Tag Archives: social justice

Pacifist?

(written after my course ended but still relevant to the course, so I have included it under the subject of American Writing in the menu,)

Recently I studied Allen Ginsberg, Kerouac and other beatnik poems. Ginsberg called himself a pacifist. I questioned this. I believe I have the same protesting spirit as Ginsberg and others, however I do not call myself a pacifist.

a person who believes in pacifism or is opposed to war or to violence of any kind. 2. a person whose personal belief in pacifism causes him or her to refuse being drafted into military service. Compare conscientious objector.

A passivist is something quite different. It means being submissive in nature, particularly in a sexual situation.

I am not sure which Allen Ginsberg was referring to, I don’t want to think about the second. I do believe he was a lover of peace, however was not a true pacifist in the sense of the word.

My words, writing my mind can be a weapon against an oppressive, corrupt or unjust government, rulers or laws. As a protest poet, I shoot my literary arrow deep into the hearts of leaders, and others who can make a difference, until their hearts bleed empathy. I do not stop until I wound. I am not to kill with my words (as a famous song does), but to heal. Where one was running into battle as an oppressor, he now limps away, with his heart changed and fights for the opposition to the oppressive.A-1678614-1321804331.jpeg

My words, my art and my photos are not meant to leave you comfortable if I am working on a social justice or human rights issue. They will not give you warm and fuzzy feelings. They are meant to make it feel like you are sitting on granite, something hard and uncomfortable enough to make you want to move.

 

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Sad

I was in Bondi today. I saw the sign below.” Equality” was “NO WAY”

Ok, so this sign was actually referring to the debate we have right now in Parliament with regards to same sex marriage, but the word really doesn’t say that, it is just implied or assumed.

I think it is really sad, that one word, which expresses that we the poster wants everybody to be treated equally, not just gays seeking marriage, but the concept that “All men are created equal” , therefore deserve to be treated equally can be disputed. It is not just gay people who are treated differently in Australia. It is the disabled, it is the asylum seekers, it is women, it is people who have different colour skin, earn less money, etc etc.

Where do people get off thinking that their own ideology, their skin colour or sexual orientation is any better than someone else’s. Someone doesn’t agree with you? they are not as worthy as you of such privileges that your life deserves. I’m sorry, but that makes me sad.20171102_132450

 

The second sign I saw was a stencil (after Banksy). Lest we forget 1788.

This of course refers to the colonisation of Australia. When Captain Cook declared this country as belonging to England. Did they ask the indigenous people whether they could stay. No. Did they perhaps compensate the aboriginals for land taken, as one would do when they buy land. NO, Not that the aboriginals had a choice to sell it anyway. English Settlers used to abhor squatters who would live off their land, rent free, using the resources without paying. Truth be told, the settlers were squatters themselves. The English sent people to Australia from Britain for stealing as little as a loaf of bread. What sentence did they get for stealing a country?

My family arrived after the first settlers, so I, and many like me are not to blame for what happened over 200 years ago. We live in an enlightened time though, when we can look back and say, ” the way the aboriginal people were treated was wrong”. Saying sorry now does not admit wrong from my family, but we can say that we are sorry that this happened. We can try and make recompense and ensure it never happens again.

Other countries can’t poke a finger and say it was terrible what happened. It happened to so many countries in the world. The British, French, Portuguese, Spanish and others invaded lands and claimed that land as their own without consulting the people that were already there.

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I dont have legs to march in protest rallies, but I have fingers which can type, and a heart that can feel. I will not be silenced until we have equality. Jesus said Love One Another. Lets start now.

Dave

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“White is a metaphor for power” James Baldwin

Image result for i am not your negro

I just watched the movie I am not your Negro on the suggestion of my Literature teacher.It is an amazing movie which highlights the struggle that negro people, and other have had at the hands of white people for over 400 years.

