What actually took place on the 26th January in the year of our Lord 1788?

 

Yes, it’s that time of the year again, when we have a barney about Australia Day. So in order to avoid any misunderstandings, let us delve deep into our bosoms and ask ourselves, what exactly are we commemorating?

Some of our most venerable leaders are of the misguided belief that January 26th 1788 is the day Captain Cook arrived on these fair shores.

But alas, they are sorely mistaken, for it states most clearly in Wikipedia, for all to see, that Mr. Cook arrived some 18 years earlier in the year of our lord 1770. Others are of the opinion that the 26th of January is the day The First Fleet set eyes on our dusty continent. But that was actually a couple of days earlier, on January 19th, when they entered Botany Bay, but being quite dissatisfied with the camping facilities provided, they decamped. (no BBQ Area apparently).

Yet others believe for some reason known only to themselves, that the 26th of January is the day Governor Philip proclaimed the establishment of a penal colony on these fair shores, but who wants to commemorate that? January 26th is actually the day The First Fleet entered Sydney Cove. After securing the BBQ Area, their very first act of barbarism, (but surely not their last) was to run up the nearest hill, plant the Union Jack in the ground and claim the entire continent in the name of King George III. So what we are so boisterously celebrating to this day, is the very moment the country was stolen from its rightful owners.

After that task was accomplished the convicts were allowed to disembark from the ships. Bear in mind, they had not set foot on dry land for 8 months. Naturally they set about getting to know each other,(in the biblical sense) According to Robert Hughes, author of The Fatal Shore –‘The convicts had an orgy! If that wasn’t enough, the sailors then proceeded to get drunk and join them in their licentious cavorting.’

Maybe it is this convivial display of ‘mateship’ that we commemorate today, in a somewhat less exuberant fashion?

Whatever it is, this act of commemoration we indulge in, is certainly no ancient tradition. It was only made a National Public Holiday in 1994, by one Paul Bloody Keeting no less, who should have known better.

Remember that the historic Mabo decision was handed down just two years before, in1992. That legally binding decision completely dismissing the extravagant claim shouted from that hilltop by those enthusiastic young men on that odd and fateful day so long ago.

 

Ben Boyang 2019

The Queen Must Die!

The Queen Must Die!

-An Australia Day Reflection

(as in looking in the mirror)

 

l don’t celebrate Australia Day, because l am a traditionalist.

The blackfellas have a long tradition of not celebrating Australia Day, dating back many thousands of years. It is this ancient tradition that l uphold.

As you may well know, one of our venerable Prime Ministers was an avowed republican, but he vowed to wait for our venerable queen to die of old age before he set about the long and arduous task of establishing The Republic of Australia. While this was very sensitive of him, it could mean we are in for a long wait. Apart from the occasional sniffle she is in rude good health. Many of us may die of old age ourselves before our cherished republic comes to fruition. She could do us all a favor and abdicate, but she is a bit worried about her darling Prince Charles. Rumor has it he is a bit flakey, always banging on about organic vegetables and renewable energy and hippy shit like that. He could very well declare a republic himself if we’re not careful.

But when she dies, as surely she eventually must, we must be ready to grasp the nettle.

Let’s face it, this place needs a total makeover, root and branch.

 

  1. A new date for Oz Day, that doesn’t offend the blackfellas.

(l suggest May 8 – pronounced ‘maaate’, or even better, the day we declare a bloody republic)

  1. A new National Anthem that at least mentions the said blackfellas

(l would suggest Waltzing Matilda, but standing on the podium at the Olympics and breaking into a song about a vagabond committing suicide because he was caught inflagranto dilecto with his favourite sheep would make us the laughing stock of the entire world, if we are not already)

  1. A new National Flag that includes a blackfella and a kelpie and no union jacks
  2. A strong constitution, because you need a very strong constitution to stomach some of the shenanigans of our national parliament.
  3. A Republic – Based on true Australian values like barracking for the underdog, because let’s face it, we are a nation of losers and proud of it:
  • The Blackfellas were decimated
  • The convicts were flogged
  • The Eureka Stockade was a massacre
  • Ned Kelly was hung
  • Gallipoli was a disaster
  • The Tazzy Tiger was exterminated
  • Phar Lap was poisoned
  • Gough Whitlam was sacked

But we’re still rooting for them all, aren’t we? You bet we are!

 

We are like an old FJ Holden, limping along on 3 cylinders and spewing out black smoke. We don’t just need a grease lube and oil change, we need to recondition the entire engine, and bog up all the rust, and give her a new paint job.

