Who Starved While You Were at Lunch & How China Can Help!

Every once in a while I have a catch-up lunch with a couple of mates I’ve known for about 30 years or so.  They are good blokes: accomplished in their chosen careers, love their families, content and comfortable with their place in the world and also deeply proud of their indigenous heritage.  I wouldn’t say they are in their twilight years, perhaps more likely tracking somewhere in the ‘mid- to late afternoon’ range, but they are what I would call salt of the earth people.

These fellas came from meagre means, working class as ‘working class’ can be. Their parents didn’t have much but they made damned sure that their kids had better opportunities in life than perhaps they did. Probably what I’d call ‘obscure old fashion love’ where actions speak louder than words and success is measured by what their parents went without.

Our conversations are predictable, interesting and sometimes insightful. They’re mostly book-ended with humour, more often than not at the expense of our own individual misfortunes. To an outsider we may appear heartless or unsympathetic, for example, we rolled around laughing after fully work-shopping the news that one of us has an impending operation for an enlarged prostate. Who knew that such a subject could create such imaginative and amusing possibilities? In reality (but not obviously), there exists a genuine empathy and a quiet concern, but here the ‘unspoken’ screams louder than the words we frequently scramble to find.

The beauty of the interaction is the level of undisciplined etiquette, where we always start more yarns than we finish, as a simple impromptu subject can unleash a continuous dialogue and a hundred embellished stories. It’s where annoying interruptions around the ‘table of knowledge’ are not only appreciated, it’s openly encouraged (in fact, expected) as the most serious conversations degenerate into nonsensical avant-garde poetry or philosophy. This is what happens when you fuse a couple of beers with bullshit!

This week’s linguistic tour brought us to a discussion on the ‘Rise of China’ and their global influence in our world today.  What we found interesting is the irony of the journey China has taken in the short span of our lifetimes. We remember the 1966 Cultural Revolution, the failed 10-year movement to purge all remnants of capitalism, where the death toll was reportedly between 5 and 10 million. The numbers are staggering, incomprehensible; there was a shocked silence of disbelief around the table. Is that right, 10 million?

The only one of us who has travelled to China proceeded to school us on 1960’s Chinese history, as we learn that one of the consequences of the Great Leap Forward was the 1959 to 1961 ‘Great Chinese Famine’ where it’s reported that deaths due to starvation are estimated as ‘at least’ 43 million people. What? The numbers are unbelievable, what sort of pain and anguish does that translate into? Why didn’t I know about it and why is everything about China described as ‘Great’?

Adding to the conversation, I admitted with a degree of ignominy that I had only just learnt that 285,000 people had starved to death in Somalia during the 2011 East African drought. How did I not know about this? What was I doing in 2011 that was so self-consuming that I was not aware of this catastrophe, yet I was all over the 2011 Japanese earthquake/tsunami/Fukushima disaster where approx. 16,000 lost their lives? I later learned that 300,000 Somalians also lost their lives in a similar famine in 1991-92.

These numbers are mind-boggling, yet everyone seems preoccupied, ‘being Kardashianed’ or staying busier than ever posting selfies on social media, then stressing as they wait for the ‘likes’ to feed their narcissistic place in a fake world. Between 1998 and 2004 3.8 million died from disease and starvation in the Congo and in 1996 an estimated 3.5 million people starved to death in North Korea. Would it be racist to suggest that white societies would react differently if these deaths had occurred in white societies?

What can I say, I’m feeling embarrassed that this has been allowed to happen in my lifetime while I was busying myself surviving in a safe middle-class world, subsisting in a closet with blinkers on. So now is the time to be proactive. Let’s not wait for the next round of historical statistics; why can’t we act now before it’s too late?

We have been warned. There are currently more than 20 million people that are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance i.e. the Yemen Crisis.  That is virtually the population of Australia yet it is not even making the evening news because the tabloid media are too preoccupied talking about Trump’s latest faux pas.

How can I possibly come up with an appropriate closing paragraph here? I cannot. It is beyond my capacity to transcribe my feelings, as my mind is incapable of comprehending the magnitude of anticipated fatalities. Perhaps we just keep raising awareness until we can embarrass a wealthy and persuasive nation like China to use their leverage to influence change. Only China has the ability to comprehend the potential consequences like no other; the devastation of millions of people losing their lives by slowly starving to death.  China has the advantage of ‘living history’ and understands first-hand the consequences of inaction when dealing with a potential catastrophe of this size.

伟大的中国 . 参与世界

“A man who has committed a mistake and doesn’t correct it is committing another mistake”  – Confucius.