Negro people did not ask to come to America. They were brought to America to serve white people.  They were slaves to the white man until 1865, but still considered inferior to white man until very recently… well some white people still consider anyone different from themselves as inferior. Negroes were not able to go to school with white children until 1957 following the civil rights protest at Little Rock High School.Image result for negro protests

Although the 15th Amendment of the Constitution allowed black men to vote from 1896, many states discouraged negro men from voting by including clauses which stated that black men had to be literate to be allowed to vote, and some states also put a tax on voting for negro men. It wasn’t until the 24th amendment in 1965 that Lyndon B Johnson removed all barriers to allow negro men AND WOMEN, the right to vote, thereby treating them as equal citizens.

Black people were shown in advertising from the 1890’s but the images were generally shown in subservient roles, such as Rastus and Aunt Jemima. It wasn’t until the Civil Rights movement that black people appeared as equals in advertising. It seems then that the nation was starting to come around.

Progressively the nation has included many different skin tones and racial diversions in all walks of life. In 1968 Robert Kennedy announced that America could even have a black president in 40 years. That proved to be true with the inauguration of Barack Obama 40 years later.

Image result for negro protests

The movie showed the rise and fall of such civil rights leaders as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jnr and Medgar Evers. These three leaders were strong voices in the civil rights movement which dared to say that blacks were equal to whites. Malcolm X was a black Muslim leader who thought that peaceful protest was useless. Martin Luther King Jnr was a leader who was a Christian who believed in peaceful protests through negotiation. Medgar Evans was a leader who was promoting desegregation primarily in the public school system. Because these men dared to buck the system, they were all assassinated. The idea was ‘to keep the blacks in their place’.

Its not only in America where white people think they are superior to other races. We look at Apartheid in South Africa. We can look at the colonisation of various countries including Australia and India to name but 2. The treatment of native peoples at colonisation or invasion is appalling. White America does not have  a good record here either. The treatment of Native Americans, including Indian nations and Inuits still continues today.

The line that stood out for me in the movie was “White is a metaphor for power”. This is true the whole world over. James Baldwin equates it with Chase Manhattan bank. That is to say that White man considers themselves far superior to any other race on Earth,

Image result for dont you wish you were white

I saw a sign held up in a protest in the movie that said “Don’t you wish you were white?” No. I am ashamed of my skin colour and what it stands for. I don’t look at skin colour as a difference between people. However, I can see how other people, in suppressed minorities might look at me, as a white man, and be scared, even hate what I represent.

James Baldwin says in his movie that he doesn’t want to be a Christian, as he believes that in America at least, the Christians haven’t yet learnt the golden rule “Love One Another”.

All I can say is, I am sorry.

 

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The meaning of life

Writers and artists in the 19th Century were preoccupied with trying to solve the question “what is the purpose of life on earth?” As an inhabitant of the 21st century how convincing did you find their answers?

Men through the ages have been looking at the question “What is the meaning of Life?”

“To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.”
― Robert Louis StevensonFamiliar Studies of Men and Books

“The life of the individual has meaning only insofar as it aids in making the life of every living thing nobler and more beautiful”. – Albert Einstein

“You were made by God, and for God and until you understand that, life will never make sense”… Rick Warren.

“The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity”. – Leo Tolstoy

From the Mid 18th century people were no longer content with bowing to the aristocracy. People all over the world were rebelling against authority with violence and destruction.

The writers of the Romantic Period, and later in the Victorian Age were also rebellious. The difference being they took the adage “The pen is mightier than the sword” to heart and wrote what they thought. For the romantics, rebellion took the form of returning to nature. Wordsworth found beauty and nature to be liberating. He implored Samuel Coleridge and others to leave their books and return to nature for the lessons of life. William and Dorothy Wordsworth along with Samuel Coleridge became the first hippies. They sought redemption from a society that was becoming industrialised and a society where capitalism was more important than people’s lives.

The scholar Gypsy by Matthew Arnold was written after a 17th century tale of an Oxford scholar breaking free from the rigors of learning in college, to learn life’s lessons from the gypsies. he gained his redemption, his freedom.

Victorian writers sought more to bring to light the atrocities being committed in the name of industrialisation and the almighty dollar. They wrote to bring the truth to those who would listen. With each of his books, Dickens exposed the truths about child labour, poverty, and the inequality of the classes with the hope that his readers would be as equally appalled as he, and protest to bring about change.

