The Whitlam Legacy is a series of occasional papers published by the Whitlam Institute offering contemporary insights on matters of public interest inspired by Gough Whitlam’s public life and the legacy of the Whitlam Government.
The Institute is custodian of the Whitlam Prime Ministerial Collection housing selected books and papers donated by Mr Whitlam and providing on-line access to papers held both at the Institute and in the National Archives.
Open letter to Bill shorten
I have been an ALP supporter and voter all my life and recently joined the Party. This doesn't mean I wasn't active all those years. In 1975 I made the ALP TV. spots for the Dismissal election on a pro bono basis.
I write to you today to offer my support and also to highlight some issues.
The LNP over the past few years has spent a lot of taxpayer money trying to blacken your name including the recent botched AFP raid on union offices. So far they have come up with a crooked judge and a handful of nothing.
Mud has a habit of sticking though and I have heard from Labor voters that they are not sure about you. The fact that you have remained positive and are policy driven., showed who you are on Q&A and other forums still do not register with some.
I believe you are doing the best for the party while the LNP are trying their hardest to destabilise our party. It would be great to see you, Penny, Tanya and Albo together on a platform to show the electorate how a democratic party with capable individuals works.
As an immigrant who came with my parents in 1950, survivors of war-torn Europe, I find that our current dialogue about refugees is badly distorted and particularly by potato head who has amassed an enormous amount of power, way beyond his capabilities, to do real harm to many innocent people.
There a number of myths about our current immigration policies.
1. We are amongst the world's most generous in taking people in. Not even close. Probably at the bottom of the top 20.
2. The refugees are illegal. Not true. Under The Geneva Convention, which we signed, anyone can present at our borders and ask for asylum. Putting these people in a concentration camp is not the answer of a civilised society.
We are big enough and capable enough to absorb more people who will, in turn, add value to the rich multicultural mix that we now have.
3. Climate change. While the COALition is wedded to coal and gas the truth is that the market, which they so believe in except when they don't, has shown that coal is dead. Even Trump is being trumped by states who are moving rapidly to renewables as are Victoria, WA, SA, Tasmania and the ACT. The very idea of the Adani mine going ahead is anathema to a majority of voters and is plain wrong. You need to send a very clear signal that we are not having it. The COALition showed us who they are with the lump of coal stunt in the Parliament. We know and we are different. he damage already done to the Great Barrier Reef and beyond is the legacy of the LNP and their years of inaction. Greg Hunt, as Minister for Lying about the Environment, did incalculable damage which he is now transferring to our health.
4. Talent. The ALP has a very talented caucus and front bench with skill sets the others don't even know they lack. It would be good to encourage and pick backbenchers to utilise social media and make themselves better known more widely. Choose some for TV spots. We have talented First Nation people and women. Our strengths should be evident, not by speaking about them, but by allowing the exemplars to speak and be seen and heard in areas of their expertise.
People like Mark Dreyfus and Tanya Plibersek are already noted for their prowess but we have depth.
5. Negative Malcolm has some glaring deficits from his resignation as leader because of the climate change issue, to his knowingly destroying the NBN, simply because it was a Labor initiative, to his spectacular failure in the Parliament in the Godwin Gretch affair which seems to be forgotten.
He projects an aura of confidence in his own brilliance but we need to call him out. Snowy 2.0? A thought bubble. Hand income tax to the states? Ditto. Help the big end of town with tax avoidance (Panama Papers), well we can just legislate for that. Meanwhile, the reliably hopeless Scomo, waits for his turn to get the brass ring.
6. The LNP have made an untruth, that they are the best managers of the economy, into a given. The ALP has gone some way to dispelling that lie but we need to provide more detail and context, for instance, that the structural deficit we now have is from the actions of Howard and Costello buying elections and destroying our bottom line. This when they didn't understand that the mini boom and its rivers of gold had to end.
This is a difficult issue to get across in a three-word slogan but it would be better to start that discussion outside the election phase to redress the public perception. The Conversation has had academic papers on this so maybe a non-partisan approach would be a good starting point.
Yes, it's a mess, but we will prevail.
