Towards Police State Australia

•February 20, 2017 • Leave a Comment

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[The post-liberal and right-wing shift in most western countries should concern all of us who care about freedom, civil liberties and human rights. This has been gathering pace since at least 9/11 and has now reached a new and dangerous level with the Trump presidency. This essay notes some Australian developments. Time to resist.]

Towards Police State Australia in the Post-Liberal Era

At least since 9/11 almost all western countries have been involved in a gradual slide to post-liberal, more authoritarian states. Some are gradually becoming outright police states. Australia is no exception, and is in fact in the vanguard of these developments in many respects.

Australia is the only democracy without a national Bill of Rights. This is also because there is almost no grassroots revolutionary tradition of autonomy in Australia at all. As a settler nation in which the government was responsible for much development, Australians in general are historically used to everything coming from above, from the government. Now this government executive is also becoming ever more authoritarian and powerful vis-à-vis the judiciary, and is actively eroding civil liberties, the moral cornerstone of liberal democracies. We are rapidly moving into a post-liberal and authoritarian police state.

Basic liberal civil liberties and human rights are increasingly under threat: the universal rule of law, the presumption of innocence, habeas corpus, freedom of movement, freedom of speech, the right to privacy, the right to apply for asylum from persecution. As there is almost no resistance to such authoritarian developments, one may conclude that most Australians are either willingly ignorant of such developments, could not care less or else, like most Germans in 1933, are quite willing to trade in freedoms for the state promise of order and security.

Consider some of the details. In Australia Federal ministers are given extraordinary powers in areas such as immigration and national security. Without a Bill of Rights, the Australian system depends on these same ministers exercising self-restraint in the use of these extraordinary powers and on the quality of the people in the security agencies.

The following classic features of a police state are now in operation in Australia. The Federal Attorney-General can permit ASIO (Australian secret police) to ‘legally’ operate outside the law by conducting so-called ‘special intelligence operations’. Any journalist disclosing wrongdoing or that power has been used illegitimately in such ASIO operations may be jailed for up to 10 years. ASIO has the power to detain and question innocent people for up to a week. People can be jailed for up to 10 years for entering any area declared by the government to be a no-go zone. The government collects data on the location and activities of every Australian resident.

Since 9/11 the Australian government has enacted 66 anti-terrorism laws, a figure unrivalled by any comparable nation. These laws have transferred enormous power to the executive arm of government. Many of these measures cannot be found in the US because they would be struck down under the Bill of Rights.

According to the government’s own national security monitor, Roger Gyles, these laws are “the sorts of powers one would expect to find in a police state in which people can be detained without trail and journalists jailed for reporting on government activity. […] Australia has laws that contain ‘the potential for oppression’”.

As there is no Bill of Rights as in the US, an authoritarian Australian Trump and Bannon could rapidly change things, using these autocratic powers for their own oppressive purposes.

As Chief Justice Sir Owen Dixon said: “History, and not only ancient history, shows that in countries where democratic institutions have been unconstitutionally superseded, it has been done not seldom by those holding the executive power.

A proposal by the Attorney-General in 2010 for Australia to adopt a national bill of rights which would still have given the final say to politicians was vehemently rejected by both the government and the opposition because it had the potential to shift some power from the executive to the judiciary. The proposal had been formulated after public hearings across the country and 35,014 written submissions (27,888 for a bill of rights, 4203 against).

The erosion of basic civil rights and the increased power of the executive also pertain at a state level. Last year the Chief Justice of the state of New South Wales himself stated that there were now at least 397 legislative encroachments on three basic common law rights, including the presumption of innocence and the privilege against self-incrimination. 52 of these specifically encroached on the presumption of innocence ranging from reversing or altering the onus of proof [on the prosecution] for an element of an offence to removing the presumption of innocence for an entire offence altogether. Section 685 of the Local Government Act even renders someone guilty of a criminal offence by virtue of mere accusation by a local council.

