Tag Archives: politics

Weekend Coffee Share 26th February, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Quite frankly, I think the dog’s got the right idea. He’s lying on the floor beside me with his paws twitching in the air, evidently having a wonderful dream. I spoilt his other half yesterday. I spotted a very posh dog leash at the charity shop…a string of pearls with gold bling. Lady would look quite the part if she wasn’t such a scruffian and I hope she doesn’t roll around in dead stench while strutting her stuff.

We’ve had a big week.

Friday, as my daughter’s birthday. While we’ve put off her party until after “the test”, we still had festivities. It’s customary here for kids to take cupcakes in for their birthdays for the class. My daughter had found these uber-colourful rainbow cookies called “Unicorn Poop” on YouTube.  While seriously aghast at the “intense” colours and all that entailed, I was also concerned with her trying to make an American recipe for the first time for a special occasion. My mother hasn’t given me heaps of baking advice that I’ve taken to heart. However, she says you never make something for the first time for something special. I thought this advice went double when the recipe was in “American” and we had to translate the lingo and measurements. We opted instead for an English variation. With the end product looking like very pretty rocks, I not so subtly suggested she also makes cupcakes. Turned out that the biscuits weren’t as hard as they looked. She meticulously and artistically iced and decorated them and had a hit.

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Happy Birthday, Miss!

Last night, my parents came over and we all went out for dinner. It was the first time my Mum’s come over since her back went out last year and it was so good to see them up here. While we went out for dinner, we came back here for rainbow birthday cake and we shared some of our Tasmanian treats with them. That was so much fun and very yum!

Quite aside from my daughter’s birthday, much of my head space and time has been taken up with getting her prepared for the selective schools’ test, which will be held 9th March…only about 10 days away. Our daughter is in a selective primary school class and just from the perspective of staying with her friends, the test is at the very least an issue. I don’t believe in hot-housing kids and yet there’s that pressure, that anxiety, that not knowing. Believe me. It’s tempting to get all caught up in the panic/fear and throw all “distractions” aside and treat my daughter as a widget passing along an assembly line. So what about nurturing and developing the whole child?

I am hoping that we’ve trod the middle ground  and have done enough while staying somewhat sane. She’s been doing a bit of tutoring and some work at home but has still kept up with her dance and violin.

Strangely, the rest of the known world is not revolving around “the test”. Our State MP developed serious cancer and had to resign. This means we have a local by-election. I have to admit that I wasn’t enthralled with all the hoopla that entails, especially as we’re a marginal seat and experience what could best be described as an “Election Blitz”. You can share my shot at humour  here: Oh no! Not Another Election!

You know how hard it can be keeping the blog up with real life. Well, before writing about my frustrations with the political process, I’d actually found out that a friend and much valued role model, Liesl Tesch, is running as the local Labor Party candidate. That was quite a surprise and quite a thrill. Liesl is a Paralympic gold medalist and like me, juggles disability with movement and she showed me how you can use equipment as an enabler. Liesl teaches at our local High School and rides her bicycle to work but uses a wheelchair during the day and then cycles home. I first met her as the guest speaker at the International Women’s Day March and she was wheeling along the main street in her chair. However, when I next met her talking to our scout troop, she was standing and on her feet. That was good for me to see, because there are times when I could use a wheelchair to boost my accessibility and yet I’ve only done it once attending the Sydney Opera House.

I attended Liesl’s campaign launch on Friday morning. That was an eye-opener as it was more of a press conference. It felt quite strange seeing the political juggernaut back in town and I’ll leave it at that.

Meanwhile, I’m still following up from our trip to Tasmania. I don’t know whether I mentioned that I’ve told Geoff that he’s related to all of North Tasmania. He disagreed with me and it’s become a bit of a running joke. However, I’ve worked out that James Newton the convict I’ve been researching, had around 30 grandchildren and I’ve recognized quite a few names from the trip. It seems the degrees of separation get pretty tight down there historically speaking. Yet, many descendants have moved to the Mainland. So, it seems they could be infiltrating our ranks.

Well, on that note, I’ll head off.

I just realized that I’ve been a dreadful host and haven’t offered you anything to eat or drink and haven’t even asked how you’ve been or what you’ve been up to. My sincere apologies and I really didn’t mean to yawn at you then either. It looks like I’ve become so chilled today, that I’ve almost passed out.

So, how was your week? I hope you’ve had a good one.

This has been part of the Weekend Coffee Share and you can click here for the link-up.

xx Rowena

Oh no! Not Another Election…

Just when I thought we were getting a commercial break from the endless electioneering (ie Trump, Brexit etc, which don’t even involve us!!!), we’re having a local, State by-election.

That’s right. We’re heading back to the ballot box.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, before they’d even announced the candidates, my phone had already started ringing…who are you going to vote for?

The pollsters were out.

You see, being the most marginal seat in NSW, this isn’t any ordinary election! We might have huge potholes in our roads which the local ducks use as swimming pools, yet when election time comes, the big wigs roll in. Sometimes, it feels like the aliens have landed.

Indeed, perhaps they have.

Back when my son was a baby, he even had his photo taken with then Prime Minister, John Howard. You should have seen his minders clearing the decks for the baby. Mind you, his mother was pretty keen as well. Although we’re a marginal seat at both State and Federal levels, it’s not often the PM comes to town.

Yet, all those suits can be a bit of a culture shock.

In many ways, we’re a casual, and even alternative, beach community. It’s not that we don’t have our local businesses and I used to work for one. However, the overall feel here is a lot more relaxed than Sydney. Moreover, commuting to Sydney for work is a way of life. My husband works in Sydney.

Anyway, last weekend before the candidates had even been announced, the pollsters were already hitting the phones. After being a market research interviewer all through university, I always answer a survey. That’s how I found myself giving my opinions on the upcoming election.

The only trouble was, that I haven’t exactly been in the land of the living lately. Early in the New Year, we headed off to Tasmania for three weeks and to be perfect honest, although the kids are back at school and Geoff’s returned to work, I haven’t quite returned yet. I’m still printing photos, researching Geoff’s convict origins and family ties and eating my way through Ashgrove Farms Cheese, Anvers chocolate and drinking Spreyton’s Hard Ginger Beer (and already planning my next trip to restock!). The trees around here are also looking short and while it’s a relief not to be dodging multitudes of Bennett’s wallabies beside the roads, we’re back watching out for the local ducks, who’ve trained the cars to stop. And while I’m missing Tassie, I should point out that I’m glad to be home and back to our beach.  We do live in a slice of paradise.

Anyway…

When the market research interviewer called, I was hardly primed with all the right answers. In addition to being wrapped up in our Tassie experience, I was also stuck on my usual dilemma…what to cook for dinner! They actually hit me with a long list of names and asked me what I thought of various people. Some I knew, some I didn’t but had the feeling that I should. The whole thing was also a bit tricky given I didn’t know who was running and they were almost insisting that I pick a party. I know this might make sense to them when they’re trying to uncover “the mood of the electorate”, predict which party is likely to win and forecast which issues are going to be the tipping point. However, all this becomes quite semantic in a marginal seat.

After all, if we knew who we were going to vote for before they’ve even announced the candidates, we wouldn’t be a marginal seat. At least, that’s my thinking and it’s my thinking that matters because I’                                                                   m an undecided voter. Not necessarily a swinging or apathetic voter. More of an idealist…a visionary. Who are these people running and what do they really stand for? What are they going to do for our community? I’m not so sure I trust “the party”. Any party.

