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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

For those who’ve come across the seas...

Seeking asylum is a right under UN protocols, including Article 14 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. For people who arrive in Australia by boat, the method of arrival maybe technically illegal, however, this argument over legality of arrival diverts from the real problem which is addressing the humanitarian issue that they are escaping from.

Similarly the term 'border protection' implies that we are being invaded (with 5500 arrivals by boat this year it is hardly an invasion). Certainly we need to protect ourselves from a foreign power invading us, but as almost all suspected illegal entry vessels are carrying people who apply for asylum, the term again detracts from the humanitarian issue; that these are people escaping real tragedy and abuse.

Following this, the vast majority of asylum seekers who arrive by boat are found to be genuine refugees and make up just 2% of our entire migrant intake. Additionally, the Australian government (including the former coalition government) has quotas for accepting both off-shore applicants (those who apply from overseas) and on-shore applicants (those who apply within Australia).

To put their situation in perspective, we should ask ourselves what would we do in their situations? We get hung up on emotive phrases such as 'queue jumping', yet in Iraq & Afghanistan there are no Australian embassies for them to apply to. A few years ago the Australian embassy in Islamabad had 10,000 asylum applications from Afghanistan, and was processing roughly 500 per year; that would take 20 years to process that batch. These people are not queueing for burgers at maccas, this is life & death. How many of us would subject our families to the threat of abuse, rape, murder while waiting for bureaucracy to decide our fate?

The Howard, Rudd and Gillard governments have failed to offer adequate solutions to asylum seekers and instead have kowtowed to the electorate's fears.

These are some options that I believe should be considered:

- increase our refugee quotas (Australia takes very few refugees compared to other nations.). -engage with our international neighbours, rather than just push the problem back to them (which is what happens if we just 'turn the boats around'). - assist with funding the UNHCR to establish processing centres at ports of origin, including indonesia, pakistan and so on to increase the numbers that can be processed and to hopefully speed up the process. - rather than mandatory detention in Australia, there should be community detention.

The second verse of our national anthem sums up the position we should take:

For those who’ve come across the seas We’ve boundless plains to share; With courage let us all combine To Advance Australia Fair.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Biblical socialism - "to each as anyone has need"

Jesus is a socialist.  He is the embodiment of God's socialist values and His commands of social justice and social equity.  There are literally thousands of verses in the bible explaining this.  Below are just a  few declaring that not only is He a Socialist but He abhors the excessive greed embraced by many capitalists.

Firstly, it is important to define what Socialism is. The Oxford English Dictionary defines Socialism as:

'1. A theory or policy of social organization which aims at or advocates the ownership and control of the means of production, capital, land, property, etc., by the community as a whole, and their administration or distribution in the interests of all.
2. A state of society in which things are held or used in common'.

Karl Marx once wrote 'From each according to his ability, to each according to his need'.

This is scriptural and accords with Acts 4:35 and Exodus 16:16. In fact, Acts 4:32-35 summarises God's manifesto of wealth distribution:

32Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.34Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold,35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need

In the Old Testament there are references to socialism:

Exodus 16:16-18: 16This is the thing which the LORD has commanded: ‘Let every man gather it according to each one’s need, one omer for each person, according to the number of persons; let every man take for those who are in his tent.’ 17Then the children of Israel did so and gathered, some more, some less.18So when they measured it by omers, he who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack. Every man had gathered according to each one’s need.
These scriptures clearly embody socialist principles, or even dare it be said, communism (refer Acts 4:32 above) with all wealth held for the common good by the community.

Having defined what Socialism is, it is important to understand what it is not. It is not the example that was set by the Soviet Union, in particular by Stalin and his ilk who were capitalist, power hungry despots masquerading as Socialists whilst lining their own pockets, building their empires, oppressing dissent and murdering their own people. That was not Socialism.

Unlike capitalism, Socialism does not mean that one group of people receives benefits to the detriment of others. Socialism is founded in equality, not oppression. The bible also advises the redistribution of wealth to overcome inequality as described in 2 Corinthians 8:13-15 which states For I do not mean that others be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack - that there may be equality. As it is written, 'He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.'

Biblical socialism does not just apply to individuals but also applies to governments and those who are in authority.

Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, He commanded ALL kings and leaders of nations to bow down to Him. If Kings and Presidents and Prime Ministers are to bow down to Him, then God's commands also apply to the way they run their governments and spend their taxes. Romans 13:1-7 clearly states that governments are ordained by God to "'not be a terror to good works, but to be a terror to evil':

1Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
2Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
3For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
5Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. 6For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

It says governments are to execute judgement on evil, this does not mean at the expense of good. Rulers are God's ministers, they are to do good FIRST, execute judgement on evil SECOND.

The verses prior to this are found in Romans 12:20-21 and declare:

'If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

The responsibility and power that governments have in addressing issues of world poverty were borne out by Jubilee 2000 (based on the biblical principle of the year of Jubilee), in which a few countries, including the United Kingdom and Australia wiped clean the debt owed by a number of poor nations. This effectively enabled a number of those nations to then spend money that would have been spent paying debt, on addressing issues such as nutrition, education and health. This was significant because most of those poorer nations had already paid back the principal and were bogged down paying only the interest component so that they were unable to direct money into poverty eradication, education and health.

Forgiveness of debt is only one step along the road to overcoming poverty. These economies and their industries need to become self-sufficient and this is being addressed through the issue of fair trade - another socialist principle. Sadly the so called 'Free Trade' agreements implemented and enforced by the world's richest nations greatly disadvantage the world's poorer nations.  To counter this capitalistic rape of smaller economies, a number of countries and organisations are now looking toward 'fair trade' or 'trade justice' to help develop the economies and industry of the world's poorer nations, leading them to self-sufficiency. (refer to

Arguments have been put forward that forgiving debt only encourages corrupt regimes.  Of course this needs to be considered and addressed, but the alternative is to allow poorer nations to continue wallowing in crippling debt, while their citizens live in abject poverty, dying from preventable diseases, dying from hunger and unable to establish themselves economically which will provide a huge boost in overcoming all of these issues.

Overcoming corruption and oppression (greed fuelled traits of unfettered capitalism) goes further than debt and economics, after all, many of these regimes have been sponsored by powerful, capitalist governments for years.  The USA, the former USSR and many European nations sponsored oppressive and corrupt regimes in Iraq, Iran, Libya, various African nations, Afghanistan and many more. It is no secret that the USA provided extensive funding and training to the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, out of which arose Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Corruption and oppression are not the sole blame of the governments of those countries; they are also the fault of nations who encourage and fund them and their nefarious activities. Overcoming corruption, overcoming poverty, overcoming oppression requires governments to take responsibility and abide by the social justice commands of God.

Individuals have a responsibility to ensure that they contribute to and participate in politics. Christians need to oppose governments who prioritise military spending over poverty reduction policies. Christians have a responsibility to oppose governments that demonise asylum seekers and refugees, oppress the poor, fail to provide education or health services to society and the poor in particular. Activities which are the basis of a true socialist revolution in which the workers, the citizens, have true power and ability to hold governments accountable.

Western nations claim to be democratic, yet the only evident aspect of democracy is free elections.  Nations such as the United States are plutocracies in which the wealthiest have the power and the poor have little or no representation, have sub-standard health and education services.

Jesus opposed greed, he opposed the oppressing of people, he came to set the captives free. He opposed the use of religion to encourage greed. Yet we have seen an upsurge in the "Christian Right" supporting plutocratic regimes at the expense of biblical social justice.

Remember that Jesus threw the money-changers out of the temples (Mark 11:15-17): 15So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.16And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. 17 Then He taught, saying to them, 'Is it not written, "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations"? But you have made it a den of thieves.’

Looking after the poor, does not mean that God or socialism encourages laziness. There are scriptures that condemn laziness and reward hard work with wealth as shown in the following scriptures:

Proverbs 10:4 - Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.
Proverbs 14:23 - All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.

Keep these scriptures in context - they are not about greed! There is balance here: hard work leads to wealth which does not come at the expense of the poor or down-trodden.  This wealth was meant to be shared as the bible constantly reminds us. We are to care for the poor and the oppressed. Jesus warns against the greed of capitalism which comes at personal, spiritual and social cost.

Luke 16:19-31, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, in which Lazarus was covered in sores and was so poor and hungry that he desired to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table. Yet the rich man did not feed or care for Lazarus. When they both died, Lazarus went to 'Abraham's Bosom' while the rich man went to Hades. The rich man cried out to Abraham in Luke 16: 24 'Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.' This would have turned out differently for the rich man if he had shown mercy to Lazarus.

Matthew 13:22, in the parable of the sower he states 'Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful'. God is not against people earning money or being successful in their careers. He is against people being deceived by riches and forsaking others and our responsibility to each other. The way we treat others is the way we treat Jesus, refer Matthew 25:45: 'Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.'