George Williams, the dean of law at the University of NSW, also concludes:

“It has simply become common to treat a person as being guilty unless they can show otherwise. The consequences are enormous. It means that people can be imprisoned where once they would have been set free. Bail laws have been tightened, and prisons filled to overcrowding, on the basis that accusations should more readily allow a person to be detained before trial. […] we are losing something fundamental and important from our system of justice. A long-standing principle protective of individuals and the truth is giving way to a regime based increasingly upon assumptions and premature judgement.”

The increased authoritarian powers of the national and state executives are also expressed in the increase in police powers and decrease in judicial powers on a state level. In 2015 legislation in the Northern Territory gave police the powers to arrest people for minor offences (such as ‘failing to keep a front yard clean’ or ‘playing a musical instrument as to annoy’) without a warrant. The law even allows the police to arrest someone if they believe that person is ABOUT to commit the offence, i.e. essentially punish people on the mere suspicion of committing an offence. The arrested person may not even have the right to apply for bail or contact a lawyer. Of the 731 arrests made under the law in first three months of 2015, 525 were of indigenous people.

In NSW the liberal-conservative government in 2014 even simply axed the state law officer’s, i.e. the Attorney-General’s, Department and brought it under the control of the police minister, thus essentially making the police responsible for the formulation of criminal law policy rather than its mere enforcers.

The police minister then introduced a new bill for so-called ‘serious crime prevention orders’ which further eroded the judicial powers of the criminal justice system (trial by jury) and extended and cemented police powers by allowing the Police Commissioner or the Director of Public Prosecutions to apply to a court for new orders restricting the movements or freedom of association even of people not convicted of, or even charged with, a serious crime for up to five years.

A second bill introduced by the same NSW police minister would allow a senior police officer, rather than a court, to make a so-called ‘public safety order’ banning a person he/she deemed a serious risk from a public place or event for 72 hours.

This authoritarian shift in power to the executive is also advanced by stimulating fear and paranoia in the general population under the guise of Orwellian counter-terrorism policies. For example, in 2016 the Federal ‘Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Counter-Terrorism’ (sic) released counter-terrorism guidelines for businesses and staff operating in what they call PMGs (‘places of mass gathering’).

Recommending staff training in spotting potential terrorists, the guidelines point to suspicious behaviours to look out for. If you have ever engaged in any of the following in a ‘PMG’, you might have to really watch your step next time:

‘continuous scanning of an area, unusual perspiration, heavy breathing, fidgeting, rubbing hands, pacing, clock watching, exaggerated yawning, avoiding security/uniformed officers […] unusual video recording or photography, working in groups, taking notes/drawing diagrams, taking measurements (pacing steps out), avoiding eye contact, […] revisiting the same location, observing but not using a public transport system.’

That such paranoia and social trust destruction from above is having an effect on the general population can also be gauged by the increase in Australia in popular self-surveillance by the people themselves, a notorious characteristic of Communist police states everywhere . The number of calls to the so-called National Security Hotline doubled from 9,274 in 2013 to 19,192 in 2014, while referrals to counter-terrorism police from the National Security Hotline grew by 548 percent between 2014 and 2015, one year after the government raised the terrorism alert level to ‘high’ and more than 800 NSW police officers carried out sweeping pre-dawn raids on 27 homes in Sydney and charged one person with plotting a beheading.

When Hitler took over power in 1933 he also retained most of the existing laws and judicial system. All Australia would need is a right-wing Trump, Bannon, Duterte or Marine le Pen figure to do the same in order for Australia to move from a post-liberal police state with some important remaining safeguards and freedoms to some post-modern form of outright fascism. Any remaining dissidents could then perhaps be shipped to the hell-hole gulags on Nauru or Manus where asylum seekers are, with majority popular support, currently deprived of their human rights and severely abused.

