Never too young to die in Palestine
Journal of a Futurist - 1 April 2002
Bloody Easter, Joyful Nation
As I write, the walls are crashing down. In the heart of the Middle East, in the sweeping desert of South Australia, the future is being created. Ariel Sharon is doing it with tanks, the only way he knows; the students of Oz like the hordes who stormed the Bastille are tearing away the walls barehanded. Bravo to the students, extracting their heads from text book and shopping trolley, to protest the imprisonment of innocents. On todays radio news, our macabre Minister of Immigration, Philip Ruddoch, said he was unsure how many inmates had been set free. The more the merrier.
It didnt have to be like this. Immigration is a complicated issue. Creative solutions are needed. Tragically, the Government of Australia is in the grip of a group of tin pot, amoral, pettifogging lawyers with a bad attitude, forked tongues and deaf ears. They will do anything to hang on to power, as recent events have shown. Many Australian citizens, including those who voted for the Howard Government, have expressed dismay at the levels of deceit and treachery displayed in Canberra.
It is in this context that the actions against the Woomera Detention Centre can be evaluated. Child that I am, it was thrilling to see the fence climbing inmates hurl themselves into the protesters mosh-pit, and to witness Ruddochs icy visage waffling inanely under the sun-gun as events swirled out of his control. There were reports of guards being injured, which is unfortunate, as many of them are decent people doing the best they can in a rotten situation. The sadistic policy is not of their design.
Clawing My Way to Happiness
But enough of that. I hereby apologise to regular visitors for the delay between this journal and the last upload. The grand claim - the future this week, every week is stretching my level of expertise and devotion. Changes are afoot. My web mistress has now set up software to allow me to upload at will, without needing her assistance or the involvement of a libel lawyer. Thank you mistress.
Things are supposed to get easier as you get older, but I fear Ive lived life back to front. From the age of 18 to 48, I seemed to have spent most of my time in bed with a pile of magazines, and the people who posed for them. In between it was beaches, marijuana, rock concerts, back-packing and clawing my way to the talk shows. Then came the 80s. Everyone shortened their hair, built up stock portfolios and planted the seeds of todays exciting world of gardening shows and celebrity chefs. Meanwhile, Im racing around giving seminars on how to harness the future, a living example what happens when you dont. In between, I scribble a bit.
And survive. Last week our home office got cat burglarised. All they took was a laptop and a few of my wifes worthless trinkets left over from old boyfriends. What was odd about the loss of a laptop, was the panic it induced on hearing the news. It was like a part of my brain had been sliced away, the best part. The value of the computers weightless twinkle of interior, personalised data mattered far more to me than the item actually insured, the black box. This discrepancy of value is mirrored in the hard-nosed corporate world. In Fortune 500 companies the value of intangible assets continues to soar, unbeknownst to sleepy auditors who over estimate the value of familiar totems buildings, cars, machinery. As pointed out by the pioneering accountant, Barush Lev, todays stock market rates the value of intangibles up to six times higher than do the people who keep the company accounts. See: www.fastcompany.com
As it turned out, the stolen laptop wasnt mine. It belonged to another member of the household, from another generation, who is delighted. God has given me an upgrade, she said, skipping off to school.
Ive finally finished my essay on the war in Afghanistan, due to be published April 13, by which time Ill be on my way to New Delhi to speak a conference on tourism. The last time I hung out in that city was to interview a person whose impact on the Asian tourist industry led to its biggest setback since the black plague, Charles Sobhraj, later the subject of a biography co-authored with Julie Clarke. Back then, Sobhraj was wanted far and wide in connection with the murders of backpackers. Where is he now? No longer the de facto warden of Delhis Tihar Jail. I presume Charles is haunting the gaming tables of the French Riviera, while wheeling and dealing behind the scenes to provide a safe house for Osama bin Laden, maybe in Mecca.
And now, as consolation for the delay between uploads, the shimmering uncensored thoughts of the widely envied, but never emulated, Julie Clarke Neville.