(green and gold of course, or should that be black & gold)

 

So if Oz Day is destined to be more than an excuse for a piss up and a piss take, it is timely to nail down just what it is Australian Culture? Does it even exist? And while we are at it, what is culture anyway? Maybe it’s easier to define what isn’t culture. Bar-B-Qs, fishing, surfing, taking the piss, wearing thongs on your feet instead of your crotch, playing sport, this is a way of life, but it isn’t culture. In fact it could be argued that playing sport is what you do when you have no culture. The Greeks don’t run around all weekend getting skin cancer and acquired brain injuries, do they? No, they have weddings, really big weddings where they sit around inventing democracy and philosophy and shit like that. The Italians, ditto, more weddings, where they sit around eating pasta made with tomatoes grown in polystyrene boxes in the front yard. The Lebanese have endless weddings, where they sit around inventing cumbers with edible skins.

Culture grows out of the land we live in, much like yogurt. Most of us here in this nascent nation haven’t been here long enough to create a culture, so maybe we should look to those who have, the local blackfellas. We may just find we have a lot more in common than we thought, such as camping. According to the stats, we are the most urbanized society ever invented, huddled together like ginea pigs, clinging as close to the edge of this vast continent as we can possibly get, starring longingly out to sea. But we do love the great outdoors, don’t we? You bet we do! Learned anthropologists have postulated that this is quite possibly due in large part to the influence of the locals, they call them ‘aborigines’. These so-called Aborigines love nothing better than going camping, in fact their entire ‘life-style-choice’ is designed around the ability to pull up stumps and ‘go walk about’. No need to work overtime all year round to afford the airfare and the hotel and the restaurants and the exotic trinkets. Imagine the freedom of waking up one morning, any morning, grabbing your hunting gear and heading out on an adventure. No 20 kilo packs to lug, food and lodging provided as need be, and when you arrive your relies cook up a mouth-watering feast and put on a real song and dance to knock your socks off.

So we can see that the vagaries of the local climate dictate a nomadic lifestyle, including a life of feast & famine. None of this toiling all season and salting it away for the winter, to be nibbled one morsel at a time. When there was food you ate it all, when there was none, you went hungry. This life of feast & famine is yet another custom adopted and adapted from the locals. With the subtle difference that we have forgone the traditional famine bit, preferring instead, to feast pretty well constantly. In turn we have taught this recent adaptation to the blackfellas, with obvious consequences.

We can see that all true culture is shaped by our surroundings, and the elements of our surroundings that are unique is what will make us, in time unique. The unique climate created by the oscillations of El Nino have created a culture based on camping and partying (safe in the knowledge that it probably wont rain much for at least another few years.)

So what are some other unique aspects of the nature of our nature that is nurturing the unique nature of us?

Well, the place is very flat and very dry and very empty, (having decimated what few inhabitants there were) hence we have large cow farms that sport drovers with RM Williams boots and hats and a kelpie by their side, and feisty women who can ride a bloody horse and crack a whip.

We have more beaches per head than anywhere else except Canada, but most of theirs are frozen solid all year round (know anyone going on a surfing trip to Canada? No, l didn’t think so) Thus has given birth to the surfing lifestyle – driving old Volvos, smoking bongs and eating junk food, getting up early to check the waves before going back to bed, roaming around the country in semi-nomadic fashion (just like the locals)

Fishing – Many of you may remember that oft quoted saying from the great Mao Tse Tung himself, that was drummed into us all throughout grade 3 Political History: “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day- teach a man to fish and he will spend every second weekend with his mate, sitting in a dingy in the middle of a lake, getting quietly sozzled. It is a well kept secret that the fish are of secondary importance and it is actually all about contemplating the awesome beauty of the natural world. (the Japanese have a special word for this; ‘shinrinyoku’ – forest bathing)

Alas and alak, these embryonic cultural practices have begun to die out before they are fully formed. As we speak they are being guzzumped by new cultural practices like Instagram. (my friend Alex says we should start Consider-a-gram, where every comment has a 24 hour delay before it can be posted. In Consider-a-gram it is a real no-no to boast about the great fun you are having, as it tends to have a deleterious effect on those not having an orgasmic experience every five minutes. In Consider-A-Gram we like to post about the truly boring time we are having so no one gets jealous.)

Yet another unique aspect of our way of life generated by the vast emptiness that engulfs us (literally as well as metaphorically) is immigration, immigration on a vast scale. We currently import more people per head than any other country on earth. (not counting refugees of course, because they don’t count). We may not be the most multi-cultural nation on the planet but we can argue that we are the most successful at it. (Just look at The U.S.A. – now referred to as the D.S.A.) We may be lacking in culture but we are not lacking in cultural choice. This has made us a nation of foodies. A whole new growth industry of people who get very well paid to eat food and talk about it while we watch.

(Back In my day if we uttered a single syllable at the dinner table we got a whack in the earhole.)

So to be an Australian is to be into eating food, strange, exotic food.

We are big eaters, now officially the biggest in the world.

 

The more we look, the more aspects of our way of life we find that are really quite unique and special, and the deeper we look, we see that these things have sprung from our unique geography. So to sum up l would venture to say that culture is a product of the interaction between geography and time, but most of us have not yet spent enough time here to acquire culture, nor have we spent enough time interacting with our geography or learning from those who have.

