Journal of a Futurist - 30 August 2004
Why the future haunts John Howard
Last week at high noon in the Eastwood Masonic Hall, I helped launch a campaign to unseat the Prime Minister in his own electorate, Not Happy, John. Despite its title, those in the audience seemed happier than ecstasy imbibers in a nudist colony. I havent seen that guy smile since the early seventies, a photographer gasped, as political scribe Bob Ellis made a beeline for the Bennelong candidates with a spring in his step. Feel free to vote for whoever you like, I thundered from the lectern, so long as you put John Howard last on the ballot paper.
The campaign is fronted by renegade Liberal, John Vader, a former confidante of the PM, who wants Howard clapped in irons for war crimes. Author Margo Kingston, who strangely voted for Howard in the last election, gripped the crowd with her tales of furtive bastardry from the bowels of Parliament (See The Future of Death). Also onstage was Merlin Luck, who notoriously turned the tables on Big Brother by standing up for refugees. As I write, the Sunday Program has finally done what it and other mainstream outlets should have done years ago - spoken to the invisible victims; asylum seekers falsely accused of throwing their children into the ocean. Howard already lies in his political coffin, but their belated testimony is a stake in his heart.
At the climax of the NHJ launch, four Bennelong contenders were called on stage. One of these, whistelblower Andrew Wilkie, the Greens candidate, has sacrificed money, friends and a career by exposing Howards deceptions. And yet, as the applause lifted the roof beams, Wilkie looked like the happiest spook in the world.
Happy 'Not-Happy Johners' in the Masonic Hall, August 25 2004.
Click to enlarge image
Just because we didnt find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, I told the crowd, it doesnt mean that they didnt play a part in the war. They did. Such weapons have already resulted in the deaths of at least 13,000 Iraqi civilians and maimed many more. One of these was used by Canberra. It is intangible, but deadly. This weapon of mass destruction is our Governments capacity to lie without flinching - whether to slander refugees or to launch a war.
John Howard believes a lie is nothing more than a clever trick soon forgotten
and that the average Australian couldnt care less. Your presence here today proves the opposite.
Howards lying is the moral mirror image of the weapons we once projected onto Saddam Hussein. Such a weapon instils fear. It is the enemy of integrity, the assassin of honour, the harbinger of cruelty. Today we have started a process to disarm John Howard of his personal weapon of mass destruction, by tossing him out of power. Truth in government is a core value for all Australians in all circumstances and for all time.
No more lies, No more shame,
Welcome back Australia, to your great good name.
Later, driving back to the inner city, I recalled one of John Howards oft repeated reasons for sending our troops to Iraq: to eliminate Saddam Husseins human shredding machine. Meanwhile in Canberra, our own human lying machine is starting to fall to bits.
The media is switching tack. Public servants are speaking out. Our citizens are waking up to the scandals at Guantanamo Bay. Our Defence Minister has been exposed by the Pentagon, no less - for trying to hide the horrors of Abu Ghraib. Our Attorney General is now widely regarded as a psychopath. All the moth-eaten chickens are coming home to roost: PM WAS TOLD WAR WOULD SPUR TERROR, blares the front page.
At the Not Happy John launch, former magistrate Brian Deegan made it clear that the horrendous deaths in the Bali bombing, which included that of his son Josh, could have been avoided if the Government had come clean about the risks facing travelers to Indonesia. Now Deegan is standing against our feckless Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, another leader whose head rests firmly within George Bushs alimentary canal. Downer was recently asked by Dateline (SBS), how many Iraqi civilians had been killed in the war? He hadnt clue. Couldnt care.
As I write, John Howard has called an election, saying its all about trust. Its like Ariel Sharon calling an election about human rights, or George Bush saying the Presidential race is about intellectual rigour.
If John Howard is returned on October 9, our citizens will deserve their fate. www.nothappyjohncampaign.com.
THE KILLING OLYMPICS
The brilliant Michael Leunig (Melbourne Age)
Soon to be shown on the ABC is Soundtrack to a War, directed by artist George Gittoes (www.gittoes.com) who manages to humanise the frontline soldiers in Iraq, despite the sadistic tasks put in their way. Disgusted as I am at the slaughter of Falluja women and children by anonymous crims from the safety of their mighty multi barrelled gun ships (See HOTLINKS in the right hand column) and the bloody siege of Najaf, this doco is a hymn to humanitys deeper yearnings. At one level, the warriors realise that what theyre doing is vile, and so they escape into rock, rap, country or Christian, often revealing exceptional talent. As for the Iraqis, their gifts touch the heart, producing the saddest music in the world, including that of the maltreated brothers who put the Bee Gees at the centre of their universe. Thanks George, who mortgaged your house to fly to a hellhole with a hand-held camera and transform misery into art, leaving the embedded propagandists choking on clichés, and the rest of us enriched by your artistry and compassion.