I just finished reading the Notes from the Editors in the October Monthly Review (I still subscribe for nostalgia rather than for the need for up to date Marxist analysis). It was about how fascism develops, or neofascism, as the current version is labeled. It wasn’t a compelling analysis, but it was an interesting effort at making sense of what’s happening. There certainly are significant overlaps to 1920s Germany, but with distinctive differences as well.
How does it feel? Just as bizarre as it is for you. For better or worse, we have two good senators and a great representative (the son of lefty anti-war activist Marcus Raskin). That makes it less frustrating than if I felt we had to continually contact them to ask them to do the right thing. There have been lots of regulatory changes, but that often happens in Republican administrations, even if this crowd is so much more hypocritical than predecessors. Then there’s “the swamp” that is supposed to be an enemy for this crowd, but is their natural habitat. Again, it’s the hypocrisy, not the behavior, that is most disturbing compared with the Reagan and Bush administrations.
The attacks on democratic institutions is extremely worrisome and it’s hard to see how this is reversed. Confidence in the press and in democracy itself is clearly eroding quickly. I would be even more worried if our president was more capable of developing an agenda and pursuing it. That’s why I’m not a fan of impeachment (which is irrelevant with a Republican Congress anyway); Pence is capable of pursuing a coherent and scary agenda, without increasing the schisms within the Republican party.
What do we do to change this path? Honestly, I just don’t know. The labor movement should be doing much, much more to communicate with members and the families and friends about what this really means for them, rather than what the rhetoric promises, but that’s not happening. Young people are getting more active and that is critically important. But the insecurity of the new economy leaves everyone in competition for the few decent jobs and the prospects for a rising living standard; most people are left behind and they’re being fed racism and xenophobia as a consolation prize. Until we come up with an economic strategy that forces employers to raise wages as profits soar, many will feel there’s no alternative to trying to hold others back in order to improve their own lives.
Our own lives are relatively isolated from the decay many are experiencing; our kids are doing fine and their kids are wonderful and entertaining. But the downside risks, for every minority, including Jews, are quite real and require engagement to the opposition to what’s going on and the rejection of cynicism. It’s not easy, though.
The 2018 election will be important, but 2020 will be critical, as that is when the next census will be done and the re-drawing of congressional districts will occur in state legislatures. Being more focused on that level of government is mandatory; we’ll see if the Democrats follow through on making it a priority. The congressional races next year will be tough for making change – in the House because of gerrymandered districts and in the Senate because of the number of Democratic seats up for election, some of which are in states won by Trump. It will be a good sign if the Dems pick up a bunch of seats in the House and don’t lose more than a couple in the Senate. At least that’s my off the top of my head sense today.
Well, I can’t be reassuring, but I’m not ready to declare the fight lost either. Keep hope alive. It seems that the comedians, more than the serious news analysts, are making the biggest impact on keeping lots of people from sinking into despair. However, that is a reflection of what you said – that our politics have become a reality show. At least many of the current reality TV personalities are able to demonstrate the hypocrisy and cynicism of the self-proclaimed populists, who are anything but defenders of the public.
CAMBODIA - John Gollings
John Gollings is Australia's foremost architectural photographer as well as an artist. His private projects like the one below from Angkor Wat are done with passion, skill and an eye that has developed over decades. He has had a public gallery show at the McLelland Gallery in Langwarren which was his recording (from the air) of the Victorian Black Friday bush fires.
He also did the Pavilion at the Australian area of the Venice Biennale a couple of years ago.
I am looking forward to his next public show.
Here are some great photos taken at Angkor Wat.
I have known John McNabb and Jennifer Gomes and their daughters Pascale and Siobhan since the early eighties and have admired their architectural and design work and enjoyed their friendship.
When Bruce Norgate, my son Tao's father-in-law, pointed out to me the awful things happening at the Queen Vic Market near his home, I was alerted to the problem in much more detail by the McNabb/Gomes team as they live even closer and have been active with the community to try to find an alternative to the wholesale destruction of an iconic Melbourne site.
It was an eye opener to go to the meeting at the nearby Drill Hall a few weeks ago where John presented his plan to a packed room of stall holders who, despite the claim made by the MCC, had had no consultation in the council's proposed plan. The more things change!
At the end of the presentation two ladies walked over to me to say that they had sold the hat I was wearing to me. Well, yes they did.
Anyway, please read and look at the plans and sign on if you believe that John's plans are what we need. I have.
