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The Great Reset

In every crisis, there is an opportunity. Image: Unsplash

A Biden victory in the USA may seem like a win for democracy, yet there are grave concerns for us all under his Green New Deal and The Great Reset as the pandemic is conflated with climate catastrophe.

The USA has elected a new President, Joe Biden, who ran for the Democratic Party on the slogan Build back better. Innocuous as the slogan may sound; it is drawn from corporate and bureaucratic elites of the World Economic Forum (WEF) and nation states (which all get together annually in Davos, Switzerland, for mutual preening). UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau are supporters of the agenda introduced by Prince Charles and driven by Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the WEF. Biden’s control of the White House, Congress and Senate in the US leaves the Democrat Party free to implement the WEF agenda under their multi-trillion dollar Green New Deal. What could there possibly be to worry about?

Take a look at the three main components published by WEF[i] and wonder:

  1. Steer the market toward fairer outcomes by tax, regulatory and fiscal policy (e.g. wealth taxes, withdrawal of fossil-fuel subsidies, new rules governing intellectual property, trade and competition).
  2. Ensure investments advance shared goals, such as equality and sustainability (e.g. building “green” urban infrastructure and creating incentives for industries to improve their track record on environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics).
  3. Harness innovations of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to support the public good by addressing health and social challenges (e.g. using forces of collaboration to deal with COVID to develop diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines; establishing testing centres, tracing mechanisms for infection and telemedicine).

To achieve a better outcome, says WEF, the world must act jointly and swiftly to revamp all aspects of our societies and economies, from education to social contracts and working conditions. Every country, from the United States to China, must participate, and every industry from oil and gas to tech, must be transformed. In short, we need a “Great Reset” of capitalism.

Futility of outcomes focus

Get the drift? The WEF agenda is focused on achieving common outcomes: i.e. driving the same outcomes for everyone in the world in the most socialist way. Pity these people don’t reflect on the scriptures to learn the lessons of old. I recall a couple of thousand years ago a bloke called Jesus told a parable about giving a few shekels each to a number of people. One buried theirs, another held onto it, another spent it and yet another invested it and made more shekels.

Predictably, then, as now, equality at the beginning ended with different outcomes, largely as a consequence of responsibility and initiative. We have to think seriously whether rewards should be equal at outcome. Should those who choose to do nothing share the rewards of those who have worked hard for theirs?

Joseph Stalin had a noble agenda aimed at outcomes similar to the WEF. We know how that turned out – tens of millions dead from starvation, slavery, brutality and control. Wary of pursuing the same socialist path, in two days 80,000 Canadians protested their PM Justin Trudeau signing up their country to the WEF agenda.

Check out the following to see if you recognise how Stalin’s creeds have already encroached on our society, to be rapidly advanced by adherence to the WEF agenda:

  • “Fascism is the bourgeoisie’s (middle class) fighting organisation that relies on the active support of Social-Democracy. Social-Democracy is objectively the moderate wing of fascism. (Flawed bureaucratic control over our lives has expanded exponentially over COVID and climate change through dictatorial regulations and punitive measures).
  • The proletariat (workers) must rise and launch a determined attack upon the bourgeoisie in order to destroy capitalism to its foundations. (Act of faith for the unions).
  • The press must grow day in and day out; it is our Party’s sharpest and most powerful weapon. (In the US election big tech and mainstream media were effective in suppressing information harmful to the election of Democrats leader Joe Biden and were constantly hostile, misrepresenting anything Trump said and did).

George Orwell, ever prescient, many years ago had observed “little evidence that the USSR was progressing towards anything that one could truly call Socialism. On the contrary, I was struck by clear signs of its transformation into a hierarchical society, in which the rulers have no more reason to give up their power than any other ruling class.”

Schwab and other elites are more likely to give us rules than give up power. A hindsight view of history reveals the propensity for ever tighter bureaucratic controls and policing when dictatorial regulations are enforced, as demonstrated in Victoria and in different levels in other states under the cover of COVID management. Both the Bolsheviks in Russia and the Nazis in Germany very quickly instituted secret police forces to carry out their dictates, in betrayal of the people for whom such major social changes were ostensibly instituted.

All Stalin’s death and destruction in a fruitless search for equality of outcomes should be a reminder to Charles Schwab that the destruction of capitalism, however subtle, will be costly. Even a ‘noble’ agenda for some kind of global collaborative utopia where every country and corporation bends to the resolution of crises conflating pandemic and global warming in a Great Reset is doomed to disruption and failure. People value freedom.

Of course, it will not be Schwab, Prince Charles, global corporate CEOs or Justin Trudeau who will be affected. We are not “all in this together as the COVID mantra falsely echoed. It is the ordinary middle class aspirational families having a crack who have been, and will be, most affected who will bear the pain and the cost. Just as Stalin would wish!

Filling the emptiness

Author, war veteran and war journalist George Orwell’s prescience well describes prevailing social conditions today: Whoever tries to imagine perfection simply reveals his own emptiness.

Many seeking to save the world may be as empty as Stalin: beaten by his parents, a marked face, damaged arm and unimpressive stature, zealously asserted power to compensate.

Driving the religious fears of catastrophe (e.g. climate change, COVID, Great Barrier Reef destruction, etc.) and ‘moral’ social imperatives (e.g. Black Lives Matter, colonialism, gender fluidity, equity, multi-culturalism, open borders) forces compliance, at the same time as restricting freedom of speech, movement, business and the faith of others. Measured against my Maturity Model (outlined in my book Becoming), such unrealistic expectations are unsustainable, leading to personal, social and economic fragmentation.

New religious cults have their inflexible beliefs, mantras, chants, champions and child prophets. They thrive on emotion, especially fear, which can be thrilling. Keeps the blood pumping! Commitment of time and money to the cause fills the interior void vacated by former beliefs. Judgement for denialists is brutal and final, warranting cancelling, de-platforming, violence and loss of employment without access to forgiveness or redress. Nothing less than uniform perfection in beliefs is demanded of all. Few realise how their good intentions are being manipulated by national and international operators. For instance, the BLM movement is driven by Marxists.

An absence of truth and justice colours the new religious creeds, thereby missing the essential element for building a sustainable future. Neither do they appear to have knowledge or appreciation of history that could inform intelligent action. It is as if nothing has been learned from the 100 million brutal deaths of the 20th century resulting from dictators (Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot). Yet global elites like Schwab seek to repeat patterns of control, global control, through the Great Reset. Lofty as WEF ambitions may be, no guarantees are offered that centralised global control of the way we operate will end any differently from previous efforts at world domination.

How will we know?

