Saturday, March 22, 2003

Bush's poodle? Not so!

Remember Tory Blair being called Bush's poodle? If you have forgotten, then this piece by Dave Carr over at Samizdata will remind you.

Well, I've decided after much hard thinking in the mountain top retreat where come to eagles come to rest, that this description of Tony Blair demeans standard poodles. Blair definitely deserves non-poodle status.

My reasoning? Tony Blair was once all hot and strong on getting the approval of the UN to march on Baghdad. The UN was the centrepiece of his strategic vision for making the world a better place. Bush gives the UN the fingers when it refuses to civilize his barbarism. Blair rolls over tail between his legs.

Healthy standard poddles just don't do that. They're hunters. They stand and fight for what they believe in when confronted by the top dog. They would have challenged Bush rather than rolled over.

The rich and powerful are saying that I'm envious of their success. I'm a crazed irrational freak because I reckon that corporate governance is corrupt---eg., Enron and HIH. I hate the well-merited success of the rich and powerful. I'm obsessed with what they have and I lack-- those big salaries cosmic payouts, fast cars, luxurious houses and adoring adornments.

The reason why I oppose tax cuts for the rich is because of my politics of envy wrapped up in class war rhetoric. And I oppose the US action in Iraq because of my huge envy of freedom. I have no reason. I'm all destructive raging emotion. I'm part of a great unwashed lynch mob out to get the rich and powerful.

On the other hand I'm meant to be a rational consumer, making my choices on the basis of information and preferences.
Council as eco-vandals

Yesterday I noticed that Victor Harbor Council had been culling trees in the reserve across the road from our holiday house at Victor Harbor Dead trees had been taken out, along with some trees that had been planted too close together for the council lawnmowing man to do his thing. Then I looked more closely----a lot more trees had gone. The addditional ones went beyond these culling considerations as they were in areas where there was no lawnmowing. All the wattles had been taken out+ some river gums, blue gums and west Australian flowering gums. Around 20 trees had been taken out.It was a systematic attack.

The pro-European group had taken their revenge----the nasty, messy natives had been gotten rid off. They hate the native bush. And the Council hackers had gone along with it. Eco-vandals both of them.
Blogging from Iraq

I've just discovered this too late. But we do have a history of Kevin's posts. Here are some personal voices of reporters in Iraq. And the emails of Rachel Corrie, the US peace activist crushed to death by bulldozer as she tried to prevent the Israeli army destroying homes in the Gaza, can be found here and here.

Friday, March 21, 2003


Wilderness still means something in Australia.You only have to visit Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park to understand that.

And a new photography gallery, The Wilderness Gallery, devoted to wilderness photography is opening soon near Cradle Mountain. Olga Truchanas, an early Tasmanian wilderness photographer, stated that the point of wilderness photography was to help "retain as much as possible of what still remains of the unique, rare and beautiful."

He also expressed the philosophy behind wilderness photography:

"If we can revise our attitudes towards the land under our feet; if we can accept a role of steward and depart from the role of conqueror; if we accept the view that man and nature are inseparable parts of a unified whole---then Tasmania can be a shining beacon in a dull, uniform and largely artificial world."

This Australian wilderness photography was then developed by Peter Dombrovskis in the 1980s. It is thriving in Tasmania and will be showcased by The Wilderness Gallery.

Alas, The Wilderness Gallery, which opens in June, is not yet online. So it is impossible to see if the beautiful pristine landscapes untouched by human hands still dominates in the 180 works in the inaugural exhibition. Or has the sublime entered the Australian wilderness discourse?

For the sublime, see here and here What would the sublime look like in Australian wilderness?

It is unclear how much the new Wilderness Gallery will be connected into art criticism or aesthetics

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Dream factories

On my way down to the coast this afternoon I plan to check out a number of dream factories to see what's on offer these days. I want something more than fully stocked supermarkets, targeted health care and being able to toss my opinions to the wind whenever I want.

