On grubs, malice, malignancy and muttering on social media — and angel voices too…

An interruption to the COVID-19 and lockdown series, but definitely related.

It has in the past week been impossible not to have seen this here in Oz:

Covid-19 patients from Sydney’s Concord hospital have shared their experience of the Delta variant’s symptoms and pleaded for Sydneysiders to get vaccinated. Lung specialist Lucy Morgan shared the stories of 50-year-old construction worker Fawaz, 30-year-old pharmacy worker Ramona and 35-year-old tradie Osama in a video from Sydney Local Health District. Fawaz and Osama infected family members who have also been hospitalised, while single mother Ramona says she has been unable to see her children for weeks

But this has not escaped the malevolent attention of the nutters and bastards on social media, as last night’s excellent Media Watch on our ABC showed.

This is the whole show — a cracker it is too!

Transcript:

Footage of those patients, identified only by their first names, was recorded by Dr Lucy Morgan and released by New South Wales Health. And it made it onto all the major networks including ABC News, Ten News First and Seven News.

But soon people on social media were wondering if the New South Wales Health video was actually a fake. 

And among the sceptics was former One Nation senator Rod Culleton, whose post received thousands of likes, and another former senator, David Leyonhjelm.

And one intrepid TikToker who went digging was able to reveal:

I found all 3 actors. Now how can this be coincidental?

– TikTok, @loiannecapone, 27 August, 2021

Yes, all three, including Ramona, were supposedly paid crisis actors, who did not have COVID at all.

And another internet sleuth then set out to prove it, ringing Concord Hospital to show that Ramona Khoury was not a patient there…

So, is Ramona a crisis actor pretending to have COVID for New South Wales Health? No, of course she’s not.

As New South Wales Health made clear, the patient’s name is not Ramona Khoury but Ramona El-Nachar, who is a pharmacy worker. 

And as you can clearly see they are two different people, despite the fact that both are women and both have dark hair.

And as for the two male patients, well, we’re happy to tell you they are not crisis actors either.

As actor and comedian Mitch Garling — who was ‘outed’ online as COVID patient Osama Ahmad — said on Instagram: 

MITCH GARLING: … turns out that people are using my photo and my StarNow profile saying that I am an actor sitting in a hospital pretending to have COVID. Look, I am an actor …

But not pretending to have COVID. Not that. Just, doesn’t even look like me. Has a beard. That’s it.

– Instagram, @mitchgarling, 27 August, 2021

It is amazing what people will believe, isn’t it?…

But it’s not just fun and games for the COVID conspiracists. Because the hospital told Media Watch:

It has been highly distressing for Dr Morgan and the patients to see their powerful messages undermined by these baseless and dangerous accusations, and to have their credibility questioned. Staff in Concord Hospital’s intensive care unit have also received multiple intimidating phone calls from members of the public over this matter. 

– Email, Dr Teresa Anderson, Chief Executive, Sydney Local Health District, 3 September, 2021

It is the last thing our exhausted health workers need.

And it’s not much better for the rest of us, relying on people to take COVID seriously and get the jab if we’re ever to win back our freedoms.

And now a disgusting local example that has been playing out here in Wollongong in the past 24 hours. But first, meet an angel — or a family of angels…

Who is that masked man? Why all the toys?

In July I rather cryptically noted — and I think I must have forgotten to include the video from WIN News! “But in fact it is from our local Wollongong news, and is a marvellous example of human kindness and also of Australian multiculturalism at its best.” That is Omar Nemer from Samaras Middle Eastern Restaurants in Fairy Meadow and Wollongong, also with a food truck that has been out and about during lockdown. And the toys?

Omar from Samaras Food Truck and Catering here. I have organised a massive collaboration for this coming week. The Samaras Food Truck pop-ups will be switching to drive thru for the remainder of the lockdown and do we have a suprise for you! Each drive thru next week we will have $200 worth of toys to give away!! Every kid that is in the car during the drive thru will get something from a BRAND NEW BIKE with helmet, Scooter with Helmet, Soccer Ball, Lego, a Foam Plane, Bubble Stick and much much more. It’s all thanks to these sponsors who have each Sponsored $200 worth of toys for each day.

