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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Brushtail Graphics

Passing the licence test

25 May 2000

I was sitting outside the Brushtail Café with Joadja on Sunday morning, trying to follow the tangled thread of Paddy McGuinness's column in Saturday's Herald.

It began as one of the Great Fulminator's diatribes, in this case against those who dared take a stand against sexual advances made by male academics to their female students. Then it flipped over into a diatribe against "predatory homosexual teachers and professors".

It was all very confusing, but suddenly (as so often), Paddy lurched in the opposite direction and advanced a most curious argument for mitigating circumstances in the matter of teachers of either sex fucking young people in their charge. I read the words several times with mounting bewilderment.

Predatory is probably not the proper word, since there is a long tradition of sexual affection between the mature and the young in teaching situations, from Socrates and Sappho on. Apparently there was a very well-respected and widely liked classics teacher at one of my old schools ... who was up to such tricks. I never had the good fortune to meet what seems to have been a very nice, if perhaps, not very moral man.

I read the passage out to Joadja.

"Wow. Is that a rolled-up copy of Quadrant in Paddy's pocket or do I detect a note of longing?" she snorted."When I was teaching, I always took it for granted that fucking the kiddies was predatory."

"And it's not the first time Paddy's expressed himself in such terms, because I remember something similar from late 97", I said.

I went up to the office and hunted out the Paddywatch file, and there I found the clipping.

"At the time, Cheryl Kernot was under attack for a relationship she'd had with an ex-pupil", I remarked as I settled back into my chair in the sunshine.

"Get this bit. It follows a passage in which Paddy comments on the plight of his fellow member of the Quadrant editorial board, Christopher Pearson, who had rather unwisely attacked Kernot over her affair. Anyway, here's what Paddy said then:

Thus the Adelaide Review editor ... cannot complain that his own past has been brought into the matter, but it needs to be pointed out that at the age of 22 when he became the lover of South Australia's Chief Justice, John Bray, who was then nearly 60, Pearson was neither a pupil nor an employee of his lover. Such relationships between young and old, especially when the older partner is a person of great intelligence and civilisation, can be enormously beneficial to the younger partner.

"Well Paddy seems to have shifted ground since then", Jo said. "Now he seems to be saying that sex with students is sort of okay if you're a person of culture and sensitivity, but not for others. That's rather an elitist position though. I mean, who decides who's in the elite? How do you qualify for the tradition of 'mutual affection'? Lots of yobs think they're cultured and sensitive."

"Well, there could be a licence scheme, or, indeed, a licence for licensious behaviour with students. You'd get points for smarts and civilised stuff."

"Right. A hundred points if you can name all of the characters in Helen Garner's last novel, five hundred for Collette. Now: who was Winston Smith?"

"Wasn't he the protagonist in George Orwell's 1984?"

"Wrong, wrong, wrong. That goes to show you'd never get a licence. Paddy says he was the protagonist in Animal Farm, and he's never wrong about these things."

"Well that does explain why Big Brother was so down on Winston ... he must have been taking liberties with the young pigs".