Think Globally, Act Locally

January 31, 2020

People have asked whether there is an “archive” of the various human rights actions which I’ve been involved in over the years. I have recorded some of these on this blog but I think one page which takes you to these stories may be useful.

I am aware that there are many people who have done some incredible work supporting social justice and human rights but no one knows about these. Many people across the world do think globally and act locally but we don’t hear about it. One reason is that mainstream media quite often does not tell or record these actions and we find these local actions don’t even make a footnote in a local history book, let alone in a “big” history book.

So, I’ve written about some of our local actions just so people do know about them.

2020 – what a time to be an activist! I can’t help but reimagine some of the stuff we did before Social Media, before Go Fund Me, drone photography. Maybe, the Flotillas of Hope could have raised so much money we could have chartered some boats?  We wouldn’t have needed a giant Kite with a camera to film the refugees in Woomera. A drone would have done the job magnificently.

Anyway, there’s lots of opportunities and means to fight for social justice today with the technology available to all of us.

What’s our local area? Newcastle, in the Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia.

Newcastle map Aust

Newcastle, Australia

I am listing these local actions in chronological order with a short description.

Cultural Stomp – Cultures in Action 

The Cultural Stomp had its birth in 1997 when Pauline Hanson launched her One Nation Party in Newcastle. We decided that she wasn’t going to launch it without hearing what we in the Hunter felt about it. We formed a group we called Cultures in Action and every year since 1997 for ten years Newcastle celebrated its cultural diversity in Civic Park.

Woomera Detention Centre – Good Friday, 2002 –  HOPE Caravan

Refugees and Asylum Seekers held a hunger strike in this detention centre stuck in the South Australian desert. Some people in Melbourne decided to organise a Festival of Freedoms at the Woomera Detention Centre. Hunter Organisation for Peace & Equity joined them and we became a Caravan, a HOPE Caravan.

Welcome Town for Refugees – 2002 – Newcastle Action for Refugee Rights

With all the racist crap pushed by the Liberal National Party we thought that Newcastle should become a Welcome Town for Refugees. For those not in Australia, the conservative right wing party which aligns itself more with the USA Republican Party & UK Tories is called the “Liberal” Party. Yes, one couldn’t get a more Orwellian name for a political party than that.

Baxter Detention Centre – 2003 – HOPE Caravan

This was another detention centre stuck in the desert. HOPE Caravan, along with many others from around Australia decided to pay it a visit.

Flotillas of Hope – World Refugee Day – 2004 – HOPE Caravan

While we talked about the possibility of visiting the most isolated gulag in the world at Nauru most thought it was an impossible dream. But we visited the island.

Flotillas of Hope – Another Aspect.

The whole project from its inception to the actual journey exhibited much more than just a sailing trip.

 

 

 

 


Swirls Around In My Head

January 23, 2020

Swirling around in my head are many different cuts and swipes of people, events, encounters and paper scrawls. It’s a whirly whirly spinning around in my skull. I’m tired and yet I feel it’s important I record at least one or two thoughts.

What I feel is a sense of nostalgia.

Not for a particular time or place. No, for a state of mind. Sure there is peace, there is balance but somehow there is a lack of authenticity. It is hard to put my finger on it but it has to do with my sense of self. Now even this last sentence lacks authenticity. At least I am aware of it, I tell myself. But this awareness can also stifle expression – for if expression is rooted in a sense of self, feeling inauthentic, feeling untrue can even stifle an inauthentic voice.

whirly whirly small

So what is the point? Is it true that if awareness arises then the inauthentic will disappear and authenticity will dawn? Sounds logical doesn’t it? Then these thoughts arise, “What if when the inauthentic, the lie disappears and there is nothing! Nothingness! The great void made whole in my skull.” But even this fear is not a real one.

I am a man that has a puppet for a body and strings for a mind. The big question for me is, who is pulling the strings?

This question is full of hope because it brings into view the unseen, the unknown. You know as well as I do that there are no real strings and puppet parts… you know that it’s only a metaphor.

What’s the nature of this otherness that the metaphor alludes to?

I don’t know. So, now, swirling around in my head is this question.


The Curve of My Heart’s Desire

January 22, 2020

My mother hassles me in her dotage to go to church, to confess my sins, take holy communion and to kiss the priest’s hand. I can’t tell her that I see the priesthood as a costume prop of divinity wrapped around men. It’s not just the presumption of priesthood that grates but also the arrogance radiating off the white dog collar.

priest dog collar

“Matthew 7:1-2 Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”

How far do I stray from this advice when I’m confronted by the Church? The whole edifice from its theology to its soteriology and its masonry is riddled with presumption and arrogance. Why must the source of Divine Power and Love be subject to franchise agreements? I cannot believe the ineffable manoeuvres like a lawyer. Is the priest a broker dealing in soul futures? With Wall St brokers, if you’re lucky, you may gain something. The Church provides words that haven’t been digested & transmuted into gold wisdom.