I have mentioned Omar and his family business often, not least in this post: Munching against the fear of “the other”…

illeatwithyou
Restaurant owner Omar Nemer and community leader Grahame Gould

In the past 24 hours on Facebook Omar has made two major posts. This is the first:

Our community & staff are our number 1 priority which is why, for the first time in 13 years effective immediately Samaras Woonona, Wollongong & Food Truck are closing its doors for 2 weeks.

One of our Food Truck staff members has tested positive to Covid. The staff member worked Thursday 2nd & Friday 3rd in the evening at the Food Truck Drive thru.

The staff member fell symptomatic on Saturday 4th & was not symptomatic previous to this date. The staff member was directed to get tested and self isolate immediately by the Samaras management team. The staff member was not aware of any direct contact with anyone that was Covid Positive. We followed NSW Health regualtions which states the individual has to isolate until results come back and no further action is required up until that point.

All Samaras staff have conducted a covid test and are now in isolation until results come out as a precaution taken by the Samaras Management Team. All direct contacts (which are very minimal) are now in quarantine as directed by NSW Health.

NSW health has advised us that due to the fact that it is a drive thru, they are not concerned about the risk of community transmission and therefore this is not being listed as a hotspot. Please do get tested if you have any concern. They are also not concerned of any community transmission at any of the Samaras Woonona or Wollongong venues.

We have been advised that we have to close until our staff test negative (approx 24-48hrs) & to deep clean our shops & then reopen. We ourselves have decided to close as a precaution for 2 weeks as you can get covid & not have any symptoms or test positive up to 12 days after any possible transmission date.

The health & safety of our staff & customers is our number one priority & we feel it is best for our community. We look forward to seeing you all soon.

This can happen to anyone at any time. Wishing our staff member a speedy recovery. Take care out there people.

Thank you,
Much love,
Samaras team

Of course that was accompanied by many comments expressing concern and goodwill.

But then the grubs and bastards started, just as they did with the Concord Hospital patients.

It has come to our attention that there have been several people writing comments, spreading rumours that the Samaras family hosted a party in Berkeley with members from Bankstown attending, and we would like to address these harmful allegations.

The Samaras family have NEVER held or attended a party in lockdown.

This is false information and the Samaras family have nothing to do with these hurtful rumours. We do not live in Berkeley, nor do we have kids in a Mangerton daycare. If spiteful members of the community continue to make defamatory claims against Samaras, we will have no choice but to pursue legal action.

The people of the Illawarra that truly know who we are as a family know that we would never do such a thing. We pride our selves in being a core part of the Illawarra trying to bring unity.

We have always worked very hard to support our community and this is very upsetting and distressing for us to hear. We have never failed our community and this is no time to be divided. We have dedicated the last 13 years to the Wollongong community and have always been on the front line when the community needs us. Let’s stay united during these troubling times.

Kind regards,
Samaras family

So far over 250 people have indicated love and concern, and 22 have commented. One example is typical:

Cant believe one of our community pillars is being attacked again. Just gonna say it, the not so subtle racism that Samaras is and has experienced is disgusting.

Gonna save up my poverty dolleriedoos for a mezze plate with a side of dolmades to support ya’ll when you reopen

I commented last night:

I am utterly disgusted by this. Whoever is responsible is an absolute grub and can never be on the same human level as you and your family, whose generosity is well known and whose service is exemplary. Not to mention the food!

Let me share another story of angels in our Gong community — the local mosque:

JAB TIME: Wollongong man Muhammad Rafique gets his AstraZeneca vaccine shot at Omar Mosque from Helen Calvert from the Illawarra Public Health Unit. Picture: Robert Peet — Illawarra Mercury

Staff from NSW Health along with medical practitioners were at the mosque in Gwynneville to administer the vaccination.

An Arabic interpreter was also on hand to assist those who could not speak English.

Muhammad Rafique, one of the first people to get jabbed at the mosque, welcomed the experience.

“I’m so glad the mosque has chosen to run a vaccination clinic. It definitely played a major part in me deciding to get the jab,” the 24-year-old said.

“I had reservations about getting the AstraZeneca because of all of the misinformation around but my fears were allayed by the wonderful medical staff.”

