Compare and contrast

As Michael Fullilove said:  “I have spent a great deal of time in archives reading presidential correspondence. I have never seen anything like this.”  And: “I actually thought it was a prank, a joke, that it couldn’t possibly come from the Oval Office,” the Democratic congressman Mike Quigley said to CNN. “It sounds all the world like the president of the United States, in some sort of momentary lapse, just dictated angrily whatever was on the top of his head.” See also Jim Belshaw last Friday: Trying to understand foreign policy in a Trumpian and febrile environment.

But, without further comment:

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By way of contrast:

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Hmm! Just compare the signatures!

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201 years ago at Minnamurra River

Between Shellharbour, my father’s birthplace, and Kiama. See Random Friday memory 22 – Beethoven in Minnamurra. Last night it featured in WIN local news.

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A memorial has been set up marking the Minnamurra Massacre of October 1, 1818.

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Here is an account from Mike Donaldson, Les Bursill and Mary Jacobs, A History of Aboriginal Illawarra, Volume 2: Colonisation, Dharawal Publications, Yowie Bay, 2017.

The fate of the people of Illawarra was sealed by a notice from the Governor in the Sydney Gazette of 28 September 1816. Those who have obtained promises of allotments are hereby required to avail themselves of the approaching occasion of the surveyors being on duty in Illawarra to get their locations marked out to them and for this purpose they are required to meet the Surveyor General at the hut of Mr Throsby’s Stockman in Illawarra, or the Five Islands district, at noon on Monday, 2 December 1816.

In the hut of Throsby’s stockman, at what now is the corner of Smith and Harbour Streets in Wollongong, that fateful meeting resulted in 2,100 hectares of Dharawal land being given to five non-resident gentlemen. These grants were practically free and each landholder was provided with convicts to do whatever work his stockmen required. The formal stealing and occupation of Dharawal land had commenced.

But taking the land by legal fiction was one thing, securing it was another. In October 1818 Lieutenant Weston, land owner at Dapto and Cornelius O’Brien, formerly a stockman at Sandon Point and now the overseer of a property at
Yallah, organised a group of seven labourers and convicts. Unusually armed with muskets, cutlasses and pikes, they headed to Kiama supposedly to fetch two muskets lent to a group of people living on the Minnamurra River. According to Young Bundle, who was long trusted by the British, the posse killed all the people at the camp.

Word of the massacre spread rapidly through the community. Responding as one, they very quickly returned all the guns –– quite a few –– that they had borrowed from the whites, removing that excuse for further acts of evil.

The attackers admitted only to wounding a boy in self-defence. After a sharp letter of protest from Charles Throsby to Governor Macquarie, the murders were investigated by D’Arcy Wentworth, the Principal Superintendent of Police, along with other magistrates. They took no action against the killers despite a letter from Governor Macquarie to D’Arcy Wentworth expressing his “surprise, regret and displeasure” at their findings.

This process of land alienation was repeated in Shellharbour where another small group of white men met on 9 January 1821 to give to and receive from each other more Dharawal country. Very soon, D’Arcy Wentworth, the colony’s Principal Superintendent of Police, Principal Surgeon and founder of the Bank of NSW, owned more than 5,000 hectares of mainly Wodi Wodi clan land, in addition to the land he already owned elsewhere. And the clearings continued.

So much going on today

Indeed. Here is a local manifestation of one of them:

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Personally I find that mindless and unnecessary — and badly executed as well. But here in The Gong we will be seeing rather more today.

Businesses and miners will also hold demonstrations ahead of the Global School Strike 4 Climate rally and march starting at noon. The Wollongong rally will be held outside the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre in Burelli Street. Organisers are intending to march up to Crown St Mall and back again before heading towards Flagstaff Hill. There will be a community picket at the South32 office, UOW Innovation Campus at 10am.

The bigger picture:

Thousands of students will lead climate strikes across the country on Friday, joining millions around the world demanding greater action to protect Earth from emissions.

The global rallies come ahead of Monday’s United Nations climate summit in New York, which Prime Minister Scott Morrison is not scheduled to attend. Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne will represent Australia.