In Silas Marner, Georg Eliott questioned the hypocrisy of the church and hierarchy. She showed that gold was the most important thing in Silas’ life after being betrayed by friends and fellow church goers. But Silas was not beyond redemption from his obsession with gold. When given a girl to raise, he exchanged the metal gold for the gold curls on Eppie’s head. When the aristocracy came to “rescue the girl from poverty”, the girl showed that love and loyalty were more important than money.

Oscar Wilde also wrote about the idiocy of the class system and showed that the relationships and issues important to the elite were not important at all, considering there were poor people rotting in the poor house and children in the workhouse.

Even in children’s literature there was rebellion happening amongst the writers as they sought for a better life for the children they were writing for and about. Popular nursery rhymes and songs are thought to tell the story  of the plague

“Ring a ring of roses,

A pocketful of posies,

A tishoo, a tishoo,

We all fall down.”

 

Waterbabies, written by Reverend Charles Kingsley, was about a boy named Tom who was a chimney-sweep. Tom fell from a chimney into the bedroom of an upper-class girl and realised how dirty (both physically and morally) he was and drowned while trying to wash the filth from his body. He wanted to be worthy of the squeaky clean girl whose bedroom he had fallen into. The story sought to address the problems of the poor, class differences, child labour and Christian redemption.

The rebellion and redemption was not limited by the borders of Britain. On the other side of Europe, Leon Tolstoy wrote that one thing is in common to all men; that is we die. It makes no difference whether poor or rich, our lives must come to an end. Tolstoy pointed out in ‘The death of Ivan Ilyich’, that life is about much more than making money and a position for yourself in society. Ilyich had the opportunity to reflect on his life and discover where he went wrong. It was too late for him to fix it, but he does apologise for his life and the mess he made of it for himself, his children and his wife. In Master and Man, Tolstoy also talks of the class system within Russia. It was the rushing to make money that lead to the death of the dishonest church warden, Vasili Andreevich, while the clear thinking peasant Nikita survived by being patient and accepting his lot. Nikita was redeemed of death and his debt to Andreevich.

The Romantic and Victorian era writers had one common theme, Redemption. Redemption from a society which valued the making of money more than the value of human life. The value of all human life, and equality of social status of all was the meaning of life to the writers of the 19th Century.

As an inhabitant of the 21st Century, I can state that the lessons of life that the writers of the 19th century were trying to tell were indeed important lessons, and still are. Perhaps more so. But I don’t think we have learnt those lessons. We are still discriminating against different people in society. Asylum seekers are treated appallingly here in Australia and elsewhere in the world. Women are not treated equally around the world by not only the Muslims, but are treated as an underclass in the western world as well. As long as there are churches who will not let women preach from their pulpits, and as long as  a woman’s pay is not equivalent to a mans in the same position, then we cant say we have got it right. We cant claim to have the answers to all the worlds problems when archaic laws prevent two adults who love each other from getting married. As long as there is one child in slavery, one person going hungry, one person who dies of an illness that is curable elsewhere in the world, we need to work harder.

“I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I do claim I can ask the right questions”. Dave McGettigan. (you can quote me).

But we all know the true answer….

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The evolution of literature

I believe in the evolution of literature as briefly discussed in my summation of 20th century literature blog post last year. On contemplation this morning, I believe that today literature has evolved to become as instant as nescafe coffee. Instead of writing contemplative pieces of non fiction for peer review and open to critical thinking,  lobbyists and others with an agenda,  people with righteous anger, are writing slogans and placards to gain the approval of the masses who will become as equally passionate about the cause without doing research into the facts.
Take the case of the supposed rape of a 5 year old boy on Nauru. The ABC media reported it, lobbyists and the general public took up the cause which caused protests and riots to be held in Melbourne. While the facts of the case were distorted, the truth is no less abhorrent,  but the hundreds or thousands who marched were protesting a false cause.
I think it is up to us as students of literature to once again focus on truth in researching and publication of facts. We need to make sure our sources are accurate before we write.

