Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Its for your own Good 3 and 4 - To serve and protect

Its for your own good Part 4.
Who will protect us from the police, with their boyish, pack dog enthusiasm? http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/i-didnt-think-the-man-would-die-says-taser-witness-20120319-1vfuf.html
Its for your own good part 3

On February 2nd 2009 Gemma Thoms reportedly swallowed several ecstasy tablets while attending a music festival, mistakenly believing they would be detected by drug dogs.

Gemma, a 17-year-old trainee hairdresser, died after collapsing in 36C heat at the festival, held at Perth's Claremont Showground on Sunday.

Her friends have told police that before entering the venue, she panicked and swallowed three ecstasy tablets she was carrying because she feared the drugs would be detected by police dogs.

NSW Greens MP Sylvia Hale said she had repeatedly warned governments about the likelihood of a death similar to that of Ms Thoms if sniffer dogs continued to be used at such events.

She said a 2006 report by the NSW Ombudsman had concluded the dogs were ineffective.

But West Australian police today said Ms Thoms had nothing to fear as there were no drug detection dogs at the festival, apart from dogs being used by railway police at the Showground rail station.

``There may have been a perceived fear of being detected,'' Inspector Wayne Silver told AAP.

See earlier posts on this subject

Time for a Second Jewish State?

In the unlikely event that the Palestinians will genuinely revoke their triumphalism and Islamic supremacism, it would take the wind out of the sails of the Israeli right and their triumphalism and Jewish supremacism. Who will have the courage and good fortune to blink first?
(I must, perhaps defensively, contextualise this and add that there are at least 16 avowedly Islamic nation states, and another 35 countries where Islam is the majority religion and cultural backdrop (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Muslim-majority_countries) collectively covering an area of more than 15 million square kilometers and with a population of 1.3 billion, as contrasted with Israel's population of 7 miilion (of which 80% is Jewish) and land area of 22,145 sq.km (smaller than the Kruger Park.) The miniscule space Israel occupies physically vs the psychic space it takes up in so many people's preoccupations is one of the strangest aspects of the collective modern psychosis. Of course none of this makes me feel better about Jewish vandals and terrorists defacing mosques and churches, or who threaten and seek to harm other Jews who think differently from them.
Perhaps it is time for a 2nd Jewish state in Uganda or Southern India? That way if Iran destroys the current one, there will still be a place for surviving Jews to take refuge. Your thoughts?

Monday, February 20, 2012

When Adar enters, we boogey

As we enter the celebratory month of Adar, its a great opportunity to interrogate our moribund notions of causality, and to step once again beyond mental constructs into the flow of life. This is the message of the injunction - ad shelo yada - a person must become so drunk that they can no longer splittheworld into opposing parts, but go beyond to the essential unity where all serves the Holy One, blessed be They.

Purim – and the Hebrew month of Adar – is all about the hidden connections between things. The butterfly effect. Everything in the story of Esther happens kevyachol coincidentally. Bemikre. Follow the coincidences.

All of us are Queen Esther’s – heroes saving the day.

One last thing. The Hebrew word mikreh – incident, something that happens, when reversed spells hashem rakam - G-d has woven….


I think not. (But, of course, better not to think at all)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Critiquing Progressive Judaism

The way progressive Judaism works (and I magine it would be similar for liberal Catholic churches etc) is that it takes emerging modern mores that its demographic identifies with, and then tries to find textual sources to show that these emerging mores are grounded ina historical and traditional Jewish approach.

So, for example, with enviromentalism and environmental stewardship becomng increasingly trendy and PC, people found the biblical commandment "Baal tashchit" (You shall not wantonly destroy) to attach to, and from this lone and lonely verse produced a huge megillah about how Judaism disaproves of plastic bags, 4 X 4s, printing out your emails and leaving the lights on (i.e lets perform a seris of tokenistic actions to show we're conforming to baal taschit even though the fundamentals of our lives, economy etc are still based on the basic paradox of being embodied - the need to destroy in order to sustain our bodies.)

