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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bob Marley & the Matrix.

In the 1999 movie, The Matrix, Morpheus explains to Neo that the world he knows is really just the construct of a computer program:

Morpheus: "The Matrix is everywhere, it is all around us. Even in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes; it is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth"

Neo: "what truth is that?"

Morpheus: "That you are a slave, Neo.  Like everyone else, you were born into bondage; born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch; a prison for your mind."

Whilst the real world may not be a computer simulation, we are still imprisoned by our minds and the influences of propaganda spread by government, corporations and other people, often using fear to control our behaviours, our voting patterns, our shopping habits.

Our fear is driven by our thoughts and perceptions, but very often, NOT from reality.  We have been the pawns of government and corporate fear campaigns, whether it was the fear of migrants, the fear of indigenous populations, the fear of communism, the fear of drugs, the fear of Islam, the fear of terrorism, the fear of not having the latest gadget.

Fear is a construct.

Fear may not be a computer simulation, but it is the next best thing.  It is a simulation of the real world which plays out in our minds, in our thoughts and then manifests in our behaviours, actions and reactions.

Our thoughts are powerful weapons that we turn first on ourselves and then on others.

Our thoughts are so powerful, that others want to manipulate them.  For when you control a person's  thoughts, you control the person.

Joseph Goebbels stated "if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will believe it.  The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State'. 

We need to question everything that we see and hear.  How many people were killed in the name of democracy to prevent the evil scourge of Communism? How many people were killed in the name of Communism to prevent the evil scourge of Capitalism?  Whether a person lived in Socialist Moscow or democratic Washington, they were subject to similar propaganda campaigns from their leaders.

Another Nazi, Hermann Goering, stated "Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany.  That is understood. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.  That is easy.  All you have to do is tell them that they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

Thought control, propaganda, is all around us.  We see it in current affairs shows designed to make us terrified of our neighbours, of migrants, refugees, killer diseases, rebel teenagers, crime! We see it in news articles and even in advertising.  We hear it preached from the pulpit that Christianity is being attacked and by politicians declaring our freedoms are under attack.

Yet, it is all nonsense.  It is influential leaders manipulating you.

To continue the Matrix analogy you have two choices, you can take the blue pill and stay in your current life without changing your beliefs, or take the red pill and see the truth for yourself. As Morpheus said "you take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill ... and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes."

You can choose to continue living in the world that you know, which is the carefully constructed manipulation of modern propaganda, or you can choose the reality that exists when you control your own mind and see through the falsehoods.

Bob Marley understood this with words that we should all heed: "emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds".

Friday, April 13, 2012

Best Australian Blogs 2012 Competition - People's Choice Voting

Ranting Panda has nominated for the 'Best Australian Blogs 2012' competition in the 'Commentary' category.  The competition is conducted by the Sydney Writers' Centre.

You can vote for Ranting Panda in the 'People's Choice Award'. Voting in the 'People's Choice Award' commences 13 April 2012 and concludes at 5pm, Wednesday 9 May 2012.

To submit your vote, please click on the below link (note that the blog is called 'Ranting Panda'):

Once you've voted, make sure that you click the 'DONE' button so that your vote counts.

We would love for you to vote for Ranting Panda in the 'People's Choice Awards'. 

In addition, to the 'People's Choice Award', the Blog will also be considered for a separate award by a panel  of judges who will judge it on:
  • 70% quality of writing
  • 20% presentation and usability
  • 10% engagement and social media integration
Finalists for this part of the competition will be announced on 26 April 2012 and Winners announced 10 May 2012.

You can follow the competition on Twitter through #bestblogs2012.

Thanks heaps and we hope that this Blog encourages, enlightens and educates you.

P.S. You can also follow Ranting Panda on Twitter @RantingPanda and on Facebook at: 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Australia's population dilemma: Grow or Die

Australia has a problem: not enough people.  We enjoy a great quality of life, but it is maintained through taxes which provide infrastructure and social support, and high employment which boosts all other sectors.  Taxes and employment require one thing: an available and appropriately skilled workforce.  Some people may fear that their way of life will be eroded with an increased population, however, a lower population and aging workforce will erode our way of life and force us to work until the day we die.

Australia's population is currently estimated to be around 23,000,000. With a land mass of 7,682,300km2, Australia's population density is approximately 3 people per square kilometre. Compared with other western nations, this is extremely low.  The USA for instance has a population density of 32/km2 and the United Kingdom has 660/km2.  As of 30 September 2011, Australia's population growth rate is1.4%, down from 2.2% in 2008 (1).