Understand the parable of the sheep and the goats Matthew 25), which saw people being judged by their treatment of the poor and oppressed, not for any other reason, not because of their stand on moral issues. For God the greatest moral issue is the care of the poor and oppressed; social justice is his priority:

Matthew 25:31 - 'When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.33And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.

34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand,‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;36I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.

37'Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give you drink? 38When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You? 40And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

41 'Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

44 'Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’

45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.'

Any political party which increases military spending and tax cuts for the rich while cutting back social welfare programs such as public health and education is acting abhorrently and in contradiction of biblical tenets, and Christians should not be supporting such action. Individuals, churches and governments are called to stand up for Christian values.

Caring for the poor is more than just giving them cash. A job and all the benefits that entails is important, such as the ability to buy food, clothing, education. The dignity and respect that comes with working is paramount. It is imperative that people be provided with health care, sanitation, shelter and other basic needs and services which can only be effectively undertaken or coordinated by governments and supported by organisations and individuals - as Jesus commanded!  This is a community issue, a social issue and the responsibility of all. Capitalism has failed in these areas through making health care and education unaffordable by many in society.

Compassion, social justice and the sharing of resources by the world-wide community is imperative in overcoming poverty, combating crime and terrorism, removing the desperation that millions of people in the world live with daily. Over 8.8 million children died before their fifth birthday in 2008, most because of poverty related issues such as malnutrition and lack of adequate health care, 148 million children under 5 years old in developing nations are underweight for their age, 1 billion childen are deprived of one or more services essential to survival and development, 2.5 billion people still lack access to improved sanitation services (refer to

Unfortunately, both right and left wing governments have prioritised military spending and hegemony above the welfare of people. Hundreds of thousands of people die from military conflict and millions are affected terribly by its outcomes.

There are over 2,000 bible scriptures which address poverty and command us to do something about it. Even our attitude towards the poor is important. Many people are treated like 2nd class citizens because of their socio-economic status. We are commanded to see above that. In Matthew 9:13, Jesus states 'Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.'

The treatment of asylum seekers and refugees is important to God, yet many Christians have demonised and persecuted refugees, in direct contravention of scriptures:

Leviticus 19:33-34: And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. 34 The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself.

Exodus 22:21 - Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 10:18 - He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing.

This does not mean that we settle everyone into the country who asks for it.   There is a process for determining whether or not someone is a refugee. However, that process does not include vilification even if the claim for refugee status is not approved (Leviticus 19:33 clearly states not to mistreat the stranger). Exodus 22:21 shows that we must have empathy with asylum seekers. Consider what we would do in their situations if we were faced with the horrendous calamity they were experiencing. Would we stay in a situation where our families are being murdered, raped, tortured or would we do something about it? Have mercy and compassion on asylum seekers and refugees.

Jesus's first sermon, preached in Nazareth is his mission statement, his Manifesto; it declares his purpose on earth, in life and for His ministry:

Luke 4:18-19:

18 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.'

This is the tenet that we should be living by, it should be used as the gauge by which we measure our decisions.

Jesus was for social justice and social equality. The opposite of social justice is social Darwinism - survival of the fittest: Capitalism. This is contrary to the teaching of Jesus, when He said in Matthew 25:45 - 'Whatever you did for the least of My brothers and sisters, you did for Me.'

Isaiah 10 clearly warns governments against mistreating the poor and oppressed:

1Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, 2 to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.

Our society is comprised of individuals, families, religious groups and governments; ALL of us are commanded to care for the 'least of these'.

This makes fulfilling God's commands a community responsibility, a social responsibility. Socialism is the politic of a God fearing society.

Social justice, social equity and fairness are the basis of God's Socialism.  In their fulfillment is the nature, love and mercy of God.


For further comment on Biblical Socialism, refer to the following article:

Socialism, Capitalism and the Parable of the Talents

Monday, October 11, 2010

Cannabis - God's gift to the world.

And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.  And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:11)

God gave us cannabis; a herb yielding seed and he saw that it was good.

Some translations of the bible simply replace the word 'herb' with the word 'plant'. Either way, cannabis is a plant or a herb which yields seed.  It was created by God and for good.  Now if it was good enough for God to create this plant for us, then it is good enough for us to use it.  

Cannabis is arguably the most useful and beneficial plant in God's inventory, yet man saw fit during the 20th century to ban it.  Please explain how one bans nature?

