Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 21 — FB thread led to some local music

On Monday night Michael Xu and I had a long exchange of views on the subject of refugees, why they exist and in such numbers, and where and why they became refugees, what might be done about the problem and so on. Obviously this is such deep water that one FB comment thread is highly unlikely to come up with answers — but can point to further thought. So I won’t rehearse all that was said. Michael was tending to deplore the “moral superiority complex” of the West, and pointed to issues related to the history of colonialism and capitalism — all obviously relevant matters. I was trying to present perhaps a less starkly black-and-white set of views.

For example, this is part of one of my comments: “I think we will agree that refugees/displaced people is a world problem far too big to settle in comments like these. Many causes — war, economic situations. political situations, natural disaster, climate change…. Australia used to be more generous. Feeling morally superior or not is not really the problem. But no country can take everybody, just not possible given the enormous numbers.” And I cited a couple of videos — first a very basic one of definition by UNHCR:

I also posted this statistical one, with the reservation that we really needed to look at those totals as a percentage of the populations of each country. But the countries, as you probably know already, that actually receive the greatest number are not those who really could and should do more — such as Australia,

Well, to cut a long comment thread short — we did not solve the world’s problems in one FB discussion! But I began to think of local stories. ” Not for a moment suggesting that this 78-year-old in Wollongong is at all special or knows very much, but I do try (for my own sake as much as anything else) to find those who are saying and/or doing something positive and listen to them.” And: “My neighbours here at the moment include a Syrian refugee, and a young Sudanese whose parents probably were, perhaps him too. I haven’t talked to him about it yet, but the Syrian lady I have had long talks with.”

I posted about my Syrian neighbour in 2016.

Her room is just three up from mine. She has been here for about a year but we hardly spoke until recently, when she wished me a Merry Christmas:

My Muslim neighbour kindly wished me “Merry Christmas” last week, not inappropriately given my “real” Christmas was in Surry Hills last Friday. This morning the lovely folk at the Yum Yum Cafe gave me this. So Christmas, eh! And not too hot here in The Gong this year…

We spoke again at some length a few days ago. It turns out she is from Syria and spoke no English when she arrived in Australia less than two years ago…

That post also tells of other people from similar backgrounds in Wollongong.

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Wollongong Market Day 2013

In that post also:

Yesterday at Diggers a somewhat cantankerous friend got on one of his hobby-horses – well, more like three: people who won’t work and live on welfare, refugees who go straight onto welfare and/or steal our jobs, Muslims with heaps of wives on welfare etc… You know, standard talkback radio and Daily Telegraph-fed stuff. And some of it just lately emanating from or magnified by (not really ex-) former/in waiting Prime Minister Tony Abbott, I see in today’s news.

Yesterday I fought back a bit, just on the “and how many really do that?” line leading towards the possibility that the majority in whatever group one is hating for the moment probably don’t do whatever it is – like have lots of wives. Pointed also to one of our best-known local pharmacists whose shop is much frequented by mothers in hijabs, Said pharmacist is of Lebanese background. Happened my adversary was a customer and admirer of that pharmacy.  Some half hour later my adversary shook my hand and said “I was wrong. You were right.”  Nice when that happens.

From an earlier generation is the great story of how the Wollongong Art Gallery’s collection began with the hobby of a post-WW2 refugee who worked at Port Kembla steelworks:

It was not until 1975 after a chance meeting with a very modest gentleman named Bronius (Bob) Sredersas. Bob wanted to donate his collection to the “Children of Wollongong”. This momentous gift was the catalyst on which the Art Gallery was built (Sredersas Gallery). The Illawarra County Council donated the property formally known as the Hughes Whetton Reilly Building (now Wollongong Youth Centre), including the land upon which it stood to Council on the proviso that the property be used for an Art Gallery. Through the persistence and hard work of the society, volunteers and donors, and with the assistance of Council and Government funding bodies, a Director and Board of Trustee was appointed and on the 2 June 1978 Wollongong City Gallery was officially opened by Mr Neville Wran, Premier of NSW at 85 Burelli Street, Wollongong attended by over 500 people. The first exhibition was titled Burghers of Calais, with works borrowed for the National Gallery and Art Gallery of NSW.     

