xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage: September 2016

Friday, 30 September 2016

Trumpism is alive and well in Australia.

I am saddened to say that Trumpism is now alive and well in Australia. Donald Trump thrives on saying outlandish things, which are then widely reported in the media. Trump’s outlandish statements are not refuted by journalists, who should be asking questions and seeking the truth of the matter.

Victoria Rollison, writing for The Australian Independent Media Network on September 29, observed that Trump is allowed to state falsehood without any real media scrutiny. She says of the US media, “They are the Dr Frankenstein to the Trump monster”

Well, in Australia, our media is just as bland and unquestioning. Trumpism is alive and well in Australia. Politicians may say what they like. The media reports, but does not refute, the many falsehood.

On Wednesday, September 28, South Australia suffered the most severe storm in its recorded history. Lightning put a power station out of action and cyclonic winds knocked over several power transmission towers as if they were matchsticks.

With severe outages occurring, the state’s power grid shut down, as it was designed to do, in order to protect life and property. Of course, this resulted in massive disruptions and inconvenience across the state. Brave men and women from the State Emergency Service swung into action, heroically dealing with the situation in fearful weather conditions that were, in many cases, life threatening.
In view of this disaster the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, went on National television to address the nation.

Did he refer to the unprecedented weather event that had shut down South Australia’s power supply? Did he thank the brave SES workers and other volunteers who were working in dangerous circumstances to restore the state’s electricity grid? Did he offer his government’s support to South Australia in what was obviously a national emergency?

No, he did not. Instead he blamed the Labor party and Labor state premiers for having policies that encouraged the establishment of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. This, said Mr Turnbull, was the cause of the South Australian blackout. 

Assuming the role of a populist demagogue like Donald Trump, Prime Minister Turnbull, spoke of people stuck in lifts. People with fridges full of rapidly rotting food. People stuck in traffic because the lights were out. People in their homes huddled around some candles.He did not address the facts, instead, he appealed to people's emotions to make his purely party political points. According to the Prime Minister of Australia, all of this had happened because South Australia produces 40% of its power from renewable energy.

It was pure bunkum. It was Australia's version of Donald Trump. Look at a very bad situation and blame your opponents for it. It was done for crass political purposes. The fact is, it would not have mattered if all of South Australia’s power was produced by coal, gas, oil or nuclear fuel. The storm would still have shut down the power grid. The blackout was not problem of power supply. It was a problem of power transmission. A power house was disabled and several transmission towers had been destroyed.

The media, as it always seems to do these days, repeated Mr Turnbull’s story without any qualifications or questions seeking the truth. Subsequently, the media story was not about the storm and the power blackout, it was about renewable energy being an unreliable power source.

The media reported Mr Turnbull’s blatant politicising of the South Australian storm without any questions.Turnbull’s line was quickly taken up by other self-styled experts. South Australian Senator, Nick Xenophon, quickly jumped on the Turnbull bandwagon saying, “Heads should roll.” Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, also took up the cudgels against Labor’s renewable energy policy,  blaming it for what had happened in South Australia. Australia's  self styled Expert In Chief, Andrew Bolt, also hopped on the band wagon, blaming Labor's renewable energy policies for the blackout.

What is worse, the ABC, which used to value its reputation for objective journalism, followed the barking mob. In an an "Et tu Brutus" moment it joined in the political point scoring. Senior ABC journalist, Chris Uhlmann, reported that renewable energy had caused the problem, as did the usually reliable Sabra Lane, who ended her story by saying in effect that there would be far reaching political ramifications caused by "the renewable energy problem".  The renewable energy problem? Where were the facts? Totally disregarded. Who wants the facts to get in the way of a good old political stoush between the Liberal and Labor sides of politics?

Even the West Australian newspaper editorialised on Friday morning about how right Mr Turnbull had been in highlighting the unreliability of using renewable energy sources. It even mentioned the high cost of power in South Australia, inferring this was also due to the use of renewable energy and Labor mismanagement. However, many would say the high cost of South Australia's power is due to a previous state Liberal government’s decision to privatise the state’s power generation. The West Australian failed to mention South Australia’s privatised power for profit scheme, probably because WA Premier, Colin Barnett, is actively thinking about doing the same thing. Trumpism triumphs when the media plays along.