Mr Rafique, who owns Bams, Burgers and Wraps in Gwynneville, urged his fellow Muslims to get jabbed as a matter of urgency.

“Do not delay, this is too important,” he said.

“I’m so glad the mosque opened this clinic because I’m sure a lot of people in the Muslim community have some reservations about getting vaccinated.

“Hopefully getting a jab in the mosque, where they feel comfortable, will encourage them to bite the bullet and book in to get vaccinated.

“I was always going to get a jab but the fact the mosque was offering jabs definitely sped things up for me.

“I’m now pleading with my fellow Muslims to do the same and get vaccinated sooner rather than later.”

That story you can believe, people! But do be very critical about what you believe on social media There are so many loose cannons, dingbats and just plain skunks tapping away on keyboards out there…. So much disinformation and just plain lies. Be very careful what you share.

On that see this great article in the New Yorker: Ivermectin, the Crate Challenge, and the Danger of Runaway Memes.

It’s common sense by now that social media allows us to exist in bubbles of perception. If you see many people doing something online, clogging up your social-media feeds with videos and messages, it’s easy to assume that the behavior is happening everywhere—and is therefore O.K. to do. What the Milk Crate Challenge and ivermectin have in common is that they are hazardous undertakings given more credence by their online ubiquity. In a slower, more cautious digital-media environment, perhaps the F.D.A.’s own warnings would supersede viral videos or misinformation on these platforms. But, when platforms are made up mostly of user-generated content and that content is served to viewers as quickly and as often as possible in order to drive engagement and advertising sales, content moderation is always playing a Sisyphean game of catch-up. As with the pandemic itself, problems are only identified and confronted after they have already spread.

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 33 — listen to the music…

All the music! Our world is not just a site of hideous injustices, wars, diseases — it is also a place of great beauty, all kinds of beauty. And there is music that penetrates to the heart of being, crosses all divides, renders us speechless… And that is not a bad thing.

Be very amazed!

And one of the truly great musicians of the last century! About morning ragas:

Morning Ragas are said to be perhaps the most evocative of the time and are soothing and calm in nature. Their melodies are grounded in the lower register (mandra saptak) and their melodic movement is gradual, the rhythmic and tonal intensity increasing with the progress of the day.

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 3

Things have not improved significantly. Hopefully my on-line order (see yesterday’s post) arrives this morning, keeping me in food and such necessities!

Now one thing you can do in lockdown is read. As well as my few library books, I have the vast eBook library I have posted about before. That now stands at 2,830 books! One recent acquisition — and 99.9% of my eBooks are freebies — is E M Forster, A Passage to India. I would say it has just emerged from copyright, as it was not available from Project Gutenberg before.

Now of course I had read it before, first while a student at Sydney University around 1961-2, and again later on. Naturally I also saw the movie.

All sorts of interesting things can be said about the book and the movie! We perhaps need to be reminded of three things: 1) E M Forster was a closeted gay man 2) the book appeared in 1924 3) the emphasis on the Muslim in India was one with the way the British tended to think about the “natives”. The novel, while not autobiographical, is rooted in Forster’s own experiences in India and with Indians. Much has been said, and fair enough too, along the lines of post-colonial critique; the first and still most famous example of that is Edward Said.

But what struck me most as after all this time I read the first few chapters is what absolutely brilliant writing it is. Also, that it really is better than any movie or other adaptation. Let me close by indulging in a long quotation from Chapter 1.

I quote the entire chapter!

Except for the Marabar Caves—and they are twenty miles off—the city of Chandrapore presents nothing extraordinary. Edged rather than washed by the river Ganges, it trails for a couple of miles along the bank, scarcely distinguishable from the rubbish it deposits so freely. There are no bathing-steps on the river front, as the Ganges happens not to be holy here; indeed there is no river front, and bazaars shut out the wide and shifting panorama of the stream. The streets are mean, the temples ineffective, and though a few fine houses exist they are hidden away in gardens or down alleys whose filth deters all but the invited guest. Chandrapore was never large or beautiful, but two hundred years ago it lay on the road between Upper India, then imperial, and the sea, and the fine houses date from that period. The zest for decoration stopped in the eighteenth century, nor was it ever democratic. There is no painting and scarcely any carving in the bazaars. The very wood seems made of mud, the inhabitants of mud moving. So abased, so monotonous is everything that meets the eye, that when the Ganges comes down it might be expected to wash the excrescence back into the soil. Houses do fall, people are drowned and left rotting, but the general outline of the town persists, swelling here, shrinking there, like some low but indestructible form of life.

