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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.

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Good Intentions

We have environmentalists to thank for raising awareness of green issues to mainstream, where people, policy and payment have come under capture to the green zeitgeist.

Over the last thirty years an ever-increasing crescendo of demand for improved environmental management of land, resources and biodiversity has seen the headline calls evolve from:

  • Environmental sustainability – looking at attaining inter-generational equity in resource management; to
  • Greenhouse – a misnomer as a risk, because greenhouses are pumped with CO2 to accelerate plant growth; to
  • Global Warming – when predictions failed to appear over 20 years; which led to:
  • Climate change – where every weather event is interpreted as a “climate change” in this land of historical fire, drought and flooding rains. We end up with social media morons when the Bureau of Meteorology is accused of fudging historical data and children are taught gender fluidity and evils of colonisation rather than history and geography based on facts; which now becomes:
  • Climate catastrophe – the latest headline call to action signed up to by so many from the Global Shapers heads of industry preening their green virtue instead of minding their business, to the hyper-anxious child climate strikers, many who can’t make their own bed, give up their phone or responsibly dispose of their Macca wrappers. If their protest signs are anything to go by, many can’t spell either.

Going too far

Good intentions taken too far end in disaster, sometimes evil. What previously stimulated genuine concern for the environment and innovation has evolved to become a new climate change religion in which emotion over-rides facts. Virtue signalling takes hold. That is certainly true of the green zeitgeist which has captured all levels of government, especially the air-conditioned bureaucracies and nervous politicians.

Nowhere is this better borne out than with the bushfires. Many allege bushfires are caused by Australia failing to mitigate CO2 emissions said to be causing climate change, despite this country being one of the few meeting targets set for reduction and undertaking comprehensive environmental measures at great cost to the economy, every business and household.

The green narrative of climate change bushfires is spoiled when we realise there are already 183 charges of arson (with more pending) for starting the fires, ignition being one of the factors.

Another factor is fuel. Again green intentions have paved the way to hell for so many:

  • Creating more national parks, locking them up, not allowing fire wood collection or grazing to reduce undergrowth, failing to maintain fire breaks, not allowing, or failing to conduct cool burns in winter; and
  • Preventing farmers from managing their land sustainably, from widening fire breaks and reducing undergrowth, under threat of bureaucratic charges, legal process and massive fines.

We can’t change Australia’s known propensity to drought, which has made the unmanaged build-up of understory tinder dry, except by building dams, again objected to by the Greens. None has been built for 30 years, despite plans for a modified Bradfield scheme to channel to the interior flood waters from the east coast and Gulf of Carpentaria through the centre of the country into the Murray Darling Basin.

All too sensible for the latte sipping Greens of the inner cities hiding behind the goats cheese curtain, not out fighting the fires like much vilified former PM Tony Abbott. Note particularly, that virtually every Green policy prevents what the Quiet Australians would call sensible action to improve lives and livelihoods.

The hell of Green good intentions

While bushfires bring the hell of green good intentions into sharp relief, their Marxist influence marches an endless road through all our institutions:

  • Renewable energy is yet another farce – a good intention the results of which we have yet to realise.

Touted as cheaper than base load (coal, gas) power and bolstered by $3billion/year subsidies, renewables attracted investment to feed at the public trough. Trouble is the renewable energy is intermittent and unreliable, requires back up batteries and generators, and causes untold environmental damage to birds, bugs and bats while blotting the landscape with ugly structures unfavourable to biodiversity.

That’s before even taking into account the actual and opportunity cost of their lifecycle: manufacture (one windmill takes 220 tonnes of coal and 300 tonnes of cement); transport; installation; maintenance (efficiency declines with age, especially solar, needing repair or replacement); lack of plans for recycling, especially of batteries. Then there are the health effects on those living in the vicinity, not to mention the transmission costs and inefficiencies where energy is lost. Most renewables are dispersed without ready access to the electricity grid, which is ill equipped to manage fluctuations in supply, whereas baseload tends to be located close to fuel source, with energy generated fed into the established transmission grid.

We are yet to realise fully what lies at the end of the road paved with renewables good intentions. So far it has cost South Australia days of blackouts without any power, has increased the cost of energy for us all, causing businesses to close and households to be disconnected for failing to pay their energy bills on times. Hell enough already for many of us.