[All information taken from the following articles in the liberal newspaper the Sydney Morning Herald: George Williams, ‘With no bill of rights, Australia is ill-prepared for a Down Under version of Trump’, SMH 13/2/2017, p. 16; G. Williams, ‘Australia’s problem with innocent until proven guilty’, SMH 16/3/2016, p. 19; P. Coorey, ‘Bill of rights looks dead in the water,’ SMH 17/2/2010; M. Whitbourn, ‘Basic legal rights are at risk: chief justice’, SMH 5/2/2016, p. 19; ‘Paperless arrests ‘unprecedented’’, SMH 13/7/2015, p. 10; M. Whitbourn, ‘Lawyers sound alarm over ‘erosion of powers’’, SMH 15/4/2016, p. 3; H. Aston, ‘ Security advice plants ideas to limit damage’, SMH 14/4/2016, p. 5; R. Olding, ‘Massive increase in calls to national terror hotline’, SMH 20/9/2015, p. 2]

Once upon a Timeless

•February 8, 2017 • 3 Comments

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[Another poetic shot at Big History, the story of the universe, from a a spiritual perspective that owes a lot to Alan Watts’ reading of Vedanta, especially in his The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are. Tat tvam asi: Thou art that/IT. Took the shot on the south coast north of Bawley Point.]

Once upon a Timeless
– i.m. Alan Watts (1915-73)

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a timeless
there was no-thing that was every-thing
& nothing & that was silence meditating.
It’s what silence does. Let’s call it IT.

IT, just for the hell of it, decided to play
hide-and-seek with Itself. So IT took a deep breath,
contracted its immeasurable immensity
into a pinpoint & big-banged itself
into a great big fire, pure energy
that was hot enough to singe God’s eyebrows
(more about God later).

This energy was so hot there was no
firm anything, no matter or space, no outlines
of anything at all, just a big boiling hot soup
of potential, a hellish cauldron of possibilities
(spoiler: such as you and I and Joe Bloggs).

Gradually (for Time had suddenly come into
the game too), this cauldron started cooling.
As it did so the first differences, the first bubbly
sort of things appeared, tiny swirls of something
playing hide-and-seek, flitting in & out
of being & not-being, wave & particle
in whispy clouds of pure potential.

With further cooling these clouds condensed
into the first things we call atoms, itsy bitsy
somethings consisting mainly of nothing or space,
& thus did IT split itself into a relationship
of creative tension between two differences,
a positive & negative, a cloud of No dancing
around a kernel of Yes.

This was tension that henceforth kept the whole
game of hide-and-seek going, the rest fine & filigree
variations on this basic dual theme: yes-no,
light-dark, heaven-hell, god-devil, good-bad,
joy-sorrow, before-after, either-or & both-and.

Soonish, & at ever faster pace, IT all condensed
more & more & more into the great infinite panoply
of the Ten Thousand Things: into stars & galaxies
& planets, into cells & slime moulds & sharks & trees
& birds & biospheres, into you & me & Joe Bloggs,
ape-man & post-moderns scratching screens.

Thus did IT dually dance itself into the big three
waltzing waves (1-2-3, 1-2-3) of matter, life & mind.

At which point IT looked back at itself. However,
as long as IT looked with its clever eyes & mind,
IT saw only an infinite regression of fairground mirrors
of cause-and-effect-and-cause, mirror-within-mirror
for ever, for the seeking fed the hiding which increased
the seeking in an eternal vicious circle of desperation.

Yet this was all part of the whole great game too,
part of the great pretending, the divine comedy
of peekaboo IT was playing with itself: how long
could IT pretend to seek outside itself & not know
who IT really was

how long could it keep up the dramatic suspense,
the delicious whodunnit thrill of losing itself
in its myriad forms & masks, of undertaking
so many arduous quests for redemption,
enlightenment, for reconciliation with itself

how long could it play out the wandering maze
of human history as a never-ending series of substitutes
for realization like power & monuments & status
& material possessions & perfect bodies & orgasms
& fame & followers & space travel & artificial
unintelligence & works of art & God

& questions like this?

