charges. Pay day lending, and other forms of instant credit, are available almost everywhere. People are addicted to credit.
The Covid 19 crises has now almost killed cash. Many stores now require people to use plastic cards to pay for their purchases. People with cash complain their money is legal tender and must be accepted as fair exchange, but in fact the stores have the upper hand. It turns out – so long as they display their terms of trade – they need only accept electronic forms of payment. The purchaser cannot insist they accept cash. Go figure.
That chap with the first $1 he saved now finds we have moved from paper$1 . As if nothing will ever change. It does. Cash is no longer king.
During the Cold War over seventy nations put their political differences aside and planned a series of eleven major scientific studies of the globe in 1957/58. Those eighteen months were called the International Geophysical Year. From that Australian scientists played a major role in the advancements of knowledge of the globe. Specifically our work was perhaps more successful than the six nations that joined with us to study Antartica. The success was due in a large part to our foreign affairs department. It agreed for our scientists to set up bases in the country in the years before to trial equipment and materials. In those years our scientists were able to refine their knowledge to work in such an inhospitable region. (Post that period other countries have perhaps fared better.)
I have several reasons for retelling this story. The first is it is a reminder of Vic. ( I don’t remember his full name) but he was a young fellow Rev George Mutten mentored. The young man was an infrequent visitor to the vicarage and I met him only a handful of times. George took pride in saying he had spent time at Antartica during the IGY. I learned he was tragically killed a short while later in a car accident on a notorious bend in the Stoney Risers. His leader in the year he spent at Casey Base was Dr Phillip Law.
Phillip Law was a very respected Australian who made academic contributions to the growth of this country. He was born in 1912 ( a year before my mother). His is the second reason I recall this time. He led an interesting life, that has been documented in at least six books – including three autobiographies. The few pararagaphs I give to him relate to his adventures in Antartica. Where he first visited in 1949.
Law was born in Tallangatta. He grew up in Hamilton and went to the Ballarat Teachers College. He taught at secondary schools in Hamilton, Geelong and Melbourne Boys High School before he gained an MSc in Physics at Melbourne University. During WW11 he was involved with war projects at the University. ( I had my own time working in some of the same localities but that is as far as the similarities go.)
After the war Law gave up his secure job at the University and was appointed leader of ANARE (Australian National Antarctic Research Exhibition) by the Department of External Affairs. He was the leader in charge of bases at Macquarie Island and Antartica from 1949. He held that position until 1977 by which time he had personally led exhibitions to Antartica twenty three times.
Consequently he was leader in the years of planing leading up to the International Geophysical Year.
The learnings that came from the eleven major studies of the globe in those eighteen months have had a profound influence of our understanding of the universe. For instance, in the years leading to the study period America announced it would launch a satellite into space. The intensity of achievement was ramped up to such an extent America was beaten in the space race. They did not launch their rocket until the USSR had startled the world with Sputnik one , in 1957,, and Sputnik two. In all, over seventy countries had tens of scientists study the globe in wonderful cooperation.
If there is a good sign we are prepared to listen to scientists. It is now. This the first time in three generations science, and the word of scientists are being sought out.
Which brings me to another reason for tapping away at this screen and recording my thoughts. Some years from now people will ask those living today, what was Covid 19 like? What did you do?
I am not a diarist but here are some thoughts on the matter. The most astonishing thing is the virus quickly developed across the globe in three months. The lives of most people have been turned upside down. Millions of people are sick with a disease for which there is no cure. As a result thousands have lost their lives. Millions that were employed one day are unemployed the next. All over the world people have been affected. For example, our Government realised our hospital system was inadequate to manage an influx of desperately ill people, and its usual workload as well. so all but the most urgent operations were cancelled to free up hospital beds.
Initially one of the obvious signs was, the messages were confused, and people panicked. Supermarket shelves were emptied of basic necessities. People sought out information on self management skills that were almost forgotten: How to cook bread, How to grow vegetables, How to husband poultry. They did these things because they were unsure the state would be able to look after them. The government loosened spending and made available unparalleled government aid. Much of this aid was directed at business in the hope that life would “spring back” to normal when the initial panic subsided.