In a similar way those against the brutalities of factory farming and cosmetic testing will cite the principal of tzaar baalei chayim. Those who are championing a sexual egalitarianism will cast around for powerful female prototypes in the literature - Ruth, Dvora, Yael, Sarah, rebecca , Rivka, Bruria, Rashi's daughters and grandaughters, and thoe who are championing socuial justice causes beyond the Jewish community can find a range of commandments and Tanachik verses which extol the virtue of protecting and supporting society's weekest members.

So what's wrong with this? Nothing in particular, except that its highly selective....all the verses and sources that don't agree with these modern mores are ignored, or have to be defused. So explicit prohibitions against same sex intercourse are recontextualised as only referring to promiscuousness, but monagomous ( or even better serially monagomous) relationships are permissable.

Other commandments are passed over as optional - for example -

To recite grace after meals (Deut. 8:10) See Birkat Ha-Mazon: Grace After Meals

or are ignored or disowned because they make detribalised Jews uncomfortable or afraid they will be accused of all the things Jews have indeed been accused of for eg:

not to intermarry with gentiles (Deut. 7:3) See Interfaith Marriages.

To exact the debt of an alien (Deut. 15:3) or, in plain English,

To lend to an alien at interest (Deut. 23:21) - although this is debated in the Talmud, in tractate Makot, where one opinion holds that the obvious common humanity of a Jew and a non-Jew means that ifinterest is regularly taken on a loan to a non-Jew, the lender may come to do the same thing with the in group, and expect interest to be paid by Jewish borrowers as well.

Other awkward anachronistic commandments are just ignored altogether, invisibilised, as their connection to modernity cannot be fathomed. For example:

That a eunuch shall not marry a daughter of Israel (Deut. 23:2)
That the woman suspected of adultery shall be dealt with as prescribed in the Torah (Num. 5:30)
That a widow whose husband died childless must not be married to anyone but her deceased husband's brother (Deut. 25:5) (this is only in effect insofar as it requires the procedure of release below).
To marry the widow of a brother who has died childless (Deut. 25:5) (this is only in effect insofar as it requires the procedure of release below )
That the widow formally release the brother-in-law (if he refuses to marry her) (Deut. 25:7-9)
Not to castrate the male of any species; neither a man, nor a domestic or wild beast, nor a fowl (Lev. 22:24)

This is understandable. people want to belong, and to reduce cognitive dissonance (disidents?) Secular Jews want to participate, do participate in the broader goings on of the cultures they interact with and are also part of. (Fundamentalist Jews, by contrast, have a much stronger pull towards their coherent in groups, and the loss of non-participation is easily outweighed by the sense of belonging and purpose bestowed by membership of the in group.)

This selectivity makes the progressive position tenuous, malleable, ripe with internal contradiction and arbitrariness so that each person does as right in their eyes, and religion is just called in to add weight and respectability to their personal proclivities (often shared by others who have similar proclivities).

Or am I missing something?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ten things I love about Australia

1) Radio National: what great conversations are had on this great quality radio station! Listen in on

2) SBS (with a few reservations, when they're not busy spreading anti-Jew stereotypes)

3) The support that is available for families who have special needs children, amazing structures are in place here

4) The time warp feel of some aspects of life here, which gives it the superficial veneer of being like South Africa in the 1970s, when I grew up. So here you can still find local corner cafes, paternalistic and punitive cops, rednecks, prejudices of all kinds and persuasions, parks with people kicking a ball around that are not strewn with broken glass (as many South African parks sadly became) etc.
And there are radio stations here which only play an endless stream of 70s pop and rock, so even the soundtrack is right.

5) The entrenched conservativism, which is as much a blessing as it is a curse.

6) the cycle pathways in Melbourne

7) That Kevin Rudd made an apology to the elder inhabitants of this land, and that the wrongs done them are slowly being redressed

8) the efficiency of many government departments - you can get a passport here in 10% of the time it takes to get one in SA, and tax rebates are paid promptly and efficiently.

9) That narrative therapy - Michael White - developed here (or near here, if we're talking about New Zealander David Epston)

Australia likes to see its people arrange themselves in teams and then herd themselves around in groups, preferably in public places.

