How bleak is our valley


Graeme Philipson

May 15, 2007

I write this column from Santa Clara, in the heart of Silicon Valley. That term describes the collection of small cities straddling the San Andreas fault, south of San Francisco.

The name was coined by US journalist Don Hoefler in 1971. Locals call it “The Valley”. When I first came here nearly 30 years ago, I was very excited. I had visions of some sort of technological utopia, a land where computer dreams came true and you could pick up microchips off the street.

Somehow I thought it would be something special. I was sadly disappointed. Special things do happen in Silicon Valley, but the place itself looks like anywhere else in urban America.

That means it’s a collection of shopping malls, corporate parks, warehouses, fast-food joints and the like, all criss-crossed with freeways.

Lots of people live in the Valley, although you won’t ever see their houses while driving around. They are hidden by high walls.

At the southern end of Silicon Valley is the city of San Jose, some way down Highway 101 from San Francisco’s dreary southern suburbs. That is one of the most congested and least attractive stretches of freeway in North America, which is saying something.

Silicon Valley is a boring-looking and overcrowded place. Its appearance hardly measures up to its worldwide reputation as the birthplace of the computer revolution.

So much for the complaining. Never let it be said that I’m anti-American. I married an American, and my son carries a US passport. My real complaint is not with Silicon Valley’s ugly appearance and unattractive highways, but with my own country.

Why is there no Silicon Valley in Australia? It’s not just the scale of the US. There are other factors.

Nondescript though they may be, the cities and towns that form Silicon Valley house many of the most interesting and innovative companies in the IT industry. The area has lost none of its allure, and it remains the Mecca of tech hopefuls around the world.

They are drawn by companies such as Yahoo and Google. They are drawn by Hewlett-Packard and Oracle and Apple and Sun, and by small hardware and software start-ups in their hundreds.

They are drawn by the world class research facilities, such as Xerox’s famous Palo Alto Research Centre, and IBM’s Santa Theresa labs, and by Stanford University. They are drawn by the analysts and consultancies and PR and market research companies that thrive on all this stuff.

If you want to get into films, you go to Hollywood. Advertising: New York. If you want to get into computers, you go to Silicon Valley.

The Valley has made millionaires of thousands of people. The first were Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, who gave their names to what has become the world’s largest IT company. (Did you know HP is now bigger than IBM?)

Silicon Valley spawned Apple Computer, through which Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak rewrote the American dream. It spawned Sun Microsystems, which continues to prove that “the network is the computer”. (Sun, by the way, was originally an acronym for Stanford University Network).

We only hear about the successes, and some of the more spectacular failures. For every winner, there are a dozen losers. Small companies we have never heard of regularly disappear into oblivion, taking with them the hopes and dreams of thousands of intelligent individuals.

At least for a while. People in Silicon Valley know that not every good idea will translate into money. The philosophy is to keep trying until one does. And those who do succeed tend not to stop there; they get up and do it all again.

One of the driving forces behind Silicon Valley has been the willingness of these people to have a go, and the willingness of others to give them a go. There is no shortage of angel investors and venture capitalists who will take a punt on a good idea.

Try to do that in Australia: the clever country, the land of the fair go. Bankers and financiers here want to see bricks and mortar, or a warehouse full of stock, before they’ll lend you money.

They simply don’t understand, as the Americans have for years, that assets in the information age are very different from those of the previous era. Australian banks are still coming to terms with the industrial revolution, which ended some time ago.

That is why there is no Silicon Valley in Australia. Our country is littered with the corpses of companies that tried and failed to do what hundreds of companies in Mountain View and Sunnyvale and Menlo Park have done.

Some Australian companies have succeeded, such as Mincom and NetComm and Software Developments. But many more have failed, sometimes through bad management or bad luck, but more often because of a troglodytic investment climate, small-minded bankers who are happy to gamble on the promise of real estate development but who lack the foresight and intelligence to understand how the centre of balance in the economy has moved from physical objects to information.

Information is an asset, as we all know. But it is a very different type of asset than coal or buildings or iron ore or wheat. The difference is that information can be infinitely reproduced, which means its value lies not in its generation but in its propagation.

They’ve known that for two generations in Silicon Valley. But governments in Australia, and the gnomes of Collins Street and Martin Place, are still stuck in an industrial era, antediluvian mindset.

And now it’s too late.


Dear Graeme,

Your well titled and refreshing, important, more – necessary – article ‘How bleak is our valley’ in yesterday’s Herald lays the responsibility for what you wrote about at the feet of troglodytes who run the banks.