 

Ben Laycock 2016

 

 

Report from the Coalface

Have you ever thought about closing down the biggest coal port in the world?

Well we did, and we did!

A group of enthusiastic activists young and old, calling themselves F.L.A.C. (Front Line Action on Coal), put out the call around the country to come and join them in Newcastle, where the coal from the Hunter Valley is loaded onto ships and sent all around the world to be converted into black soot and pumped into the sky.

A mob of us from Castlemaine heed the call and spring into action. I come to realize I have languished somewhere between a clicktivist and a slacktivist for far to long. It is time to become an Activist!

We set off at first light for the long and boring trip. Driving over Mount Alexander as the sun rises, a pink ball shimmering in the fog, the thrill of adventure pulsing in our veins (plus a dose of black coffee). The rest of the day is uneventful; the constant threat of being crushed to death by a Mack truck keeping one from nodding off, till at last we see the sun setting on the Hunter River at the other end of a long day.

After dark we arrive at the rendezvous, to a warm welcome, complete with hot soup and fresh baked bread, mm, starting to feel at home already. There are over a hundred of us, from crusty old veterans of past battles; Roxby Downs, The Franklin River, The Vietnam War, to baby faced innocents on their first mission, all as keen as mustard. No one seems to be in charge, but we all lend a hand and things get done with a minimum of fuss. The next three days are a whirlwind of meetings and workshops and N.V.D.A. training (Non Violent Direct Action) for the upcoming events, in between eating our fill of delicious vegan food (plus some kangaroo) and getting to know a hundred strangers all at once.

We divide into groups to hammer out the details.

Like filming a remake of Gone with the Wind, where the evil Scommo ditches his long and passionate love affair with Coalene (or was it Coalette) and ends up tying the knot with the mercurial Wendy Turbine.

Shot in an hour and a half with no rehearsal; no mucking about, this mob!

My group hive off to plan our actions:

We go straight into NVDA training: lining up in two rows, face to face, and practing the art of de-escalation. We feel what it feels like to have someone yell in our faces, and learn not to get aggressive in response, but not to shrink away either. We hold our ground, then we swap roles.

Once we are fully versed in the philosophy and practice of N.V.D.A. we get to plan our actions. Over the last few days there have been sporadic actions targeting the coal trains, including a brave young teenager locking-on to a locomotive. Looking around at all these people ready to put their bodies on the line, there are people from all up and down the east coast. Proudly, there are more of us from Castlemaine than from Sydney. Altogether there are enough people to bring the whole God damn port to a stand still. Yeah!

The coal comes rolling in on freight trains over a kilometer long from all over the Hunter valley. It is stacked neatly in 5 huge piles about 15m high and as long as a coal train.(see above) Next to each stack runs a conveyer belt and a rail. On the rail runs the biggest moving machine I have ever encountered in my entire life; the stacker reclaimer: A behemoth with a giant arm that wheels about, scooping up coal and loading it onto ships. There are 9 berths for 9 ships. There is always a ship being loaded, 24 hours a day, every day of the year. The loaders never stop loading, the ships never stop shipping; 100,000 tons a day, 40 million tons a year, the juggernaut rolls on relentlessly, keeping the coal fires burning, add infinitum till the coal runs out (in about 500 years, unless they find some more, or unless someone puts a proverbial spanner in the works. That’s where we come in.) After much tooing and frowing we are all agreed that the best course of action is to target the stacker reclaimer, bringing the entire juggernaut to a grinding halt. All decisions are consensual, of course. We use hand signals to communicate, showing our approval by raising our hands and twiddling our fingers. For disapproval we do the same thing but upside down. This is part of an elaborate sign language that means we can communicate without talking over each other. Very democratic, very harmonious. Very fun!

D-Day – Saturday morning, early. We finish our porridge, synchronize our watches. Water bottle-check! Hat-check! Sandwiches-check! Nappies-check! (we could be there all day)

We hit the road, heading off into the unknown. Rumour has it there are 60 cops lurking in the shadows, ready to pounce the moment we show our faces. The entire police force is represented; The Dog Squad, the Riot squad, Search and Rescue, the Mounted Police on their magnificent steeds, there are frogmen in zodiacs zooming up and down the river, choppers buzzing overhead, scanning ever inch for suspicious activity; the whole menagerie: Basically anyone who wants to get away from the office and get a piece of the action.

The Street Theatre Group head off first and create a noisy and colourful event in the park, attracting a big crowd of curious onlookers. Naturally the Dog squad and the Horse Squad and the Riot Squad rush over there to see what all the fuss is about. The frogmen want to come too but are ordered to stay put as they would look ridiculous and put the Police Force in disrepute.