The School Strike for Climate in Australia has singled out three main demands: no new coal or gas projects; 100 per cent of electricity to be supplied by renewable energy by 2030; and provision of a fund to support a “just transition” for fossil-fuel workers and their communities.

Sadly Climate Strike or no Climate Strike I really don’t think any of those demands is likely to happen in real life, but this is encouraging, if true: China and India demand $100 billion for climate action on eve of UN summit.

Now I hasten to add that I am what some call a “global warmist”, along with the majority of world scientists and people like Sir David Attenborough. Look at the sidebar of this blog!  That’s just another way of saying I am sane.  Not that I am suggesting that some of our more notorious parliamentarians are bonkers, though I am tempted… Take Craig Kelly (Lib) who sits — add a letter if you wish — just north of the Gong. He’ll probably appear on Sky News in the next day or two, possibly with Andrew Bolt. Here is the gospel of Craig: I kid you not.

I understand how persuasive that peer group pressure can be for teenagers and their desire to conform and fit in with the crowd.

However, I would say to any student considering joining the so-called climate protest, don’t be a sheep and think for yourself because you are being used and manipulated and everything you are told is a lie.

The facts are, there is no link between climate change and drought. Polar bears are increasing in number. Today’s generation is safer from extreme weather at any time in human history.

There is no 97% consensus. Such claims are a fraud. Crop yields have increased remarkably, wildfires have declined 25% over the past two decades, we are seeing less cyclones, not more.

Cold weather kills many times more than hot weather, including here in Australia. The sea ice is not melting away.

In fact, where the ill-fated Franklin expedition sailed in 1845, this year is blocked by thick sea ice.

Renewables ain’t renewable and they certainly don’t make electricity cheaper. And if you are worried about sea level rise, I suggest that you get some old photos of Fort Denison, get the tide gauge data and go and have a look for yourself.

Don’t take my word. I encourage all students in my electorate to study the science and learn for themselves.

Rarely have I seen so much bullshit in such a short space!  If you are tempted to take ANY of it seriously, go and have a good read here.

Meanwhile our PM — whom I praised just the other day, and don’t regret doing so — is being treated to Maccas at the White House with you-know-who and a gaggle of right-wing business types. Inevitably I thought of the last time a State Dinner was granted, by George W to John Howard, and I recalled a very pleasant night at The Belvoir watching Keating: The Musical.  This song seems so apt again.

HOWARD:
Hang on a tic, just let me talk
‘Cos you can tell by the way I use my walk
I’m just a bloke, a normal bloke, and nothin’ more
I’ve got my home, I’ve got my health
I’ve got my lovely wife and kids,
I’ve got no tickets on myself
I’m just a bloke, an Aussie bloke, to the core.
So you know that I’d be grateful to the nation at large
If you thought it was appropriate to put me in charge…

If Mr Morrison says “Maaaate!” one more time I think I’ll throw up!

Update Monday 23 September — Spring Equinox!

Here was the scene in Wollongong while not far away I dined on minestrone soup. “Around 50 Chinese visitors having fish and chips at City Diggers right now. So well-dressed I have to assume they are from Shanghai! Pretty amazing this almost daily occurrence when you think back….” So down the road:

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Quite a success, and world-wide was amazing. (Al Jazeera had the best coverage I saw.) Now today Climate change ‘hitting harder and sooner’ than forecast, warn scientists ahead of UN meeting. And just one symptom: ‘Funeral march’ held for Swiss glacier lost to global warming.

And where are we, and Donald Trump today?

Seasonal hazard turns deadly

It’s September, and here in The Gong we know what that means, as I noted in September 2013. Go there for some videos too.

…it has been happening much longer down the east coast of Oz, not least in The Gong. I had wondered about the numbers of cyclists I have seen lately with antennae. Is this the latest in tinfoil hats, I wondered? Election season could lead to an increase in wearing such protection.

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No. Rather the guy on the left in the next image is the villain responsible.

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But this year it really has turned deadly: see Swooping magpie kills man at Woonona and Cyclist dies while fleeing swooping magpie in Woonona.

A man has died while trying to avoid a swooping magpie in a park near Wollongong which has a history of attacks.