For thousands of years, all civilizations relied on hemp (a product of the cannabis plant) for clothing, shipping, building and food.  Even the mighty American empire was founded on hemp and into the 20th century many American farmers grew the product for use in maritime and military applications.  During World War II, the US government encouraged and relied on farmer to produce hemp.  The US government was so proud of their reliance on hemp that they produced a short film called "Hemp for Victory".

Products made from cannabis have the ability to reduce our environmental footprint, improve our health and remove our reliance on expensive medicines.  Some of the products derived from cannabis include:
  • biodiesel fuel
  • medicinal use
  • building products such as decking, fencing, roofing
  • other products such as brake linings
  • hemp was used for years by sailors for sails, ropes, rigging, nets, clothing, shoes, flags, shrouds and oakum. The word canvas is derived from the Greek word kannabis.
  • it was used for years for linen, drapes, rugs, tents 
  • food, eg oils, seeds, dietary fibre
  • clothing
  • paper

Cannabis does not have a negative impact on the environment, unlike cotton.  For example, cotton requires significant pesticides and fertilizers.  Cannabis has no natural weed or insect enemies and grows rapidly unlike forests, it requires a quarter of the land that cotton does and does not deplete the soil like cotton does yet produces clothing which is finer, softer, warmer and more durable than cotton.  To increase the fibre quality of hemp products, the plants are grown closer together.

The hallucinogenic properties of cannabis are caused by a compound called tetra-hydrocannabinol (THC). Governments of some countries, including Australia, have authorised the regulated production of low-THC cannabis for industrial purposes.  This type of cannabis does not have the hallucinatory effects that THC-containing cannabis does, nor does it have the medicinal properties THC-containing cannabis does. It is the THC which provides the healing and relieving properties of many illnesses including bronchitis, asthma, whooping cough, convulsions tuberculosis, nausea, epilepsy, stroke, wasting from cancer, AIDS or anorexia etc, attention deficit disorder, tourette's syndrome, migraine, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, bipolar, alzheimers, glaucoma and treats the side effects of chemotherapy.  Medical investigators in Spain have discovered that cannabis shrinks brain tumours (refer to   For thousands of years, the inhalation of marijuana smoke has been used to treat the symptoms of asthma as it causes bronchial dilation for more than an hour which makes it more effective than a bronchiodilator.

Won't legalisation increase people's usage of it?  Cannabis is not a physically addictive drug. Police can test if someone is under the influence although this testing is flawed, because it does not show if the person merely was in the presence of someone smoking it nor does it show the level of THC in their system.  THC can remain detectable for up to 8 weeks but it does not affect the person for that period of time.  Driver testing needs to be improved to determine if the person's driving is impaired. Having said that, there is a big difference between someone driving under the influence of cannabis and someone driving under the influence of alcohol.  Under cannabis, most people can still judge distance, they aren't encouraged to speed and are generally aware of their limitations and modify their driving to account for it.  Under alcohol a driver's ability to judge speed and distance is greatly affected as is their ability to drive in a straight line or to negotiate corners.  Persons driving under the influence of cannabis do not have this problem.

Benefits from legalisation:
  • tax for the government if grown commercially
  • keeps normally law abiding citizens out of the prison system (which is merely a university for crime).
  • it is not a 'gateway' drug in the sense that using it does not encourage a person to step up to other drugs. However, whilst it remains illegal and users are buying it from drug dealers there is the possibility of dealers offering other drugs such as LSD, cocaine, speed and so on which users may be enticed to buy. Legalising cannabis will remove this problem.
No-one has ever directly died from the ingestion of cannabis whereas many legal compounds have directly caused the deaths of thousands of people. The below table is reprinted from and similar statistics are provided at

In Section 8, pages 56-57 of Judge Young's ruling on the United States Department of Justice (Drug Enforcement Administration) Matter for the Petition for Rescheduling of Marijuana he stated:

  • 4. Nearly all medicines have toxic, potentially lethal effects. But marijuana is not such a substance. There is no record in the extensive medical literature describing a proven, documented cannabis-induced fatality.
  • 9. In practical terms, marijuana cannot induce a lethal response as a result of drug-related toxicity.

Marijuana has been consumed by millions of people over thousands of years with NO recorded fatalities.  During the 19th century many pharmaceutical medicines were prescribed by doctors to treat a range of ailments.  It was even prescribed to children at levels which far exceed that ingested by the average cannabis user today.  The worst effect documented was paranoia.