Our number one recruit Bill Ryan, a crusty old war veteran who survived the Kokoda trail (impeccable credentials wouldn’t you say?) sets off on his zimmer frame (he is 92 years old) with his faithful partner-in-crime, to lock-on to the railway track, yet again! Last time the magistrate said:

“Bill, couldn’t you take up another hobby, like fishing.”

So this time he brings his fishing rod.

Bill is quite possibly the oldest person in Australia to be arrested.

Meanwhile our gang is waiting for the call, hiding in plain sight. We sit in silence, a bit edgy, a bit anxious, just waiting till the coast is clear. Someone jumps up and heads for the nearest shrub to do a bit of ‘live streaming.’ Pretty soon there is a stampede in all directions. An old lady across the road is clearly amazed by the sight of so many bare bottoms. She picks up her mobile. Oh no, we are sprung. Quick, everyone let’s get out of here!

As luck would have it, we all manage to cross the entire city of Newcastle undetected by the best and brightest of the NSW Police Force. We all manage to scrabble under the fence of the facility and make a mad dash for the Stacker Reclaimer humming away in the distance, scooping up truckloads of coal in every mouthful.

We decend on the machine like ants looking for honey, searching for the perfect place to lock-on. Ideally a shady spot, not too windy and not too dirty. But the whole thing is covered in a blanket of black soot, so we all end up looking like coal miners anyway. Our affinity group heads for the highest point. It has a commanding view of the endless mountains of coal and a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean, perfect for selfies.

Once everyone is comfortable, we stop behaving like a colony of ants and start behaving like a flock of cockatoos. Whooping and howling and singing and chanting, asserting our territorial rights over our new home. One sprightly young fellow has managed to find a cozy spot dangling from a rope at the far end of the gantry that scoops up the coal in its giant maw, looking for all the world like a giant tea bag. He immediately launches into ‘live streaming’ on Facebook; describing the situation in graphic detail while slowly panning over the mountains of coal, every minute or two encouraging the viewers to share the stream. After a couple of hours of non-stop streaming there are over seventy thousand viewers. Wow, these young people really know how to use social media!

After a while, just when we are starting to get bored, the cops arrive, en mass; lights flashing, sirens wailing, a convoy of black SUVs with tinted windows, crammed with men in black uniforms wearing tinted sunglasses. Quite a spectacle! Eventually, after much coming up and going down and huddling together and gesticulating and talking authoritatively, they make their move. The first onslaught is the crack team of negotiators specially trained in the art of psychological warfare, flown in by chopper from the latest global hot-spot. But they are no match for our crack team of trouble makers; everyone from young ingénues fresh out of high school, to a phalanx ofcrusty old grandparents anxious about the future of their many grandchildren; a formidable combination!

The next wave is the riot squad, six burly blokes, all in black, boots polished, shirts ironed, bristling with the latest high tech gadgets. They don’t actually have much to say, preferring to mill about scowling menacingly. No results. Time to deploy Search and Rescue; six burly blokes all in white (to match the riot squad, no doubt.) An angle grinder is produced. It is turned on. It makes a load noise.(that should scare the living daylights out of them) Their leader explains in graphic detail how painful the procedure can be. Safety cannot be guaranteed. Permanent disfigurement is a real possibility. Our brave captives do not flinch, their resolve does not waver for a moment, knowing full well it is all bluff and bluster. The Grinder must be deployed. Sparks fly, metal heats up. It is getting scary. We are covered in blankets, strapped down so we can’t move. We can’t see the grinder just centimetres from our fingers, we can’t feel the sparks cascading down the blanket, but we are getting sprayed with water so we don’t get burnt. Despite all that bluff and bluster the rescue team are actually trained not to hurt anyone, which they manage to do by and large, with a couple of painful exceptions. (Their adversaries are not after all, hardened criminals, but harmless protesters.)

Search and Rescue have brought only one small angle grinder. Maybe only one person is trained to use an angle grinder. (They can be dangerous if handled inappropriately) Or maybe they have pretty strict fiscal restraints in their department, what with the budget deficit and all. There are 26 people locked on, so the entire operation ends up taking all bloody day, which suits us fine.

Eventually we are hauled off to the cop shop to be processed, like cheese. The poor staff have to spend hours filling out boring paper work, all generated by their colleagues, outside all day having fun, except for the Riot Squad who seemed palpably chagrined at the extreme lack of riots.

We manage to keep our spirits up in the cells by singing silly songs and playing silly games, and then it is all over. A day well spent, a job well done. Yeah team!

All the 26 activists charged, including my daughter, were released on bail to appear in front of the crusty old Magistrate in early October, so stay tuned for the next exciting episode.