An Alternative Plan for the Regeneration of Queen Victoria Market - John McNabb
A concept born from the shop floor with the market community in mind; that modernises and enhances existing operational framework without disrupting the livelihoods of the myriad small business owners; that pays homage to and protects QVM’s historical heritage, and ensures it continues into the future, as it has in the past, as a working fresh food and general market for the Melbourne community.
This cutting edge QVM regeneration plan will:
- Ensure preservation of the market’s heritage
- Prevent the dismantling of the heritage sheds
- Avoid invasion and disruption to QVM operations, property, stall holders and public amenity
- Reduce conflict between service vehicle movement, goods transfer and the public
- Avoids risk events of public being stranded in basements in emergency evacuation
And provide the following:
- Continuity and enhancement of QVM as a working fresh food and general market
- Increased, accessible, weatherproofed car parking,
- Measures to moderate extreme weather conditions in the sheds
- Enhanced entertainment, performance, display, exhibition, education/information and recreational opportunities
- Initiatives as a generative model for clean, renewable energy and energy self sufficiency
- Above ground on existing car park site with 2 street entry/exits and simple link to sheds
- Two & a half levels providing 990 vehicle bays plus cycle/motorcycle provision
- Parking bays to exceed Australian Standard dimensions for safety, set down and loading
- Foundation design to avoid or minimise exhumation requirements
- Natural ventilation and daylight illumination with vegetation walled perimeter
- Safe and rapid access, circulation and exit with displays of available parking bays
- Lifts, escalators, stairs and amenities accessed at key locations
- Ensure simple, safe and direct personnel evacuation in emergencies
Goods Delivery & Service Zone
- Dedicated facility bordering the new Franklin St at North West corner of Queen & Franklin Streets with simple one-way entry/exit at ground level
- Weatherproofed goods delivery, dispatch, transfer & storage avoiding public conflict
- Refuse and cleaning services storage, processing & accommodation of service personnel
- Food waste Bio-digester
- Multiple goods and produce modular storage bays including cool rooms
- Wide aisles for safe forklift circulation, loading and set down
- Goods & pallet set down space
- Natural light for high open sides facing the streets with vegetation walled perimeter
- Open sky amphitheatre seating up to 1100 people partially cantilevered above Queen
- Street with multiple access points easily accessible and linked to trading areas
- Meeting, recreation, performance, exhibition, relaxing safe haven above the action with an overview of the market & surrounds
- 2 way image screen, sound and light systems, amenities, storage, food and drink booths
- Flows directly to Sky Park nature reserve and car park
- Amphitheatre form as a sculptured dynamic place marker strategically visible from Queen, Therry & Franklin Streets
- Accessible by stair, escalator and lift
- Administration and events management reception spaces
Landscaped Rooftop Sky Park
- Proposed recreational and nature experience landscaped with plantings, shade trees, resting places, arbours, horticultural display, indigenous plants, orchard
Upper Level Rooftop Accommodation
- Flexible, high quality Franklin St frontage accommodation, overlooking CBD and Sky Park
- Possible user groups - community, CoM, commercial, education, institutional, child care, etc
- Possible uses –market history museum, showcase regional produce, food demonstration kitchen, reception centre
- Accessible by stair, escalator or lift
Renewable, Clean and Low Energy Provisions
- Targeting self-sufficiency for QVM operations with possible exportable energy
- Includes Solar with battery support; wind turbine; stormwater harvesting; bio-digester installation
- Demonstration & educational resource for the public as a showcase & generator for other renewable, sustainable, clean energy developments
Environmental Augmentation to trading areas
- Installation of exhaust systems in the sheds to improve ambient conditions
- Vertical vegetation walls for aesthetic & micro-climatic enhancement on street perimeter walls of the car park development
- Installation of pergolas with seasonal creeper vegetation on sky park
- Proposed installation of operable, transparent and high performance glass walls to sheds fronting Peel St to moderate inclement winds & summer afternoon sun from the West .
