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Beyond Pandora

Beyond simple curiosity, this is Thinking Too Much. If you're interested in philosophy and/or wild theories, you've come to the right place.

Location: Australia

Paddling somewhere between a mad scientist and an organisational artist. Indecisive, inconsistent and often incoherent.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004


Does it scare anyone else (Americans, English, Australians), that we have become 'the opposing army'? My God, we are actually targets!

I warn myself not to drop into complete paranoia, but honestly, this scares me. Why on earth did we (Australia) agree to join this war in the first place? Out of loyalty to America? It seems to me like the blind led the blind in this scenario.

The source of this personal crisis is Andrew Denton's latest interview with a journalist (the one journalist?) who is living in amongst the terrorists and understands perhaps more than anyone else in the Western world how these people think and act. He suggested that we should take the threats to Australia very seriously. I didn't notice these threats. I feel dangerously unobservant.

Perhaps the worst feeling is that there is precious little I can do to help these matters, except perhaps vote Labor in order to take John Howard (a name well-known in among Iraq's more dangerous residents) out of the public eye. 'For his own protection'. It would make me feel better.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Democracy's Hypocritic

(Today's menu includes: 'George Bush vs. Michael Moore', 'The Secret World of Bush', 'Problems with Australian Democracy', and 'Hypothetical Democracies')

Democracy as we know it today terrifies me.
I'm serious. It absolutely terrifies me.
It is disgusting the way we choose to have our lives run.
I am writing, of course, of the way Bush has run America, but also of my struggle with politics here in Australia.


Bush. You may be used to hearing rantings about how ignorant and unthinking he is by now, and I've recently been subject to a few very convincing cases. Firstly, through Michael Moore's book, "Dude, where's my country?", which my older brother suggested I read while I stayed with him in Brisbane. I am rather distrustful of Michael Moore himself, firstly because of the sudden media attention and secondly because of his light-hearted, almost comedic presentation of the issue (though I admit it's a good marketing tool and would help less dedicated readers get through the tome).
Michael Moore's began with his denouncement of Bush as a reliable character. Part of his case is that Bush's family had links to the Bin Laden family - through business deals and various political figures. One section mentions how in the days following 9/11, the government had a plane gather up members of the Bin Laden family and take them out of the country. "For their own protection," Bush claimed, which was understandable. "But why didn't someone question them?" Michael Moore asks, which is also a fair question.
The next part of the book details the fact that there were no weapons of mass destruction, or biological or chemical weapons, and that Saddam Hussein had no links whatsoever to Bin Laden or Al-Qaida - that in fact, the two leaders couldn't stand each other; Bin Laden described Saddam as an 'infidel'.
These facts were mind-blowing for me at the late stages of those cold nights - and I'm almost certain that they're true, what with the overwhelming detail Michael Moore has entered into. In truth, I was lost wading through detail relating to quite a few matters of which I have no previous knowledge or interest.
The emotions it raised in me were outrage and disgust. How could the all-powerful American government know these things, and yet go ahead and declare war on Iraq?

(Later edit: The morning after I wrote this, I saw an interview on 'Mornings with Kerri-Anne' on the subject of Michael Moore's latest documentary. It was Kerri-Anne herself who said that the problem she had with Michael Moore was that he never once interviewed the victims of Saddam Hussein, or talked about all the horrible things he'd done. I realised that this is why I felt that I was missing something when I read his book.)