In The Lucky Country Horne, delicately positioning his argument between the denial of the existence of a capitalist class and the avoidance of the depth and extent of ugliness in his subject, referred to Australia’s ‘troglodyte past’. Like you, he held responsible ‘men in power’.

Peter Conrad, in his Boyer lectures a few years ago, most academic and weak, while acknowledging a provincial past, argued that Australian culture has, as it were, ‘moved into the modern era’.

Shelley Gare’s ‘the Triumph of the Airheads’ details the impact of consumerism and capitalist ‘movers and shakers’ on primarily urban Australian society.

But these men in power, these ‘small-minded’ bankers of whom you write also exist in other cultures. And Howard himself is not an aberration, an excrescence. As Judith Brett correctly argued, he not only understands this culture at a gut level, he has risen from and plays the ‘middle’ – like a Paganini.

Short of socialist revolution, it is Australian culture itself that needs to be taken by the throat and exposed, analysed and acted on for Australians to begin systematically addressing the failure you deplore.

The dominant Anglo-Saxon based culture in this country has at its heart the poison of shame – and therefore the need to shame. It has at its heart a feeling of inferiority, reflected in an astonishingly subtle servility to the dominant world power (the shifts in the pronunciation of ‘Iraq’ by Australians since the first Gulf War – notably those in the media – replicating that of Bush, not as Iraqis or Arabs pronounce it – and as all Australians used to pronounce it, is a study in how servile this culture is) while displaying a bullying arrogance in the region.

The clearest manifestation of this disease, ‘for all the world to see’, was during the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games when the packed stadium sang as a hymn, by ‘candlelight’, and repeatedly, Australia’s de facto national anthem (with its reference to prostitution – ‘waltzing Matilda’ – and possibly the first example of product placement – for Billy Tea), ‘celebrating’ (?!) the suicide of a failed petty thief as he ran from authority.

Compare this song with ‘John Brown’s Body’ and the events on which it was based. Or with another de facto national anthem – ‘Flower of Scotland’ – which, even though it refers to an eventual military defeat, is about a people who stood, and won, against a far stronger power. And of those Australians who know or sense this ‘cringe’ in ‘Waltzing Matilda’ – it fuels their meanness.

This culture that prides itself on its capacity to ‘celebrate’ has at its heart the celebration of loss, failure and defeat – from that of Leichhardt to Burke and Wills to Ned Kelly to Breaker Morant to Waltzing Matilda to Dad and Dave, to the letters in the first capitalist world war over the re-division of areas of exploitation from Private Jones at Gallipoli to his mother, to Lasseter to Les Darcy to Phar Lap to Whitlam on the steps of Parliament House to Australian Story… Noble all, in the face of loss, failure and defeat.

And of the ‘tall poppy’ syndrome: it is not that one thinks one stands above another, that one ‘looks down’ on them, it is that that other and at some level knowingly, perceiving any degree of the potential or vision of which you write, on their knees inevitably reacts – as they look up. It was not merely the Minister for Public Works who drove Utzon from these shores, it was the clash of an authoritarian culture which profoundly values ‘the ordinary,’ with a man who lived for intellectual vision.

This country continues to be, overall, an intellectually sleepy ‘paradise’, riding on the broad back of assorted resources as it clings to the coat-tails of Uncle Sam, while still clutching at the skirts of Mother Britannia – rather than, as Horne pointed out, showing responsibility and independence  – with all that those concepts entail.

When Moses strode down from Kosciuszko, he bore two weighty tablets on his hips. On one were the words which are the underbelly of Australian egalitarianism: ‘Thus Far and No Further’ – ‘sympathy for the underdog’, until the second the underdog shows even a hint of rising (during the Sydney Olympics, in the superbly titled and watched by record audiences ‘The Dream’ of H.G. Nelson and Roy Slaven, Doyle said ‘If it rises above a blade of grass, cut it down.’).

This divine rule was riveted in place by the other cultural imperative on the second tablet: ‘(As Ye Worketh Record Hours Per Week, to Consume) Thou Shalt be Laid Back’ – implicitly, ‘Thou shalt not dream’, ‘Thou shalt not be passionate for intellectual vision’, which passion is clear in your article.

Passion for dreams not motivated by consumption, for intellectual excellence that goes beyond dotted ‘i’s, crossed ‘t’s and referencing to the hilt, that truly takes one’s society forward, has at the least the same effect in Australian culture, far more often than not, as do the headlights of a ute bearing down on a rabbit in the middle of a dusty road, and at worst, the triggering of a retributive antipathy.

Fools see it, correctly, as a threat, a disturbance to their paradise, to their myopia, to their littleness – ‘If I even acknowledge let alone praise you for your dreams, for your commitment to vision – particularly intellectual – the pressure is immediately on me to face my shame, my ‘inferiority’, my spiritual apathy, and to dream and aspire beyond my narrow bounds of consumption and certainty. Too much.’