Is this to say that the Divine, the Miraculous, the Living Unknown do not exist? No. It only means that a systemic structure such as a Church cannot be the unpredictable, ineffable symbol of the Real. Now this engenders a whole host of issues of which the question “What is Real?” is at the centre. I don’t know the answer. I do know that the systemisers pretend to know.

What of confession? There’s something so essential, so oneself that hesitates to confess to another man one’s “sins”. The Greek word for “sin” is harmatia which means “missing the mark”. The assumption here is that both the priest and the confessor have agreed on what is sin. Even if they do agree as to what constitutes sin, it still sucks to confess these sins to another person. If it is true that God is not only transcendent but also imminent it follows that all failings and sins are already known to Him. The argument goes that when one confesses one is not confessing to the priest but rather through the priest to God. In other words the priest is an intermediary, a flesh & blood telephone. The priest also has the power to decide what, if any, penance is required. If you pay now you won’t have to worry about the interest rate in the after life. As a consequence, merely by humbling yourself to the intermediary, the priest, you will gain peace of mind and soul.

Really?

Do I need the responsibility of my life to rest on the decisions of a church man? What if the after life, the here after is THIS LIFE again? Yes, instead of a Ground Hog Day – a Ground Hog Life. Does it mean I will be forever doomed to pay lip service to a caricature of divinity just so I secure a respectable soul? Maybe there are souls that don’t fit the respectable mould. This does not mean they are not chosen by God. It only means that they may have another calling.

tree of knowledge

It goes deeper than this, it goes to the curve of one’s heart desire.

In me there resides the need to know, to understand. In me this desire to know who I am, what is my place in the universe and why I am here has directed the shape of my life. This desire has taken me to the edge of sanity where flying saucer landing pads in a commune’s backyard took the place of Hills Hoists. This desire has also turned my mind to the study of numbers, symbols, astrology, magic and divination – all of the mantic arts. The curve of my heart’s desire turns away from dogma & belief to the ever present mystery of simple life. This curvature reveals along its edge another calling that has nothing to do with any church or institution.

The desire to know was also probably Adam & Eve’s original sin. We all know what happened to them when they took a bite of the Apple.

Yes, I am inflicted because I seek knowledge of the Divine and I don’t want church men hovering around the curve of my heart’s desire.

apple

A Ragman in a Colony of Nudists

November 28, 2019

Here I am, locked in isolation, or so it seems. My isolation is more akin to a ragman in a colony of nudists. If I should remove patchwork labels from my body and forehead I’m afraid I couldn’t bear the darts of recognition. What’s there to recognise? I ask myself almost every second day. The days between I try to remember the question. When I remember, it always begins with the hissing of brain static. It’s not a fit, more like an unfit – a dislodging, a space to hear the static.

So, that’s how it was! Nobody had ever told me how we got here. With the brain static easing, I can feel my family roots and somehow they don’t belong here. I understand now how my ancestors had crossed the Great Ocean and arrived here. That sounds pretty plausible, but there is a problem. Nobody here – not the priest, the teacher, the doctor, the scientist, the politician, the philosopher, the butcher, the baker and the USB stick maker believes there is such a place – beyond the Ocean. This is only half of the problem. The other is that nobody here believes anyone had come from anywhere before. They all believe that they have always been here, from the time of protozoa to the time of silicon cells. Indeed, the prevailing thought of this country is Always Here and Now. I suppose it’s simple logic really, when you consider that if there is no other place than here then how could anybody come from elsewhere. Where is the elsewhere? If you can’t orient this place called elsewhere with a compass, then it can’t exist.

Where is this other place? My old friends used to ask me this at all hours of the night. I believe that they were trying to bring me back to my senses, or should I say back to their senses. They warned me that if I continued on this path I’d discover madness. As if I have any choice in it. I told them, there must be something more significant than the rest of experience otherwise my life is just one dimensional… it lacks relief, the bumps that tell you it’s solid and not just paper. So, what was more significant than anything else in my sphere of attention? So, what’s the use of significance? Does having a meaning make bread taste any better? Would the coffee be better if it was drunk by a saint rather than a monkey? What if I didn’t have any bread or coffee, does meaning, significance make starvation any better?