During the federal election campaign, I wrote about Australia’s Toadying Media. (http://noelswriting.blogspot.com.au/2016/05/the-toadying-media.html).Today’s journalists seem to have no desire to examine the issues and seek out the truth. They seem content to just take whatever the politicians say and print it as if it was from the Gospel of St Luke.

To a large extent the media gives us our world view. We only have to look to the USA to see how a compliant, sensation seeking media has given almost 50% of the voting public an unshakeable belief in Donald Trump, a carpet bagging salesman selling several different brands of snake oil, which he claims will fix all of our problems.

Well, it seems to me that one of the biggest problems you can have in a free society is a media where journalists are too lazy, or too fearful of losing their jobs, to investigate what politicians tell them. Journalist who cut and paste press releases and fail to seek, discover and report the truth

Mr Turnbull’s resorting to cheap political point scoring, in the face of a national emergency, does him no credit whatsoever. The same can be said for those who swallowed his story without question.
The Irish parliamentarian, Edmund Burke, against the bloody backdrop of the French Revolution and growing civil unrest in the American colonies, warned the British House of Commons that, “It is sufficient for the triumph of evil that just men do nothing.”

We can only hope and pray that there are still a few just men and women left in our media who will not enable Trumpism to triumph. Who will not be happy just to peddle populist platitudes and downright untruths. We need journalists who will examine the issues and present the facts of the matter. Otherwise, Trumpism will triumph, to the detriment of us all.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The Invisible Man

When I was about 9 years old my family moved from 7th Avenue Inglewood and went to live in a big double storey boarding house at No 8, Aberdeen Street in Perth. I lived there with my parents and my two younger sisters, Valerie and Kathleen. Also living in that huge house were my Grandma and my mother’s older unmarried siblings, Aunty May and Uncle Ray and my widowed Aunty Millie and her two sons, Maurie and Raymond Carr. Also living in the house for a while were three sisters, the Sinclair girls, Patricia, Clair and Colleen who ranged in age from about 21 to 13. They shared two bedrooms on the second floor.

It was 1947 and in post-World War 2 Perth building materials were in short supply. My parents owned a block of land in Mount Lawley and we were living at Aberdeen Street waiting for my dad to get a permit to build our new house. We finally got the building permit in 1950 and moved to Mt Lawley in July, 1951.

I enjoyed living at Aberdeen Street.  Although I was only young, I could walk into Perth and explore my city playground. My friends and I used to play hide and seek in Boan’s Department Store. Each school day afternoon I used to catch the number 18 tram from  Christian Brothers Highgate, in Harold Street, to go my Aunty May’s Lucky Bunny lottery kiosk at 119 Barrack Street. At about 4-30 each afternoon Aunty May would give me a calico bag containing ticket butts and money to take to the Lottery’s Commission building in St George’s Terrace. She paid me five shillings a week which I thought was very generous of her. I enjoyed running around the streets of Perth so much that I would have done it for nothing. Aunty May told me not to go by the same route each day. In fact, I had about eight ways of navigating between Aunty May’s kiosk and the Lotteries offices, so before long I got to know Perth very well indeed.

My cousins, Maurie and Raymond were 11 years and 8 years older than me and I thought of them fondly as my older brothers. I idolised them and wanted to be in their company at every opportunity. What they thought of me is not so easily defined. I think they thought of me as their pet. At the time they both had dogs but I was the very young blood relative living with them that they could tease, get to run messages or fetch things for them, play cricket or football with them in the backyard, use as punching bag or play tricks upon. Of course I was about ten and they were just on either side of twenty. As I grew older we found that we really did enjoy each others company and throughout our lives we were really all like brothers.

