Thursday, October 5, 2017

Even murderers need a pretext. First invent the crime, then perpetrate the violence...

For some people - perhaps most in particular times and places - it is more important psychologically to belong than to tell the truth. This is one of the reasons people create and happily disseminate conspiracy theories that do not have a shred of verifiable evidence to support them. They get to belong to an insiders club who have "secret " knowledge that must be shared with the ignorant and hoodwinked. Most of these paranoid stories are a mixture of pure fiction mixed with a few cherry picked half truths for artistry's sake, to please the outright liars and provide feathering for the gullible and predisposed.

The basic stance is to attribute near omnipotent powers to a fictional "they" - Jews, Rothschilds, Bankers, 'Burgerbuilders', Zionists, George Soros - and to attribute - indeed to find -  sinister motives of control, power or profit to these actors, thus 'reexplaining' events which have either commonly accepted and prosaic explanations, or which like many things in life, have a complex array of causes, or are seemingly random and arbitrary, or whose causes - if any - are simply unknown. 
(Often the truth is we just don't know - we don't know why something happened, or didn't happen, or why things are the way they seem to be...but its not easy to sit with "I don't know.")

Attack is the best defence; how conspiracy theorists avoid taking responsibility for the consequences of their everyday actions and inactions, habits and addictions.

You can be a wife beater, a drunkard, a pedophile, a fraudster, unreliable and hence unemployable, an animal abuser, a liar and thief, numbed out, shut down, disconnected, lacking in initiative, overwhelmed by feelings of helplessness, but hitch yourself  to a conspiracy theory and suddenly no introspection is required, no ownership of the mess you have created or the pain you have buried is necessary: it's all someone else's fault. In Jungian terms your own shadow has been projected onto a fictitious other you have summoned into existence. "If the Jew did not exist" wrote Satre 60 years ago, "the anti-semite would create him." 

When you meet someone who is determined to make you wrong, no matter what, because of a psychological need of theirs, who is determined to find in the most innocent or prosaic of behaviours dark and devious purposes, no amount of goodwill, explaining, proving, open hearted sharing and transparency will shift this impulse to hold you as "wrong' and "bad"

These accusatory tales - whether backed by a state or political movement or faith group or simply created by individuals for financial gain, as in the case of Icke - always locate their originators and disseminators in a place beyond reproof: The inquisitors, the judge and jurists in Salem, the lynch mobs in the deep South, the settlers in Tasmania who hunted Aboriginals, Churches' and nazis blood libel agains Jews, The Tsarist secret police's protocols of the elders of Zion, the Stalinist - Maoist purges, the Hutus hate propoganda that preceded the slaying of 800 000 Tutsis, some elements in the Islamic world's fanciful attribution of 9/11, ISIS, Sunni - Shia secterian bloodletting  - those who point the finger and kill by word, and often later by deed - grant themselves and anyone who colludes with them moral immunity and an implied, and completely unearned "righteousness".

This dynamic is often at work in every kind of exclusionary and persecutory prejudice. Its a particularly pernicious form of stealing self esteem and the ego's self justification.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Friend or Food, Food or Friend?

