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Towards Restoring Australian Values

George Matafonov is author of Fire & Water: Market Morality & Civil Society and is also running a survey at www.moralcompass.org to determine the impact of free-market economics on traditional morality. Welcome to Webdiary George, and thankyou for this optimistic challenge to us all.

by George Matafonov

The calls for unity around Australian values following the Cronulla riots highlighted, once again, an uncomfortable reality: no one seems quite sure what are Australian values. And this provides a strong clue to where we should look for answers to much of the social unrest we are experiencing today.

As humans, we have been living in societies for tens of thousands of years and have developed values and our sense of morality to enable us to live in peace, harmony and prosperity. Chief of these values was the belief that we should always look after one another, by doing right by others, as articulated in the concept of a "fair go", and in the biblical exhortation of "love thy neighbour". This traditional morality is also brilliantly expressed in the Golden Rule, which has bubbled up, in one form or another, wherever and whenever humans formed societies.

And here lies the problem and the reason for the confusion. In the space of less than 50 years, economic theory has turned all this upside down by insisting our chief value should be competitive self-interest. Enthusiastically embraced by politicians of all persuasion and enforced through the market - which is quickly becoming the central institution in terms of influence on our lives - the morality of the market is spreading outside the confines of market at an alarming rate. According to a survey at www.moralcompass.org, up to 40% of respondents no longer subscribe to key aspects of traditional morality.

Not only is a growing number of people renouncing long-held values that historically have been used to create cohesive societies, but there is also confusion about values that goes right to the top. Take, for example, Brendan Nelson's attempt last year at defining our values to the Muslim community. He suggested there are nine values and include: care and compassion; doing your best; fair go; freedom; honesty and trustworthiness; integrity; respect; responsibility; and understanding, tolerance and inclusion. Apart from the imputation the Muslim civilization has somehow forgotten all this, what could be wrong with teaching such values? Well for one, they are not values; they are outcomes of living certain values.

Is there any doubt adherence to the biblical exhortation of "love thy neighbour", religious hypocrisy aside, results in tolerance, compassion, loyalty, honesty, selflessness, kindness, altruism and all that we refer to as virtues? In the same way, is their any doubt that "compete with thy neighbour" will give birth to their opposites?

If there is doubt, there shouldn't be because for tens of thousands of years we have been passing on this knowledge from generation to generation, even shrouding it in religious concepts to remove all questioning of this basic truth we discovered.

Such confusion between cause and effect allows politicians to get away with publicly endorsing and promoting traditional virtues, while at the same time espousing economic policy that not only undermines the same virtues, but also encourages their opposites. It also allows them to get away with scapegoating multiculturalism and minority groups, thus deflecting the reality that their unequivocal embracing of economic theory has created a climate of moral relativity.

If the guiding principle for action is the self, as the market insists, then it plays to the idea that we should each have our own morality, and hence tolerance should be the overriding value. Thus any sort of behaviour that seems natural to someone becomes a moral standard, and by default should be approved by society, or at least tolerated. But how does a society of self-centred individuals exist without disintegrating into anarchy? In the economic life the answer, according to the theory, is competition; in the personal life the answer is political correctness.

And this represents a paradigm shift where once the community played a vital role, through the notion of a common morality and a common set of values, in influencing the choices we make, we now have bureaucrats dictating behaviour through ever-intrusive laws. Reliance on just the law for social cohesion, as we are starting to learn, results in nothing more than clogged courts and over-populated prisons.

So what is the solution? The first step, I believe, is to question the basic assumption of this new theory. Do we really believe there is no common morality, no common set of values that binds society together: that everything is relative and hence tolerated? The answer is no, according to the same survey.

The survey results to date suggest strongly that we don't believe the moral relativists, with only 4% of respondents believing our morality should be based exclusively on our needs. Also, about 60% of respondents believe that social cohesion is best achieved by a common morality first, supplemented by law.

The Moral Compass also points clearly to a simple, yet powerful common belief - that our morality should be based on the needs of others - which can bind society around a common value of concern for others: "...to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!", as Emerson once expressed it.

The challenge for modern societies everywhere is how to re-establish this sense of traditional morality without negating some of the efficiency advantages of economic theory. Fortunately, we don't have to reinvent the wheel because we can look to the experience of the Church, when it was the central institution of society. Faced with a similar problem, it taught and reinforced the principles of traditional morality by recounting the lives of saints and sinners.

In a secular society, the same concept of teaching and reinforcing by example can be implemented by running an awareness campaign entitled, "Do Right by Others. It's the Australian way.", which re-establishes the guide to action, outside our economic life at least, should be the concern for others.

This is nothing new. It is the essence of a "fair go" for all, it shines bright in the spirit of the ANZACs who made the supreme sacrifice so others can breathe easier, and we see it everyday in the selfless acts of countless volunteers in a myriad roles, who sacrifice their time, and often more, in helping others.

It was this value that was under attack in Cronulla when the louts attacked the Life Guards. This was no simple assault; it struck at the very core of what many perceive it means to be Australian, resonating deeply within the whole community.

While the Cronulla attack was physical, the more insidious attack by economic theory is perceived at a different level by many, resulting in the so-called Howard haters. Many of these people have never met John Howard and don't hate Howard the man, but do resent, even hate, what they perceive is an outright attack on the core value of not just Australian society but humanity itself.

For this reason, such a campaign may come under ridicule and attack by the current government because it would mean admitting culpability and taking responsibility for the social division and unrest. The first objection would be that competitive self-interest and the value of doing right by others are not mutually exclusive. Let's lay this to rest by a simple example.

Imagine you are running a small business and a competitor moves in next door. Do you welcome this competitor with open arms, share some of your research, pass on tips of how to succeed in this market? Of course not, more than likely you will drop your prices, increase your advertising and do whatever it takes to get rid of your competitor before he or she gets rid of you. This is competitive self-interest.

Contrast this with a neighbour moving in next door to where you live. More than likely, you will welcome your neighbour, you may even help with moving in; invite them over for coffee and do whatever it takes to help them settle in. This is doing right by others.

The two values are at opposite ends of the spectrum and as a society we need to affirm which is our core value. If both are to live side by side: competitive self-interest in our economic life, and doing right by others in our personal and social life, then should we not be putting as much effort, if not more, into promoting the latter as we are into promoting the former?

While the campaign mentioned earlier is probably best run at government level, it does not need to be. It could be citizen initiated and community run drawing on another important lesson of Cronulla: the power of social pressure, as demonstrated by the contrition of some of the rioters once their identity was made public.

Thus, the Do Right by Others campaign would encourage all communities to provide not only examples of people doing right, but also bring out into the open the activities of those who do wrong by others and let them feel the full force of societal condemnation. Like it or not, we are social creatures, and there is no greater pressure than condemnation from those whom we love and respect.

While this is a staple of current affairs programs, this will be the first time it will be wrapped in the idea of establishing and promoting a core value.

Additionally, we could encourage every newspaper and every magazine - in every language - to have a regular section dedicated to promoting the value of doing right by others by reprinting content. In this way we will not only establish the true heroes society wide, but also bring to bear the greatest pressure on those louts, gangstas, politicians and corporations who do wrong by others.

With our core value defined and clearly articulated, all else will follow. The result will be not only be a stable society but also a society with less need of a coercive force to keep it together because most people will automatically do the right thing by others, and hence the greatest freedom. Once again, this is nothing new. The Moral Compass shows, and common sense affirms, the more selfish and self-centred individuals in society, the greater the mistrust, the greater reliance on law and the greater the need for some coercive force to keep society together.