Services Installations for stallholders, for QVM sheds, and public amenities
- Strategically placed, stallholder service shelters providing toilet, washing, lockers, rest area; goods display wash down/ drying facility
- Upgrade power and utility services to sheds
- Additional public amenity facilities- toilets, hand cleansing, nappy change, First Aid for emergencies
- Additional public seating distributed throughout the market
- Water bubblers
- $145Million with contingency, as at August 2017
This concept offers a sensitive, economic & ergonomic alternative for the preservation of QVM,
The Community Plan offers the following attributes:
- Avoids disruption to QVM operations
- Avoids sidelining any QVM operations and stall trader existence
- Economical in terms of both capital and recurrent costs
- Relative simplicity in construction and operation
- Fast and measurable construction program
- Offers construction staging opportunities
- Easy accessibility for improved, safer car parking facilities
- Easy accessibility for the intense requirements of goods delivery, dispatch and fast processing of goods transfer at ground level with linkage to stalls
- Clean, renewable energy consumed in implementation, operation, maintenance and replacement
- Environmental compatibility and enhancement for the QVM precinct
- Separation of access for public car parking from goods delivery and servicing ensures independence for each and eliminates conflict
- Simplicity of safety for evacuation, emergency, fire control, air handling requirements and considerable independence from and less reliance on mechanical systems for movement and transfer of people, vehicles and goods.
- Eliminates the potential for breakdown of vehicles and movement systems with consequent disruption, stranding of personnel and vehicles and risk potential for public safety.
- The development injects resources to boost this sector of the city for a multiplicity of community activities and entertainment to benefit not only QVM but the locality, the City and Melbourne generally.
Link to detailed QVM Regeneration Concept Proposal
The real fight against the next generation of conservatives is online.
Last Saturday, the "alt-right" held a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Counter-protesters clashed with the alt-right protesters who chanted Nazi slogans like “Blood and soil” and "Jews will not replace us!". One ardent alt-righter drove his car into the crowd of counter protesters, killing 32 year old Heather Heyer and injuring 20 others.
The alt-right is a term with different meanings to different people, but there is always a racist component, whether it’s full-on Nazism or white separatists. This march, dubbed “Unite the Right” was promoted on sites that are emblematic of the dangerous young conservative echo chamber that has grown massively since the candidacy and election of Donald Trump.
To understand the alt-right and this relatively new brand of young absolutist, violent, racist conservatives, you have to understand not just their various twisted ideologies, but where they’ve been encouraged/allowed to fester and grow.
There are two main places this if focused online; a subsection of the wildly popular site Reddit, The_Donald, with a userbase 300,000+ strong (including at least some in the White House), as well as the “Politically Incorrect” section of notorious imageboard 4chan, dubbed /pol/.
The_Donald section of reddit is devoted to unflinching, obsessive support of President Trump, a dark, but huge corner of a website almost as big as facebook (1.2bn monthly users vs. Facebook’s 2bn) that can give you a confusing glimpse into the "millennial" support of Trump and "alt-right" politics in the US, Europe and Australia. Memes and self-congratulation fuel an echo chamber that thrives on hatred and racism. Doxxing (exposing the true identity of) online critics of the president, as well as regularly inciting violence are common practices.
The_Donald moderators were promoting the march until things went south, when they quickly attempted to shift the narrative to the violence in Charlottesville being caused by paid protestors controlled by the always-to-blame George Soros (totally not because he is Jewish). The people on /pol/ went a step further with many of them claiming crisis actors and other made up techniques were used to stage the entire violent incident.
We have to face the reality that online right-wing propaganda machines directly aimed at and used by young people are on a rapid rise. I had assumed these ideologies would die out along with their supporters but that is far from the case. We need to wise up to what modern young uber-conservatives are, where they are, what they believe, and how to beat them.
I think it's important to know what you disagree with and why, rather than writing them off simply because you don't like where you percieve their values to be. Knowing and reading places like Breitbart.com, Reddit.com/r/The_Donald, and people like Milo Yiannopolous, Ben Schaprio, Tomi Lahren and Stephen Crowder is userful and important because these are the modern, (semi)millennial voices of the right and they're absolute fuckin' monsters.
The problem is we don't have any counterbalance on the left. We have The Young Turks, who draw as much ire as they do interest and are as profit driven as Ann Coulter. We have tabloids like Huffpo, partisan-beyond-facts places like DailyKos, Occupydemocrats and TV pundits like Rachel Maddow and Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! who are lefty echo chambers but who usualy get their facts right. The problem is that smart consumers of news don’t like being inside an echo chamber. The young right has done a much better job of making extreme views cool, fuelling their ability to exist in a bubble.