The Voice of Sanity
Julie writes: As I am hanging up my new skirt with the flared frill at the bottom, sorting Richards socks and underpants, or when Im down in the kitchen stacking and unstacking the dishwasher and wiping for crumbs with a wet soapy cloth, my mind is somewhere else. This is because I have become a news radio addict. News radio is a continuous stream of news, and although it is sullied by sport and infotainment , you can basically stay moving between war zones - Afghanistan, Israel, Palestine, Kashmir - all the latest horror hotspots and the stories of daily-life people with kitchens and kids, who have just had their kitchens invaded by tanks and their kids blown up by a bomb or a landmine. I know that many reported becoming news addicts after 9/11, but I was already in the audio warzone from the safety of domesticity, and I know it has some psychological significance I wish I could understand.
I have to admit I keep wondering why I am addicted to listening to the unfolding snippets of tragedy and horror. My mother doesnt. She has spiritually advanced and now avoids what we call the news. Its not healthy dwelling on all this , she says, You can do more to help people if youre not burdened down with the vibrations you get from taking in all this tragedy.
But Im in a gloomier, darker stage, still not having been comprised of the meaning of life, despite decades of hunting. Well, at least not the full meaning. Theres no doubt that compassion for all living beings is an illuminating attitude, and maybe thats why Im addicted to news radio. I hear the latest awful news, and wonder How must those people be feeling? and I imagine it, drawing on what experiences I have had of horror. But then what do you do? I mean we? What do we all do?
Obvious answer; we react in many different ways. Ive been watching Richard suffering at a distance over the bombing of Afghanistan. He would have been much happier being a Colonel like his father, rather than a writer . He scours the net, the newspapers, the journals for weapons, trying to work out whats really going on, jigsawing bits of info. His face fills with pain, (tho maybe thats just the challenges of family life). He has become obsessed and very angry. While he was writing about the terror of the war on terror, an artist friend was painting his portrait, and when I look at the portrait I see Afghanistan in his eyes.
Then after weeks in a darkened room during which time we the family- tip toe past the closed study door and the garbage doesnt get put out, and the light bulbs dont get changed, he produces an outrage of polemical writing that has the subeditors saying This is going to cause one hell of a fuss.
Last year, Sally from next door and I began visiting Villawood Detention Centre to meet the people who had come from this other reality of landmines and cluster bombs and had escaped to our lucky country and been imprisoned. We drove from our lovely leafy Sydney street in a beautiful car.
The first time was like going to visit people out of a movie; the suffering people from the nightly news. What gave me a headache that first time, was how we had so much and they had so little
the people who had escaped from hell . Many of them had a look on their faces which had to be clinical depression. Terrible sadness. Too much suffering.
The Bible says somewhere, I believe, Unto them who hath, it shall be given, and from them who hath not, it shall be taken away. Maybe this has a deeper esoteric meaning, but it certainly seems to apply in this countrys refugee prisons.
Humorous and Joyfull Land
We met families and individuals who had escaped from Iraq, from Iran, from Afghanistan; they had been picked up on Ashmore Reef; the very people whose stories kept me occupied while I wielded the wettex . There were also people who had come from lesser circles of hell, such as Malaysia, Cambodia and India, and whose backstories of labyrinthine political skulduggery and danger were just about impenetrable. These people werent from war zones but wanted to live in Australia, and it was possible to see first hand that it would be difficult to choose who should be allowed in to our promising land and who should be sent away.
But it seemed pretty obvious that families who had gone so far as to risk their lives on ricketty boats, and who arrived exhausted hoping for compassion and help should not be imprisoned. Seeing the grim situation in a run-for-profit detention centre undid , for me, my newfound national pride after Sydneys Olympic Opening Ceremony, which had suggested that Australia had become a mature, inclusive, humorous and joyful land.
When we leave the detention centre, which entails a locked gate, passing through a black light chamber where an invisible stamp on our hand is checked, a security check and a final locked gate through the razor wire, Sally and I usually sit under a tree and have a thermos of tea. We find we are so drained by the proximity to all the suffering and desperation that we need to regroup before we go home to cook dinner for our lucky happy children and open the wine for our clever exhausted husbands. How can we help, what can we do? Sally says, even if these people are deported I want them to know that some Australians care what is happening to them. So later on they wont hate all Australians.
The thing is, the visits to Villawood ended up becoming a most vivid and fascinating part of my week; nothing at all to do with being a charitable lady; it was leaving the safety zone, entering that other reality , the world of the war zones, and integrating the two worlds. Sometimes now in my kitchen I get a phonecall, and its from an Afghani friend in Villawood Detention Centre, and I turn off the newsradio to talk to them about their latest legal or family development, and the whole situation starts to make just a little bit more sense.