So, rather than describing myself as “unpolitical” as I have done, I’m actually uber-political and I’m not going to let someone else make up my mind. I’m going to do my research. Check these candidates out and find out if they’re people of substance…or not.

I owe our community that conscious vote, because when you live in a marginal seat, your vote really does matter. It counts.

Well, at least your vote can help determine which of the major parties gets in or perhaps even an independent.

Meanwhile, there’s still the pen and the keyboard at my disposal.  Quite frankly, the pen is more powerful than the ballot box any day…a place where every underdog can have their say and at least self-publish. Yahoo!

What are your thoughts about the place of the individual in the current political scene? Do you think we actually matter or has the machine wiped out the individual? Please share. I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rumi & Me…the US Election.

Like millions around the world, I was shocked to hear that Donald Trump has been elected President of the United States.
By now, there’s not much left to say, which hasn’t already been said. That is, other than to share my son’s insight on the fiasco: “Mum, did you realise that Donald Trump was elected President on 9/11?!!” Not a good omen, but we already knew that.
While doing some research today, I came across this quote from Rumi:

“If in the darkness of ignorance, you don’t recognize a person’s true nature, look to see whom he has chosen for his leader.”

-Rumi.

That Donald Trump wasn’t a lone voice calling out in the American wilderness, is only one of the scarier aspects of Trump’s victory. That he has millions of followers and like-minded people who may not agree with all of his policies, but agreed enough to get out there and vote. Vote in a country where the hard won right to vote, is optional and millions bail out. Where voting requires a lot more political and philosophical motivation than it does here in Australia (we get fined if we don’t vote.)

So, these people really chose to vote for Donald Trump. Or, they chose not to vote for Hillary Clinton.
2016-election
In addition to those who voted for Donald trump, there were those who didn’t vote in this critical election, even though the future of the so-called “free world” may depend on it. These people potentially trouble me more than those for voting for Trump.
Moreover, while I’m being critical of the US elections, let’s address the question of whether America is truly democratic. After all, is it democratic when you have to be a zillionaire to have any chance of being elected President? If the system is rotten to the core, how can you expect to elect good fruit?
This rot isn’t confined to America, of course.
Britain has its Brexit.
Australians have elected controversial Pauline Hanson to the Senate.
If our elected leaders, as Rumi suggests, do reflect who we are as a people, what do these choices say about us?About them?
It is a concern.
Yet, of course, it doesn’t say an awful lot about those who didn’t vote for him.
Indeed, many of these folk fought long and hard to block Trump’s quest for the White House.
So, what can they do now when they’re forced to live under his Presidency? How do they and those of us around the world,  stand up and fight for social justice when our faith seemingly flies against the wind?
Unfortunately, I am a woman of words, not of action. However, I know that I am not alone and neither are you. A  few grains of sand can gain momentum, building up into a mighty storm. However, we have to find the courage and strength to act.We need to get up out of the couch and plant ourselves somewhere we can make a difference. I don’t know where that is for me. As a writer, I hope that these words become seeds and get people thinking about what they are planting…seeds of love or seeds of hate. After all, those seeds will grow tall and strong fueled by sun, rain and soil and then they will bear fruit. We need to be very careful about the kind of fruit we’re mass producing as this is definitely not a game.
seed
If we plant two seeds of love, for every seed of hate, anger and fear… then collectively we can overcome these negative vibes which are spreading throughout democratic nations which value freedom, truth and justice. We can defend the values our countries have always held dear, even under the terrorist threat.
After all, we don’t want to change our stripes and become what we hate…especially when we as nations have fought long and hard to defend democracy, freedom of speech, equality. Values which could see someone as small as an insignificant mustard seed rise up and become the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of Britain or Australia based on merit instead of money.
Evidently, the US election, as well as elections in Britain and Australia, have given me much to think about in terms of our political systems. Obviously, I’m idealistic but I’m not about to throw out my rosy-coloured glasses yet. How about you? What are your thoughts? Let’s keep this constructive. I’m wanting to encourage the good stuff at a time when it’s seemingly under threat.
xx Rowena
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The Corgi Republican.

Further to the hypothetical dog, we had an encounter with a Corgi last weekend and cries went out for a Corgi. When even Geoff joined in with the throng, I was gobsmacked. After all, Corgi’s are THE Queen’s dog. Not just any ordinary queen either. We’re talking about Her Royal Highness, the Queen of Australia, who just so happens to live on the other side of the world at Buckingham Palace. Nothing wrong with that…unless you’re an Australian Republican!

young-Prince-Charles-Princess-Anne-got-silly-sand

After all, the Corgi is no ordinary dog…a dog of the people. Of course, the Queen’s Corgis wouldn’t have an ordinary kennel bought from the local pet shop. No doubt, the entire Palace is their domain. Indeed, these Royal Corgis would have blue blood. Or, maybe its even red, white and blue just like the Union Jack.

Naturally, I am not into such cultural elitism.

Moreover, as much as I might love the Royal Family, I strongly believe it’s time Australia grew up and moved out of home. Stands on its own two feet. After all, we don’t need the Queen to hold our hand crossing the road anymore. We can cross the road all by ourselves.

You could call this an: “Austexit”.

If it’s good enough for the English to leave the EU, why can’t we leave them behind?

So, now I’m left pondering whether it’s okay for a Republican to have a Corgi. Is a Corgi just another breed of dog? Or, if we have a Corgi, are we surreptitiously representing the monarchy? Is owning a Corgi a sign of allegiance?

I don’t know. However, I’m not the first person to question what a dog’s breed represents.

Surprisingly, this is an age-old question.

Daschund

During WWI, the Dachshund’s popularity crashed due to its German origins and popularity with the German Kaiser.

Daschund + kaiser

Kaiser Wilhelm II with his Dachshund.

So, a breed of dog can come to represent something much larger than itself. In this case, I’d be better of getting a more “Australian” dog…some sort of Dingo mix, a Blue Heeler? Personally, I think the Border Collie has also been sufficiently “Austracised”.

Dingo pups

Dingo Pup. 

However, you can take things too far. Although I love Vegemite and Tim Tams, that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy my cup of Twining’s English Breakfast Tea.

Moreover, now that I’m looking more deeply into the Corgi, I’ve actually started to wonder whether the Queen’s endorsement of the breed, actually reflects positively on the breed instead of being such a negative.

After all, the Queen could have any dog she wants, and she has consistently had Corgis. While her love for the breed has been parodied, there must be some reason for it. Indeed, the Corgi comes with the Royal Seal of Approval.

Moreover, as my husband pointed out, being a big dog on short legs, does have it’s advantages. A Corgi would have trouble jumping up and stealing food (which could also endear it to the Queen. Could you just imagine a dog jumping up on the Royal Dining Table at Buckingham Palace? Obviously, this is why the Queen hasn’t gone for the Border Collie x Cavalier…Hello Lady!!

So, last night I decided to check out Corgis on Gumtree,  an Australian classified’s site. You could say this is the canine equivalent of ordering a Russian mail order bride. All these puppy faces flash up at you and your heart completely melts!