25 November 2017

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Australia For Sale

In the midst of Australia’s worsening Energy Crisis and the debate around extending the life of old ‘dirty coal’ Power Stations, many Australians are asking: why does Japan pay less for Australian LNG (gas) than Australians do?

You would think that this ridiculous situation would be ringing alarm bells in Australia but not so, as Australians don’t tend to be too concerned or worried about the sustainability of their country’s long-term natural assets and resources. Meanwhile, our Asian neighbours are taking full advantage of our complacency. They act to secure their own nations’ future by implementing inter-generational food security plans, by purchasing productive farmland courtesy of Australian’s ignorance and stupidity.

Take China for example: they have a population of approx. 1.4 billion people with an increasing demand for a nutritious, secure, clean, and sustainable food supply.  They could purchase agricultural produce from Australia, but soon won’t need to, because Australia is selling their prime farmland instead.

I’m not against balanced foreign investment, clearly it’s a necessity, however, I do question the wisdom of allowing one country to increase its stake in Australia tenfold in the short space of 12 months, with China now owning 25% of Australia according to the Australian Tax Office’s Agricultural Land Register.

What happens if this trend continues? Should Government act immediately to control Australia’s sovereignty?

This shift in the ownership of agricultural land in Australia is of critical concern as it means that a proportional amount of local agricultural produce may no longer be available for supply and consumption in domestic markets. The new owners are not interested in making commercial profits in Australia, nor do they intend to trade produce on local markets. They are only interested in producing, processing and transporting the finished product directly into China to meet their growing consumption needs.

Not only are we losing ownership of the land, but also the food it produces. It is also an effective loss of future export revenue for Australia which has been surrendered for short-term capital gain on assets we now have no chance of ever owning. We have been continually warned of the consequences of accepting excessive Chinese investments by the likes of world-leading economist Professor Niall Ferguson yet we choose to blissfully ignore the bleeding obvious.

At the current rate of change, Australian agricultural produce will be unavailable to Australians in much the same way as Australian LNG is restricted or in limited supply for the domestic market, because Australians have sold off control of their own natural resources.

Can you imagine not being able to buy an Australian Prime Steak in Australia unless you can afford to import it from China? If Australia keeps ‘giving away the farm’, we’ll end up with massive food inflation or more likely, Australians just won’t be able to buy food produced in Australia.

It will be a sorry reminder for those old enough to remember the restrictions imposed on Australians under the old British-Australian Meat Agreement when you couldn’t source or afford to buy locally produced meat: only this time the arrangement will be permanent.

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. Martin Luther King Jr.

17 October 2017

The Baby Boomers’ Legacy – An Open Apology

When I was a fledgling student, we baby boomers were taught that we were the generation with the opportunity to affect real change, make a difference, make the world better; we had our fish cookin’ in the right place! Then, before I knew it, after a lot of water had flowed under the metaphoric bridge, our kids became that generation’, because we had squandered our chance, we’d stuffed it up. I was a little miffed, what didn’t I do or what should I have done differently? Time to re-evaluate, where did we go wrong?

Baby boomers grew up informed by a generation of Australians, a large proportion of which had served in the Second World War and their values were pretty straight forward. We learnt from people who had essentially volunteered to risk their lives for their country. As far as they were concerned, all that mattered when considering the political and social issues of the day was that the outcome had to be good for the country. It wasn’t about patriotism. The welfare and future of your country ‘matters’ when you risk your life for it!

After years of conflict all everyone wanted was to see a way forward, to coexist in peace, perhaps with a legacy of prosperity. So in post-war multicultural Australia, people ‘got on with it’ living by basic rules like not publicly discussing religion, money or politics. Don’t get me wrong, this was a society where people harboured deeply opposing political views, dealing with the left-right divide like no other generation, but generally people outwardly extended a degree of courtesy to those with an opposing opinion.

It was perhaps a simpler time when people lived within their means. They learnt how to save and while they didn’t have much, they owned assets, not debt. It was a time when people didn’t only think what’s in it for me?’; they were not a fractured ‘self-interest’ society. They cared about the country rather than running it into the depths of debt by wringing whatever they could out of the ‘lucky country’.

There just existed an awareness to engage with a greater level of respect for all sides of an argument without the prerequisite menacing outrage, nasty vitriol and spiteful abuse we witness today. They focused on what brought their communities together rather than what divided them, living by social rules that did not foster or provoke animosity and intolerance, an ethos I think we have lost. By contrast and with a small measure of irony, it is incomprehensible that now a simple online exchange quickly demonstrates the veracity of Godwin’s law.

So what have the baby boomers done with their rich inheritance and why should they apologise?