Australia is facing an aging population because of low fertility rates and longer life expectancy.  As at 30 June 2007, the median age of Australia's population was 36.8 years.  The ABS estimates that by 2056, the median age will be between 41.9 and 45.2 years (2).  In 1970/71, 8% of the population was over the age of 65, by 2001/02, 13% was over 65 and it is estimated that by 2040 over 25% of the population will be over 65 (3). That is a lot of old age pensions.  In response to the aging population, the Howard government abolished the compulsory retirement age and changed superannuation laws in an effort to reduce the burden on public funds.  The Rudd government established the "Future Fund" to assist the Australian government to meet its superannuation liability.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) estimates that Australia's population in 2056 will be between 30,900,000 and 42,500,000, and that by the year 2101, Australia's population will be between 33,700,000 and 62,200,200 (2).  These figures are based on assumptions which include the fertility rate between 1.6% and 2% and net immigration ranging between 140,000 and 220,000 persons per year, (note that as of 2011, there were 172,500 immigrants).

There are obviously pros and cons to an increased population and there is almost certainly a tipping point where high population becomes unsustainable. There are some who fear that a high population will erode their standard of living by contributing to higher unemployment, higher crime rates, denser suburban areas and drain government budgets through welfare, infrastructure, education, health, police and so on.   However, low population presents its own problems. Australia is a long way from reaching unsustainable levels of population.  If anything, it is in danger of having a population too low to sustain itself.  The aging workforce is obviously one of those areas.

Whilst Australia does have a lot of land, much of it is remote so the population tends to gather in the capital cities. Many of the inhabitants of rural and remote areas have been primary producers. Over the years, Australia's primary industries have been depleted as cheap produce is imported, resulting in many rural towns struggling as farms close down and their populations migrate to larger regional or metropolitan centres.  Contributing to this problem, Australia's exports are decreasing, while imports are increasing, with the obvious destructive effect on agriculture, as well as the manufacturing and retail sectors.  There is a benefit to the economy, for the government and the population to general, to develop, encourage and support agriculture and other primary industries.

Australia's retail sector is struggling because of a number of factors, such as lower consumer confidence following the Global Financial Crisis and high levels of consumer debt impacting disposable income.  An increased population will boost retail sales as people require food, clothing, motor vehicles, furniture and other commodities.  This increased demand on the retail sector will provide more job opportunities as retailers, new and existing, respond to consumer needs.

A larger population means more tax payers who are able to fund the creation and expansion of infrastructure. This in itself, creates employment opportunities, increasing the tax collected by government and increasing consumer demand on the retail and housing sectors and benefiting the construction, manufacturing and technology industries.

The fear of dense suburban areas is certainly one that has been realised in Melbourne and Sydney as local councils approve high density housing developments. Compare these poor examples of urban planning to Queensland, where the State Government developed Springfield Lakes, a city constructed south-west of Brisbane which was designer built to reduce housing density, minimise the requirement for car travel, optimise walking and cycling and encourage use of public transport.  One third of Springfield Lakes is dedicated to open space.

Australia has a huge amount of livable and currently uninhabited land. The development of this land, is possible and requires intelligent planning and the construction of all manner of infrastructure, not least of which is irrigation, presenting much opportunity for research, development, construction and maintenance.  Some argue that Australia is too arid, yet 62% of the continent is suitable for agriculture. (4)

The size of the country allows for a much larger population, however, governments need to do it responsibly and intelligently with a focus on sustainability and development and encouragement of primary, secondary and tertiary industries. With a greater labour pool, there must be a focus on education and development of a skilled workforce, including medical professionals, engineers and tradespeople.  With low population, there are fewer opportunities for skilling the workforce and less demand for their skills.

All levels of government should be striving to develop communities that provide a high quality of life.

Australia needs a higher population in order to maintain and ultimately improve its standard of living.

All references accessed 12 April 2012.

(1) Australian Bureau of Statistics, '3101.0 - Australian Demographic Statistics, Sep 2011'.

(2) Australian Bureau of Statistics, '3220.0 - Population Projections Australia, 2006 to 2101'.

(3) Australian Government, The Treasury, 'Australia's Demographic Challenges'.

(4) Australian Natural Resources Atlas, 'Land Use - Australia', Land use patterns in Australia.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Revolutionary Jesus v Empire & Religion (an Easter Tale)

Easter is obviously one of the crucial events for Christians as it commemorates the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  Jesus was crucified as an atonement for all sins committed by mankind.

