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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Praise The Market and pass the snake oil

7 July 1999

Ex-prime ministers were in the news last week. Bob Hawke (remember him) rushed to kiss Sir Peter Abeles shortly before the old transport magnate died, and more claims emerged about the big piggery deal that made Paul Keating even richer than he would have been if he'd had to rely on his parliamentary pension. In the prevailing climate, who can blame him? We all have standards. Perhaps he felt he had to keep up with the Soehartos.

The mainstream media sold the Abeles story as a penniless-migrant-makes-good yarn. A modern Australian nationalist, humanitarian, business visionary and friend of the working man. He was troubled by the very success of the "free market" and yearned for some force to civilize it, they said.

This has become a cheap snake oil salve for troubled hearts and minds, and more and more people are rubbing themselves down with the stuff. The multi-billionaire hedge fund operator and currency raider George Soros and Lindsay Tanner and Kim Beazley and Paul Sheehan and the Democrats and the Russian Mafia and British Prime Minister Tony "Rupert" Blair and Canadian philosopher Raulston Saul are all lathering it on thickly. Old Bob Santamaria used it since the days of his youth when he was an admirer of Benito Mussolini.

But The Market is a cruel and relentless bitch goddess. She will never be civilised -- let alone by these puny wankers -- and most of them know it. They believe in the "civilize capitalism" line to the same extent, and in the same sense, that most English Tories believed in God and the Church of England: a worthy intention and a charming myth and indispensable for gulling the unwashed masses, but not to be actually believed in for practical purposes.

In the end it was really just a story about the Labor Party as a way up the social ladder.

Not everybody in official politics is driven by a massive ego, but most are, and they are holding us back. These people are true professionals and that is the problem. They are there because they actually like politics. They like the lifestyle, the process of politics itself. All they want you to do is vote, and, of course consume. They're not even happy about you joining their party, because you might ask questions or even raise issues.

The old British Tory ruling class did warn us about this. If we give you all the vote, they said, you will just get a bunch of social climbers from the lower orders representing you.

The old Tories were so seriously rich that they could take part in politics as a duty. Their objectivity wasn't tainted by the search for personal power and wealth so they could be trusted to do the right thing by The Nation -- by which they meant, of course, themselves and their kind.

The root of the problem is that most people are cut out of the loop of politics. Between the jobs and the kids and the new technology and the perpetual reorganisation there just isn't time.

The greatest real leap in democracy came when the trade unions won the five day week. There was time then, not just for recreation, and participation, but for reading and thinking and the new experiences which broaden the mind. But the world has moved on since then and become more complex, and every problem we face needs more management, more participation. Now, even in a wealthy country like Australia, most people just don't have the time to actually participate, and this is in spite of the huge increase in productivity per person in the last 50 years and the fact that nowadays there are usually two people working in each family.

Democracy is being rorted and stolen from us and the best way we can make a start on the problem is the four day week. Not the 35 hour week, or even the 32 hour week, but the four day week. Nothing less will do.

• • •

INCLUDED in Whispers from the mean streets -- Best of 1999

FREE downloadable PDF booklet.