However, this search looks like it’s ended all thoughts of a Corgi. There were no ads for pups. Indeed, there were only ads for people seeking Corgis. We found a breeder elsewhere, and it looked like it would be easier to get a job at Buckingham Palace looking after the royal corgis. This was a serious interview process. No doubt, we’d have to take Bilbo and Lady to the interview and they’d take one look at her Royal Scruffiness, and give us the flick. Lady would no doubt steal the afternoon tea straight off the plate and heaven help us if any rabbits were hopping by: “She ain’t nothing but a farm dog”.

Lady on kayak

Lady…Hardly royal material.

Considering our quest for another dog is semantic at this stage, current availability doesn’t matter anyway.

However, if the kids were trying to encourage me towards Corgis, they set their campaign back this morning.

Our son told me: “If we get a corgi, we have to call it Doge”.

Doge? What kind of name is that?

doge-much-help-pls_o_3233637

Sounds like something straight out of that British comedy Keeping Up Appearances where Mrs Bucket is pronounced: “Mrs Bouquet”. Yes, a rather pretentious rendition of “dog”. Not my scene at all. I’m very down to earth and you can’t get much more down to earth than dog beach. Sand and salt water are a mighty leveler.

Well, if you know anything about memes, you’ll know that Doge was a hit. Went “viral”.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, a background check has ended thoughts of a Corgi. The Corgi is considered a high shedder:

“Heavy shedding. Pembroke Welsh Corgis shed a lot. You’ll find hair and fur deposited all over your clothing, upholstery, carpeting, under your furniture, on your countertops — even in your food. Frequent vacuuming will become a way of life.”http://www.yourpurebredpuppy.com/reviews/pembrokewelshcorgis.html

We’ve had Border Collies and an Old English Sheepdog and our carpet could almost wag its tail and they’re not high shedders. I’ve also read warnings about dogs before, and let that puppy face deceive me. Not again.

So, it looks like the Queen can keep her corgis. That said,  I’m wondering how The Queen gets out the door without Corgi all over her coat?

So, for now, we’ll keep walking past that Corgi in the window and keep feeding our dogs those vitamins.

Any views about corgis? Dog breeds?

xx Rowena

Beyond the Call of Duty: Australia’s War Time Prime Minister.

Last week, I shared about helping my son out with his project about Australian Prime Minister, John Curtin. I also mentioned that I’d become so interested in that period in our history, that I just had to do a project of my own, resulting in a couple of posts for the blog. Otherwise, I knew I’d do his assignment for him and both he and his teacher would be after me. .

Here’s my previous post: WWII What I Learned From My Son’s Homework  https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/10/25/australia-during-wwii-what-i-learned-from-my-sons-homework/

Thank you blog. You provided me with that much needed blank canvas to paint my own word portrait of Prime Minister John Curtin, whose selfless and passionate commitment to our country and our freedom, ultimately claimed his own life when he died in office.

This isn’t going to be some stuffy history essay but more of an informal portrait of the man I discovered.

John Curtin Becomes Prime Minister-  7th October, 1941.

On 7th October, 1941, John Curtin became our 14th Australian Prime Minister. Being new to the job, I’m sure he would have appreciated a few weeks to settle in before the proverbial @#$% hit the fan at full blast. After all, we all know what it’s like to start a new job. You’ve got to find the bathroom, the lunchroom and get to know a bunch of strangers. Naturally, you’d like to have enough time to get on top of all of that before you faced a major challenge.

John Curtin at his desk in The Lodge

John Curtin at his desk in The Lodge

However, when John Curtin came into office, Australia was already at war.  Then, on the 7th December 1941 only 6 weeks into the job, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. A day later, the Pacific War was declared. His headaches didn’t get any better as the  Japanese forces swept across the South Pacific and country after fell like tumbling dominoes . Australia was obviously facing a severe security threat and being “The Boss” he was at the helm. It was ultimately his job to save the country.

Yikes! What a job! I certainly wouldn’t want to be in his shoes! They were such big shoes that  quite frankly, my feet would have been swimming laps.

Australian War Time Poster.

Australian War Time Poster.

The War in the Pacific

Although I studied Australian History at university, there are always gaps. You can’t know everything. Despite studying the Causes of the Russian Revolution twice and the same with the Causes of World War I, I never studied the actual course of either World War. Of course, I knew the big events and had heard family stories. However, the magnitude of what was going on only hit home once I drew up a time line of events for my son, which suddenly connected a disparate group of dots and formed a much more cohesive picture.

A damn scary picture if you, like my grandmother, were living in Brisbane in 1942!

I was also reminded over and over again that while it’s all very well looking at history through the benefit of hindsight, the person on the street had no crystal ball. They had no idea how the war would end or who would win and everything was pretty much hanging in the balance.

Defending Australia.

Defending Australia is still challenging with it’s vast coastline and comparatively low population. John Curtin was looking at defending a mainland coastline of  35,876 km with a population of only 7,180,736 and most of our troops were off fighting Hitler. The situation as dire.

Put simply, our entire defensive strategy rested on the British and their base in Singapore and while our focus was naturally on the Pacific War, Britain was wanting to beat Hitler first.

In a famous article in The Melbourne Herald on December 27, 1941, Mr Curtin insisted that Australia “refused to accept the dictum that the Pacific struggle was a subordinate segment of the general conflict”. HV Evatt later reflected: “Certainly, Mr Curtin’s words, if read fairly, were in no sense critical of Britain; on the contrary, they merely stressed the principle that as Mr Churchill was resolved that Britain should never fall to the enemy, Mr Curtin was equally resolved that ~Australia shall not go”….The Courier Mail, 14th November, 1950 pg 2.

Before the Fall of Singapore, Australia looked to Britain for our national security. Like some desperate gambler placing all their chips on one number, Australia’s defense rested on Singapore and the bulk of our troops were over in the Middle East under Churchill. However, John Curtin realising this enormous risk, took Churchill on and brought the bulk of our troops home.

The Fall of Singapore.

The Fall of Singapore.

The fighting in Singapore lasted from 8 to 15 February 1942. It resulted in the capture of Singapore by the Japanese and the largest surrender of British-led military personnel in history.About 85,000 British, Indian and Australian troops became prisoners of war, joining 50,000 taken by the Japanese in the earlier Malayan Campaign. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called the ignominious fall of Singapore to the Japanese the “worst disaster” and “largest capitulation” in British military history.

Bombing of Darwin

Bombing of Darwin

Four days later, on 19 February, 1942 the Japanese substantially bombed Darwin. The Bombing of Darwin, also known as the Battle of Darwin,  was both the first and the largest single attack ever mounted by a foreign power on Australia. On this day, 242 Japanese aircraft attacked ships in Darwin’s harbour and the town’s two airfields in an attempt to prevent the Allies from using them as bases to contest the invasions of Timor and Java. The town was only lightly defended and the Japanese inflicted heavy losses upon the Allied forces at little cost to themselves. The urban areas of Darwin also suffered some damage from the raids and there were a number of civilian casualties. The two raids killed at least 243 people and between 300 and 400 were wounded. Twenty military aircraft were destroyed, eight ships at anchor in the harbour were sunk, and most civil and military facilities in Darwin were destroyed.

The raids were the first and largest of almost 100 air raids against Australia during 1942–43.