Now here we are three months down the track. Business people are arguing commerce will never recover unless the chains of lockdown are loosened. Immediately forgetting of course there is no cure. The Advance Australia group and the IPA are applying pressure on the Morrison government to lift the Lockdown and get back to business
This new pandemic age is certain to provide scope for dozens of future PHDs to study how it should have been approached, as every day we hear new reasons for and against social distancing. President Trump says America is not supposed to be closed to business at a time when many of his people are dropping dead like flies. He has also withdrawn funding from the World Health Organisation to take attention away from his own inadequacies
The truth is business is not going to bounce back as some businesses may never recover. Today Virgin Air excused itself from stock trading while the debt burdened company looks for a white knight to bail them out of trouble. Failing that aide it is just one of many.businesses unlikely to live on.
The evidence each country is fighting Covid 19 in its own way has made life more uncertain. Government’s around the world are making knee jerk responses to this hidden deadly threat. Many health officers are reporting progress is being made in treating it while they struggle behind the scenes to make beds and ventilators available for their sick.
It is not as if administrators were unaware a pandemic threatened mankind. In recent years we have had several near misses with SARS, and Ebola, but is the madness of mankind not to worry about future threats until we have to deal with them. Right now we can see the foolishness of this behaviour. Yet we procrastinate soothed by the words of business lobbyists.
How have we denied the warnings about global warming from similar learned people is beyond comprehension. This is yet another reason for speaking out. In my mouselike way my words are silenced except for recording , “What is happening is not happening in my name”. Perhaps it his is more difficult until one has lived through many awful life events and observed it hasn’t always been so easy. My hope remains world leaders will put aside the nonsense industry people spread and instruct their scientists to advise them.
My last point is contentious. I want billionaires to donate all but their pocket money to science. If I pick just one I will start with Bill Gates. I cannot decide whether he is a saint or sinner. His charities do such a lot of good yet the question remains, was his wealth legitimate from the beginning? Leaving that question aside.
I want him to abandon the idea that big business will help agriculture and global food supply. I think water and soil and seed, that isn’t owned by business, and organic fertiliser, again unowned by business, is all farmers need to produce food locally. Food has been produced that way forever. Monoculture is not good for the planet. If you are unsure of this get the scientists of the world to study food production with no thought of patents and licences. Just do it for the hell of it like was done in the IGY back in 1957/58.
Here is an interview with a very old Phillip Law. (He was 97 when he died)
These are words. They do not represent my thoughts at this terrible time. The only way they do is it is hard to understand the mind set of the people rushing liquor outlets and gun shops now they have emptied grocery stores of food.
My thoughts are with those who have lost their jobs due to enforced business shut downs. They are also with the families grieving loved ones lost to Covid 19. I am grateful to all the responders and all those still turning the wheels of society. Thank you. Stay safe everyone.
Shepherd across the river You’re hardly having a good time Sing baïlèro lèrô
Shepherd, the meadows are in bloom You should watch your flock on this side Sing baïlèro lèrô
Shepherd, the water divides us And I can’t cross it Sing baïlèro lèrô
I could write an essay on how wonderful it is creatives took the time to capture the folk songs sung in native dialects, or languages, now dead. Canteloube lived for most of his life in France d’auvergne area and in recording these tunes he preserves something lost in the homogenisation of language across the globe.
Many nations understand, almost too late old languages deserve to be preserved. Thank goodness some will survive a little longer.
The garden stake snapped off at the ground the instant the lawn mower grabbed hold of a loose thread of twine hanging from it. The stake had not long been in the ground yet the break was clean across the grain of the hardwood at its base. There it lay motionless beside the silent lawn mower as I contemplated my lack of caution in the moments before.
I had seen the dangling thread and reasoned I was close, but not near enough for it to be caught in the spinning blades. I reasoned as I had on other careless moments. The silence following the noisy break became a loud reminder I was wrong.
Despite the rude break and the instantaneous yank from Mother Earth a worm clung to the rotten timber, and so did a few grains of damp soil. The square sides of the light timber post were flat upon the freshly cut grass waiting for my next move. The worm writhed it’s body toward the shady side resting on the ground.
The bacteria responsible for most of the damage to the wood remained unseen – by design. That is the role of microbes and fungi. They grow unseen in damp soil and silently fulfil their roles as decomposers. They have other important roles In the garden including as soil improvers.
Fungi is slower to rot and invade wood but careful inspection showed the giveaway signs of fungi mycelium, or the white tread like structures of the invading yeast. These microbes had begun their role as soil improvers long before I tore the timber out of the ground.