Inland, the prospect alters. There is an oval Maidan, and a long sallow hospital. Houses belonging to Eurasians stand on the high ground by the railway station. Beyond the railway—which runs parallel to the river—the land sinks, then rises again rather steeply. On the second rise is laid out the little civil station, and viewed hence Chandrapore appears to be a totally different place. It is a city of gardens. It is no city, but a forest sparsely scattered with huts. It is a tropical pleasaunce washed by a noble river. The toddy palms and neem trees and mangoes and pepul that were hidden behind the bazaars now become visible and in their turn hide the bazaars. They rise from the gardens where ancient tanks nourish them, they burst out of stifling purlieus and unconsidered temples. Seeking, light and air, and endowed with more strength than man or his works, they soar above the lower deposit to greet one another with branches and beckoning leaves, and to build a city for the birds. Especially after the rains do they screen what passes below, but at all times, even when scorched or leafless, they glorify the city to the English people who inhabit the rise, so that new-comers cannot believe it to be as meagre as it is described, and have to be driven down to acquire disillusionment. As for the civil station itself, it provokes no emotion. It charms not, neither does it repel. It is sensibly planned, with a red-brick club on its brow, and farther back a grocer’s and a cemetery, and the bungalows are disposed along roads that intersect at right angles. It has nothing hideous in it, and only the view is beautiful; it shares nothing with the city except the overarching sky.

The sky too has its changes, but they are less marked than those of the vegetation and the river. Clouds map it up at times, but it is normally a dome of blending tints, and the main tint blue. By day the blue will pale down into white where it touches the white of the land, after sunset it has a new circumference—orange, melting upwards into tenderest purple. But the core of blue persists, and so it is by night. Then the stars hang like lamps from the immense vault. The distance between the vault and them is as nothing to the distance behind them, and that farther distance, though beyond colour, last freed itself from blue.

The sky settles everything—not only climates and seasons but when the earth shall be beautiful. By herself she can do little—only feeble outbursts of flowers. But when the sky chooses, glory can rain into the Chandrapore bazaars or a benediction pass from horizon to horizon. The sky can do this because it is so strong and so enormous. Strength comes from the sun, infused in it daily, size from the prostrate earth. No mountains infringe on the curve. League after league the earth lies flat, heaves a little, is flat again. Only in the south, where a group of fists and fingers are thrust up through the soil, is the endless expanse interrupted. These fists and fingers are the Marabar Hills, containing the extraordinary caves.

I just revelled in that!

Inspiration point

It is very tangentially related to the above, if you give yourself enough leeway! But in fact it is from our local Wollongong news, and is a marvellous example of human kindness and also of Australian multiculturalism at its best.

You may have read here in the past about one of the favourite restaurants of my friend Chris Turner and myself — Samara’s. See for example Munching against the fear of “the other”…

On Facebook I remarked by way of introduction:

Samara’s is such a great restaurant, and such wonderful people. Their restaurant is halal.

If that worries anyone, then those worriers have the problem, not Samara’s.

Chris Turner and I were meant to do Friday lunch at Samara’s when the signs of what we are now going through became apparent — before Gladys actually called it.

Screenshot - 24_07_2016 , 8_40_05 AM

Now see what they are up to in the current lockdown.

Update

The grocery order arrived! Early, in fact!

Soul-searching? #2

NOTE: I think this post will do you for two days at least, so there will be a short hiatus here.

Memory Lane has been in overdrive!

Back Row L-R: Terry Naughton, “Pip” Dryden, Clive Kessler.

Front Row L-R: Grahame Delaney, R W “Rockjaw” Smith (coach and English teacher), Alfie van der Poorten.

Extraordinarily ancient relic! And that is just me!

That is a more or less deliberately antiqued photo of the First Grade Debating Team at Sydney Boys High in 1959. I was not in the team, but some very impressive classmates were. One featured in my blog post of 16 May and another features in today’s.