At the moment in America we have a massive schism in our own (lefty) bubble between the so-called Bernie wing of the left (social democrats) and the more centrist, pro-establishment (Clinton style) Democrats.
This divide is only growing larger: is the divide among the left one between a coherent ideological base and it’s vanguards or a more ideologically undermining phenomenon? With ridiculousness on many university campuses in the US, de-platforming of conservative speakers as well as people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, we must ask if the left is cannabilizing itself to the point of political irrelevance.
Overt efforts to make universities places where thought is classified as correct or incorrect and disallowed are a great way to make them pointless in the world of ideas. If we don’t want to go down the road the young right has, we have to reject extreme and puritanical versions of the left.
A GREAT WALL
Given the public’s distaste for most things political, and Canberra, the notion of a wall around Parliament house to encircle the bastards does not seem so bad.
But this one is intended to keep the public away, not lock in the politicians. It’s a knee jerk reaction to security and the dangers of allowing people to freely populate our world.
The proposal is for a 2.6-metre-high glass wall surrounding about 1½ kilometres of Parliament House, which is serious, but not much of a wall in historical terms. In fact, some are calling it a pool fence. A $108 million pool fence.
A look at history will show us what a real wall is. Berlin (1961) was 155 km long and about 3.6 metres high in its concrete section. Hadrian’s wall (128AD) would keep the Picts out of Roman Britannia, 117 km long, stone, and up to 6 metres high. Zimbabwe built dry stone walls during the 11C to the15C to protect their rulers which were up to 5 metres high.
And of course the Great Wall of China, which was started around 200 BC, and built over hundreds of years to keep the barbarian hordes out, has various sections which measure over 20,000 km long and it is up to eight metres high.
Trump’s proposal for his Mexican standoff would be about 3100 km long, and it could be anything between seven to eleven metres high. During the election campaign he wanted concrete, over 12.5 million cubic metres of it, and the estimate was a cost of $USD12 billion, although he was certain the Mexicans would foot the bill.
Most walls are designed to deter invasion, they control borders, not just physically but also psychologically. They can be used to help collect taxes at their gates and of course control people movement either side of them and troop movement on top.
The proposal for Canberra is to limit access for terrorists so they can’t get on the roof of a place of government and cause harm. Up until now, since its opening in 1988, the green grass roofs on the building are used by tourists to walk around while their kids roll down the slopes.
But walls do not always achieve their designated goals.
Problems arise when people cheat and walk around them, find a weakness somewhere, or simply burrow underneath. It would be conceivable in these days of things that fly (like rockets, missiles and drones), that a wall is just a thing to pass over.
You might imagine that a clever radical terrorist might find a way to do their worst without even considering a ‘pool fence’ as a deterrent. Such a person might slip in with the laundry or slide in via the underground carpark, or worse – cleverly embed themselves over years as a politician, get elected as an MP, and enter the place via the front door.
In the process the architectural genius of Giurgola’s creation is being overlooked, the sanctity of his design which provides a public amenity over and above the houses of government was the outstanding idea. He designed for equity and equality in our democracy, simply by placing the hoi polloi on an equal footing with their elected reps.
Maybe that’s what has disturbed those underneath more than any security threat, but to substantially damage such an important part of our built heritage with a clumsy fence for dubious value, would appear to be utterly shameless.
The Comfort of Strangers
Jan Cornall and I worked out during our recent Himalayan sojourn that we probably met in 1979 when we were both working at the Pram Factory, a theatre company in Carlton. She was doing a show with her musical partner Elizabeth Drake and we must have got to be friends then.
Over the intervening years, and in particular, for the last couple of years, I would get broadcast emails from her about writing workshops that she was conducting in Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Morocco and other places. Everything seemed to be in alignment when she popped up with a series of workshops in Nepal and Tibet. “Why not?”.
Without much further thought I replied that I would love to come and Jan sent me the forms and the account to get me in the list which I promptly paid and got in return an information kit that included an itinerary and some of the local issues that we might face.