10) its blessed "parochialism", which is a sanctimonious way of saying that most Australians have the good sense not to be interested in stuff that happens outside of tehir own back yard or that does not directly impact on their pockets

Monday, February 13, 2012

Being about our business

Many human beings are preoccupied with two big questions:

How can I make myself (and the extended self of family, tribe, people) safe


How can I make myself feel good about my self? (Strategies can include everything from liposuction to philanthropy)

To the extent that faith traditions effectively address these two questions, and provide partially effective answers to them, they remain relevant.

The therapist as parent...yes, but also sometimes the therapist as witness, modelling for the client how it is to be with what arises, without acting out or suppressing, just gently meeting, being with, seeing - "the seeing is the doing" (Krishnamurti)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Twelve things they don't tell you about Sydney before immigration

1) Lice infestations are a regular occurence at Sydney schools - they love the moist warm climate, and we've had at least 10 delousing sessions in our home.

2)Australian drivers have never heard of turning right from the middle of the road, so if you want to go left you have to patiently wait even tho' you could have gone five minutes ago if the d-ckheads in front of you would move over 5 cms

3)You may have to take a number and wait in a queue even just to buy a pair of shoes, as happened to us on our last school shoe shopping expedition

4)The police and justice systems can be incredibly petty, punitive, inflexible and myopic, and are often about income generation or power as protecting and serving citizerns. Take one small example: On the 19th of May 2012 we decided to pull our bicycles out of the garage where they had been gathering dust for six months or so. We put on our old bike rack and drove to Centennial Park. Inside we dove along at 15km/h looking for a parking space when a siren went on behind us and we noticed a flashing light. We pulled over and a highway policeman emerged and told us that our bikes were obscuring our license plate and he couldn't read the B and the P at the beginning and end of the plate. He explained that this was a violation and that the plate needed to be on the bikes. I said - truthfully - that we had been using the bike rack for 4 1/2 years (and had driven to parks and campsites all over and outside of Sydney) and had never been stopped or been told this before. He disappeard into his car and emerged a few minutes later with a $353 fine. I was suitably shocked and depressed as was my wife. "Its punitive" I said to him,"if someone had just told us it was not allowed we would have taken apropriate action. Now, out of the blue we suddenly get this huge fine. Can't you just give us a warning?"
"No there's nothing I can do" he reassured us, "the best advice I can give you is to write to the state debt recovery service and see if you can get it changed to a caution." And hedrove off, leaving us to enjoy our Saturday afternoon cycle. And there you have it Ladies and Gentleman - the incorruptable and fearless nature of the boys in blue! 

5) Mainstream Australia is terrified of emotional depth, complexity and ambiguity, so an affirmitive response to a request you make will be closely followed by a declarative "no worries" or "no dramas" - not that anything you said was likely to give rise to worry or drama. When a young Australian is going to send you an email they "just flick it over to you." All is sweetness and light and civility, the repressed and dark angry underbelly generally only emerges when sufficient alcohol has been imbibed, or groups of young men or women find themselves together and the nanny state (in the form of teachers/police etc) is temporarily hidden.

A while back there was an outraged article in an Australian Tabloid about Indian call centre workers who had been told that "Australians dote on their dogs, they're lazy, they love sport, and there's no point in phoning them on a Friday night because they'll all be drunk." No comment.

5)Even tho you have no intention of procreating with the guy at the garage or cash register, he'll still call you mate - and this holds true even if he's only been here a short whil a few days from Iran or Afghanistan or Bangladesh, because everyone wants to be accepted into Australianess (= the Anglo Celtic stereotype thereof)

6) Capitalism and inauthentic relationships based on commodification are more matured here then they are in South Africa, so commercial interactions will often be sealed with a ghastly and synthetic "enjoy your day". That this is generally proffered sincerely is even worse, indicating ho conditioned people are in this society and how alienated from anything that they call deviance and I call living pathlessly (with a nod to Krishnamurti). As for calls to call centres where humans transformed into automatons follow ghastly scripts and you are processed like a sausage by the plodding machinery of corporate idiocy, the synthetic nature of these interactions would be enough to make poets and gurus weep out of compassion for the victims on both end of the line (or signal in these digital days.)