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Dick Smith. Essay 3

The third essay we had to submit asked us to find an Innovative thinker who has influenced our lives. I chose for my subject Dick Smith (The Australian Philanthropist and adventurer, not the Hollywood make-up artist). I hope you enjoy this essay. He is a truly remarkable man.

Dick Smith is one of Australia’s most popular businessmen and philanthropists. He is consistently in the top 20 of most trusted Australians .He is a staunch nationalist, believing that Australians should support Australians and the Australian way of life. Smith is also a great believer in Social Justice and possesses a deep-held conviction that everybody deserves a fair go. He was awarded Australian of the Year in 1986 and was made a Member of the Order of Australia (A.O.) in 1999.

Smith likes to challenge the status quo. He is not content with people telling him, ‘That’s just the way it is’. It is for this reason I believe he is an innovative thinker and a person whose actions and attitudes constantly challenge me to do the same. He inspires me to always look for a way forward, never to accept inaction on the basis of ‘that’s the way we do things’.

Smith seems to want to do things to the best of his ability. He has been involved in many areas of business, social justice and philanthropy including:

  • Dick Smith Electronics (1968)
  • Dick Smith Foods
  • Australian Geographic (1986)
  • AustGrow
  • Civil Aviation Safety Board (1997-1999 & 1990-1992)
  • National Council for the Centenary of Federation (1996- 2000)
  • Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation (1998)
  • Population Sustainability.

Each of the above endeavours serves to demonstrate Smith’s own approach to life and living.

Smith was born in 1944 at Roseville and grew up in the northern suburbs of Sydney. His father and uncle were away at war when he was born.  Smith’s uncle never returned.

At age eight, he was given a key to his uncle’s room to discover his uncle was a radio enthusiast.  This led to Dick’s passion for all things electronic. Dick received his amateur radio license at 17 and seven years later, started Dick Smith Electronics with a start-up capital of $610.

Growing up, his family was not in a good financial position and in fact in 1964, the business owned by Smith’s father failed, and the family was rendered bankrupt.

Although he is a risk-taker in his personal life, the opposite is true in his business career. He has never taken out a business loan, and states that he only takes on a business which he knows can be successful. “There’s a formula for being successful in business. That’s a simple formula. Copy the success of others”. (Smith, 2007).

When he started Dick Smith Electronics in 1968, Smith could see that the Electronics industry in Australia was not serving the needs of ordinary Australians. While in Britain he noticed how a popular electronics company was doing things and decided to emulate its model; right down to copying the catalogue.

Australian Geographic followed the pattern set by National Geographic and Dick Smith Foods was developed on the same framework as Paul Newman Foods.

As an Aviator and adventurer, Smith witnessed how the aviation industry, in different countries he visited, had adopted important air traffic control and safety measures. He lobbied to have similar policies implemented within Australia when he chaired the Civil Aviation Authority and the Civil Aviation Safety Board. This was without success. Australia is highly regarded in terms of aviation safety in the world, but the Boards would not be swayed by Smith’s arguments for further improvement.

As an adventurer however, the appeal for Smith was not in doing things others had done before, but to go beyond. He has flown around the world, equatorially and from pole to pole and describes himself as a responsible risk-taker. Smith is known for his helicopter flights. He flew over Everest and K2. More recently he has flown hot air balloons from New Zealand to Australia, a feat not before attempted due to the strong head winds.

Smith credits his 14 years in the scouting movement to his adventurous spirit. During his time in scouting he achieved the Baden Powell Award in 1966. “I owe a lot to Scouting. It had to be the most fantastic influence on my life. It taught me responsible risk-taking.” (Smith, n.d.) He also states that scouting taught him organisational skills and how to motivate people.

The foundations of Smith’s deep sense of patriotism and support of local industry is evidenced in his outrage when, in 1987, he discovered that the Australian Encyclopaedia was not owned by Australians, but an American company. He purchased the company and the rights and sold it on to the Australian owned Fairfax Media Group in 1995. It was during this period also that he began Australian Geographic with the aim of showcasing Australia to the world, and to highlight Australians achieving remarkable things throughout the world.