Some of the details of the higher politics were displayed on SBS just this evening, in a program called 'The Cutting Edge: The World According To Bush'. This program firstly revealed George Bush as a religious man - I would say dangerously so, although he is part of a conservative group. He, apparently, was a heavy drinker/carouser during his youth in Texas, until he had a 'vision of God', in which God told him to prepare himself, because there was work for him to do. Bush reformed himself, turned over a new leaf, and remains to this day convinced that he is personally called to do the work of God.
He had assistants/advisors in his religious matters, so the program goes. Two men I can't recall the names of (though they were repeated many, many times), who are presented as having a great influence over the President's decisions, even though they have no specific role within the White House, etc.
The White House itself had prayer sessions, Bible readings and Bible study sessions. Around that time I got scared.
So the story goes that whatever religion these guys belong to (Zionists? Born-again Christians?) has a heavy alliance with Israel; they believe that that heaven would be achieved through Israel, and that if Israel were overrun by… 'the infidel' is the phrase that pops into my mind, but that may be from the Bin Laden/Hussein thing… if Israel is overrun, then we will all go to hell. Now if these guys are saying that the people of Israel have to win the war in order for us to all be saved, that is some very freaky shit, and I want nothing to do with it.
The story continues along the lines of 'in order to help Israel, we must get rid of Hussein and reform the Middle East'. Then comes the talk of 9/11 being used as an excuse to break out into this war on Iraq. Which certainly makes more sense than any other excuse I've heard (e.g., WMD, oil…)
One of the moments that struck me most was when a journalist said, (in my own words) "If George Bush had gone in that day and spoken of the faults in America's defences, of peace and diplomacy, and of the need for calm, rational thought, he would have been signing his own resignation." Now that hurts. It is understandable, and that makes it worse.
Then there's the big WMD search. The UN official who went in and continued to find no evidence whatsoever was viciously attacked by the White House until he just gave up and went home. A man selected by the White House - a man who was a friend of the Bush family - made his own investigation, with the same findings, and his report, along with the reports of many others, was simply ignored. The President reported that the findings had clearly indicated that there WERE weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And sent the world to war.
I was most impressed by the one man (aged 85?) who stood up and denounced the government for its outrageous accusations and disgusting conduct. He had also been a close friend of the Bush family. I am now very interested in information about this man (Robert Byrd), and especially what the repercussions were for Mr. Byrd's critical opinion.
And one thing that impressed me about this TV program was that it had statements from everyone it mentioned. They interviewed the two men identified as Bush's advisors (who, of course, calmly denied their influence over Bush). They had a man from the CIA, a former advisor to President Reagan, the man who had conducted the inspections on behalf of the UN, the man who had conducted the inspections on behalf of the US. There were media spokespersons and journalists and historians and a Harvard man (a political analyst I assume). Compared to Michael Moore's book of quotes, it was stunning to hear the words straight from the speakers. It made the case so much more believable.

The second part of the program is on next week, Tuesday, SBS, at 8:30.


There are a few reasons why I don't like the way things are running here in Australia.
Firstly, the situation is ridiculous. When it comes down to it, there are two political powers to choose from. What the hell do you do if you can't stand either of them?
Take the issue of Australia's involvement in Iraq:
On the one hand, John Howard and the Liberal party supported the decision to go to war in the first place. No questions asked - not of America, and not of the Australian people. Labor was against it, so I lean towards them.
On the other hand, Mark Latham and Labor want to bring the Australian troops back from Iraq. This is also stupid. "We" helped to make a complete mess of Iraq, so "we" should do our best to clean it up. If I'm not helping personally, I want to know that my government is finding people that will.
So Labor was against the war and against helping Iraq. Liberal supported the war but also want to help make it better. Why the hell can't there be a powerful party that was against the war but want to help clean up anyway?


I don't like democracy in general, because the values of any one person or group of people are never an accurate representation of the values of the majority of the population. And if the decisions are only ever made by a particular person or group, you get things like the Iraq war.
How can a democracy be 'for the people, by the people' when you interrupt the process by forcing people to conform to a particular set of beliefs? (E.g., decide between two political parties that both do inexcusable things, and will continue to do inexcusable things, because you had to vote for one or the other.) There needs to be some way that the people can decide for themselves what direction they want their country to go.

Here's are a few ideas of possible ways to improve democracy:

 - Somehow introduce a third powerful political party. Hopefully, each party would start to present well thought out standpoints, rather than the present system, in which the group may choose to go against the other party's decision simply because it is the other party's decision. Without clear-cut yes-no arguments, surely government would become more effective?
This arrangement could also force each party to team up with another in order to win their case. This would mean that party relations would have to improve - you can't exactly insult a group relentlessly and then turn around to join with them.
 - Taxpayers decide which areas they want to send their taxes, and the government decides what to do with it within those areas. The government can allocate the remaining tax money (because there will always be people who can't be bothered) to other projects.
 - Citizens vote on every issue. EVERY issue. Except that this sounds incredibly impractical. Even if only the people who were affected by the decision had to vote, that would still be very impractical, wouldn't it?
 - Perhaps, when the political party in charge makes a decision that the voters completely disagree with, the people can actually overrule the government's decision by majority vote.
 - The people vote for the cabinet members - those who represent a particular issue or set of issues.

