He stands for nothing —
Intemperate, hubristic, rapacity,
He stands for nothing —
Intemperate, hubristic, rapacity,
Who are your heroes?
Do Jason and his argonauts fill the bill?
Is it the man, or was it the woman
who swam, or kicked a ball across the channel?
The President presumes it is him.
How could we forget so notable a personage?
Rosalind (DNA) Franklin or Einstein E=MC2
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.
There go I.
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
If as if my words are inconclusive. Here is YouTube clip to hammer home security https://youtu.be/NZwiCcM9_7g
9 Hearts spoke of capitalism and 6 Clubs billionaires. Are they generous? Is this article on the ball? https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/sep/08/how-philanthropy-benefits-the-super-rich?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other
How important is work?
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.”
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
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
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).
I found this conversation with James Lovelock on the BBC on 4/08/2020. Excellent diversion to listen to this man. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csz7jm
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.
Distinguishing marks were recorded on the admission forms of all enlisting soldiers in WW1. Herbert Laurence Nicholson , my future father-in-law, was seventeen when he was discharged from the Australian Army, when after 158 days of service, it was accepted he was under age for war service. His records show he had some moles on his forehead. Anyone wanting to find him could start by searching for these marks even in a crowd of 1,000 men.
Marks and scars on our face, or other regions occur, or not, on our life’s journey. We slip or fall. We cut or scratch an area on our body and our unblemished skin is marked. I have a litany of like marks myself each with its own story of how it got there.
The first I remember is a scar on my stomach. It was boldly won. I will have to take you back to when I was nine. My playground was the acres of public land dad managed as curator at the Camperdown Botanical Gardens. I spent my free time in this idyllic place whereas other children got to visit perhaps only once a year.
Most often these visits occurred before Christmas. Nearly every church group, and nearly every rural school in a fifteen mile radius booked a visit with dad so they could reserve one of picnic shelters for their annual party. When they arrived by car, truck, or utility many more people alighted from the vehicles than they were registered to carry. (Imagine the fuss today if people were transported, standing up, in the tray of a utility). They came like this in their Sunday best clothing because not every family owned a car.
Prior to their visit Dad had a busy week preparing for them. One thing he did was roughly cut the grass on a flat area they used as a running track. On this day they would have novelty events: the egg and spoon race,and the Siamese race (couples would race each other with left and right legs alternately tied together – you might know the race as a three legged race, but this was before political correctness). Another race people looked forward to was the women’s race. These women kicked off their high heels, tucked their wide skirts or dresses into their underwear and ran 50 yards as fast as they could.
The novelty was women generally did not run any where. They did not have exercise wear. Sneakers hadn’t even been invented. (Perhaps they might have played netball or tennis before they married – however few ever played sport after marriage.)
I used to look forward to the flat races. I liked watching them and became more excited the nearer the next race was for boys in my age group. I didn’t know the people, yet I fell in with them because it was a picnic and because they were generous. I would line up for a drink of their raspberry cordial and eat their Dixie ice cream. And when it came time for the race for nine year old boys I was by their sides.
The starter called go, and I ran. (Perhaps this was the fourth picnic I had muscled in on that year so I ran as fast as I could and I crossed the line first). I won. Unlike the sports events of today the line was actual. On this day it was a thin rope. I hit the line. One of the judges let go the rope, the other kept hold of it. I kept running and the rope ran across my lower stomach. It burned me as I ran and today I have a very faded scar on my skin under (my now large) belly.
That is how I got one of my distinguishing marks. I have a couple of others caused by carelessness. One on my left ankle is a reminder of a very painful scolding I received when I pulled a boiling kettle off the stove and the water ran into my shoe, pooling in the sock I had rolled around my ankle. The worst part of this came from the medical treatment I was given. Every day for weeks I had to visit a surgery and watch the nurse peel back the growing new skin and dress it. The pain has dulled but the memory has not.
