My first time

It happened. I’d heard people talk about it, in writing groups and elsewhere, but had never felt the emotion that overtakes when it happens to you.

The other day, a friend of mine rang me up and said; “Guess what? Your book isn’t in the book-store.”

“Of course not,” I replied. Patience, dear friend, patience.

“No, you don’t understand. I asked if they had it and they told me it had been sold.”

“Well are they going to get some more in?” I finally retorted.

But the feeling inside was one of wanting to jump out of my skin. My book? Sold? Like…wow!

I heard a story recently from another writer who told me that she went into a book-store not for one minute expecting to find her very own book on the bookshelves. But that’s exactly what happened. She picked it up, took it to the man behind the counter, and said;

“This is my book.”

And he replied;

“Not until you pay for it.”

There are many more stories very similar I could pass on, but the essence of the story is that no matter how many books you have published, the feeling of seeing your book on the shelves of a book-store will never fade.

It’s the passion we feel in actually writing the book that contributes to the sentiment we feel in seeing it bought. The process is a hard one, as I know only too well. But if it wasn’t hard, then why would we bother? And the old line never falters that hard work never hurt anyone. Besides, the harder it is, the better we feel.

So my first time is over. There’ll be a second – and a third. But I only wish I could have seen the expression on my face when my buddy called to tell me the good news. I guess the strength of feeling contributes to the quality of the manuscript. If we didn’t feel strongly we wouldn’t try hard. And if we didn’t try hard our chances of succeeding would be slim indeed.

If you wish to purchase my first publication, click here:-

http://www.zeus-publications.com/prism%20-%20an%20anthology.htm

NB: If outside of Australia, ‘Prism’ is available at all good on-line bookstores.

Writing groups

If you’re a writer one thing you ought to do is join as many writer’s groups as you have the time for. Mostly they meet once a month, so if you fit three or four into your busy schedule then it might be helpful in so many different ways.

For a start, they are all different, with different formats, agendas, and members. Some are non-critical, in other words, are based on the power of positive thinking. ‘That was great’, they’ll say, even if it may not have been your best work. And there’s room for that.

Others will assess your work, if you’re game enough to allow that to happen. Without having others assess or critique your work how on earth are you to know if it’s any good? It seems to be a vital part of the process, a role that is needed so you know whether your manuscript is ripe for alteration or ready for submission.

And there are others who will call in a guest speaker each month to talk on various topics, from research to publishing, from submissions to poetic license.

All groups serve their purpose, and mixing and matching between groups is most likely going to give you a well-rounded outlook. Speaking in front of a crowd, listening to your work being assessed, and contributing in a room full of strangers can do nothing but general good to you as a person, writer and, hopefully (one day), published author.

So join writing groups where you live and you’ll likely find they will have nothing if not a positive influence on your road to publication.

The Sepulchre

The sepulchre of the sentiment

That stands beside the Seine

The green seeds of the linden tree

That captivate your name

 

Away, be gone, that sentiment

In place, another, quite unknown

A surreptitious sentiment

One rushes to disown

 

You have no place standing there

Where Charlie reigned supreme

There’s no welcome mat at my door

So stay away from me

 

My river greets those of like-mind

With a smile and a cry

For granted, take not what we have

To you, a lullaby

 

The sepulchre of the sentiment

Reminds, of those who won’t grow old

That surreptitious sentiment

Be gone – protect the fold

 

 

Postscript: In memory of all those innocent civilians who have died in terrorist acts of violence

With gritted teeth – the Australian Federal Election

“With gritted teeth.”

That’s how one Liberal Party member described the way voters should approach the ballot box on Polling Day. Come 2nd July and the voting public of Australia had other ideas. At time of writing, votes are still being counted in a number of seats. The final result will not be known until week’s end, at the earliest.

The Australian federal election has just been run. We don’t have anything like hanging chads, we just have a short piece of paper, a very long piece of paper, and a pencil. Once complete, our votes go into two separate ballot boxes that look like they’d break down at the first touch. But they don’t. The system works. The volunteers do a sterling job. And democracy is the sure winner.

