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.

Peas and carrots

Peas, pod,

Carrots, bowl,

Sliced, boiled, life

 

Bread, toaster,

Toasted, plate,

Butter spread by knife

 

Water, kettle,

Boiled, mug,

Sugar. Milk or cream?

 

Coffee, tea

Decaf, black

Earl grey, breakfast, green

 

Never before

Forgot, remind

Twenty-four seven, time

 

Bomb, detonate,

Self-harm. Relate?

TV, Facebook. Mine

 

Broadcast, air

Surprise, unfair

Comprehend. Believe

 

Black, white,

Shades of gray,

Nothing’s certain. Grieve.

 

Lest we forget

I took my choc lab down the beach this morning. She loves to play with the other dogs and chase the ball while I talk to the ‘locals,’ a little community all their own.

Our sense of safety and security never occurred to us. We all waded our feet in the water and walked on the sandy beach, lapping up the warm sunshine that the morning had brought to us. How fortunate we all were? The photo that goes with this piece is of my choc lab, Kahlua. How lucky I am to have her? Her sense of living for the moment is ever-present.

Recent events have brought home to me my feeling of fortune and privilege. As we think of those loved ones left behind and those less fortunate who lost their lives in Paris on November 13th, let’s also save a thought for those innocent civilians in Nigeria, Turkey, Pakistan, Chad, and other nations, who were unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Liberal western democracies tend to empathise with liberal, western democracies. The attack in Paris at Charlie Hebdo’s office was seen as an attack on our very own freedom of speech. Our empathy was made clearer by the sense that Charlie Hebdo is a satirical magazine.

Yet around the same time over a hundred civilians were murdered in Baga, Nigeria, by Boko Haram, an Islamist terror group. The number of fatalities cannot be confirmed, some reporting as many as 2,000.

Reading up about Boko Haram and Nigeria’s troubles, there is good reason why terror attacks in liberal democracies gain more traction.

1. Access – freedom of movement in and around the attack(s) is easier to achieve
2. Familiarity with the fallen – the greater the ‘likeness’ between the fallen and the empathetic, the greater the empathy
3. Media coverage – the more we hear about something the greater its impact on our ‘sensibilities.’

There will be much said about what occurred in Paris. But let us not forget that (using Wikipedia as my guide), there have been 289 terror attacks up to November 13th, in 2015 alone.

These include:-

• A suicide bombing in Nigeria, October 2nd, killing 18
• A car bombing in Iraq, October 5th, killing 57
• Suicide bombings in Turkey, October 10th, killing 102
• Suicide bombings the same day, in Chad, killing 38
• A suicide bombing in Nigeria 4 days later, killing 42
• Bombings in Nigeria, October 23rd, killing 27
• A suicide bombing in Pakistan the same day, killing 22
• A suspected bombing in Egypt, October 31st, killing 224 (Metrojet Flight 9268)

So let’s value our freedom and fight for it at every turn. Let’s never take it for granted. Let’s realize that it isn’t given lightly and can easily be taken away. And let’s bring into our circle of empathy innocent civilians who so happen to live in societies that don’t yet have the privilege of being liberal, western, or democratic.

in the breeze

The dawn it rose beyond reproach

The sun it shone so bright

The day it brought cloud then rain

The night was darkness, no moonlight

Wasn’t alone in assuming death

Was never far away

Wasn’t alone in assuming birth

Was distant this and other days

The truth be told if ever thus

The lies they fall asunder

The grey cloud between truth and lies

Close, it tried to plunder

‘Never assume,’ one said to thee

Accept not what one is told

Never share in falsehood, false glee

Reject what one is sold

The world beyond it fails us

It never treats us as it should

The world beyond it fails us

It shan’t be told what once it would

The mountain-top, the hills and valleys

Possess a challenge unto thee

The cavernous remains of bodies

In the recess of you, of me

Ask not of others what one doesn’t know

Ask not what one cannot see

Accept not what one cannot feel

Reject what one knows cannot surely be

The dawn it rose beyond reproach

The sun it shone but slight

The day brought with it false assumptions

Belief lost in the breeze that night.

showers with a chance of rain

Billy asked his wife that day

About the weather forecast.

