Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Lest we forget

The war remembrance business has changed.
When I was a girl, Anzac Day was a day to be feared - a day when the WWII vets would don their medals, march, and then get seriously and nastily drunk. The veterans were as ugly as the war - those poor, repressed men shielding the terrible truths of their experiences. The unspeakable. We never understood why they behaved as they did because they never explained it. It was not done to talk about the bloodbaths of war. War was a thing that men did and then put behind them - if they were men.
Come the 60s and our brothers and boyfriends were being conscripted to fight in Vietnam. It split the country right down the middle as the protest movements took to the streets. Passions ran high. We fought against our boys fighting. Our boys, on the other hand, often believed in the cause and were offended by the objectors. It grew terribly messy. At home and in Vietnam.
The Viet Vets returned to a thankless reception. They returned to the slow and hideous realisation that the objectors had had a point. The war had been a terrible mistake and, rather than having been its heroes, they had become its victims.
Anzac Day went on each year, but the Viet Vets did not march. They had different sorts of war wounds to lick. In many ways, they were crueller than the physical wounds of the old Diggers.
It took about a decade before they started to appear - and then it was on motorbikes in leather jackets. They were the rebel returned men.
And now they were heroes. The Anzac crowds could not yell loudly enough for them. The RSL might not have liked the biker image but the people loved it. And it was a way for the Viet Vets to assert their difference.
Thereafter the Anzac marches grew and grew - despite the fact that the old soldiers were dying off. What had happened was a change in perception of the Anzac ethos. What once had been seen as a celebration of the spirit of the fighting man and of the bravery of defending one's country now began to be seen as a multinational day of tribute to the fallen - and of mourning for the senseless carnage of war.
The world has grown up in so many ways. New cynicism. New instant, global media. Peace no longer is seen as some sort of hippie/leftie thing. Peace is what sane people crave. And now sane people see the profiteering of war, the corporate motives which lie beside and behind the politics. They are aghast - for in front of them now is the war of oil.
So they go in yet greater numbers to the Anzac marches because they feel yet more passionately - and they want to be seen to be doing something. To be among the numbers.
And they discover that 75 years ago, when the great national war memorial was created, it was never, never erected to honour war, as so many people mistakenly thought. It was honouring only the sweet souls - keeping them in memory.
For, the message of our fathers was that such losses of life should not be repeated.
Their quest and their message was that there must be found "some better means to resolve international dispute other than slaughter".

And so say all of us - again and again and again.
Do you hear us, oh our leaders?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Fairy fairy, quite contrary

Fairy Penguins are to be called Little Penguins for fear of offending the gay community?
What gives?
Political correctness is the most ugly and divisive thing. And plain stupid.
Did anyone ask the gay community about this sudden decision which has emerged from, of all places, Queensland?
Would these people who think that fairy penguins are offensive to gays actually call a gay person a "fairy"?
I wouldn't. I think they would be offended.
I have never heard any of my gay friends refer to themselves or any of their community as "fairies".
The "fairy" thing goes back to the dark old days of homophobia. It is of the ilk of "poof" and "pansy", neither of which are polite or, dare I say, politically correct.
The gay world hijacked the word "gay" as its chosen identity. They did not choose "fairy". We do not talk about the "fairy community" or the "fairy and lesbian festival".
Even to the gay world, in 2006 fairies are fairies. They are tiny things with wings. Fairy penguins are tiny things with wings.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The gamma game

How helpless are we at the hands of corporate greed. Not satisfied with breeding and genetically modifying food for shelf life, of loading things in trans fats, homogenising and vacuum packing for the convenience of the food market monopolists, we now have irradiation of our foods. Many of us have been blissfully ignorant about this, assuming that, of course, it was not legal in Australia. After all, we have been onto trans fats for ages. They are only a trace in our ingredients (albeit that even a trace is too much). But, surely, we don't want to nuke our food. Not our fruit? No, please, not our fruit. But here we have it - a thriving irradiation industry in Queensland with beautiful fruit and other fare travelling along conveyer belts to get the good old gamma rays. Oh boy, are they sterile. There is nothing better than a sterile mango. Who knows what evil diseases may breed beneath that pristine natural packaging! Kill, kill. Electron beams for greater shelf life.
We don't need our fruit fresh. We just need it long-standing. Old fruit is good fruit. Or so the supermarkets would have us believe - since they, clearly, are the market motive for this appalling treatment of our foods.
And so it seems there is yet more to fight about. Rights being stolen behind our backs. Rights to presume that fruit is nature's bounty. Well, nature's bounty nuked for posterity.
They find no ostensible human damage in this treatment of food - so far. But of course they don't know much. They don't know how this treatment may or may not change the cellular properties of fruits. Or what effect this may have on humans in the long run. Who cares about the long run, anyway? It is all about profit right now!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Articles of no faith

Oh how funny. Spotted in the paper today, amid the religious stories pandering to easter, or perhaps to the Christian right in all its glory, is a description of Judas Iscariot as ""the apostle who allegedly betrayed Jesus to the Romans".
Suddenly it is "allegedly". Police speak for the accusation. This, of course, because of the new Judas texts which purportedly paint Judas in a kindly light. So now we must be careful in how he is described. Now this religious fundament is in question. Cautiously "alleged". It is unproven.
Rather like the rest of the bible, really.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Cartoon wars

Cartoons used to be funny, or at least pithy. Like many things in our squabbling world, they now have become crude weapons of international malice.
I am aghast at the latest output of the formerly distinguished cartoonist, Bill Leake, and at The Australian, for the grotesque payback cartoon targeting Indonesia. So, the Indonesians published a crude cartoon of our Prime Minister as a dingo humping the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer. That was tacky of them - and rather atypical. I must say I was among those whose eyebrows were raised, albeit that I didn't really disagree with the sentiment.
But to turn the tables and repeat the imagery, using Indonesia's Susilo Bambang Yudhoyomo humping a Papuan, was as base and naive as it was unoriginal.
We already have a crisis in the sensitivities abraded by Australia's granting of protection to Papuan asylum seekers. This was what irked the Indonesians in the first place. 42 people who want to stay in Australia. The repercussions have been monumental - even Indonesia backing away from Australia's assistance in funding work against the spread of bird flu. That was before the idiot cartoon.
I simply can't see why Australian diplomacy with Indonesia is perpetually so badly handled. Indonesia is our neighbour, for heaven's sake. It is a much more complex country than ours and it has a strict core culture of respect for authority. Showing respect is crucial to all communications.
We may not always understand our neighbours and we may not agree with some of their actions, but they are still our neighbours and we should be borrowing cups of sugar and not throwing rubbish at one another.

Clearly, the only thing learned from the debacle with the Danish cartoons which sniped at Islam is that cartoonists have immense power - and now cartoonists are running amok with it.
Someone should take their pens away.

Dumb businessmen

Every year as Daylight Savings arrives, the same dreary business people set up the same clamour to curb the clock adjustments to "bring us in line" with the Eastern States by abandoning the half hour difference between Sydney and Adelaide. I don't know why business people are so stupid that they can't work out time differences. They are not calculated on business urges. They are calculated on longitude. Longitude! They are about geography.
Next they will want us to take on Los Angeles time so they can more conveniently do business there. And then, discovering that Washington and Los Angeles have different time, they will want that too. If the Americans can cope with business across the time scales of their vast continent, our business people should be able to do the same.