At some future point academics will assess the legacy of the baby boomer generation: social, environmental and financial. They will conclude that measured against any historical benchmark, they left a far poorer world for future generations than the one they inherited: massive national debts and unsustainable budget deficits, the consequences and realities of which are so overwhelming and unpalatable that the period may well be labelled the ‘age of denial’.  We could not have our heads buried deeper in the sand.

Whatever happens, our nation will be forced to eventually live within its means: the burden of preceding generations will possibly fall on the iGeneration, who may be left, unfairly, to ‘pick up the pieces’ and endure the economic and social division of inevitable austerity measures. Someone will be held accountable for decades of self-indulgent lifestyles and unsustainable behaviour: all because baby boomers were not satisfied with the best our country could afford.

The baby boomers have acquiesced to the flawed concept of ‘growth at any cost’ which will ultimately bring the pyramid economy unstuck. Whether it’s due to the so-called Malthus Theory or the current trend where incomes are falling in real terms while costs are climbing sharply, escalating out of control. Taxes are also increasing, with the tipping point coming when interest rates eventually rise.  The mounting evidence of chronic ‘debt stress’ is just another way of gauging the continual decline of our ‘standard of living’. Surely, that’s worth an apology!

So, as well as the unsustainable economy, the baby boomers also need to apologise for the state of housing affordability in this country. It was not that long ago that ownership was considered an attainable goal, however economic and recent & proposed policy changes will mean that home ownership will become ever more difficult to achieve.

We are seeing our standard of living continue to decline in Australia, while it is significantly improving in neighbouring countries in our region. As a result, more and more property will be acquired by foreign investors, driving up valuations and pushing domestic buyers out of the market. (It was recently reported that foreigners acquired 25% of newly completed supply in the State of New South Wales).

Worse still, politicians are now making it even harder for ordinary Australians to buy a home. There will be consequences as a result of legislation to reduce the incentives to ‘save’ and the new proposals to remove the incentive to diversify investments (negative gearing). As a result, the family home will become the last asset to offer a material tax concession, creating an inducement to over-invest in a single non-productive tax-free property, which is also exempt under the Government’s welfare ‘asset test’. This will have the effect of further inflating house prices.

Building even bigger homes at a time when we have already seen the ‘area under roofline’ double in the last 30 years, makes no sense particularly as the size of the average family continues to decline. We are incentivising the wrong behaviour! The baby boomers legacy will be that ‘housing affordability’ is out of reach for ordinary Australians and now we are going to make it even harder for them!

Baby boomers also need to apologise for the excessive cost of utilities in this country, power and gas. How did the Baby Boomer generation allow a country so rich in natural resources end up with electricity prices out of the reach of the average Australian? On current trends, demand will outstrip supply (which means blackouts) at which point it won’t matter how expensive electricity is. It is not a coincidence that policymakers have been indecisive on this issue for 10 years, as we witness a small number of very wealthy energy suppliers (potential political donors) being allowed to gouge millions of dollars from consumers, an outcome not too dissimilar to the Enron induced California Energy Crisis. Again, we have made it unnecessarily hard for ourselves.

What of the baby boomers legacy with health services in Australia? Like education, the availability of quality services is in decline by virtue of the fact that costs continue to outstrip funding, mainly because of misguided policies of population growth at any cost. Capital expenditure and capital works (hospitals and infrastructure) are already lagging behind by approximately 20 years, yet we continue on an unsustainable course.

However, the most appalling legacy in respect to our health policy is the failure to adequately invest in the medical experts and doctors necessary to meet our needs in Australia, even though we have some of the better Universities and hospitals in the world. Why are we happy to lend billions of dollars for more Arts Degrees but can’t fund sufficient hospital training placements to meet domestic demand?

To make up for this shortfall we effectively import a significant number of doctors from developing countries. Imperialist behaviour is hard to break! We are too indolent, lack the foresight to plan for our needs and choose not to have a conscience about the health care needs of countries less fortunate than ours. We prefer to keep the medical care standards of developing countries repressed by effectively stealing their doctors, robbing them of their intelligentsia and in doing so, impeding their ability to lift and improve their own countries’ quality of life. The baby boomers legacy is to keep these countries health services and standard of living wedged firmly in the third world.

Baby boomers also need to apologise for our legacy to Indigenous Australians. Why do we spend more than $30 billion a year to keep Indigenous Australians (2.8% of the population) hidden in isolated and remote communities, in what can only be described as squalor, with limited education, restricted opportunity, and appalling health care standards? Are there vested interests (black & white) hiding behind discrimination laws to prevents any meaningful action against the perpetrators in remote communities who freely assault, rape, sexual abuse children, and murder indigenous mothers? Are the authorities so fearful of being accused or labelled ‘racists’ that these criminals escape prosecution? (See Human Rights, 8 Commissioners & 18C’s).