Art colleges are filled with ambitious young, eager to produce something ‘edgy.’ They should sit in any mall on the week-end and watch and learn as the couples pass, pushing their trolleys. In those trolleys, packed full of consumables, sits their child or sit their children, clinging to the bars and looking out at the world. Now that’s edgy, and without the parents even aware of it…

Culture is not the sum total of a people’s achievements, it is the attitude in a society to what is not known, to what has not been achieved. It is a basis in the present not of the past but for the future.

Congratulations on your article. May it stimulate responses and may there be many more such on this and other areas.

Philip Stanfield



The benefits of being boring – the ideology of ‘the lucky country’


The article below is designed to crush at its centre creative vision – the concept most vital to the spiritual growth of any community.

Vision and the questioning that goes with it threaten authoritarians, the ‘decent’ comfortable and the status quo; it is also a necessity that inspires, that can give a direction that can be believed in and committed to and in that process, unite.

Instead of Australians finding their core values in a stoic response to loss, failure and defeat and to the suffering and waste of lives in the service of dominant powers, they should find them in vision – in eagerly looking forward, not back.

It was because of such an absence of spirit as Glover exemplifies in this article that Jørn Utzon and many others have left this country – a country yet to rise to the lesson of the necessity for vision.

Richard Glover is prominent in the Sydney media.


Richard Glover, ‘The benefits of being boring in our two-party race,’ The Sydney Morning Herald, 07.06.16

I’m so bored with people saying they are finding this election boring. “Boring election, eh?” has become the “hello-how-are-you” of Australian life. You can’t get in and out of a shop without both parties nodding in furious agreement and letting loose huge disappointed sighs.

Well, can I make one tiny point? It’s better than the alternative.

The Americans are about to have an exciting election, with the polls showing a slight edge for the man recently described as “looking like the guy who would play the President in a porno”.

Trump wants to build a wall on the border with Mexico and ban all Muslims from visiting the United States, with the possible exception of the new mayor of London – whom he likes on the grounds they both equally dislike British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Oh, and he also wants to see criminal charges against women who have an abortion. Or did so until he was asked about it a second time.

Now that’s exciting.

The British, too, are about to have an exciting vote. In less than a fortnight, they may vote to leave the European Union – the urge to leave bolstered by the current anxiety about what is seen as “uncontrolled migration”.

If they leave, the Scots say they’ll demand a fresh referendum on independence because they’d rather stay with Europe, and frankly don’t mind the idea of a few more migrants in their sparsely populated uplands.

Once all that happens, Scotland will surely fill with Polish plumbers and Bulgarian butchers, at which point the English can rebuild Hadrian’s Wall. Donald Trump could lend them the construction diagrams.

Again, you’d have to say: it’s exciting. If the English vote to leave Europe, there will be a material shift in people’s lives, perhaps not as great as the scaremongering on either side, but still sharp and real. Migration might slow down; but so will the economy. Depending on which box you tick, your life will alter.

In contrast, when we wake up on July 3, nothing much will have changed. If Shorten wins, negative gearing will be somewhat restricted; if Turnbull wins, superannuation will be somewhat restricted. That’s about as dramatic as it gets.

In fact, you feel the need for a calculator and a spreadsheet before you can even consider the policies on offer. Talk for more than a minute about the government’s superannuation changes, and you’ll be uttering the phrase “a 15 per cent earnings tax due to an arrangement change on the Transition to Retirement Income Stream (or TRIS) pension scheme”.

Try dropping that at your next barbecue. Actually, do drop it because in the right crowd it will go gangbusters.

And so we all complain: “It’s so boring”. “Why can’t we have some vision?” “Why can’t they both be a bit more exciting?”

Well, if you want excitement in politics, try Austria where they have just come within a few thousand votes of electing a far-right president. Yeah, I know: a short, fascist Austrian, what could possibly go wrong?

Or try Argentina, where the new right-wing government has sacked 154,000 government workers, and yet also reinvigorated the country’s main export industries – industries that had been effectively taxed into oblivion by the previous left-wing government.

In places like Argentina, the government changes, and then everything else changes. Each swing of the pendulum is like a wrecking ball for whoever isn’t in sweet with those in power.

For those who live there, it’s certainly exciting.

I understand the hunger for vision in politics, for radical change. The trouble is that one person’s breath of fresh air is another person’s tsunami of unfair consequences.

So, in American politics, the only two politicians who have generated excitement are Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders – both representing policies that would be first, often impossible to implement, and second, an anathema to half the population if their implementation proved remotely possible.

