April 13, 2008
Via Sydney Indymedia, news of a plane crashing with 3-6 tonnes of cocaine. Several people seem to believe that this plane “belonged” to the CIA; and also that the same plane had been frequently used to transport enemy combatants to Guantanamera Bay.
(Whole story was reported in ‘daily Kos’)
Can you imagine what the CIA would be doing with that much coke? When you follow the discussion, you find that a number of people are taken by the idea that the US govt is actually in charge of the illegal drug market. And that major banks are laundering cash from the whole thing.
Bizarre! i’m aghast and flobbergosted. Who would believe such things. Does this mean we can’t trust our governments here in the West? But i thought we lived in a civil society, a democracy. Surely this is just paranoid ranting?
The government, that runs a war on drugs, supports a covert drug smuggling operation? But wouldn’t that be hippo-critical ..?
December 3, 2007
Other online comments have included Andrew Bolt’s suggestion: that any hotel ejecting a reader of Flanagan’s novel is a sane and cultured place. To back up his controversial (outright rude) claim, the columnist dipped into the book’s preface which contends (in a literary way) that Jesus was “the first suicide bomber”.
okay, i admit i had some issues with that beginning too (wasn’t sure whether to take it seriously), and it took a while for Richard’s style to grab me. But i persevered with the novel, and found it a very worthwhile read. Challenging and insightful, it echoed many powerful themes for me. A good story.
i’m not sure that Andrew read the whole book. i think the preface may have been too morally outrageous for him. Or too politically correct. (“it’s so PC to attack JC.“) Or something.
His readers take the bile much further: “Pillow over the face is a good solution for people who take the first page of this book seriously. After that, a shotgun is acceptable.” (from ‘MareeS’ – does she mean me or bolt?)
But then he let the pillow / shotgun comment through. Ouch.
What am i doing reading bolt’s readers anyway? Publicans and punters in Cairns have nothing on these folk. Am i completely mad, a Glutton for Punishment? Stop it, right now!
(imagez: thanks so much for jesus says .. by RobertFrancis, and text hope u can handle it! by foTommEn, both creative commons licensed images at flickr)
November 16, 2007
When i went dancing in that hotel in Cairns, i really didn’t think too much about the consequences. But i did think about how people might perceive me – a fortyish male caucasian on my own. So i tried to be discreet, non-threatening .. not stare at anyone.
i moved about on the dancefloor for four or five songs.
(Including Dexy’s Midnight Runners, and Billie Jean. Okay, i was desperate for nightlife. i was on my own in a strange city. i was feeling a bit lonely and uncomfortable. But trying to look cool and relaxed about it.)
Then i stood to the side of the dancefloor watching the action for maybe three songs. Again, trying to be unobtrusive.
Whoops! It didn’t work. Somehow i came across to some people as potentially threatening, and the bouncer asked me to leave, saying that several patrons had complained about the book i was carrying. When story hit the front page those patrons wanted their say too.
Now i find out it wasn’t just the book.
Some of the patrons from that night are now upset at being labelled paranoid. They say that they saw a man “behaving strangely”, and that they felt intimidated. These people saw
- wires coming out of a man’s pocket (my mp3 player and headphones),
- a waist pouch (with my sunglasses),
- and a book with “the T word” on its cover (novel by Richard Flanagan).
They saw a man standing motionless on the dancefloor for twenty minutes ..
(that really baffles me. i’m sure i was dancing vigorously, and i meant to be friendly, but in my own space – intending fully to respect other people, not intrude on anyone else’s fun.
(Anyone who’s seen me on a dancefloor would be puzzled by that one. The reason i hit the dancefloor was because it was active. Usually i’m the one who gets up first, and starts other people going.)
Other people were also asked to leave
At the moment that the bouncer (#181) came up and moved me to the pavement, i was wondering whether to leave or to have another dance ..
.. because i’d just seen an Indigenous woman escorted out the door. She’d been dancing too. A very funky dancer, she was striking in appearance. Recalling the moment, I realise now that i did stare pointedly around me at that moment. i was stunned. This woman had also been dancing on her own, very well. She was well dressed and good looking. She looked to me like a good and interesting person.
i somehow leapt to the conclusion that she was asked to leave because she was “too black”. If that were true, then this was not the kind of hotel i wanted to dance in.
At that moment i stared around me in shock, trying to fathom why this had happened. i was outraged at the possibility that my conclusion could be right. i did stare at people then, wondering why everyone had let this black woman be kicked out for no reason.
- A man who looks different,
- who has wires coming out his pocket,
- who has a pouch around his waist and
- a book with the T word on the cover,
- as well as long frizzy black hair,
- who stares, indignantly.
Clear signals, to someone on the lookout. Someone who feels threatened by the world of difference. Someone who perhaps doesn’t notice an Indigenous woman being kicked out of the pub.
Atmosphere of fear
i’ve got to say that i think labelling people paranoid could be a mistake. i always thought Keating’s biggest mistake was to abuse his opponents, rather than lead them to a better place. People do get afraid, and their minds can leap to unfair conclusions. Abusing or making fun of people who feel threatened, or are in the grip of fear, is perhaps not the best approach.
This culture we live in has been brought to the point of hysterical frenzy, and individuals are not immune from these emotional currents. Most people don’t have much protection against the pressure-cooker emotions of the mass media, or from politicians who seek to embed their power by preying on those fears. i too have looked at strangers in bars and found myself wondering.
We urgently need leaders who can empathise and allay people’s fears, while at the same time evolving our understanding and our behaviour, sensibly and responsibly.
Personally i feel vulnerable and disturbed. Now i know how easy it is for people to get the wrong idea.
Just what the book is all about.
(image: thanks for “is that an iPod in your pocket by thespacesuitcatalyst at flickr)