Blindly throwing more money at Indigenous affairs without accountability under the Government’s strategy to reduce Indigenous disadvantage, simply does not work. The ‘Closing the Gap’ initiative is a program of ‘failure by design’ simply by virtue of bureaucratic involvement. Liars can craft their truth, but the real truth lies in the outcomes, which continue to deteriorate. The reality is that this farce does not absolve us from the immorality of unconscious genocide.

It is too convenient not to care about Indigenous Australians; the phrases ‘ignorance is bliss’ and ‘out of sight, out of mind’ appeases our denial! Our politicians have been purposely distracting from the real issues by officiating over self-interested, superficial, obscure and irrelevant issues. Is the distant isolation of Indigenous communities from the halls of power far-flung enough that we can satisfy ourselves with soft causes because they provide a safe excuse to turn a blind eye to the real issues, the pressing problems like the deplorable situation depicted in the following visual? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkZ8_kIjmYQ

We Baby Boomers have failed future generations of Australians. How can the baby boomers and the politicians that represent them, claim equal allegiance to all Australians with this level of disparity in our communities. Look at what politicians have done to this country and in return they insist that we address them as ‘Honourable’ with delusional expectation that we pay obeisance to them?

Meanwhile Australians remain preoccupied, totally consumed and openly hostile about being given ‘the say they were promised on same-sex marriage, yet won’t get off their arse to demand change for an entire generation of Australians whose very existence is being threatened.

That we don’t care is painful and shameful… On behalf of the Baby Boomer generation, I offer my sincere apology!

21 August 2017

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. – Martin Luther King Jr

Trump Card Played in Leadership Vacuum – A Symptom of Political Apathy & Why It’s on You!

Whether it’s the political, corporate or commercial landscape, I cannot remember a time when there was such a void of inspirational, dependable and quality leaders; leaders worthy of our respect, who are motivated to act for the benefit of all citizens and stakeholders.

Today our leaders seem totally disconnected from those they represent. They lack foresight or innovative thinking, they linger in the superficial, pander to hysterical minorities, blindly obey dubious orders and are bereft of humanity. They just seem to do a very ordinary job, feed their egos, take the bucks and do a runner. Where are the great visionaries, communicators, those with a strategic plan beyond their tenure, those who have the sound judgement to care about the future, who can implement and be accountable?

Our leadership has lost the wider community’s esteem and confidence. Is this just a reflection on social evolution, where we are fully connected in a virtual world but totally unengaged in the real spaces we live in? So what has caused this degeneration that has spawned the greatest leadership vacuum of our times?

I believe we need to better understanding what it is that we have done to discourage good candidates from standing for office and why we don’t elect them when they do. But first, we should closely examine the behaviour of our leaders and see if that provides an insight into why ‘we the people’ put them in power.

There are certain orthodox behavioural qualities that our leaders appear to exalt; a similar heartless air of superiority while oozing a miasma of decaying authoritarianism. They are all so similar right down to the same tailors, same stylists, all talking the same indecipherable gobbledygook, promoting the same mistakes while adopting the same bad habits.

They are all students of related institutions like the Harvard Business School, society’s brain trust, the analytical and strategic warlords of the free-market capitalist economies of the world. Minds ‘lost in blind logic’ peddling on the road to nowhere in a fragile global economy, which is essentially a pyramid scheme where viability depends upon the world population doubling every 30 years.

This is the leadership that keeps doing what they did yesterday and we wonder why nothing changes. They continue to govern with no imagination, no vision beyond their current term, standing for nothing, scared of being bold, no empathy, emotion, or wisdom, excelling only in personal postulation. They are just conscience minds living unconscious lives! Management completely indoctrinated in the ‘smile as you kill’ culture of fear, anxiety, intimidation and loathing, their creative skills muted, in a society where we suffer profoundly due to the prolonged under-representation of the feminine influence and sensibilities in leadership roles.

We cannot afford to continue to have sleepwalkers marching in time with the corporate music, blindly obeying callous orders without question or care for the harsh personal consequences of their insipid actions. Look where it has got us, living in denial, existing in a state of amnesia, disengaged, disinterested and dislocated! People are turning off, tuning out and dropping off; the reverse of the Human Be-In sixties counter-culture’s catch phrase.

Meanwhile, the leadership continues to be rewarded for failure, mediocrity and bad results. These executives are the beneficiaries of the global pyramid scheme, receiving usurious remunerations from the ‘wall of borrowed money’; the billions of dollars pouring into Western economies which has the effect of artificially inflating the value of financial markets while masking management’s commercial failings and incompetence.