Pip Dryden arrived from Shanghai — yes, Shanghai — and joined us late in the piece. Sadly he passed away at 19 from cancer. Terry Naughton became a QC and a Judge. Clive Kessler was the subject of Sunday’s blog post and is an Emeritus Professor of Sociology at UNSW. Grahame Delaney sadly died young, I believe.

Alfie van der Poorten passed away in 2010. He was a famous mathematician. It is worth looking at his Wikipedia biography.

His childhood before Sydney High was very different from mine in quiet old Auburn and Vermont Streets in Sutherland!

An extract:

Van der Poorten was born into a Jewish family in Amsterdam in 1942, after the German occupation began. His parents, David and Marianne van der Poorten, gave him into foster care with the Teerink family in Amersfoort, under the name ‘Fritsje’; the senior van der Poortens went into hiding, were caught by the Nazis, survived the concentration camps, and were reunited with van der Poorten and his two sisters after the war. The family moved to Sydney in 1951, travelling there aboard the SS Himalaya.

Van der Poorten studied at Sydney Boys High School from 1955–59, and earned a high score in the Leaving Certificate Examination there. He spent a year in Israel and then studied mathematics at the University of New South Wales, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1965, a doctorate in 1968 under the joint supervision of George Szekeres and Kurt Mahler, and a Master of Business Administration. While a student at UNSW, he led the student union council and was president of the University Union, as well as helping to lead several Jewish and Zionist student organisations. He also helped to manage the university’s cooperative bookstore, where he met and in 1972 married another bookstore manager, Joy FitzRoy….

Another of my childhood companions because of whom I have been historically sympathetic towards Israel, much as I despise Israel’s current government — if indeed they still have one? — but also have no time at all for Holocaust denial or any conspiracy theory that invokes Jews.

I think of two others: Herbert Huppert, Professor of Theoretical Geophysics and Foundation Director, Institute of Theoretical Geophysics, at the University of Cambridge, since 1989 and Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge, since 1970. And Peter Deli.

I have posted on them before. First, Herbert:

Back in the late 50s the Head of Science was in fact an elderly chap much stained by tobacco whom we dubbed “Dodo” – as in the extinct bird.

Tracking Lenny Basser (a legendary Science teacher and Athletics coach who taught Lord May of Oxford among others) led me to a former classmate, in Science at one point but more memorably in the weird Mr Levy’s French class. I had wondered what became of this lad who had come to us from Cranbrook – a decided disadvantage – little realising that he was a leading geophysicist these days!

Herbert Huppert

I have found a fascinating interview with him telling me much that I had little insight into at the time. Since this is already out there, I hope Professor Huppert won’t mind my sharing.

Born in Sydney, Australia, 1943; my maternal grandfather was a shamus in a Viennese synagogue; both he and his wife were very religious; I got to know them when they came out to Australia in about 1947-8; the remarkable thing about my paternal grandparents is that I knew nothing about them; my sister and I both assumed that they perished in the Holocaust although we had not been told; my father died when I was thirteen; about seven or eight years ago my sister did some extensive research in the Viennese archives and found that both had died natural deaths in hospital in 1935 and 1937; my father rarely talked about his time in Vienna and neither did my mother; she would talk about St Stephen’s dome in Vienna and the giant wheel nearby; when I was eight I bought her a book on Vienna for her birthday with both illustrated on the cover; she was clearly upset by it and I never saw the book again; many years after when both were dead (my mother died when I was twenty-two) I heard that a few months before they left Vienna my father was told to queue up to get a visa to leave; the night before he was warned that the queue was to be bombed by Nazis; he decided not to join the queue and it was bombed; two weeks later he did get an exit visa; they left in 1938 and arrived in Australia on 26th January 1939…

…I first went to a Jewish kindergarten which I remember with both pleasure and terror; on one occasion the headmaster threatened to put me into a duplicating machine as I had been so naughty and that terrified me; generally I enjoyed the school and had lots of friends; I then went to an “institution” which my mother chose, which cost about £300 a term; it would have been better if my father had paid the money to charity and sent me to a state school; I hated this institution, Cranbrook, with a passion; I have recently come across two people who went there some ten years after me who thought it was wonderful; one is Richard Hunter who is Professor of Classics here and the other is the new Director of the Fitzwilliam…