The pot of socialist change has been warming for some years and we are beginning to feel the heat, recognised in:

  • Decline in free speech, especially in Universities deferring to China, punitive measures on political correctness on race, gender and faith. Remember cartoonist Bill Leake being hauled before the Human Rights Commission for an accurate depiction of serious Aboriginal issues; Israel Folau, Australia’s best rugby player, being sacked for posting articles of faith on his private social media; and Archbishop Porteous having to front court for publishing a letter about Christian marriage to his parishioners.
  • Climate change dogmas, permeating all levels of education, media and government, brooking no alternative point of view, even those based on facts. Our power bills have gone up by a factor of three to fund unreliable, unrecyclable “renewables”; over $3b/year subsidies are paid for renewable investment and $10b tipped into the climate gravy train to encourage new technologies. No new power stations are approved. Fancifully, we are expected to get by with batteries that again require much despised mining to produce inputs.
  • At the same time, alternative opinions are stymied: Prof Bob Carter was bothered to death and Prof Peter Ridd sacked from James Cook University for challenging prevailing beliefs about research claiming damage to the Great Barrier Reef. Australia’s big banks will no longer finance coal mine developments, our major export, and the Queensland government stalls approvals for mines and associated infrastructure on green law fare, leading to loss of industry and jobs.
  • Demands for open borders, immediate settlement and privileges for illegal arrivals, activist judges and administrative boards and access to extensive legal process and health care (increased costs and social disruption).
  • Failure of education when 30% of children are illiterate after years of an education focused on climate change, evils of colonialism, gender fluidity; when children can barely string an intelligent sentence together, our society is being undermined from within, by the bureaucratic and union elites who dominate the education system.
  • Colonisation dogmas also permeate all levels of education, media and government to the exclusion of factual history of Australia and pride in achievements. Victimhood of Indigenous people without responsibility is a tenet of the ideology, parallel with the unmitigated evil of white supremist colonisers. No account is taken of the inevitability of white settlement or the benefits accruing to Indigenous from which many Aboriginals attain prominence, achievement and prospects, especially in sport and the arts. Still, annually debate is raised about whether to celebrate Australia Day, changing the flag and the national anthem. Never mind the dozens of days and weeks each year committed to recognising the first people, acknowledged at every public function and the $35b annually invested in their advancement. Without an end to demands and even a smidgen of gratitude, “sorry” fatigue begins to set in.  
  • Gender diversity is the area where facts elude policy elites. No longer male or female, husband or wife, boy or girl, but some chosen pronoun. Facts of life for the majority are subjugated to the small percentage of LGTQ+ people, who deserve inclusion but not domination of all. Ready offense pressures political correctness.
  • Racial discrimination is spectacularly disproportionate in a country like ours that has become a melting pot of races from all corners of the globe. Everyone is equal before the law. Pride of sensitivity reigns in a dominion of offence.
  • Freedom of religion, especially Christian religions, is under attack from many sectors, especially the media, either ignorant or contemptuous of the contribution of Judeo-Christian traditions to the evolution of our free and just society, however imperfect. Currently we are living off the fat of those traditions without reinvesting. Social decline seems inevitable and it is unlikely Charles Schwab can save us, or even wants to.

The common theme of all these points warming us frogs in the pot is the righteous hatred and destruction exerted towards non-believers to achieve conformity very much in Stalin’s style. Hatred, even in righteous causes, is a multiplier, especially when fanned by social media. At its end may be self-destruction, as described by Jordan Peterson in his book Twelve Rules, reviewing the lifetime pursuit of green ideals by his friend who ended up committing suicide.

Likewise, love is a multiplier that blossoms when showered by freedoms – of speech, movement, learning and faith. Daily we are being challenged to choose a pathway, not just for ourselves, which is important; also for our families, communities and country. Be aware!

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. George Orwell.


[i] Now is the time for a ‘great reset’ of capitalism | World Economic Forum (weforum.org)

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The Social Dilemma

School closures due to COVID-19 restrictions highlighted what we already knew:  the addictive nature of online social networks and gaming, as young people without organised school, sport or social contact indulged many hours of the day and night. Screen addiction produces the same chemical response in the brain as cocaine.

What parents know from experience, was confirmed in a study of 5,000 persons reported in The American Journal of Epidemiology, 2017, which found that higher social media use correlated with self-reported declines in mental and physical health and life satisfaction. Not hard to believe when youth emerge from the screen cave, glassy eyed, belligerent, uncooperative and physically and socially diminished.

The title of this blog has been borrowed from a 2020 Netflix investigative and narrative docudrama film, The Social Dilemma, directed by Jeff Orlowski and written by Orlowski, Davis Coombe, and Vickie Curtis. I highly recommend viewing the film, particularly in the company of youth affected. The film explores the rise of social media and the damage it has caused to society, focusing on its exploitation of its users for financial gain through surveillance capitalism and data mining, how its design is meant to nurture an addiction for profit (as was cigarette smoking) and its use in politics.

Just how insidious tracking of internet usage can be was demonstrated to me at a simple level when searching online for supportive slip-on shoes for use after my hip operation. Advertisements for similar shoes began appearing uninvited on Facebook and other searches.

What lies beneath

Hidden machinations behind everyone’s favourite social media and search platforms are unveiled in the docudrama, showing that the technology that connects us also distracts us, monetizes, divides, controls, manipulates and polarises us. The promise of connectivity has given rise to a host of unintended consequences that threaten to overwhelm us unless we can address our broken information ecosystem that plagues humanity.

  • Mental health dilemma: Persuasive design techniques like push notifications and endless scroll of your newsfeed have created a feedback loop that keeps us glued to our devices. Just how people are preyed upon, cleverly and unwittingly is shown in the film.
  • Democracy dilemma: The New York Times reports that the number of countries with political disinformation campaigns doubled in the past two years. Were the personal impact of social media platforms on individuals concerning enough, we are only just becoming aware of the extreme danger that control of these platforms in biased hands has on the exercise of democracy.

Partisan use of social media platforms is known to influence the election process and outcomes. During the 2020 USA election campaign, operators of the various platforms (Google, Twitter, Facebook) worked together to design algorithms that favoured the Democrat non-campaign of Joe Biden from his basement, while disadvantaging the Trump campaign. Messages supporting Trump and Republicans were cancelled and cautioned. A well-known fact is that near 100% of employees of these platforms in the Silicon Valley bubble contribute to the Democrats, implying entrenched political bias. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook contributed $400m to facilitate Democrat vote harvesting.

Social media advertising gives anyone the opportunity to reach huge numbers of people with phenomenal ease, giving bad actors the tools to sow unrest and fuel political divisions.

  • Discrimination dilemma: A 2018 internal Facebook report advises that algorithms can be designed to promote content that sparks outrage, hate and amplifies biases within the data we feed them. Small wonder that 64% of the people who joined extremist groups on Facebook did so because the algorithms steered them there. Just as I discovered when googling for something as simple as slip on shoes.

China malevolently used on Twitter a fabricated image of an Australian soldier threatening to slit the throat of an Afghan child to denigrate Australia’s image. The Australian (5 December 2020) reports Indonesia using a cyber generated ‘bot’ of an Australian journalist in its battle against West Papuan Independence. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s notorious Internet Research Agency’s troll factory in St Petersburg aims to sow doubt and confusion.

Publishing dilemma: Many people now take their news from online sources, including Google and other social media platforms, which draw content from traditional media sources without paying for it. As a result, on line platforms now attract a greater part of the advertising dollar, leaving funds for traditional journalism like newspapers and TV scrambling for survival. Many journalists have lost their jobs, thereby limiting the scope of an inquisitive media to interrogate issues as would normally occur in a thriving democracy.

 Social media oligarchs claim they operate merely as a platform for communication by others, so bear no responsibility for what is published. While claiming they are not a publisher like newspapers, which must have responsibility and oversight for what they publish, social media have shown an amazing capacity to censor and cancel comments and contributors, especially those more conservatively inclined. Whether or not they are publishers, their political bias has become more shameless and actions bolder. Democracy is at stake as we unwittingly submit to rule by the new wealth aristocracy.

What can be done?

What has become evident is that social platforms affect our lives both at a personal, family level, sometimes in a beneficial way, but increasingly in a way that damages individuals and the broader community of interest.