Malcolm Turnbull, who took over the leadership of the Liberal Party in a leadership spill nine months earlier, could have been described as over-confident in his exuberance on Polling Day. It seemed clear to him, in particular, but to all and sundry, in general, that the government would be returned, some said with a small majority, others thought comfortably.

Everyone was proved wrong.

Neither major party was able to get more than forty-one percent of the primary vote. Put the major parties together and they only obtained a little over seventy-five percent of the vote. The voting public thought both parties were ‘on the nose,’ devoid of leadership ability, not speaking to them, speaking over them.

The Prime Minister was referred to as ‘The Great Communicator,’ a term used often to describe Ronald Reagan. This election proved him to be ‘The Great Ex-Communicator.’ The look on his face in the early hours of Sunday morning as he faced his supporters from behind the lectern was one of anger, frustration, and contempt for what had just happened. It looked like he thought the people of Australia did not appreciate what he had done for them, did not appreciate his great leadership skills.

It took him the better part of three days to deliver the speech he should have delivered on election night, his ‘mea culpa’ speech. The volunteers were not recognised, his opponents were not recognised, and the members of his party that had just lost their seat to a minor-party backlash were not mentioned. Words used to describe the speech included ‘lousy,’ ‘pathetic,’ and others unable to be printed here.

The question on everyone’s lips was; ‘why?’

There was clearly a conservative ‘revolt’ against the Prime Minister’s leadership. Mr. Turnbull comes from the ‘moderate’ faction of the party and his ability to disenchant those on the right began with his leadership spill of Tony Abbott, the former Liberal Party leader and Prime Minister. From the same party but opposing factions, their views were differing in many ways – on issues such as the republic, gay marriage, even whether or not Australia was ‘invaded’ or ‘colonised.’

The attitude of the moderates, though, was that the conservatives could not vote for a minor party, they could not vote for the Labor Party, a union-backed political organisation as old as Federation. In fact, in their view, they had no-where to go.

The abrasiveness of this attitude was clear for all to see. And the fact was it was foolish, for the disaffected conservatives did have somewhere to go – from One Nation to Family First to the Christian Democrats to the Liberal Democrats to the Australian Liberty Alliance – take your pick.

And, in fact, this was proved to be the case as the numbers were counted and the votes started coming in. In 1951, 2.5 percent of the voting public voted for minor parties. By 1975, the figure was 7.5 percent. With eighty percent of the vote counted, in 2016 the percentage was 23.2. Over the last four federal elections, those voting for minor parties had risen from fourteen percent to eighteen percent to twenty-one percent to almost one-quarter of all votes tallied.

I call that a trend, and a significant trend at that. But do those voters believe that the major parties are not for them or have they just ‘parked’ their vote there until they like what they hear – from the Prime Minister, the Opposition Leader, and so on?

In Australia this week many commentators are saying that the major parties and their leaders have lost touch with their voter base, they are arrogant, over-confident, speak down to the voters, question decisions made at the ballot box, and have an inability to discuss real issues, from job security to pension entitlements, from securing our defences to gay marriage, from freedom to associate to securing our borders against potential terror threats.

Enter Donald Trump. Enter Brexit. Enter Pauline Hanson.

Ms. Hanson is back in the Senate after an eighteen year hiatus. Back then she was well known for her declaration that ‘Australia is being swamped by Asians.” Now she wants a Royal Commission into Islam. But she speaks a lot of sense. Even sitting, watching her on talk shows this past few days I’ve caught myself nodding my head as she speaks about job security, about climate change, about the Coalition being the best party to lead this country to economic health and well-being.

In essence, people like Ms. Hanson say what a lot of people out there are thinking. She’s just got the guts to stand for public office. That’s democracy!

Couple that with commentators descriptions of major parties as tired, unrepresentative, with little idea what they stand for, no understanding of what they really offer the voting public, plus the regular infighting the major parties carry on with, and how can one be surprised at the ascendancy of minor parties as a way for voters to express their displeasure?

In Australia over the past four and a half years we have had five Prime Ministers; Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd (again), Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull. This seems to reflect an ‘Europeanisation’ of Australian federal politics. Is it here to stay?