Ben Laycock, crusty old activist 2018

If you want to join Central Victoria Climate Action click Here

Or ring Trevor on 0412 250 392

If you want to follow F.L.A.C. Click here Here

If you want to see the live stream from Max, doing ‘the teabag’ click Here

 

 

Safe Cars or Safe Climate – The choice is yours

We all want our kids to be safe, don’t we? That’s why we drive them to school in G.H.S.U.V.s(great hulking sports utility vehicles), rather than let them run the gauntlet of kidnappers and pedophiles lurking behind every bush, not to mention G.H.S.U.V.s hogging the roads. But don’t you think that’s a little selfish? Yes, your child will be safer inside your G.H.S.U.V. but the children in the other car you may crash into, the small family car, has far less chance of emerging unscathed.

Whilst we are in thinking mode, it is worth comparing the manifold dangers our offspring will face in their lifetime. Car accidents could turn out to be the least of their worries. We are all inured to those graphic T.A.C. adds. We can imagine our grizzly fate in gory detail, but we find it far more difficult to imagine the world that awaits our blessed little sprogs if things go pear shaped. We are just starting to see a few teasers pop up on the screen, for the action packed sci/fi thriller to come.(soon to be relabeled ‘Documentary’) Bushfires are breaking out at any time of the year, even the depths of winter, and in the most unlikely places, like inside the Arctic Circle. The droughts are getting drier and storms are getting stormier. People are on the move all over the world, mainly from there to here. The trickle of refugees that has snuck past Peter Dutton could soon become a tsunami of humans invading the more habitable parts of the world, such as dry land, especially vast empty continents full of fat kangaroos, if you get my drift. (Bangladesh has a population of 150 million souls and they are breeding like Catholics, even though they are Muslims. Almost half of them live on land that is less than 10 metres above sea level. Think about it!)

So, if our little cherubs are lucky enough to escape death by motor car, there is every possibility they will live to see the next century, if, and only if

they can overcome the enormous challenge that await them. Something those of us born in the last century have utterly failed to do. We shall be handing over the baton to the next generation just as we watch Runaway Global Warming sprint off into the distance.

…and that is the view of an optimist. I don’t mean to be alarmist, but there are other, far more alarming scenarios emerging with monotonous regularity.

Why only last week The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America* no less, released a report finding that the tipping point for the creation of a ‘hothouse earth’ (4-5 degrees above preindustrial levels) could very well be as low as 2 degrees above preindustrial levels. We are already 1 degree above. We could reach 2 degrees within the next 10 to 20 years if we don’t pull our finger out.

A ‘hothouse earth’ would mean a sea level rise of 60 metres, and a rise in temperature that would make it extremely difficult to survive outside Antarctica. Ticket to Mars anybody?

So those of us born in a bygone era of peace and prosperity may well be faced with the consequences of our inaction being played out right before our very eyes, our very cloudy eyes, as we languish in our nursing homes unable to lift a finger to help our progeny tackle the momentous task thrust upon them. One can only hope they haven’t introduced Involuntary Euthanasia by then.

*for details go to:

http://www.pnas.org/content/115/33/8252

Ben Laycock 2018

CAPTAIN COOKED

Cook & Scrotum copy
Those who did not pay attention in primary school may not be aware of the fact that Australia was discovered by Captain Cook in 1770. Some of you may be suffering from the delusion that it was discovered some 40,000 years earlier by a bunch of blackfellas. Some may believe it was Willem Janszoon, purportedly the first white man to set foot on this land, in the vicinity of Cape York way back in 1606 would you believe, or maybe Dirk Hartog who mapped the west coast in 1616, or William Dampier in 1669. But you see, the problem with all these people is they were not Englishmen and we all know that Australia was discovered by the English, the very pinnacle of human evolution according to the social Darwinism that was all the rage at the time. So there fore logically speaking they could not have discovered Australia because they were Dutchmen weren’t they? But hang on, what about good old Able Tasman who discovered Tasmania several times, way back in 1642. Well as luck would have it, bad luck as it turns out he has the dubious honour of circumnavigating the largest island in the whole world without an inkling of its existence. After circumnavigating Tasmania he set his compass due north in the hope of coming across the fabled Great Southern Land, alas, a wild storm cropped up in the night and the woke up in Aetearoa (the land of the wrong white crowd) renowned for its bloodthirsty savages. They didn’t stay long but headed north again, eventually ending up in the Philipines, then heading south-west to Batavia, (Jakarta) then returning to Drizzle & Fog a broken man where he lived out his days telling anyone who would listen: “Australia doesn’t exist, l know l’ve been there.”
Some time later Captain Cook did actually stumble across the place. Some of you may not be aware that he sailed all the way up the east coast without once setting foot on terra firma. It was not until his boat sprung a leak on the notorious Great Barrier Reef that he came ashore to fix it. There he encountered the Guugu Yimidirrh people.
He offered them gifts of cloth, nails and paper all of which they obviously found completely useless, but they were delighted when he gave them a fish, which they regarded as a symbolic gift.
He pointed his index finger at a large fury beast and enquired:
“What is that?”
Unaware that the loclals point with there nose (no doubt because they usually have their hands full) The fellow said gungurru, which is of course the Guugu Yimidirrh word for finger.
After repairing the boat, which took 6 weeks, Captain Cook bid a fond farewell to the Guugu Yimidirrh and set sail for the Cook islands which had a different name at the time, where he did not receive such a warm welcome.
He wrote in his log:
‘From what I have seen of the natives of New Holland, they may appear to be some of the most wretched people on Earth, but in reality they are far happier than we Europeans, being wholly unacquainted not only with the superfluous, but with the necessary conveniences so much sought after in Europe. They are happy in not knowing the use of them. They live in tranquillity. The earth and the sea of their own accord furnish them with all things necessary in life.’
This is a very important statement. A description of the first encounter with people living in the Stone Age. They were obviously as happy, if not happier than we are today. So that begs the question ‘what is all this development for? All this technology, all these gadgets, all this stuff. Obviously not to make us happier, we were already happy. The only advantage to all this technological development is that we can support more and more people. But is the world a better place for having more people in it? Are we happier because there are more of us? This is not a rhetorical question? This is a very important question, at the very nub of the paradigm shift we face. The only advantage to an ever increasing population is that it is good for business. An ever growing population is an ever growing market. It keeps wages down and prices up. It keeps the economy growing and an economy that is not growing is not an economy at all.
Now where was I before I drifted off course into that diatribe. Ah yes, Captain Cook was sailing off to meet his grizzly fate. A friend of mine was teaching at a school in Aukland a place much frequented by auks and Cook islanders. She innocently asked of her 5th graders ‘what do you know about Captain Cook?’ A little girl, of no more than 8 years old pipped up with:
“My great great grandfather ate him”

