[I am involved in organising an unusual local festival that combines Arts and Activism, the Two Fires Festival in Braidwood, NSW, 12-14 April – soon! That’s the main reason there hasn’t been much posted here lately. I’ll put a few more festival things up over coming days. Here is the blurb on the session I care most about.]
The challenge for our generation is to create an enduring way of being, in Australia and around the world, so that our children may look forward to an indefinite future of healthy life in a healthy landscape. Our agricultural and other direct involvements in the landscape have a key role, and the search for enduring systems has been under way for some time.
Historian Bill Gammage’s remarkable recent book The Biggest Estate on Earth teaches us that if our descendants fulfil this aspiration they will not have been the first. For millennia prior to the arrival of Europeans, the Australian landscape was managed comprehensively, intimately and enduringly to be productive, diverse, and safer from fire, flood and drought.
English: ANU School of Music, LLewellyn Hall. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
[Although this is a relatively local issue, it is symptomatic of the venality of the neoliberal dominance of Australia and much of the world. The Vice Chancellor of ANU recently proposed to downgrade the School of Music from top-class performance to vocational training. Published in City News 5 June.]
Defenders of the Australian National University School of Music have come up hard against the utilitarian attitudes of the ANU Council, which refused last week to question the Vice Chancellor’s plan to gut the School. The Council is a politicised body, and Australian politics has itself largely lost interest in excellence.
[A condensed and modified version published at Eureka Street, 7 Feb.]
The Australia Day “riot” at the Lobby restaurant in Canberra was the subject of hysterical misreporting – I know, I watched it. We would be wise not to dismiss this episode as just another example of media sensationalism. Rather, it is symptomatic of a growing nexus in Australia of fear, hysteria, racism and ignorant ranting.
These phenomena are rapidly degrading our capacity for decency, our democracy, and even our perception of reality. We are moving rapidly away from the decent, laconic Aussies of our stereotyping, and into being a fearful, intolerant, nasty and brittle society.
It has long been obvious, to anyone who would look, that US foreign policy is not about democracy and freedom, it is about power. The conjunction of the Middle Eastern uprisings and Wikileaks release of US diplomatic cables has laid bare the fact and means of US influence over its de facto empire. That influence is exercised through loyal subordinate elites who are, in the words of Alfred W. McCoy and Brett Reilly, a motley collection of autocrats, aristocrats, and uniformed thugs.
Two lesser-known economic good news stories provide a revealing perspective on the mainstream economic paradigm, and on Australias current state.
The first economic miracle is Mauritius, brought to our notice by Joseph Stiglitz in the Guardian. Mauritius gained independence from Britain in 1968, and with few natural resources in its Indian-Ocean archipelago its economic prospects were rated as pretty dismal. Bucking the usual prescriptions of economists (sell your soul and your land to overseas investors and tourists), and despite per capita income of less than $400, Mauritius decided to invest in its one major asset – its people.
Prime Minister Julia Gillards recent speech to the US Congress was so sycophantic it was more sad than embarrassing.
We who think good ole Oz can be something other than a fiefdom of powerful foreigners are used to cringing when ever an Aussie politician visits the land of the free and the home of the brave. Ironically it is the Labor politicians who are the most servile, because they think they have to prove theyre not lefties. That will be one of the reasons for Gillards grotesque performance.