While Britain’s approach to the two-pronged war was to beat Hitler first, in March 1942, Australia’s salvation came when President Franklin Roosevelt  ordered General Douglas MacArthur, commander of US forces in the Philippines, to organise Pacific defense with Australia. Curtin agreed to Australian forces coming under the overall command of MacArthur and passed the responsibility for strategic decision-making onto MacArthur who was titled Supreme Commander of the South West Pacific. From MacArthur’s point of view this was a workable alliance – he told Curtin to ‘take care of the rear and I will handle the front’.

This was a dramatic shift in our defence strategy and a very gutsy and heroic move.

Yet, Curtin’s headaches continued.

Japanese midget submarine retrieved after attack on Sydney Harbour.

Japanese midget submarine retrieved after attack on Sydney Harbour.

On the night of 31 May – 1 June, three Japanese midget submarines, each with a two-member crew, entered Sydney Harbour, avoided the partially constructed Sydney Harbour anti-submarine boom net, and attempted to sink Allied warships. Two of the midget submarines were detected and attacked before they could successfully engage any Allied vessels, and the crews scuttled their boats and committed suicide. These submarines were later recovered by the Allies. The third submarine attempted to torpedo the heavy cruiser USS Chicago, but instead sank the converted ferry HMAS Kuttabul, killing 21 sailors.

As history records, however, eventually the tide began to turn and the dominoes started to fall in our favour.

Yet, the stress of the war had taken a major toll on Prime Minister John Curtin. On 3 November 1944, after one of his rare breaks at his home in Perth, he suffered a major heart attack in Melbourne on the long train journey back to Canberra. When he was strong enough he was driven back to Canberra to complete his recovery. On 8 January 1945, he celebrated his 60th birthday at The Lodge. Although he returned to parliament in February, Curtin was by no means back to normal.

On 18 April 1945, he moved the parliament’s motion of condolence on the death of President Franklin Roosevelt. Soon after, severe lung congestion forced him back into hospital. Deputy Prime Minister Frank Forde was in San Francisco and Ben Chifley was acting Prime Minister. It fell to Chifley to announce the end of the war in Europe on 9 May 1945.

Curtin was released from hospital on 22 May. That day he was driven back to The Lodge, and he and Elsie Curtin strolled in the garden together for photographers. They then walked back into The Lodge together for the last time.

On 5 July, 1945 John Curtin died at The Lodge, just six weeks before the end of the war in the Pacific. That he didn’t live to see the end of the war in which he fought so hard, maybe not out in the trenches with “our boys” and the women who supported them as nurses etc but he gave his heart, his mind and this battle ultimately consumed him. Naturally, there were a multitude of tributes when he passed away and I’ve chosen to quote the one that best represents my thoughts:

“The Prime Minister saw his country through deadly invasion peril and sacrificed his health in his intense devotion to the national defence. He saw to it that literally everyone had a war job and the nation entered it’s national defence with the fervour and energy which characterise its activities in national causes.”

– The New York Herald Tribune.

What an incredible man and I’m so glad I took the time to get to know him better.

xx Rowena

Brain Plasticity & Saving Two Australians on Indonesia’s Death Row

Frankly my dear, I do give a damn!!

When it comes to fighting for justice, I will personally stand up and be counted, even when the case is rather controversial. After all. it’s easy to have compassion for someone you love. It’s much more challenging when someone has a few prickles…or a past. Yet, sometimes our journey takes us down that road and we are forced to argue the points backwards and forwards inside our heads until we can make sense of it all and hopefully judgement turns to love.

I don’t know if the imminent execution of two convicted Australian drug smugglers in Indonesia has made International news. However, as citizens of the world, this case affects each and every one of us who believe in the sanctity and importance of justice and the capacity for humanity to change and redeem itself.

We are all called to stand up and fight.

The case I am referring to is the imminent execution of two convicted Australian drug smugglers in Indonesia: Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, who were part of the notorious Bali Nine. Since their conviction, these men have completely turned their lives around and deserve a second chance. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be punished. Just that they don’t deserve to die.

Portrait of Andrew Chan by Myuran Sukumaran.

 

My justification for clemency lies in the science of brain plasticity or neuroplasticity. If you know anything at all about brain plasticity, you will know and understand that these men have changed the very physical structures of their brains through rehabilitation and are no longer who they were. That they are, indeed, very different men. After all, if you have a different brain, how can you possibly be the same?

Victorian Supreme Court Justice Lex Lasry , summed  this up well when he addressed the Melbourne vigil held on 18th February, 2014. Lasry had been involved in the case of Van Nguyen, the Melbourne man who was executed for drug trafficking in Singapore in 2005. Lasry said that he has visited Chan and Sukumaran in jail in Bali several times and was in no doubt the pair had redeemed themselves.

“The reality is that if Indonesia go ahead and execute these two men, they’ll be killing an artist and a church pastor,” he said.

“The drug traffickers have gone. The drug traffickers left in 2005. “4.

About Brain Plasticity

Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity “refers to changes in neural pathways and synapses due to changes in behaviour, environment, neural processes, thinking, emotions, as well as changes resulting from bodily injury.[1] Neuroplasticity has replaced the formerly-held position that the brain is a physiologically static organ, and explores how – and in which ways – the brain changes throughout life.[1]

In The Brain Which Changes Itself, Norman Doidge M.D. a psychiatrist and researcher set out to investigate neuroplasticity. “He writes that the brain can change itself. It is a plastic, living organ that can actually change its own structure and function, even into old age. Arguably the most important breakthrough in neuroscience since scientists first sketched out the brain’s basic anatomy, this revolutionary discovery, called neuroplasticity, promises to overthrow the centuries-old notion that the brain is fixed and unchanging. The brain is not, as was thought, like a machine, or “hardwired” like a computer. Neuroplasticity not only gives hope to those with mental limitations, or what was thought to be incurable brain damage, but expands our understanding of the healthy brain and the resilience of human nature”. http://www.normandoidge.com/?page_id=1259

This brain plasticity isn’t just something for the laboratory or people experiencing chronic medical conditions or disability. It affects us all and is a more “scientific” explanation for what we have always known: “Use it or lose it!!”

To get an idea of how brain plasticity works, picture an old fashioned telephone exchange with all those cables plugged in. Our brain is built of these cables. So for example if we keep getting angry, those anger pathways will keep getting bigger and bigger just like exercising a muscle. Moreover, the bigger these pathways become, the angrier we will become unless we take action.

Conversely, each and every time we appease our anger and breathe deep, count to three whatever it takes, those neuropathways shrink and actually disappear. These are actual, physical changes in the structure of our brains. The brain map is different.

I have experienced these changes myself after undergoing brain surgery to treat hydrocephalus. I have experienced many changes but probably the most surprising is that I can actually play the violin and I now play in an ensemble. That takes some pretty complex brain and physical developments, which I never thought possible. I only took the violin up to help my daughter.

My argument is that through rehabilitation, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran have demonstrated that through such brain plasticity, they are no longer the men they were.

Therefore, as an exceptional case and while not dismissing the severity of their crime, these new men deserve a compassionate response…jail not execution!

This quote from US President John F. Kennedy sums it up well:

“The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were.”

