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 curious incident of the dogs in the night-time

1 May 2012

Joadja, Jesse the dingo, Old Possum and I were sitting in the dark in Jo’s rainforest garden after she’d closed the café. The moon rose over the old terraces while we chatted intermittently, tuning in to the rustle of leaves, the gentle chirping of crickets and the quiet hum of traffic on Sydney Street.

“Have noticed that a sound that used to dominate the night is missing?” asked Joadja.

“You mean the distant primative  rhythm of tribal drums and Tony Abbott chanting ‘Big New Tax, Big New Tax’?”

“No, seriously, a noise we once heard incessantly has gone, vanished.”

“I can’t pick it.”

“Dogs. We used to hear dogs barking, barking, far into the night … and we hardly hear them nowadays.”

We all fell silent for a while and indeed not a single yap broke the silence.

“Yeah, I think you’re right. Dogs must be getting quieter. But why?” I mused.

“Obviously, it isn’t that there are no dogs”, Old Possum said. “There are more dogs around than at any time I can remember. Every second person you meet on the street seems to be accompanied by a dog and when you ask people where they got Bella or Tilly or Pawdie, most of them seem to be rescue dogs from the pound. The puppy farmers must be tearing their hair out.”

Jesse piped up with one of his long, soft, weird, dingo vocalisations – something between a crow and a cow distantly lowing.

“What did he say?” Joadja asked, looking at Old, who spoke Dog like a native.

“He says: ‘Those poor dogs you remember … they barked to tell whoever might listen of their pain, of their frustration and anger’”.

Joadja fondled Jesse’s ear and took another sip of her cider. “Seems right to me. If you go back thirty years, to when I moved into Werrong Lane – and you too Nick – not many people had dogs but those that there were  – and you never saw them except when they barked at you through a chink in the gate – barked far into the night. It used to drive me nuts.

“I think most dogs were badly socialised. They seldom got walked. They seldom met other dogs. They never learned the nuances of behaviour in doggy or human society. And I suspect a lot of people wanted their dog to be mean because they wanted it to be a guard dog. There was a prevailing ethical carelessness about the whole relationship.

“And then a few years passed and we hardly ever saw or heard a dog at all, at least around here. I guess a whole generation of dogs just died quietly, defeated and demoralised, in the backyards they never got out of. And then a few more years passed and along came one of those mysterious public enthusiasms that roll in like waves and before you knew it there were dogs everywhere,  but they were quiet.

“And you know why?  Because in the intervening period the culture had somehow changed. The new dogs get out every day. And now there are off-leash parks where they can meet other dogs and play and usually they live in the house with their folks.”

“Yeah, at least for dogs, it’s becoming a kinder, gentler world.  When I was a kid, so many were mean and unpredictable”, I said. “And then there were always roving packs of males following any female that was on heat. I guess it’s no wonder  local councils banned them off-leash from just about everywhere. When one dog met another, as likely as not there’d be a fight.”

“Some dogs are still letting the side down”, said Jesse. “Like that nasty little terrier thing that attacked me, out of the blue, at the Sydney Park kiosk the other day. I just walked past the bastard and he goes ‘Eh, Jimmy, who you lookin’ at?’, like some BBC caricature of a Scotsman and then he lunged. Small dog syndrome. Who needs it? I shoulda bit his face off”.

“Yes, well I’m very glad you didn’t. I thought you showed great restraint and behaved like a real gentleman, considering that you could have chewed him up”, I said.

“Mum always said I must be an ambassador for the subspecies”, Jesse muttered.