The Anthropocene Choice

•February 5, 2017 • 2 Comments

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[Some Big Pic stuff. Maybe time to all get our heads around the notion of the Anthropocene. Widen consciousness, get a bigger perspective than that provided by almost all the media, educational institutions, political movements. Things are hotting up and it might be helpful to know where we are collectively within planetary evolution and what our collective choices might be, especially if we fail to become more conscious of our situation as a species and collectively act on that knowledge…Took the photo of the graffito in a Melbourne laneway…]

Ten Propositions on the Anthropocene Choice for Humanity

1.We are now in the ANTHROPOCENE: a new evolutionary phase of the planet since about 1950 defined primarily by one species, Homo sapiens, largely determining planetary evolution

2.Like all previous evolution, the Anthropocene is proceeding blindly, UNCONSCIOUSLY, mainly via market mechanisms and the self-serving, narrow-focus decisions of technocratic and power elites

3.The Unconscious Anthropocene, if not made conscious and transformed, will most likely mean the emergence of the POST-HUMAN as the increasing ABOLITION of what it has meant to be a primate and human since the birth of homo sapiens and of humanism: i.e. the diminution, or even abolition, of the evolved body and somatic senses, of uncreated nature, of the close-knit family of biological kin, of the face-to-face community, of work, and of individualism understood as individual meaning-making in the interplay of interiority-solitude and public dialogue

4.The Unconscious Anthropocene means the abolition of the human in a MERGER OF MAN AND MACHINE, a merger of the living with the non-living, of the evolved organic-biological with artificial cyber-mechanistic systems into completely new, post-human forms of evolution

5. This merger is enabled by a dominant and repressive cognitive strategy, the latest form of scientistic REDUCTIONISM and spiritual ‘flatland’: namely by reducing biological-human organisms and their internal meaning-making systems (feelings, interiority, intelligence, imagination, inter-subjectivity) to things seen only as quantifiable external surfaces, i.e. to purely physical information systems or networks and biochemical computer algorithms;

6. Having accomplished that cyber-mechanistic and mathematical reduction, electronic algorithms are then expected to eventually fully decipher and outperform, i.e. SUPERCEDE human biochemical algorithms

7.The outward TECHNOLOGICAL FORMS of this man-machine merger have been gradually emerging and various as they become more dominant post-modern industries of advanced capitalism: artificial intelligence that can adapt and learn from experience, biotechnology and bionics, robotics and bio-robotics, cyborgs and augmented intelligence, injected and new materials nanotechnology and atomic-level machines, self-trafficking and the objectified self movement, the Internet of Things, total private and public surveillance systems etc.

8.The (utopian) alternative would be the political choice of a CONSCIOUS, PARTICIPATORY ANTHROPOCENE in which global citizens democratically debate and decide on the direction of conscious evolution, i.e. make the key decisions on economic, technological and social directions themselves

9. The cultural, political, social and economic forms or institutions of this conscious participatory Anthropocene are, as yet unclearly and unconsciously, emerging in the diverse global movements of resistance to ecocide and capitalism and of cooperative prefiguration and in their communications within the evolving global brain that is the internet

10.The Conscious Anthropocene would neither romantically regress to earlier stages of human evolution (like primitivism, religious fundamentalism or regressive nationalism would seek to do) , nor would it abolish or REPRESS these earlier stages but both consciously INCORPORATE AND TRANSCEND them at a higher level (i.e. the body and senses, ancient/premodern mind-and-feeling, needs for kin, small group and face-to-face community, individual interiority and conscience, need for nature etc.)

Haiku of Innocence & Experience

•February 3, 2017 • Leave a Comment

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[Haiku about my childhood, which was also the period of atomic bomb testing, also by the British government in Australia. We all copped the fallout.The three sections relate to three periods lived in different Sydney suburbs. The three names of the atomic test sites in square brackets are supposed to be printed on the right side of the page but WordPress won’t let me do that here. The poems were published in my book Cut a Long Story Short, still available online at the publisher’s (Puncher & Wattmann 2014). Haiku are like a fleeting footprint in time. Took the photo of a transient footprint at Murramurang beach on the south coast.]