It is without doubt the most useful plant that God has given us, yet governments persist in maintaining the criminalisation of it. Perhaps governments and pharmaceutical companies are more concerned with the loss of revenue from people being able to self-medicate rather than being reliant on expensive and often times ineffective remedies. The world will not end with the re-legalisation of cannabis and in fact, will be greatly improved through the increased production of cannabis, resulting in reduced harmful effects on the environment and improved health and treatment of ailments.

Re-legalise cannabis.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Legislating freedom?

From Nazi Germany to the War on Terror - the use of fear & racism to implement Fascism with the approval of the deceived populace.

One month after Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany, there was a suspicious fire in the Reichstag (German Parliament).  Hitler and the Nazi party used this event to spread fear of communist terrorism plots and take-overs within the Germany population, resulting in the enabling of the Order of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State otherwise known as the Reichstag Fire Decree and Enabling Act 1933.  This Act severely limited the rights of German citizens, paved the way for the one party state, increased the power of the military and law enforcement bodies and the apprehension of citizens and non-citizens, in particular those who were Jewish, communist, members of trade unions or other areas nominated as being a threat to the state.  The decree stated 'It is therefore permissible to restrict the rights of personal freedom , freedom of opinion, including the freedom of the press, the freedom to organize and assemble, the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications, and warrants for house searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed'.

Within 10 minutes of Soviet Union President Joseph Stalin being advised of the assassination of Leningrad chief Sergei Kirov, he ordered the enactment of an emergency law which decreed that the judicial process must be hastened when dealing with terrorism.  Stalin's new law stated that accused terrorists must be brought to trial within 10 days of being charged and that they must be executed immediately after judgement without right of appeal.  This law was used to as the basis for the purges of the late 1930's which resulted in the deaths and imprisonment of millions of his own citizens.

Interestingly, eight months after George W Bush was appointed the President of the USA, the terrible attacks of 11 September 2001 occurred.  Following this, much of the world and certainly the population of the USA was frightened of further terrorism being perpetrated by Islamic militants.  Within a month, George W Bush had passed the USA Patriot Act, otherwise known as the 'Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT ACT) Act of 2001'.  This Act greatly increased the power of law enforcement and intelligence agencies, border security, apprehension and long term detention of both citizens and non-citizens without charge, limited freedom of expression and the freedom of the media.

In Australia, the Liberal Party government under Prime Minister John Howard strengthened Australia's laws for dealing with suspected terrorists following the introduction of three bills by Attorney General Phil Ruddock, namely the Anti-terrorism bill, 2004, the Anti-terrorism bill (No 2), 2004 and the Anti-terrorism bill (No 3), 2004 and the passing of the Anti-Terrorism Act 2005.  Opposition parties criticised the lack of time allowed for consultation and the severity of the legislation which included 'shoot to kill' provisions, as well as severely limiting discussion around the application of the Act in specific circumstances.  For instance, the Criminal Code Act describes that it is a criminal offence to reveal that the person was detained under the Act, this applies to the person being detained, their lawyer, interpreter, parents or anyone else who becomes aware of the detention.  The Act has almost unlimited power to severely restrict freedoms of a suspect.  The issue with this Act is not that it is combating terrorism but that anyone who is merely a suspect can be detained involuntarily for ongoing periods, can be placed under house arrest, can be barred from speaking about their detention - all without charge.  This legislation limits freedom of expression in that people expressing dissenting opinions can be charged with sedition and imprisoned.

Is there a correlation between the Reichstag Act, Stalin's emergency law, the Patriot Act and Australia's anti-terrorism laws?  The governments of George W Bush and John Howard are far removed from that of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.  My reason for making the comparison however, is to warn that we need to learn from lessons of the past.  Terrorists certainly need to be dealt with and police need powers to address terrorism, but isn't it a victory for terrorists if the freedoms that countries such as the USA and Australia cherish are removed by their own governments in knee-jerk responses to a fear of terrorism?

The citizens of Hitler's Germany blamed certain people groups for the threats facing their economy and security as a result of Nazi propaganda and subsequently embraced the removal of their freedoms.  Stalin, fearing the peasants and others who may or may not have been opposed to him, forced the emergency laws on his citizenry in the name of security and defence of the Soviet Union.

Many Australians and Americans embraced the removal of their freedoms because of fear of terrorism by supporting the introduction of the Anti-Terrorism Act and Patriot Act respectively.