“Showers, honey, just a few,

But don’t think they will last.”

“There could be rain,” said Billy’s son,

A high percentage chance of falling.

Tim Bailey said so, on Channel Ten.

‘Daily Bailey’ I think they call him.”

“The rain could become a storm, I heard,”

Said Jill, Billy’s youngest daughter.

“Late today a cool change’ll come.

It’ll be a mild change…, well…, sorta.”

“That storm could bring thunder and lightning

To the whole of the North Shore,

So be careful, hun, when heading out,

It could arrive with an almighty roar.”

“Yeah, Mum,” Billy’s son Ben chimed in,

“A storm, of that I’m certain.

But if hail comes, we’ll batten down

Last time we replaced the curtains.”

“It’s all to do with climate change, son,

That bloody global warming.

This season’s gunna be one long, hot summer,

The flies, they will be swarming.”

“I know, sweetie,” Billy’s wife replied,

“It sure is nasty weather.

One things for sure, if I’m certain at all

It’s that we’ll live (and love) through it together.”


Postscript: Tim Bailey is a ‘weatherman’ on Channel Ten’s nation-wide Eyewitness News, in Australia.

far horizon

Butterfly in shimmering light,

Garden blooming in new season.

Kookaburra, sitting, soulful –

Poignant is the far horizon.

Orchid flowers, life awakens,

The day grows ever longer.

Shadows present,

Sunshine alightens,

Prodigious is her effort, action.

Human in kind,

Love we find

In simple, pleasant things.

Far horizon, ever closer,

Droplets they descend.

Life, we wish to never end,

The day draws near,

We transcend.

Entitlement

I have a plan to build on.

I know that it will work.

It means I’d rely on others

And on leaving Back ‘o Burke.

See, I want a kid, I know I do,

One of my very own.

But I need to find a fella

Who’ll not leave me, not disown.

So I went a lookin’ for my fella,

And I found one, handsome, awesome, cool,

On match.com. I wrote a novella

And I was not thought a fool.

His name was Ed, or ‘Handsome Hunk,’

Edward Brown it was in full.

The kinda guy who’d stay around,

More ‘pussy-cat’ than ‘bull.’

I thought; “Ah-ha. I got him,”

Reigned him in I did.

I’d opened a can, a can o’ worms,

I’d taken off the lid.

Within the can was a family man

Who’d earn something called a living,

Whilst I brung up my baby girl,

Good and proper, no misgivings.

Now, his family, I made them me own,

I was enchanting, really nice.

They’d be my fortune five hundred family,

So I acted sweet like…,well, once or maybe twice.

They called me ‘Darl,’ ‘Sweet pea,’ and ‘Honey,’

I felt part of their inner family.

“Better learn their name,” I thought

(for the record, it was Hamley).

They were so keen to bring me in

As part of their extended troup.

Almost made me feel guilty, like

When I took off with half their loot.

Not really, just fiction of sorts.

See, they’d give me lots of things.

It’s funny what being nice can do,

It’s funny what it brings.

But I wasn’t finished,

Oh, no, not yet,

I had so much more to do.

I had to apply at the Government Office

For that Social payment, as ya do.

The Government, it gives a hand-out

What’s referred to as an entitle-ment,

Where no-one even has to work,

It sounds absolutely Heaven-sent.

I’m pretty sure ‘Social payment’ is what it’s called,

And I know it does ya lots a good.

Better than goin’ out to work,

Answering phones, Jeez, I never would!

I’d heard so many people say,

In the form of a story, of a fable,

“Ya won’t look back girl, be the makings of ya,

Just don’t tell them you are able

To work a day or maybe two

Or they’ll have ya servin’ tea

At the local cafe, ‘Jimmy’s’ I think it’s called.