Similarly Smith was angry that Australian companies were being bought out by multinational companies with bases mostly in the USA and China. He is passionate that Australian farmers should prosper and that Australian companies should remain owned and operated by Australians. Hence he started Dick Smith foods in 1999 and is Patron of AustGrow.

Smith has a proven commitment to philanthropy and a sense of compassion, which is demonstrated in many events across his life.   Smith credits Paul Newman and his food company “Newman’s Own” for his motivation for starting Dick Smith foods in 1999 with the aim not just of giving Australian farmers a way to sell their produce at a profit, but also to give something back to charity. In the beginning most of the profits (approximately 90%) went to charity and the rest to establishing and maintaining the business. These days 100% of the profit is returned to various Australian charities.

Smith has no prejudice when it comes to generosity. He receives hundreds of letters per week asking for assistance. With his wife Pip, they carefully decide which causes to support not only with money, but at times to provide support by way of his name and reputation.

Smith encourages others in the same financial position to be socially responsible. He credits Dame Elizabeth Murdock as an inspiration when it comes to philanthropy, and calls for her son Rupert to return to Australia to “Give something back”. (Smith, 1986)

Smith is constantly named in the top 20 of Readers Digest of Australia’s 100 most trusted people. “Trust is being able to believe in what a person says. Trust is developed from experience, from knowing a person over a long period of time. Trust is the most important part of human relationships.”(Smith, 2010).  Like Smith I believe honesty is of paramount importance in all relationships, business and personal.

Most recently Smith has been studying population sustainability which illustrates his continued efforts to tackle big issues which he believes he can play an important role in effecting change. Smith believes perpetual growth in the use of resources and energy, is not sustainable. At our current rate of growth, our resources will not last for long into the next generation. ”Some time in the next few months, the world’s population clock will tick over 7 billion people. Global population has tripled in my lifetime, and is continuing to rise. The United Nations has just predicted we face a world of 10 billion in 2100. This has immense implications for all of us, and Australia will not be immune from the impacts.” (Smith, 2011)

Smith is supported in this belief by Bill Clinton and other leading thinkers who argue for population control strategies Statistics show Australia’s birth rate is 1.98 per woman. The Population Referencing Bureau Report of 2010 highlighted the difference in the population growth rate of Germany (1.3 births per woman) and Ethiopia (5.4). (PRB, 2010). Australia benefits from immigration as its birth rate is low. We should open our borders to those from developing countries where the birth rate is high and unsustainable.

Smith received the honour of being the Australian of the year in 1986. Smith was nominated for the award by Labor MP John Brown, who wrote that Smith’s talents derived from ‘an unfettered need to explore and understand.’ (Brown, 1986).

Smith is passionate about Social Justice and the right of all persons to a fair go. He paid $60,000 towards costs to free David Hicks from Guantanamo Bay. It wasn’t Smith’s belief that David Hicks was innocent, but that like anybody else, he deserved a fair go.

Peter Qasim, a refugee, was held in detention from 1998 to 2005 making him the longest serving refugee in detention because he couldn’t prove who he was and where he came from.  In 2003, he decided to give up his fight for citizenship and return home to India. The Indian government identified that he was from the Kashmir region on the basis of voice patterning, but refused to take him back. Dick Smith chose to support his cause and lobbied the Minister for Immigration to release him from detention.

‘If my profile can be used to help just one or two people get a “fair go”, I’m well pleased and I don’t care about the flack I get. ”. (Smith, 2010)

“My father fought in the Second World War so we could have certain freedoms and one of those freedoms is that you are going to have a fair go.” (Smith, 2010)

Dick Smith has been a source of inspiration to me as an innovative thinker in so many areas of my life. He has inspired me to be adventurous, but also to be a responsible risk taker. It is because of my national pride that I have chosen to concentrate my artistic pursuits on Australian Native Birds, however it is Smith’s influence that has motivated me to narrow my focus to those that are considered endangered; with some of the profits to go to Australian Geographic, the magazine founded by Smith, and which he remains a patron.