Are these men selling radical change, as their fans argue, or just packaging anger without locating a real way forward?

In Britain, meanwhile, the next election may well offer the choice of Boris Johnson on one side and Jeremy Corbyn on the other – two men who are like caricatures of their respective sides of politics. They are like cartoons made flesh: the blond-haired, Eton-educated daffy toff on one side, willing to say anything to win an argument; on the other, the thin-lipped Hamas-loving socialist, with a willingness to tolerate anti-Semitism.

And so we are back with our boring campaign. Two decent people – Turnbull and Shorten. Both well equipped for the job. Both smart, honest, and yes – even articulate. Both dedicated to winning the middle ground; to finding policies that most of us can live with.

I don’t like everything they stand for; you don’t like everything they stand for. But it’s not a winner-takes-all contest. Australia will still be there, enjoying the things we’ve enjoyed under both sides of politics: 25 years of continuous economic growth, a mostly achieved balance between freedom and fairness, the rule of law, multiculturalism, a fondness for each other.

Boring? Yes. Lucky, aren’t we?



Images: top/bottom

Recommended: Richard Glover, ‘Bruce Ruxton is right: we should embrace the legends of defeat’

 Robert Poposki, ‘Why Australians Aren’t as friendly as You Think’

Silencing America as it prepares for war

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John Pilger, ’Silencing America as it prepares for war,’ 27.05.16,

Having just listened to a couple of mouthpieces for British and US capital being given free rein on Late Night Live, I thought I would post this article by the expatriate Australian journalist John Pilger.


Returning to the United States in an election year, I am struck by the silence. I have covered four presidential campaigns, starting with 1968; I was with Robert Kennedy when he was shot and I saw his assassin, preparing to kill him. It was a baptism in the American way, along with the salivating violence of the Chicago police at the Democratic Party’s rigged convention. The great counter revolution had begun.

The first to be assassinated that year, Martin Luther King, had dared link the suffering of African-Americans and the people of Vietnam. When Janis Joplin sang, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”, she spoke perhaps unconsciously for millions of America’s victims in faraway places.

“We lost 58,000 young soldiers in Vietnam, and they died defending your freedom. Now don’t you forget it.”  So said a National Parks Service guide as I filmed last week at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. He was addressing a school party of young teenagers in bright orange T-shirts. As if by rote, he inverted the truth about Vietnam into an unchallenged lie.

The millions of Vietnamese who died and were maimed and poisoned and dispossessed by the American invasion have no historical place in young minds, not to mention the estimated 60,000 veterans who took their own lives. A friend of mine, a marine who became a paraplegic in Vietnam, was often asked, “Which side did you fight on?”

A few years ago, I attended a popular exhibition called “The Price of Freedom” at the venerable Smithsonian Institution in Washington. The lines of ordinary people, mostly children shuffling through a Santa’s grotto of revisionism, were dispensed a variety of lies: the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved “a million lives”; Iraq was “liberated [by] air strikes of unprecedented precision”. The theme was unerringly heroic: only Americans pay the price of freedom.

The 2016 election campaign is remarkable not only for the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders but also for the resilience of an enduring silence about a murderous self-bestowed divinity. A third of the members of the United Nations have felt Washington’s boot, overturning governments, subverting democracy, imposing blockades and boycotts. Most of the presidents responsible have been liberal – Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Obama.

The breathtaking record of perfidy is so mutated in the public mind, wrote the late Harold Pinter, that it “never happened …Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. It didn’t matter… “. Pinter expressed a mock admiration for what he called “a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.”

Take Obama. As he prepares to leave office, the fawning has begun all over again. He is “cool”. One of the more violent presidents, Obama gave full reign to the Pentagon war-making apparatus of his discredited predecessor. He prosecuted more whistleblowers – truth-tellers – than any president. He pronounced Chelsea Manning guilty before she was tried. Today, Obama runs an unprecedented worldwide campaign of terrorism and murder by drone.

In 2009, Obama promised to help “rid the world of nuclear weapons” and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. No American president has built more nuclear warheads than Obama. He is “modernising” America’s doomsday arsenal, including a new “mini” nuclear weapon, whose size and “smart” technology, says a leading general, ensure its use is “no longer unthinkable”.

James Bradley, the best-selling author of Flags of Our Fathers and son of one of the US marines who raised the flag on Iwo Jima, said, “[One] great myth we’re seeing play out is that of Obama as some kind of peaceful guy who’s trying to get rid of nuclear weapons. He’s the biggest nuclear warrior there is. He’s committed us to a ruinous course of spending a trillion dollars on more nuclear weapons. Somehow, people live in this fantasy that because he gives vague news conferences and speeches and feel-good photo-ops that somehow that’s attached to actual policy. It isn’t.”