I think not. What is required is a leader who can speak to the people, not above them, who sees themself as first among equals, who can speak the language of the voting public and understand most people aspire to something better than what they have, are ‘aspirational voters,’ and look to their leaders to articulate their vision for the future.

Personally, I’d like to see a return to the core values we hold dear, the values that were centripetal in the creation of our Federation; to aspire to improve our ‘lot,’ hard-work, a ‘fair go,’ a ‘hand-up’ not a ‘hand-out,’ and a freedom to pursue our interests without intervention.

Smaller government may be a stretch too far but certainly a more efficient government, and a quieter one. Ideally, we could benefit from a government that stands back and allows the people, the voting public, to take the lead in their own lives, incurring praise when warranted and interjection by the powers-that-be when needed. A government that believes it is their role to govern by the rule of law but not to moralise or to lecture.

A return to a philosophical base would be a fresh start for politics in this country. We need to give the people a clear choice, a clear vision, so they can go to the ballot box with a smile rather than gritted teeth, showing their pearly whites rather than their frustrations.

Are we up for the challenge?

 

first published on https://mytrendingstories.com

Freedom – where did you go?

I woke up this morning on this bright and sunny day to read commentary in the morning paper about the term ‘guys.’ Apparently the Australian of the Year, David Morrison, found it within himself to announce his abhorrence at its use.

‘Those guys just weren’t up to it today,’

‘What’s that guy playing at?’

‘Thanks guys,’

These and other phrases like them are supposed to cause offence to women. The word ‘guys’ is seen by Morrison to be gender-specific. But relief is at hand – he tells us he’s not trying to be the ‘language police.’ Oh, no. He’s just trying to police language. Thank heavens we have someone to save us from ourselves.

Seems it’s a common thing these days, the ‘Nanny State Mentality.’

‘Nanny’ comes out to tell us off every other day. But Morrison isn’t alone amongst those who feel they need to tell the silent majority how to act, speak, and live.

In New South Wales, we have no right to silence, you see. So forget all those crime shows on TV where, once arrested, the alleged crim is told; ‘You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law…’ So much for not incriminating yourself!

At least in Queensland, I still have my right to silence. ‘Shhh – keep quiet, and get a lawyer – fast.’

Mind you, if you like motorbikes, don’t join a ‘group’ of ‘bikies’ – you might end up in jail. See, if you’re a member of a bikie gang, and an honest, law-abiding citizen, you could be arrested for associating with other bikie gang members. Anti-association laws are designed to enforce tough penalties on those alleged to be responsible for the vast majority of drug offences.

Yet the Brisbane Times has said that;

Despite police claims of bikies being major players in the drug market, six years of data show they were charged with less than 1 per cent of all drug-trafficking offences in Queensland.

Back down south and we have lockout laws, designed to counter drug and alcohol-fuelled violence in inner city areas, with last drinks at 1.30 and take-away closures at 10pm.

What’s the result of the lockout laws? Assaults have fallen. Yay, success!

Oops – not so fast. You see, as the Director of the Bureau of Crime Statistics, Don Weatherburn, was quoted as saying on guardian.com;

…assaults have been coming down in NSW since 2008 [well before the lockout laws were enforced], so [there was already a] pre-existing downward trend.

So, it seems, Nanny is alive and well across the eastern seaboard of Australia.

We’re constantly told that we need assistance and guidance in how to live our lives. The government knows best and passes legislation to protect us from ourselves.

Sound silly?

Consider nutritionists advice on diets, ‘junk’ food, exercise and alcohol.

The Obesity Policy Coalition is lobbying for a 20 per cent tax on sugar-sweetened drinks, the Australian Medical Association thinks Australians need a tax on ‘junk food.’ And some even believe we should introduce a tax on butter, cheese, milk, meat and oil.

The Rudd federal government increased taxation on pre-mixed drinks by 70 per cent, calling it an ‘Alcopop tax’ – according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, all this led to was a 20 per cent increase in the consumption of pure spirits. Case closed.

