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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The cosmic slush-ball cometh sometime

14 October 1999

"Did you see this article in the Herald about Terry Dawson and kangaroo locomotion?" Joadja asked.

We were sitting in the lane sipping cider and sorting through the pile of old papers that had built up in the cafe.

"Well I did actually. That's the one where they reckon kangaroos pretty much confound the general theory of running. Good old Terry, always working on something ground-breaking. And Mikey Archer has taken over at the Australian Museum. The Marsupial Self-Respect Renaissance is blossoming again", I replied.

"But did you see where it says that the kangaroos' method of locomotion is incredibly efficient, in fact it's almost as efficient as birds or bats."

"Well, yes, we marsupials have always been really big on energy conservation", I said, allowing myself to bask for a moment in reflected glory.

"Yeah, I noticed", Joadja snorted, "You sleep all day if you get a chance and you don't waste any energy on finishing the renovations, for example".

"That's a cheap shot. I've been busy with other stuff, like Timor, as you know. Nevertheless, I've screwed my courage to the sticking place and ordered the staircase. They're delivering it next week".

I felt a flash of mean resentment and self-righteousness.

"You can't imagine what it was like, growing up at a time when marsupials were considered to be some primitive backward life-form -- way below you eutherian mammals in the pecking order of evolution. I grew up half-believing that, and it wasn't till the Sixties that I felt accepted, trendy even.

"It's a sick history. Poor old Darwin, his simple evolutionary mechanism -- where animals and plants evolved by adapting to local conditions was hijacked by his erstwhile champion, T.H. Huxley, and that ghastly bastard Herbert Spencer, and they turned it into the ultimate moral justification for whatever the men with big sticks were doing at the time.

"They twisted evolution into an intellectual rationalisation for the official view of social progress -- meaning the imperialist division of the globe, the triumph of capitalism, the looting of the 'new' continents, the war against the trade unions.

"As the Social Darwinians told it, there's some sort of supernatural inbuilt drive towards perfection in life. The strong triumphed because they were, by definition, 'fitter' (that was Herbert Spencer's word, not Darwin's, by the way). Marsupials inevitably disappeared before the onslaught of eutherian mammals; the white races spread inexorably across the globe, displacing the less intelligent black and yellow races; men were superior to women -- they must have been, after all, they were on top socially and politically -- and unimaginable wealth was just the proper reward for unimaginable intelligence.

"Well, now we know that that's a pretty distorted view of evolution. We marsupials have some tricks up our sleeves too, you know. Slow inexorable 'progress' towards the holy grail, towards the white Anglo male, is just bunk. Unexpected catastrophes mould the history of life as well. It doesn't matter how beautifully you're adapted to your little pond you can't be adapted for something you can't foresee, like when a big comet hits the earth. When the cosmic slush-ball hits -- and they come along every few hundred million years -- it doesn't matter how well adapted you are, it's ten thousand to one you're cactus. The surviving species are determined pretty much by luck, they manage to be in the right place at the right time or they just accidentally have qualities that get them through the debacle and their decendent go on to repopulate the earth. Next time around it might be marsupials."

I realised suddenly that I'd been on something of a long rant.

"Oh come on, Possum, you know I didn't mean it like that", Jo said, "I can't think of another life-form I'd rather hang out with."

"You're just saying that because all the available men are gay", I muttered.