Families need to rein in practices that are too addictive and damaging to developing children, firmly and decisively limiting children’s exposure, and, conversely, by dampening parents’ own addiction.  An understanding of the coordinated manipulation of minds occurring behind these platforms would enable children to see how easy it is to lose control of their lives at the very time when they are being challenged to step up and grow into maturity, physically and mentally. I have witnessed first-hand a young man with an IQ of 152 who became addicted to gaming all night, couldn’t get up before the crack of noon and showed the ravaging evidence of physical under development and mental decline, unable to complete studies or get or hold a job.

The Australian government is introducing legislation deeming the social platforms to be publishers, requiring them to pay a fair price for news they take from various sources.

In the meantime, we the people are voting with our fingers. Many have already abandoned Facebook and Twitter altogether, or opted for platforms like Rumble and Parler which allow freedom of speech and hold greater respect for democracy.

What’s your plan?

READ:

Our Brains Are No Match for Our Technology, Tristan Harris, New York Times

The Dark Psychology of Social NetworksJonathan Haidt, The Atlantic

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Comeback

In many ways sport is a good analogy for life – regular challenges of competition for which fitness is critical parallel crises in real life; many disappointments when performance falls short; and exuberant elation of winning a prized trophy on comeback, as did Queensland in the State of Origin series. Queenslander!!!

Like many comebacks, mine has been a slow and painful one. Surgery became inevitable with slow and painful deterioration of my hip. As many sports people know, rehabilitation has its own challenges and pain, requiring constant effort with the goal of full recovery in mind. Shortcuts do not rate: just diligent, patient application to the task if I want to take to the field again.

Political Comeback

Opposition is really tough for career politicians, many of whom remain committed to serving communities as effectively as possible, regardless of the low esteem in which you may hold them. Achieving this goal is harder from opposition, as the power of incumbency enables government to implement policies promised.

When you’ve been in opposition as long as the LNP in Queensland (25 of the last 30 years) hopes for a comeback in four years, at the earliest, becomes really challenging. Brutal disappointment of a campaign loss after such a committed effort up to the 31 October election, like the Blues after an Origin game, only time can salve LNP political wounds. Surgery has been performed on the Headquarters and leadership to match the surgery voted by the electorate. A brutal diagnosis has to be conducted and fresh leadership needs to gird the loins to generate and communicate policies that will be effective for the people in all areas of the State.

With the right leadership, building a pathway to political comeback should not be hard in a State overloaded with 230,000 public servants, over $100b debt, no budget, even when Labor has changed electoral rules and restricted LNP fund raising.

Mounting a comeback

In an article in the Wall Street Journal, reproduced in The Australian (20 November 2020), campaigner, commentator and author, Karl Rove, outlined a detailed campaign strategy about How Republicans kept Texas red (Republican) that would be useful for an LNPQ comeback.

Despite being outspent by the Democrats $28m to $17m to flip six Texas congressional seats, and being bolstered by former President Obama and a galaxy of outside groups which spent $61m, increased voter turnout did not result in flipping one seat.

Quietly, Republicans had undertaken two big voter-registration drives (voting is not compulsory in the USA), using big data, technology and volunteers from community organisations, encouraged by former GOP chairman. A total of 318,669 additional voters were registered. A total of 35 million voter contacts were made as staff worked with an army of volunteers to canvas 1.3 million doors, complete 3.1 million calls and send 24.1 million text messages, supported by seven million pieces of mail. Micro-targeting identified low-propensity voters with additional encouragement, swing suburban voters and persuadable Hispanics.

Joe Biden won 5.2m votes (more than either Hillary Clinton or President Obama) but in Texas was beaten by Trump, who also increased his votes by 1.2 million to 5.8m. What stood the Republicans in good stead was their record serving the ordinary people, pointing to increased teacher pay and school funding, protections for pre-existing health conditions and an end to surprise billing, property tax reform, mandatory jail for human and sex trafficking, and amendments to ban state income tax. Whereas Democrats left themselves open with their radical agenda of higher taxes, attacks on fracking, oil and gas, federal takeover of health care,  repeal of the state’s right-to-work law, flirtation with socialism and defunding the police. Sound familiar?

Although voting is compulsory in Australia eliminating the need for us to generate voter turn-out, enough parallels exist in campaign strategy to help the LNP in Queensland make a comeback by mounting a ground campaign reaching out to constituents on local issues.

A strong opposition is important for any democracy, as a sound contest of ideas is essential to improving the quality of governance. As demonstrated by the unhealthy state of Queensland’s ballooning debt, public sector and unemployment after almost 30 years barely impeded by challenge. That is why it is incumbent upon each of us to be responsible with where we place our vote. As I said in a previous blog if you don’t value your vote, others will manipulate you for it.

Will Trump come back

At the time of writing, it appears Joe Biden has won the USA presidential election, pending legal challenges from Trump’s team.  Serious concerns of electoral fraud raised as counting continues weeks after the election, will need to be resolved to restore integrity in the electoral system, whether or not the outcome changes.

Like him or hate him, Trump has shown admirable resilience throughout his presidency continuing to deliver for the American people while having to deal with relentless attacks by the Democratic Party and supporters who still not have accepted the result of the 2016 election with rolling Russian hoax and impeachment efforts, even as COVID began to spread.

In the process Trump has built a strong following of 73 million enthusiastic voters who recognised he spoke for them, however roughly. A comeback is highly likely in some form or another. Watch this space.

Our own comeback

Life’s paths are seldom smooth. Just like me with the hip health issue, we can be taken down by some crisis, uninvited or brought upon ourselves. When struggling in the depths, it is hard to see the way clear to a comeback. Despondency can set in. As a good Buddhist would say, hopelessness is not an option. Ideally we could draw upon some Trumpian resilience to work our way out of crisis to meaningful comeback. It takes heart, effort, application and responsibility. Seek support. Call on family and friends. I know you can do it.

I would love to hear your personal stories of struggle and courage making a comeback – whether in relationships, health or business. All the best.

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Don’t be afraid

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In a crisis, politicians feel they must be seen to be doing something, so assert extraordinary powers over us that curtail freedoms, life and business. Under the unknown of COVID-19 this has certainly happened. Maintaining the fear is a large part of it, though President Trump has been pilloried for trying publicly to allay panic, while actively pursuing solutions at “warp speed” throughout the country. Bureaucrats, comfortable with their secure jobs, assured salaries, salary increases and bonuses, are given the job of administering the new laws.

In Policy 101, one learns that the hardest part of policy, no matter how well intentioned, is implementation. New regulations are inevitably reinterpreted at the coal face. And over this COVID crisis haven’t we seen some doozy interpretation of the dictatorial constraints on freedom of movement, speech and borders.

Authoritarian over reach

To a person we’ve been appalled by Victorian police breaking down the door and handcuffing a young pregnant woman in her pyjamas for daring to post on Facebook an invitation to attend a peaceful, safe protest in a park in the Victorian country town of Ballarat. No cases of the virus were present there, although lockdown still pertained. Zoe Buhler now faces half a dozen charges and enormous legal expenses.

The same Victorian police were nowhere to be found when gangs of Sudanese youth ran riot through suburban streets, terrorising residents and destroying property. Go figure.

Then there are the ridiculous constraints on the Canberra resident wanting to visit her dying father and attend his funeral. Why would it take 20 days to respond to an application, when there are so many public servants (the Premier has added an extra 35,000 of them in Queensland, now over 230,000) who must have a bit of slack time between them to be able to turn around an application within 24 hours, in keeping with good business practice. The woman’s father died before she was able to cross the border. The grand concession from Queensland bureaucracy was to allow her an hour with her father’s body after the funeral. Shameful!

Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, comes a story of a farmer’s indomitable good humoured spirit. The bloke farms sheep or cattle 25 miles the other side of the border and needed to feed them. When he dutifully approached bureaucrats for permission as an essential industry to cart 25 tons of feed hay to the farm to feed his animals, it was suggested he drive the hay to Sydney and fly it to Melbourne then drive it to the farm. He was shaking his head in disbelief. Imagine the cost and stupidity of undertaking such an exercise. Animals and the farmer can go heave!

There’s no question that extraordinary authority invested in the immature brings out the dictator. Even while waiting patiently in the queue for service at the Newsagent, I was chastised for being too close to the person behind me. Whatever!

In an ever increasing crescendo, the escalation of fear has brought with it an escalation of rules, which further increases fear, bringing out the dictator within. Yet were we to look to the facts, common sense would allay our fears. This advice follows recommendations for the Maturity Model in my book Becoming – to seek truth on which to make decisions to remain confident, rather than fearful.

Managing COVID Fear

Earlier in 2020 when we were just beginning to understand the threat of the China virus, a high level of concern was raised due to a lack of understanding of the nature of virus, how contagious the spread and who was most affected. Frantic footage of ICU in hospitals in Italy being overrun and the lonely deaths and funerals stirred everyone’s emotions, imagination and fear of the unknown.

We now know that COVID-19 spreads by contact, leading to the rules we know by heart: safe coughing, wearing a mask, hand santisation, keeping 1.5m distance and isolation for 14 days if in contact with a person infected or returning from an infected area.

Despite further knowledge that the majority of those severely affected by the virus are people older than 70 with co-morbidities, orchestration of anxiety has continued by governments and the media, with a focus on new cases and deaths, rather than numbers who have recovered. Deaths from COVID have been exaggerated by counting those who died with, rather than from the virus.

Businesses and schools have been closed or employees and students required to work from home. Borders have been closed and ever more rigid rules have been put in place with ever greater threats of penalties that would do the STASI proud, despite knowledge that very few will die from the virus.

Whereas the federal government has come to the aid with JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments to keep workers engaged with businesses and families with income supports, State governments have taken to heart the power to control people with threats and penalties. Original intention to “flatten the curve” to prevent ICU units being overrun morphed into “suppression” then “elimination”, without revisiting information about the virus, reworking the computer modelling and inputs (rubbish in = rubbish out), or going back to the people for consent. The virus has become political.

The facts are:

  • The number of people who died from the virus is fewer than those who would have died from the flu
  • The effect on most people younger than 70 without co-morbidities is mild
  • Children seem to have high immunity, seemingly due to their high level of T-cells
  • Treatment with existing remedies has proven effective in curing the disease and saving lives. Rejecting this because Trump suggested is not a good enough excuse to continue killing people.
  • Vaccines are being developed rapidly around the world.

No need to lock everybody up at great expense and social disruption. Most oldies are grateful for the length of life they have enjoyed and may already have restricted social contact.

Fully realising the facts, we should be able to get back to life as usual, having captured fear rather than being ruled by it. All that will be left is to pay for the disruption. Now that’s scary!

Managing Climate Fear

Though the immediate health crisis has captured our attention, the end of the world from climate catastrophe promised in 10, 20, 30 or 100 years by the various pundits has not entirely faded into the background. Occasionally little gems arise that give us hope over climate terror that has school children weeping in the streets.

Australia has been bullied by domestic and international conservation agencies about our alleged poor management of the Great Barrier Reef, causing $millions to be spent of research to prove just how bad. As a result research funding has skewed research findings. Those who challenge the veracity of outcomes have been severely castigated for daring to disrupt the populist political story that feeds the research gravy train. Professors Bob Carter and Peter Ridd suffered greatly: Carter died and Ridd was sacked by James Cook University.

Recently Professor Peter Ridd highlighted a study that showed a mere 3% of the Great Barrier Reef was affected by agricultural runoff, and that was only on shore side of the reef. Findings like this are heartening to the farmers who have bent over backwards to employ best environmental practice while being severely pilloried by the Greens, Labor, conservationists and international experts hoping to run them out of business and us out of food.

Destruction of the GBR was another reason for trying to stop development of the ADANI coal mine and half a dozen other mines mooted for the huge coal reserves in the Galilee and Carmichael basins.

Fear of destruction of the GBR demonising the two activities that keep this country prosperous (farming and mining) has been turned around on facts that have not changed, but have selectively been ignored – facts based on distance and geography.

The facts are:

  • GBR is 50-100km from the coastline, hence the limited effect of agricultural runoff
  • GBR is not one, but a series of reefs often kilometres wide.
  • GBR is 2,400km in longitude, crossing a wide range of temperature zones
  • ADANI and other coal mines from the basins are a further 400-500km inland

As with COVID, destruction of the reef has been politicised to engender fear and guilt, to attract attention and money and to destroy coal mining.

We need to seek out the facts to stay in charge of our lives, livelihoods and our money. Don’t be afraid.

Franklin D Roosevelt’s memorable message during the Great Depression, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”, is well remembered and applies today. His message ended with the reassurance – “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needs efforts to convert retreat into advance”. Let’s go forward boldly.

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Skin in the Game

The title for this blog has been borrowed from a book of the same name by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who poses values similar to those espoused in my own book Becoming: accepting one’s own risks and responsibilities.

Having skin in the game, claims Taleb, works better than thousands of laws and regulations to even out the risk/responsibility profile in community, business and government. It is a simple rule that’s necessary for fairness and justice, and the ultimate BS-buster.

Insights offered by Taleb are pertinent to our current COVID situation, when decisions made by “expert” elites are controlling so much of our freedom of movement and operation. At the same time businesses under pressure of failing, with no choice in whether the borders are opened or operations can restart, are expected to fund decision-makers who still have their jobs and income.

Taleb offers pertinent insights such as:

  • Minorities, not majorities, run the world. The world is not run by consensus but by stubborn minorities imposing their tastes and ethics on others.
  • You can be an intellectual yet still be an idiot. “Educated philistines” have been wrong on everything from Stalinism to Iraq to low-carb diets. (We could add COVID-19, Global Warming modelling and University of Queensland’s faceless judiciary committee for its treatment of student activist Drew Pavlou).
  • Beware of complicated solutions (that someone was paid to find). A simple barbell can build muscle better than expensive new machines.
  • True religion is commitment, not just faith. How much you believe in something is manifested only by what you’re willing to risk for it. (Think Climate Change, where costs are borne by taxpayers and the poor rather than decision-makers who often benefit financially)

That Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk has no skin in the game is evident as she keeps Queensland borders closed despite the very low number of people who have the virus in this state and the trend towards suppression in other states.

Palaszczuk has lived all her life on the public teat: her father was a politician; she has worked for the Labor Party; and now heads the Queensland Labor government. The Premier has no experience in business, like Pauline Hanson in a fish and chip shop, risking all financially starting a business and employing staff. She has never had to put her hand in her own pocket to pay a worker. As Premier, Palaszczuk has found it all too easy to add another 30,000 public servants to the payroll, racking up more government debt.

 It is clear that the Premier doesn’t understand the desperation resulting from quarantine measures and border closure, especially for tourism businesses which will miss out on 40% of their usual earnings when southerners are prevented from travelling north for the winter sun and grey nomads are unable to move to warmer climes. No skin in the game! And contemptuous of those who have risked all to create business to provide goods and services, employ staff, make profits and pay tax to keep the Premier in the style to which she has become accustomed. Constitutional challenges may be necessary to change the Premier’s mind.