Background to the Bali Nine

Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were the ring leaders of a group of Australian drug traffickers known as “The Bali Nine”. On 17 April 2005, the Bali Nine were arrested for planning to smuggle 8.3 kg (18 lb) of heroin valued at about A$4 million from Indonesia to Australia. These men were no angels and heroin, as we know, is a hard core drug which destroys lives. Authorities must do whatever it takes to get heroin off the streets. While people do dispute the death penalty, they are not advocating a more relaxed after to stopping the trade of heroin.

Going back to the time of their arrest, I didn’t have any sympathy for the Bali 9. Due to the very publicised case of alleged drug trafficker, Australian Shapelle Corby, the severity of Indonesia’s drug laws had been front page news for some time. I might not agree with the death penalty but Indonesia’s tough anti-drug laws most definitely weren’t a secret.

Australian Shapelle Corby had been arrested in Indonesia on 8 October 2004 when she was found to have 4.2 kg (9.3 lb) of cannabis in a double plastic vacuum-sealed bag in her unlocked bodyboard bag. Corby was convicted on 27 May 2005 and sentenced to 20 years in prison by the Denpasar District Court and imprisoned in Kerobokan Prison. To this day, Shapelle maintains her innocence and there have been numerous theories about how the cannabis got into her body board bag. Her case became a “cause celeb” and during that media frenzy, the severity of Indonesia’s drug laws was made very, very clear.

From where I was sitting in front of the TV, you’d have to be a complete idiot or have a serious death wish to even consider smuggling drugs in or out of Indonesia. I know people talked about making their luggage more secure after Shapelle’s arrest. Indeed, I’d even be checking the paperwork on my prescriptions before heading to Indonesia…especially given the amount of pills I take in a week. They could easily be perceived as trafficking quantities!

Those were the sorts of precautions your average Australian traveler was taking when the Bali 9 were arrested. Nobody wanted to be another Shapelle Corby and we were leaving absolutely nothing to chance. The consequences were just too great.

Given the historical context, the Bali 9 did come across as a bunch of idiots who had earned themselves what’s known as the Darwin Award: http://www.darwinawards.com/ After all, they didn’t need to be Einstein or have some kind of mystical crystal ball to know what they were getting themselves into. They just needed to turn on their TV. Shapelle Corby’s face was everywhere. Remember: Shapelle Corby was arrested on the 8th October 2004 and on the 27 May 2005 she was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison. The Bali Nine was arrested On 17 April 2005, the Bali Nine were arrested right in the middle of Shapelle’s trial. You do have to wonder what they were thinking and if they were even thinking at all and certainly you would never expect these men to amount to anything much at all!!

That was then. This is now.

Self-Portrait by Myuran Sukumaran

Self-Portrait by Myuran Sukumaran

Fast-forwarding nine years, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan are changed men and are inspiring other prisoners and leading exemplary lives. These are not the same men who were convicted back in 2006. Their names might be the same and they are older versions of themselves but in terms of their soul, spirit, character and no doubt even the neurofibres in their brains, they are not who they were. Therefore, executing these men would be a great travesty of justice.

Victorian Supreme Court Justice Lex Lasry has long campaigned against the death penalty and was involved in the case of Van Nguyen, the Melbourne man who was executed for drug trafficking in Singapore in 2005.

 

Julie Bishop, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs  outlined how much the men had changed when she addressed Federal Parliament on 12th February, 2014:

“Both men are deeply, sincerely remorseful for their actions. Both men have made extraordinary efforts to rehabilitate.

Andrew and Myuran are the model of what penal systems the world over long to achieve.

Successive Governors of Kerobokan Prison in Bali – whose prison has given Andrew and Myuran the opportunity to reflect and change – have testified to their remarkable transformation.

A decade on from their crimes, Andrew and Myuran are changed men. They are deeply committed to a new path.

Both men are paying their debt to society. With dedication and unwavering commitment, they are improving and enriching the lives of their fellow prisoners.

Andrew has completed a theology degree in prison. As a pastor, he now provides religious counselling and guidance to fellow inmates. On the day he received the President’s rejection of his clemency application, Andrew’s Australian lawyer Julian McMahon said he was nowhere to be found, for even at this moment of undeniable personal anguish, Andrew had taken time out to comfort a fellow inmate who was seriously ill.

Myuran – referred to by many as the ‘gentle giant’ – has nearly completed a fine arts degree in jail. He has had the opportunity to become an accomplished artist; his raw talent recognised and fostered by his friend and mentor, renowned artist Ben Quilty.

In prison, Andrew and Myuran sought permission from prison authorities and began an array of courses to benefit fellow inmates, and to prepare them for their return to society.

They have led extensive and varied arts, cultural and vocational courses. Some of their courses are aimed directly at drug addicts, equipping them with the skills to beat their addiction, saving their lives and giving them real prospects in the future.

Andrew and Myuran have raised money for fellow inmates’ medical procedures; for victims of Typhoon Haiyan; for Indonesia National Day festivities.

Indeed, such is the profound effect of Andrew and Myuran’s inspiring humility and service, their fellow prisoners have come forward to lend support, even offering to take their place in execution to President Widodo…

Their remarkable rehabilitation, and the circumstances of their arrest, has prompted five successive Australian Prime Ministers to make representations in their name. [2]

What Brain Plasticity Means For Chan & Sukumaran. Why Spare These Men?

If somebody completely turns their life around and becomes an entirely new and different person on the inside, should they still be judged and sentenced to death because of crimes they committed in the past? Although they have the same name and DNA, they are a different person and things become very problematic.

Would justice truly be served and can we as a global community just stand back in good conscience and do nothing to spare these men? Or, do we both as a society and as individuals need to do whatever it takes to prevent such a tragic and unjust loss of life?

The answer is a resounding “yes”!! After all, two wrongs have never made a right!!

Although I have never met these men and I certainly don’t support the use or sale of such drugs, there is such resounding evidence that these men have significantly and are now dramatically improving the lives of those around them as well, rehabilitating and educating other prisoners much more effectively than other methods.

“Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek, whose husband was charged and convicted of a similar crime to Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, spoke out in Parliament saying: “criminals can be redeemed – my husband is proof.”

She adds that the laws which underpin the executing these men is the basic “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” law that has influenced the Old Testament and earlier legal codes in countries around the world. But that’s 3,700 years ago. We’ve moved on a great deal from an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-12/plibersek-these-men-deserve-restorative-justice-not-execution/6088334.

I also thought it was interesting that at last night’s vigil, emotional statements were read from the pair, which acknowledged their original stupidity,  saying that  the “compassion and kindness from people forgiving our stupidity” has made them feel “truly blessed” 4″

Their Last Words

Andrew Chan: “Thoughts from the Edge

“Thank you Jesus that you give me the strength and courage that I need to stand strong and to trust in you when the waters arise.”

“I thank you Jesus that you never give up on me and that your faithfulness is what helps me striving forward. I thank you for all the family and friends you surround me with in life and how your love pours out from them.”

“The Lord is revealing to me through this scripture is about how he’ll fight the battles for us and that we won’t be defeated if he goes ahead of us… The truth is God is remind us that when all seems helpless and you feel as though the enemies army surrounds you, God is telling us to stand still, take up our battle stance but do not move.[3]

Myuran Sukumaran – Thoughts from the edge

“When you are young you think money is the only way to get happiness … after being here for eight years you realize it is not.”

“After being in prison for eight years I only realized when it comes when it comes to drugs nobody gets rich – there are a few people – most get caught and end up in places like this and that’s the lesson.”