When welcoming immigrants to our wonderful country, let's make it clear that we are a tolerant society and expect the same tolerance from them, but there is one thing we will never tolerate is any action that is not consistent with our core belief of doing right by others. Let's make it an integral part of the pledge of commitment and the working definition of a "fair go".

Will the immigrants find this an alien concept? On the contrary, they will recognize it as their own because it is the essence of every mainstream religion; it is our common heritage and, arguably, the cause of all social progress.

Uniting around a common value like this will also stifle the Jihadists and the Fundamentalist who want to drag us back to the Middle Ages. In the same way, it will also stifle the ambitions of those who profit, economically, socially and politically from divisiveness and conflict. It will also expose as nonsense the "clash of civilizations" theories.

Restoring the core value of society is also the best way to achieve social change and social justice. It firmly sets the direction for the politicians who, contrary to the common misconception, reflect community values, rather than lead - providing the values are clearly defined. New options and new ways of organizing society will emerge contrary to the claims of those who argue TINA (there is no other alternative), enabling us to better meet the challenges of the Information Age.

All this with just one value? Christ was once asked which is the greatest commandment in law. This was an important question to the Jews of the time because they had over 500 commandments, and all had to be obeyed. This question is equally relevant today because of the legislative bog of political correctness. Christ's response was simple and straight to the point: love God and love thy neighbour, thus affirming there is only one core value which matters, and reinforced its primal position by using religious concepts as our ancestors have done since the earliest times.

Too utopian or maybe we are past some point of no return? The survey results at moralcompass.org suggest not, with Traditional Progressives still in the majority. Traditional Progressives believe we should organise society around the concept of looking after each other, based on selflessness, inclusion, humility and cooperation of free individuals. Besides, this is how we created cohesive societies for tens of thousands of years, which has enabled us to progress from living in caves to walking on the moon, despite the many setbacks along the way.

I have no doubt, that such a campaign will not only yield better results than relying on just the law, but also will bring unity where there is division, provide guidance to the young, the immature and the newcomers, teach the irresponsible a sense of responsibility, make the excluded feel included, give the confused a sense of direction, and, maybe, finally we can create a society where common decency is the norm again, and it is safe to walk the streets at night, free from fear.

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ignorance of the law is no excuse...

How refreshing to see writing of the quality offered by Malcolm Duncan after some of the fantasy directed against Daphne O'Brien earlier in this thread.

And how unrelievedly depressing its content and substance.

Well, I think it might be these days

Certainly, Paul Walter, that used to be the maxim. Now, however, the law is so opaque to Judges and practitioners that I am just waiting for some judicial officer to trot that one out so I can take the point that the law as it applies to ordinary citizens is now so complex that no reasonable man could be taken to be cognisant of it. Only the other week, in a traffic matter, the Magistrate, the Police Prosecutor and I all agreed that we couldn't work out what the traffic regulations meant: punter had the charge dismissed on the ground the prosecution had not proved its case. None of us actually knew what they had to prove. I wonder how much that cost the taxpayer, let alone the poor punter who lost two days wages being stuffed around by the system without even the hint of compensation (even though I applied for costs for him - I was duty barrister so I wasn't getting paid). This is happening across NSW daily and hundreds of coppers are on Court duty for reasons they ill understand when they could actually be out flogging the beat and doing some real police work: Monkey see copper, Monkey don't do.

And some of you wonder why I run for Parliament. Well, in a nutshell, I'm Jack of this crap. It's costing all of us a fortune that could be better spent on reviving our rivers, roads, railways, sewers, and hospitals. Let's have less law and more order. And now we're spending $700,000 on a water cannon in the middle of a drought.

Morris, it's time to start wearing the cardigan.

And can Charlie be queen?

THE LAND THAT BELONGS TO THE LORD AND QUEEN They hate us for our values Perhaps there are NO worthwhile “Australian” values, other than those of “moralisers and Pharisees” as described by Fr Frank Brennan, Professor of Human Rights and Social Justice at the Australian Catholic University, in the seventh Annual Manning Clark Lecture, 5 R's for the Enlargers: Race, Religion, Respect, Rights and the Republic, at the National Library of Australia on Friday 3 March 2006. Brennan quoted a significant Manning Clark hope, much greater than Clark’s “shy hope” of faith or heaven or whatever (or Commonwealth Games Gold, Gold, Gold! Aptly coupled with Cronulla Flags and Aussie, Aussie, Aussie – oink, oink, oink. Ah dear God, doncha luvvit?)

He [Manning Clark] would want us to tap our sense of hope. When reflecting on his six volume history he once said, "And I suppose running through those volumes is the hope - no more - of some sort of fusion between that Christ figure and the best teaching of the Enlightenment." He would see this lecture as an opportunity to offer assurance to those flagging or in doubt about salvation and redemption. For him, secular optimism was never enough. He always had a keen eye for the difficulties of the common man in choosing the right path, and a deep concern for the underdog. He would wonder if there is still any place for the religious enlarger. He would not necessarily agree with me or you but he would always react with sympathy, given his generous and searching spirit. He would urge us to clear away the thickets for a republic, bearing in mind that it was the atavistic colonisers, and not the benign officials of the Colonial Office, who dispossessed the Aborigines.

And Fr Brennan went on: “Whatever our politics, race or religion, we come together…as enlargers sustaining the hope, not deterred by the realisation that the straighteners will mock us and pontificate afresh about the unreality of our dreams, the impracticality of our suggestions, and our irrelevance to the outcomes of contemporary politics and economics.” And again he cited Manning Clark’s lament at the 1988 Yale Conference on Australian Literature:

A turbulent emptiness has seized the inhabitants of the ancient continent. No one has anything to say. Like other European societies, Australians once had a faith and a morality. Then they had a morality without a faith - the decades of the creedless puritans. Now most of the legal restraints of the old morality have been taken off the statute book. Everything is up for examination. The pragmatic, consequentialist ethic in contemporary Australia has long wreaked havoc on outsiders not meriting our respect, but now it is turning on us. We are losing respect even for ourselves.

Brennan made a good speech and it’s a cracking good read. So should we get used to the lack of any fair dinkum Australian values, other than those of the Sybarites, the Moralisers and the Pharisees and their wicked imperial masters? Or as Manning Clark and Fr Brennan put it, have “something to say”, in our own voice, in the national interest, as per Henry Lawson's poem Sons of the South (A song of the Republic):

Sons of the South, make choice between (Sons of the South, choose true) The Land of Morn, and the Land of E'en, The Old Dead Tree and the Young Green Tree, The Land that belongs to the lord and Queen, And the Land that belongs to you.”

Rather than stooping to the perverted needs of the Member for Bennelong and Mrs Kirribilli, plus their sinister Private Office, and the people who run them.

Fair go? A fantasy.

Hey all,

To me the supposed land of the fair go does not exist except when there is a tragedy when the majority of people do step up and help. After that initial outpouring of support, aid and help comes endless arguments about who, where, when, why and what and the usual corruption of funds and donations. That initial outpouring though gives me hope as it is there in all of us I think.

This idea that we have a fair go is defined more by today's announcement of another 400 pages of IR Regulations. This quote from the Brisbane Courier Mail:

THE Howard Government has cut high-paid workers loose from the protection of unfair dismissal laws, saying they are able to "look after themselves".

New regulations released late yesterday reveal that "employees earning $94,900 a year or above" would not be covered, along with all workers in enterprises employing less than 100 people.

to me defines what is and has been the case in this country. Note that, assuming this report is accurate, these regulations broaden the supposed intent from businesses under 100 employees to include all earning $94,900 pa.