From my over enthusiastic movement I had created a couple of jobs. My first job was to unwind the twine from around the blades of the lawn mower. I did this with some difficulty yet I was able to remove the treads of rope without resorting to cutting it away. My next job was to replace the broken stake with another to contain the raspberries to their patch. That done I continued to mow the lawn more carefully than I started giving myself time to marvel at the power of these secret friends of the gardener.
either responsible person tallies – due to their evident discoveries
Perhaps the duo who sing in La Boheme
excite you and become your star performers of all time
Perchance your model is a great sage?
Many find, the godlike religious leader becomes such a one.
Builder, artist, rule-maker, and adjudicator
leave legacies we marvel about – something we have done for centuries.
Sing out their names in praise
for most of them exposed something desirable to our kind.
Many who live in pages thus are likely bound to disappoint
we who place them on pedestals, and later discover their ordinary proclivities.
The world is large and – our heroes many –
in delicious irony, remember you are the subject of your biography.
“As members of the human species, we all have at least three separate lives to live. Each of us lives a life in the public arena, however small that world might be, and a private life in our home, with our family and intimate friends. Then there is our secret life – a hidden life, a spiritual life in our world of imagination, of desires and dreams, of spirits, angels and ghosts. This is a world many of us hesitate to explore – a life we are reluctant to share with anybody, even our closest friend and partner. It is a life of shadows.”
Chris Geraghty writing in the essay “Father Greg Walsh paid a heavy price.” Published online in Pearls and Irritations 9 September 2020
Dr Chris Geraghty is a former priest of the archdiocese of Sydney, a retired judge of the District Court of NSW, and the author of a recent publication, Virgins and Jezebels – the Origins of Christian Misogyny.
Obediently We stay indoors Outside rain polishes McAdam - black marble
A virus Keeps us apart Yet these eternal days Will pass
The night Struggles off in grey slothfulness Mourning our horror Of living in lockdown
Too lazy to rise The wind slumbers on Meanwhile upstairs Rainfall drums upon the ceiling
The cow turns her back To this weather No reason to slow her industry Today
Opportunely We have hope Born in apprehension Rain advises
Lost work Uncertain futures Our grim prospect Until
A vaccine To curb the blight Infecting the world Progresses
The shower Reminds us Even as lights blaze in daylight Abundance follows
Our flight instinct is to give into fear
From our intellect is the enabler that gives us the courage of hope. Opportunity is the companion of hope and it is up to us to employ both. The challenge is to fight on gallantly. Be brave! Always be brave.
I have left to chance today’s writing. From a pack of playing cards my plan is to write a paragraph on this theme until and do so until I choose an Ace, at which time I will stop. So you can follow I will give each paragraph the name of the chosen card. Here goes.
Amazon promotes the customers with the best review count. The number of reviews an Amazon account seller shows is not a matter of chance. Amazon measures the products sold agains the number of independent buyers choosing the product. If, as a seller, you sell 100 items you cannot get 200 reviews to boost your chances of selling more because Amazon applies a metric to stop that. But, though the auspices of a wireless show, I heard it is possible to game their system. I think it is so great I will tell you what I heard. Suppose you are selling face masks. Each buyer can send in a review. If you sell 10 to one buyer Amazon allows only one review. However, if you decide to give away products, as a marketing expense, and you give 100 masks to 100 random people Amazon will allow your account to receive 100 reviews and you will move up their list of preferred sellers.
If you haven’t guessed I am writing this essay to highlight data collection. Data is a product big business will aggregate and sell to its advantage. That is why Facebook has successfully ruined the financial model of print media. Print media only survived on “the rivers of gold” of classified advertisements they attracted while ever print succeeded. Facebook, and others, broke that model because when you chose to look at one of their advertisements they use that information to show you a host of other things you might like to complement your first choice. The seller advertises with Facebook because instead of your interest being random, it is specifically addressed to you. Facebook was able to prove the success of its data mining and ruin the businesses unable to compete with its standard.
Would you spend $2 billion and expect an improvement? Our State of Victoria did and it got no benefit. I know this only because of reading about it. Our State has been mute. We were told if our electric meters were changed from being read manually each month by a person, a Meter Reader – a person Employed to walk from house to house and record our electricity usage we would have greater control over our electricity bills. Electricity would be cheaper. In reality the electricity companies now bill us without the cost of paying humans to collect the information. Our bills have gone up because they can accurately measure when we switch on appliances and charge us More because all our neighbours want electricity at the same time we want it.