“I want to become a better person and I want to help everybody else become a better person as well. It is like a vehicle for everybody to travel in to better themselves.”

Last Words or a New Beginning…

Time is running out and I don’t know what any of us can do at this late hour. I understand that over 30,000 Australians have written to the Indonesian Attorney General pleading for mercy and many many people have spoken publically. Last night, a vigil was being held in Sydney to pray for the men and their families and this was just one of many. I can sense a collective heartache if these efforts fail and these two young men are put to death.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran are in my heartfelt prayers.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”.

*Please reblog this post and spread the word. It now looks like the lives of these men rest on divine intervention and people power.

As the saying goes: “Never give up”!!!

Love & Blessings,

Rowena

[1] · Pascual-Leone A., Amedi A., Fregni F., Merabet L. B. (2005). “The plastic human brain cortex”. Annual Review of Neuroscience 28: 377–401. doi:10.1146/annurev.neuro.27.070203.144216.

[2] Parliamentary motion: Chan and Sukumaran, Address to House of Representatives Speech, E&OE, Parliament House, Canberra,12 February 2015.

[3] http://www.news.com.au/national/six-living-former-prime-ministers-make-united-final-plea-for-doomed-bali-nine-duo/story-fncynjr2-1227222259664

4) www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-18/vigils-held-for-bali-nine-pair-facing-execution/6143978

Paintings: http://www.news.com.au/world/asia/bali-nine-member-myuran-sukumaran-paintings-in-melbourne/story-fnh81fz8-1227049488225

I apologise  for any breaches of copyright regarding the images used in this post. I am merely trying to support their cause.

Weighing Up the Past: Australia’s Bicentennial Scrapbook

“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ”
― Michael Crichton

This is my third and final post about revisiting Australia’s Bicentenary through through the pages of a copy of The  Australian Women’s Weekly, January, 1988, which I recently found in a local op shop.

In terms of trying to better understand the range of views towards the Bicentenary, I threw together a smattering of newspaper clippings to show a few of the different opinions which were around at the time. This is in no way intended to provide a comprehensive, historical account ….just some voices from the past.

Indigenous poet and campaigner Oodgeroo Noonuccal asked at the time of the Bicentennial, ‘from the Aboriginal point of view, what is there to celebrate?’. In 1987, Oodgeroo returned her MBE in protest against the upcoming 1988 Bicentennial celebrations.http://www.womenaustralia.info/biogs/IMP0085b.htm

Greg Foleyhttp://www.kooriweb.org/foley/essays/essay_11.html

“On the same day as the SMH featured its ‘souvenir lift-out, the front page of the main part of the paper featured two major headline stories of Indigenous challenge to the status quo.  The first was a story headlined ‘Torres Strait Islanders back Independence Call” and was about the stirring’s in the Torres Strait that eventually resulted in the High Court delivering the famous ‘Mabo’ decision. The second story was about an audacious plan by Koori activist Burnam Burnam who was in England planning to claim Britain by raising an Aboriginal flag at the same time as descendants of the British were planning their similar action of re-enactment in Sydney. The same report also said that ‘hundreds of Aborigines’ were en-route to Sydney to attend ‘the long march for justice, freedom and hope’.”

On 7th March, 1987 The Canberra Times reported:  “Aborigines may snub bicentenary” and quoted Pat Dodson, National Coordinator of the Federation of Land Councils:

“It will be a national disgrace if the 200th year of our dispossession passes without the proper recognition of our indigenous rights as the traditional owners of Australia.”

The federation called for Aboriginal rights to be recognised in a national treaty or included in the Constitution.[3]

Greg Maher: Woroni (The Australian National University’s student newspaper)

“The emphasis that the Hawke government however, has given to the Bicentenary – that is, concentrating on educational and other initiatives to highlight the Aboriginal situation as the key point of the years activities – makes the Bicentenary worth recognising and supporting and indeed, at least for some, celebrating. The point is that those who propose a boycott say they won’t celebrate an invasion. Nor should they. No Aboriginal does, or should celebrate the invasion of their land and the displacement of their people. This is not to say that they can’t take part, or shouldn’t. As has been outlined already, recognition and support for the constructive message that is attached to the Bicentenary is essential for a reconciliation, for progress in the area of Aboriginal reform and to build bridges of communication with the white population. Of course though, it must be ongoing. How do we achieve this?[4]

In the literary magazine: Bliss, Australian author Patrick White also voiced opposition to the Bicentenary, which he described as a “circus”. Indeed, taking quite a stand, the Nobel Prize winning author refused to have any of his work published or performed during the Bi centennial. More than anything, White says, “it was the need for justice for the Aborigines which put me against the Bi. Very little has been done to give them a sense of security in the country we invaded.[5]

Very much on the other side of the fence, we had John Howard, the then Leader of the Opposition who went on to become the Prime Minister of Australia from 11 March 1996 to 3 December 2007. He said: “Australia’s bicentennial celebration should be an occasion of immense pride, not collective guilt, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Howard, said in Melbourne yesterday.

He told a National Australia Day Council lunch that he was concerned that the bicentennial program urged Australians to reflect “a little too much” on the mistakes rather than the achievements of the past.

“Certainly, all of us need to be aware of past mistakes, but surely 1988 is the year to celebrate where we got it right,” he said.

Australia had been incredibly blessed with good fortune and had a level of freedom few countries could boast.

The Australian achievement was a matter for immense pride.

Australians should not apologise for the fact that their country was European in origin.

“We have inherited European culture, the English language, British institutions and a way of life which is very much steeped in the Western liberal democratic tradition,” Mr Howard said. “Judeo-Christian values have, by and large, provided the ethical wellsprings of our society.

‘To in any way apologise for this, qualify it, pretend it doesn’t exist, or worse still, imagine that it is an inferior quality of life, is the height of absurdity and historical inaccuracy and likely to render our bicentennial celebrations irrelevant to the overwhelming majority of Australians.”

Because of the Aborigines’ prior occupation of this continent, and their continued disadvantage, they deserved special acknowledgment in the bicentennial celebrations. Their disadvantage had to be dealt with in a constructive and remedial fashion…[6].”

It has been interesting seeing how buying a vintage magazine at the op shop has opened my eyes to so many things and made me see the Australian Bicentenary in a completely different light. That said, I have been conscious for some time that celebrating Australia Day on 26th January is not showing sensitivity or compassion towards our Indigenous people who were displaced and so often subjected to horrific crimes of abuse. This is our national shame and we shouldn’t just bury that under the carpet and pretend that nothing ever happened. We can’t. To be honest, it continues as well.

As I wrote in my last post, I don’t know what, if anything, I can do about it personally other than write about it, which does seem a bit lame but we each have our role in the body, in our community and as I have said before, I always hope the pen is mightier than the sword. That through writing we can highlight prejudice and injustice and also love and embrace all peoples.

In this, I join with Dr Martin Luther King (Jnr) and say “I have a dream”. I haven’t quite worked out all the details yet but have joined at least 1000 other people who will be writing about compassion on 20th February, 2015…the UN International Day of Social Justice: 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion. I encourage you to also participate. You can check out the details here:

https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/bloggers-unite-for-a-better-world-1000-voices-speak-for-compassion/

We need to keep working on the foundations laid by trail blazers like Dr Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela and see love, compassion and equality triumph!

xx Rowena

[1] The Australian Women’s Weekly, January 1988, pg 7.