I then recalled something from just last year. “Illawarra Grammar alumnus Ian Steven Muhayimana was awarded Wollongong’s Young Citizen of the Year 2020. Ian is a musican, producer, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who performs under the name Stevan.”

ABC Illawarra ran a story on him in July 2020.

From Malawi to Wollongong to the world!

19 -year old multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter Stevan has been getting played on triple j for a couple of years now, and is starting to make waves on NME and the BBC. He has finally released his long-awaited debut mixtape Just Kids, and he’s from Wollongong! Well, kind of.

Born in Malawi to parents from Burundi, Stevan arrived here when he was 3, went to school at TIGS, and is making music right here in his home studio that is getting talked about all around the world.

Here is one of his 2020 tracks, with a great video featuring some of our Illawarra bush and scenery too. I see he has resumed posting songs in the last week or so.

My mind goes back to an assignment I had for the South Sydney Herald: Launch of Refugee African Muslim Youth Project Book – 16 Jul 2010, Alexandria NSW.

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I went along to Alexandria Town Hall. 

On Wednesday this week Indigenous presenter Tony Armstrong did an excellent piece on Peter Bol on ABC News Breakfast’s coverage of the Olympic Games — it is very relevant to issues raised in this post and also in the FB discussion which triggered this post! That video does not appear to be useable, so I am substituting this July interview:

See also Peter Bol: ‘Get to know the person, instead of the assumptions’.

Bol’s story is compelling – even beyond his journey from Sudan to Australia. As a teenager, he attended St Norbert College, a prestigious private school in Perth, on a basketball scholarship. Each year he was required to participate in school athletics. He kept winning races but, despite the urgings of his teachers, had no interest in swapping sports.

Eventually, when Bol was in year 11, a teacher promised to help find him a coach, a club and a mentor if he gave athletics a shot. He agreed. “That single decision to say yes has meant I’ve travelled the whole world,” he said. Within five years, Bol was competing on the grandest stage. In Rio and now Tokyo, Bol has represented his adopted homeland.

“I love my identity and my background,” Bol said last year. “My mum is Sudanese, my dad is South Sudanese. I take a lot of pride in both of those. But I’m also as equally thankful to be here.” Bol has spoken about the positives of increased awareness about race and racism, and of his support for the conversations around the Black Lives Matter movement.

At the time of writing this (and revising it!) the outcome of the 800m Final was unknown. By the time you read it chances are you will have heard all about him!

So 10.15 and I saw the race. Great effort. Just missed a medal.

Musical interlude 1

Before moving on to the final set of my “Blogging the 2010s” series — the Decembers — I decided to share my recent vice, acquired with my new (Huawei) pocket WiFi! Today I  have two aims: first, to share a very popular song, and second to share a totally amazing political version of that song.

OK, the song I have in mind is “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” which, as Wikipedia explains, derives ultimately from “a song originally written and recorded by Solomon Linda under the title “Mbube” for the South African Gallo Record Company in 1939.”

Here it is performed by Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Beautiful!

There have been many versions in English.  Most recently it was used in the soundtrack of the 2019 Lion King movie.  But here is one I found that is both very skilful and a tad daffy! The boys choir is from a choir school in Lithuania.

Finally the political mash-up. Brilliant! On YouTube it has had 8,780,267 views since Apr 22, 2020! And counting. I am not sure how many of those are from Donald Trump. But I am sure he is spitting chips as a glance through his own YouTube channel reveals none — NOT ONE — of his videos has even got near ONE million views.

So enjoy:

For background to the song see Roy Zimmerman’s blog.

In early April, we were watching the mind-melting “Joe Exotic: Tiger King” Netlfix series with its obvious parallels to Trump World and thought it was ripe for treatment in song. Melanie came up with the riff “Don Exotic: Lyin’ King” and started singing “Wimoweh” which was used in the remake of the movie The Lion King. When we came up with the “Vote Him Away” sub-hook, we were off and running.

Then we remembered the song parody performed by the Raging Grannies of Mendocino – Roy had sung their “The Liar Tweets Tonight” with them a couple years ago – so we got in touch with Ede Morris, the Raging Granny who penned those parody lyrics, and asked if she’d mind if we took a pass at it.