  • Protecting the Great Barrier Reef is yet another Green intention that has caused hell for many farmers and tourism operators who are intelligent, informed and best placed to protect the land, reef and waters on which their livelihoods depend. Under pressure from Green bureaucracies, farm practices have been modified to comply with the latest edicts to protect from runoff, the Reef located 100km east of the coastline. Tourism operators bend over backwards to comply with requirements for preservation of this ever evolving World Heritage site, that has shown amazing resilience in the face of occasional bleaching and naturally occurring cyclones.

Yet unfavourable reports of the reef’s condition emanating from cashed up researchers who’ve drunk the climate change kool-aid, discourage visitors who do not realise that the GBR stretches 2,400km longitude across several temperature zones and varies kilometres in width. Hell for the businesses relying on tourism dollars to show off our global icon, especially when the person challenging the veracity of reef science (Prof Peter Ridd) has been sacked by James Cook University, which has been found wanting by the Courts on 17 counts.

  • Adani coal mine, located in the Galilee basin some 400 km inland from the coast (and an estimated 500km from the Reef) has been the headline target for greenhouse and reef activism. A better understanding of the geography of distance should allay concerns, but it seems nothing gets in the way of emotional green activism and their good intentions. Mine proponents have persevered through hell during the nine years it took them to walk the road to environmental approvals. In the meantime, poor Indians for whom the coal is intended to bring much needed electricity, have continued their short, disadvantaged lives, people wanting work have been thus far denied, development of the railway and other mines have been hampered.

Yet again, the Marxist Greens’ policy undermining our economy and social fabric by preventing progress, sensible development and jobs with their “good intentions” tends to hold sway. Quiet Australians need to speak up, loudly, sensibly, and often, to raise the banner on the valuable

environmental work being undertaken by the productive people of our society: the miners, farmers, firies and tourism operators.

For 2020

So in planning intentions for 2020, it would be wise to think through to the bounds of tolerance and goodwill and be prepared to call out flagrant extremes.

One practical way, would be to become a member of Green Shirts (https://www.greenshirtsmovementaustralia.com.au/, the organisation supporting farmers with factual information and lobbying government with sensible policies, respective of both the farms, the farmers, the reef and the environment. They need city members to join with them in their fight for better consideration. Peter Ridd is helping them to bring truth to the debate.

We know from experience that indulging a child creates an insatiable monster and that political appeasement allowed Hitler to flourish. Inevitably both eventually reach a point of violent realisation.

We now have proof of the bushfires to show that green good intentions which initially had value in raising awareness of environmental issues have been pursued too far along the road to hell for so many. No amount of sensible action, commitment of funds or good will ever satisfies ever escalating Greens’ insatiable demands. Like the people of Germany under the influence of Hitler, people have become swept up in the climate change mania. Time the public became aware that it is only responsible democracies like Australia that have shown any aptitude for saving the planet.

Let’s ensure that out of the disruption of 2019, in 2020 hope can be generated for those facing hell as a result of green good intentions and ensure that future plans for managing our environment are more sensible and less bureaucratic, to bring us all along.

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Christmas Presents or Presence

Christmas promises peace on earth to people of good will. In the spirit of the season we are encouraged to be of good will: put aside differences and grievances to celebrate together in hope for replenishment that peace and celebration can bring.

Tidy up time

Life is messy, making it a challenge to get everyone on the same harmonious page for a day, even with the best intentions.

At this later stage of life people in my cohort of family and friends are beginning to pass on, compelling retrospection. In tidying up their lives, several have recanted to me previous firmly held negative judgements that have long affected relationships. Where hostility is unwarranted and unresolved, a lot of good life is wasted unnecessarily. People are damaged. Christmas offers an opportunity for reconciliation far loftier than waiting till one is dying to make good on wrongheadedness.

Co-dependency counsellor, Roslyn Saunders, author of the book Emotional Sobriety, offers advice and support for those putting themselves “out there” to be present with family at Christmas. Roslyn recommends setting up a personal structure in our own best interests, with limitations and gracious exit strategy and supports should circumstances on the day work against your best interests. Useful tools that Roslyn offers help people stay in charge of their own emotional wellbeing rather than be negatively affected by the ill will of others – an important factor in keeping alive the spirit of joy and hope of Christmas.

Why wait?

Why wait to be present to those we love and who love us? My earlier blog on Forgiveness elicited a number of responses, a few of whom said there were some people they could not forgive. Each is a person of high integrity and goodwill who has been badly harmed by devastating actions in family and business. No remorse has been forthcoming from the perpetrators, hence no forgiveness. Such suffering cannot be spak-filled: it needs to be named and owned, at all times holding onto hope in our own integrity that should be celebrated at Christmas.