[2] The Australian Women’s Weekly, January 1988, pg 7.

[3] The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995) Saturday 7 March 1987 p 9

[4] Woroni (Canberra, ACT : 1950 – 2007) Monday 7 March 1988 p 19 Article

[5] The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995) Wednesday 1 June 1988 p 30

[6] The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995) Saturday 25 January 1986 p 3

[7] http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm

# Cats and Dogs Are Friends

“I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks”.

Daniel Boone

The last few weeks have been terribly confusing for yours truly. We all know about the dreadful events which have taken place right around the world. Being quite the philosopher, I often wonder what the humans are doing to our planet. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before they either blow us all up or we all get fried to a crisp.

It’s hard being a bystander. I had hoped things would improve in the New Year but it’s only got worse.  But what can I do? I’m only one dog. Yet, I am not any ordinary dog. I have magic powers. Well, that’s what I call being smart and finding solutions to age-old problems. That has to be a sort of magic.

Rewinding the clock, I considered what I could change in the New Year. As we all know, a new year is a clean slate and anything is possible. Of course, like all good dogs, I wanted to put my best paws forward. However, as I’ve had no luck with dieting and I’ve never smoked or taken drugs, I was stumped.

That was until Mum heard about this new idea of choosing a word to define your year. Mum’s word for 2015 is “love”. That sounded very inspirational but being my usual enthusiastic, over-achieving self, I decided to aim a little bit higher. Why settle for just one word when I could achieve so much more with these three words:

Change the World

Earth viewed from space.

Earth viewed from space.

I know you probably think that I’ve set myself the ultimate in impossible goals. However, quite frankly, it has to be easier than losing weight. These love handles of mine have definitely become permanent fixtures.

It was this quest to change the world which launched my journey into the perplexing field of philosophical research. From there, the Golden Rule certainly seemed to be the best way forward but further analysis confirmed that there is indeed an exception or challenge to every rule. For me, it was cats.

There was also the matter of my canine companion, Lady, who chews up my tennis balls without any consideration about my feelings at all!! This travesty posed yet another challenge to the Golden Rule. As I said, the Golden Rule works well when everybody follows it but when someone bucks the system, where’s the justice then?

Or, do we just hope karma intervenes?

Being somewhat jaded and disillusioned, I briefly turned to the dark side , investigating a different ideology: Do unto others as they would do unto you. While I could see that this approach could result in both good and bad outcomes, I thought it was all too easy to just start living for No. 1. That was definitely NOT where I wanted to end up. After all, while I’m not responsible for the actions of others, I do have to live with myself!

So it seems that my ideological journey went around in a great big circle and I was almost back to the beginning again. Back to the Golden Rule and trying to work out how I could be nice to cats.

Somehow, Odie pulled it off.

Odie loves Garfield but what does he get in return?

Odie seems to love Garfield unconditionally.

This was all well and good in theory but like all of my philosophical theories, difficult to put into practice.

To be nice to a cat, I actually had to get near a cat and even that was impossible. You might be surprised but I’ve never actually met a cat let alone tried to converse or conduct any type of meaningful dialogue with one. The closest I ever came to fraternising with a cat was when I bailed up that wretched thing, I mean, the nice cat from next door. I’d had that cat cornered until Dad suddenly appeared, grabbing me firmly by the collar, allowing my guest to escape before we’d been properly acquainted. Needless to say, she never came back.

Cats aren’t exactly innocent either.

"The cat next door" slashing Snoopy's doghouse

“The cat next door” slashing Snoopy’s doghouse

Firstly, let me mention my friend Snoopy and his encounters with the  savage cat next door to him. He is an extremely vicious cat who terrorizes Snoopy and Woodstock. Whenever Snoopy mocks the cat from across the yard, the cat slashes and Snoopy’s doghouse or sometimes, him. Charlie Brown usually ends up having to buy another doghouse, as a result.

Then there’s Garfield who constantly berates Odie.

Garfield needs to learn the Golden Rule.

Garfield needs to learn the Golden Rule.

I guess it’s probably due to heated moments like this that humans have decided to keep us separate: dogs here, cats over there. Even when I go to the vet, cats are inside, dogs outside. As I said, we live in divided worlds.

However, how is separation and ignorance building bridges between cats and dogs? Bridging the gap and trying to overcome our differences? It’s not.

The time has come to start bridging the gap uniting cats and dogs through love, understanding and forgiveness to create a better world. To achieve this, we  at least need to interact and get to know each other better. After all:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

The trouble is how do we break the ice and get the ball rolling?

All I do know is that if I want to change the world, it all begins with me. I have to be the change.

Back to the lab… A protocol is definitely required to improve relations between dogs and cats.

How to Become Friends with Cats

  1. I drew a picture of myself being nice to cats and stuck it up inside my kennel. Perhaps, if I could visualise being friends with cats, that could be a start.
  2. I keep repeating “I love cats” over and over and over again. I’ve even stuck a flag on top of my beloved kennel: “I love cats”. While I still make the occasional slip of the tongue, surely, it must sink in eventually.
  3. Feed your enemy. As everyone knows, the easiest way to the heart is through the stomach. I retrieved a dead fish from the beach and shoved it under the fence. I had thought about sharing my bones and even throwing my ball to the cat next door but I soon realised that cats don’t value either of these canine pursuits. This is what’s known as the Inverse Golden Rule “Treat others as they would like to be treated”.
  4. Find a dog who lives happily with a cat and request an introduction. After all, a dog just can’t approach any old cat and say hello. I’d be torn to shreds by their dreaded claws.
  5. Start small by taking very small steps.  Cats and dogs have been fighting since forever. It’s going to take time for things to change:

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step”- Lao Tzu

6. Learn from the past but make a new beginning.

7. Forgive.

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.

Mark Twain

However, while I thought I was a real genius putting this protocol together and was expecting a Nobel Peace Prize for my efforts, a cat appeared in my backyard last night. I don’t know how much you know about dogs. Although we try to be good,  we’re actually reactionary by nature. We act first and think later. So despite all my philosophical research and heartfelt desires to be nice, I failed. I still took off after that cat at full speed, barking with the same vicious growl that I usually reserve for the posty. Yet again, I’d fueled the war between cats and dogs despite my best intentions.

Back to the drawing board.

Bruce the Shark smiling at the fish.

Bruce the Shark smiling at the fish.

This time I decided to try social media. Suffering from creative block, it took awhile to get the creative juices flowing. However, inspired by Bruce,  the Great White Shark in Finding Nemo. I developed my own hash tag:

“# Cats and Dogs are friends”.

Now, I just need to get the word out.

That means Mum has to learn how to twit or was that tweet? I can’t remember but I know it had something to do with those wretched feathered things that keep invading my backyard and tormenting me so much.

Well, she’s always telling me that an old dog can learn new tricks. Now, it’s her turn.

Wish me luck. As always, I need plenty!

xx Bilbo

 

A Vote for the LIttle People

Even if you’re not a political beast, it’s hard not to be drawn into the pre-election madness and at the very least have an opinion…especially when you live in a marginal seat and your vote actually counts.

The Australian Federal Election is coming up and from where I’m sitting, the outcome could be anybody’s guess.