Maurie and Raymond liked boxing and were good at it. At the tail end of the war Maurie was in the RAAF and fought very capably in several inter service boxing matches held at the WACA ground. They had various types of boxing gloves and there was a punching bag hanging from the ceiling in the large outdoor washhouse. However, aftern I started living with them at Number 8, Aberdeen Street, they quickly discovered that what they really liked to do was to get me to hold a pillow or two on my stomach while they took turns at giving me pounding combinations of straight left and right punches followed by a furious flurry of left and right crosses and the occasional right uppercut. They said my grunting as each of their well delivered punches sank into the pillow gave a more realistic touch to their boxing drills. Sometimes it hurt a bit, but I didn’t mind. At least they were paying me some attention. On one occasion Maurie landed an uppercut with such force that it lifted me onto his bed which then banged loudly against the wall. Seconds later my Aunty Millie came rushing into their bedroom.

My Aunty Millie was a beautiful, gentle person. She had been widowed at the start of the Great Depression when Maurie was three and Raymond just six months old. There was no Widow’s Pension in those days but, with some help from her family, she worked hard during the deprivations of the depression and the war years to provide for her boys. However, on this occasion, on hearing the bed crash into the wall she raced in to bedroom and castigated her sons as I sat on the bed, gasping for air, with my back against the wall. “Maurie and Raymond! I have told you before that you are not to be boxing in the bedroom. You are damaging the furniture and the walls. If you want to box, go outside.” Then she left.

I thought that my much loved Aunty Millie could have made some mention of the fact that along with the furniture and the walls, their dear little cousin Noel was also coming off the worse for wear.

When I had been living at Aberdeen Street for about a year I went into town one Saturday afternoon and saw a picture which I think was called The Invisible Man’s Revenge. It was quite a creepy picture but I was fascinated by the concept of making myself invisible. The next afternoon I was in Maurie and Raymond’s bedroom watching them play a game of chess. While they were concentrating on their game I was babbling on about the Invisible Man and how great it would be to be invisible.
After they finished their game Raymond looked at me and said, “Would you really like to be invisible?”

“Would I? You bet I would. It would be great. I could walk in to the shops and take comics and ice creams and drinks and no one would know who it was.”

With that Raymond left the room. He came back about two minutes later with a large white jar and a medium sized mirror that used to hang on some hooks in the bathroom It was about two feet tall by one foot wide (60cms x 30cms).

“Come and sit here,” said Raymond as he placed the jar on the table and Maurie rested the mirror against some books. I sat down. Raymond slowly turned the large white jar around and I was amazed to read on the side of the jar in big black print, “Vanishing Cream.”

“Are you sure that you really want to be invisible?” asked Maurie.

“You can be if you want to,” added Raymond.

Suddenly, I wasn’t so sure. I was looking incredulously at the jar of Vanishing Cream. Raymond and Maurie were telling me that if I smeared it on my face it would disappear. “It is vanishing cream. Just put it on your face,”

Raymond also urged me to “Put on the cream and it will vanish.” Now, though, I was not too sure at all. In the picture the Invisible Man had gone crazy. Maybe this was not such a good idea.

“Well just put some cream on your nose and see what happens,” said Raymond.

“I think he’s too scared to do it,” said Maurie, using what I found out many years later was called reverse psychology. Well, that was true. Maurie was right. Too right, I was scared, but I did not want my idols to think I lacked courage so I put my finger into the vanishing cream and applied it to the tip of my nose.

"Now rub it in,” said Raymond. I rubbed it in, waiting for my nose to disappear. But it didn’t.
Raymond and Maurie were killing themselves laughing.

“See,” said Maurie. “You rubbed it in and now it has vanished.

“No it hasn’t,” I said, putting my finger on my still very visible nose.

“Not your nose. The cream. The cream has vanished. That’s why they call it Vanishing Cream.”
My cousins burst out laughing again. I was glad I had made my cousins happy. I was even more glad that my face had not vanished.

P.S. I am not sure if they still sell Ponds Vanishing Cream but in those days it was what my mother and my aunties used to try and make their wrinkles vanish. It didn’t work for them, either.