It is written into legislation companies cannot use information that identifies the individual. In reality that should be a comfort to us but is it? Power companies know when we are out and if we are home they have a very good idea of the appliances we are using and the number of people in the home. We are assured Vector the company that provided our smart meters is audited by the Australian Electricity Market Operator (AEMO) and it is audited especially for misuse of the data (so that is alright then). Would this be a good time to tell you Vector is a subsidiary of Amazon? No? I guessed not.
I would like to make it clear I don’t have a specific beef with Amazon but I read I should. As far as I am aware I have not bought anything from Amazon or that other giant, Google. I don’t own a Google Home. I don’t even use Google. (I prefer DuckDuckGo). Oh hang! This is on WordPress- a Google company. I do have a smart TV and this enables me to use Netflix. I am an Apple user but my camera, microphone, and Siri are switched off. I think these are the only appliances I have connected to the internet of things (IOT). The advice is to use a VPN and do all you can to hang on to your privacy in 2020 to save becoming victim to a botnet. Whatever that is.
“The energy industry is really going through this digital transformation,” said Nick Walton, Amazon Web Service’s managing director for commercial sector in New Zealand.”
Amazon? Yes Amazon they who own Vector (that will not share personal data) is collating information from its subsidiary for good (not mine – their) use. Should I be alarmed? According to French philosopher Bernard Stiegler (who died 05/08/2020) we should have know to be alarmed for a long time. This man who lost himself to a higher levels of understanding while exercising, swimming along in water, had been telling us for years capitalism has reached an awful level of soullessness.
“We are not in the third capitalism; we are in a crisis of capitalism, a very bad one, which necessitates the invention of a new capitalism. I don’t believe that there has always been a “cognitive capitalism”.
In this new capitalism the worker has become a unit to be exploited. Amazon certainly demonstrates the worst of this.
(How long have I got before this gamble implodes). Philosophers have warned us about the dangers of this digital age yet we plough on as if there was nothing to worry about. The pandemic has barely begun and the loudest voices are the voices of big business. They want us all to go back to work. Some will die. Perhaps many will die, but without producing things to be consumed – the economy will die, according to those with the loudest voice. I think the economy is dead to us anyway. We are no better off than the peasants of the 17th century. Big business is no better than the robber barons of old. We are mere pawns, units of production, to it (business must be an it – it has no soul, or as Stiegler wrote, no spirit). So much for 6 hearts. I hope for better things.
Jack of Spades.
The French economist Thomas Piketty notes it is false to cling to hope that billionaires create jobs. Even by the most casual of tests there is no evidence they do. The triple down economy neoconservatives promote is false. Yet in 2020 our government is planning to stimulate the economy by giving tax concessions to big business and tax cuts to tax payers. The Prime Minister earns somewhere under $600,000. He will trouser a bonus tax cut of over $11,000. The average worker earns under $60,000 and he, who must spend his cash to survive, will get about $690.
Thomas Piketty says billionaires must be taxed out of existence yet it is our government’s plan to relieve them of the little they contribute to society.
How do you tax billionaires out of existence. I am not a tax lawyer but before they disappear there is a lot of money to be made by those who are. I have read about people who pay their tax accountant $2m to avoid paying any tax, (I do not log as a reference everything I read so I cannot verify my statements any better than, “some bloke said”. However I believe them to be true, just as I believe it to be true we are on the verge of a new paradigm between the worker and the employer. I hope I am right. I hope this new understanding is achieved without bloodshed. (As in a revolution, or a horrible death toll from the pandemic). If this does not come about I anticipate we will see a new class of self employed business people who are unwilling to be exploited by labour hire companies. We will need a new model of government too especially if we are to rid the world of billionaires. None, I see, has the stomach, or the ideology, to make such a move.
Ace of Hearts. Fin.
This paragraph was written after the event. For clarity I have written elsewhere billionaires and monopoly companies have destroyed the balance of capital across the globe. I reckon we should resort to the policies that led to the breakup of monopolies after WW11. Japanese monopolies were forcibly broken apart. Now it is time governments, across the globe, should do the same. Taxing billionaires out of existence may not work but sharemarkets must have the ability to force companies to limit the controlling ownership to businesses therefore limiting the size of an individual’s ownership in any company to, say 5%.
What do you think?
If you have a mind to check my analysis I refer you to read