Luv, it wouldn’t do for me.”

They told me that I could get thousands

If I just played my cards right.

Dan ‘is name was, behind the counter

Handed me forms, in blue and white.

“What did this mean,” I wondered,

As I sat there lookin’ dim.

I got no idea what to fill out first,

So I acted on a whim.

I went for Sole Parent Pension

Cos it brought me the most cash.

Family Tax Benefits were a given

So through that I put a dash.

“Congratulations,” Dan said to me,

As I handed him my forms.

“You’ll hear from the Government, officially

But I’ll tell ya what’s the norm.”

“We encourage a big hand-out

To people like yourself,

Left alone by ya partner,

Left up on the shelf.”

I wasn’t ’bout to tell him

Well…you know…,the truth

If I did he might take me pennies back

Give others my hard-earned loot

‘Cos even though Ed, my man

Lived…,well, just around the corner,

I deserved that pension, that I did!

Not my neighbour, Wendy Horner.

Dan said; “We must protect ya,

That’s what the Government is here for,

To fork out cash to those in need

Not like it was before.”

“Before the Great Depression, see,

Ain’t nothin’ like this welfare

Each man (and woman) for themself

No Government could care.”

On and on, this Dan went

Talkin’ ‘bout the past.

I wasn’t really listenin’,

Wanted to get out really fast.

“God, this Dan,” I thought, “what’s he about?

He’s givin’ a history lesson.”

I stood there not takin’ it in

And not feelin’ like confessin’

I didn’t have a clue like

About anything he said.

It made me tired, gave me headache,

I should have been in bed.

But it sounded as he walloped on

Like Government’s day had come.

The story told of Government

Makin’ money on the run,

Off the taxpayer, payin ‘is tax (and mine)

On payin’ more than his fair share,

From them to me and others too,

Spent on those who couldn’t care

That they were bleedin’ dry the workin’ man

Who toiled all day long is all.

Hard-workers like Tom, and Wal…,and then Dianne

So sods like me, we wouldn’t fall

Below what the Government called a poverty line,

But me, I couldn’t see it.

Not likely to, it ain’t exist,

Was made up half the time.

I was a bit quizzical, like,

I’d taken money, other people’s.

Just ‘cos I didn’t want to work.

It sounded rather feeble.

Just ‘cos I could, was accepted practice

To make money off the system.

Encouraged I was, and better off too,

It was too hard to resist ’em.

And so my plan had begun,

Money was as good as in my purse.

What’s good for them is good for me.

Let’s face it, could have been lots worse.

What good for me is the welfare system?

Better in my hands than anyone else’s.

What good for me is that Money Tree

If I’m restrained from my impulses?

What good for me is social welfare,

Built on a bureaucrats obsession?

If I don’t get my share of it,

It may lead me to recession.

side by side

The World reached out its hands to

Accept those of less fortune in it.

The bridge provided passage to

Cater for the huddled masses.

They came from far,

They came from wide,

To beat the rising tide.

With humility and honour

Climbing the mountain, side by side.

A borrower nor a lender be

Espouse belief it can be done.

A winner one, a winner all,

Believe it will be won.

Traverse the mountain-top,

Traverse the far horizon.

The valley leads to that mountain-top

Whence one receives their prize on.

That prize be freedom,

That prize be life,

A new one, to be sure,

Whence one will strive for happiness,

And leave behind their poor

Beginnings in the World, now with outstretched hands

To accept those of less fortune in it,

Who came from far ‘way lands.

Lands of the poor,

Lands of the lost.

Their path is with dignity and pride,

From valleys, climbing slowly,

Surely, side by side.

Traverse the mountain-top,

Traverse the far horizon.

Set foot on that mountain-top

Whence one receives their prize on.

the Fire Chief…

The Fire Chief relaxed

As he sat down in his chair

He’d just come home from watching his son play soccer

“I can’t believe it,” he cried aloud, with a touch of flair

“My bloody son has had another shocker.”