The long queue of animals stretched all the way down the platform until it was lost to view. Sheep and cattle stood anxiously next to dogs, horses, pigs, ducks, chickens, and pigeons. Cats attempted not to get trod underfoot and hissed angrily at rabbits who attempted to move away from the cats....without much success. men with electric prods and whips kept the line tight, yelling and shouting in a strange language the animals did not understand.
What's going on up there a heifer asked a large bull next to him, can you see anything?
The bull shook his head irritably and blinked his bloodshot eyes. He'd not had any sleep in the cramped cattle trucks which had brought them to this barren place, which had a strange, unnerving smell in the air.
"Nothing" he lowed, "just a wall with a big gate in it."
A turkey gobbled something unintelligible. An anxious foal turned to her aunty and said
"have you seen my mamma? Its been two days and she never leaves me alone for this long."
Slowly the line inched forward.
A group of men in stained blue overalls stood next to some tables on which was a jug of water and some glasses. All the animals looked thirstily at the water, but if any of them moved towards it they immediately received a painful shock, or a blow from the whip.
When the foal arrived at the table a man roughly grabbed her head and pushed her lips back to examine her teeth.
Ow, neighed the foal, you're hurting me...but the man paid no attention.
Don't touch me said thje foal, but the man was now raising her front leg to examine her hooves.
Excuse me, said the foal, turning to a man who was also dressed in the blue overalls stood, but seemed to have a kinder face. Have you seen my mama. She's maple coloured, and about 13 hands high...
The man gave her a long look. When she spoke the foal realised it was a woman, with her long hair tied up in a net.
"To the knackery" said the woman, "he's got a fracture in the rear right leg. Next"
The foal did not understand but a sharp stinging blow made him hobble forward, towards a group of animals on the left, which included pigs, dugs, chickens, cows, some turkeys and rabbits.
Follow me, said another man, and with shouts and blows the group began to move towards a large building which did not smell very good. Men with hoses sprayed muddy water onto a thick red liquid that ran in big gutters at the side of the building.
I can't breathe said a chicken who had managed to fly up onto the broad back of a sow.   

Thursday, August 17, 2017

She made me do it officer

The Talmudic imagination: you got to love it...they boldly went where no men had gone before. One of the Taludic sages Rava ( literally 'the great one' )says in Tractate Yevamot folio 53b, that a man can never be considered forced to carry out a sex act, because an erection comes only willingly. In response Rabah, R. Chiyah and others conceive of bizarre alternative circumstances, such as a man falling from a roof with his erect penis (erect because he was planning on sex with his wife) landing in another woman's vagina. Or someone literally inserting the man's penis (erect because he planned on sex with his wife) into another woman.

Sadly, perhaps, I have not experienced either of these possibly delightful scenarios, but they cum to mind because there is another Jewish legal principle "“ones Rachmana patreh” — that the Torah does not hold a person accountable for an involuntary act. With same sex marriage on the public agenda in Australia at the moment, what is the halachic take on it? Well of course that depends on which authority you ask, and if you shop around Jewdiciously enough you will find one that confirms your world view. ( As is the case with all religions and their adherents.) So if for one individual same sex attraction is involuntary, hard-wired, genetic, then the Torah's explicit prohibition and punishing of homosexual intercourse - presumably penetration - would not apply, but would apply to someone who is bi curious and can seemingly 'choose' between hetero or homosexual relationships.

Rava's claim is that erections are always voluntary, and therefore the male who penetrates another male's body is liable for sanction and punishment. The other rabbis attempt to come up with scenarios where penetration was not a voluntary act. ( "He made me do it officer")
What has always fascinated me about these 1800 year old texts is how all subjects are discussed with equal gravitas, and how creative the arguments and counter arguments are.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Flip Flop