Australian cricketer Steve Smith had the self-inflicted troubles in his life put in perspective by an eleven year old cancer patient he was visiting in hospital. Even under the shadow of death, the young person radiated positive spirit and energy. No point in wasting precious life in bad humour. Smith was visibly affected when the young girl died days later, as we all should be when what promises to be good in life is destroyed by cancerous attitudes. Why wait to concede error and speak words of affirmation (another of Chapman’s love languages) when the joy of reconciliation can overflow into the rest of life and experiences shared?

Presence in three ways

Unlike the presents we buy as Christmas gifts, presence is both costless and priceless, truly in the spirit of hope in the season. We can demonstrate presence in three main ways:

  • Firstly, we can be present by communicating with loved ones to heal differences, whether or not we are the offended party. Keeping the door ajar to healing, redemption and forgiveness does not mean we agree with wrongs; merely that we are no longer under capture to them.
  • Secondly, as we gather together with family and friends, be truly present in the company of others in the spirit of mutual enrichment. Quality time is another of Chapman’s love languages that means so much to those who have been isolated. Put aside electronic devices, along with pre-held resentments, to allow others to be themselves. We might find we enjoy the people and the occasion far more than expected, fulfilling the spirit of the occasion. Above all, don’t be a dog in the manger.
  • Finally, and most importantly, be present to self. Be mindful, as Roslyn Saunders advises, of your own needs and limitations, so that you may also be aware of how you may be affected by others. Christians and Buddhists favour meditation to attain mindfulness.

How good is dis!

An illustration of how a happy disposition we hope for at Christmas has been achieved by poor Indian children taught by Hugh Van Cuylenburg, appears in an article, How Good is Dis!, published in the Weekend Australian Magazine (November 23-24 2019). Hugh found the children’s resilience could be attributed to three principles they practised daily:

  1. Gratitude – the ability to pay attention to what you have instead of worrying about what you don’t have. Title of the article represents the locals’ inability to pronounce “th” sounds. “How good is d’is” was a constant refrain of gratitude with the present. When even the grace of thanks for a meal and for our good fortune living in this wonderful country is drowned out by criticism and demands for ever more money, concessions and action, gratitude would be a welcome relief.
  2. Empathy – the ability to feel what another person is feeling. Empathy is all but a lost grace in an era of self-interest, yet remains essential to the good relationships we hope will prevail at Christmas; and
  3. Mindfulness – the ability to focus on the present moment. That means putting aside what may have preceded and what may be coming down the pipeline, to focus on the joy and wonder of the present.

Merry Christmas

Whether you focus on the presents, the presence, or both, I wish you a merry Christmas and the restoration of spirit, self and family. May peace and joy be with you. I’ll drink a toast to that.

Roslyn Saunders’ book: The Power of No: finding raw courage to reclaim you – https://www.facebook.com/groups/431772140315381/

Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages?

  1. Words of affirmation.
  2. Quality time.
  3. Receiving gifts.
  4. Acts of service.
  5. Physical touch.

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How Dare You!

Great Barrier Reef resilience showing recovery from a bleaching event, photo taken from the same spot 2 years later.

The title for this blog is drawn from the speech by wondrous child climate prophet, Greta Thunberg, to the UN Convention on Climate Change recently in New York. Greta challenged the world for daring to pursue economic development while failing to take action on climate ‘catastrophe’.

Leaders and the media fawned on her and her every word. More rational beings became concerned about her mental wellbeing, how she was being manipulated by self-serving individuals and organisations, as well as the absence of factual information in her dare.  Largely, though, people were reluctant to criticise the child openly, which is why children, especially girls, are being used globally as front-liners in the climate catastrophe wars.

The climate strikes back

Rather than being “settled”, the science claiming the earth is warming and we are all set to fry and die from a human induced warming planet inundated by rising sea water, is being challenged.

Credible science enlightens. Distance of the earth from the sun, variations in the tilt of the earth on its axis, and absorption of CO2 in the oceans have more impact on heating and cooling of the planet than anything we mere mortals can do, though gods of the new religions presume greater powers. In basic terms, the closer you are to the heater, the warmer it gets; the further away you go, the cooler it gets. Simple!