Whatever it is, I’m heading home – wherever it is. It is difficult to speak freely about this other place because every statement about it rocks the foundation logic of this continent. From the admission of this other place, comes other admissions – through the backdoor, so to speak. These include that which was black is now white, and that the inner is the outer. Indeed, a complete reversal of one’s beliefs. In a world where nothing else exists but itself, the entrance of another place, another world obliterates it.

I know now, my ancestors lived on an island that was destroyed aeons ago. Only a few of the islanders survived the complete submersion. They were the fishermen who being far enough away were not sucked under with their island. The survivors made their way across the ocean waiting for a fortunate wind. Fortunate because without it they’d remain still in the Great Ocean without a home. With a wind they may strike some land, anywhere. They didn’t know where they were headed, only that they were alive and hoping to land somewhere.

Forty days and nights in the wilderness. Forty days and nights it takes for the quickening of a full human form in a womb. Forty days and nights it takes an Orthodox soul to clear up its unfinished business here before it finally leaves its body to become dust. For forty days and nights they rowed, they prayed and thanked the fortunate wind.

The arc of coincidence stretched across angels’ wings. Priests turn their heads to Jerusalem while the fishermen turned with the ocean wind. A fisherman’s ambition is as large as the ocean. When he scans the reddening horizon sometimes he perceives a rhythm of the waves and the pulse of red dwindling in the sunset. He throws away the concerns that like tombstones hang over memories.

And now, here I am, locked in isolation, or so it seems. Goggles won’t protect your vision here, only grace and prayer can.


My Table of Memories

September 17, 2019

I finished putting legs on my table all those years ago. My table’s not much, just a plank of wood on top of some logs. This is the table that will hopefully be a fertile field for star matter. The table top comes resonant with memories. These memories are living harmonic entities, I feel as though I owe these memories something, like it’s some unfinished business.

I love that it is made from recycled goods. The top was given to me, the legs I found at a demolition yard and the dowling, an old broom handle. Things aren’t square, for all intents and purposes if the logs weren’t so big the whole thing would probably fall. Not a solid foundation in structure but will remain stable because of its substance. Kinda like me, I suppose. There’s something to be said about being recycled. Hands that carried the table top to my home left not only fingerprints, but also something of themselves. I’m getting kinda teary eyed about Tin Sheds, Sydney Uni where I taught Tai Chi to the Earthworks Poster Collective & Architecture Students who built the Alternative House. I can assure you that in the 1970’s the Tin Sheds were REALLY tin sheds. Not like it is now, a Gallery, as seen in the link.

That’s me up front on the grounds of The Tin Sheds Gallery, Sydney University

It was in the 1970’s and the Architecture Faculty had a clean up & was getting rid of some tables. My students knew I needed a desk and offered to carry a table top reject to my home since we didn’t have a car and I only lived less than a kilometre away. I find it hard to believe our past actions are burnt & all we have are smoke memories curling from chimney tops of NOW. Those people and their hands are here now, just as bones of my body are buried in the future. Our life time is an Ourobouros where the moment of our first quickening in a womb is also the moment of our death.  P D Ouspensky’s idea of Eternal Recurrence I find somehow comforting.

I made the legs soon after I received the table top when I was a student of literature and psychology. When the table was complete I found some long lost series of icons given to all Greek Orthodox kids at Sunday School. They were small paper prints, the size of football cards. How they survived all those years I don’t know. When I was going through the whole  Dharma Bum thing, I carried these five icons depicting the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as page markers of the I Ching – the great Book of Changes in my backpack. This combination, with my filakto, pinned to the inside of my shirt, protected me as I hitched hiked across Australia. It’s only fair to the scheme of things that these companions would also assist me through my intellectual hiking across a Humanities degree.

These icons were with me throughout my studies and were glued to the table top in a cross like pattern, with the Resurrection in the centre. The Crucifixion was to the South, the Transfiguration to the North, the Birth to the East and the Last Supper to the West. These were markers of another compass, another North. I varnished the whole top so the icons became part of the table. I’d see the Cross of Events amidst the disorder of my table. In many ways this addition to my table claimed ownership of the top. Sometimes, between a cup of coffee and some notes, or a book, I’d catch a glimpse of the Resurrection. The Byzantine black of the tomb seemed darker still with His feet and legs standing up and in contrast to a coffee cup and book, to that moment his image seemed to hover above the flat table top. This image, beside my notes, reminded me, if only for a fraction of a breath that death has been beaten. So, my table had a border beyond death within the wood it was made of.

Resurrection

The textbooks of academia rested & opened on these icons on my table top. When I was uncertain about which direction to take I sometimes cast a hexagram so that the Book of Changes would speak to me. Just like I did when I hitch hiked across Australia. The difference this time was that the coins fell on the icons instead of  road dirt.