Aparently Australia wasn’t always called Australia. When Captain Cook first arrived in his boat, he spied a group of natives involved in some sort of ceremony involving fire and animal sacrifice. Ignoring the caution of his less intrepid companions he strode purposefully up to them and asked:
“What…you….call…this…place?”
To which the natives replied in surprisingly good English:
”Barbeque area, bro”
Captain Cook promptly claimed all of Barbequearea in the name of the king and returned to England forthwith to tell said king the good news. The king however was not impressed, having delt with cheeky natives before.
“They were pulling your leg mate, having a lend of you, taking the piss”. The good Captain was blank with incomprehension till the king said “Jimmy, they were being faceacious.”

Ben Boyang 2010

West Papua – A Short History

West Papua History

 

In 1949, Sukarno led Indonesia to independence from the Dutch, but West Papua remained under Dutch rule. After a while the Indonesians began threatening to take over West Papua from the Dutch. The Australians wanted the two halves of the Island of Papua reunited. (A very sensible idea, that would have avoided much future suffering) but John F. Kennedy would have none of it, so in 1963, The U.S. brokered an agreement with President Sukarno, where by the U.N. would run the province till it was handed over to Indonesia on the condition Indonesia organized a ‘Vote of Free Choice’ (some call a vote of no choice) within 7 years. None of the local Melanesian people were consulted, so they started their own independence movement, the O.P.M. – Organisasi Papua Merdeka (Papuan Freedom Organization) with the words

“We do not want modern life! We refuse any kinds of development: religious groups, aid agencies, and governmental organizations just Leave Us Alone!”

In 1965 the leftist Sukarno, was overthrown by the authoritarian dictator Suharto. Every member of the Communist Party of Indonesia they could find, was rounded up and murdered. One of the worst crimes against humanity of the 20th century.

In 1969 the Indonesians conducted the so called ‘act of free choice’:

It was run by the infamous TNI – Tentara National Indonesi ( the Indonesian Army, a law unto itself) The U.N. stipulated that every local Melanesian adult could vote,( over 900,000 people) but the T.N.I. hand picked 1000 village chiefs, whom they convinced, via threats and bribery, to throw in their lot with Indonesia. The vote was unanimous, quite an unusual outcome for a free democratic vote.

In July 1971 the Melanesian people of West Papua declared their independence, but unfortunately no one was listening, or almost no one. The Peoples Republic of West Papua is recognized by one country, Vanuatu. Very soon after, the Freeport mine began operation in the province, the largest and most profitable gold mine in the world. This mine remains the largest obstacle to independence for the people of West Papua.

 

Meanwhile, in 1975 there was a revolution in Portugal. In an act of gross irresponsibility, the Portuguese unburdened themselves of their remaining colonial assets, including Timor L’este. The Indonesians moved into the vacuum, snuffing out a brief flowering of freedom for the Timorese. It would be 25 years before they once more regained their sovereignty, due largely to the efforts of one man: Jose Ramos Horta, the Timorese ambassador to the U.N. who devoted his considerable diplomatic skills to putting the Tiny country on the map.