Strategic decision models

Strategic decision making models that respect all parties are available to the Premier and her elite advisers should they be open to other than political or ideological positions:

  • Maturity Model: Those familiar with my writing would recognise the Maturity Model which can be applied to all situations, policies and circumstances across life. Context is an important basis on which choice, responsibility and expectation are balanced. By increasing expectation and loading responsibility, as the Premier is doing by keeping the border closed, unreasonable expectation and responsibility are loaded onto people and businesses who have no choice. Financial and social fragmentation will inevitably result.
  • Cynefin Framework: (Snowden DJ and Boone ME, Harvard Business Review, November 2007) is a multi-context model that recognises approach to issues differs and different management responses are required depending on whether the situation (context) is simple, complicated, complex or chaotic. Authoritative management is necessary when a situation is chaotic, as with the onset of the pandemic. However the authors recognise the risk in authoritarian management continuing when the crisis (pandemic) is past, leading to greater problems.
  • Multiple Objective Decision Support Systems (MODSS): Values and weighs up various objectives (e.g. health, economy, health system capacity, reliability of supplies, population tolerance of restriction on freedom) to reach decision compromise that will not satisfy every criterion while allowing sensible advancement.

Any or all of the models could inform leadership decision making to achieve far better outcomes than we have received from the daily “expert” briefings.

Inners and Outers

Nowhere are Taleb’s “educated philistines” better expressed than by Matthew Lesh (Democracy in a Divided Australia), whose new elite “Inners” of the technical managerial class dominate public policy decision making in the Left, Right,  academia, bureaucracy and business. Decisions made without input from the practical “Outers” who will be most affected so often fail, yet rarely does anyone accept responsibility, even when it is their job. COVID-19 has brought focus to the disparity.

  • Pandemic modelling which began from an uncertain base predicted worst case scenario to be managed. Generally people complied with sanitation, isolation constraints and closures to enable hospital supplies to be secured. However, as the situation changed and fewer than predicted cases emerged, there’s been a distinct reluctance to revisit the ‘expert’ modelling. Scope creep meant that expert ‘Inner’ authoritarian decisions made by people in secure jobs remained, while ‘outer’ people’s jobs and businesses went to the wall.
  • Ruby Princess debacle is a classic case of having no skin in the game. Allowing 2700 passengers disembark from the cruise liner in the early hours of the morning without abiding by proper health protocols, merely shifted responsibility to the hundreds of people, their families and health workers that had to pick up the pieces in illness, death, care and cost for those who became infected by the virus. No one lost their job. A few tears from a low level operative taking the hit for NSW Health at the enquiry hardly compensates.
  • Closing the borders may have had merit for a short time. Driving local tourist businesses to the wall by extending the closure beyond necessary, while seriously inconveniencing the movement of locals demonstrates a lack of skin in the game. Shutting down normal congress is easy. Doing something constructive is more challenging.

With the intensity of recent bushfires we had already experienced how badly damaging flawed bureaucratic decisions can be when local and state governments failed to undertake recommended clearing of undergrowth causing loss of property, livelihoods, people and biodiversity running to $billions. No responsibility! No skin in the game!

Similarly with the elite policy decision to trade water in the Murray Darling Basin has meant that flows are not available to productive farmers, having already been traded to international interests who do not own land. Again $billions in actual and opportunity cost.

I am sure you all know of instances where the public have been failed by people paid to secure their safety and interest. Tell me some.

Skin in the Game

Estonia recovered from the global financial crisis by every politician and public servant taking a 10% pay cut. Front line health care responders aside, Australia’s recovery from recent crises would be helped if public servants in secure jobs could take a similar cut, to show they have some skin in the game while so many in private enterprises have lost their jobs and businesses. It would more truly show “we are all in this together”. Instead, we have a pay increase of 10% over four years for the 228,000 Queensland public servants in well-paid, secure positions, merely deferred until later in the year – closer to the October election.

While the COVID crisis presents opportunities to reset many parts of the economy, as PM Scott Morrison is attempting, let’s hope that due attention is paid to redress the “koala” protected species status of public sector employees at every level of government. Reduce the numbers, improve the efficiency and effectiveness and expect them to show initiative and responsibility as if they had some skin in the game.

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Learning from opportunities lost

This blog is not about broccoli but about how we develop and benefit from innovation. By reading on to find its relevance to the story, perhaps you will look at broccoli and innovation differently.

Mandelbrot[1]

Benoit Mandelbrot had an exceptional scientific record across continents, especially for creating the first-ever “theory of roughness”. He saw “roughness” in the shapes of mountains, coastlines and river basins; the structures of plants, blood vessels and lungs; the clustering of galaxies. His personal quest was to create some mathematical formula to measure the overall “roughness” of such objects in nature. Were he alive today, he may have produced a mathematical formula for COVID-19.

Fractals were seen by Mandelbrot as a form of geometric repetition, in which smaller and smaller copies of a pattern are successively nested inside each other, so that the same intricate shapes appear no matter how much you zoom in to the whole. Fern leaves and broccoli are examples to which we can relate.

What was pertinent to my discussion with Barry Jones (former Science Minister in the Hawke Labor government) was that Jones had met with Mandelbrot (possibly while Mandelbrot was researching at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York, where he worked for 35 years to 1987). Jones recalls asking what he was working on and was advised that “they did not know”. Upon returning five years later Jones found that 40 products had been produced from Mandelbrot’s research to that point. His work, developed entirely outside mainstream research, led to modern information theory.

Which leads me to what geniuses do we have in our midst, outside mainstream research, with the capability to add value to our store of solutions were they provided the financial freedom to explore where innovation takes them. And do we have the commercial sophistication to advance their genius without impatience, greed and exploitation?

Steiner

For over 20 years I was an associate of one such genius: Dr John Steiner, an Austrian born Australian, who completed his PhD in Physical Chemistry and Instrumentation at the University of Queensland.

Much of his work involved management of gases and odour – across medical, sewerage, agriculture and energy sectors. Ever, like Mandelbrot, Steiner operated outside mainstream research. He offered simple solutions, sophisticated in execution. There are many:

  • 4DS technology for the treatment of airborne contaminants , most pertinent to COVID-19 conditions. 4DS technology could Deodorise, Disinfect, Detoxify, Decontaminate and Sterilise airborne contaminants by releasing specially designed vapour from a molecular vapour generator. At a molecular level, rather than particulate (as from a common spray can) the molecules are able to penetrate and destroy the contaminant. Steiner said he had also had success at an atomic level – i.e. atoms are smaller than molecules. 4DS technology was developed following the SARS outbreak.
  • Applications of 4DS to enclosed spaces include: hospitals, hotels, airports, high rise rubbish wells and water sanitation systems. His simple solution to dealing with dangerous hydrogen sulphide in sewerage channels was to prevent hydrogen sulphide from bonding, rather than try to manage the outcome with expensive chemical treatments.

We can see how valuable those innovations would be today.

Without a wealthy patron (like IBM for Mandelbrot), the inexorable compulsion of the innovator in John Steiner carried on under financial pressure, when he had already persevered through so much.

Early Steiner innovations

My first contact with John Steiner was at a post-graduate function looking at the commercialisation of technology, my area of interest. At that time he was involved in odour control of feedlots and off-grid septic and toilet systems.