There you go! The PM has apparently decided who can "look after themselves" and they will as it is survival at the cost of others futures. Howard's world, sorry, I mean all politicians by the word "Howard" and that includes those that control religions.

That is significant as it covers all the top level public servants. How better to control the workings of Australia than with that simple extension? Fair go? Where? It is a fallacy as the only people who have that approach are sports teams and even that is undermined by the real god today, the $.

I note the reference to Christian values being carried forward and holding societies together. I agree and believe strongly in the way of living described by Christianity but not the religion part.

Also the same principles that hold societies together must carry forward that need for violence, war and the rest as such activities are constant and always have been. Is it just a minority that constantly forces war and oppression on people? Or is it simply the use of fear, with governments and religions creating much of that through implied threats to devotees, as number one political strategy.

Patriotism is such a tool and I feel that following such blind mob behaviour simply makes all those people tools themselves.

Is this what governs and rules our lives? False premises? Just look at the Commonwealth Games. How many of us really care who wins medals there? It's just more distraction from the real issues, some patriotic flag waving basically on instruction. Simply a venue for creating the next wave of TV presenters based on looks, winning and media support.

I believe Scott has summarised society quite well. We are driven by our major drives, survival, power and sex. If society supports that then everything is fine, except the majority who are run over by the strong and powerful. Today that equates to MONEY.

Most of you would know what our leaders consider to be the best way for the people to join together and celebrate don't you? Fireworks. Just think about all the so called major patriotic celebrations. We have crackers. That's our reward so enjoy it.

Fair go mate - still

I think the fair go still has general applicability in modern Australia. It is still heard in conversations in pubs where some bombastic person is trying to shout down someone with an opposing opinion. That is one of the disadvantages of Webdiary – one cannot shout anyone else down. It’s rather like debating really (and debating can get really nasty).

To the principal point, however, that I wish to make. [This is a fairly long post and the issue probably deserves at least two threads of its own but I’ve been doing a bit too much volunteering lately.] We are told in today's newspapers that there are 400 pages of Regulations under the new IR legislation and an explanatory memorandum of 200 pages. This is one of my principal bugbears as a lawyer. None of this crap (and I haven't read it yet, I'm just giving it the benefit of the doubt on past experience, although benefit of clergy might be more appropriate) has been considered or debated by the Parliament. The Senate next sits on 27 March and has only 15 sitting days to move to disallow the regulations. Does anyone think any of our Senators will have the nous to do that? The rule is that, if a move is made to disallow and that is not resolved within 15 sitting days, the Regulation is automatically disallowed. That means any move to disallow on 27 March has to be resolved before 2 August (on the current sitting schedule). That should give enough time for a few Coalition Senators to test the waters in Tassie and South Australia. I should add that either House can move to disallow the Regulations – I am merely using the Senate as the example because (a) it has the longest time to do so and (b) it is the only House that would be remotely likely to do so.

I have just spent about half an hour trying to find the Regulations on the net. The best I can do is a press release from the Minister which indicates this stuff will come into effect on 27 March ie. before the Parliament has any chance of reviewing, let alone debating them.

Increasingly, at State and Federal levels we are seeing executive governance (ie. policy setting) through delegated legislation. This is impermissible and must stop. The way it works for the uninitiated (which is most of the population) is that an Act of Parliament (which has been passed and had at least some opportunity to be debated even if the majority did move the gag to stifle that debate) contains a provision that says the Governor-General (or Governor) in Council (i.e. the Executive Council consisting of members of the Executive Government i.e. Cabinet) may make Regulations not inconsistent with this Act.

In the old days that made some sense because administrative detail like how much to charge for filing a document should not necessarily be the concern of Parliament which, in a perfect world, would have better things to do. In the last 30 years or so, the system has, however, gotten completely out of hand.

The Acts Interpretation Act has now been changed at both State and Federal level to allow the provisions of “any other publication” [to use the words of s 42 (1) of the NSW Interpretation Act 1987] to be “incorporated” into Regulations.

Now, when you think about it from a bureaucrat’s point of view, that is stunningly convenient: you just incorporate the Bible into a regulation and the Ten Commandments have legal force (on second thoughts, given some of the bureaucrats I know, some of the ten commandments wouldn’t suit them terribly well – particularly that one about adultery and, no, even though a gentleman never tells, I don’t know any bureaucrats that well). OK, let’s say we incorporate a publication SWMBO’s son writes for, The Picture – that should edify some legislators.

Looking at the process from the point of view of the rest of us, it’s horrifying.

Let me take two examples which have the most enormous economic effects on our lives: the Australian Standards and the Australian Road Rules. Both of these are determined by joint Federal-State Councils which determine what the rules will be. Both the Standards and the Road Rules are incorporated in State Regulations, not State Acts, and in the case of the Road Rules in NSW, simply by being incorporated. No parliamentarian need ever see them. How, then, does he move to disallow them?

What if the Councils change them? Is the change incorporated (ie. does a purely administrative act by unelected, unaccountable council members become law)?

Arguably this regime is unconstitutional and I have been trying to knock it off in NSW for a couple of years now. I lost the argument over a parking fine in the Local Court, and so far I haven’t found anyone who has the money to take the thing to the High Court but it a is matter of fundamental importance. If anyone has a parking ticket and wants to go the distance, let me know.

Back to the IR Regulations. I suppose I could get a copy of them if I tried harder but how long would it take me (a qualified and renowned nitpicker) to get through them and 200 pages of additional waffle? What chance some dumb pollie between now and 27 March? And they come into operation before the Senate sits anyway.

Well, my guess is that it will be all too hard. The legislative battle is lost so let’s leave it to the unions and the courts. How about some backbone, Senators? Fair go, mate.

"Mateship"

I have seen mateship, or people pulling together, over much smaller issues than a real tragedy.

For instance, in Melbourne we had a mini tornado recently, which ripped through Blackburn and on down to Croydon. So many trees had fallen that it was impossible for people to drive through Bayswater Road.

My son's friend lives on Bayswater Road so they were at the scene of the chaos (relatively speaking). They went to help, and Paul recounted how impressed he was that so many people turned out to help. Especially the young ones. He figured there were around 200 that he could see, some dragging branches off the road, others with chainsaws for the heavier ones.

He was impressed, and so was I.

Whether God is real or not, and I personally hope there is some spiritual force for love (but am not sure...), I do believe there is something innate in each one of us - I think it's called conscience - by which we know and understand if what we are doing is for the good of humanity, be it ever so trifling, or not. To simplify, whether it is good or evil.

We are then presented with choice.

On another note, haven't you seen a dog lie down with a cat (or a rabbit, as a dog of my childhood did), a dog protecting his owner against all odds, farm animals trusting their owners, or fearing them, depending on the particular choices of that owner? I know there would be other, better examples, but these will do for now.

Howard, of course, has chosen his path a long time ago. Looking after his cronies at the expense of the rest of us, lying (having ceased to listen to his conscience a very long time ago in the quest for power, power and more power), and ensuring that we learn to hate and fear the other.

In fact, perhaps he's the perfect example of a man who has chosen the left hand path rather than the right.

Does the fact that we do have choices make a difference in this rather soulless environment we have created for ourselves? It would seem our real problem is that too many have chosen to serve self rather than the other at this time in our history.

After all, it has been said by people wiser than me that we only get the government we the people deserve. Therefore at this stage in our history, we in the west should be ashamed because we appear to have the worst leaders in living history as far as I can see.

