From under the linoleum
Old newspapers show Mussolini's imperialism looked a lot like today's

I sat on the floor and picked through the tragedy of the country we now call Ethiopia laid out on the yellowing pages. It was eerily reminiscent of the current Iraq adventure.

A tale for our times
The December 1934 assassination of Sergei Kirov

Seventy years on, the killing of Sergei Kirov casts an eerie light on the events of 11 September 2001, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the “war on Terror” and the state-sponsored hysteria surrounding the shadowy figures of Osama bin Ladin and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Ninety-three years of bombing the Arabs
It was the Italians, hell-bent on acquiring an African empire, who got the ball rolling. In 1911 the Libyan Arab tribes opposed an Italian invasion. Their civilians were the first people in the world to be bombed from the air.

Dispossessed all over again
After spending nearly two months in the West Bank the pull towards my village was growing stronger, especially after being detained twice and threatened with deportation … an Australian Palestinian returns to her ancestral home.

The tragic inevitability of a forlorn hope
Australia slides further into the Iraq quagmire
Cabinet documents recently released under the 50-year rule show that, in 1954, Liberal (conservative) Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, and key figures in his Cabinet were extremely gloomy about the prospects for success in an American war against nationalists in Indochina. But eventually they went to the Vietnam War anyway.

Bombing King David
One man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist

Some historians date the beginning of modern terrorism from the 1946 bombing by Zionist terrorists of the British military HQ in Jerusalem.

Don’t loiter near the exit
Military debacle and economic decline haunt the Bush regime

When I was just a young possum in the school cadet corps there was a hoary old war story that we all knew. It was almost certainly apocryphal, but it ruefully expressed a nasty historic truth about the US role in the demise of the British Empire.


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A loaf of dread beneath the bough

10 March 1999

On Saturday, Sydney turned on one of those balmy March days that make you think that summer will last forever.

Joadja had purchased tickets to the 2 pm session of David Williamson's latest play, Corporate Vibes, and stashed a six-pack of cider and some goodies in a backpack. As we walked down to the Opera House, sunlight played on the blue-green waters of the harbour and big, well-formed white cumulous clouds were piled high on the horizon.

Williamson's The Club and Don's Party loom like that on the horizon of the Australian theatre. I loved Travelling North and vaguely enjoyed After the Ball ... but I came away from Corporate Vibes with a crick in my tail, feeling dissatisfied.

We walked to the gardens and sat under the old fig tree looking out over the harbour. Joadja had packed crusty white rolls and a pot of fresh pesto, banana cake, and nectarines. The second cider tasted better than the first.

I laid back and half dozed off, watching the sunlight filter through the canopy and I wondering whether David wasn't using some nifty new software to hold up his mirror to Australian society.

Something like the new Adobe PlayWriter 1.0 (installed for Australian English).

Okay, do it logically – set up the theme template. Select Major Theme from the menu: Work Within The System to Change It ... yeah, good, connects with this new mood about civilising capitalism. Very George Soros, Ralston Saul, Lindsay Tanner.

Set up the Sub-themes (check boxes here): Aboriginality, Architectural Controversy, Corporate Rivalry, Reconciliation.

Pull down the Message menu, select a message (Love One Another ... hmmm, tolstoyan).

Next, the cast of characters: Let's see: Autocratic Developer (check that box – this is Sydney); Milquetoast CEO (definitely); New Wave Aboriginal Woman (make her the human resources officer who doesn't want to stripmine people – bit contrived, but pregnant with possibility); Frustrated Salesman (make him a nice Soth Efrican – that'll get a few laughs north of the harbour); Award Winning Architect with Vision and a Social Conscience (hmmm, marginal, unlikely, very 60s ... but maybe if I make him a woman); Shallow Marketing Manager (why not? they'll all know one of them); Feisty EEO Officer (Feisty! Jesus, I hate that adjective. I thought this was the Australian English version. Still, the plot demands it, and it'll give me another strong female character).

Next step: Character Depth. Two choices here: Apply to All or Individually Configure ... Aw bugger it ... Apply to All. Pull the slider over to three ... now ... Plotline ...

And in the result it was all very professional and entertaining. It had some cleverly written lines and a few laughs, but it certainly wasn't "Razor sharp" as some dingbat wrote in the Tele.

"Australian theatre has fallen into quietist piety", Joadja said suddenly, "I don't understand it really. We're living in the midst of extraordinary drama. There's the tragedy of nations disintegrating in a welter of ethnic cleansing, the black comedy of the Olympic bid with the politicians and the IOC wallowing in luxury, the historical high farce of the Australian prime ministers grovelling to the Indonesian regime, there's the stolen generation and the desperate fight to defend the ecosystems and the rampage of the greedheads and all we get are these homilies about loving one another. All this amiable, balanced, witty hokum -- theatre you could take John and Janet Howard to without having to worry about a scene afterwards ... What we have here is the theatrical equivalent of Bob Carr's steady-as-she-goes managerialism. There are too many playwrights and not enough fucking dramatists."

"That's great!" I said "That needs to be said. Write it down. Life is stranger than fiction. Have you got a working title?"

"How about Relaxed and Comfortable?", Joadja muttered, and that was how we left it.