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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Of hedge funds and the whale

26 August 1999

"Why don't we take the ferry over to Manly and see if we can spot the whale?" I asked.

It was 1.00 am on Saturday and Old Possum, Joadja, and I were tucking into a few ciders and some leftover pasta with basil pesto at the cafe, which had closed at midnight.

"What a great idea!" said Joadja "They reckon it's a female, and likely to calve at any moment. Wouldn't it be exciting if we were there to see it happen!"

"And we could do lunch at the Blue Water Cafe", I said hopefully. Old Possum snorted derisively.
"Nice try, Possum, but not on your spendthrift life", Jo replied, "I'll pack a nice picnic lunch in the morning."
We bedded Old Possum down on the camp bed in the office before Jo and I retired to the ceiling.

We all rose late and caught the 9.30 ferry. The whale was lolling about off the Yacht Club wharf with a couple of National Parks and Wildlife Service launches in attendance to chase away over-enthusiastic boaties. By the time we'd disembarked it had reappeared further up North Harbour. We walked around from the wharf and set up camp on the low cliff above Fairlight Beach. Hundreds of Sydneysiders were streaming in, loaded down with binoculars, cameras, kiddies and folding chairs.

"It seems to humans like a visitor from another planet because it might as well be one", Old Possum remarked. I could see I was in for a heavy dose of insight.

"Humans are slaves to an ecosystem called 'The World Economy' and the whale lives in a parallel but distinct ecosystem called 'Nature'. The ecosystem called The Economy is totally blind towards the health of the ecosystem called Nature. It's not that the economy is immoral it's just amoral, just a thing. It's the sum of billions of conflicting daily acts of self-interest. Even the acts of self-interest of the biggest multi-national corporations or hedge funds or banks or the IMF are puny in relation to the totality of the world economy", he said.

"You're saying that humans don't mould the world capitalist economy to their will or their needs -- they adapt themselves and their society to the dictates of the economy in the same way that animals and plants very slowly adapt to the changes in their ecosystems", I said.

"It's not quite as simple as that" He replied, "Nature doesn't only change at a slow majestic rate of evolution like Darwin thought it did. His mechanisms -- natural and sexual selection -- were right, but the picture of slow, constant, evolution was wrong. There are tens of millions of years when bugger-all happens except incremental change, but then there are catastrophes which wipe out thousands of species in a geological instant. The accidental survivors go on to repopulate a new continent, or the whole world, blossoming from a few species to many, in a spurt of rapid change".

Old Possum went on: "The problem is that on the one hand humans are incredibly inventive and enterprising but on the other, they've got no control over their economy. It wasn't so bad when there were only a few of the bastards and they had spears and bows and arrows and canoes, but now there are billions of them and they've got chainsaws and nuclear weapons, feedlots, irrigation, freeways, 747s, instantaneous capital transfers, battery hens, Ross Gittins and day trading. One way or another it's a catastrophe in the making."

"Killing whales was Australia's first export industry and the only reason they're coming back from near-extinction is that the bastards found some other resource it was cheaper to rape", Jo muttered.

"Relax, Jo, you're an honorary possum", I said. But it was an ugly point, and I took another suck from the cider bottle. "What's the answer?" I asked, in a way you can only manage in a pleasantly light-headed state.

"An ecosystem is all very well for Nature, but we're all doomed if humans don't develop an economy that isn't an ecosystem", Old Possum said.

The whale surfaced, blew, and slipped below the surface again.