Cranbrook was everything that I hated; I went there when I was just six; clear that I could add and on that basis put me up a class without ascertaining whether I knew anything else; I found myself a year and a half younger than everyone else and I was nowhere near mature enough; that had a bad influence on me; later it became better because when I went to a proper school I could run well, but Cranbrook was a terrible institution; I left when I had just reached twelve; I passed the exam to Sydney High and my mother gave me the choice of going there or staying at Cranbrook; if I had stayed in Cranbrook five more years I would not be here today; they taught badly; they hired a chemistry teacher who was a Nazi who told us how wonderful it had been flying over England and bombing it, and also about the problem of German Jews; it was just unbelievable; there was bullying, but don’t know whether it was anti-Semitic or just of younger people; we were forced to have a shower after P.T. after which we had to dress outside; there was a female music teacher who was constantly looking out at us; there were many things like that

21:33:13 Sydney High was much better and I can’t remember a day of unhappiness there; it was a fabulous school and has produced some brilliant people, including Bob May, President of the Royal Society, and John Cornforth, Nobel Laureate in chemistry; we had an inspiring chemistry teacher, Leonard Basser; he was also the athletics coach and I ran for the school, something what was inconceivable at Cranbrook…

And now Peter:

I told the story of another of my class of 1959 confreres in 50 years on – 1: a classmate’s story in 2009.

hd_history_photo
Peter Deli

There I quoted from a biography:

Peter Francis Nicholas Deli was born on 26 March 1942 in Wellington, New Zealand. His parents, Lewis and Lily, were both Hungarian refugees who had fled Europe just before the beginning of the War. His father, an architect by training, had been a violinist in the Budapest Symphony Orchestra. His mother, who was Jewish, had tried to emigrate to Britain and Australia before settling for New Zealand. They met in New Zealand and married in 1941. After the War the Deli family moved to Sydney, Australia and settled in the Eastern Suburbs at Bondi. Sydney had a much larger population of East European migrs than the whole of New Zealand and the Delis were soon absorbed into the Hungarian community’s protective embrace. Peter’s early school years at Double Bay Primary School were far from typical of the elementary educational experience of most Australian children at the time. The extraordinary mix of nationalities and class backgrounds in the school must have had a profound effect on his early development. In 1955 he won a place to the prestigious Sydney Boys’ High School, one of the best secondary schools in New South Wales. Peter excelled in his studies during these years and matriculated with honours to the University of Sydney in 1960. During his undergraduate years he read History and Philosophy, graduating Bachelor of Arts with First Class Honours in History in 1964….

I continued:

After a very interesting career, including being in Paris in 1968, Peter succumbed to leukemia and died at home in Hong Kong on 12 February 2001.

The point made there about the cosmopolitan mix at Double Bay and SBHS at the time certainly struck me when I “migrated” from Sutherland (with Ross Mackay, Arno Eglitis, Robert Burnie and Laurence Napier) to SBHS in 1955. On the other hand, much to the surprise of one of my coachees who is now at SBHS, of  206 of us starting out in 1955 only one was Chinese (ABC) and one was Indian – Ashok Hegde, who became a close friend until he went to London in 1958. Ashok’s father was in 1958 the Assistant Indian Trade Commissioner in Sydney, if I recall correctly – but thus not a permanent resident in Australia.

Such are few of the experiences of my schoolboy self that took this Shire lad into worlds previously unknown to him, and which shape his reaction to such things as politics and the events in the Middle East to this day!

More relevant to yesterday’s post, it was the consideration of such friends as those named in this post and what the theology that prevailed in the mid 1960s at Sutherland Presbyterian Church about “election” — God’s inscrutable thing of saving some and not others for reasons we poor mortals could not hope to understand — logically had in store for them gave me the uncomfortable feeling that God was some sort of petulant idiot!

Robbie Burns in “Holy Willie’s Prayer” offers a parody of that doctrine of election which, however, is not all that wide of the mark:

O Thou, that in the heavens does dwell,
As it pleases best Thysel’,
Sends ane to Heaven an’ ten to Hell,
For Thy glory,
And no for onie guid or ill
They’ve done afore Thee!