The introduction of these laws justified in the minds of many people the link between terrorism and asylum seekers.  The Acts also provided justification to many people that all Muslims needed to be treated with suspicion.  The Acts sadly increased the level of hostility between different racial and religious groups which we have seen expressed through increased acts of violence from some segments of the community.  It must be borne in mind that the actions of a few rarely reflect the attitudes, opinions and behaviours of the majority of people in that national, racial or religious group.

Yes, terrorism needs to be fought, but it is important to segregate the crime from the community in order to promote tolerance, respect and dignity of all persons.  Without these basic human rights, acts of terrorism and violence will flourish as we have seen in Hitler's Germany and in countries where people are persecuted because of their race, religion or beliefs.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Nationalism Rising

Australia and the western world need to heed the lessons of history.  Recent events have stimulated national pride in the defence of so-called national values. In Australia, we have seen this manifested most recently in the arguments over asylum seekers and the accusations that 'foreigners' do not have values that are compatible with Australian life.

Similar arguments purporting to defend national interests were made during the 1920s and 1930s in Europe, with Jews being the main target of nationalist anger. From this arose two political parties with particularly influential leaders, namely:

  • the National Socialist German Workers Party (the Nazi Party) led by Adolf Hitler 
  • the National Fascist Party led by Benito Mussolini

Both embraced extreme right wing politics which were anti-communist and anti-capitalist with a unique blend of right and left wing policies.

Hitler's socialism included dramatic improvements in infrastructure, employment and encouraging mothers to stay at home to support and nurture their husbands and children whilst Hitler encouraged the men to work hard in order to be the breadwinners and financially support their families.  Economically this raised both the cost of living and the standard of living which was generally welcomed throughout Germany after the effects of the Great Depression.

Hitler's nationalism resulted in the military receiving the vast bulk of funding ahead of employment programs which also ended up being channeled into the military.   This enabled him to implement his expansionist policies which resulted in his devastating attempt to instill a new world order that he believed would have the Third Reich reign for 1,000 years.  He also implemented a terribly brutal anti-semitic, anti-subversive, anti-religious regime resulting in the deaths of over 17,000,000 people, of which an estimated 6,000,000 were Jews.

The problem with Hitler and his National Socialists was not so much the economic policies, but the nationalism.

Mussolini founded the National Fascist Party and was leader of the Italian Social Republic.  The National Fascist party developed what it called a 'third way' which was an alternative to both capitalism and communism, called corporatism.  This was designed for workers and businesses to come together in order to cooperatively address wages and other industrial relations issues.  However, this fell apart quickly when the business community felt that the system favoured workers.  Mussolini acceded to their requests and made changes which resulted in the system of corporatism favouring business.  The National Fascist Party also created national syndicalism which opposed class based society, anarchism, liberal democracy and Marxism's class struggle in favour of a corporatist model of class collaboration. Initially,Mussolini's policies improved public works and employment in Italy.

As with Hitler, the socialist policies, the capitalist policies, the economic policies of Mussolini were not the major issue; the nationalism was.  

The reason that nationalism was more of a concern than their unique blend of socialism and capitalism was because Hitler and Mussolini both embraced territorial expansionist policies based on their nationalist ideals.  This was coupled with the waging of impressive propaganda campaigns against so-called subversives who criticised them, including communists, capitalists, Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, religious and rival political groups.

An argument has recently been made that today's left wing idealists such as the American Democrats, are ideologically descended from Hitler and Mussolini and according to American conservative author, Jonah Goldberg, should therefore be called 'liberal fascists'.   The reality is that because of the eclectic nature of Hitler and Mussolini's idealogies, an argument can be made that every political party in the world, whether left or right wing, has some commonality with the National Socialists and the National Fascists. Hitler detested Marxists, even though he introduced some left wing policies such as social welfare and nationalising some services.  On the other hand, he also believed in a free market and privately owned property, which are right wing policies even though he hated capitalism.

Modern politics is heavily influenced by large corporations and industry groups.  The rise of this corporate power should give us cause for concern. It does not allow any representation by the individual. It empowers corporations and the richest of the rich through unequal and undue representation at the expense of the electorate. Mussolini stated, 'Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power'.

Few parties from either the left or right support the supremacist fascism that dominated Hitler's policies.  But where it does exist, it is usually the extreme right wing which embraces white supremacism as Hitler did, while the left wing generally promotes the ideal that all are equal, regardless of race, gender, religion, nationality.

Few if any, adherents of left or right wing parties in the 21st century would agree with or support Hitler's Nazism and even fewer would condone the extreme actions he took to rid the world of those he hated.  At least not consciously. Yet we are seeing western nations embracing nationalism and authoritarian policies as many Germans did during the rise of National Socialism.  For instance with the passing of the Patriot Act in the USA, far greater power has been invested in Washington to censor media and other publications and to detain anyone without charge than ever before.

Political debate throughout the western world is becoming more nationalist through propaganda campaigns and misplaced xenophobia, resulting in many people mistrusting muslims, refugees, asylum seekers and anyone from the Middle East.  There is an increase in the number of people adopting a supremacist attitude believing that  Christians and 'white people' defend justice, democracy and freedom for all, while claiming Muslims want to kill everyone and that they resent our freedoms.  This form of supremacism may be far removed from Hitler's, but how easy would it be to convince people that we should exterminate those who are different to us if they threaten our existence, if they don't fit in?

The United States instigated a global War on Terror which put all countries on notice with President George W. Bush's totalitarian declaration that 'Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists' in his address to a joint session of Congress on 20 September 2001.

But who is a terrorist?  Certainly those who kill innocent civilians are rightly called terrorists and often their reasons for doing so are influenced by their own brand of nationalism, such as fighting for territorial rights for Palestinians, Tamils, Israelis or Kashmiris.   But this does not make everyone of the same religion, nationality or regional area a terrorist.  Modern nationalism often tars innocent people with the same brush through stereotyping them if they are from certain countries, religious or people groups or even of a particular appearance.

The rise of nationalism in Australia has occurred through the right wing politicization of social issues which on the surface appear to have the best interests of a nation's citizens at heart.  Yet, under the surface resides a deep-seated racism and sense of racial superiority, which is highly critical of indigenous issues, refugee issues and views non-white people as less deserving and incapable of becoming a valued member of Australian society.  It establishes that 'they' do not have the same high moral fibre and values that white Australians do. Adherents of this nationalist rhetoric believe that they are being patriotic, however there is a fine line between patriotism and the racist fervour of nationalism.  It is evidenced in the language and values espoused on car-stickers and t-shirts promoting the ugly side of this so-called patriotism, such as:

'We grew here, you flew here'

'Fuck off we're full'

'Speak english or piss off'

'This is Australia, we eat meat, we drink beer and we speak english'

Western countries such as Great Britain, Australia and the United States of America have a long proud history of integrating other nationalities for centuries.  The nationalism that we see now is undermining this and resulting in accusations of these countries being racist.

The most dangerous part of Hitler's ideology was nationalism, which many Germans accepted without criticism because it masqueraded under the banners of patriotism, parochialism and jingoism.  We need to be aware of the insidious danger of nationalism that resides in what many think is the best interests of the nation, yet is a shallowly concealed doctrine of hate.

It is unlikely that any modern nationalists would want to introduce the death camps that Hitler did, however, at what stage do we draw the line in our approach to other peoples? It is a slippery slope that nationalists walk.  Already we have seen a war waged on false pretenses using nationalist fears and fervour, we have seen innocent men, women and children who are legally entitled to enter Australian waters to seek asylum, being incarcerated without charge and held in an abusive and soul-destroying system for months and in some cases, years.  A system which further traumatises the traumatised victims of nationalist inspired fascism and terrorism, such as those who escaped the regimes of Saddam Hussein or the Taliban.

Now we see even the Australian Labor Party willing to condemn refugees, including unaccompanied children, to the abuses of the Malaysian prison system and few people in Australia care.  Many people in Australia see refugees as criminals, not as victims of crime and therefore they feel that refugees are less deserving of humane and ethical treatment.... and no-one cares.  How easy would it be for a charismatic white supremacist with exceptional oration skills to stir up national fervour and have the population willingly embrace fascism?

A willingness by all of us to learn the lessons of history and to better understand and appreciate other cultures and religions will go a long way toward building the bridges necessary to combat the bigotry and danger of nationalism.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Corporate Anarchists masquerading as Capitalists

Corporate Anarchists masquerading as Capitalists expect governments to decrease so they may increase, to privatise and remove bureaucratic restraints in order for the corporate kings to benefit from society's needs.  Yet when their insatiable avarice led the world's markets to the brink of bankruptcy they expected  government to bail them out.  The evil twin of government funded social welfare is government funded corporate welfare.