Previously he had developed virtually instantaneous, long lasting odour control of ostomy bags. Interest was expressed from the four global producers of ostomy bags who wanted the technology but were reluctant to pay a fair price. The ostomy bag technology could have readily been converted to face masks and body bags had there been a patient financier/manufacturer willing to back John Steiner.

Since then there have been countless times, like today during COVID-19, when contaminant and odour repellent face masks and body bags could be used, as well as his 4DS technology for the decontamination of shared space.

Ever innovative, in response to demands in the 1990s, John Steiner turned his genius towards cleaner energy from coal fired power stations. Emissions, he believed, were a function of inefficient combustion. His simple solution, sophisticated in execution, was to improve the efficiency of combustion by harvesting and adding gases at high temperature and high speed during the combustion process. A further innovation was the rapid heating of fuel (coal) entering the retort, which again presented operational and environmental savings.

Timing is critical to commercial success. Changes in research funding from Energy R&D to the Australian Greenhouse Office meant research funding, though granted, became unavailable for John’s project. At the same time, corporatisation of the power stations meant that industry partners, from which government had harvested profits, had nothing left to invest in innovation.

Over the years, approaches to various energy producers, governments and financiers suffered similar fates: technical excitement at lower levels of operation and outright deprecation of the scientist by those in government and management decision-making roles. Mere minnows of scientific endeavour were ever anxious to maintain their superiority in negotiations rather than seek solutions for the good of the business, or the country. They won the day and lost the future.

All that genius came to a tragic end when Dr John Steiner was swept overboard, hit by the boom of a yacht sailing in Moreton Bay 20 December 2010. He was never seen again.

What can we learn, if we are willing

 To become a more resilient nation, it is imperative we capitalise on local enterprise. More than twenty years working in the commercialisation field has taught me a number of things. Firstly, we need more intelligent, sophisticated investors from private enterprise and government if we are to attain successful outcomes. Financiers and marketers need to be as smart in their field as the scientist, not smart-arsed as so many proved to be.

Secondly, investors need to be patient with chemical, biological or technical processes which take time to prove, if one is looking for certainty. Steiner suffered great cost and aggravation of legal wrangling from a highly influential businessman who wanted confirmation of process before it was scientifically verifiable.

Thirdly, greed is an innovation killer. A common psychological phenomenon of commercialisation of clever innovation is that a greedy investor wants to capture everything right away and eliminate the innovator. They may end up with one product/project, yet miss spin-off options that emerge from the developer’s inner compulsion to create, like Mandelbrot. Perhaps investors believe they can do it all themselves, but they do not carry the spirit of creativity that will flourish a business by staying in contact with the source and subsequent innovation.

Visiting the Walt Disney museum in San Francisco I found the same thing had happened to Walt Disney. Having developed the first ever three animated cartoons, Walt found his partner cutting him out of the business. A partner less greedy and more honourable could have benefited from the global enterprise that later emerged from Disney’s compulsive creativity that now entertains millions around the globe and employs thousands of people. The enduring message is that with patience there will be plenty for everyone.

Had John Steiner been blessed with better fortune, his innovations could be servicing us now in our hour of need, just as he intended.

Finally, scientists, engineers and innovators need to be savvy about who and how to deal with investors. John Steiner was a courteous, slow speaking person prone to engaging into technicalities. He was a poor match for the slick, fast talking, condescending investor decision-making elites, so it was hard to traverse the boundaries to reap benefits.

Today we are the worse off because of the failure of those with the largesse to pick up the opportunities to make this world a better, safer, more sustainable place. Let’s learn from missed opportunities, so all can benefit and prosper in the future.


v[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benoit_Mandelbrot

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The Spirit of Easter

Crisis

This very costly, disruptive crisis of COVID-19 cannot be wasted.  In the Spirit of Easter we have the opportunity to reframe so much in our lives, nation and world as we pause in isolation.

Permeation of the virus into our country, lives and bodies has had the effect of directing focus on survival, at the lower end of Maslow’s hierarchy. For way too long pre-eminence has been given to fake crises of self-realisation at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy, as so many sought meaning and relevance by righteously pursuing moral causes of newer gods, while casting judgement and damnation on lesser mortals and denialists.

Over recent times, the ‘Palm Sunday’ parade lauding elites now must confront the grinding reality of the suffering of survival. Climate catastrophe projected in 100 years has given way to a more immanent pandemic, as have gender fluidity, identity politics, diversity, equality, colonialism, refugees and a host of other social posturing by leaders in business, academe, legal, non-profit and government agencies. Instead, these elites have had to pull in their heads to focus on their day jobs in order to contribute to the national effort to overcome the challenge. We are in this together.

Many, like me, may have wondered how long the decline in common sense that fostered false gods could prevail. (Lord here my prayer). Yet over a few weeks and months, as a result of bat soup in Wuhan, China, the ground has shifted globally to bring about an entirely new perspective. Like a butterfly stirring in the Amazon, corona virus ripples flow out across the globe in an invisible toxic mist.

The call to sacrifice

Right now is the hard part, the ‘Garden of Gethsemane’, where tears of blood may be shed in the anguish and uncertainty of what lies ahead. ‘Stay an hour with me’, may be the prayer of the isolated, the lonely and those despairing of how to manage through the tunnel of the wave of crisis as rent and mortgage need to be paid without assured income. Those in business confront multiple excruciating crises of how or whether to pay the rent, keep the business going and maintain loyal workers. A kind word or offer of help can ease the burden as we trudge forward carrying the cross of our own responsibility for doing our bit towards prevention and survival.

The call to sacrifice is being answered by so many for which we thank them: front line health care and ancillary workers have stepped up. Transport and retail workers keep grocery stores and open, stocked and orderly. First responders again put their lives on the line. Business owners and workers have become innovative to continue to service customers.

An essential element of my Maturity Model, individual responsibility, calls us to isolate, take all sanitation measures, care for self and family and work from home where feasible. Trimming back former accepted ways of living may be necessary to reduce expenses to match reduced circumstances and options. The cross of compromise may be necessary to refresh intimate relationships if they are to survive the crisis intact, if not renewed.

Challenges of the crisis call to sacrifice and adapt are numerous, yet so many have shown tremendous capacity to draw on inner strength of spirit previously untapped to respond with generosity and compassion. May that same spirit continue into the future as we deal with the aftermath of a difficult pandemic for which we are not to blame and over which we have little control beyond individual responsibility.

Death and resurrection

Loss is a very real manifestation of death on the way to dying – practice, if you like, for the ultimate. Loss needs to named and mourned if we are to move beyond grief to the prospect of the transformation of the resurrection.

There is no realistic shortcut. Our metaphorical three days in the tomb can be fruitfully used in prayer and meditation, letting go of the unnecessary, planning for a practical, more compassionate way forward, with renewed consideration in our homes and workplaces.

The pandemic crisis has become a wake-up call, not just to us as individuals, but to our national government and the world order. Relationships with China and its inexorable move to dominate the world will be challenged and changed. Just as individuals have been called upon to be more resilient and self-reliant, so has our country. That would be a good thing – a transformative resurrection.

Crisis has granted us a once in a lifetime opportunity to step out of normal routines to readjust, if painfully. Exit from crisis, according to the Whiteheads, requires assertive action. Go to it.

As our 93 year old Queen Elizabeth said from her depth of experience, “We will survive, we will meet again”.

May all of us, whether believers or not, be infused with the spirit of Easter – the solemnity and the sacrifice – so that in the coming days we will be transformed to flourish in the joy of the resurrection as life returns to a new normal.