On Obama’s watch, a second cold war is under way. The Russian president is a pantomime villain; the Chinese are not yet back to their sinister pig-tailed caricature – when all Chinese were banned from the United States – but the media warriors are working on it.

Neither Hillary Clinton nor Bernie Sanders has mentioned any of this. There is no risk and no danger for the United States and all of us; for them, the greatest military build-up on the borders of Russia since World War Two has not happened. On May 11, Romania went “live” with a Nato “missile defence” base that aims its first-strike American missiles at the heart of Russia, the world’s second nuclear power.

In Asia, the Pentagon is sending ships, planes and special forces to the Philippines to threaten China. The US already encircles China with hundreds of military bases that curve in an arc up from Australia, to Asia and across to Afghanistan. Obama calls this a “pivot”.

As a direct consequence, China reportedly has changed its nuclear weapons policy from no-first-use to high alert and put to sea submarines with nuclear weapons. The escalator is quickening.

It was Hillary Clinton who, as Secretary of State in 2010, elevated the competing territorial claims for rocks and reef in the South China Sea to an international issue; CNN and BBC hysteria followed; China was building airstrips on the disputed islands. In a mammoth war game in 2015, Operation Talisman Sabre, the US and Australia practiced “choking” the Straits of Malacca through which pass most of China’s oil and trade. This was not news.

Clinton declared that America had a “national interest” in these Asian waters. The Philippines and Vietnam were encouraged and bribed to pursue their claims and old enmities against China. In America, people are being primed to see any Chinese defensive position as offensive, and so the ground is laid for rapid escalation. A similar strategy of provocation and propaganda is applied to Russia.

Clinton, the “women’s candidate”, leaves a trail of bloody coups: in Honduras, in Libya (plus the murder of the Libyan president) and Ukraine. The latter is now a CIA theme park swarming with Nazis and the frontline of a beckoning war with Russia. It was through Ukraine – literally, borderland – that Hitler’s Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, which lost 27 million people. This epic catastrophe remains a presence in Russia. Clinton’s presidential campaign has received money from all but one of the world’s ten biggest arms companies. No other candidate comes close.

Sanders, the hope of many young Americans, is not very different from Clinton in his proprietorial view of the world beyond the United States. He backed Bill Clinton’s illegal bombing of Serbia. He supports Obama’s terrorism by drone, the provocation of Russia and the return of special forces (death squads) to Iraq. He has nothing to say on the drumbeat of threats to China and the accelerating risk of nuclear war. He agrees that Edward Snowden should stand trial and he calls Hugo Chavez – like him, a social democrat – “a dead communist dictator”. He promises to support Clinton if she is nominated.

The election of Trump or Clinton is the old illusion of choice that is no choice: two sides of the same coin. In scapegoating minorities and promising to “make America great again”, Trump is a far right-wing domestic populist; yet the danger of Clinton may be more lethal for the world.

“Only Donald Trump has said anything meaningful and critical of US foreign policy,” wrote Stephen Cohen, emeritus professor of Russian History at Princeton and NYU, one of the few Russia experts in the United States to speak out about the risk of war.

In a radio broadcast, Cohen referred to critical questions Trump alone had raised. Among them: why is the United States “everywhere on the globe”? What is NATO’s true mission? Why does the US always pursue regime change in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Ukraine? Why does Washington treat Russia and Vladimir Putin as an enemy?

The hysteria in the liberal media over Trump serves an illusion of “free and open debate” and “democracy at work”. His views on immigrants and Muslims are grotesque, yet the deporter-in-chief of vulnerable people from America is not Trump but Obama, whose betrayal of people of colour is his legacy: such as the warehousing of a mostly black prison population, now more numerous than Stalin’s gulag.

This presidential campaign may not be about populism but American liberalism, an ideology that sees itself as modern and therefore superior and the one true way. Those on its right wing bear a likeness to 19th century Christian imperialists, with a God-given duty to convert or co-opt or conquer.

In Britain, this is Blairism. The Christian war criminal Tony Blair got away with his secret preparation for the invasion of Iraq largely because the liberal political class and media fell for his “cool Britannia”. In the Guardian, the applause was deafening; he was called “mystical”. A distraction known as identity politics, imported from the United States, rested easily in his care.

History was declared over, class was abolished and gender promoted as feminism; lots of women became New Labour MPs. They voted on the first day of Parliament to cut the benefits of single parents, mostly women, as instructed. A majority voted for an invasion that produced 700,000 Iraqi widows.