For the last two weeks I have had trouble starting my car. I'd be running late, rushing to get my daughter to school, my partner already long gone to her job.
Click click click click click.
"Fuck it."
"Right mushroom, we're riding our bikes to school today."
"But I don't want to ride my bike daddy, I'm tired."
"I understand pumpkin, but my car is being naughty. It won't start."
Sometimes it did. And sometimes it didn't. For a while it started four, maybe five times in a row. I got careless. I got greedy. I got over confident. I did a big shop at the nearest mall, some three  kilometers from our house.
I don't like to bother my partner, who's always busy with some major project, but I do reluctantly call her  when I have no other option. 
"I can't. I really can't. I've got meetings though to 6pm."
"But the sorbet's melting. And the fish will go off."
"I'm sorry. Maybe you can catch a bus?"
We went back that night. Eventually after numerous tries we managed to start it with jumpers.
But the next morning - a cold clear morning with the first crisp notes of winter in the air, it wouldn't start. And so it went on all of last week, and this one. Sometimes I had to ask the neighbours for help, sometimes perfect strangers.
I saw mechanic after mechanic. Their diagnoses were, to say the least, ambiguous.
"Well your alternator is charging" said one, "it might be the battery, but its hard to tell with these modern sealed batteries."
"Nope mate" said another, "its your started motor. Its sticking. Could be the battery as well. I cant say til' you book it in and we can have a proper look."
"Can you give me a rough idea of what it could cost"
"Mate minimum labour charge is just 260 and 80 an hour after that. If its the battery and the starter then parts will cost you aound 700. Plus GST on that."
"And how many hours do you guestimate?"
"To get the starter motor out is  big job.... have to remove the heat shield, and if the flex plate or flywheel have damaged teeth I'll have to remove the transmission - I'd say 6 to 8 hours."
I was unemployed at the time. Still am as a matter of fact. The car itself was a third hand one I'd picked up for a few thousand shekels. It had looked sparkly and new in the used car lot. I couldn't believe it had done over a hundred thousand kilometers. It seemed to drive fine. The honeymoon lasted two months. Then the horn suddenly stopped working. Soon afterwards the switch for the driver's electric window popped out of its slot and would not go back in. And then the trouble with starting began.
I decided to wait with the repairs. Maybe the car would miraculously cure itself.
But it didn't.
I never knew if I was going to be stuck at my destination or not. I'd take the dogs for a walk at a favourite park, and then, because the car wouldn't start, have to walk home with them - a 40 minute exercise of getting them out of other people's gardens, dawdling, sniffing, wrestling junk food packaging from their mouths that people had carelessly thrown down on the pavement.
Living with the uncertainty took its toll.
I began drinking heavily. I took ice, cocaine, steroids, vitamin pills, heroin, ecstacy , uppers, downers and diaganols. I began eating junk food obsessively, something I had not done for twenty years.
I put on 70 kilos. My joints ached. I had mysterious shooting pains down my right leg. My xcma flared up fom nowhere, and I went though tubes of cortisone cream tying to stop scratching the red and angry skin on my flabby belly. My doctor said she could find nothing wrong with my joints and that I should stop coming to see her every four days. I became suicidal. I didn't form an actual plan but I thought I and everyone around me would be better off.
I ignored my partner or snapped at her. I sat staring at the wall, my brain a heavy mush.
"Sorry sweetpea" I told our daughter, "I'm not feeling very well, maybe you can just play on you tablet instead."
I ignored the dishes in the sink. I avoided looking at the laundy in the laundry basket. The dogs didn't get walked. Other than my partner calling to check in on me my phone never rang, but if it had I wouldn't have answered it.
The days were gray and the nights filled with sleepless worry. I lay in bed next to my snoring partner,  seeing the last of our savings being spent on buying another car. I saw endless hassles tying to sell the lemon I had bought. I wouldn't even get half of what I'd paid for it. I was good at spending money but useless at making it. I imagined being car-less and having to use public transport. Visions of long waits at bus stops or trudging home from another failed job-interview pursued me. This was the beginning of the end. I should never have bought that car. Just one more proof of my incompetency. Scenting weakness, the sellers had taken advantage of me. Story of my life.
"Why don't you speak to Grant" said my counsellor, who I saw off and on, "he's my auto electrician. He's honest."
I went to see Grant. I had nothing left to lose.
"Its your battery" he said, "definitely. Just start the engine again please sir, and rev it a few times.
Yes, no doubt about it. Your starter motor's fine. Its all good. I can fit the battery right now."
One hundred and fifty shekels. That was all. And when I tuned the key the car immediately and obediently shuddered into life. And with it I too shuddered back into life. In that moment a huge burden was taken off my shoulders. I noticed that the sky was blue. Even though it was an industrial area I heard some birdsong. I looked at Grant with adoring puppy eyes and silently wished him a long and blessed life.
As I drove home, wind blowing in my thinning hair, the audio belting out some good times music, I felt reborn. What  a difference a heavy plastic box about 25X10X15cms could make. New energy. New flow. Possibility. To go to wherever I needed to go. It was a simple as that.  I was in motion again, empowered, free to find work and get my life in order
"I'll fetch you from school" I texted my daughter, "how about we take the dogs to Goloolies farm, and get some yummy pancakes there."
And on the way I stopped to get some flowers for my wife. I was maxing out the credit card but who cared? The future was rosy.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Our new toilet

Not to shabby eh Nige?


Sunday, April 23, 2017


Even before they had turned the corner Ella would pick up speed and begin running. The big tan wolfhound cross with the lion-like mane looked fearsome. People with small dogs steered away from her, only to have her sidle up to them and - most times -  give their dog a polite sniff before rubbing herself affectionately against the owner. But now Ella was in full fighting mode, and by the time they reached the green gate her head was down, tail up, teeth barred, and the hair on the back of her neck bristling. The white dog was already there, snarling and snapping and barking almost as loudly as Ella. 

The two of them would lunge at each other through the gate, repeatedly, so that the gate banged and anyone who happened to be in the street turned to stare and see what the commotion was about. This would go on for two or three minutes, as snouts tried to push themselves through the narrow gap at the bottom of the gate. Slobber flew, intermingled with ferocious barking and growling.

"Calm down", he had told her, but she took no notice. Whatever ancient ritual she was tuned into was much louder than his half-hearted command. So he allowed it. Let them work it out of their system, he told himself. Perhaps the fight provided the white dog with the only stimulation it had all day. He couldn't tell. Certainly all its pent-up frustration and boredom seemed to come pouring out when Ella came by, invading its territory and showing no respect.

"Better separate them" said a delivery man who was dropping a parcel off at a neighbouring house. "or they'll kill each other." 

That was hardly possible, with the gate between them, but they did manage to injure each other and themselves.  One time he heard the other dog whimper, a high-pitched yelp, and afterwards there was some white fur on Ella's cheek. Another time Ella managed to cut herself on a bit of wire that was sticking out from a corner of the gate. And a week later the white dog managed to grab Ella's lip and it bled profusely for an hour or so afterwards. It didn't seem to bother her. Pleased as punch, she left the gate and followed him down the street, satisfied with a job well done. One of her big floppy V shaped ears had got folded back on top of her head, and he gently flipped it down, so that, as she trotted along beside him, they flapped loosely, like miniature hairy angel wings. 

He avoided the house the next day, crossing over to the other side of the street. Ella charged across the road anyway, and once again the dogs snapped and snarled at each other for what seemed like a long time as he fumbled with her collar, eventually slipping the lead on and dragging her away.

For a while their daily walks followed a different route. But a month later he absentmindedly set out in the wrong direction, and before he knew it Ella was tearing down the street and the two dogs were at it again. He let them be. For the white dog’s sake. Ella’s lip had healed, and as long as the gate was there they couldn’t seriously harm each other. So the snapping-snarling-barking match again became a daily fixture.

Then one day, Ella charged as usual, long before they turned the corner. By the time she got to the gate, bum in the air and forequarters low so that she could get her snout down to the gap, she should have been met by another snout and some bared teeth. But there was no snout, no teeth, no one to lunge at. Ella barked and sniffed, but no one came. She lifted her head and cocked it to one side, listening. She gave another short little bark, and waited. The bark disappeared into the noise of the traffic, without any answering bark to complete it. She cocked her hear to the other side, scratched at the gate, waiting expectantly.

He walked to the front gate, the house looked forlorn and bare, unoccupied. The shoes normally parked on the front porch were not there. Perhaps the residents had relocated, together with the dog. He hoped so, and that they hadn't just abandoned it. Either way, the snout, and its owners, were gone.

Unchallenged, now sole queen of the street, Ella reluctantly sidled after him. And if a dog can look mournful, she did.

Saturday, March 18, 2017