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What we trained for

And didn’t know it

The coronavirus crisis is a classic example of how global matters have personal impacts. Even though it may not always be clear, that is why, in each blog, I try to interpret the personal implications of broader national and international policy issues that seem remote, yet affect us, by providing sound principles on which to base personal decisions and actions.

Disruptive times tend to show up how we’ve been training. It seems many of us have spent a life time training in panic and self-interest, if behaviour in the supermarkets and pharmacies is any guide. Yet the facts are that Australia produces enough food for everyone with production and delivery logistics reliable and well established. What’s to be concerned about, even if we don’t have a Mormon cupboard stocked for two years of famine?

Learn from history – use initiative

Whatever happened to Australian initiative and enterprise? Or sense of history? Or the military tenet to improvise, adapt, overcome?

It seems we’ve trained a bunch of unresilient selfish sooks who panic first.

For the like of me I can’t get my head around the dunny paper fixation and whatever it has to do with Coronavirus. I’m old enough to remember Lord Mayor Clem Jones’ commitment to sewer Brisbane City, then subject to weekly collection from the outside dunnies by Hunter Brothers; on the farm digging a hole to bury human waste from the can; cutting newspaper into squares to hang on a wire hook for essential services; gathering apple paper wrappings (much softer) for the same purpose. And what’s wrong with using water, a cloth and sanitised bucket like parents once did with cloth nappies?

Hoarding toilet paper is not new: in my youth there was an elderly miser neighbour named Bill who used to steal that awful shiny toilet paper from government buildings. His home was piled high with toilet rolls along with newspapers reaching the ceiling, with just a narrow aisle to walk through. Back then his behaviour was considered eccentric: today it is sufficiently commonplace to warrant a TV reality show.

Yet by training ourselves to take the time to glean the facts on delivery of goods from the manufacturers and shops rather than from Twitter, to understand the context and show tolerance, we can feel confident the shelves will be stocked again. In this land of plenty there will be enough for all.

The Mormons have the situation covered. Under an edict from the Prophets, Mormons are encouraged to build a store of goods to last for two years, so that they will be self-reliant during hard times. Furthermore, it is incumbent upon them to care for themselves, their family, their neighbour and their community. Something to be learned from everyone!

Olds in isolation

 “Stay at home!” is the main message to limit contagion. For many elderly, this will not be a new experience. In keeping with demographic changes where many more of us are living longer, we have been in training for this moment for some time. Busy adult children and grandchildren, sometimes separated by distance or attitude, have become consumed with work, business, sport and other activities, with little time or inclination to engage with the olds.

Where family disruption has further isolated grandparents, the olds have drawn on long-developed resilience, built their own networks and refreshed a sense of humour to maintain perspective. Digital grandchildren have become the norm, a situation which disallows latent love, wisdom and support, but what can we do? Go with what you’ve got! Having trained for this situation (however unwittingly), we are able to put obligatory isolation into practice without too much difficulty.

Furthermore, Olds have long training in being frugal from weathering wars, depression and recessions, raising children when credit was not readily available, so tightening the financial belt will be relatively easy.

Still, it was heartening to receive calls from a family member who delivered a food parcel and offered of assistance with essential errands, and to hear from a bright young colleague who was interested in my welfare. Regular communications with the outside world will keep connected olds who are abiding by the isolation edict, so that they do not monopolise life-saving equipment that might be needed by workers.

Positive training

Not all aspects of the COVID crisis are bad, though we feel for those whose livelihood, income, health and routines are being severely disrupted, as well as for the front line health professionals who daily face risks to their own health. We pray that they remain safe and feel the depth of our gratitude.

Firstly, the immediate crisis has put other putative longer term crises in perspective: the global warming/climate change catastrophe has been put on the back burner, along with Greta Thunberg, Extension Rebellion and other rabid proponents; the gender industry has faded from the headlines; colonisation and indigenous victimhood give way to the imperative of immediate survival.

Secondly, woke business leaders have to earn their huge salaries and bonuses by turning their training and talents to help the country survive economically. Paying SME suppliers on time would be a great help.

Thirdly, Public servants from key departments are being stirred into action in response to government initiatives supporting public health and incomes. Unconscious bias, gender equity, diversity and female advancement have been subsumed by overwhelming demands just to do the job – what they have been trained to do and paid for.

Relationships with key trading partners and failing global organisations like WHO and the UN taken over by China and other rogue nations will have to be reset, providing western democratic leadership is up to the challenge. And it has been a wake-up call to Australia to ensure that essential supplies are produced locally, with stocks conserved for local use.

This global pause in normal activities can be turned into positive at a personal level if we are prepared to use the time wisely to review what we have been training for. Where improvement would be beneficial (in attitude, mind or body), set our minds and our plans towards achieving just that. Make sound decisions based on facts and context and perhaps use my Maturity Model as a guide.

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Acceptance

That periods of difficult challenges and tragedies are part of life are one of the main reasons we should be nurturing in children a strong capacity for resilience, however unfashionable that may be in expert child development circles.

Of course we want to protect the vulnerable from harm, at least until they are old enough to manage difficulties themselves. However should a child reach adulthood without experiencing responsibilities and limitations, without addressing the adolescent tasks of tolerance, empathy and intuition, unable to accept life’s sometimes harsh realities, then there is a fair chance they will become a problem – for themselves, their families and the community at large. Furthermore, the personal becomes the political, regularly illustrated in intransigent demands of the various green cults and political positions demanding action by, and funding from, others.

In my book Becoming, Chapter 4 Making Straight the Way and Chapter 5 Becoming Adult outline tasks to young adulthood in greater detail. My Maturity Model for decision-making helps guide self-assessment of efforts towards personal growth through responsible decision-making.

Self-acceptance

To be effective in the world we need a healthy level of self-acceptance, regardless of what our critics may say. That may mean acceptance of our limitations and diminishments, especially as we age. After all responsibilities also decline.

Shifts in relationships with adolescents and adult children also need a high level of acceptance, particularly when their relationships struggle. Real virtue may be found in letting go of responsibility for, and involvement in, adult offsprings’ mid-life struggles, accepting only they have the ability to change their circumstances, no matter how much it pains us. The same can be said of what is happening in our grandchildren’s lives that may appear less than favourable. In this we would do well to take a leaf out of the Abdallah family’s spirit book of gracious acceptance of the unchangeable tragedies of life. Inner and outer peace may be the reward.

As a product of a poverty stricken family, it became imperative for me to strive for better outcomes, making the most of every opportunity. In many areas, success favoured me, though not everything can be changed. Similarly, efforts for justice and political change don’t always bear fruit. Peace comes from acceptance of the results, celebration of the effort and release from striving.

Democracy requires acceptance of the vote

Our freedom is based on a functioning democracy. Essential to democracy is acceptance of the outcome of majority vote. Yet recent votes in three democratic countries show how powerful insiders and media obstructed the people’s surprise choice. In each case, insiders believed they knew better than the outsiders – the deplorables, the quiet Australians. 