I am looking for something big, bold and inspirational as I need something to nourish me on the bumpy ride through the long dark night.

Whats down on the coastal towns is not much----a fundamentalist right-wing Christian dream factory full of repressive sexual morality, duty of work and God, all of which is wrapped up in an ethos of community care and hatred of Islam.

The dream factory in Adelaide is the secular, neo-Darwinian, enlightened one. High tech+ free markets=the path to happiness. It sees Islam as an obstacle to be removed because it is a religious faith. Religion is little more than blindness and stupidity because it is unreason: myth, ignorance and superstition. This dream now comes wrapped in liberalism (with the demise of socialism); but it an arrogant and triumphal liberalism that has reconnected to a Hobbesian view of the world.

The underside of both dreams converge into a heap of dislike of Islam, which becomes the Other. At is most extreme the dislike becomes a hatred that finds expression in a crusade against Islam. (link courtesy of The Clipboard at Al-Muhajabah's blog.) Each nation codes this junk differently. In Australia, it moves from an attack on multiculturalism in the name of assimilation and Australianness (see under polices, then nationalism and people) to lets use the doctrine of pre-emptive strike to take out the Islamic terrorists in Indonesia before the Islamic militants take over that country and come to get us. Of course, that is never stated openly. What is stated is the thin edge of the wedge The rest is implied through the use of the word 'terrorist':----thus Islam, terrorist, threat, security, strike.

And the coast itself? What dreams does it offer in terms of a sea change? Well, it has been decided by the local councillors and buiness people that its future is to be a gigantic pleasure resort for the solace and amusement of jaded tourists. These scour the coast on Sundays, looking for new dreams and myths to enable them to cope with the chaos.

These are dark times indeed. You see why we need new dreams.
Games for boys

It is the weekend of car races here in Adelaide. The Clipsal 500 has begun. Its where Holdens, Fords and whatevers go head to head shootout through the city and parklands. Yes its another round in the V8 Supercar Championship. The Clipsal 500 Supercars practice and qualify today. More crashes and spills. The noise level is gradually rising from cars and helicoptors. Oh, the throbbing excitement of it all.

Its being talked up by the publicity machine as usual, in order to grab more market share of the leisure dollar. Judging from the crowds the race has a big hold in masculine working class culture. Ticket sales are up. Business is booming-----though not for the local traders, pubs excepted.

It is Adelaide's substitute for Formula I after the failure of Le Mans. V8 Supercar Championship all sleaze and no glamour despite the appearance of race chicks who are supposed to ooze sex and beauty. Its an affirmative culture not a critical one.

I doubt that any of the cars will have NO WAR painted on them, or the race organizers will fly a NO WAR flag from the control tower. These guys are into fast machines. They imagine themselves to be top guns.

Its time to clear out of Adelaide and head for the coast for the weekend.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

A house of cards

As I struggled to awake early this morning I was caught between this surreal account of Baghdad city sleepwalking to war and what I heard on the radio that the war with Iraq will be short, clean and sweet.

Iraq will collapse like a house of cards, crowed one old warrior. He seemed to wish that he was there marching victoriously through the streets of Baghdad being welcomed by all the young Iraqi girls throwing themselves at him. He made it all sound like a summer holiday where the band played in harmony. It was surreal. Just like the Fisk story I read the night before about the city of Baghdad caught up in fantasy land.

Oh the joys of war. A swift fight based around the tactics of shock and awe. A clean war with high precision bombs. Then the long sweet joys of celebration. A quick tour of duty.

Nothing about the man with the bayonet coming from a hidden place?

And the house of cards? Well if the fallen cards are the rubble of Baghdad----the annihilated infrastructure----then who is going to rebuild the house? Not Australia. Who will pay for postwar construction? Not Australia.

Why not? Why we have paid our premium on an essential insurance policy for national security. We have done out bit. We are not going to hang around for reconstruction. We dodged it in Afghanistan. We'll dodge it in Iraq.