But West Papua is not Timor L’este. It was not administered by a European Colonial power for 500 years. It is not, and does not want to become, part of the modern world. An admirable ideal, but one that makes it very difficult to get heard in the clamour of the rat race. As the last of the unadulterated indigenous peoples of the world become swamped by the metastasizing cancer of Consumerism, keeping up the unique way of life of the people of West Papua becomes ever more precious, for them and for all of humanity.

 

Ben Laycock 2016

The 2016 Len Fox Painting Award Exhibition

untitled

Castlemaine Art Gallery

-till December 31st

This triennial award is for a painting ‘in sympathy’ with the work of Emanuel Phillips-Fox. The $50,000 prize money was put up by his generous nephew Lenny, who was apparently a card caring member of The Communist Party, but he obviously came across a large stash of cash that he failed to squander on the great unwashed.

Emanuel, or Manny to his many friends, was born and bred here in Australia, but he far preferred to spend his time in gay Paris, documenting every nuance of the bourgeoisie as they indulged in their endless pursuit of leisure and pleasure, oblivious to the Marxist revolution unfolding all around them: Boating on the river, tea in the arbor, croquet on the lawn. Mr. Fox was especially fascinated with the young ladies in all their finery, frolicking in the fields, or reclining in a hammock in the dappled sunlight with a book in hand, a flower in their hair and vacant look on their pale faces.

When he did happen to pop back to Oz from time to time he was at pains to highlight the immense civility of this nascent society, despite the tyranny of distance and the proximity of tyranny.

Of course it would be nigh on impossible to find any self-respecting artist turning out that sort of sickly sweet romantic schmaltz these days, so the judges were required to seek sympathy for other qualities in Mr. Fox’s work:

Vibrant colours, impressionist landscapes, scenes of everyday life, women standing around without their clothes on.

Here at the gallery, l note that every picture in the room has ticked one of those boxes, but it seems none of them has ticked two.

Let’s circumnavigate the room in a clockwise direction, clinically dissecting each work as we go. (At this point it is germane to confess that l myself entered this very prize. Having failed to make the cut, l have been dining on sour grapes ever since.)

A quick look around reveals an overwhelming preponderance of landscapes, either realist or expressionist, though none could be described as impressionist. (As l said impressionism is no longer de riguer – or ‘cool’) There is a little cluster of vibrantly coloured works, some might say garishly coloured works, that l fear Mr. Fox would have no sympathy for at all. Then we come to the work of the renowned John Nixon. Harking back to his glory days in kinda, John has used all the bottle tops and bits of wood in the craft box to make a picture. (Well done John, keep up the good work.)

Bill Sampson, a local lad, has done a conceptual take, reducing one of Mr. Foxes vibrant landscapes (‘On the Mediterranean Coast.’ It is in the gallery so you can compare it if you like) to a few enormous pixels, each one the size of a lamington. Very post-modern Bill, but l don’t think Mr.Fox would approve of your conceptualism, or your post-modernism for that matter, he was having enough trouble getting his head around impressionism.

Jason Jones, another local to make the cut, has faithfully produced a simulacrum of a genuine Fox landscape, in fact it is so simulacrimous (sick) that l took it for a direct copy of ‘Gumtrees at Cremourne’, but Mr. Jones swears black and blue that he has never set eyes on the work in question. l will let you be the judge.

Next up we have a cluster of moons. I imagine Mr. Fox would like all these. He does appreciate a good moon.

David Falzon has entered the only work that seems to evoke anything like the saccharine romantic tones that saturates Foxe’s oeuvre, but it is crying out for a young damsel in a bustle picking daisies with a vacant look on her angelic face.

There is a smattering of eerie dark works, one or two even bordering on the sinister. Mr. Fox would not approve. He didn’t do spooky.

Lynne Boyd, (one of the lesser Boyds, no doubt overlooked due to her gender) has done perhaps the only work that could vaguely be described as impressionist.(If you squint a bit and look out of the corner of one eye) Excuse me for bragging but l went to art school with Lynne and l would have to say she is by far the most consistent artist l have ever come across, except for Prudence Flint. Her work has not changed a jot (or is that a dot) since those heady days back in the early 1980s.

Well done Lynne. Do not be tempted to stray from the chosen path of enlightenment..

One Kevin Chin has produced one of the most life-like impressions of a drug induced psychosis outside of the psyche ward, but l fear once again, that our Mr. Fox would not approve. Drugs were rather frowned upon in those days, even though they were perfectly legal. Go figure?

Abdul Abdullah has a foreign sounding name and has done quite a disturbing piece referencing those poor unfortunates incarcerated in remote islands in the vast Pacific Ocean. Now l don’t know where Mr. Abdulla comes from but here in this country we don’t bring up such nasty topics in a nice place like an art gallery.

Last but not least we come to the winner.

‘Wash’ by Prudence Flint. Prudence is by far the most consistent artist l have ever come across, except for Lyn Boyd, of course. She has been painting the same painting all her life, using exactly the same model every time, (I kid you not) stuck in the very same room, with the very same tiles and the very same slightly nauseating colour scheme. You would have to agree, she has got it down pat.

