Australian Cynicism

We have often been accused of being cynics in Australia. This underestimates the citizens of this wonderful nation. We are greater than this – we are perfectly capable of being cynical in every country on Earth…with the possible exception of New Zealand. No-one is cynical in New Zealand, though they have been trying to establish a program to breed it for years.

Some have looked to climate, ancestry, ethnicity, history, and any number of other reasons for the national characteristic. It is all very well to score a PhD or a publisher’s advance upon this sort of speculation but the truth is that it is none of these things. The reason Australians are cynical is geography – we are far enough away from the rest of the world that we figure we can get away with it. We cock a snook at the various Kims, Vlads, Donalds, and Angelas…as well as the unpronounceable leaders of Africa, South America, and Canada and it is rarely sheeted home to us.

Oh, mind you, if we are of certain ethnicities that maintain spy networks here and dungeons back home into which our relatives can be thrust, we tend to be a bit quieter…but there are still pictures of Winnie the Pooh and copies of Charley Hebdo magneted onto the refrigerator in spite of official disapproval. They probably get whisked away when a national festival dinner party is held, but they come back afterwards.

Be fair to us – we are cynical about ourselves as much as we are about people overseas. Indeed, there is no topic more dear to the hearts or the sphincters of the Australians than our own national and state governments. Oh, and the local government, too. We’ll cheerfully discuss how much we despise our fearless leaders at the drop of a beer bottle cap. Our leaders hold us in similar affection.

It is known technically as a Mudgee Standoff – we don’t get to keep machine guns in our houses but Bunnings sells rope and there are trees aplenty  with stout limbs, so the checks and balances of the Westminster government are still in force. We were once told by one politician that ” We’ll keep the bastards honest. ” Actually I think that was just a case of someone making a mistake with the punctuation when they reported it. What he really  said was:

” We’ll keep the bastards. Honest… ”

But that’s just me being cynical.

 

 

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Throwing Up On Facebook

I have friends who throw up on Facebook. It is possible that they also throw up on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram – users of social media often have multiple receptacles available to them. This is a great convenience – they might not be at home or near a work computer when something overcomes them.

Of course, no one has ever solved the age-old mystery of where the tomatoes and sweet corn come from ( I didn’t eat either of those – I only had 14 pints of ale…) but that is rarely a problem on social media. The really peculiar thing is where people get the stuff they do ” share “…

Oh, wait. I may have given you the wrong impression. I wasn’t talking about emesis. I was talking about the racist, nationalist, sexist, and political material that is posted daily. The half thought half-thought-through that nevertheless  appears repeatedly. Talk about things coming up again…

I’d normally just step round the stuff if it was on the footpath in front of the kebab shop. As it is I can make it go away with two clicks of the computer mouse…and I am starting to realise that I can do that a lot these days. Suggested posts that are thinly veilled information fishing exercises are one thing that go out immediately. I know nothing and tell less.

Then the Trump posts. None of the people I know  who throw up anti-Trump memes have any connection to the United States, to the Presidency, or to Mr. Trump. Their shared memes and snarky comments are irrelevant. Gone.

Then the vagaries. I am bad at guessing games and worse when the games are psychological. I cannot imagine what some of the posters are on about – the only clear message that comes through is that there is no clear message. I can get that by turning the radio dial a quarter inch to the left off-station.

I do pause at cats and dogs. They can stay, as can hot rod cars and panda bears. I do also study semi-official posts that ask me to look out for a missing person – though I do wish that when a person is found that someone will also notify us of that.

And I am a sucker for domino races or improbable collections of mechanical operations that eventually turn on a popcorn maker. The engineering students with nothing to do for three days are always good for a laugh.

Secede From Success

I suppose I should be grateful to the people of Quebec. I might not have felt so in 1957 when I lived in Montreal and had to endure the indignities of Grade 5. The school system was split between English-speaking teachers and French-speaking ones and there were times when the kids were the football between the teams. Thankfully they had to teach English literature in English and mathematics in numbers and the odd intrusion en Francais could be endured.

Later, the pressure to teach every school child in Canada some French extended out as far as Alberta and British Columbia and I got at least two years of basic grammar in the early 60’s. I can fumble my way through a French magazine if there are pictures with short captions. If there are girlie pictures I fumble slower.