After it was written, we decided to use “Vote Him Away” as the maiden voyage for our idea to get lots of people singing together in one of our videos. We hoped this “Virtual Sing-In” would help bridge the divide we’re all feeling in this time of social distancing. We appealed through our mailing list for people to join in with us in the making of the “Vote Him Away” video. We were so touched by the positive responses…

Blogging the 2010s — 94 — October 2010

Blogging–a side-track

Blame Marcellous! I was fascinated by the sites he linked to in his comment yesterday, so John Howard can wait.

As you will see someone has been mapping the Oz Blogosphere:

Axel Bruns has extracted some 2.6 million hyperlinks and come up with some very pretty data mapping the Australian blogosphere for the first time:

what we’re already seeing in the network is a relatively large cluster of sites on the left of the graph, made up of sites (MSM as well as blogs) that deal predominantly with news and politics. In addition to domestic and international news sites, various Australian political blogs (such as Larvatus ProdeoClub TroppoJohn QuigginPeter MartinCatallaxy Files, and the suite of Crikeyblogs) appear as prominent nodes in the network (on both the indegree and eigenvector centrality counts). Many smaller – that is, less prominent – blogs cluster around them, but receive comparatively fewer inlinks. There’s even likely to be some further subdivision within this overall cluster, but I wouldn’t want to speculate too much on this point until we’ve had a chance to further clean our data.

Don’t ask me what “indegree and eigenvector centrality counts” are! But these captures from the PDF file of the chart are fascinating.

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Jim Belshaw and Adrian Phoon, please note. Smile

The following is evidence that I haven’t aged a bit in the past ten years — not!

New glasses

Here I am with the new multifocal glasses which I picked up from Teachers’ Eye Care in Sydney on Friday. You also can see how The Bates Motel has come up lately.

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I also went by Elizabeth Street and saw the progress M has been making on the renovations there.

My African neighbour

Sat and talked with my downstairs neighbour D this morning. He is studying at Wollongong TAFE and lived five years in Surry Hills before coming to The Bates Motel.

He came to Australia via Uganda, but is originally from Southern Sudan.

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Figures from this time last year say that Uganda hosts about 100,000 refugees from Rwanda, Ethopia, Somalia, Eritrea, Kenya and Sudan. They live in various refugee camps scattered all over the country.

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Makes you think, doesn’t it? Why on earth are we getting so uptight about 5-6000 “boat arrivals”?

On the other hand, maybe the people here aren’t all paranoid. Last Monday’s Sydney Morning Herald had a poll showing that “the government’s decision last week to allow asylum seeker families with children to live in the community while their claims are processed is supported by 47 per cent of voters, while 50 per cent are opposed. The decision to let the families out of detention was announced on Monday last week.”

D likes Wollongong better than Sydney; it’s more laid back and the people are more friendly.

Addenda to previous post: Deng Thiak Adut and more

Thought of January 2016, given recent African youth crime stories: How inspiring! Deng Thiak Adut’s Australia Day address. See also in October 2017 Deng Thiak Adut: ‘Refugees are not here to do miracles’.

Despite his achievements, Deng warns against expecting all refugees who arrive in Australia to become overnight success stories.

“Refugees are not here to do miracles,” he says. “They are here to be assisted. They suffer from long-term trauma…You can’t expect them to get out there and succeed. They need help. They need personal contact. They need psychological assistance, they need counselling. They need support in terms of jobs.”…

“There is a problem in this country,” he says, calling attention to the many forms of discrimination – based on race, religion, sexuality, ability – found in the community. “Those who are on the fringe, they are people who look like me. We sit at the same table. I have to protect them. I have to voice their concerns. I will listen to them.”
Deng’s brother John was also a university graduate, with a double degree in anthropology and international development. He was “discriminated against”, says Deng, and unable to find work in his field in Australia. He returned to South Sudan where he was tragically killed in 2014.

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For context: see an oral history project recording the migration journeys and settlement experiences of southern Sudanese refugees now living in Blacktown, Western Sydney. See also Who are Australia’s South Sudanese? and South Sudanese honored Philip Ruddock in NSW during the refugee’s week.