7)Service is non-existent in many large Australian retailers, or incoherent, or unbelievably slow. In general the wheels turn slowly here, except for tax rebates, which ar processed remarkably quickly, so yarmulkes off to the Australian Tax Office for both fleecing and clothing us with remarkable efficiency. In general getting a passport or a mediacare (national health insurance) rebate is incredibly quick and efficient compared to the developing world nightmare of South Africa. But almost everyone in Sydney seems time poor, and most things (commutes, shops, finding parking, public transport, school days, work, finding who to complain to) take an inordinately long time.

8) Sydney housing is amongst the most expensive in the world, and many lower middle class families spend more than 50% of their incom on exorbitant rents or exorbitant mortgages.

9)Australia is one of the most regulated countries in the world and nothing happens here without a plethora of red tape. If you are an entrepreneur, don't expect to make easy money; all the loopholes are plugged, and many many hard working and capable middle class professionals an entrepreneurs struggle to save or to grow their worth.

10) The big four banks here often put up their rates on mortgages even when the Repo rate has not gone up, and what's more, when the repo rate falls the banks Commonwealth, ANZ (infamous for its financing of coal fired power stations) NAB and St George don't pass on the rate cuts to their clients - they care more about their shareholders than their customers, which I guess is how mature capitalism works. (So you 'have' to become a shareholder yourself if you don't want to get too screwed.)

Another strange and blighted thing which emblifies the inflexible in-the box systems based approach here is that if you are self employed it is much more difficult to get a mortgage, and you have to provide a lot of info to get one, even if you can show you have been paying rent consistently for four or five years, rent greater than your proposed mortgage repayments will be.

By contrast if you are formally employed, and can produce 3 or 4 current payslips, its quite easy to get a mortgage, even though you may be retrenched or fired or resign the day after getting the mortgage, and be unable to make the repayments.

Pirkei Banim; Ethics of the Sons

Immanuel used to say: the more thought, the more anxiety, the more pleasure, the more pain, the more pretence, the more tiredness, the more yoga, the more flexibility, the more laughter the more tears, the more laughter and tears, the more better years

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Monday, February 6, 2012


We resent when we are trying to protect
the things that we love
(like our dignity or autonomy)
it often doesn't do the job
very well

Single pointedness

ז רֵאשִׁית חָכְמָה, קְנֵה חָכְמָה; וּבְכָל-קִנְיָנְךָ, קְנֵה בִינָה.

The beginning of wisdom is to acquire wisdom
and with every skilled means you have
to gain understanding

Proverbs 4:7


Prayer to be said upon making a mistake: "Thank you G?d/Life for creating the opportunity for me to learn now what was needed to be learnt now."

As a footnote to this, re the word "need". Most human needs are really wants, and shallowly articulated wants at that - we often articulate only the tip of the want not its more fundamental root.

The only context that the use of the word "need" is unconditionally justified is the context of reality - what "needs"to happen is what actually happens - if I find freedom now it needed to happen, if I lose what I assumed was "mine it needed to happen. How do I know it needed to happen? Because it did. As Byron Katie says "You can argue with G?d and you'll only lose 100% of the time."

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Imagine if wheat got a warning:
now hear this
in 10 hours you will be cut off at the roots
taken from your moist earth fields of gold
and baked to brown in ovens

imagine if cows got a warning:
now hear this
in 10 hours men with prods
that sting like wasps
will bother you to crowd together
for a long thirsty journey
in a cattle truck
to a place that smell of blood and dung
where shuddering one by one
what's done is done

Imagine if the Jews got a warning
now hear this
in 10 hours you will be cut off at the roots
taken from the muddy streets and thin lipped forests
and cathedral cut throat towns
crowded together
for a long thirsty journey
in a cattle truck
to a place where something smells wrong
men and women
with guns and dogs
will crowd you together
one after one
bake you in ovens
and what's done is done

On three truths the ''world' stands

1) Nothing is forbidden
2)Nothing is advised
3)Nothing is free

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Categorising people

(I first saw this sign at Paul and Kathi Ingles, solid More To Life folk that we were friendly with in the second half of the 90's.)