Haiku of Innocence & Experience

Joys impregnate. Sorrows bring forth.
– William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

1 Glebe 1951-53

huge ship’s bow at wharf
whistling down:
Grandma’s teddy bear

joyous stream of piss
arcing high in kitchen
over brown linoleum

picking up father
near the harbour: soul
smells oil, boats, piers

on veranda biscuit tin
watching street:
Rainbow Bird on black !

[Montebello tests]

2 Crow’s Nest 1953-57

morning jump into
their bed, sucking earlobes:
this warmth will breed warmth

on the nature strip
a day of play & shout
eye sky, no between

father planing wood:
smell of shavings peeling
off so sweet & clean

playing with toy cars
pushed over tiny tracks:
suddenly real roads!

her scarf floats to my feet
Queen’s car rushing by:
still haven’t grabbed it

walking home from school:
dunce hat steeple craned on church
wireless blaring Games

winter cracker night:
Jumping Jack mad wild thing
pounces on dad’s pate!

back from beach in car:
pores warm clean breathing
sun-scouring surf

shuttlecock game
with father at Collaroy:
cock’s arc still mid-air

Christmas Eve tree
summer melting candles
hymns with presents covered

sudden slap in face:
mother, world shattering
cold empty bathroom

backyard tent:
prickly grass first lips
pressing mine pelvis melts

grownups talking War
& bombs, under table touch
Auntie’s stockinged legs

watermark on ceiling,
fourth class, bored. Only
made of flesh & things?

standing near wireless:
‘How do you know you exist?’
Paul prods life quest

[Emu Field test]

3 Haberfield 1959-66

mother’s Sunday lamb
crusting carrots, spuds:
fusing family

Hobart, first moment
garden bliss:
raspberry off the bush

back from paradise
look out hotel window:
dead trees moon horror

every day waiting
by the window:
thirty seconds, she’s gone

one day eternity here:
Stace’s copperplate
fleeting footpath chalk!

coming home from school
phone box smell
dial eternal time man

wrestling with father:
love in muscle
tussle & toss

Wylie Baths
old tortoise men drink sun
clear-glass aquarium

bodysurfing
build, break, wash:
cells learn ocean beat

the moment before
waves break:
ecstasy enfolds build

[Maralinga tests]

4

knowing there’d be
fallout… knowing
there’d be black rain

they knew
we did not know
black rain gently

settles down
the black hole
of our forgetting

Honika, or the Politics of Warmth

•January 16, 2017 • Leave a Comment

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[Narrative poem based on true story of a Nazi skinhead Horst who changed to a Left Party Monika, which I found in the German magazine Der Spiegel No. 15 in 2011. Maybe even of use in the context of the resurgent populist and extreme right in many countries, looking at human interiors not just exteriors…]

HONIKA, OR THE POLITICS OF WARMTH

It’s glam rock at the cusp of punk
when Horst’s born in a German village
to parents who split like a band
soon as he pops. Mum’s on tranx.

Fostered at three to a dad who loves
the cane. Horst burns down
the ugly living room curtains
to get a better view of the fields

breathing their fake canola sun far
as the eye can see. Ten years later
it’s back with mum, now clean &
Catholic, a stepdad budgie breeder

& drunk who belts the shit out
of mum who belts him back to
the tune of Horst pulling the pillow
over his ears between walls happy

with Metallica, Madonna, Queen.
The budgies die. The first stubble
finds Horst unhappy with this
sudden roughing up of face & pubes.

No friends, he’s the perfect victim
for the schoolyard pack & never
fights back. Just closes his eyes till
he hears an alpha voice growling

lay off, & Horst looks up to see four
mirror Doc Martins under two skins.
No more bullying, now he’s got
friends, beers in pubs, pamphlets

& joins the Nazis for the warmth.
Hands out flyers, marches, nods
along to their ‘migrants out !’ & ‘hate
the queers !’, though that hurts.

His soul squirms in his body
like a left hand in a right glove.
Secretly meets men, wants boobs,
a pussy, but doesn’t tell mum.