  • Brexit: Even though a majority of the population voted for Britain to exit the European Union, elites in government and the bureaucracies of Britain and the EU sought to confound delivery on the result, supported by a partisan media who made wrong calls. For over three years wrangling continued; the courts joined in; the Speaker of the House John Bercow defied convention by going against his party and favouring “stay”; the media piled on. Failure to accept the vote placed Britain’s whole democratic system at risk. Yet the will of the people prevailed through the election of Boris Johnson, who ultimately delivered Brexit.
  • Trump: Again, the surprise election of Donald Trump as President of the United States has not been accepted by the Democratic Party, partisan media or Hollywood celebrities. Each has used their ample platforms to discredit Trump quite malevolently. Mark Levin in his book The Unfreedom of the Press cites pages of quotes in which media called Trump everything from a demagogue, anti-Semite, threat to security, psychologically troubled, unhinged, not fit to be president, a destructive virus created by Putin, Nazi like tendencies, racist, white supremist and a liar, amongst other things. His impeachment, mooted the day of inauguration and advanced three years later, resulted in Trump’s acquittal, much to Democrat and media chagrin. Under a relentless hailstorm of slander and disruption, Trump continued to deliver on his platform, now showing stunning results in economic terms, employment, trade, life opportunities and international relations – enough to warrant another term.

Through this entire debacle Trump called out the “fake news” and spoke directly to his base via Twitter (often foolishly), yet kept focused on doing what he promised. Like him or hate him, Trump is making America and the world a better place. He is not perfect, certainly irregular, but as one of ‘the deplorables’ said in a spirit of acceptance, “I didn’t vote for him to be my Pastor”.

  • Morrison: A ‘miraculous’ electoral win by Scott Morrison was the third upset of the media and elite applecart which had expected a Shorten Labor win. Since then the pile-on has been relentless, deprecating “Scotty from Marketing”, calling “ScoMo must go”, ostensibly for: daring to take a promised few days holiday just as the fires began to accelerate; for alleged poor management of the bushfires, though services are the responsibility of the states; for failing to link the fires to climate change (for which there is no evidence); and for alleged mismanagement of the coronavirus situation.

In each case, untruths, distortions and deceit compound the inability to accept the outcome of democratic votes. When assessed against my Maturity Model, dissension and division increases, both parties become less mature and social and economic costs accrue. Whereas acceptance allows people to move on.

Consequence of non-acceptance

This blog began highlighting the grace of acceptance demonstrated by the Abdallah family in their moment of unfathomable tragedy, and the inner and outer peace flowing from that acceptance.

All of us can take a leaf out of their ‘acceptance’ book when called upon to deal with the trials and tragedies in our own lives if we are to attain a measure of inner and outer peace, avoiding long term unproductive conflict.

Likewise the elites in government, bureaucracy and media who think they know what is best for us are compelled to realise that outside their privileged bubble, beyond the goats cheese curtain, there are many deplorables and quiet Australians who think differently and who vote. De-platforming and unwarranted social media shaming restricts personal freedom on the way to totalitarian control and loss of democracy. Amongst elites the grace of acceptance of the results of the democratic vote has been missing, overtaken by the arrogance of baseless superiority.

Striving for betterment is virtuous, as is awareness of when to let go and accept the unchangeable.

Productivity, prosperity and freedom can flourish with the greatest gift of all – acceptance and forgiveness.

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Confidence of the hunt

It seems that all who have arrived in Australia since 26 January 1788 have drunk the same water of trust in abundance, as the Aborigines who have inhabited this land for some 60,000 years. In that there is much to celebrate.

Our trust in abundance – that there is plenty to share – enables so many to come forward with money, goods and support for those so badly affected by the fires, the floods and the drought. The same spirit embraces the newcomers who take the pledge of allegiance as they become Australians on Australia Day.

According to anthropologist Marshall Sahlins, in his seminal study, The Original Affluent Society (1966), aborigines lived their nomadic life and economy in the spirit of confidence in the hunt.  Affluence derived from neither needing nor seeking to accumulate possessions. Sahlin’s study showed that aboriginal knowledge and management of the land, water, resources and seasons, coupled with skills in hunting and gathering ensured they would always be able to acquire adequate food and water.

Experience with bushfires

Experience of recent and previous fires has brought into sharp relief Aboriginal knowledge based on management of the land. Seasonally, fire sticks were used to cold burn fuel of dried leaves and bark that built up in the understory of forests. Such practice helped prevent larger fires ignited by dry lightning strikes, conserve the animals on which they relied for food and stimulated regrowth to service both indigenous, animals and other biodiversity.

What aborigines new naturally was confirmed on Fox’s Credlin show by two old blokes with over a hundred years of experience in forestry and bush fire management. Roger Underwood, a 60 year forester and David Packham, a former CSIRO bushfire scientist of 50 years’ experience, explained in simple language.

Australian forests differ from northern hemisphere forests in that in Australia, trees shed leaves and bark which build up. Drought dries out the fuel burden. Normal fuel build up is one ton per hectare per year. Double that and the fire risk is four times higher; double again and it is 16 times, and so on. A fire in a 50 ton/hectare burden cannot be stopped. As the aborigines before them knew, hazard reduction burns work.

Under normal bush fire conditions, the fire burns at 3 megawatts per metre. During Black Saturday, fires reached 70 mw/m. Fire intensity is now around 100 mw/m and fuel loads have never been higher as a result of a 30 year build up. At the current intensity, heat is so great that it is impossible to withstand.

Follow the wisdom

What the aborigines know and the two experienced old blokes tell us is not news. Recommendations coming out of previous Royal Commissions have all said the same thing – hazard reduction by seasonal cool burning of the build-up of forest debris.

Several reasons for universal failure to do so can be attributed to flawed green policy based on landscape ecology aimed at conserving all forests and biodiversity by leaving it alone.

Anyone with any gumption knows that saving children from everything makes them good for nothing.  Whereas reasonable admonishment, direction and support through difficult experiences helps them become productive citizens.

Similarly, reasonable known land and forest management practices could have saved the loss of forest, biodiversity, people, homes, buildings and tragedy. Responsible agencies which have not done their job need to be called to account. Policies need to be changed and rigorously implemented.

Who benefits?

To the question about ‘who benefits?’ posed by Peta Credlin to Roger Underwood and David Packham, they replied “the Greens”. Not only has flawed Green policy become so entrenched in local and state government land management regulations, preventing hazard reduction burns, but it has extended to punishing farmers and property owners from reducing hazard on their own property – a policy that has cost farmers dearly. The Greens have benefited politically by being able to blame climate change (and ScoMo) for the unfolding disaster; an opinion the experienced men dismiss. Greens could learn from the teachings of Buddha that ‘the greatest weakness in life is lack of awareness’.

Other beneficiaries identified were the fire agencies, who, having failed to control the fires, demand more resources. In the aftermath of crisis, challenged governments stump up with more resources which will again fail. How many times over the last twelve months have we seen damage and desolation caused when taxpayer funded agencies fail to do their jobs and get off unaccountable to anyone.

Trust in abundance

In keeping with the ‘trust in abundance’ Sahlins recognised in the aborigines, out of the ashes has come tremendous support – financial, practical and emotional – for those affected, for whom nothing will ever be the same.

From old wisdom we know that ‘man is tried in the crucible of suffering’. Certainly that has been the case with the bushfires. Intense heat in a crucible can produce fine, strong outcomes. Let’s hope that such is the case as people travel the troubled pathway to recovery.

The public and politicians have responded generously. Here’s hoping the charitable organisations and government agencies do their job delivering abundance properly and promptly. Those afflicted do not need more hurdles to overcome in their distress.

Fire, flood, drought and cyclones are part and parcel of the nature of this abundant land which we celebrate this weekend. We must learn from our indigenous brothers and sisters how to manage and respect the land, rather than be taken in by the false prophets of climate doomsday. Together we can celebrate our capacity to adapt and rejoice in the spirit of generosity that prevails in Australia.