So what can be done to improve the standard and quality of our leadership? It is ultimately up to us provided we are prepared to engage in the process and make sustainable choices.

It is interesting that in Western societies we champion democracy; in fact we enthusiastically and sometimes forcibly promote it along with the associated benefits of good Corporate Governance and free markets. Yet, we barely exercise our rights to participate in the democratic process and when we do, it’s begrudgingly. It’s no secret that potential leaders take full advantage of our illogical political apathy!

Look closely at who we vote for. We vote for or appoint individuals who promise more than the other candidates. The highest bidders appeal to what we want not what we need. We vote for ‘what’s in it for me’ and don’t care that we will spend our children’s future today and leave them a debt legacy tomorrow. These populists know our human weaknesses and failings, as they make grandiose promises to appeal to our greed and self-indulgence. They are not leaders, they just have despotic ambitions with the characteristics of contemptible parasites, yet we empower them because of our apathy, inaction and selective ignorance while wondering why it feeds our discontent.

The reason we don’t vote for real leaders is that only real leaders promise what we can afford, what is sustainable, what is achievable, what is deliverable, what is responsible, and what is fair and equitable. What chance do we have when greed, complacency, recklessness and foolishness plagues the constituency? It will lead to the eventual failing of the democratic system if we are not prepared to participate in the process and support leaders who advocate for responsible and sustainable policies.

The alternative, ultimately, is to witness democracy have its ‘wall come down’ and that will be very untidy (catastrophic) for everyone with anything to lose!

“Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

18 August 2017

Trump – Making Australia Great-er!

In virtually every conflict since World War II, Australia’s military has followed our allies the United States of America into almost every significant war: Korea, Vietnam, Iraq (1 & 2) and Afghanistan. Our continued mutual support is a World War II legacy, when our US friends sacrificed thousands of lives in the Battle for Australia against the Japanese, at a time when our own so-called ‘mother country’, Great Britain, was prepared to let us fall to the enemy, just as they did with their colony in Singapore.

The 1951 pact, the ANZUS Treaty, cemented our relationship and commitment to the conflicts that followed and I feel it reasonable to suggest that at that time most Australians were in favour of our unquestioning support for our US allies, to the point that we now have thousands of US personnel stationed in Australia.

However, more recently Australians are starting to seriously question our military marriage with the USA and are nervous about where this relationship may take us in the future. This scrutiny and re-examination is courtesy of the somewhat unpredictable behaviour of the new US Commander in Chief.

Now, some say ‘the country doesn’t change just because the President does’ or ‘not to worry because the bureaucracy still runs the country’, however, this is simply not true. The reality is that the society, values and principles of the USA have changed drastically since we signed the ANZUS Treaty in 1951, particularly and understandably since 9/11… so we can speculate whether the President’s conduct is a product of, or reflects the shift in the country’s ideology and standards and not the other way around.

One questions whether ‘we the people’ can recognise these vicissitudes? As an observer, I’m left perplexed. Oliver Stone’s recent ‘The Putin Interviews’ provided a fantastic insight: that the US actually has more in common with Russia than not. It reminded me of JFK when he said on the subject ‘Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.’ Yet perversely, the documentary seemed to be dismissed with somewhat spurious criticism that Stone’s questions were not tough enough!

Even when you apply the normal filters, Putin made some valid points. Why is the US more preoccupied with who leaked emails leading to the resignation of the Chair of the Democratic Party, rather than being outraged that insiders attempted to hobble the campaign of one of its own Democratic candidates. See, US Election: Democratic Party chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigns in wake of email leaks.

We hear all about the ‘land of the free’ and then watch a documentary like ‘Killswitch’ (2016) where Governments autocratically control the internet, or a film like ‘Snowden’ (2016) or another documentary like ‘Silenced’ (2014) about how the Government prosecutes whistle-blowers who disclose illegal activity relating to internal surveillance against the world’s citizenship. (The reality is that government agencies already know exactly who leaks what to whom, but obviously don’t disclose, dare they reveal which allies they are spying on)!

These examples reflect the societal changes in America. This is not the same ‘freedom’ Australians fought for alongside our American allies in the past. Australians are now starting to see a different ‘home of the brave’ and we can thank President Trump in part for that increased scrutiny, as I believe his behaviour will be the catalyst for Australians to wake up and very closely analyse what we stand for (and what we are seen to stand for) when we align ourselves with others.

5 July 2017

We are the United States of Amnesia, we learn nothing because we remember nothing.

– Gore Vidal

See also ‘Media Trumped’  and ‘Sinking Globalisation with Oil’.