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Truth Isn't Always Pretty
Journal of a Futurist - 1 April 2003
Forty years ago today
On April Fools Day, 1963, when Oz magazine was launched on the streets of Sydney, our country was in the grip of a mindset that made many of us feel ashamed to be born here. Forty years later among the same generation, as well as among our children, the mood is again one of embittered disgust.
Sixties Australia was a paranoid place, a racist backwater presided over by elderly fools with forked tongues and a grudge against youth. The press was tongue-tied. The lies of Canberra lured our troops into committing atrocities on Vietnamese villagers, as B52s splashed napalm. Oblivious at first, we splashed in the Pacific.
The skies were luminous, Chuck Berry crackled through the bakelite, Mum and I loved I Love Lucy. Oz began on a shoestring with little other purpose than to challenge the status quo & have a laugh. Easy, because our leaders took themselves so seriously. The bowing & scraping of our Prime Minister to the Queen of England made us squirm. Much like today, except that our PMs object of fawning now occupies the White House.
Al Jazeera, Violence and Truth
As Oz gathered momentum, the sledgehammer of censorship struck, and struck again and again, leading to a surprising discovery. We were not alone. Okay, I guess we had an inkling of that, owing to the ripple of campus discontent. Not only were we not alone, we turned into a youthquake. Could this be a portent of what lies ahead?
A few days ago, intrigued by reports of the relentless hacking of its website, I clicked to the homepage of Al Jazeera. What I saw was disgusting. It was also liberating. In years to come well look back Al Jazeeras decision to lift another veil of illusion as a global turning point. I clicked an image of a bandaged victim, which linked to a scene from Dantes inferno - exploded children from the siege of Baghdad.
Vomiting into the Kitchen Sink
Missiles can be launched at the flick of a switch a world away, so the executioners never need to look at the dead. What Western viewers get is collapsed buildings and a cool scoring of the unseen victims from a flack jacketed mate of the liberators. It is censorship by stealth, imposed by media gate-keepers. It sanitizes reality & disguises greed. (Sterilised wars are good for profits). On the day of the second Baghdad market slaughter, Rupert Murdochs partisan broadsheet, The Australian, featured a front page picture of Coalition soldiers protectively flanking a cute little girl in a scarlet dress, headlined: THE SIEGE OF BAGHDAD. (This sickly image was actually shot in Basra, owing to the youngsters of Baghdad being scraped off the pavement). On the kitchen TV, as I was trying not to vomit into the sink, a knife faced Pentagon officer growled: we have flown more than a thousand sorties
.. This same idiot described Iraqi defenders as terrorists. Support for George W Bush has allegedly soared to 70%. What kind of nation is this? What kind of nation are we?
Even if approval for the leaders of the Coalition of the Killing becoms unanimous, our invasion is still a crime against humanity. Anti war protesters in the West may not be a numerical match for the audience of Fox TV, but at least theyre not afflicted with SAPS - severe acute patriotism syndrome - a virus that shrinks the brain and destroys the soul.
Smoking Shrapnel, Hell & Justice
Meanwhile, the whole world is watching
and hardening their hearts towards the Coalition. Feisty Robert Fisk of The Independent found a fragment of the bomb which flattened the Baghdad market and revealed its serial numbers. The smoking shrapnel reportedly sources the missile to the liberators. As I write, John Howard says he is satisfied with the progress of the war. This from a man who remains satisfied with the invasion of Vietnam.
The world has moved on. It is suddenly not inconceivable that John Howard and his fellow conspirators might one day be hauled before the International Criminal Court. If so, they cannot say they werent warned. (See below, Uncle Sams Underwear). It didnt take a futurist to foresee the civilian carnage, although the extent and the manner of the liquidation surpasses dread. While Bush, Blair & Howard share a fundamentalist belief in a Christian heaven; it is to the lower reams they may well be confined. It goes without saying that Saddams circle of hell will be hottest.
On top of everything, as this journal has argued from the moment Western policy became revenge for 9/11, the war against terror incubates terror. Retaliation at the west will now ricochet through generations, as it already is though our neighbours. John Howard will never understand the goodwill he has squandered in Asia, because he has only seen it from the back of a limo.
A World without Beer
In the first war of the third millennium, we choose to invade in the words most important archaeological site, where Ur, the Wests first city, flourished 5,500 years ago. Its famed temple, or ziggurat, to the moon god was bombed & vandalized by the Allies in the first Gulf War (before the Taliban blew up the cave Buddhas). If this doesnt cut much ice with Australian readers, let me mention that one of Iraqs many inventions is beer. Whats my point? Historian Bradley Parker sums it up: "It is an ironic twist of fate to stand on the remains of a city in southern Iraq where the civilized world began and realize it could all end right there as well". Civilization is already under siege.
One glance at the Pentagon briefings, at our dissembling politicians, at Sunday nights footage of the Israeli army hurling stun grenades at Palestinian toddlers in party dresses, or at another Citizen Kane Rupert Cancer Murdochs kill kill editorials, or the 24/7 lie machines of the greatest military power in history, and we are reminded, yet again, that in even in the information age, scum still rises to the top.
To All of You Who Once Shared a Dream
Now the good news - the top is the first to go off, to wither away. At the grass roots, at the fringes, even in the mainstream, something else is going on. It is a slow combustion groping towards trying to connect the dots - the mind to the body, east to west, left to right, lifestyle to global warming.
You see the signs at the local anti war rally
with the kids, a picnic hamper and a placard stating War is soooo
20th Century. Its the fenghsui gardens of suburbia, sympathy for asylum seekers, taking a sea change, world music, Ani DiFranco, the belief that the true goal of business is doing good. Its Greens leader Bob Brown winning standing ovations. Maybe its even Nikes new yoga shoe and K-Mart stocking yoga mats. Its self doubt, the customisation of spirituality, the slogan, Slow Down or Die.
Mainstream politics hinges on conflict, upholding the rift between us and them. Hey, they throw their children overboard
not the kind of people we want in Australia. In reality, we are all in the same boat.
Lets forget the flag waving - the only kind of patriotism that makes sense, is the patriotism of human kind. Its the planet, dearest. Happy 40th birthday, Oz, I almost wish you were here. Thanks to all of you who were once part of its ambience, near or far, dead or alive.