I continue to explore Australia with thoughts of Smith and others who have been before me, and to bring beauty back to those who can’t see it for themselves through my art and photography.  Smith showed me some of the beauty of Australia through Australian Geographic. It is this reason, and the further inspiration of the Leyland brothers that leads me to explore our great land, to photograph and paint it, documenting the beauty that others can’t see up close.

Smith’s core beliefs resonate with my sense of compassion and social justice and remind me that compassion is not limited to those with resources; that one needs to stand beside others who are being unfairly treated or even abused by those in higher authority.  I add my voice to Smith’s by demanding a ‘fair go’ for everyone, especially those incapable of voicing it themselves.

I share Smith’s passion to give people a fair go and to not be judgemental. My viewpoint is that I know that I too have my faults and failures. If people have seen fit to give me a fair go, what right have I not to give others the same?

Similarly my generosity and compassion are without prejudice and are not limited by borders, skin colour, race or religion. In 1981 I read the quote “I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet” (attributed to many). It was then that I began to do charitable works and to think of those less fortunate.

In 1993 I served as a missionary to the Philippines. In 1999, I was asked to sing in Indonesia to raise funds, sending doctors to outlying villages to perform eye surgery. I have worked with abused children, teenagers, underage prostitutes and drug addicts in Kings Cross. Although I am unable to undertake those roles now, Smith is a constant reminder keeping compassion and empathy in the forefront of my thoughts.

I share Smith’s concern that Australia is not immune to population sustainability issues. The bureau of statistics states that the majority of our immigrants come from the UK (21%) and New Zealand (9.1%) While I can see the benefits of having people of similar cultures come into Australia, it’s my opinion that we should reduce immigration from these countries and increase or sustain our immigration from developing countries, or countries in conflict, on humanitarian grounds.

In conclusion, it is obvious that Dick Smith operates from the soul. He is motivated by compassion, empathy, social justice and has an adventurous spirit. I believe his Myers Briggs profile would be similar to mine; INFJ which represents those who act from the primary traits of introversion, intuition, feeling and judging.

Smith recognises the plight of people less fortunate than himself, listens and empathises with their situations, then finds a solution and acts upon it; whether this is a systemic solution or one where his finances or reputation could be used for the betterment of others.

Smith is an innovative thinker in the true sense of the term as he often discovers solutions which are not obvious to others; thinking outside the box. Dick Smith inspires me to be a compassionate, non judgemental human always looking for ways I can help others. He will continue to inspire for many years to come.

Smith, D. 2010. Australia’s most trusted people 2010. Retrieved from http://www.readersdigest.com.au/australias-most-trusted-people-2010

http://www.dicksmithfoods.com.au/dick-smiths-bio

Gott, R. (1998). Dick Smith: entrepreneur and adventurer. Port Melbourne: Heinemann.

http://www.australiaonnet.com/about-australia/famous-australians/dick-smith.html

Brown, J. 2010 retrieved from  http://www.australianoftheyear.org.au/honour-roll/?view=fullView&recipientID=90

http://www.scouts.com.au/main.asp?iStoryID=848 (n.d)

Smith,D (2010) retrieved from www.readersdigest.com.au/dick-smith-interview

http://www.abc.net.au/sundayprofile/stories/s1416294.htm July 2005

Smith, D. (1986). 1960-2010 Australian of the Year. Sydney: Murdoch Books.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-04-27/dick-smith-takes-aim-at-rupert-murdochs-philanthropy-record/4655184 April 2013

http://www.thebottomlinetv.com.au/interview/dick-smith-ao/?actscript=transcript 2013

http://www.smh.com.au/world/hostage-experts-should-have-been-called-dick-smith-20091127-jwz6.html  November 2009.

http://www.abc.net.au/talkingheads/txt/s1913699.htm May 2007.

Smith, D (2011) retrieved from http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/society-and-culture/the-idiocy-of-endless-growth-20110529-1fata.html

Clinton, B (2009) Lateline. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/environment/articles/2011/04/01/3179045.htm

http://www.prb.org/Publications/Datasheets/2010/2010wpds.aspx

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2011, Reflecting a Nation: Stories from the 2011 Census, 2012-13, (cat. no. 2071.0). retrieved from  http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/2071.0Main+Features902012–201


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