There was more to it of course, but such a thought eventually became too much even tacitly to assent to. From there over time it became clear that some of the fundamentals were really off — this took a long time.

First, the idea that there is a systematic theology recoverable from the many and varied texts of the Bible became less and less viable.

Second, the idea that the Bible, wonderful as much in it is, was in any literal sense the word of God rather than the product of centuries of human beings thinking about God also seemed less and less likely — and hence the pointlessness of the first exercise. Which is not to say that the Bible is not worth reading; it certainly is, but not as I had conceived it.

Finally — well not quite! — the idea that God ever has had or is likely to have had a Chosen People is actually ridiculous, and possibly even blasphemous as it smacks of the Supreme Being picking favourites — hardly a moral position worthy of the All Knowing.

Back in 2012 I posted Searchings — 1, one of quite a few such posts in my blogs over the past 10-15 years:-

There really have been so many things I have seen or read in the past few days that deserve to be shared, that have provoked more reflection than I can possibly capture in one blog post or even two. But to begin.

God’s Politics asked Is God a Cosmic Jerk?

That’s how I ask the question, but professional theologians use the term theodicy. It comes from two Greek words: theo, which means “God,” and dike, which means “justice.” Theodicy asks, “If God is good and just, then why is there so much evil in the world?” There are many answers to this question. Some claim that God causes evil. In which case, my question becomes relevant – Is God a Cosmic Jerk?

Let’s first examine the word “evil.” Theologian Joe Jones succinctly defines evil in his book A Grammar of Christian Faith “as the harm to some creature’s good” (280). Jones distinguishes between two categories of evil that harms a creatures good. First, there is moral evil – the harm humans inflict upon one another through violence, injustice, and oppression. The second category is natural evil – the harm caused by cancer, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural events…

The older I get the more unsatisfactory the theologians seem to me, and the more “fundamentalist” they are, even less satisfactory are they then likely to be – unless you are better at believing a thousand impossible things before breakfast, to paraphrase Lewis Carroll, than I am these days.

“Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Unfortunately the impression one is left with after much fundamentalist apologetics/theology is that God indeed could very well be a Cosmic Jerk!

This especially plagues the bibliolatrists who constitute the more conservative wings of Judaism and Christianity and, alas, far too much of Islam. The unfortunate tradition of Divine Mouthpieces and Pens is as much a curse as a blessing, indeed I suspect more a curse than a blessing. Infallibility and certainty are among the most dangerous and foolish of human constructs.

anonymous-source

Take Monday’s poem from Three Quarks Daily.

For insulting the Quran, “’Thousands of people
dragged a Pakistani man … from a police station …
(and) beat him to death,’ police said Wednesday.”

Insulting Books

Is it even possible
to insult a book?

Has it a soul within its leaves
a heart that beats
an eye that winks
a cord running through its spine
descending from a thing that thinks?

Is a book of inky lines
(of characters not themselves sublime)
capable of being hurt or ridiculed
or cheapened by critiques
either of the wise, or fools?

Has it veins between its covers
salty with the blood of lovers?

Is there something in its pages
(even if put there by sages)
that warrants death to critics?

Is it a thing so lame that priestly brothers
(arrogant, imperious, parasitic)
who worship sheaves of ink on paper
must, for its sake, snuff the holy breath
of others?

by Jim Culleny

11/6/12

Go and read the comments that follow it. An excellent series, those daily poems from Three Quarks Daily. Jim is the editor of this feature and most wide-ranging in his selection and very knowledgeable. Even Aussie poets score there at times.

Revisiting Sydney’s Chinatown again…

Via my archive, not physically.

The Chinese Garden:

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And here is a video from someone who visited the garden just a couple of weeks ago:

Now a bit more about Sky, the busker I shared in yesterday’s post. He has a Facebook page where, I note, in March he announced that he is retiring.

I am Sky. I am a Japanese Chinese. I come to Australia at 2007. I have 8 CDs and 1 DVD. I wish everyone could support me continually and my dream is that bring my beautiful music to the world.

Here he is with an abridged version of The Butterfly Lovers. Michael Xu and I bought the CD this is on, having heard him play this in Chinatown one day when we had been shopping at Paddy’s Market.

And here is his story: