Thursday, September 18, 2014


Perspective is vital if we are to make balanced assessments of anything and the past in particular. The Australia which the likes of Greer, James and co., left was a very, very different Australia to the one in which I grew up not so long after - the sixties.


Since the sixties Australia has changed even more and now, having lived in more than half a dozen countries around the world, including the UK, North America, Europe, India and Africa, I can say that Australia stands today as one of the best places to live, intellectually and otherwise.


In some ways this misplaced adulation of a few Australians of that time, has encouraged many to see with jaundiced eye , when the fact is that what they left behind no longer exists and has not existed for more than half a century. It is also worth noting that many Australians of the same generation of 'those who left and found fame,' did not leave an also found 'fame' or achieved immeasurably in their chosen fields.


Were, or are, James, Greer, Hughes and Humphries really so exceptional or are they more exceptional because we still wear the intellectual hair-shirt of imagined colonial inferiority? There are writers as great, if not greater than Clive James, Germaine Greer and Robert Hughes who never left the country and there are comedians as good as Humphries, who, has become famous as much as anything because he has played to the 'gallery of bigotry' of the British in particular and the international community, in regard to stereotypical images of Australians, rendered as humour. Much of what has been feted about Barry Humphries humour is, to younger generations dated and not even mildly humorous.


I would question that they are as great as they are often said to be or the best that Australia produced of their generation. Unless of course 'best' is defined by an international community who likes to believe any Australian talent is exceptional and therefore remarkable.


A careful reading of history and some detailed ancestry research into their generation does not reveal a smugly complacent pre-Whitlam stasis. And did they really believe that 'life in Australia was squandered or at best narrowed,' or is that what they said with hindsight, in a bid to defend their rejection of their homeland?


None of them have lived again in Australia for long enough to know enough about the country of their birth or even to understand what being Australian now is. They all gave their allegiance to a foreign country and there is nothing wrong with that, except they all continued to pontificate on an Australia which no longer existed and an Australia they did not know, as often as not to pander to the audience of their new homeland.


And what a pretentious comment:


"There was almost a willed torpor about Australia which these brilliant children wanted to escape."  Thomas Kenneally.


This says of course that they were all so brilliant, so exceptional, so above everyone else that they had to leave to be recognised. It also says they had such huge egos they were never going to get the adulation they craved in a egalitarian society like Australia which had no time for pompous, self-obsessed, elitist and intellectually arrogant snobs.


Let's remember, they left in a way that countless young Australians have left since the 1950's, and still do, in a bid to see the world, because they could afford to do so in ways that many British and American kids could not and still cannot, and to have adventures. Most came back. Some did not. A few of those who stayed away were successful, most were not.


One could ask if these expat Australians were really so novel, so exceptional, so brilliant, or, if they merely 'stood out' in the cultures where they chose to make their homes. Of course they were and are talented but more so than others who stayed?  I doubt it. And using them to stereotype Australians and Australians of today and of generations which came after them is more of the same tedious, old-fashioned, colonial self-hatred which most Australians no longer feel and which is kept alive by fantasies about our famous expats and self-indulgent academics and those who write pompous prose like this article.


Australia did not lose when the likes of our 'famous expats' decided to settle in other countries, but I suspect they did and I also suspect that a few of them know it which is why they work so hard at inventing non-existent ties with their long-lost homeland and remain desperate to be seen as Australians and experts on Australia when they are in fact neither.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Places between worlds

I don't often wake in the night and when I do, I wonder if it is something I am picking up from my grown-up children, both so very far away and in different time-zones.

In that place between worlds which broods in the depths of darkness, and that way of walking between worlds as we have in sleep, I have no doubt we connect with those we love more often and more easily. And they with us.

I remember many years ago living in Bombay, India, dreaming that my son, then about eighteen, was dying and somehow I was willing him to live and 'holding' him in life. Some hours later I phoned him and learned that at the time of my dream, he was surfing off the Australian coast and was dumped by a wave and was drowning until he managed to push himself to the surface.

Or do we float within the parts of ourselves in that dark cocoon of possibility and silence where fear and joy can appear, disappear and drift through shadows? Then again it might have been a dream.