The equivalent in the US are the politically correct warmongers on the New York Times, the Washington Post and network TV who dominate political debate. I watched a furious debate on CNN about Trump’s infidelities. It was clear, they said, a man like that could not be trusted in the White House. No issues were raised. Nothing on the 80 per cent of Americans whose income has collapsed to 1970s levels. Nothing on the drift to war. The received wisdom seems to be “hold your nose” and vote for Clinton: anyone but Trump. That way, you stop the monster and preserve a system gagging for another war.


Review of Last Cab to Darwin

Michael Caton, Last Cab to Darwin

Michael Caton, Last Cab to Darwin

An excellent Aussie movie – that’s the problem

It’s an excellent Aussie movie – because it so well depicts, unintentionally, the fundamental problem of Australian culture.

Particularly, it is another brick in the very large wall of Aussie stoic ‘decency‘ (‘behaviour that conforms to accepted standards of morality or respectability’) in the face of loss, failure and defeat. Last words in the movie: ‘No pain any more’…’There goes the sun.’

Burke and Wills, Ned Kelly, Waltzing Matilda, Gallipoli, Lasseter, Phar Lap, Dad and Dave, Whitlam on the steps of parliament house… the list goes on and on.

It amounts to a commitment (with regard to this film, saccharine, with regard to Whitlam’s removal by a U.S. and British supported coup, grim) which is extremely damaging to the vision which is required in order to build this country and to which a healthy culture would respond positively.

Australian film-makers should reflect on what they already know – that film is a powerful medium – either to reinforce cultural stereotypes or to challenge them.



Images: top/bottom

I highly recommend the much more thorough review of the film which can be accessed via the ‘top’ link.

Australian ‘heroes’. Does it make you wonder?

Australian cricket team

The Sydney Morning Herald 06.11.15

Australian cricket team playing New Zealand

With the exception of Usman Khawaja, the team are all white.

Don Bradman's cap

Don Bradman’s cap. Priceless

Sources: middle/bottom


Yet again, the contemptuous use the shame-based and servile

USS Nimitz, Pearl Harbour, Hawaii

USS Nimitz, Pearl Harbour, Hawaii

David Wroe ‘US admiral issues blunt warning over Chinese maritime expansion’ The Sydney Morning Herald, 06.10.15

The commander of the United States’ massive Pacific Fleet has warned that if bullying behaviour at sea of the kind shown by China is not confronted, it will spread to land and become a “friction point” there.

Admiral Scott Swift used a speech to a navy conference in Sydney to deliver a thinly veiled insistence that Beijing would not get away with its island-building and maritime coercion in Asia. …

Continuing a trend that has increasingly seen senior US figures use Australian soil to deliver blunt messages to Beijing…



It’s all good, Aussies!

President Obama Campaigns in New Hampshire 2012

‘US gives nod of approval to new leader’

The Sydney Morning Herald, ‘Independent. Always.’ 24.09.15

It’s one thing for a nation to be dominated by an other, it’s another that those dominated take a relaxed pride in their domination.

There could not be a more contemptible degree of servility than that.

What would Americans think if they read in The New York Times ‘Australia gives nod of approval to new US leader’? Try to imagine the reaction – dumbfounded, followed by laughter.

The same laughter that would greet any American (of 320 million) who tried to make a career aping the Australian accent.

Who even began pronouncing ‘Iraq’ with an Australian accent.

The fat from Australia’s land informs the fat of Australians’ thinking.

As always, the ‘payoff’ for servility is the joy to be had in venting a primitive authoritarianism on one’s ‘own’ turf (‘after all, I am powerful and I really need to smear my shame on someone else’), and in bullying those perceived to be weaker, or of a different race, whenever possible.

Ask Australia’s Pacific and Asian neighbours about their experience of big, tough ‘deputy sheriff’ Australia – ‘we punch above our weight’ – and its dominant white convict culture.



Images: top/bottom

Aussies – proud to be servile

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Would the media hype and Aussies’ newly expanded interest in sport happen if Jarryd Hayne had earned a place in a Chinese basketball team? A Russian football team?…

When Aussies aren’t searching for their self-esteem and meaning in volunteering for their master’s wars, they’re finding them in celebrating their football.

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Images: top/bottom

What provokes a convict spirit and fills it with the desire for revenge?

Another Aussie, any Aussie, who refuses to ‘know their place.’

‘I see an independent spirit in your eyes. Go away or I will crush it.’

The same disease – ‘tall poppy syndrome’: ‘I’m on my knees looking up. I will ensure that you kneel, not stand, beside me.’

The origins of this lie in the underbelly of a developing English capitalism in the 18th century – authoritarian, exploitative, brutal.