I don’t intend to tell of all my careless injuries but as I write I recall it was an injury that gave me the opportunity to meet Sir Dallas Brookes the Governor of Victoria, I was a young scout. Scouts were frequently chosen to officially open the regal vehicle when it visited town, on the day he was due to arrive I could not stand because I had run across a cattle pit a few days beforehand and misstepped.
(Johnson’s lived opposite us. To keep out wandering cattle and to save the time of opening a gate, Mr Johnson had a cattle pit made at his roadway entrance. He had a deep hole made across his driveway, over this he had used some old rail lines to keep animals out of his garden. These were placed in rows across the hole 6 inches apart. People could step across, one to another, but cattle could not. If they put their foot on the rail it would slip off. Over the ages they had learned not to cross these obstacles. I had walked across it several times yet on that fateful evening I learned never to run across damp rail lines. As I ran my left leg slipped off a rail and I tumbled over leaving my leg caught in the grid. The deep wound on my left shin deserved stiches. Instead it was bound up in an old sheet torn into bandage strips to heal at my leisure).
When the Governor stepped out of his car to meet the dignitaries of the town I was sitting on a chair in pride of place. As Governor he was the titular leader of the scout movement, and given this role, he took a moment to shake my hand and exchange a word or two with me. It was an insignificant moment to him – but I was filled with pride.
Pride is my chosen word to describe another distinguishing mark we have. It is unseen and it not incautious to write it is dangerous. It is no wonder the truism, Pride comes before a fall, finds a place in our language. Take, for example the most recent example of the meaning of this, here in Australia we are all a-chatter. This week we read at least one of seven of the judges of the Australian High Court has been accused of sexual harassment. Although he denies it, the court has accepted the changes six women have accused of him and apologised. He has not.
To reach the lofty bench of the High Court, and be the last arbiter of right and wrong in the country, is to reach the dizzying heights of distinction. Yet it seems that distinction was insufficient to ground the man with the humility of decency. Fortunately the Me too movement is able to right the wrongs of any misogynistic people in our midst.
I acknowledge decency is a very thin veneer. I have my own scars certainly, yet it is with thanks I appreciate the times my family and friends have grounded me. I will ever be ashamed of those marks you cannot see. If it must be known – even to myself – I am unwilling to acknowledge my every distinguishing feature,
Let the final word on this matter be from a woman.
“The prolonged slavery of women is the darkest page in human history.”
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
American suffragist, social activist
Prompted me to read
Obviously pressed a button
That spat out art
The work emerged
By … mathematical formula
Was named Le Comte de Belamy
Listed it among the works of fifty famous artists
Proclaiming the work as new
Based as it was
On 1,500 scanned portraits
Of actual works by paint masters
Purchaser proclaimed it
“grotesque and amazing at the same time.”
Estimated to sell
As it cost time to produce
At ten thousand
With one in the room and one on the phone
In twenty eighteen
Pierre Fautrel, Gauthier Vernier, and Hugo Caselles-Dupré.
And GAN are names to watch
Four hundred and thirty-two thousand
If my little Box Brownie had taken colour prints
Before A.I. ………………My art could have made me rich.
AI was used to replicate poetry at last year’s poetry day (21 March 2019.) The photo below is one of five poems generated by artificial Intelligence to be read that day. Here is Various Weathers.
Author supplied photograph
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)
Living with good genes you visit your doctor only to replace the medications he has prescribed for daily use, when you have run out. You trust your GP – the pills prescribed; will reduce your cholesterol, replace the hormones your absent thyroid cannot produce, or lower your blood pressure. The proof all is well is revealed with a regular blood pressure check – 120/73 at 59 heart beats a minute. Excellent result. Even for a person a quarter of your age. It is all you need to hear before you exchange pleasantries and leave to go about your daily business.
With no comprehension of Greys Anatomy, or understanding of pharmacology, you trust the diagnosis your GP advises. Even he may not decide your the treatment for every ailment from a conversation. Most likely your GP will order blood tests to confirm the diagnosis gleaned from careful questioning. She may recommend you visit a specialist before ever a diagnosis is reached.