But they did contribute enough political whining and pressure to raise a great debate about ” Bi-culturalism ” and we school kids got onto the gravy train. We wrote essays, made speeches, and in some cases collected free trips to Ottawa to pretend that we were the future of the country. We were overwhelmingly snot-nosed, mealy-mouthed, and cynical, and I guess that if we had pursued that course over the time one of us could be Prime Minister of Canada right now. Come to think of it…

I didn’t win the Ottawa trip on the strength of my speech, but I won a job at the local newspaper doing anything that no-one else wanted to do. I loved it, and it has given me a taste for writing, photography, and cynicism ever since.

Secede? Oh the political pundits sometimes come out with the business of Quebec seceding from Canada and becoming an independent nation. They toy with it every few years…just long enough to get more federal money. The awkward thing is that the rest of Canada may see it as a good idea one day and take them up on it.

On one condition. Quebec gets Trudeau. All the Trudeaus…

I Was Memeing To Tell You Something…

But I forgot what it was when I saw the picture of the cat and Donald Trump.

I did not used to be so easily distracted by political propaganda or sentimental eyewash. I could open a magazine and go straight to the comics or the centerfold and needed only the briefest interval to take in the advertisements and support articles. I was even better with a hard-cover book, particularly if it had pictures of airplanes.

The thing about the olden days ( Elvis, dinosaurs…) was that we had to wait longer periods to get our commercial pressure up – the newspaper came out once a day and the big glossy magazines once a month. None us up in Alberta could get Radio Moscow until the 1960’s  and the hey-day of the cruder Soviet propaganda had passed by then – plus the local reds had been rooted out and either jailed or elected. We just did not have access to the wealth of top-quality lies that the internet provides. And the ones we did get were crude things… three-four colours at the most and on really poor paper.

We could, of course, still get lies, innuendo, bias,bigotry, and political pressure from our friends, but we got that face-to-face. This made it fresher but surprisingly toned it down somewhat. You can’t really get into someone’s face if their fist gets in the way.

We were somewhat susceptible to kitties and puppies. But most of us had kitties or puppies ( or their older variations; the damned cat and the smelly dog) and we were less likely to associate them with the coming teenage rebellion against the patriarchal-hegemony of the neo-conservative leftist centralists of June 17th. We mostly associated them with playing with string or tennis balls. We were politically inexperienced children.

I think it will be a case of reforming my character in the future. I will take the oath not to pass on memes or scarlet fever. I will pledge to limit my protest marching upon the barricades to the times when I can actually find a barricade. I will speak severely to Donald Trump, Justin Trudeau, and Vladimir Putin the next time they are in my living room in person. Oh, they’ll still get the cup of tea and slice of orange poppy-seed cake, but the atmosphere may be frosting.

I meant frosty. I was distracted by cake.

A Traditional Russian Easter

Well I am glad to see that traditions have finally returned to the modern political world. And our fearless leaders have finally realise that they must give people what they want.

Recently Emperor Xi of China took steps to correct the unfortunate mistake in the Chinese constitution that might have removed the Mandate Of Heaven from him before he was quite ready to relinquish it. This must give great comfort to his subjects who will now go back to their labours uncomplaining, if they know what is good for them.

And just yesterday His Majesty Czar Vladimir granted an interview to a foreigner in which he reassured her that he was not concerned about Russians interfering in the American elections. Apparently it was the work of Tatars, Ukrainians, and Jews.

Coming as it does at this time in the spring, it means that we can look forward to a real good old-fashioned Russian Easter. There will be masses thronging the cathedrals, incense rising in the air, and the sound of Cossacks riding through the stetls sabreing the Jews. There’ll be something for everyone – either booty, blood, or prime-time television coverage. Who knows what will happen – with the Russian imperial aristocracy you can never entirely rule out miracles or the use of poison gas.

Myself, I just like the decorated eggs.

Broadcast Live From Your House

When you watch the news about the US president Donald Trump – or click the Facebook side panel – or listen to your friends deride him based upon what they have read on the internet…have you ever stopped to consider what YOU might look like if you were subject to the minute scrutiny that attends him?

I ask this as I remember being afflicted with similar scrutiny when a child in school – I was the fat, new, frightened kid…and was fair game for all the bullies and smart arses in every school I attended. As my detractors wanted to belittle me, they watched every single thing I did and found fault. The simplest action was cause for howls of contempt. Nothing was private, sacred, or approved. President Trump seems to be in the same position vis-a-vis the people who supported the other side of politics – and lost – and who now want their revenge.

So let’s imagine you – if you’re a Trump detractor – going about your daily routine. Let’s see if the treatment works on you.

