Sometimes you write something. An idea. Not sure about it. Bit outside your academic field. Given it a lot of thought, but hey. Probably being stupid.
And then, hey presto, you were probably right.
What a life eh?
“Age appears to be best in four things – old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read” – Francis Bacon
Francis, having died some 300 years before it was invented, forgot to add “Old tv programs to watch” but otherwise he pretty much has this old age thing covered eh?
The United Nations has announced that in future this day, St Rupert’s Day, will be the one day of the year on which politicians and media outlets are required by law to publish material only of a factual nature, based on evidence, scientific evidence especially, related to the real world.
“Only fair”, said the UN president, a Mr Twain, “every other day of the year there is an outpouring of spin, false balance, fakery, slogans, media stunts – as if media and politics was conducted in a sideshow alley at a fair in some parallel universe of constructed reality”. “There should be one day”, he added, “when citizens of the world could open newspapers, turn on tv, listen to political speeches, confident that what they were seeing and hearing was real”.
Mark (“call me Mark” he told the assembled Press scrum) also suggested that after a few years of observing reality on one day of the year there might be a demand from the public for a second such day, but he wasn’t totally confident about this. They have been fed on a daily diet of rubbish for years, he said, and they may have a lot of trouble adjusting.
The last three blog posts have been examples of my writing where the words just flow on to the screen (ha, nearly said “page”, old-fashioned, eh?).
Richard Sheridan said “You write with ease to show your breeding, but easy writing’s vile hard reading”. Well, I see what you mean RB, but on this blog the reverse is true I think. Posts that I struggle with, feel I have a duty to write, must contribute to some debate, keep Watermelon in the forefront of public conversation, I suspect are a struggle for you, dear reader, to read.
Watching Australian politics since the election of the Abbott government has been like watching one of those comedy routines, Benny Hill perhaps, or The Goodies, where the film is run backwards and the comedians are seen jerkily and rapidly moving back into the landscape, finally disappearing backwards over a hill.
Tony Abbott and his clown troupe running the clock backwards has astonished not just Australian citizens who had thought they were living in the 21st century, but civilised people everywhere who had thought we were too.
The Romans knew that invading and conquering people was no good unless you could almost immediately get them to love you, at which point you had created a prison in which the inmates could be given the key, would keep themselves locked up with hardly any need for guards.
Basically they had discovered, 2000 years early, the proposition that no two countries with McDonalds (or in this case fish sauce) ever go to war with each other. That is, you bring Roman culture to the barbarians, and next thing they are too busy sitting in bath houses, and worshipping Roman gods, to go to war. And too interested in profits from trade with the motherland, and the status and luxuries that went with being more Roman than the Romans.
All over this planet, millions of species representing the end point of 4 billion years of evolution, living in ecosystems representing the end point of millions of years of ecological interaction, are being made extinct at a rate probably unprecedented in the history of Earth, and towards an end point seen only a few times in that history.
An incredible 100,000 or so species are estimated to be going extinct each year towards a total loss in just a few decades of at least half those existing just 100 years ago (when the extinction rate first gathered pace). My feeling is that estimates like “a half” represent scientists being cautious. That really the planet is faced with the extinction of 90% or more, and the last time that happened was a quarter of a billion years ago. The last time anything like the extent of the events of these two centuries happened was 65 million years ago as a large meteor exploded against the planet. The last significant set of extinctions was around 25,000 years ago as the climatic events of the end of the ice ages drove many large species, especially mammals, to extinction.
“What do we want?”
“When do we want it?”
Went to the Canberra “March in March” protest today, so need to write about it. Everyone else has written about their own experiences among the 100,000 plus people who marched in cities and towns all over Australia in last three days, so I should too. 100,000 people, by the way, virtually ignored by the media (except to complain about one or two signs, out of thousands, with a rude word or two, in order to discredit the event), but whose actions, just 6 months into the term of a new government, are unprecedented.
The Canberra event was much like the other events everywhere. It all had a pleasantly amateurish feel – no professional protesters or rent-a-crowd here. Ordinary people with no second names (“I’m Jim” “I’m Lisa” and so on) standing in front of an “open mic”, most clearly for the first time, saying in a few stumbling, and in one case tearful, words, why they had made the effort to come. Young and old, radical-looking and very conservative, men and women (about equal numbers), straight and gay, Aboriginal and “indigenous” (as one Aboriginal speaker put it), local Canberra and “from Goulburn” “from Newcastle” “from overseas”, healthy and not-so-healthy.
Saw a quote yesterday, and, as is so often the case in my near-dotage, didn’t write it down in case I decided to use it later, which of course I did just 24 hours later. So forgive me a little inexactitude in the interests of a Meloncholic Muse. It was from a right wing politician in Australia (or America, Argentina, Angola, Azerbaijan…) bemoaning the fact that the Left in Australia (Albania, Austria…) liked to sign international treaties.
It was related, I think, to the Tasmanian election, and the determination of the Liberals to turn thousands of hectares of World Heritage forest into wood chips and scorched ground. Or perhaps it was related to the UN Refugee Convention. Or Human Rights. Whatever, it was related to the nerve of any agreement having the temerity to presume to limit the activities of an incoming Liberal government hell-bent on destroying whatever stood in the way of its neoconservative religion as surely as the Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas that stood in the way of their religion.
Regular readers of this blog will know I’m not much of a one for heroes. I have previously written a sort of list (here and the following section) of a few of my heroes from the past. Even fewer in more recent years, but one of them, Tony Wedgwood Benn, died just yesterday, and Watermelon must mark his passing.
If you don’t, or didn’t know of him, please look him up. Hard to think of an equivalent in Australia (perhaps Jim Cairns, Bob Brown) or America (perhaps George McGovern or Bernie Sanders) he was said to be “one of the few UK politicians to have become more left-wing after holding ministerial office.”