Not every visit is conducted with such routine rhythm – but you hear things.
Today your primary carer will reserve opinion until all channels are exhausted. This is as good – as it is bad. Specialisation can become misleading unless the specialist keeps a clear mind – the whole person needs treatment, and not just a specific disease found in part of the body.
The life of the doctor is most certainly fraught. This is especially so in this Internet age. Lots of people visit a doctor after first making inquiry of Dr Google. Your friends are often more knowing (not knowledgeable) than the doctor, and hypochondria is very common among those friends who make weekly visits with yet another complaint.
This is not to condemn them. How one feels can be misleading. Too often an acquaintance has died because they ignored symptoms other people acknowledged. One person says “I feel this,” The other says nothing. The first has a diagnosis, a treatment, a short, or a long painful – convalesce, and they are cured. The second, dies, or worse – is given a prognosis and dies shortly afterwards. The difference in their lives is sometimes a matter of how they think of the medical profession.
Currently the conversation is about pain. The press is full of the dangers of opioid and other drugs prescribed for pain. Codeine, Fentanyl, OxyContin form part of the list of products which pain sufferers are very familiar. Word has it that these drugs can be habit forming, just as morphine – first discovered in 1803, is known to be.
Tragically many lives have been lost by sufferers of long term pain. Their treatment caused them to become addicted to their treatment. In time the drug becomes more necessary to them than the pain it was prescribed to aid. It has reached a stage of alarm across the developed world.
The level of pain individuals can accommodate varies from person to person. The truth is few men would be able to live with the pain of child birth. It remains one life’s mysteries how women naturally live through confinement. But not all pain is equal.
From my own experience I have learned how easy it could be to slip into addiction. Many decades ago I visited Dr Bill Davies, (the doctor that was present at the birth of out children). On this occasion I had to wait for a long time outside his rooms. Every minute I waited the second hand of the clock scraped against its body on its journey and it screeched at the five o’clock mark. “Screech screech”.
I do not remember why I had made the appointment, just the noise the clock made every sixty seconds. perhaps I talked about to him about my jumpy legs. (My wife will tell of how I kick her nightly as I am going off to sleep. I have done this for years). Anyway, when I got to see him I said I couldn’t live with such an irritating clock. He looked quizzically at me and wrote out a prescription. This I took to the chemist, and in time I started taking Valium.
The prescription had five repeats. After about the third I mentioned I was taking diazepam, and the listener said it was addictive. Instead of taking pills I should read Dr Ainsley Meares 1968 book, Relief without drugs. I did. However I had a strong feeling of wanting something despite knowing the drowsiness I felt from was caused by the Valium. So I read it again and practiced what it said.
Fortunately I persevered with the techniques recommended by the book and I stopped taking Valium before I fell into its grip. The technique explained in the book is now recommended as Mindfulness training by professional groups. This is not news to Buddhists of course. It is just one of the practical parts of their practice.
Another aspect of the “Relief without drugs” book is the knowledge it is possible to retrain the brain to think differently. Interestingly this is now a recommended pain relief action. This has lead to whole new field of pain management. One I am convinced I must turn to with renewed energy and retrain my brain for practical reasons.
One grapples with pain. When, like now, I have remained in one position too long. One winches with the odd ache before moving freely. The relative influence of pain comes and goes. The arthritis that was causing pain in my finger knuckles a few months ago is now so bad my right hand constantly aches. The truth is I am losing the use of my right hand because of pain. To the point I try to avoid using it. Past experience has taught me not to rely on medication for things you can set aside with training. My brain is being retrained not to complain about an aching hand.
My message from all this? What happens next is up to me.
What is said today about opioids
Dr Ainsley Meares was a Melbourne psychiatrist. He learned about pain and how injured soldiers reacted to it in WW11. The photo is of a memorial to him. Co SMT
I don’t mind if you pause before you leave and read some more, or you make a comment. Thank you for reading this.