TOO MUCH MONKEY BUSINESS
Procrastinating monkeys have been turned into workaholics, according to researchers using a gene treatment to block a key brain compound. Blocking cells from receiving dopamine made the monkeys work harder at a task -- and they were better at it. A new genetic technique blocks the D2 gene, which makes a receptor for a key brain messenger chemical, dopamine. According to Dr Barry Richmond, this gene knockdown triggered a remarkable transformation in the simian work ethic. Strange how the monkeys required manipulation, whereas we are workaholics by choice.
Credit Stanley Martucci & Cheryl Greisbach (Village Voice)
NO-ONE TWEAKED OUR GENES TO
INFLICT THESE WEAPONS
ON THE PEOPLE WE WERE SUPPOSED
TO BE LIBERATING
Long vanished is the lie that Iraqi insurgents are foreign terrorists linked to al Qaeda. These are the everyday citizens we claim to be liberating, pursued by AC-130 gunships across Iraq and Afghanistan, hundreds of dead children in their wake. The Bush-Kerry blather about a 40 year old war, as Michael Rivero rightly points out is a way of avoiding the atrocities being committed right now in our Wars to Propagate Terror. This from an AC-130 worshipping website:
These heavily armed aircraft incorporate side-firing weapons integrated with sophisticated sensor, navigation and fire control systems to provide surgical firepower or area saturation during extended loiter periods, at night and in adverse weather
Against which, our only weapon is this:
A FINAL WORD ON THE FUTURE OF DEATH
Thanks for all the feedback from the previous journal on the downsizing of the Grim Reaper. So emboldened am I by your responses, that I close this entry with a crappy piece of doggerel:
The last goodbye
Death is the land from which few return,
a destination widely spurned,
except for the Buddhists of Tibet
who reckon its the best adventure yet,
having mapped the stages on the way
like a Lonely Planet Holiday.
In the West, were more circumspect,
the subject shrouded in mystery & regret.
Often regarded as Gods great error
to be fiercely fought, like the war on terror
Governments spend millions to keep the curse at bay
prolonging the misery of loved ones, day by day,
yet happy to bomb households from a plane
without ever knowing the victims name
(Thats in Falluja
If the reference alludes ya).
Attitudes to death are complicated
efforts to elude it are exaggerated
and lately driven by a new obsession:
The budding science of age regression
are shocking morticians
by saying involuntary death is a blight,
and the end of aging is in sight,
as discoveries in life-extension
enter a new dimension,
which - in essence-
means reversing senescence.
The re-branding of death as a curable disease
is to be achieved
by tweaking tissue, protein and gene
and lotsa cells in between,
merging silicon, steel & our flesh,
with spare parts from Marrakech
until, like Frankensteins dream,
we become a machine
and elude the morgue
to be re born
as Citizen Cyborg
Is this insanity?
Or is it the start of our transhumanity?
I guess it shouldnt be a surprise
that death too, is being downsized
In edgy scientific journals
it is said with persistence
theres no longer any reason
for deaths existence
So the stories & myths which council acceptance
are obsolete tricks to promote repentance
and should no longer be seen as benign consolations
but as reckless and dangerous abominations.
If such ideas you dare to resist
Youre labelled a deathist
this quickening quest for immortality
is imbued with a sense of unreality.
How do we curb world population?
What will happen to superannuation?
Surely the poor become so enraged
that tomorrows terrorists will target the aged.
Dont ask me to join this fight
Im packing my bag for the long goodnight.
It contains some drugs to handle Alzheimers,
a dare-devil handbook for mountain climbers,
an updated map of ancient nirvana
and a secret compartment for marijuana.
When my sun starts setting, Ill make a stand,
scratch a wobbly line in the sand
The Tibetan Book of the Dead in my hand.
And Ill text you a message
from the promised land.
(image from The Guardian, 22 September 04)
Excerpts from Soundtrack to War - George Gittoes