Thursday, January 30, 2003

BushFires: Fear and Loathing

The Howard Government launched an attack on the Greens and the States whilst the bush fires that had burned deep into Canberra were still burning and people's emotions of agony and loss from the devastation were still raw, The greenies and their national parks were to blame for these bushfires, said Wilson Tuckey, Federal Regional Services, Territories and Local Government Minister. He was quickly joined by other members of the Federal Government. Thus Ian MacDonald, the Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, said that national parks should only be created if there were resources to manage them. Not to be outdone, Warren Entsch, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources, said that while states acquired these national parks, they gave little consideration to their ongoing management.

This was a broad ranging attack directed at the loathing for greens and wilderness that was then picked up by others. The attack was directed at hazard burning, or the lack of it, in National Parks. It was said that, if proper hazard reduction programs carried out, then there would be no fires. And the green lobby had dirty hands because they stymied backburning programs. So cattle should be introduced into National Parks to keep the scrub and grass down, and the forest industry should be allowed into National Parks to remove trees. Tuckey does not care about the environmental damage that this would cause. This junk politics assumes that all bushfires come from National Parks, there are more fires now because there are more National Parks, and the National Parks aren't committed to hazard reduction.

It is junk politics. Bushfires occur across the landscape not just in National Parks----for instance, some of the Canberra fires were in a pine forest There is little evidence that there are lots of bush fires now because the areas enclosed by national parks and reserve has increased--- these ministers have conveniently forgotten about the exceptional circumstances cause by the drought. And National Parks do engage in hazard reduction.

What is clear is that we have to change the way we live at the bush/urban interface if we want to protect our lives and properties. We need to become more responsible for removing the fuel load on the property and heeding fire bans. We also need to learn how to manage fire in the environment---- a research centre into fire was only funded in 2002. We need to learn to think in terms of ecosystem health----national parks with greater biodiversity and an abundance of herbivorous marsupials---and not just firebreaks.

So whats behind the junk politics? Loathing of the greens who are the Enemy. At a moment of historical trauma---Canberra burning---the ministers could not resist being attack dogs. They saw their opportunity, had a go, and did over the Labor States just for good measure. Why this response to trauma?

The attack dogs get a kick out of cutting others. Cutting others is the way they retain their hold on reality. They like setting off political bush fires and are "turned on" by watching the political fire spread through the political reactions. When they see the strong, violent reaction to the wounds they inflict, they feel alive and firmly rooted in reality.

Burning others is a pathological attempt at regaining some kind of normality during a historical trauma.

Tuckey is not knicknamed Iron Bar for nothing.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

a summer night in january after 9/11

Last night I was sitting on my front steps that bordered the inercity electronic cottage and the street enjoying a glass of wine . The poodles were sitting the footpath keeping an eye on the street whilst I was thinking about Israel and Palestine. I have no idea why.

Maybe it was because I fallen from the roof of the carport when painting the side of the house (the carport gave way) and I was still in shock. Maybe it was because of this and this----the refusal of reservists to serve in the occupied territories---when compared to the terrorist language of this by the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council.

Colin Rubenstein, the head of the Council, is a public figure who is well known for his views about ABC bias against Israel and his campaign to stop 4 Corners documentary about a massacre of Palestinians in Lebanon involving Ariel Sharon in 1982.

These Reservists had done their duty in fighting for Israel in the wars against the Arab states, and they could not bring themselves to fight 'in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people'.

Or maybe I was thinking this way because the ants and mosquitos biting me and spoiling my glass of wine and spoiling my peaceful in a warm summer night.

The news that morning had been about the forthcoming elections in Israel. I remembered that it was not so long ago that Arafat was imprisoned in the three rooms of his Ramallah compound by the Israeli army whilst the Sharon Israeli Government was calling on him to crack down on the terror. This pathway did not lead to peace it was part of a cycle of violence that had its own dynamic.

The American Republicans were talking about disposing Arafat because he was the head of a terrorist organization and installing with a democratic leader willing to deal with Israel. I recalled all those times when a peace agreement was just within reach, when everything fell apart, ground zero returned, and violence took over.

In the Australia media, which largely follows the American media, Israel stands for Western liberal modernity whilst Palestine stands for premodern fundamentalism. Liberal Israelis fighting Palestinian fanatics. It is your junk black and white duality of good and evil that had no room for the dissident voices of the Reservists. Israel is the privileged client state of the US, Palestine is the pariah state.

And it was all related----the war on terrorism against al Qaeda, Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Somewhere, somehow, in 2002 Afghanistan had disappeared from the news headlines ---relegated to the background--- and the focus shifted to Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

For the big hawke warriors in the US and Israel the war on terrorism was the big code and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a subcode in this. And over it all stands the long shadow of the Holocaust and the way this European history is used in the contemporary conflict.

That's what I was thinking on that warm summer night when I was in a state of shock and being bitten by the ants and mosquitos.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

America: Image or Reality?

I was sitting in a rock pool on Friday night cooling off from the heat. I was watching the poodles play along the beach dive into the sea to cool off, then chase one another around the rocks. It was a soft milky light due to the light cloud, the sky was very hazy from mist or smoke---it was impossible to tell---and there was little wind. It was truly a magic moment in nature.

As I was a walking back along the cliff tops I was thinking about the war with Iraq and the US push to bypass the United Nations. Even here, on the edge of civilization and nature, I was aware of the eagle's shadow. I realized that America was an mental image rather than a real place. I will almost certainly never see it with my own eyes, as I will never have the money to afford the trip. I saw America through the eyes of others, saw it through through layers of cultural interpretations: is very rich; the land of liberty and personal freedom; people shoot one another with guns to solve their problems; America has awesome military power; there is lots of fear and anxiety sitting beneath the dazzling display of wealth; anti-Kyoto, Americans see people overseas as hating them; it understands itself in terms of a manifest destiny; protector of Israel, the world's growth machine; it has little interest in, or curiosity about, the rest of the world; the land of the blues and country music; lost the war in Vietnam; shellshocked by S11; full of angry loud neocons in a bellicose mood; the home of liberalism John Locke style; etc etc.

Jumbles of images all jostling and competing with one another. In one sense I knew nothing about America in another sense I knew a lot. America was the jumble of images that circulated through the various media flows.

The poodles spotted a rabbit near some sheep and took off in full hunt mode. My mind snapped back to their reality.
Great Photos

Check out these photos of India by Mark Tucker.Very classy work.

Link courtesy of Peter Marquis-Kyle Check out his weblog too. Very interesting.

We live in a period where there has been a break in tradition. The past used to be transmitted to us as tradition that possessed great authority. That authority used to present itself historically to us---as Australian history--- and in doing so it became tradition of the Australian Settlement. This guided us, its valuations enabled us to make judgements about the worth of things and it gave us ways and means to solve the problems that confronted us in the present.

The economic reforms of the 1980s, which opened Australia up to the global market, sundered that tradition. The loss of authority is irreparable and we now live in the present of the global market, adrift in world of data flows, carried along by yet another transmisssion of data that is of the moment. Here today and gone tomorrow.

Thats weblogging is it not?

So we have to discover new ways of dealing with the past.

What are these? Is one of them collecting fragments from the past? Become a collector of what was once regarded as junk? Become an old-fashioned collector who redeems the fragments by destroying the context in which the fragments were once situated?

Is this a model for cultural criticism?

If the economic reforms of the 1980s broke the back of the Australian tradition, then we have a pile of debris and junk lying around us in the present. Those who firmly face the present can find the pearls amidst the junk.