As background, in the Old Testament, God required an animal sacrifice as atonement for sin, usually this was the sacrifice of a lamb without spot or blemish.  In the New Testament, Jesus as the son of man and God, becomes this sacrifice, hence Him being called the Lamb of God.  However, He wasn't just required to die, he was required to live.  According to the bible, Jesus conquered death and hell, through his resurrection on the third day, enabling Christians to enter into heaven and eternal life.

Jesus had managed to upset the religious leaders of the day.  He was heavily critical of the Pharisees and Sadduccees for their hypocrisy, for their love of money and for making overt displays of their wealth.   At one stage, Jesus stormed into the temple and threw out the money-changers and others who were defiling the temple by turning it into a place of business.

Jesus was arrested by Temple guards at the direction of the Supreme Court of Israel, the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin were Jews, not Romans. It was the Sanhedrin who sentenced Jesus to death.  After sentencing, Jesus was paraded before the Roman Prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate, who stated that he could see no crime that Jesus had committed.  Around the same time, a man named Jesus Barabbas was arrested for sedition.  As it was Passover, the custom was for one prisoner to be released based on the wishes of the local Jews.  When given the choice of Jesus or Barabbas, the crowd chose Barabbas.  Pontius Pilate did not agree with the execution of Jesus and washed his hands of responsibility as he gave the crowd what they wanted.

Interestingly, Jesus and Barabbas were both revolutionaries, they both shared the same first name and even Barabbas's surname reflected one of the names of Jesus.  Barabbas literally translates as "Son of the Father" (bar = son of, abba = Father).   Yet, Jesus was the one who had opposed the religious leaders, while Barabbas had opposed the Roman Empire.

The crowd chose Barabbas, perhaps because he was seen as leading them from under the yoke of Roman Imperialism, while they welcomed the yoke and hypocrisy of religious fundamentalism as it was used by the priests to manipulate their thoughts, fears and lives.

There is an old saying that "those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it".

In Jesus's day, the religious leaders had influenced the ruling council, the Sanhedrin in order to arrest Jesus and stop the undermining of their authority.

Today we see the rise of religious fundamentalism as it influences the highest levels of government and seeks to tear down those who dare undermine the influence of its powerful religious leaders.  Religious fundamentalism supports "smaller government" and yet demands government intervention through the banning of abortion, homosexuality and non-Christian religions (in particular, Islam).  Religious fundamentalists tend to be pro-gun, pro-war, pro-big business and against public expenditure on health, education and welfare. Their churches have been turned into large commercial enterprises.  In fact, much of religious fundamentalism is opposed to almost everything that Christ stood for.

Jesus commanded us to love God, to love our neighbour, to turn the other cheek when persecuted, to forgive our enemies, to live in peace with everyone, to give up material possessions and share our wealth, to care for the poor, the homeless, the orphan, the refugee.  Jesus passed little judgement on the government; in fact, he stated that we should "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's".  Jesus directed his judgement at the organised religion of the day.

Were Jesus to have lived during the 21st century, he would have criticised the religious hypocrisy of the day, the rise of the mega-church and the franchising of religion.   Many Christian fundamentalists are critical of the Catholic Church and its wealth, yet the empire that is Christianity is worth billions in retail sales, while churches are run as businesses, reliant on their balance sheets and profit and loss statements.

Modern Christianity more closely resembles the behaviour of the Pharisees and Sadducees than it does the teachings and example set by Jesus Christ.

If Jesus was born in recent times, there would be no shortage of people choosing to crucify Him in place of a modern day Barabbas.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Tragedy of East Timor - Australia's complicity and cover-up

For decades Australia and the rest of the world has stood by as East Timor was raped by Indonesia's Suharto regime.

East Timor, was a small, Portuguese colony of no threat to any nation.  In 1975, the Portuguese withdrew from East Timor, essentially granting them independence.  The Australian government under Prime Minister Gough Whitlam developed the policy that East Timor should be integrated into Indonesia.  In 1999, the Australian government released some documents from that period which quote Mr Whitlam as saying that Portuguese Timor should be integrated into Indonesia.  Of course, the East Timorese saw things differently and in November 1975, East Timor declared independence.

In December 1975, Indonesia invaded East Timor, resulting in the massacre of thousands of East Timorese.  Five Australian journalists reported on this invasion as it unfolded and reported Indonesian massacres of East Timorese, reporting it back to Australia. The Australian government stood idly by as the massacres unfolded.  The journalists were eventually captured and murdered by the Indonesian military. From the onset of the invasion and the subsequent occupation, Indonesia received financial and military aid from each Australian government (Labor and Liberal) between 1974 and 1999.