Sensationalists tell us almost every day that Australians have an obesity crisis, and that we drink to excess. This would certainly be true for some. But do we really need Nanny telling, commanding, ordering us to do things a certain way, their way? Each to their own, I say. Just don’t harm me in the process. In a free society we should be given the right to be the master of our own fate.

Classical liberalism has been superseded by social liberalism – defined as regulatory fixes for non-existent problems, or, to put it another way, the movement of society to a leftist philosophy.

Sit back, relax and enjoy – you no longer have to think for yourself. Government is now required to think for you.

This was put forward in the days of FDR and The New Deal, a program for its time. Yes, we need to ensure that no member of society falls through the cracks, yes, we need to ensure that everyone is protected from harm, but we also need to be very careful not to lecture to each other. And most of all, we need to ensure that government does not lecture to us.

In essence, it seems, in this society of ours, one of the finest democracies the world over, we are taking our freedoms for granted.

We legislate against speech, against information, against association, against choice. These are all implied freedoms in Australia, which makes them all the more contentious.

Even the Racial Discrimination Act tells us we cannot say anything which may offend. At least we have lobby groups like the Institute for Public Affairs to contend such laws. They say, at freespeech.ipa.org.au, that Section 18C of the Act;

…goes to the heart of this new anti-free speech climate…It is this section of the legislation which silenced [a journalist]. And it could silence you.

As the classical liberal, Edmund Burke, said

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing

It’s time for Nanny to rest, for PC to go home, and for freedom to reign over all.

Poem – Taxpayer Thomas

Taxpayer Thomas’s wife would be on tenterhooks
Wondering what her husband’s response would be
Would he be dejected, shout and yell
Or would he dance and prance with glee

He’d toil away at a job disliked
To pay his family’s way
So he saw his refund as his hard-earned reward,
‘A reward for my troubles,’ he would say

‘Not just your way,’ his wife would add,
‘But paying for those that cannot work,
Like John & Debbie Tucker,
And poor old Nelson & Mary Burke.’

Tom’s finger pressed against the page,
Against the envelope
Pushed it open, took out the note, and said;
‘S**t, it’s gotta be a joke.’

‘Honey,’ his wife said, excitedly,
‘It’s not like you to be obscene.
What on earth can be wrong?
What can it possibly have been?’

‘Look what they’ve done,’ Tom replied,
‘They’ve added a chart to my refund check.
It tells me where my tax dollars go.
Oh, what the bloody heck?’

By now Tom’s wife was adamant
Her husband had gone quite off his tree.
He hadn’t spoken like this before,
Not since his days at sea.

The chart, it was before him
In colors blue, yellow, red and green.
Twenty-three thousand went on welfare,
He wished he hadn’t seen.

Seventeen billion dollars a year
Went on Disability alone.
He’d seen it in the paper
Yesterday, when he was home.

Tom, (well, the taxpayer in him at least)
Threw the paper to the floor,
And said to himself (as you do);
‘I can’t take it anymore.’

His wife was always careful
To see the other side.
‘How could people less fortunate
Get by,’ she said, she sighed.

‘The welfare system exists for a reason
And we taxpayers pay our share.
But at the end of the day,’ Tom’s wife thought,
‘Someone has to care.’

She quietly put her arm around
Her husband’s shoulder, on a whim.
Gently, surreptitiously,
She knew she could mould him.

Tom’s wife could feel him releasing
All his inhibitions and frustration.
He was no longer concerned, she felt,
About the social welfare of the nation.

At last Tom had come around,
He could see the other side
Until next year (when his refund came again)
And he’d have a hissy fit, and cry.

I walk the path.

I walk the solemn pathway all alone

Others care to join me

Engage in careless conversation

As we pass the foreshore, by the sea

More join our walk along the way

As we continue down the road

We talk sweet nothings, ‘hello how are you?’

We pass a frog by lake, or toad

But as they walk the road less travelled

They talk about news of the day

Freedom’s glare is fading from us

Will we confront or turn away?

The pathway comes to its first bend

Some walkers find it hard to counter

A storm following a sunny day

A drought follows storm, brings empty fountain

Questions arise as to the bend

Is it too large a turn to fathom?