And the looting? Isn't that a necessary part of war? So who is going to loot what? Will there be anything left to loot other than the oil?

And what happened to the seige of Baghdad? Or is that Old Europe thinking? Or just a Ba'ath fantasy?
Light relief

Music & politics Maybe its time to Dance in the Street.
military machine & individual experience

In a few hours the destructive power of the US military machine will be unleashed. It is designed to be an awesome spectacle that strikes terror in our hearts. When the military machine, as the embodiment of the unified world spirit, threatens to crush human beings, then all we can do is fall back on personal experience. Imagine being an Iraqi schoolgirl; a mother worrying about her son, a father concerned to protect his family?

What is their nightmare?

Individual experience, or the inarticulate terror and dread that I, as a particular individual, feel now, is what the military machine rejects as just so much garbage. The automated Enlightenment rolling onto Baghdad has no time for the feelings of individuals, not even as poetic luxury.

When inevitablity rules--- ie., nothing can derail the mad rush to war---then the junk of individual experience is all we ordinary human beings have left. We have been reduced to numbers in an opinion poll:----the declining majority opposing the war who will be massaged, seduced, bowbreaten and manipulated by the politicians and the media.

The goody good war stories are already circulating in the mediascape. They have the publicity imprint of the war machine all over them.

We cling to what we have left; for amongst our chaotic feelings of terror lies our humanity that we stubbornly hang onto.

Therein lies our strength.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Doesn't it look great. 'No War' written on the western face of the central white sail of the Sydney Opera House with rollers and paving paint at 9am.

The media treated it as a breach of security and as an embarrassment to the NSW Labor Government. What a beatup. They missed the important bit.

Culture protests. Culture signifies its resistance to a political system bent on war.

How do we interpret this fragment of resistance by modern Australia?

Well, if art lends a hand to ease human suffering, then 'no war' says that the level of threat posed by the Iraqi regime to the international community does not justifiy a war that will result in the deaths of thousands a of innocent women and children.
The blood of innocents

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain and war talk. I heard a grab from President Bush who said yesterday: "Instead of drifting along towards tragedy, we will set a course towards safety."


As the boys march on Baghdad, cheering Iraqis welcome the troops and US bombs shock and awe the whole world, real men in Washington are girding their loins to launch pre-emptive strikes to deal with Iran, Syria and North Korea.

The real men are seduced by aggression and power. Other people's sons and daughters will be slain. The blood of innocents will flow once again.

And that is not a tragedy?

Monday, March 17, 2003

The 'hand of history'

I went to the central market in Adelaide early this morning to top up the fruit for the household for the rest of the week. It was a glorious morning with the promise of hot dry summery day. The radios were going in the stalls, a jumble of different stations, blaring our their news and cooment.

Normally they compete against one another and it all becomes just so much noise that I then try to filter out as much as I can. This morning they spoke in unison: war war war war war war war. It was one of those moments in daily life that you remember.

The situation we are in is no accidental trifle.

I thought that the 'hand of history' does not set lightly on our shoulder. Nor does it lightly caress our body.

No, the 'hand of history' is on our throat. And it is squeezing it.

I cannot cry out for help because good empiriicsts cannot see the 'hand of history'. Its all in my imagination they would say.

I cannot see whose hand it is, but I have no doubts that it belongs to an unsavoury character.

I heard the words of Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister, echoing from the past. He says, you should not scorn 'the hand of history' just because of the company it means having to keep. That may be well and good for Tony as he walks through the corridors of state powern or is out on the hustings whipping up enthusiasm for war with Iraq. I do not have to hang out with American neocons.

I do not scorn 'the hand' of history. I fear it. I fear the way that Blair and his mates---George and John as they are affectionately known ---worship the world spirit as if it is a deity. They reckon they are in harmony with the world spirit because they are ahead of their time.

What I scorn is their theodicy and their official optimism that all be well.

My world spirit drips with suffering and blood. History is a slaughter bench and the hand of history holds the weapons of war that are now directed at civilians.