In 2012, Federal Attorney General, Nikola Roxon, refused to release government cables regarding East Timor from 1975 and declined to state the reason.  Associate Professor Clinton Fernandes of the University of New South Wales believes that the cables reveal Australia's complicity in the mass starvation of 100,000 East Timorese following the Indonesian invasion (1).

On 17 March 2012, at a seminar on the Middle East and the Arab Spring, Gareth Evans presented a speech which included reference to NATO's "Responsibility to Protect".  A policy which ostensibly is used to invade countries on the pretext of removing inhumane dictators and the liberation of their people; surreptiously this policy is more about shoring up NATO military and strategic interests in the particular country.  Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Fransisco, also addressed the delegates at this seminar.

In his speech, Zunes accused Evans of supporting atrocities in East Timor while ensuring that Australia had access to East Timor's oil through the 1986 signing of the Timor Gap Treaty, which the Foreign Minister Evans signed with Indonesia.  Evans was so outraged by this accusation that after the speech, he marched over to Zunes and screamed at him "who the fuck are you? where the fuck are you from?".  Evans continued the tirade and stated that Zunes deserved "a smack on the nose". (2)

The 1975 invasion and subsequent occupation by Indonesia was brutal.  It is estimated that under Suharto, around 200,000 East Timorese were killed; one third of its population.  All the while, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States stood by and lavished praises and aid on Suharto.  Some of the Indonesian jets used to bomb East Timorese villages were supplied by the United Kingdom.  Margaret Thatcher, former UK Prime Minister once told Suharto "you are one of our very best and most valuable friends".

Following the resignation of President Suharto in 1999, East Timor eventually won its independence. Australia's then Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, claimed that Australia's intervention was out of humanitarian concern.  Yet in his book, "Reluctant Saviour", Clinton Fernandes reveals that the Howard government initially opposed independence in order to maintain Indonesian rule.  Fernandes asserts in his book, that it was only through independence activists and the public that Howard was forced to send a peace-keeping force and to support the move to independence. (3)

From 1999 to 2003, Australia provided significant financial and military aid to East Timor.  In 2003, this was used as leverage by Alexander Downer to ensure that Australia's interests in East Timor's oil and gas reserves were maintained in Australia's favour.  Downer reminded East Timor of its assistance during the 1999 independence and of the aid being provided.  Australia even withdrew funding for an East Timorese human rights NGO, Forum Tau Matan after it was revealed that they and eleven other NGO's had signed a statement daring to criticise Australia's aggressive approach to East Timor's oil and gas reserves and accusing Australia of "stealing natural resources that rightfully belong to East Timor". (4)

In 2006, this imposition of Australian power resulted in an agreement which allowed Australia to continue exploiting East Timor's oil and gas reserves for 50 years with no defined geographical boundary to limit access or to protect East Timor.  This has cost East Timor billions of dollars in lost revenue from reserves which it owns.

Currently, East Timor is in the midst of elections.  Australia will be taking a close interest in the results as one of the issues that has emerged is the management of East Timor's oil and gas reserves. East Timor has been wanting to process oil on their own land, however, Australia has been avoiding this.  An emerging threat is now from China, who has been negotiating with East Timor to process their oil. East Timor has indicated that if Australia, through Woodside Petroleum, doesn't build pipelines from the oil reserves to East Timor, then they may look at other avenues to have this constructed.  Australia has a keen financial interest in seeing the "right" government elected in East Timor.

For decades, Australia's involvement in East Timor has always been in its own interests whilst being complicit in the genocide of the population and actively raping its natural reserves.

Instead of claiming that Australia's involvement is solely for the greater good (as decreed on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website) (5), Australia should come clean on its history and motives in the area and actively work to genuinely assist East Timor.

The Indonesian genocide may have ended, but the East Timorese still face poverty and starvation as their own resources and potential profits are lost to Australia in a disgraceful abuse of hegemony and capitalism.

All references accessed 6 April 2012.

(1) Matt Peacock, 21 March 2012, 'Roxon blocks release of East Timor Cables', ABC News Online,

(2) Matt Buchanan and Scott Ellis, 20 March 2012, 'A Spread of Fear - Professor Gets Hell From Evans', Sydney Morning Herald Online.

(3) Clinton Fernandes (2005), Reluctant Saviour: Australia, Indonesia and the Independence of East Timor, Scribe Short Books.

(4) Peter Ellis, 30 May 2007, 'Lying for your country'.

(5) Australian Government, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 'East Timor Country Brief',