Some pursue it, others fail

Turning back, can’t walk the trail

Those left on the path take the turn

The bend being not the journey’s end

Those left on the path, they protect

Their challenge rises, they defend

Safety, security, our foremost thoughts

Freedom pure for our sisters, brothers

Can we have our cake and eat it too?

Or must we have one without the other?

The walkers share thoughts, an expression

‘Freedom under threat,’ they think

Those willing stand to protect

No-one’s bettered freedom yet

Even so some shy away

Their feet, their body, can’t take the heat

They wrestle with what they ought defend

But feel the challenge too high for them to beat

Now few are left to walk the walk

Their voice it need be loud

The few left talking defend and fight

Will the voice of the few be drowned by crowd?

A crowd that will not walk the path

A crowd that will not share the stage

A crowd that takes free thought for granted

Is this the coming of freedom’s age?

Will freedom rise above, beyond?

The call of duty has no roar

Duty comes from heart and mind

Freedom is worth fighting for.

 

Neville Chamberlain or Charlie Wilson?

Recently my very own Prime Minister declared the need for “restraint” in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris and Mali. According to some sources, there have been 291 terror attacks in the course of the 2015 calendar year thus far, (to the 26th November). Restraint may be seen by some to be a mature, tolerant, and decent policy to follow in the wake of the death of innocent civilians at the hands of terrorists. But there is only a small likelihood restraint will be seen as the most efficient way to counter a terror threat.

In 1938, the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, signed the Munich Agreement, which ceded the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Germany. Arriving home to declare “peace for our time,” Chamberlain declared;

My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.

Taking into account the circumstances surrounding Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement and the British aversion to another armed conflict, “peace for our time” would have appeared to be a calming statement at a time of uncertainty. Yet the Polish would not thank him a year later when their nation was invaded from the north, south and west by Germany.

Do you think appeasement would work today with ISIL? Diplomacy and tolerance may be the first step in any potential conflict, but what chance is there for western leaders to negotiate their way out of the existing conflict? We seem to be in ‘no-man’s land’ as far as our response to the continuing tragedies we face, almost daily, are concerned. No war, no peace, no diplomacy, no covert operations.

Associated Press reported yesterday that the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said her country “would do more in the global fight against [ISIL].” Germany currently provides weapons and training for Kurds in Iraq.

Her ‘commitment’ must be anything but re-assuring to Francois Hollande, who has declared war against ISIL for their terror attack and brutal killing of 130 people in Paris on November 13th.

A poll taken five days ago by ABC-Washington Post claims that sixty percent of American respondents favoured more ground troops in the fight against ISIL and almost three in four back more military action in general. It seems the time for talking around the wood-panelled table is well and truly over.

So, are we at war?

War is defined by Merriam-Webster as;

: a state or period of fighting between countries or groups
: a situation in which people or groups compete with or fight against each other
: an organized effort by a government or other large organization to stop or defeat something that is viewed as dangerous or bad

By definition, it appears we are. But is this what’s done when western governments need their constituents to see that they are doing something to counter risk and fear? Or is this what’s done when western governments want to defeat an enemy and make the world a safer place for all?

It appears we are going to continue to get more of the same, with the French upper house having just voted 325 – 0 to continue French air strikes in Syria beyond early January 2016.

Perhaps we need a little of Charlie Wilson right about now. Charlie Wilson served twelve terms in the Congress for the Texas 2nd Congressional District. A Democrat, and a colorful representative to boot, he was responsible for promoting Operation Cyclone, which saw the Afghan rebels, known as the Mujahedeen, receive billions of dollars in military equipment used to fight off the Soviets during the Soviet-Afghan War of the 1980’s.

As a member of the Defense Appropriations Sub-committee, he was able to increase the ‘budget’ from a few million dollars to over $700 million a year by the end of the decade. The movie Charlie Wilson’s War, with Tom Hanks starring as Charlie Wilson, describes the events of this time in stunning visual imagery.

Is Charlie Wilson a man of his time or a man for our time? Food for thought as the West contemplates the best way forward in a time of fear and uncertainty.

at the crossroads

Australian newspapers this weekend had but one issue in their ‘Commentary’ section(s) – Paris. For once I read everyone’s opinions.