The subject, who has shared all the most mundane moments of her prosaic existence with us, over all these years, without leaving her room/cell, without growing older, or younger, or even changing her expressionless expression. Not even her newborn babe can raise the hint of a smile.

I feel like l am looking at stills from CCTV footage shot inside a lunatic asylum, featuring a patient under heavy sedation since the 1950s who is only allowed out once a year to feed the pidgeons.

When will this woman tear off her straight jacket and go running down the road stark nakid, squeeling with joy?

 

Footnote:

As you are no doubt aware, Len Fox amassed his not inconsiderable wealth driving trucks. His next award will be for a painting of a truck. Hopefully this will bring a few more locals into the art gallery.

 

To see a lot of Manny’s work just go to google images and type in his name.

To see a lot of Prudence’s work go to google images and type in her name

 

Ben Laycock 2016

 gum-trees-at-cremorne

Gumtrees at Cremorne – Manny Fox

Radio Roundup -Final Show 8/7/16

Local news-

Jail Birds Escape

Stone Quarry rejected – Council states:

‘We have enough stones”

Midland Downgrade-

Just 30 seconds can save a life

+

Malcolm Turnstyle stars in

The Never Ending Election

Pauline Hanson stars in

Return of the Living Dead

Greyhounds star in

Cry Freedom

Sam Hains stars in

The Hipsterproof Fence

John Howard stars in

W.M.D. – A Fantasy

+

Mice trained to detect W.M.D.s

(Weapons of Mice Destruction)

l have been on MainFm for over 5 years now, and my faithful companion has been by my side for 2.

l am sick of missing all the Friday night fun but management won’t give us another time so we have called it quits.

Watch this space for the next exciting adventure

Chow Ben Boyang

The Neoliberal Doctrine

The term neoliberal was invented in 1938 at the height of the Keynesian ascendancy, but was not adopted worldwide until the 1980s, championed by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

The neoliberal doctrine goes like this:

Competition is the basis for all human interaction.

Margaret Thatcher sums this up neatly with the famous quote:

“There is no such thing as society, only the individual.”

There is a natural hierarchy of winners and losers.

Winners are rewarded with a monopoly, losers with bankruptcy.

The basic unit is the consumer who is free to exercise their right to choose.

$1 = 1 vote in the consumer democracy.

All social problems can be dealt with by applying the laws of Supply Demand.

Every individual is given an opportunity to accumulate wealth, no matter what handicaps they begin with.

Those that fall by the wayside have only themselves to blame.

It works like this:

Install white ants at the centre of State power whose job is to cut taxes, thus starving the state of the ability to adequately fund the functions of the State, rendering them dysfunctional and ripe for take over by the corporate sector, whilst building resentment against the state itself at the same time. Neat hey?

Here in Australia, while the Liberal Party aggressively pursues the Neoliberal agenda, the Labor Party reluctantly follows in its footsteps:

A freeze on new taxes, trade liberalization, privatization of infrastructure, education, health etc,.

At the same time Labor doggedly clings to the good old tried and true Keynseyan doctrine:

Promote economic growth by stimulating consumer demand.

A simple doctrine from a bygone era before Climate Change, rescource depletion, pollution and mass extinctions reared their ugly heads.

The Libs prefer to stimulate growth by giving tax breaks to Corporations in the vain hope they will reinvest it rather than salt it away in offshore tax havens.

The Greens on the other hand don’t seem to be so keen on Keynes or Neoliberalism, as they are both a direct threat to the environment and social justice, but they are very cagy about exactly what they would replace them with if they were in power.

 

 

The Land of the Fair Go

Bad News!

The Liberals will win this election.

No Federal Government has been chucked out of office after one turn since The Great Depression

This is the land of the Fair Go. After you have had a fair go, you give the other mob a go. This is called Democracy.

The Libs will win this election because it will be decided by people who do not care about politics, people motivated by pure self interest, who will vote for whomever has the most to offer them personally. This is called ‘The U-Jack Society – “Fuck you Jack, I’m alright”.

The Libs will win this election because, despite Oz being THE richest country on earth ( and daylight comes second) most people are worried about the economy, and voters consistently rate the Libs as being more competent with money, as they are very adept at accumulating it.

We live in a Neoliberal paradigm – Winner takes all!

If you are a winner you vote Liberal as they will safeguard your money from the marauding hoards. You don’t have to worry about education or health because your kids go to private school and have private health insurance.

If you are a loser you vote Labor because they will pay for your kids education and keep you alive in your old age.

However, there are some winners who vote Green because of their compassionate policy towards losers.

 

Disclaimer: I have bet a large sum of money on The Libs based on this assumption. Of course I would be overjoyed to lose it all, but I would be even happier to back a winner. Losers suck!