By the way, I too believe the way of living as taught by Jesus Christ, and as described in all of the world's religions, is well worth striving for. And I have chosen not to be a "Christian" in the sense it is used by the churches.

Mates do exist of course

Hey Daphne, essentially I agree with you. By tragedy I meant all tragedies, next door getting flooded, someone on the road with a flat, a tsunami, all of that. People do help. Of course there are also those that see the car with a flat and immediately decide that mugging is available.

This quote from you, "...there is something innate in each one of us - I think it's called conscience", I believe is certainly the case.

But this is where I just cannot fathom why people have that in them but seem to always choose the wrong, damaging or advantageous to them road.

Maybe you are right, it's as simple as good and evil. I don't understand politicians who take that bad road apparently always despite knowing what they are doing. Maybe their only thought is "How can I profit from this?".

We're all capable of either given the circumstances including myself but I rarely take the bad road deliberately, although an ex-wife may be an exception.

Thanks Ross

Thanks for the endorsement Ross despite my earlier jibe which I won't retract. We can't agree about all things all of the time but welcome aboard.

Can we get back on track?

Please, can we get back on track?

I'm going to make a few assumptions here and invite those with greater knowledge to correct me if I'm wrong.

First, an analysis of what constitutes "society" and what were it's origins would be good starting point. There is a possibility that it is not a natural trait in our species but one imposed by neccessity. Humans are puny creatures and collectivisation a survival imperative. For a start there is strong evidence that we are not naturally monogamous. The physical disparity between the sexes is minimal in animals that pair for life while very large in species where a dominant male attempts to monopolise the reproductive process and less so in animals that mate randomly and where the male either has nothing to do with infant development or only hangs around until they are independant.

We appear to fall somewhere between the two. Our closest relatives live in tribes which centre around a dominant male who does not tolerate other males mating with his concubines and prevents them mating although not always successfully, there being a propensity in females to sneek away for a quickie if given the opportunity, probably to strengthen the gene pool to prevent in-breeding. It's a wise ape that knows its father and DNA evidence suggests that's ditto for humans given that between 10 and 20% of children in this country are unaware that the person they call Dad is not their carnal father.

For our species the above became unworkable with the development of sophisticated verbal communication and conceptional ability. Young males who could gang up on a dominant male and disport themselves among the females would do so resulting in a chaotic situation. Survival demanded order, hence society.

Thou shall not commit adultery.

Civilisation came and with it property rights

Societies that display the most profound observance of "our" values are the most primitive where individual property is restricted to implements but this starts to break down with the introduction of consumer type goods, jealousy and aqusitiveness becoming evident.

As our society has become increasingly sophisticated we have become much less reliant on cooperative effort. We have utilised energies other than our own or that of animals we have subjugated to fulfill our needs. Commerce has replaced cooperation. How that can be best utilised is the subject of economics which as the most perfunctory study of ecomonic history will show swings from one extreme to another. We are probably at the end of the "economic rationlist" cycle which demonstrates little knowledge of what economy is and where the "bottom line" is arbitrarilly set way above the base even in monetary terms let alone social ones.

Cooperation, "mateship" only comes to the fore in times of dire need such as war. The Anzac spirit come as a result of need and now that the need has passed the ethos has devolved into mythos as witnessed by the pilgrimages to Anzac Cove and the increasing numbers of people turning out for the dawn services nearly a hundred years after the events that inspired them. Anzac is a quasi-religion.

Tolerance is not a natural attribute in any species. Evolution does not allow for anything other than special purity. Differences detected in individuals are eliminated and outsiders driven off or killed. Homosexuals, Gypsies, the highly intelligent or intellectually impaired, to name a few, are reviled and sometimes persecuted. That we have eliminated much of this at least in a legal sense is a redeeming feature of our society but it still exists in individuals.

If my view of humanity is bleak it is tempered by the belief that we are still in a transitionary phase of evolution. I know for a fact that there are two species of homo sapiens, we just haven't discovered the gene yet. There are gentle folk and bastards. Just where the gentle gene came from and how the hell it survived I have no idea but I also believe that it is in ascendancy. Maybe another force is in play other than Darwinian theory. It's a race to reach an angelic state or self destruct.

This from an atheist who believes religion itself is chaotic. I use the word chaotic because I do not believe in good and evil but order and chaos. Life is ordered, death is chaotic.

The foregoing is the laboured expression of thought processes that are frequently impressionistic; rough forms that are filled with analogues drawn from my experiences. I run the risk of angering many but if you are, please question the source of such anger.

Angelic states

"Maybe another force is in play other than Darwinian theory. It's a race to reach an angelic state or self destruct." A thought-provoking comment, even if a rather non atheistic metaphor.

Just as a further comment to such a gift of shared thoughts, have you considered the differences of response in the sexes as far as tolerance of variation and stability, nurturing tendencies, communication etc may be pertinent in the seeking of how some groups survive? After all, the nurtured progeny, its intelligence and how it has learned is the only advantage that humans have.

We see civilisations that “develop” all the complexities of government, cottage manufacturing, efficient irrigation and agriculture and literature, poetry, complicated religion, and one thinks are the superiority of a settled society. Yet ... all is swept before the Mongols and their pathetic little horses. All the way to Northern Europe. Incredible.

Maybe angelic state also needs self defence and good diplomacy skills against the uncivilised barbarians of unconventional warfare. Maybe we need to consider different ways of handling the modern day "Mongol invasion" that reaches to our hearth as it cannot be fought and won militarily. And when our feudal lord commands our men away on foolish skirmishes we can hide them locally, like before. I do admire Johnny for that.

And in all that keep our values intact. Much easier if we don't know what it is we lose ... or have already lost.

Cheers.

PS Someone mentioned the ANZAC, but what was the message left by our forefathers to remember? Why was it named the battle to remember, a failure, unlike recent victories of the time involved in?

I truly believe the message we were meant to remember was that only we Australians value the lives of Australians greatly enough to use them wisely in battle.

We have failed to remember, the loss was wasted at the first Abrams tank bought.

Angelic states

Angela, I posted something on this theme day before yesterday but it must have got lost in cyberspace. Just as well because since then I've made other possible connections.

My metaphor wasn't non-atheistic, it's just tnat I've always instinctively believed Darwinian theory too simplistic. An analogy I can make if you like is the Mandelbrot set, "the numbers of God", that possibly give mathematical reason for the forms we find in nature.

My original post was dismissive of the idea that the nurturing instinct could be responsible for our "humanity" (the most savage of animals have as strong instincts here as us), but subsequently remembered a feature of human evolution that might explain it. Human evoltion has been marked by increasing infantilism, the comparative size of our heads, the length of time it takes us to reach adulthood and other disproportions. We call our lovers "baby" and are attracted to the infants of most animals. The word "cute", Gaelic for small is another example. Maybe it's the infant we see in our fellows that brings out the nurturing instinct.

It might also explain the cause of paedophilia which as far as I'm aware is a phenomenon exclusive to humans.

All this stuff is very tenuous of course with no scholarship behind it, just food for thought.

Maybe the angelic state will be a permanent childhood.

thanks for the feminine perspective

Angela, thanks for the feminine perspective although I think you make too much of the nurturing instinct. It exists in the most savage and merciless of animals, being necessary for special survival.

Yes women do tend to be more sympathetic and tolerant and more power to them, there is a specific pathological reason for this. 

One thing I wanted to say last time but didn't is why "Australian" values? Are we assuming some kind of moral superiority? Because if we are then we should be aware that this is where discrimination and intolerance starts. I'd feel more comfortable with plain values. 