Edward Backhouse ‘A chain gang, convicts going to work near Sidney [sic], New South Wales’, etching, 1843, National Library of Australia. Text below image: ‘You may save or print this image for research and study. If you wish to use it for any other purposes, you must declare your Intention to Publish.’

Edward Backhouse ‘A chain gang, convicts going to work near Sidney [sic], New South Wales’, etching, 1843, National Library of Australia. Text below image: ‘You may save or print this image for research and study. If you wish to use it for any other purposes, you must declare your Intention to Publish.’

Branding of a convict during transportation to Australia in the 19th century.

Branding of a convict during transportation to Australia in the 19th century.

‘Salt bath’ torture of a convict after being flogged, during transportation to Australia in the 19th century.

‘Salt bath’ torture of a convict after being flogged, during transportation to Australia in the 19th century.


A convict ploughing team breaking up ground at a farm at Port Arthur, Tasmania, 1926

A convict ploughing team breaking up ground at a farm at Port Arthur, Tasmania, 1926







Aboriginal prisoners on Rottnest Island, 1920s

Aboriginal prisoners on Rottnest Island, Western Australia, 1920s

An Aboriginal chain gang, c. 1900, going to work at Wyndham, Wester Australia. The guard is on the extreme right.

An Aboriginal chain gang, c. 1900, going to work at Wyndham, Western Australia. The guard is on the extreme right.


Images from top: 1st/2nd/3rd/4th/5th/6th

Australian culture: authoritarian, racist, increasingly mean

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The racism directed at Adam Goodes is fuelled by and masks a broader issue – a pervasive, internalised authoritarianism that functions through a wide range of concepts such as ‘laid-back’, ‘easy-going’, ‘decent’, ‘tolerant’, ‘one of the boys’, ‘ordinary’ and ‘nice’.

Fail to bow down to or question any of these and trouble instantly heads your way – whatever your skin colour.

The unrelenting viciousness targeted at Goodes is because he defiantlygives it back’ to his tormentors, to those who know their place. It is all about place.

What went forth as racism has been returned with interest as ‘up yours’ to the ‘laid-back’, ‘easy-going’ minions of provincial domination.

In ‘giving it back’ to them, all the more provocatively because he is indigenous and at the top of his field, he is holding up a mirror before them, pointing out their servility and meanness of spirit, lack of spirit – drawing their hatred. He is reminding them of who they are.

Goodes has committed the greatest offence to Australian culture and broken its cardinal rule – he displays non-conformist spirit – the quality that should be most valued in a society.

If he retires from the AFL the ‘laid-back’, ‘easy-going’ minions will have got rid of that mirror and can sit down again in their seats and go back to the sleep their masters and all authoritarians wish on them.


1. Megan Levy, ’Swans star Adam Goodes always plays the victim: Alan Jones’, The Sydney Morning Herald 29.07.15

Radio shock jock Alan Jones has delivered a scathing assessment of Sydney Swans star Adam Goodes on national television, saying the champion footballer always “plays the victim” and needs to change his behaviour if he wants crowds to stop booing him at AFL games.

The 2GB presenter claimed crowds were reacting negatively to the 35-year-old because they simply didn’t like his behaviour, including his “spear throwing and the running in and doing a war dance and so on and provoking people”.

Jones insisted crowds had not forgotten when Goodes “humiliated” a 13-year-old girl who was in the crowd of an AFL match in 2013. The teenager was escorted from the MCG after calling Goodes an ape. She later apologised and claimed she did not know the word was a racist slur.

“You know, the man is always a victim,” Jones railed on Channel Seven’s Sunrise on Wednesday morning.

“Then he became Australian of the Year and tells us that we’re all racists. Every time he speaks, Australia is a racist nation.

“I mean, there are 71 Indigenous players. They are in rugby league, they are in rugby union. They are everywhere. They’re playing tennis, and people don’t boo them. They’re booing Adam Goodes because they don’t like him and they don’t like his behaviour.”

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Jones had been asked for his opinion after it was revealed Goodes was considering retiring due to the negative influence the booing at games was starting to have on his teammates.

Goodes copped another torrent of abuse from a hostile away crowd on Sunday during the Swans’ match against West Coast at Domain Stadium. One person in the crowd allegedly yelled at Goodes to “get back to the zoo”.

Goodes’ teammate Lewis Jetta performed an Indigenous war dance and threw an imaginary spear at a section of the West Coast crowd in support of his friend.

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“They [the booing crowds] just don’t like the fellow. And Adam Goodes can fix all this by changing his behaviour. But what’s he say today? ‘Oh, I’m going to leave. I may have to resign. I can’t hack it.’