I Ching Hexagrams

I Ching Hexagrams

One person stands out in my memory and now winks at me from the table in my mind, for the table no longer exists. His name is Colin Little – check this article in Eye Magazine > Political clout: Australian posters  http://www.eyemagazine.com/feature/article/political-clout-australian-posters.

Colin asked me to teach him and his friends Tai Chi. He knew I was no master but when you’re friends, who needs to be a master? We were all beginners with beginners’ minds – I was just a little longer a Tai Chi beginner. He died in 1982. Here’s some work he did at the Tin Sheds as part of the Earthworks Poster Collective:

Earthworks Poster Collective by Colin Little, “Bo Diddley SRCEarthworks Poster Collective by Colin Little “Lenin Conference on Radical Economics

Here’s a classic Earthworks Collective Poster by Chips Mackinolty – Land Rights Dance

Earthworks Collective Poster by Chips Mackinolty – Land Rights Dance

 


A Night in the Heart of Australia

April 6, 2017

This is an excerpt from a larger article “A Ganma Odyssey” in this blog https://dodona777.wordpress.com/2016/01/18/a-ganma-odyssey-2/

I will post other stories about my travels across Australia so look at this excerpt as if it’s a prologue of sorts.

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It’s been 25 years since I last visited Central Australia. Back then, the Sturt Highway was a two way dirt road all the way from Darwin to near Port Augusta. In 1972, words like revolution, liberation, justice, equality, freedom and peace, rolled off my tongue with a tender passion. Feeling the emptiness in the institutions, the knowledge factories and the general lack of soul in the world I hit the road. Back then I was searching for something. Nowadays, I’m still searching and it seems that the ” R ” word is the only one that doesn’t roll off my tongue so easily. Perhaps it should.
Twenty five years ago I found myself, with little more than nothing, in the heart of Australia. All I had was my canvas pack with a few clothes, a couple of books and some water in a bottle. I had no money. The previous three nights I had slept under the stars along the highway and during the day I prayed for a lift. I was two hours south of Alice heading for Adelaide when I was dropped off at Erldunda, near the turn off to Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). Across the road a petrol bowser stood as if on guard outside the general shop. A bus arrived and parked a few metres away from where I was standing. I watched the tourists get off. I hadn’t eaten a thing for over three days and I knew that the people getting off the bus would have something to eat. I approached a woman in a white hat as she stepped off the bus. Looking her in the eyes I said, “Excuse me, have you any food?”.

She looked at me with some pity and reached her hand into a brown paper bag pulling out a small green tomato. As she handed me the fruit I sensed everyone looking at me, from the bus driver to the little girl with her face pressed against the bus window. The white hat woman released the tomato into my hand and a ripple of disgust crossed her eyes and brow. I was dirty, I was homeless, a Dharma Bum now just a bum. I accepted the food and turned away from my shame. I noticed someone standing ahead of me in the distance waving, beckoning me to come over.

uluru-kata_tjuta1

Photo © Mark Moxon 1995-2017
All Rights Reserved

I had nothing to lose but everything to gain, holding the unripe tomato in my hand, I walked towards the stranger. As I got closer I could see white hair and a white beard on the face of an old black man. He wore trousers that were a little too big for him and a coat that was a little too small. He smiled and placed his hand on his belly whispering, what sounded like, “Hunger…hunger..” He took me by the arm and showed me to his home by the highway. It was a lean to humpy with a corrugated iron mulga branch roof. Some old flour bags were scattered on the dirt floor to sit on. He shared with me some milk arrowroot biscuit pieces and a powdered milk drink in a tin cup. He let me stay the night. The shop with the petrol bowser had switched its lights off. During the night, nothing much was said between us – the silences, with the occasional bark of a lone dog, said it all.

In the centre of Australia I saw that the dispossessed ones were the generous ones. We non – indigenous ones take and take while these people, the original ones give and give. Twenty five years later, in 1997, our government wants to stop the original people from reestablishing their culture and reconnecting with their land. Extinguishing the recently acquired native title rights is the equivalent of stealing what little these people have and giving this little to the rich, whether pastoralists, miners or just greedy transnational corporations. Will we the non – indigenous ones ever learn? So, 25 years later I was returning with a hunger so subtle that you’d miss it if you weren’t seeking it. It’s a hunger for something which may transform the hole in my being to the whole.


A Walk Through Sydney Botanic Gardens

April 3, 2017

Last week I walked through Sydney Botanic Gardens and took these photos with my phone camera. The day was overcast and I found myself drawn to textures and shapes.


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