When she dies he’s in hell, life
an ugly fucking sculpture
he wants to smash. He leaves
his skinhead family, then his body

to the clever knife till abracadabra
she’s: Monika, & loves her boobs.
On the dole, she’s drawn to bolshies,
justice, more pamphlets, pubs.

She joins. It’s the warm feeling,
like a family she says. A candidate
for The Left, she gets 2%, heckling
she’s mad, a fat swastika on her door.

She fears the Nazis might do more.
Now she’s leaving for Berlin. Maybe
slough all over again in some warm
village big cold cities can still contain.

Anti-National Anthem

•January 9, 2017 • 8 Comments

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[Rhyming poem or song I wrote about 20 years ago. Given the current resurgence of nationalism and xenophobia everywhere, might still be relevant. Emerging One World Consciousness still needs to be fought for. Can easily be sung to any invented melody.]

Anti-National Anthem

My nation is the planet
My flag it is the sky
My passport is my breathing
That I’ll hand in when I die

I’ll fight for no government
‘cept the government of the heart
But I’ll fight the war-and-money machine
That tears this world apart

So you can keep all your nations
Keep your money men
Left and Right
Cause they’re all just
Halluci……nations
In this never ending night

(Break)

But mother earth and sister sea
And father sky and brother tree
These are my Royal Family
These are my next of kin
These are the ancient voices
That breathe through my skin

(Break)

So we’ll sing no more anthems
Till people everywhere
Can live in peace and justice
And laughingly declare:

My nation is the planet
My flag it is the sky
My passport is my breathing
That I’ll hand in when I die

My passport is my breathing
That I’ll hand in when I die

Mapping the Landscape Mapping Itself

•January 8, 2017 • 2 Comments

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[A little philosophy of language to kick off the year folks. Have a great 2017. The image is supposed to be a ‘3D model’ of a known unknown called ‘dark matter’.]

Mapping the Landscape Mapping Itself

There are more things twixt heaven and earth than are contained in thy philosophy, Horatio. (Shakespeare’s Hamlet)

As far as the propositions of mathematics refer to reality they are not certain, and in so far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality. (Einstein)

The frog thoroughly known in all its parts, juices, and processes, is a frog that no longer hops and catches flies on a lazy summer afternoon. (Walter Benesch, An Introduction to Comparative Philosophy, p. 197.)

The Buddha’s Diamond Sutra insists on truth being undeclarable. To declare is to use words, names, theories. Words and theories are (using Alfred Korzybski’s distinction) maps, not the landscapes themselves.

So,

what if all words and theories are different ways of looking at the same thing, the same landscape?

What if no map (words or theory) can ever fully describe the whole landscape because to do so it would have to become, at the very least, as large as the landscape it is describing? If the landscape is all there is, then how can there be room for a map of the landscape that is as large as the landscape itself? (Unless of course, as in J.L. Borges’ story ‘The Library of Babel’, the universe itself recursively becomes one huge Library documenting itself…)

What if the landscape thus encompasses the map and the map-making but the map and the map-making cannot, by definition, ever encompass the landscape?

What if a life encompasses the writing about this life but the writing cannot, by definition, ever encompass the life?

What if the map-making is thus a possible form of recursive self-constructing which the landscape manifests as a way of ‘externally’ knowing (mapping) itself?

What if words grows out of a mind which grows out of life which grows out of the world which grows out of the cosmos like an apple grows from a tree?

What if we were thus BOTH the apple AND the tree, the landscape and the mapping of the landscape as it constructs or projects the map and the landscape, both, as in Chuang Tzu, a man dreaming he is a butterfly AND a butterfly dreaming he is a man?

What if ‘there is, brethren a condition’ in which this BOTH-AND state can sometimes be directly experienced in states labelled (mapped) negatively as ‘non-experience’, ‘no thought’, ‘no dream’, ‘no self’, ‘emptiness’, ‘silence’, ‘non-action’, ‘void-form’ etc. in which both-and is also neither-nor and all purposeful map-making ceases, and

Reality, the Landscape, is simply all there is and that Landscape is neither map nor thing nor self nor dream nor any thing at all, nor nothing?