The force that I suggested need not be a spiritual one, I don't believe in anything other than physicality. If I can suggest an analogy, the Mandelbrot Set, "the numbers of God" possibly reveal mathematical reason for natural forms.

The Anzacs left no message for us; most blessed their luck in surviving, wanted nothing more to do with the bloody mess and got on with their lives a best they could. The message is a construct of later generations, especially the politicians.

Not, of course, Christianity according to Pat Robertson

Then there are "Christians" like Pat Robertson, who tell us Islam is satanic and Muslims "want to take over the world".

Some of his gems:

Evangelical broadcaster Pat Robertson said Monday on his live "700 Club" television program that Islam wants to take over the world and is not a religion of peace, and that radical Muslims are "satanic."

After watching a news segment about radical Islam in Europe, Robertson remarked that the outpouring of rage elicited by cartoon drawings of the Prophet Mohammed "just shows the kind of people we're dealing with. These people are crazed fanatics, and I want to say it now: I believe it's motivated by demonic power. It is satanic and it's time we recognize what we're dealing with."

Robertson also said that "the goal of Islam, ladies and gentlemen whether you like it or not, is world domination."

And this article has spread like wildfire all through the Middle East - just google and see.

(I do wonder what he would say if Jesus Christ was lampooned, though. Interesting thought. And obviously invading Muslim countries and suggesting the assassination of Chavez doesn't come into the equation at all.)

Hmm. So perhaps we'd better look at restoring Australia's values, and bringing back the "mateship" we've genuinely practised fairly well until recently from a non-Christian point of view.

After all, Robertson's belief system is listened to by a great many fundamentalists of the Christian variety. Bush would never have won office if he hadn't courted the fundies of America (around 38 million, I've read), and we have a few here too - much less vitriolic as a rule, but having come from a similar background, I know that these beliefs are held either benignly by "gentle" Christian fundies or militantly by those with a more black and white point of view.

One way or another, the Muslim faith is considered "of the devil". Not much chance for real "mateship" with a value system like that. The fact that the "Left Behind" series has been one of the most widely read set of books (honestly) says a fair bit. And no, I haven't read them, but I have read about them. Let's look at the books' main thesis. Muslims, or for that matter people of any other religious belief system, are definitely not going to be "raptured". And Armageddon does not sound like a whole lot of fun. Interesting, too, that the author plays a role in the Bush regime.

Rather, I tend to believe that doing to others what you would have them do to you is a fairly widespread belief system, and encompasses all religions, as well as humanists, agnostics and atheists.

Economic rationalism, the hatred engendered in the effort to get us into a war against Muslims, as well as a society that is tending to become rather self-centred, certainly doesn't engender the type of mateship that is inclusive no matter what the circumstances.

One day enough of us may realise that the only truly worthwhile thing we have done in our lives is to "love one another", or as Jesus Christ put it, to "love our neighbour as ourselves", remembering that this happens to include everyone on the planet. Until this ideal reaches critical mass, our politicians and our media will continue to encourage us to do otherwise and we will continue to believe them and this world will continue to be an unsafe place for us all.

Left to ourselves, I do believe we could do it. However, the persuasion to do otherwise is very strong at this particular time in history. If only we could get back to the core values our parents and grandparent held dear and ignore the pollies and the media, the events in Cronulla would never have gotten so out of control. Sure, we'd have had to learn to live with the "other", but we would have learned in our own space – not against today's ever-present background drumbeat of hatred and vengeance.

Boston Legal, Episode 19 - Closing Remarks

I was thinking about this whole "mateship" thing, and I came across this via an email from America. I've never watched Boston Legal. I don't even know if we get it here.

But episode 19 was pretty dramatic. The closing lines pretty much tell us that we won't say anything too loudly, whether it's about torture, government eavesdropping, the lies that led us to war, hating Muslims, whatever.

Why? Because they've got us so afraid we've started accepting things as they are, rather than daring to fight back.

I think the actors in this episode were very brave.

Go and watch the video. Here's a little of the transcript. Judge whether I may have a point.

Alan Shore's closing argument

Alan Shore: "When the weapons of mass destruction thing turned out to be not true, I expected the American people to rise up. Ha! They didn't.

Then, when the Abu Ghraib torture thing surfaced and it was revealed that our government participated in rendition, a practice where we kidnap people and turn them over to regimes who specialize in torture, I was sure then the American people would be heard from. We stood mute.

Then came the news that we jailed thousands of so-called terrorist suspects, locked them up without the right to a trial or even the right to confront their accusers. Certainly, we would never stand for that. We did.

And now, it's been discovered the executive branch has been conducting massive, illegal, domestic surveillance on its own citizens. You and me. And I at least consoled myself that finally, finally the American people will have had enough. Evidentially, we haven't.

In fact, if the people of this country have spoken, the message is we're okay with it all. Torture, warrantless search and seizure, illegal wiretappings, prison without a fair trial - or any trial, war on false pretenses. We, as a citizenry, are apparently not offended.

There are no demonstrations on college campuses. In fact, there's no clear indication that young people seem to notice."

More at the site. And it's no good saying "but that's America". We're in it too – up to our necks. The passing of the "anti-terror" laws made sure of that. Hardly a whimper as our rights were stripped away from us. And our capacity for compassion towards our fellow men, especially Muslims, has obviously decreased markedly.

Are we that afraid? I read once that it's not hate that is the opposite of love, but fear. Perhaps that's the truth.

Correct video site

As I truly believe the video I mentioned is worth viewing, and I noticed that when I clicked on the link provided it was dead, I suggest that you try this link: http://www.boston-legal.org/, and go to the right hand corner and click on the video.

When you watch it, keep in mind the "anti-terror" laws our goverment has imposed on us, and which were not even debated properly by Labor. We are following a similar path to the US.

Hamish: I fixed the link Daphne, but I'll leave this for the extra comment.

The origins of the war...

Daphne, "the hatred engendered in the effort to get us into a war against Muslims" - isn't this hatred primarily initiated and fomented by people like Bin Laden and Abu Bakar Bashir? In a well-known interview shown on SBS Bashir said that Islam indeed will take over the world and the only hope for Australia was to convert to Islam immediately. Maybe it was from interviews like that where the idiotic Robertson got his idea of Islam. If so it must have scared him to look in the mirror.

The Cronulla riot was primarily perpetrated by a bunch of boozed-up testosterone-crazed buffoons. They should all be thrown in jail. But the demonstration that preceded the riot seemed to me to be in response to violence perpetrated by Lebanese immigrants which was somehow connected in the minds of the demonstrators to Islamic terrorism. Go figure. But the burning of churches in retaliation did seem to add a religious element to the fray.

The 72 Virgins Show on Aljazeera

I don't suppose that Bashir might be an Islamic Pat Robertson (without the TV show of course), Mike? And that his mutterings might bear as much relationship to mainstream Islamic views as Robertson's do for all Christians?

I'm sure you would no more use a Robertson quote to illustrate mainstream Christian attitudes than fly, yet it seems OK to equate Bashir and Islam in that way.

No, it doesn't.

Bashir represents a radical strain of fundamentalist Islam. Robertson represents fundamentalist Christianity. I don't see all that much difference between them. Both show how stupid and potentially destructive religious beliefs can be, which is why we need more Danish cartoons and Monty Python movies.

Apologies

Mike, I'm sorry. I misread your post. That was, of course, exactly the point you were making.

We fear them, they fear us...

Mike, I'm sure Abu Bakar Bashir probably did say those things. But then who invaded Iraq, destroying its mosques along with at least 100,000 of its people, and causing chaos and devastation in an entire country?