The 76-year-old was riding his bicycle in Woonona yesterday morning when the bird started to swoop so he rode off the path in an effort to escape.

He then collided with a fence post, was thrown to the ground and suffered serious head injuries.

Locals performed CPR on him until an ambulance arrived, before he was airlifted to St George Hospital in a critical condition.

Despite medical efforts he died last night…

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R U OK? And related…

Yesterday 12 September was R U OK? Day here in Oz. Question Time in Parliament opened with both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition speaking in support. The idea of the day is to realise that the simple question “Are you OK?” could lead to a conversation that may help someone labouring under depression, may even save a life. Scott Morrison said that he had been at school with Gavin Larkin, the founder of R U OK? He could also have added that the school captain in his year later went on to commit suicide, very much related to the experience of homophobia. I taught the brother of that school captain; he now lives in California.

Scott Morrison actually spoke well yesterday, I thought.

41827011Coincidentally my reading the last two days — I finished it yesterday — has been Train Man by Andrew Mulligan, London, Chatto & Windus 2019. (Hot off the shelf; Wollongong Library’s acquisition date is 21 August!) This Guardian review gives you a good idea of what the book is about. I borrowed it totally at random, and am very glad I did. I love it when a random book turns out to be a treasure — and how apposite to have been reading it on R U OK? Day! Andrew Mulligan has rendered the central character’s internal voices in a way that was a touch discomforting, simply because it is so close to the way my own internal dialogues play out. I was reminded too, in a way, of Marcel Proust — though Train Man is just 313 pages!  But that could explain why it gets mixed reviews on goodreads.

In a note at the end Andrew Mulligan reveals the kernel of the character is “an old friend who killed himself years ago on a railway line.” And tomorrow, the 14th September, is a significant date in my memory, and still at times in my internal dialogues. Thirty years ago I was living in Paddington and not all was well. I was living here.

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Living not far away was an old Wollongong friend, indeed a decade or more earlier an ex-student. Sadly, on 14 September 1989 he took his own life. I was deeply affected, and even more so were his family in Wollongong and his former partner. Again, homophobia had a role.

In the midst of it all, as therapy really — and indeed at the time I was undergoing therapy with the wonderful Cedric Bullard — I committed the whole thing to writing, as fiction, but not a thing in it didn’t happen pretty much as I told it. You can find the whole thing here. This is the 1989 section.

September 5 1989

— Well look who it is!

I have not seen J for some months, not since a few weeks before my birthday party. He had not come to the party. He is in the Darlinghurst Bookshop.

— This looks interesting Colin. You should read it. He is holding a copy of Surprising Myself by Christopher Bram. J likes to keep up with new gay writing. Later I would read it looking for clues. It has a happy ending, with a central character in a relationship with someone he calls “Boy”. At one stage, before the happy ending–and J likes gay books to have happy endings as a political statement–this central character considers killing himself:

“Petty, selfish, stupid? But none of the names seemed to contain the hatred I was feeling for myself. Hatred spread into my life, until there was nothing worth saving.”

Nothing surprising about running into J. We often meet like this by accident. So we have coffee at the Green Park Diner and then he comes with me to the decaying terrace in Paddington which is looking better than the last time he’d seen it. The talk is of birthdays and I comment that his is next week on the 14th and he repeats so formally yes it’s on the 14th and I think nothing more about it.

— I’ve been seeing your ex-friend lately

— What, Boy? Not ex-friend: we just don’t see each other any more.

J and Luke had broken up a few months before. I had fragments of the story from both sides.

— I hurt him, Colin.

J is sitting at the top of the stairs, his back resting on the bedroom doorpost, smiling. He wears black. Always that air of formality.

— How are you REALLY, J.

Code for asking about his Depression.

— Not very well.

He often said that. I knew there was nothing to say. But I look at him and say

— You know I would have given my head to see you well.

— I know that Colin.

Smiling.

— I must have been a real nuisance, J.

— No you weren’t.

— But if back then I’d been in the frame of mind I am now it would have been a lot easier for both of us. Coming out has made me less neurotic! Did I ever thank you for that?