“Ask the little 13-year-old girl how she handled that. She was paraded over the national media as a person who really had to apologise. She wrote a letter and apologised. I mean, the poor little thing, 13 years of age, disabled mother. I mean, give me a break.

“The bloke’s a rich Australian athlete. He humiliated a 13-year-old girl who didn’t even know what she was saying, and the public haven’t forgotten it. Someone’s got to ask the question: why are they booing Adam Goodes and not the other 70 Indigenous AFL players? Adam Goodes can fix this by changing his behaviour. He again today plays the victim.”

Sunrise co-presenter David Koch said crowds had a right to boo or applaud players, but not when it crossed the line into racial abuse.

He said the crowd member’s zoo insult was racist and ridiculous.

“He wouldn’t say that to a white man. He wouldn’t say to a white guy get back to the zoo,” Koch said.

Goodes did not train on Tuesday and has been given two days off.

Swans coach John Longmire said there was no expectation on Goodes, a dual Brownlow medallist, to declare his availability for the round 18 match against Adelaide at the SCG on Saturday.


2. Tim Dick, ‘Australia can show the US a thing or two in the lock-up stakes’, The Sydney Morning Herald 29.07.15

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Barack Obama, with his mojo replenished, is set on fixing the American tragedy of black over-incarceration. When he’s done warming up, he should try the big league, Australia.

“The bottom line is that in too many places, black boys and black men, Latino boys and Latino men experience being treated differently under the law,” he told the NAACP in Philadelphia this month.

“A growing body of research shows that people of colour are more likely to be stopped, frisked, questioned, charged, detained. African Americans are more likely to be arrested. They are more likely to be sentenced to more time for the same crime.”

Are they what. Black men are far more likely to be imprisoned: the rate for black men is about six times that for white men, according to a Pew Research Centre study in 2013, a serious cause for legitimate rage.

If only Australia had it so good.

The US might be the home of mass incarceration – and it is, with 5 per cent of the world’s people, it has a quarter of the world’s inmates – but America has nothing on Australia in its enthusiasm for disproportionately locking up black people.

On this side of the Pacific, achieving a black imprisonment rate six times that for whites would be a good news story, a moment to cherish, to celebrate.

Indigenous Australians are imprisoned at a rate 13 times that of other Australians, according to figures collated by the Productivity Commission.

That’s not 13 per cent higher, or twice as high, but 13 times the rate, 1300 per cent of the rate for the rest of the population.

At any one time, over 2 per cent of the Indigenous population is locked up, which doesn’t remotely compare with the figure for the rest of us.

The effect of that proportion of people out of one group over time is almost unfathomable, the disruption to the prisoners’ lives, their futures, their families.

It’s not as if this is a new problem, but it’s a rapidly deteriorating one. In 2000, the Indigenous imprisonment rate was merely 8 times as high. Those where the golden days.

So not only do we jail Indigenous people at a far higher rate than even the US imprisons black men, we’re speeding things up, putting a greater proportion away. We’re increasing this most self-defeating of gaps.

A particular point of Australian difference is our ability to do it harsher for children. For young people, who are meant to be locked up only as an absolute last resort, Indigenous children are jailed at a rate 24 times that of other children.

When Obama turns his attention to a justice system that seems anything but colour blind, the world listens. When Mick Gooda, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commissioner, late last year proved Aboriginal incarceration to be every bit the catastrophe he labelled it, Australia scarcely rolled its eyes. Most didn’t even notice.

His figures put the difference in rates at 15 times, and found the reoffending rate for children in detention – 58 per cent within 10 years – was higher than the proportion of children who stayed at school until year 12.

“We do better at keeping Aboriginal people in prison than in school,” Mr Gooda told the ABC.

If most of us continue to ignore this catastrophe, as the country seems determined to do, we will deepen this social disaster.

Every year it gets worse, or merely stays the same, or only marginally improves, is another year squandering the potential of an enormous fraction of the Indigenous population and wasting hundreds of millions across the country on unnecessary incarceration.

The Productivity Commission called out four major factors contributing to this shameful reality – education, drugs, child neglect and employment. We need to fix all of them, but surely education is the low-hanging fruit.

Cutting education reforms, like the short-lived Gonski package, is one way to perpetuate the catastrophe. The absence of opportunity leads, for far too many, to the absence of anything but a life hurt by crime – as both victim and perpetrator.

Americans, even Republicans, are starting to realise the folly of the perpetually tougher on crime vortex, and the extraordinary bill it leaves the state and the communities it hits. In many states, cold economics is forcing reform that has much wider payoffs than merely to state treasuries. For the first time in 40 years, Obama noted, last year both the crime rate and the imprisonment rate actually fell.