By the time I post this, at least nineteen people have died in Mali. For once, media coverage was all over the hostage crisis, and our hearts go out to the families of those that died, as well as to those injured in the attack.

This past week has brought it home to me how truly lucky I am. I live in one of the safest countries on earth – Australia. We have never had a war on our shores, although we have lost many young lives contributing to them. We are one of the most reliable supporters of liberal western democracy and its ongoing place in the world. It could be said we ‘punch above our weight.’

Yet the very freedoms we take for granted are not supported in our Constitution. It does not protect our right to freedom of speech. However, Section 18(c) of our Racial Discrimination Act specifically says;

It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people.

To many of you reading this you may think this is reasonable, some may think it necessary. However, in a country such as mine which values the very freedoms we are not explicitly given, it serves to pare back from the classically liberal philosophy upon which nations such as mine were established.

Classical liberalism is a philosophy that assisted the Founding Fathers when they were writing the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson being a scholar. It espouses that individual members of society will have the right to go about their daily lives, conducting themselves in accordance with the rule of law, insofar as they will be able to speak, write, live, freely, so long as they cause no harm to others in the process. This leads to the primacy of individual thought, and government playing the role of protector of individuals against each other.

However, countries such as Great Britain, Australia and, to a lesser extent, the United States, have shied away from espousing the importance of classical liberalism as the basic tenet upon which free society was founded, erring in favor of a social construct that has led to government playing a far greater role in the lives of the individual than John Locke or Thomas Jefferson ever imagined.

This has moved individual thought from a sense of the need for self-reliance to a sense of the need for government regulation, a move from enlightenment to entitlement weakening the very framework of western civilization.

The further we shy away from classical liberalism, the weaker our free societies will become. The weaker we are the less the ability to effectively fight those that believe in anything but freedom. And if they believe in freedom at all, they believe in the freedom to think how they think, the freedom to believe what they believe, the freedom to do as they do, the freedom to say what they say.

In the West, the trend towards the espousal of political correctness as a basic paradigm can be seen as one example of our trend toward government reliance and a regulatory societal shift. The Learner’s (Merriam-Webster) Dictionary defines ‘politically correct’ as;

agreeing with the idea that people should be careful to not use language or behave in a way that could offend a particular group of people.

This can be seen to be an attack on individual rights to freedom of expression. Taken to its logical conclusion, the politically correct can shut down discussion and/or argument in free society about issues of import and opinion on those issues that does not comply with the politically corrects point-of-view.

This is one reason why the West has been at pains not to mention the word ‘Islam’ in public speech relating to terrorist activity by terror groups such as ISIL and Boko Haram.

Political correctness has now graduated to the stage where it can be seen to be the ‘macro’ definition of what’s right and wrong. There’s a new word in town – ‘micro-aggression.’

Frank Furedi explained this very well in his excellent article of 21st November in The Weekend Australian, entitled ‘Whatever you say is highly offensive.’ Let me give you an example. I’m in a lift and say to the person across the way; “Hi, how are you? Where are you from?” That is a form of micro-aggression, for if they are from, say, the Sudan, and I’m from Australia, my comment could affect their sense of self-worth, for what I’m (apparently) really telling them is:

You’re a lesser person than me because you’re from Africa and you’re black.

The fact is, I just like having a chat to ‘break the ice’ in what’s almost always an awkward situation.

Go to http://www.microaggressions.com and you’ll see what I mean.

In essence, I welcome open conversation, disagreement, argument on issues of importance to us all in our day-to-day lives. The extreme left are trying to de-value those discussions by telling the rest of us there is only one way to think, one way to act, one way to speak.

These ‘trends’ in liberal, western, democratic society weaken our ability to fight for what most of us truly hold dear – the very freedoms upon which philosophers like John Locke and statesman like Thomas Jefferson built reputations and declarations.

Classical liberalism was the basic tenet upon which free society was created. It will be the basic tenet upon which free society will succeed. Let’s not put in doubt the freedoms our forefathers fought so hard to provide by over-riding those freedoms with regulatory restraints designed to reign in the free expression we hold so very dear.