You said about Pat Robertson: "...it must have scared him to look in the mirror". I agree. In fact I had meant to add something like that to my post, and forgot. Sort of like the pot calling the kettle black. Or passing one's shadow over to the other.

And I believe Robertson has much deeper reasons for "hating" the Muslims than that. He is extremely pro-Israel. Most fundies are. They can see no wrong with that country. Why? Because God told them in the Bible that at the end times the Jews would have their own country. That they did it by the usual Biblical means (killing and stealing other people's land) isn't an issue for them. But the Palestinians (Muslims) fighting back sure is.

Anyway, this whole "hating Muslims" craze follows the same theme, only on a national scale, as far as I can see. Let's face it. Until we invaded them, and we've been doing that since at least the beginning of the last century, we had no problem with Muslims. So some are fighting back now? Do you blame them?

Lucky for us, most Muslims are peaceful, practising their religion and believing that violence is not part of the Muslim faith.

They fear us and we fear them. No room for much love there, thanks to the politics of our day, planned by our leaders and foisted on us daily by a compliant media.

""they" blame "us" for what? making them rich??"

You have a warped view of the history of the Middle East, Daphne. I didn't support the Iraq invasion but the hatred of the West in people like Bin Laden (according to his own statements) goes way back before that. Back to the Crusades and the "tragedy of Andalucia" (when Spain was taken back from its Muslim conquerors) as well as September 11, 1689 when the Islamic armies attempting to take over Europe were finally defeated at the gates of Vienna. The main meddling of the West in the Middle East since then has to do with things like liberating the Arabs from the Ottomans, the UN establishing a homeland for the devastated Jewish people in a sparsely inhabited, desolate region that the Koran says Allah gave to them, and making the Saudis rich in exchange for western engineers finding and extracting the oil reserves beneath their desert wastelands. If it wasn't for the West, the Arab countries would have no power or influence whatsoever today.

So yes, I do indeed blame some of them for attacking the West, as on September 11 2001. The intent of those attacks was to kill as many infidels as possible and induce terror in us; it was not planned or carried out by any of our leaders. Finally, Israel deserves to exist irrespective of whether fundamentalist nutcases like Robertson support it.

Perhaps you have a warped view of "rich"???

Mike, there are some obscenely wealthy Middle Easterners - mostly in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. In those countries, more controlled by Western interests than others, the wealth of the upper class is extreme. The majority of Arabs have been dirt poor and will always remain dirt poor. It's interesting that the countries the west supports, and who are our "allies", such as Saudia Arabia, are by far the most repressive. In fact, the Sauds practise the Wahhabi sect of Islam, which of course is the fundie arm of the Muslim faith.

However Iraq was different. Interestingly, under Saddam Hussein the money from oil, which was state owned, was used to bring Iraq into the First World. I have elaborated on this in another post some time back. Their educational and medical facilities were superb. If you go back in history and read up on this, you will find that I am correct here.

Petrol was 1 or 2 cents per gallon until the invasion. Now Iraqis have to queue for hours - sometimes days - for the precious liquid, and someone is liquidating their academics to ensure that they never try to "get above themselves" again.

And we won't discuss the sanctions, as I'm sure they've been addressed on Webdiary before. However, when asked by a reporter whether the deaths of 500,000 children due to sanctions was worth it, Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State for the US at the time (and Jewish background), said "...yes, we think so...".

Then perhaps you could read up on the Vatican and the wars and mass genocides it has been involved in in many countries throughout the world. Perhaps you could start with the Ustashi of Croatia. Because they, too, are involved in the Middle East, starting with the Crusades.

You appear to understand Middle Eastern history from a Western point of view. I understood it was the Templars who invaded the Middle East in the first "Crusade", a word which Bush unwisely used again while talking up (lying about) the need for another Iraq invasion.

Have you read The Templars and the Assassins: The Militia of Heaven (Paperback) by James Wasserman? This book gives a more unbiased view of what these two "orders" were about, and therefore a better understanding of what exactly happened back then.

The Assassins fought back. It was their country. Apparently the carnage was dreadful. Were they wrong to fight back? Or do you believe the Western world should have cart blanche in the Middle East?

Then I have photos of my uncle, a WWII veteran, taken in Palestine during the war. Why were Aussies fighting in the Middle East in that war, if not for the oil under the ground? Was that our right?

And perhaps you didn't know that bin Laden was fighting WITH the US, helping get the "infidels" (Russians) out of Afghanistan. You could read Robert Fisk's account of his two interviews with bin Laden if you google a bit. Robert Fisk, as you may or may not know, lives in the Middle East and has been a journalist for The Independent, a London newspaper, for many, many years.

I also found it interesting that the Taliban had destroyed almost the entire poppy crops in Afghanistan before we invaded. Now, I understand it is back to full production, and being sent Europe and America. Australia too I suppose.  And of course you will know about the pipelines Halliburton is trying to get through that country.

As for 911, because of the different histories you and I have explored, it seems we have opposing views. Many historians, such as Howard Zinn of America, would say that what happened on that day could be regarded as payback for the devastation the west, and in particular the US at this time, has caused in the middle east. That is another version of history, and perhaps a valid one.

Howard Zinn, by the way, was a history teacher for many years. When he fully understood he was teaching a very biased and untrue version of history, he stopped teaching and started writing books. Perhaps that is another avenue you could explore.

A sense of perspective

Daphne, some people have a very narrow, rigid propaganda based view, often fixed by black/white limited understandings of issues, or wishing to understand issues. It is, however, a pleasure to read what you write – refreshing to see someone struggling with the actual facts upon the ground, crosschecked and confirmed and ignoring the ridiculous mantras repeated ad nauseam by those promoting ideology but not interested in seeking truth.

Unfortunately this is the modern day corporate media journalist. So once again those of us trained in history technique must do our own sleuthing as best we can. Have you noticed how so often it is the small paragraph that is the crucial piece of information that was missing?

Just as an aside, weren’t the Templars formed later, as a separate order like Opus Dei is today, as guardians of the pilgrim route, God’s bankers and protectors of Jerusalem (as the entire area was known)? Those castles built were amazing, clever Masons. I imagine, looking at the demise of the Templars and Knights Hospital, that if any of the order survived they would have been pretty peeved with the French Monarchy and corrupt papacy of the time. How nice of the Brits not to hand theirs over too. Would love to visit Cyprus.

I read, before the Dan "Brown" book, an excellent historical account of the saga, but cannot find it just now amongst the library some may cruelly call mess of books here.

The hypocrisy of our leadership is mind-blowing, and the mistakes made have been infuriating. If one is going to do something bad do it well so it causes the least harm!

When they gabble on about Afghanistan and the opium it is so tragic that someone doesn’t just slap them as a bunch of hypocritical liars. As you say, Taliban rule meant no warlord opium crop for moral and pragmatic reasons (no funding other armies).

And now, as you say, it is ripping along, the NATO assessment having just stated it may take 20 years to stop the growing of the crop. Bullshit, the Taliban did it in less than 5 years. No "will" to do it. No control over the areas, no courage to take on warlords/criminals, no spine to cut one's own profits. The East India company methods strike again.

Iraq today is a perfect example of the hypocrisy of our leadership, claiming such moral high ground yet just as mired in the filth of atrocity as those replaced.

Terrorism? Was it not the US who rearmed Mek after the fall of Baghdad, and acknowledged terrorist groups, ah but OUR terrorist group? And the Brits caught red-handed doing deeds other nations are condemned for unto war, known as terrorism, in both Basra and Southern Iran?