— Colin you need to remember I was playing the Virgin Queen.

— You don’t understand how I hurt him. You know what Luke’s like. Really in touch with himself, fun, but also maddeningly irresponsible.

— That’s true, but I like him.

— So do I, a lot. But he needs to grow up and that’s the point. My need was the opposite: do you see what I mean? With him I could do all sorts of silly things I needed to do…. Dancing down the back lanes of Darlinghurst doing Barbra Streisand impersonations. It was great! I’d never done things like that, but now I’m afraid I held him back, so I had to let him go.

— I’m sure Luke enjoyed every minute of it.

At the door.

— You’ll see Boy before I do. Tell him hullo from me and that I still like him.

We walk down Oxford Street together. It is strange, as if J does not want to let me go. We have been talking for two and a half hours, more than we’ve talked in years. He seems so open, he who is so often closed off.

— Are you going all the way to Chinatown with me?

— No, I’ll cross here and get something to eat at Raquel’s.

— OK, J. See you. It’s been good. Laid quite a few ghosts.

— Yes, it has been good.

And he crosses when the lights change on the corner of Crown and Oxford, looks back once, and is gone.

September 14 1989

— I miss that man so much.

— I know that Luke.

— I don’t know what to do about his birthday. I phoned but there was no answer. He doesn’t want to see me. It makes me so angry.

— Listen, Luke, he told me to tell you he still likes you. Take it from me, when he’s like this you just have to wait.

Luke cries publicly, there in the Unicorn Bar at 10 pm. Not something he would normally do. Later at the Oxford, trying to be wise I say something like breaking up is a bit like a death and you grieve and…

September 19 1989

I am in the Albury with friends, the usual cocktail hour chat after a day’s work. A cry from the other side of the long bar. It is Luke. Wearing his long white coat. When I go over to him I see his face red and swollen, tears streaming.

— Colin, where have you been? I’ve been trying to find you all day. I have something to tell you.

— What’s wrong, Luke. Tell me.

For a while he just cries unable to talk.

— Tell me.

— It’s going to hurt you.

— Tell me.

A dozen possibilities but not this one.

— J is dead.

Frozen.

— Tell me it’s not true Colin. He’s just run away…

I ring J’s father in Wollongong immediately. “Yes, Colin, J has passed away. He rang me on Father’s Day and said he was going to Melbourne. He obviously did not intend to go. He hired a car and…”

Apparently he died on his birthday.

— It’s true.

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September/ October 1989

We hold each other. Luke spends days sleeping in my room. I light seven candles in St Mary’s Cathedral.

We tell each other stories:
did I tell you when he
he told me that Colin
is there anything that bugger didn’t tell you about me?
not much

Tennyson’s “In Memoriam” has never seemed so good.

Luke, I have lost one friend–please, I don’t want to lose two. Luke outside my door at 4 am having spent the last 36 hours in Centennial Park. He is scrabbling in the little suitcase with purple locks. He carries it everywhere. I saw J carrying it when I first saw him again in 1987.

Did you know J was bashed last year?
Yes, he told me.
So much hate.
You know he told me a year ago he didn’t think he was going to win.
The most he could hope for was to live with it.
So much love.

When the Reverend Fred Nile and his fundamentalists march into Oxford Street set on a bit of cleansing I am out there with the crowd. I wear my Mardi Gras T-shirt with additions:

FOR JAY

Sept. 1961-Sept. 1989

‘Gone where fierce indignation
can lacerate his heart no more.’

AND FOR LUKE
WHO LOVED HIM

Fred has his thousand, harmless-looking folk pushing strollers, mingled love and fear on their faces as they march up Oxford Street.

But we have five, ten thousand voices chanting NO MORE GUILT! NO MORE GUILT!

And my voice is the voice of three, a trinity of love grief and anger, and in me sing J and Luke and I:

We shall all be free
We shall all be free
We shall all be free some day
And it’s deep in my heart
I do believe
That we shall all be free someday.

And I see his face, a touch side-on, the slightly crooked nose and shy smile, eyes so often fearful, the bursts of anger, the incredible gentleness and my tears choke my singing and a gay man hugs me and says So you’re human after all…