Philip Ruddock was a Minister of Immigration when he travelled to Kakuma more than a decade ago. His mission led to the mass migration of the South Sudanese refugees who were stationed in Kakuma refugee camp. During the 2015 refugee day, South Sudanese and other marginalised areas Community Association in NSW honoured Philip for his care.

NOTE: My point in these two posts has been that whatever the undoubted bad that those young thugs have been doing — and may all the relevant authorities and leaders work on that! — I am sick of the panic being whipped up for naked political purposes, such as the next Victorian election. So I praise and agree with ‘Too much panic, not enough perspective’ and totally deplore this phenomenonon: Victoria’s African community ‘stereotyped, victimised’ for the sins of young kids.

Bye, bye Bob! And about bloody time too!

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Ah, poor Zimbabwe, potentially a prosperous nation blessed by nature. But that all went down the tube years ago, thanks to the Twerp-in-Chief. Did manage to set a record of a kind though, as I noted in 2010.

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One of my past posts follows:–

Jun 2008: Divine right of Mugabes and other illusions

Well, now we have it. The man is barking mad.

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe says “only God” can remove him from office, as the opposition MDC considers pulling out of next week’s run-off election amid escalating violence.

“The MDC will never be allowed to rule this country – never ever,” Mr Mugabe told local business people in Bulawayo – Zimbabwe’s second largest city – referring to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

“Only God who appointed me will remove me, not the MDC, not the British.” — ABC News.

I can’t help but reflect on the sad history of good ideas gone wrong.

Mugabe is locked in to a postcolonial agenda of land reform, and given the history of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe one can see where he has come from. There was an injustice to correct. In just two decent life spans this part of the world has had amazing transformations and has lurched from one unsustainable position — white dominance — to another. The great tragedy is that the majority of Zimbabweans, whatever their ethnicity, are — if they are still in their unfortunate country — worse off in the main than they were, because Mugabe is: 1) utterly impractical; 2) corrupt, given to favouring his own house and his cronies; 3) ruthless in the very worst sense of not caring what suffering must come to achieve his “utopia”; 4) dominated by a military clique; 5) utterly mad — as I said. He is indeed, and his country is, as the Kenyan leader said recently, an eyesore in Africa.

  • See Fallen hero, Jane Fraser’s review of Dinner with Mugabe by Heidi Holland in today’s Weekend Australian:

    …Although she stops short of condemning the man completely, possibly because she lives in southern Africa and would have justified fears for her safety, the only conclusion one can come to is that he is a monster. The question that remains is whether he was born evil or was turned evil by some of the tragedies of his life…

    Holland’s first meeting with Mugabe improved her chances of getting a personal interview. He had not spoken to the press for three years when she was told to travel from Johannesburg to Harare in case he would see her. He did and the final chapter is both riveting and without hope.

    How do you reconcile his description of the way he governed and his belief that he was misunderstood. “I don’t know whether one is misunderstood. I think the people around me understand me very well,” he told her. “But it’s the world outside that doesn’t seem to understand. They don’t appreciate what our real calling was as leaders: they think we’re in politics to enhance our status. They don’t realise that for us it was a real calling. We saw people suffer. We could not accept that our country was in the hands of a colonial power. That sense of sacrifice had to be there: you had to sacrifice yourself.”

    The more you read, the more obvious it is that Mugabe has little concept of reality. He lives in a personal bubble of a world, in which he is a selfless and successful leader….

Worth reading is this from Vanity Fair, July 2008.

I am pleased that so far the overdue ouster of Mugabe has been relatively peaceful. But one does wonder about what happens next.

The man poised to replace Robert Mugabe as Zimbabwe’s president is named Emmerson Mnangagwa, but he’s known as “The Crocodile”.

He served for decades as Mr Mugabe’s enforcer — a role that earned him a reputation for being astute, ruthless and good at manipulating the various levers of power.

Among the people, he is more feared than popular, but he has friends within the military and security forces….

See also on Foreign Policy Mugabe is a Goner, But His Looting Machine is Here to Stay.