There would be bottled water as the local tap water was not safe for foreigners and some other medical issues that needed further study. I went to see my GP, Tanya, who decided I needed a battery of tests and some specific drugs for malaria, cholera, altitude sickness, the runs, rehydration etc etc. It came to a second large toilet bag just for the meds. I checked in with Jan and she said ‘we aren’t going to a cholera or malaria area but do get the altitude sickness medication, you might need that, Diamox I think.”
Tanya referred me to a travel clinic at the Alfred hospital and for a lung function test in the same hospital. Thorough. I thought it was over the top but she had my back.
I was in town a few days later, in the CBD, Melbourne. I had got a quote for the air travel including a four day stop in Mumbai and a similar recovery stop in Singapore on the way back. As I was walking to see my accountant I happened to pass a Flight Centre travel shop and thought it worthwhile to get a comparative quote. My original quote came from the aunt of a friend who had always been solicitous and knew a number of my friends. I was amazed to see a few minutes later that as a complete stranger asking for the same travel plan that the quote was $2,000 less. And that was the one I took.
The flights to Mumbai were overnight to Singapore, then a layover for a couple of hours and a change of plane to Mumbai.
Arriving in Mumbai was a smack in the face of heat and humidity. I quickly found a cab and explained that I was going to Malabar Hill Country Club where a mate had booked me right next to the apartment building that his family lives in. The drive there went past the sea on our right and to the left were burnt out shanty dwellings although they didn’t seem to have anyone living in them. I asked if people went swimming at the beach and the driver laughed.
When we got to Malabar Hill he started circling obviously not knowing where the Club was. I suggested he ask a local and as it turned out we were virtually in front of it. After I checked in and got my bags in the room I made contact with Andre’s sister who told me to come over and that the apartment was next door. The apartment was gated and had security guards at the front and at the entrance to each block. Finally I got to 3C and Andre’s sister met me at the door. Andre was asleep but he soon showed up. During the course of that day I asked him about the swimming and why the cab driver had laughed at my question. It turns out that the sewerage from Bombay, where there is sewerage, is pumped out into the bay but only about 100 metres and, “if you go down to the seashore early in the morning tens of thousands of homeless people are relieving themselves there so the water is toxic.” Andre was a member of several clubs which had large inground pools for safe swimming. The club I was in had been in his families membership for years but now cost US300,000 to join. So there it was. The constant smell of shit on the lowlands and the exclusive and expensive club a little higher up.
The comfort of strangers was a film from 1990 directed by Paul Schrader and starring Natasha Richardson, Rupert Everett, Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren. It was not quite a horror film but it was nasty.
I am not sure why but that title came to me and stayed with me for the whole trip.
In contrast the comfort of strangers on this trip was a blessing and a great deal of comforting went on.
On June 7 eleven of us met in Kathmandu where we joined our tour leader Jan Cornall and our local guide Bikram and driver Setan (Saytan). Kathmandu was still showing the signs of the disastrous earthquake that struck in April 2015 which killed almost nine thousand people. Many of the important world heritage buildings and structures became rubble. Driving in our mini bus was hazardous as Setan manouvered skilfully to avoid tears in the fabric of the roads. There were many such obstacles and difficult no go areas none of which seemed to disturb the controlled chaos of the traffic and the seeming complete disregard for what we are used to in the West of agreed traffic rules. Or perhaps we didn’t understand the local version. It didn’t take long to relax in the knowledge that Setan was very good at what he did and his van had not a single scratch that would evidence a different conclusion. I didn’t know any of the others but we soon got an understanding of each other as we shared the travel, workshops and pieces that we wrote and read out to the group.
Durbar Square which had been a major attraction for its temples and sculptures is now rubble. There are three Durbar Squares in Nepal and the name refers to the fact that they are royal palace squares. We visited another Durbar Square where the destruction was evident but not as bad as the main one in Kathmandu. As with all natural events the quake can be interpreted from a Hindi or Buddhist point of view. Or there is science. The pushing of the tectonic plates beneath India as it continues its northern journey meets the opposite force of the Eurasian plates which not only formed the Himalayas some fifty million years ago but can and did create earthquakes as a manifestation of their opposed forces. All very well if you aren’t in the midst of it as it occurs!! Don has explained this better in his piece.