Moreover, the results of this election will probably be determined by the likes of me…the undecided voter. I won’t say swinging voter. I mean undecided!

The undecided voter gets a lot of bad press. Typecast as wishy-washy, apathetic fence sitters, we’re expected to be on one side or the other. This is usually interpreted as having “an informed opinion”.

But what if you want something more? Something which isn’t currently being offered on the menu? What about the idealist, the visionary?

Undecided voters often have strong values, beliefs and principles. We can be very committed to changing the world but perhaps we’re just a bit jaded by the political juggernaut.

I know there are good people in politics but we don’t often see much of that. Besides, how are you  supposed to vote at all when you don’t believe that shafting people is how to run a nation? We might have great local candidates who I respect but when you look at politics as a whole, it can be pretty appalling. All the very worst behavior we work so hard to stamp out in our kids, is actually nurtured and encouraged in our national mosh pit. Bullying, teasing and name-calling are fought out to the political death. You just need to watch Question Time to see it all in action. Nobody can behave like that outside Parliament and still have friends. I think they call that “Parliamentary Privilege”. Everywhere else, we call it “bullying”.

Yet, come election time, these same bullies are all charm smooching the nation.

After that little rant, how am I going to vote?

At this point of time, I’m still sitting on the fence.

In the past, it didn’t really matter how I voted because I lived in a safe seat. My vote didn’t count. However, now I live in a fairly marginal seat and when the balance of power could be dangling from a thread, my vote actually counts. I have to be responsible and make a well-considered, conscious choice. We’ve had hung parliaments before and the future of our nation could be riding on my shoulders. That’s a huge responsibility (even if it is an exaggeration).

So how am I going to make up my mind? What’s going to be the clincher?

For me, it all boils down to jobs. I work in a small business and I want to keep my job. Moreover, I’d like to stop the flow of locals down to Sydney each day commuting to work and instead see more fairly paid local jobs. That would make a huge difference to our community.

More jobs also means, more spending which in turn means more jobs.

I like spending!

A faster train to Sydney is also a necessity. Commuting is a hard slog!

I would also like to remind the media that this election is about people. I’m not talking about Kevin and Tony. I’m talking about us…the little people. This country is made up of little people…just like lots of little Lego bits of all shapes, colours and sizes joining together to make a house.

I’m a little person and I know a lot of little people too.

There are quite a number of empty shops around at the moment. Empty shops mean broken dreams, incredible personal loss and hardship. For every empty shop or office, there are also a lot of businesses struggling to survive. These are very tough times.

Secondly, I have kids at school and I see what goes into giving all kids a sound education. Our teachers are the most amazing people you will ever meet. Being a parent isn’t easy and we hand our kids over to their teachers everyday and expect them to solve all sorts of issues which leave us for dead. They usually succeed in doing that as well as well as teaching them the 3Rs. Well done!

Speaking about little people and big achievements, I wanted to share with you about a painting I bought recently at the school art show. It’s a painting of a rainbow elephant. The elephant is made up of multi-coloured thumb prints. Each student had their own colour and they carefully dabbed their thumbs in the paint, blotted off  the excess and stamped their thumb onto the canvas without so much as a smudge. That’s a huge achievement when you really think about it. Now this masterpiece was created by a small class of primary school boys and their amazing teacher with such love and patience. I mean, how many parents actually let their children paint at home? Most don’t. Their teacher helped them do it. Helped them achieve the seemingly impossible. After all, how many boys do you know who sit still? (Thinking about this artwork…it is a great example of teamwork in action and could teach those people down in Canberra a thing or two!)

It’s kids, who by the way can’t vote, who really need to be in the forefront of political thinking. They have their entire future ahead. They deserve to reach their whole potential whatever that might be just like a small acorn growing into an amazing oak!

Lastly, I have to mention the health system. I have way too much to do with this land of hidden cutbacks. I have been having blood transfusions every three weeks for the last five years. Each transfusion takes about 4-5 hours. I used to have these treatments on weekends down in Sydney and my parents minded the kids while I was there. When the hospital moved into the new building, weekend services were axed and I had to have my treatments during the week. These decisions were made essentially to save money. Reduce expense. This was very difficult for me juggling the kids at school but it was impossible for anyone who worked full time. Heaven help you if you are sick and have a job! The “system” somehow seems to forget that even sick people need to eat. I wrote several letters but in the end, I voted with my feet. I now get my transfusions at our local hospital instead. This is still a juggling act but it largely works for us. Not everybody has that choice. (I must also comment that I have always had the very best care from all my doctors and nurses. They have quite literally saved my life!)

This brings me onto homelessness. Homelessness can be in your face but it’s also hidden…underground. Perhaps the most unappreciated fact about homelessness is how quickly it can happen and that nobody is immune. It just takes a few twists and turns of fate. You lose your job. Get sick. Relationship busts up. Bad things often happen in threes. The “homeless” are often just very normal, everyday people. It could be you. It could be me. We all need to love and embrace them. Offer a helping hand.

So whatever you might believe about public spending, we all depend on a safety net and having the basics. That needs to include jobs, good public education and good public health so that when your world falls apart, there is always a net and people don’t fall through the gaps.

I just had a tea break and realized that I haven’t mentioned the carbon tax or boat people. These issues are supposedly quite big in the campaign, although they’re beyond me at the moment.

I am very concerned about the environment and I’m serious about doing my bit. When it comes to food scraps, we have a worm farm at home and the dog eats the rest. At the start of the year, I decided not to use any plastic packaging in the kids’ lunches and I have succeeded. You would be surprised just how much plastic packaging gets wasted in kids’ lunches. I’m not perfect. Our coffee machine uses a lot of plastic pods. Grr!

As for the carbon tax, it is beyond me at the moment. I can’t afford high power bills and am fairly dependent on the clothes dryer due to my health. At the same time, we have to do whatever it takes to slow down global warming.

Hard decisions!

Although I live on the coast, people smuggling seems a long way from home. That said, no child should be in prison and children need to be with their parents. That is a basic human need. Every child needs to be with their Mum and Dad. As a parent, I wouldn’t jump in a boat with my kids and head off across the seas but I was born in the lucky country. It is not a choice I’ve had to make. That said, I am currently researching my great great something grandmother who I believed came to Australia to escape the Irish Famine in the 1840s. However, on closer inspection, it turns out she arrived after the famine and only months after the discovery of gold in Bathurst was proclaimed in 1851. So what was she? Refugee or fortune seeker? I don’t know but the grass certainly wasn’t greener for her in Sydney’s Surry Hills, even if they did have a good supply of potatoes. She lost three of her nine children in infancy.

So here I am at home in my pyjamas.  Playschool is on in the background while I’m metamorphosing into some kind of political animal. Perhaps, it is all because of the book I’ve been reading about the Irish famine which shows that governments can make a difference but they can also turn a blind eye to even the most acute forms of human suffering.

I wonder if governments are only as good as the people who vote them in and sustain them.

That’s why my vote is actually important. I might not like “Canberra” but at least I’ve had my say.

As for anybody who reads this post and dares call me a “mummy blogger” commenting on the Federal Election, remember I’m a person. I just happen to be a woman who has kids and shouldn’t be judged by my parental status!

Do I get your vote?

Getting off the fence...soon.

Getting off the fence…soon.