Laissez faire capitalists want government to privatise as many services as possible, coupled with allowing unfettered freedom to corporations; essentially a commercial form of anarchism.  Yet when they face financial ruin from their unrestrained greed, these same laissez fair capitalists, or Corporate Anarchists, turn to the government to bail them out, as they did during the GFC.  So why shouldn't government have more control over the market place?

When governments increase taxes to fund this Corporate Welfare, the Corporate Anarchists threaten the community with job losses (which increases dependence on social welfare) with removal of their businesses to other regions; something governments don't generally do when government services are not privatised.

Unrestrained Capitalism (or Corporate Anarchism) is not about competition, it is about eliminating competition.  We see this through the evolution of corporate globalisation, small businesses being bankrupted or bought out by multi-nationals, developing countries raped and pillaged for corporate profit with no conscience.  In the west we see the riches, while developing countries see the economic rape resulting in destruction of the resources and people. 

One of the ironies of those who wish for smaller government is that we are now seeing corporations become the government with their influence on politicians, their ability to directly impact the economy of nations.

The danger of privatisation of government services is that corporations are only interested in making money, not in providing social benefits.  These are the first things to go when a government privatises.  Corporations would oppose or do away with unions, they don't want workers to have rights such as when the Liberal Party introduced WorkChoices.  Corporations don't want compliance with government policy or legislation as this cuts into their profits.  We have seen the effect of this through the debacle with Victorian public transport and the subsequent reduction in maintenance of trams and trains that was regularly undertaken when those services were government run.

Many corporations do not have morals and are primarily focused on the bottom line: profit.  They have covered up toxic and dangerous practices, eg the tobacco companies burying reports that told them in the 1950s of the carcinogenic properties of tobacco, of James Hardie and asbestos, the Union Carbide Corporation disaster in Bhopal resulting in thousands of deaths and the list goes on.  Corporations will replace workers with automation at the first chance they get; putting people out of work for the sake of the dollar.  Where is the loyalty from the workers when the corporation has no loyalty to them.

I am not opposed to capitalism when it is balanced with government policy and government providing certain services for the benefit of the community.   Rather than an anarchistic market, capitalism should create a marketplace where all can fairly compete and place a high priority on Corporate Social Responsibility.  Instead of corporations focusing on the single bottom line of profit, they should focus on the 'triple bottom line' of People, Planet and Profit.

Australians could have been boat people

The irony regarding asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australian waters, is that Australians themselves could have been the boat people.  During World War 2 it was rumoured that the Australian government under Prime Minister Menzies had a plan to allow Japan to take the northern part of Australia had they successfully invaded.  This plan was known as the Brisbane Line.  Whilst there is some conjecture about whether or not the Brisbane Line really existed, I want to suggest a hypothetical.

Imagine that Japan had invaded Australia and that the Brisbane Line was invoked.  Northern Australians would have been the ones seeking refuge. Their applications for refugee status in Southern Australia would have been treated with suspicion and derision from their southern counterparts. Those Northerners who felt they needed to escape the brutality of their new overlords and who decided to jump the newly constructed fence separating Northern Australia from Southern Australia would have found that the Southerners were not waiting for them with open arms. in fact, the exact opposite because of the very suspicion that we saw between East & West Germany: neighbours one day, enemies the next. The reason for suspicion would have included rumours such as: "the Japanese are holding their families hostage and they are only down here to spy on us".  

Those northern Australians who managed to jump the fence into Southern Australia would have been imprisoned and most likely deported back to Northern Australia because of the need to "maintain a good relationship with our new mainland neighbours; the Japanese government".

So where to for the Northern Australians? North! Indonesia. Leaky boats, putting their families lives at risk in order to escape a brutal and inhumane regime if we base it on the way the Japanese ran their prison camps during WW2.

Or.... would have those Northern Australians been happy for them and their families, their children, to endure the brutality, the torture just so that they could take a number and apply for refugee status to other countries such as USA, UK or the limited refugee intake of Southern Australia.

We should have a more compassionate approach to refugees, we should not be demonizing these victims of terror and brutality, we should not be subjecting them to further abuse and dehumanizing treatment by incarcerating them in remote, hostile areas of Australia or off-shore centres.

Boat people are not the threat that some people believe. The vast majority have been found to be genuine and are now living productive lives in Australia.

Our attitude to asylum seekers should be summed up in the words of John Bradford:

'There but for the grace of God, go I'.