The northern hemisphere is now experiencing record snows (not heating) while we are experiencing a common, though difficult drought period, exacerbated by mongrels deliberately lighting fires and Greens’ failure to allow timely cool burning of fuel. Over a century of records, water levels at Fort Denison in Sydney Harbour show mere millimetres of variation and satellite data proves Pacific islands are mostly growing or stabilised, not sinking. No need for corrupt payments.

Informed media are responding to the challenge with facts. People buckling under the burden of guilt, responsibility and high energy bills (27,000 households had power disconnected in Queensland in 2018-2019) are beginning to shift the debate, putting forward their own ideas of what is important, just as the “Quiet Australians” elected the Morrison government. How dare you!

Global daring

A good dose of realism from ordinary people is beginning to have an impact globally. As righteous Pharisees of the new religions engage even more outrageous claims and actions, those who have been silenced and de-platformed are calling it out.

  • USA: For over three years relentless challenges by the Democrats, Washington and New York elites and the fake media against the unexpected democratic election of Trump as President have mostly damaged themselves. Like him or hate him as a person, Trump was elected to do a job and deliver on promises. He is doing that. Taxes are down, businesses are upbeat, more people are employed, the wall is being built, troops being brought home, defence revitalised, the US has pulled out of the Paris climate agreement, the country has become self-sufficient in oil and trade conditions have been renegotiated. So far around twenty mostly very left wing Democratic candidates have nominated to stand against him in 2020, with little more than trashing Trump to add to their CVs.
  • Canada: Serial celebrity activist Jane Fonda got more than she bargained for when burning oil flying into Fort McMurray in the freezing boonies of Alberta. Her plan was to stand with First Nations people to protest against the global emissions of the oil sands industry that fuels the Canadian economy. Fonda’s hypocrisy knows no bounds. Like our miners in Clermont chasing Bob Brown’s anti-Adani convoy out of town, locals fired up and told her to blow through (or words to that effect; Canadians are very polite). Similarly with the oil pipeline that has been a focus of green activism for years. First Nations people are speaking up for themselves, the business and jobs they have in the oil industry and “are tired of fly-in, fly-out celebrities who think they know everything then go tell the world what bad people the locals are”.
  • UK: For over three years, elites in the British and European parliaments and media have thwarted the will of the majority of British people to leave the European Union. Partisan Speaker of the House defied convention, favouring remainers in debates on Brexit. Boris Johnson has leadership of the Brexit charge against those who seek to subvert democracy and has a chance of delivering on this goal following the 12 December election.
  • Hong Kong: For months the people have turned out in millions, daring to challenge the might of the Chinese Communist Party seeking to deny them freedoms and subject them to arcane extradition laws. Who knows how this ends. Yet they have dared!

Australia dares

Green Shirts gather for action

Not only did the Clermont miners shout out for themselves, their jobs and their industry, they contributed to Scott Morrison’s unexpected electoral win in Queensland. How dare they!

  • Freedom of speech and belief are seen as under threat. Other quiet Australians have been stirred by Rugby Australia sacking their highest scoring player Israel Folau, for quoting an excerpt of the Bible on his Facebook page. Over $2.2m towards Folau’s legal fees was raised in a couple of days on a go-fund-me page sponsored by the Australian Christian Lobby. People contributed, not because they necessarily believed what Folau quoted, but because the decision heralded a trend that anyone could be sacked for their beliefs or for what they say. They could be next.
  • Similarly Professor Peter Ridd was sacked by James Cook University for his views on the robust health of the Great Barrier Reef that countered the prevailing catastrophic global warming mantra that is demoralising farmers and destroying reef tourism reliant businesses. A go-fund-me page supported by the Institute of Public Affairs raised nearly $300K for Ridd’s legal fees. Judgement found against the University on all 17 counts and awarded damages and costs. How dare Ridd call for greater research rigor and suggest the reef was resilient!  
  • The Green Shirts Movement has been established as a voice for rural, regional and reasonable people, to protest 2018 amendments to the Queensland Vegetation Amendment Act. Under the Act farmers are restricted from clearing vegetation on their land, having to defer to bureaucrats and remote ideologues their knowledge of management of the environment on which their business and livelihoods depend. Imposition of $100K fines for knocking down mulga to feed hungry animals shows how remote from reality is this law.
  •  Right to Farm law has been introduced to counter the misleading Aussie Farms’ vegan ideology and action. Activists hunt in a pack, organise deliberate encroachment and aggravated trespass on farms causing disruption, destruction and distress. Public outrage now means that fines of $22k each and 3 years in prison await.
  • Advance Australia stands for values and freedoms, including freedom of speech and freedom of religion, individual initiative and safety and security. AA dares to direct campaigns to counter GetUp!-led attacks on sitting conservative Liberal MPs, and support candidates who campaign on mainstream issues. How dare they!

