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 Market is God

22 February 2001

It was one of those murderous February days when the air feels like steam and the burning asphalt sinks underfoot. A quiet Sydney madness was abroad. As I plodded across Hyde Park, the sound of sirens was everywhere.

I was near Wynyard Station when a curious tableau confronted me. A young man was lying face down on the path, and another was kneeling beside him, holding his hand.

The Good Samaritan looked up as I approached. "He's pretty distressed, I've called the ambulance", he said in a soft Irish brogue. I got the impression he was a backpacker.

The man on the ground raised his head. There was fear and despair in his eyes. He reached out to me with his free hand. He was in his twenties. His clothes weren't cheap, but they'd seen better days -- a clean but frayed business shirt, pin-striped suit pants and two hundred dollar shoes.

"I ignored the word of God. Please forgive me", he implored.

Just then a couple of young Mormons arrived; not weedy Anglo-Australians, or even those earnest young Islanders built like the sides of houses. These were the full enchilada -- beefy, sweating young Americans with crisp white shirts and thick-soled shoes. They sat down on a nearby park bench and offered to help.

I squatted down and took the prostrate man's other hand. "It's gunna be all right", I said, lying. "Where do you work?"

He told me he was on the pension, living in a boarding house in Surry Hills. He had a friend there. He was afraid. He wanted to have his old mind back. He wanted forgiveness. I began to get the picture.

"What's your friend's name? I'll call him".

"Patrick. Some people call him The Market, but I call him God". He gave me a phone number. I called it and spoke to God. Curiously, he had an Irish brogue. He said he'd come immediately.

When God arrived he turned out to be about forty, wearing sandals, long hair, a beard and cargo shorts.We'd got the young man onto a park bench but in spite of our best efforts, he prostrated himself on the pavement. "Forgive me, I lost faith, forgive me", he muttered.

"Don't do that, Nathan", said the Lord.

The Irish backpacker and the two men of God coaxed him back onto the park bench and I got a moment to speak privately to God.

"Pleased to meet you, I've heard so much about you", I said "What's his problem?"

"It's terrible. Before he started to hear the voices he was doing really well for himself. He's an economist ... worked for the Federal government and then the Macquarie Bank, as a market analyst."

"Why does he think you're God?"

"Aw, it started with my nickname, but he took it seriously. My mates call me 'The Market', 'cos I used to smoke a lot of dope ... you know ... always on the way up."

"Let's take this a step at a time. He thinks the market is God and you're the market?"

"Most of the time. He focusses it all on me. It's a big responsibility. You see, he's a market fundamentalist. He started to believe that if we all obeyed the word of the Market, paradise would arrive on earth. The Market is like the mind of God, if you follow my drift."

"But how does the Market speak to him?"

"Well, it goes up and it goes down, but you have to have faith in it whatever happens. And then he believes this other contradictory bit of theology which says that if you act in your own immediate interests, you'll be acting in society's long-term interest.

"He got very confused. While the internet shares were booming he bought internet shares, and then he had doubts. A voice kept kept telling him that almost none of these companies could turn a profit in the next decade, and he panicked, and started to sell.

"Trouble was, he wasn't Robinson Crusoe. All his mates started selling out too, and the bottom fell out, and now he's stuck with all the shares he couldn't sell. They're worthless.

"It pushed him over the edge. He just went nuts. Doesn't know whether the market deserted him or he deserted the market. He keeps wondering whether, if he hadn't decided to sell, it would have just kept going higher and higher, like the love of God."

All this was too much for the Mormons, who made a collective decision that this was a mental case, not a prospect for conversion. Not long after, a couple of dykes arrived in an ambulance and took him away.

"In a way he did cause the dot.com crash", I said to God and the Irish backpacker. "Him and a few hundred thousand others. Hardly surprising though. I wouldn't call it loss of faith tho', I'd say they came to their senses. But then, us possums were always atheists".