And the torture, murders, destruction, civilian toll uncounted, Vichy government imposed, terrorists unchecked and reprisals unstopped by the newly armed militias, all dressed as a new Liberty? I wonder if the average Iraqi would prefer water, electricity, security, food, and education that they had previously.

You are also quite correct about Iraq pre-sanctions according to UN stats. I have met quite a few educated females and males from that time. Highest literacy and women's freedom in the area apparently. Of course, not so good for you if you try to topple or assassinate the president, especially if in a conspiracy or supported by agents from the west. Expect the worst.

However, to put it in perspective, we are talking of the Middle East and even now ruthless regimes abound in that area, some frequently using their military against civilians in punishment for deeds of people of their ethnic group in seeking independence. We Americans/Australians actually arm and fund such regimes, and vote in the UN to block criticism of their nefarious deeds.

Often those in the dock should be surrounded by a horde of fellow evil doers...

Cheers.

Daphne, even more warped than I thought

Daphne, your view of history is even more warped than I previously thought. The most repressive regimes in the Middle East are Iran and Saudi Arabia; only the latter can be considered an "ally", but it is really more of a traditional trade partner of necessity.

The notorious response by Albright has been explained by her as a response just to the issue of sanctions, not to the disputed death count figure.

The "glories" of Saddam's Iraq you describe are disputable but perhaps were kind of like the glories of pre-war Nazi Germany.

In any case I didn't support the invasion of Iraq in part because I feared the ultimate result, a repressive Islamic state, might be just as bad or worse. Bin Laden despised the US even when accepting weapons from the US in order to defeat the atheistic infidels of the USSR. Victory there not surprisingly emboldened him to turn on the US as his next infidel target.

The US did not "devastate" the Middle East before 9/11, that is complete and utter rubbish. Finally, if you think the 9/11 attacks were in any sense justified, then you are beyond hope and there is no further point in discussing the issue with you. That would be kind of like arguing against the notion that the Holocaust was justified because it was regarded as justified from the Nazi's point of view (and that of many Arabs and Persians too, apparently) - a waste of my time.

I would suggest that you, as well as any others interested, read the statement of condemnation of fundamentalist Islam, its Nazi-like goals, and its terrorism, signed by well-known Islamic moderates and published in today's Australian in the "cut and paste" part of the opinion section (though unfortunately not yet on their website). Interesting that they forcefully take a "no excuses" position on such attitudes and behaviour. About time.

Exactly which opinion is warped?

Mike, thanks for the compliments... You say:

Daphne, your view of history is even more warped than I previously thought. The most repressive regimes in the Middle East are Iran and Saudi Arabia; only the latter can be considered an "ally", but it is really more of a traditional trade partner of necessity.

And that, of course, explains the photo of George Bush holding hands with the prince at his ranch. Hmmmmm? And talking of values, should "necessity" be an excuse for having an "ally" from a terrorist regime?

You say:

The notorious response by Albright has been explained by her as a response just to the issue of sanctions, not to the disputed death count figure.

Here are the exact words used.

"We Think the Price Is Worth It"
Media uncurious about Iraq policy's effects- there or here

By Rahul Mahajan

Lesley Stahl on US sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it.

--60 Minutes (5/12/96)

That was found with a quick google search. This was the first article I found.

You say:

The "glories" of Saddam's Iraq you describe are disputable but perhaps were kind of like the glories of pre-war Nazi Germany.

Actually, the “glories” I mentioned are indisputable. It is a fact that Hussein brought Iraq into the first world, with free compulsory education for both sexes (a pretty marvellous feat in the Middle East, don't you think?), free medical service, cheap petrol, and an overall decent standard of living. He also grew more withdrawn and egomaniacal with time, in part due to the constant meddling of the US, via the CIA, and the problems with the Shia - which have been aided and abetted by Iran for a very long time.

You say:

In any case I didn't support the invasion of Iraq in part because I feared the ultimate result, a repressive Islamic state, might be just as bad or worse. Bin Laden despised the US even when accepting weapons from the US in order to defeat the atheistic infidels of the USSR. Victory there not surprisingly emboldened him to turn on the US as his next infidel target.

Are you saying you actually would have supported invasion by a superpower of a small country which did not have WMD and was not causing harm to its neighbours? Really? What right do you have to say what is right and wrong in another country, to which I presume you have never been?

You say:

The US did not "devastate" the Middle East before 9/11, that is complete and utter rubbish.

Do you really not know what the US did to Iraq during Desert Storm? I guess you've heard that they went straight for the facilities this time around. Well, they did that last time too. Sewerage, water, electricity, bridges, everything that is important for a modern nation to survive. Then the sanctions were so difficult that two UN people resigned their jobs in disgust. One was Dennis Halliday, who has spoken often against the sanctions. And did you realise that it was the US who enforced these horrific sanctions? Please do a bit of reading, or it's really not worth discussing this.

You say:

Finally, if you think the 9/11 attacks were in any sense justified, then you are beyond hope and there is no further point in discussing the issue with you. That would be kind of like arguing against the notion that the Holocaust was justified because it was regarded as justified from the Nazi's point of view (and that of many Arabs and Persians too, apparently) - a waste of my time.

Nothing like 9/11 could ever be "justified". However, many countries around the world had cause to hate the US enough to want to do something there. As I said, read Howard Zinn, or perhaps William Blum for a blow by blow account of the US's interference in many countries around the world.

You say:

I would suggest that you, as well as any others interested, read the statement of condemnation of fundamentalist Islam, its Nazi-like goals, and its terrorism, signed by well-known Islamic moderates and published in today's Australian in the "cut and paste" part of the opinion section (though unfortunately not yet on their website). Interesting that they forcefully take a "no excuses" position on such attitudes and behaviour. About time.

Muslims as a people abhor violence, whether by the US against them or by the jihadists in retaliation. I am aware of that. As for Nazi-like goals, really, I think the best place to look is America at this point in time. And you can look that one up in google and find a great many articles. Many Americans believe they are heading for a police state - just as some here are wondering about Australia since the "anti-terror" laws brought in recently.

I think maybe your problem is that you see history through the victor's eyes – at the moment, through the eyes of the west.

Perhaps some other journalists who could help you understand another side to this would be Robert Fisk and John Pilger. And yes, I know Pilger is a "leftie". But at least he goes and checks his stories out for himself. Read Pilger on the sanctions against Iraq. Or Ramsey Clarke, a former US Attorney-General. He went to Iraq when the sanctions were on. I have a video he made there, hoping to help people at home to understand the tragedy that was unfolding there.

And I would ask you to please read up your history using different sources than those the US provides before accusing me of having a "warped" idea of history.

And now, let's get back on track. Is Australia still a country where "mateship" is important? I happen to think so, but I am sorry to see that we are starting to judge "the other", and rather than admitting to our own (or our nation's) shadows, many are finding it easier to accuse other nations of absolute evil, while believing that we, I guess, with fearless leaders like Bush, Blair and Howard, are doing our very best to help them find "democracy". Bombing will work every time, of course.

God what rubbish.

I'm flying off to Turkey in a few hours, Daphne, so I won't be able to respond with the degree of detail I would like, but here's a few comments.

I recently spent several months in America and I can assure you that it is not a "police state." I don't like some of the laws there, but for example, their laws against gay marriage are a far cry from Sharia where gays must be executed simply for being gay (and such executions are common in Iran; recently in Iraq, Shia leader Ayatollah Sistani has called for gays and lesbians to be executed in the most painful way possible - as I quoted on another recent thread).