After four days travel in Nepal we came back to Kathmandu to get a flight to Lhasa, Tibet. We all had prepared ourselves for the sudden increase in altitude and read material on the problems of altitude sickness. We all had the prescribed medication and began taking it the day before the ascent. We were all looking forward to this part of the trip.
As the plane taxied to a halt and we disembarked I noticed that even in the land bridge the temperature was cooler than it had been in Nepal. By the time we headed toward immigration I started to feel dizzy and my companions noticed that my complexion had been drained of colour. Swiftly Rob grabbed my rucksack and camera and Jenny gave me her arm to steady me. As there was a queue to get our documents looked at and Jan had the group visas we were pushed to a different queue and I was promoted to the front behind her.
The overwhelming physical sensations were nausea, dizziness and headache. Someone from the group gave me another Diamox which I swallowed with some effort. We all carried bottled water as we knew that the tap water in both Nepal and Tibet would not be kind to our guts. A headache came on and didn’t subside for the whole trip in Tibet. The smell of shit, so pervasive in Mumbai and Kathmandu, was now gone except in the toilet blocks we stopped at in our journeys.
We were met by our guide Dekyi and driver. I was sat in behind an oxygen tank and given a mask and breathed in the oxygen all the way to the hotel. Once in the room and with my luggage having been delivered I took off some things and lay down. Dekyi had provided me with some cans of oxygen and I used these at regular intervals. I felt crap but thought take the meds, acclimatise and in an hour or two or by the morning all will be well. Every now and then I would pull some congealed blood from my nose.
Over the next eight days we eleven, plus Dekyi and the driver, drove around Tibet. The contrast to Nepal couldn’t be greater, the roads were new and sealed, the river beds were mud and the glaciers had melted. We passed a new looking huge high rise apartment complex. “Who lives in these?” “nobody, they were built for Tibetans but they traditionally live near their temple and running water.” The temples are now Luna Parks and the rivers and glaciers are gone.
We heard about the Panchen Lama, the one who was appointed from Beijing. We were warned before arrival not to carry books by the Dalai Lama or pictures. Indeed in May someone had climbed Everest from the Tibetan side and planted a Tibetan flag and picture of the Dalai Llama at the summit so Beijing had closed access to the mountain from that side.
The temple visits, of which there were many, made me feel awkward. There were lots of people but being a tourist in somebodies holy place didn’t seem right to me. Yes, I have been to the Vatican to look at the Michelangelo and da Vinci works and I wasn’t totally comfortable there either. When I was in Prague in 1987 working on a film, my younger son came over to visit for a week. I took him to the Alte Neu cemetery in the centre and we were approached by a local guide who offered to talk us through the history of the place. He said at one point that a lot of Jewish people used to come there and in fact Rabbi Loew, who had supposedly brought the golem to life, was buried there. I asked, knowing the answer, why Jews didn’t come anymore. “Ah”, he said rubbing the his index finger and his thumb together indicating that they had left to chase money. Inside the cemetery were the names of ninety thousand Jews who had perished during the Holocaust sent to Theresienstadt and Auschwitzch concentration camps where they were murdered.
Lou and I made our way to a synagogue nearby. As we stood there taking it in two German speaking tourists came in talking loudly and taking photographs with their flash cameras. It is a difficult balancing act to show respect and to visit cultural icons. I am still not sure how you get this right.
Bob Weis has been one of Australia’s most highly regarded drama producers for more than three decades, with credits including quality television mini-series such as Seven Deadly Sins (1992), Women of the Sun (1990), The Petrov Affair (1986), Waterfront (1984) and The Dunera Boys (1984).Read more here.
Photos by Jan Cornall except where indicated. All the photos in the slideshow below are by Bob
This article was also published on Medium: https://medium.com/himalayan-kora/the-comfort-of-strangers-d6ed58a18b00
By Phillip Frazer @ CoorabellRidge.com
I’ve worried lately about the pile of reasons to abandon all hope that’s accumulated in the corner of my office. So this week I went to the orchard of awfulness that our world often seems to be and plucked these precious four cherries of hope, from the ever-unpredictable USA:
1. Seed-lovers and librarians beat Monsanto and DuPont
The world’s three biggest “agricultural” corporations, Bayer-Monsanto, Syngenta, and DuPont-Pioneer, keep buying up local seed companies and, as my friend Mark Schapiro writes in PacificStandard (psmag.com), they now mass-produce seeds they have patented “to be planted over vast swaths of farmland, augmented with chemical boosters to compensate for what’s lacking from generations of local adaptation.”