You get out of bed in time for breakfast: ” Lazy swine lolls in bed while others slave to prepare feast. ” Not sounding too good.

So you get up earlier next day : ” Can’t sleep. Guilty conscience. Snoops on cooks behind the scenes. ” Still not good publicity. And who is feeding these stories to the press?

Okay, this time you’ll please someone…you’ll do without breakfast: ” Too good to eat like a normal person. No pleasing some people. ” Well, what the actual…

And we haven’t even started on your bathroom routine, your clothes for the day, or whatever it is you’re going to be doing for a living – never mind your religion, family, or politics. These topics will be covered by your enemies and will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are evil incarnate, totally incompetent, and in collusion with the Russians, the French, the Tongans, and the firm that makes Cheezils. Every single action that you undertake, all day, all week, all year, will be wrong. The press and your detractors will be free to lie about you, to you, and because of you. No-one will hold them accountable.

Feeling the love yet? Feeling the burn yet? Feeling the bigotry and pettiness yet? Want to do something about it? Here’s what you do.

Nothing. Not a damn thing. Do not take the slightest notice of your detractors. Do not reward them with anger, or distress, or recognition. Take note of the fashionable meme that started up a few years ago: ” Keep calm and carry on. “. By all means use social media but do not use it to vent frustrations or angst. Be benign, vague, and cheerful. Send kitten videos. And do what you were going to do regardless.

Don’t be too sanguine about the results. You won’t reap any better opinion of yourself from the people who are determined to hate you; they have invested to much of their time in speech and writing to resile their position. Many of them hope for benefit from your opponents*. The best you can hope for is a better judgement of history.

* And if, in a few years, they present their intellectual bill to the other side of politics – and it is not paid – they have a ready-made supply of protest that they can direct to them.

 

 

 

The Drones – Part Three – The Right To Menace

I am good at menacing. I do it every time I can find an innocent person who is in no position to defend themselves. There are plenty of these about – they work in retail shops. If I have five cents in my pocket I can go and browbeat them, traduce them, and terrify them with threats of exposure on Travelguide, YouTube, and Choice magazine. Or I can buy five cents worth of sweets and bugger off.

Some days it is a close run decision.

The drone menace, on the other hand, is less clear-cut. It would appear to have several aspects:

a. The drones may fall upon people and injure them. Quite apart from the physical weight of the things – which can be considerable if they are larger commercial jobs – they have anything up to eight flailing propellers working at high speed like knives in an abattoir. It’s not just the dropping on people that is dangerous – swishing through the crowd sideways may be horrifyingly worse.

If this is an inadvertent thing – failure of control or bad flying – it is one thing, but what it if were deliberate? We’ve seen people drive into crowds with murder in their hearts before.

b. The drones may be modified to carry destructive payloads. They need not drop themselves into a crowd if they can be rigged to drop something else. You can make up your own list of frightfulness that might be precipitated on others.*

c. The drones may interfere with other aircraft in the air…or even on the ground if they are operated within airports. We’re told that there are automatic controls that prohibit this in signals sent by the manufacturers via internet to the drones. From China. Now there’s foolproof, if ever I’ve heard it.

d. The drones may interfere with essential public services like firefighting by flying where aerial tankers are in operation. This has apparently happened.

e. The drones may intrude into secret governmental and military areas. Again we are told that there are controls in place to stop this…here I am inclined to have more faith. I’ll bet the SAS would love to open up on a drone over Campbell Barracks, and perhaps they have already. We’ll never know.

f. Drones may be used to snoop and spy on commercial properties for commercial or governmental purposes. Someone has already suggested council surveillance of blocks in rural areas to spy on people erecting sheds without permission. It sounds just petty enough to be true.

g. Drones may be used to snoop and spy on private matters for private delectation and troublemaking. Leading to private defence and public nuisance. What price privacy and good order?

h. Drones might be used to disrupt and harass legitimate events – sporting venues, religious ceremonies, weddings, civic affairs. Political parties could be targeted by their rivals.

Some of these troubles may be fended off already by technical means. Others might be circumscribed by the law but the fact of the matter is that at the moment of the offence any obedience to law would still rest with the person running the drone…and they might be willing to do it at any risk. There are already enough people who commit offences in all other divisions of law despite clearer sanctions and a history of enforcement. The drone situation is still very much in the ” hold my beer ” stage.

*Naturally I exclude the Air Force and Army drones that drop Hellfire missiles and 30mm cannon shells on people. These are perfectly all right.