The days are growing warmer in Malawi as the first damp breaths of humidity begin to creep around, sighing that the crawl toward the Wet Season has begun. Cicadas sing in echoed click and the birds seem more joyful than ever. They know the rains are coming. The time of washing clean the dust and grime of the dry days and more so after the burning season has been, when dry grass is burned black because they say, it brings fresh green shoots for stock to eat. But they do it in Africa, even in cities and where there is no animal grazing. Habits are hard to break.

This time of waiting for the rains is also one of those places between worlds where expectation sighs alongside and the heat increases until one begins to crave in desperation for the salvation of the healing rains. It is the way of the tropics and the sub-tropics and while I have never come to love such climates, I do know them intimately and appreciate them for what they are. I am at heart a dry climate person and perhaps that is because, as a Virgo, I need my boundaries defined in seasons as well as in other ways.

We are all different and in a way we live in worlds of our own making and worlds which have made us and we connect in the places in between, if we can. Living in different cultures allow practice for this but how much we master this living in the spaces between worlds depends, I believe, on our inherent natures.

The more fixed our boundaries the less we move and are moved by our environments. But then living in a different culture ensures that however fixed our boundaries may be as part of our nature, they must learn to bend and move and flex if we are to not just survive, but to thrive.

I have noticed here in Malawi that people often seem to enjoy the misfortune of others, particularly where the person has done some 'wrong' or possibly done some 'wrong.' It is as if there is great satisfaction in seeing them 'brought low' and perhaps there is, because in much of Africa, including here, there is a belief that good fortune means one is in league with the devil or evil forces, which suggests that ill fortune must be seen as positive.

Or perhaps when things go wrong for others they feel safe because there is only so much evil doing which can be done at any one time. Witchcraft has a deep hold on Africa and where it is combined, as it so often is, with the fanatical evangelical form of Christianity, there must indeed be much to fear.

Africa holds more places between worlds than perhaps anywhere else.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Materialism and what it means

Is not materialism merely a view that this world and everything in it can be reduced to and understood purely as 'matter' and in 'physical' terms? This is the basis of classical physics which is the foundation of science as we now know it. That which cannot be empirically quantified or identified in material form is not considered because the paradigm does not allow for its existence.

It is hardly surprising that this belief system has developed given that our most basic needs are material: food, shelter, security. In times past however, people did believe in that which was not physical or material and it came to be called spirituality or religion but in the modern age, the balance has been compromised by the scientific belief that there is only the material/physical. When the God of mind, soul, spirit and the non-material was 'vanquished' by materialistic science, then the conqueror became the new 'God' and began to establish the same sorts of dogma, laws, theology, systems, beliefs that religions believed they required.

Modern science is a system committed to the sensate with varying levels of intuitive and judgemental and perceiving if one is to use Myers & Briggs terminology, depending on the individual and the times.

Religions are sourced in the intuitive with varying levels of judgemental, perceiving and sensate, depending upon the individual, the system and the times.

Spirituality embraces all qualities and strives for balance in expressing and making them manifest.

Much of what modern science is rests in what it has tried 'not to be' for the past few centuries, i.e. religious. When Materialists seek to compare they do so with the most materialistic expression of religion, fundamentalism, ironically. It is easy to 'ring the bell of reason' in the name of science when you hold yourself up against the most unreasonable expressions of religion, and it is not surprising that as religion in general has become more enlightened and less fundamentalist, at least n the modern world, that the voices of science have become more strident. It is not easy to 'ring the bell of reason' in the name of science in the face of moderate, sensible, open, wise, flexible and intelligent religion or spirituality.

The times are changing and resistance grows greater when individual, system or nation find themselves 'backed into a corner.' The 'corner' in this instance is of a developing world where more people are educated, individualistic and less committed to narrow religious systems. The 'enemy' of science has begun to de-materialise.

What is needed is a spiritual approach to life, and spiritual does not mean religious in any way, shape or form. Spirituality can be and should be a part of religion but often is not. Spirituality has often been a part of science and in fact, has been with it from the beginning, although rejected if not hidden in recent centuries as materialism took control.

Spirituality is comfortable with materialism where materialism is required and effective, but also comfortable with anything and everything else which cannot be reduced to the material.

There is nothing wrong with materialism, except for the fact that science is doing what religion tried to do, apply one set of beliefs to all things. In other words, materialism in its place is brilliant and will be even more brilliant when we educate scientists to think across the spectrum of mind and reality. Then of course it will not be materialism and we will need a new name for the belief system which allows and encourages exploration of all that is, however it may manifest or express.