Meanwhile, beneath the radar of Monsanto and the mainstream media, hundreds of seed libraries have emerged across the USA, many of them in public libraries – yes, instead of books you take out seeds and, when you can, return them with suggestions to help the next planter.
But, in 2014, the Simpson Public Library in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, received a notice from the Bureau of Plant Industry in the state Department of Agriculture that listed several statutes the library could be violating, like “the disseminating of unregistered seeds”.
This story went viral, or fungal, leading the California Climate and Agriculture Network and the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center to ask the California State Legislature to beat back the California seed industry – which they did! Governor Jerry Brown stepped up and signed a bill that protects seed exchanges and recognises that the seed-borrowing farmers are nurturers of plants that belong to the soil, not to Bayer-Monsanto, Syngenta, or DuPont-Pioneer.
2. Opposition in the business community to burning evermore fossil fuels.
Mark Carney is the governor of the Bank of England, which makes him one of the one percent of the one percent, and he’s warning his fellow bankers about the risks of the “carbon bubble.” And Carney has been joined recently by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and private banks HSBC and Citigroup.
In their banksterish way, these plutocrats worry that we will realise, sooner or later, that most fossil-fuel reserves cannot be burned and will thus become “stranded assets”—things you own that have lost their value. Citigroup estimates that the “total value of stranded assets could be over $100 trillion” by the time high-finance idiots realise that carbon fuels have to stay buried not burned. That dwarfs the stranded assets of the American housing bubble that begot the 2008 financial crisis.
UBS, the Swiss global financial services company, told its clients last year that the fossil fuel disinvestment campaign will succeed. Why? “Because many of those engaged in the debate are the consumers, voters and leaders of the next several decades…this single fact carries more weight than any other data point on the planet for this issue.”
3. American libertarians, radical self-interest as ideology
I listened the other day to a 40 minute talk by a guy in Texas railing against the bankrupting of America by the military-industrial-intelligence-surveillance complex that has hijacked the government – keeping the country and its blind followers like Australia convinced that the warmongers need the trillion dollars a year they squeeze out of the people. What’s hopeful about this video is that the speaker is one David Stockman, the guy a few of us over-60 might remember was President Ronald Reagan’s budget director, who popularized trickle-down theory. Stockman is amazed it only took about 80 days for Trump to be co-opted by the warmongers of Washington and suckered into their club, and he explains in accountant’s detail why Russia, China, and Islamic terrorists are NOT significant threats to America – the warmongers of Washington are.
Stockman was addressing a conference of libertarians, which in the US are wealthy people who believe they worked hard for their wealth and it shouldn’t be wasted on public services for not-rich Americans or dropping bombs on poor foreigners. It’s a slim hope, but these particular business types might just win control of the Republican Party when Trump runs out of opportunistic supporters, and they might set about dismantling the warfare state.
4. People power bursting out all over
It is impossible to overstate the fury and despair that tens of millions of Americans, particularly women, felt when Trump was elected. Not just Americans right?
The giant rallies led by women across the US during Trump’s inauguration kicked off a mass movement of ongoing, creative actions against the nut-bars in today’s White House. In New York next Sunday -- Mothers Day -- an agitprop group called The Reverend Billy Talen and his Stop Shopping Choir will celebrate Julie Ward Howe, who founded Mother's Day as a Day of Peace, in 1870. In her inspiring declaration Ms Howe wrote “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.… We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.” You could read her full declaration at your mother’s day event – and if that’s no more than mum gets morning tea in bed, it doesn’t take much longer to read than a cuppa takes. It’s here:
Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts,
whether our baptism be that of water or of fears!
Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by
irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking
with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be
taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach
them of charity, mercy and patience.
We women of one country will be too tender of those of another
country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From
the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says "Disarm, Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance
Blood does not wipe our dishonor nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons
of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a
great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women,
to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the
means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each
bearing after their own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
but of God.
In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a
general congress of women without limit of nationality may be
appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at
the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the
alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement
of international questions, the great and general interests of
Julia Ward Howe