These suggestions may all sound crazy, but I'd like to hear why they wouldn't work. I'd love to hear any of your own ideas, as well. Democracy, people: Let your voice be heard!

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Random Thoughts: Disconnected

I've recently come back from a trip to my capital city and boy, what a strange time that was! You couldn't really call it a holiday, as we spent most of the time travelling from place to place in order to catch up with various relatives. For someone like me who gets travel sickness (intense nausea and but no throwing up as yet), it was not a fun time.

What did happen, though, was a lot of unexpected thinking.


I spent one day with a friend from school. We arranged to meet in the huge mall in the middle of the city, and I ended up catching a bus into the city and hoping to catch another one out again. Having no knowledge of bus schedules, bus stops, or even any knowledge of the city itself, this was a fairly daunting task. During both trips I wondered how I would know when to get off - which stop was the right one?
Of course, this got me thinking about what I could do if I had gotten off at the wrong stop. Now that I think about it, that particular problem could be easily overcome - if i got off at the wrong stop, I'd wait there for the next bus, and continue on.
No, my real fear was being lost in the city. As I said before, I had no knowledge of the city itself, and very little sense of direction. I do not own a mobile phone - though throughout that day I found myself realising just how handy they could be. If I got lost, my only hope would be to find a payphone somewhere. Well, I could also have gone into strange buildings and/or stopped strange people and asked to use a phone.
I successfully transferred my nerves to other problems for most of the day, but it was later on, in the evening, when I was waiting at a smallish shopping centre for my family to pick me up on the way home, that I felt the most freaked out.

I felt disconnected from everything and everyone I knew. And, physically, I was.
My family were only accessible through a payphone that digested my coins at an alarming rate. Even once I'd called, I knew where they were but not which direction they were (so I couldn't take myself to where they were). I had the small security that they would be coming to get me, but the family members with the car were in a different place to the members with the phone, so I had no idea when this rescue might happen.
I knew few people in the city, and even fewer phone numbers. My home was roughly 600-700 kilometers from the shopping center, as were my friends, my bed, my all-important computer, and the rest of my life as I'd known it.

I panicked in a vague, uncertain way that crept up on me in while wandering through the shopping centre. It simmered while I browsed through a book store, made a purchase and browsed again; it struck first while I was looking at CDs (I would have bought at least two CDs if I hadn't suddenly felt so insecure); I moved quickly outside, sat on a bench and read a hundred pages of the action novel I'd just bought, after which I felt rather giddy and made the call (misjudging the time forty cents would buy me and having to call again) to the family members who lacked the car at that point.
Then my mind went into 'sideways' mode.
I fidgeted out of the book's hold, toyed with my digital camera, took photos of the flagpoles above me (both with and without the flash), and found myself standing on the bench in order to get a better shot of the orange-outlined tree-shadow cast across the carpark. Next I made a guess at the coins in my wallet, hurried through the shopping center trying to find an ATM I'd seen earlier, failed to notice it when I passed as I had become fascinated by the designs on the ceiling, caught a long-forgotten song from the overhead speakers and sang it to myself, located the ATM and withdrew $100, moved to the nearest fast food store and bought some chips, dropped the change while I waited for them, and, on my way back to the phone, was intercepted by my mother in the car.

If I hadn't been fidgeting so much, I would certainly have had some interesting interior monologue. As it was, the thoughts that managed to penetrate to my conscious mind were divided between the terror of having nothing but myself, and the associated unstable exhiliration at the possibility of creating my life and my self anew in this unknown world.

I wish I'd pursued that line of thinking while the experience had me in its hold, instead of pursuing that elusive ATM.