Of course, no one on the radio talked about the 'hand of history' or the world spirit even though the word is inevitable was being thrown around willy nilly.

I returned home with my purchases, talked about tiles in the bathroom, had breakfast in the sun, listened to Radio National and wondered when the north wind would hit town.
For Rachel Corrie

The American peace activist Rachel Corrie, 23, was run over and killed by an Israeli bulldozer in the Gaza Strip. She was a civilian. It appears that she was attacked directly and intentionally.

This place is really the killing fields with both sides dragging one another into a living hell.

A post with lots of links about Rachel can be found here

If Palestinian suicide bombings are war crimes, then Israeli military assaults that systematically and purposefully kill civilians are also war crimes.
Sontag on war photography

Curses. Blogger has been down again tonight.

Susan Sontag has just published a new book on photography, Regarding the Pain of Others. This is a review of the book.

I have to admit that I was never impressed with her earlier book, 'On Photography'; but then I was never really tuned into her as a cultural critic. Photography carried the burden of her dislike of television I thought.

The book is timely with the war of Iraq just around the corner.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

Glorious autumn days
I've been painting the inner city cottage all day whilst parties raged around me in the street as students made merry. I did try to make a post early this morning but Blogger was down, the post would not go through and it was lost. So I gave up in disgust, glanced through the weekend papers on the NSW election (the Liberals will be decimated was the judgement), helped wash the dogs and painted the outside of the electronic cottage non-stop from 11am to around 7.30 pm. I barely saw the glorious autumn day as I worked on the south side of the house.

I had a few glasses of chardonnay around 7.30pm, had a great dinner of caremalized pork and rocket salad, then fell asleep during D.H.Lawrence's Sons and Lovers on ABC. I had read the book years ago and thought it the best work Lawrence produced:-----it both captured the damaged repressive sexual mores that cause human beings such misery, and explored the destructive emotional bonds between mothers and sons in great detail. This was an Edwardian time----almost 100 years ago--- when sexual feeling was held to be an unsuitable guide for human action directed towards achieving a flourishing human life.

I knew both. I have not spoken to my mother in over 20 years. Her husband was a drunk and abusive and she took the damage she suffered out on her children-----and still does. So she lost a son whom she tried to prevent from growing up into an adult. Family life was a tragedy even though it was wrapped up in Catholic ethical doctrine of human beings being deeply flawed creatures doomed to suffer terribly but for the grace of God. But it was not a sparkling life full where human beings radiant with health, good looks and ability, were surrounded by beauty. It was a life of shame and disgust. We walked the earth with our heads covered and obsessively worrying about personal hygiene.

The Catholics cheapened ethical discourse because their doctrine was a list of conclusions, or rather a list of proclomations of received truths handed down from on high. They claimed to be the fount of wisdom from God and they did not invite an open ended give and take discussion in which we could assess what is going for ourselves through entering into argument. So our existence was one of drugged ethical passivity whilst living a tragic, dehumanizing life. Unlike Plato the Catholics never demanded that we be intellectually active nor did they foster our power of reasoning as regards ethical goodness or truth.

It was a time when personal love and passion was seen to be a form of madness----people were possessed by romantic love---and this was deemed to be incompatible with rational order and stability. Achieving rational order and stability through philosophy was to deny the body and the value of individual love---or so I learned from studying analytic philosophy in New Zealand. (I also learned that the Humean conception of justice was a means for the pre-set end of human survival). Erotic passion was seen as a form or degrading madness for philosophy. So I feel in love with a mathematician who felt in terms of equations and who reckoned that the world was a dangerous place.

Methinks I have had too many glasses of wine.

But its an old story isn't it----the conflict between madness and reason; one that goes back to Plato (of the Republic). Cultivate in yourself self-possession by exercising strict control over the wild bestial non-intellectual passions. Repudiate romantic sentiment and avoid emotional turmoil. So spoke analytic philosophy.