The foregoing shows a groundswell of action, individual and collective, as ordinary people dare to reclaim values in the public arena.

Hollowness of virtue signalling

Two issues illustrate the hollowness of virtue signalling:

  • Big banks in Australia flaunted their green credentials by saying they would not finance the Adani coal mine or any coal fired power stations which would prove a boost to the economy, keep the lights on in Australia and bring light to 300 million poor in India. While preening on gender equity and green virtue, they weren’t averse to facilitating international money laundering and child porn in the Philippines until publicly challenged by AUSTRAC – 23 million times.
  • The Medivac Bill introduced to federal parliament by independent Kerryn Phelps to bring to Australia refugees needing urgent medical attention has been a sham. Less than 10% of those transferred ended up in hospital, some refusing medical attention. Opening the back door to $100K costs for constipation treatment (pardon the pun) and self-administered penile enlargement for an abusive child groomer is not what taxpayers expect of government. A Bill to withdraw the sham awaits passage through the Senate.

Foundation to dare

Principles and values are the structures on which to build productive individuals, families, communities and countries. Deceit, lies, manipulation for greed, power or self-aggrandisement will not last. Best to do your job well (tell that to the banks and the bureaucrats) and let others get on with their lives, work and business in the way they know best.

By daring to challenge the popular virtues of the new religions progress is being made on many fronts. Get together and back yourselves!

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Forgiveness

The new cult-like religions have many of the characteristics of the old fire and brimstone ones: fervent zealots following a belief system coercing others to the cause, prominent global leaders, wondrous child prophets to berate and inspire elders, guilt, condemnation and ostracism for the questioners and deniers, as we all face the end of the world in a few years. What’s not to like?

Much activism tends to be based on blind faith rather than facts. Lives yearning for spirit and purpose have become dulled by the decline of influence of Judeo-Christian religions upon which our western democracy flourished. Over-indulgence in consumerism brought about by 28 years of economic growth has further contributed. Perhaps we just have it so good we have to make up “bad”, though a glance down the annals of history show a litany of other threatened ”catastrophes” that failed to eventuate.

No wonder groups like Extinction Rebellion gather together in thrall to the occasion and their own importance, chanting mantras while disrupting those more reasonable amongst us who have jobs to do. The media lap it up.

Though blame, guilt and condemnation abound, absent from prayer sheet of the new religions is the pathway to redemption and forgiveness. I would also add gratitude. Had the new zealots any knowledge of, or deference to history, tradition or scripture, humility would discern a wiser way that recognizes that “we all stumble many times” (James 3:2).

A quick overview of the pervasive messages emanating from activists, often funded by overseas interests, shows no end of extortionate financial demands, no credit for ameliorating efforts, and condemnation without a path to redemption.

Climate change

As the climate change religion escalates globally, led by the Marxist head of the United Nations, the name changes to climate catastrophe to up the ante, $, alarm and capture. Of course we should take best measures to care for our environment, as we are. Guilt and condemnation directed at countries like Australia which invests heavily into renewables and employs intensive environmental measures to the detriment of our economy, can never win redemption and forgiveness, because of the absence of truth in (a) the extent of environmental efforts Australia takes; and (b) scandalous manipulation of research data by vested interests in the research community capitalising on the global warming financial gravy train. Only total sacrifice of the economy by closing all mining, agriculture and travel will satisfy the joyless, hungry gods of catastrophe. Shades of the devil’s command to “Jump down from the tower and be subject to me”. No option but totalitarian obedience! And no forgiveness!

Animal rights

Vegan activists of the animal rights religion assert their moral superiority by invading legitimate businesses and farms en masse to disrupt operations, steal animals and terrify people living and working there. Humanization of animals to them has resulted in valuing animals above people. Their right to consume a meat free diet is respected. Forceful imposition of their values on others is rampant as this joyless cult seeks to close down legitimate activities that ordinary people gather together to enjoy – horse and dog racing, conviviality around a barbecue, cattle and sheep farming, camp drafting. Redemption for “sinners” is only available to those willing to comply totally with the tenets. A lot of hate, but no compassion! No forgiveness!