“That boy,” he said, “I trained him,

Took him up the park

To play, and kick, and catch all day long.

It never sunk into him that foot went before the ball,

I always knew that there was something wrong.”

The Fire Chief, he reclined in chair

Good and bloody proper

Before he heard a siren near

Too late for him to stop ‘her.’

Brring, brring, it went, brring, brring again

The red phone woke him from his slumber

Realising his wife was not at home

He hoped ’twas a wrong number

“Alright, I’m coming,” he shouted at the phone

Knowing no-one could hear him.

But the phone went dead, “Damn it,” he said

“Bugger, Jesus, f_ck ‘im.”

The Fire Chief’s face had turned a frown

He now knew somethin’ wasn’t right

“Another bloody summer,” he thought

“They’ll need me there to fight.”

So the Chief hopped in his car that sunny day

And whizzed down the main street playing

‘Jerusalem’ on his radio

As he thought his villagers weren’t staying.

“Shit. There’s a fire in my village,”

He could see the burning embers

I must get down to help,” he cried

“Or it’ll be like last September.”

‘If I don’t take charge the villagers

Will think; ‘Where was our Fire Chief that day?’

And I’ll live to regret it,

I may as well just walk away.”

“Johnny, tell the villagers I’m on my way

To save them from their grief.”

“What’s that? You can’t hear me?

For God’s sake man, it is your Fire Chief.”

Watch and act alerts were now

Being posted on TV stations

Stay if you must, leave if you can

As the villagers lost their patience.

Arriving in t-shirt and shorts

The Fire Chief made a dash

For the change rooms where he soon got dressed

Ready for the ‘bash and crash.’

The Fire Chief was now in charge

Dressed in Fire garb

“Let’s work as a team

To save villagers’ homes,” he roared

“Like those of George and Debbie, Bill and Barb.”

As the day progressed, the bushfire

Attracted TV in all its glory

They’d come with newscasters galore

To create a big news story.

“I could be a star,” the Fire Chief thought

“It’ll be my fifteen minutes of fame.

I must get an interview with Seven, Nine and Ten

Before the fire starts to wane.”

“Fire Chief,” the stations asked him,

“What next for the red embers?”

“We’ll fight the good fight, toil through Hell we might

So we don’t revisit Red September.”

“Ahhh, yes, Fire Chief, that was Hell-ish for sure

We lost a few that day.”

“But think back further, to times of yore

And all we could do was pray.”

As Fire Chief stood, tall and straight

Talking to reporters

His team put out the fire, ‘Hoo-ray’

Giving not a quarter.

So the fire waned, saved by the bell

The Fire Chief’s team were fearless.

“Fire Chief, you’ve done well,” the networks said,

“Your efforts have been peerless.”

The Fire Chief said; “Thank you Holy Father,

Thank you Jesus Bloody Christ.

Now I can have a beer,

Better still, make it whisky, and bloody-well on ice.”

He’d saved the villagers after all (or so he thought)

His wife, she was so proud.

But that whisky, “One’s fine, maybe two,”

Any more she’d not allow.

The Fire Chief took all the credit,

His face appeared nation-wide.

He ‘thumped his chest’

“Man, I’m the best.”

Yes, he suffered from false pride.

Brring, brring, brring brring, The phone rang,

This time the private line.

“Fire Chief, is that you? It’s the PM here.

What’s that old man? Oh, I’m fine.”

“We want to share our love around

And throw your villagers buckets of money.

A hundred million, maybe more.

What? A joke? Man, this ain’t funny!”

“I’ll be making an announcement on Seven, Nine and Ten

That my government will spend a hundred mill

When will we disburse it you say? I know not when,

But my binding promise is to say we will.”

The long hot summer, well, it cooled

Global warming had failed the nation

The whole episode, the villagers thought

Had been one bloody big sensation.