We agree that Bush is an idiot and that the Iraq war was not justified; I presented many arguments against it in this very forum when the invasion was being debated. But Saddam is a psychopath and his atrocities cannot all be blamed on US "meddling" in his affairs. As for Albright, I read an interview where she explained her response to that infamous exchange you quoted, and that was what I was referring to: again, she claims she was not responding to the exaggerrated figure stated in the question, only to the need for sanctions.

As to your presumptions, you presume a lot that is wrong; I have travelled extensively all over the world including the Islamic world. In fact, in a few hours I'm flying off to Turkey of all places. I think there are universal standards of right and wrong that many of us can recognize.

For example, the case I just heard about on ABC radio where an Afghani is likely to be executed simply for changing his religious beliefs violates a basic standard of freedom of belief. Wouldn't you agree that we should all be free to decide for ourselves on issues such as religious belief? And that this poor man deserves such freedom, simply because he is human, irrespective of his culture?

I never knew that the 9/11 attacks were revenge for the first Gulf War, Daphne. That's a surprising new theory I haven't heard before. And why the scare quotes around "justified"? You seem to be characterising the problem of Islamic terrorism as a "clash of civilisations" with your "US attacks on Muslims and vice-versa" dichotomy; is that really how you see the world today? There are more Muslims living in the US than in Jordan and Yemen combined.

If you would like to live as a woman in a Muslim society, try it some time. My wife did, as did her best friend. The stories they have to tell are not pretty. Finally, what "sources the US provides" are you referring to? I've read many articles by Pilger and Fisk in American newspapers, for chrissakes.

5 million, not 1.5 million

Gosh I'm messing up with these figures! I meant to say 5 million, not 1.5 million. I'd better get going! See you all online again in a few weeks.

Hamish: Awww. We'll miss ya mate.

correction

"There are more Muslims living in the US today..." is incorrect. For US citizens (according to a quick search) the figure is about 1.5 million Muslims, well less than the population of Jordan (5 million) alone, much less Yemen. So I retract my previous remark. (The previous remark was from an estimate that included non-citizens, and I misread it.)

Iranian professor debunks islamic stereotypes by the mythmakers

Daphne, further to your description of the status of women in Saddam era in Iraq, it was quite a coincidence that just then I heard an interview with an Iranian expat now living in the UK, describing the conditions as the best in all of the Middle East as far as rights and employment and education.

The audio can be heard here.

A fascinating interview with Professor Halef Afshar debunks many of the Islamic and Iraqi myths we have been hearing from those inclined to stererotype about the impact of both upon women.

Cheers.

"their" values:

Iraqi cleric wants gays killed in "most severe way"

In the midst of sectarian violence that threatens to drag Iraq into civil war, the country's influential Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has issued a violent death order against gays and lesbians on his Web site, according to London-based LGBT human rights groups OutRage.

Written in Arabic, the fatwa comes from a press conference with the powerful religious cleric, where he was asked about the judgment on sodomy and lesbianism. “Forbidden,” Sistani answered, according to OutRage, “Punished, in fact, killed. The people involved should be killed in the worst, most severe way of killing.”

Mates

The Australian values “of mateship and a fair go for all” is failing in this globalized world.

See here:

“In the 90s, it was all meant to be different. There was debt cancellation (though not enough), a peace dividend from the end of the cold war, and much lower interest rates. The WTO was formed, to promote free trade in the name of growth, not least, if the rhetoric is to be believed, in developing countries. And developing countries should have been enjoying the hard-won rewards for their sacrifices in the name of "structural adjustment" programmes imposed by the IMF, the World Bank and creditor governments. If economic orthodoxy is to be believed, everything in the development garden should have been lovely.

The reality is very different. Not only was global growth even slower than in the 70s and 80s, and far below the 60s, but the share of the poor in the benefits of growth actually fell by nearly three-quarters. So, the share of the poor in the benefits of growth was not only microscopic to begin with, but has fallen dramatically; and their share in the environmental costs of growth is large, and increasing. How, then, can global growth be a solution - let alone the solution – to global poverty? And if growth doesn't provide an answer, then what is the alternative?”

A trap we have fallen into, I believe, is that the rich want to get richer, and are constantly encouraged to do just that. So the gap between rich and poor continues to widen.

“Economists say that growth, like a rising tide lifts all boats. They ask why share the cake more evenly when we can bake a bigger one? But now sea levels really are rising, as a result of global warming driven by the pollution from economic growth. And millions of the poor have no boats to rise in. And the massed ranks of orthodox economists have yet to find the ingredients, or even a recipe, to bake a spare planet to share among the world's population.”

We really have to broaden our definition of “mate” is should include everyone now that we live in a global village.  How can we be happy if our “mates” are living in poverty? We need to share our wealth with our “mates”. We should not kill our “mates” in war. When our “mates” knock at our door we should greet them as “mates”, offering our hand in friendship.

Yes our Australian value of mateship is great, all we need do is be more inclusive in who we call “mates”.

Cronulla

Good summary, George.

After viewing the antics of the dumbed-down semi-literates on both sides who participated in the Cronulla antic on Four Corners, I'd love to get my claws around the throats of some of the irresponsible idiots in politics and tabloid media who dog-whistled up this trouble.

Hard to disagree, But

Dear George,

It is hard to disagree with much of what you have written.  I did fail to follow some of your thoughts as I felt they hindered or confused your basic premise.  A premise I believe Christians call, "being Christian".  Please allow me to immediately agree that this is I believe a common phenomenon of civilisations.  I would go so far as to argue that our lives have always depended on it.  Put differently our personal security as always relied on trusting others and the best way to foster trust has always been to receive help and to help others.  It is not hard therefore to assume that trust is earned and begins with small gestures.  To worry about encouraging such actions is in my mind pointless.  People either do, and they live healthier lives, or they don't and they suffer.  Do you need to promote such, I hardly think so,  especially given it is usually better to lead by example anyway.

Unfortunately some people need to learn this, but most do not as survival is innate. What I think you have failed to understand is that life becomes a choice of who you go out of your way to begin a relationship of trust with.  Where do you focus your energies?  I believe Western Society has become a little confused.  In my opinion, the best and most natural place to focus your energies is on the future.  In human terms, that is on the children.  If a society is able to build nothing but strength on it's youth it is inherently stronger than one that fails this task.

You may ask where the problem is in this.  Well, given we all have finite levels of energy, we unfortunately have to deal with reality.  We can not help all children equally, as an individual, so we make choices.  Natural choices.  God forbid we help our own first.  This breeds inequality, as we are not all equal by the time we reach this epiphany.  We may be born equal, but as we mature out of our childhood innocence we have been cast our lot in life and our inherent gifts.  Gifts that we have the right to determine what to do with.  All the good intentions in the world can not redress this fact of nature, no matter how much Western Society has tried in the last 200 years.

God help us all.

Decency is the norm, good mannered criminals are still criminals

Ideals that few would disagree with. As Mr Matafonov describes, it becomes tricky when one's own interests are threatened by the other person. If one sticks to Christian theory one should then give them assistance even if they are in competition. The "give him your coat " parable. Yet then one becomes like the "happy traveller" who gave to everyone and in doing so was destroyed. But he was happy.

I wonder if we could consider other New Testament lines, like the mote in your eye and all that before we accept moral guidance from this government as to how to relate to our neighbours. How has our government related to our international neighbours?

And as long as we are a part of this and worse, how can we really cover such pus with sugar?

We are how we behave. Presently, international criminals. Clean up this act and then we can "create a society where decency is the norm again".

Cheers.

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