Colonialism

The alleged sins of colonialism now gain high profile in the aboriginal industry, despite the original goal of Arthur Philip’s arrival in Australia 26 January 1788, to establish a settlement on the other side of the world where all people would be free and equal. Life for aborigines at the time was short and brutal, as it still tends to be in those remote communities hanging onto past traditions. We know from historical records that it was pretty terrible for soldiers and convicts as well. That Indigenous, settlers and immigrants have grown together to found a largely peaceful, advanced economy is a miracle owed largely to the original goals, British law transferred and the universality of the English language.

Guilt imposed for imperfect colonial implementation fail to acknowledge what has been achieved for, with, and by the original inhabitants.  Investment of $35 billion annually in Indigenous interests means that 75% of them now experience life and work as most other Australians. Life span has increased by 50%; infant mortality and morbidity have been dramatically reduced; Indigenous natural speed, skill and capacity to entertain find profile, careers and financial returns in colonial sport, theatre, media, art, dance and politics. Land rights have been granted them to large swathes of Australia; and original inhabitants are acknowledged at every public function; Sorry day, NAIDOC, GARMA festivals; special bursaries afford fully paid educational opportunities that poor whites could only dream of; dedicated teachers and health professionals venture into communities to help educate and heal. 

Where is the gratitude for the advances and privileges Indigenous can reap if it is their desire? A crescendo of hatred against colonial white patriarchal males does absolutely nothing for Indigenous progress. After apologies, efforts and redemptive payments made over decades, our Indigenous brothers and sisters are challenged to respond with the greatest gift in life – acceptance and forgiveness (No.12 of the Fourteen Teachings of the Buddha). Perhaps the constant rehashing, resentment and misunderstanding make it hard to forgive? Letting go is the prerequisite for moving forward.  Rehashing hatred is a multiplier that promises no peace – for anyone.

Feminism and gender

In this country, women, men and other pronouns have equality under law, in politics, sport and business. Same sex marriage is a fait accompli, and gender can be self-determined where biology challenges clarity. Instead of celebration and gratitude for momentous social changes of acceptance, identity politics encourages victimhood and division, seeding hatred against the dominant white male patriarchy, whose sins are allegedly manifold. Nobody is perfect, especially it seems, you blokes.

It is nearly 100 years since my mother and her sister, Nelly and Rita Dean, challenged stereotypes in women’s sport with their stellar achievements in track, field, netball and hockey. They didn’t complain, just got on with it – and wrote the copy to show what they could achieve. Male patrons supported them in their endeavours. The public were entertained, as we are, today rejoicing in the magnificent athleticism of Elyse Perry, Ash Barty and Sam Kerr in cricket, tennis and soccer. As a nation we continue to evolve, if imperfectly.

Can we just move on in relative harmony? Dampen offence taking, “for the taking of offense is the mark of a fool” (Ecclesiastes 7:9). That does not mean condoning; it just means letting go, if only for the benefits of greater calm, better health and happiness. By all means raise issues for civilized debate; name wrongs; and seek resolution. That is how environmental and social change has been accomplished in the past, and can be in the future. Having named the wrong, raised the issue and sought resolution, be prepared to let go, move on and forgive those who express genuine sorrow, remorse and redemption. Like confession in the old religions, forgiveness is peace making.

Maturity Model

My Maturity Model for decision-making clearly shows in visual form that to load responsibility and expectation diminishes choice. Truth is not present and continuing in this vein is unsustainable, leading to fragmentation and division of individuals and groups, with high social and economic costs.

Applying the MM to each of the topical issues – climate catastrophe, animal rights, colonialism, feminism and gender – we can see that blame, responsibility and expectation falls heavily on the “quiet Australians” who are busy going about the business of their life. It is surely time that the noisy evangelists of the new religions embraced truth (facts), showed more respect for others in their proselytizing and offered a pathway to forgiveness for those they believe have wronged.

We can practice in our own lives. Rehashing a wrong makes it hard to forgive and to do so we would have to relinquish power, resentment, disappointment and misunderstanding. We should not hurry to be offended, as we all stumble many times. Forgiveness does not mean we condone wrong, merely that in love we are prepared to let go and move on, remembering that “the greatest enemy in life is the self” (No. 1 of the Fourteen teachings of the Buddha).

Blessings to you all!