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A bushfire focuses the mind. Trees crackle, embers rain. People with a hose in their hands and a home to protect speak plainly. As the flames engulfed our neck of the woods, the fire fighters often said "this bush isn't behaving normally". It flares up even after being hosed down. Its path is erratic, unpredictable. It seems to defy the laws of nature. One night I heard a fire fighter scream,"get out, get out!" as she herded her crew back to the trucks while flames leapt across a wide dirt road and embers soared to the sky, masking the stars and igniting the undergrowth. Experts agreed this was a new type of fire front, "one that is unstoppable and wreaks permanent damage", a bushfire out of control and redolent with menace, just like the Bush in the White House. The world at large is now well aware that America's "commander in chief" is deranged and malicious; a Caligula with nuclear weapons. That he has not been dragged from his throne kicking & screaming is a mystery to anyone not drugged by the mystic aura of his office. To the shame of millions of Australians, our own political leaders feast at his table and pledge teary allegiance. If George Bush were to appoint his horse ambassador of Australia, our Prime Minister would welcome the news. Then he would sell the idea to the electorate. Worse, most would buy it. As long as our massive coal exports keep the economy humming and the planet heating, most of us couldn't care less who runs the show. Tra la la, time to go shopping again. So often in the last few years I have watched a web-simmering horror story percolate into the mainstream ├» ┐ Ż CIA torture flights, the rape of Fallujah, lies about "rebuilding the infrastructure", use of illegal weapons, trashing habeas corpus, etc - and thought, oh, now the public will come to its senses, our politicians will apologise and resign. Nope. The killers are still at large, still smiling and pretending aggression is noble. Still kissing babies. What can we do? Shame has become part of our mental landscape. PARIS & BRITNEY, TOOLKITS & SWEAT There is no point expressing anger anymore, apparently, as I am supposed to be too mature for that and such an emotion is considered a "turn off". Instead, we are expected to care about Paris & Britney & gorge ourselves on the fruits of planetfucking - $3 toolkits, a $6 boxed set of mixing bowls, a fantastic vacuum cleaner for $107, all teased out of the earth & built from the sweat of Asian slaves. Tra la la, Christmas is coming, the icecaps are melting and Uncle Sam flogs obscene military hardware like there's no tomorrow. As the globe warms up, the blood of our rulers turns colder. Cruelty is endorsed. It doesn't matter a bit to the foreign minister, Alexander Downer, that the US uses torture "routinely and systematically" (,,1970084,00.html) in its global gulags, and that at least 460 inmates have so far been abused or murdered. Downer and Condi chortle on CNN about Australia's unbending support for US actions, no matter what, while the citizens of Baghdad are exploded, brain-drilled and shot each day, as dogs feast on the dead. "Every Iraqi wants to bomb himself because of this sh*t life", notes a recent observer, "everyone is sad and crying". It's hard to find "someone who smiles". Meanwhile, the Australian Foreign Minister is smiling, smiling at Condi, who is smiling at the cameras, the smiling Mr Downer who facilitated bribes to Saddam Hussein to buy our wheat, prior to bombing his people, no probs. Just like his father, Alexander Downer, the Australian high commissioner to London in 1964, who cheered on the bombs and the poisons we dropped on Vietnam and beyond. Just like his grandfather, Sir John Downer, QC, who in 1891 triumphantly defended a notorious exterminator of aboriginals, Constable Willshire, on multpile charges of murder (the case funded by 60 racists). After his acquittal, this serial killer re-located to a remote area and "shot a great many more Aboriginal people". click here THE POLITICS OF SURREALISM Maybe cruelty is in the Downer DNA. It's certainly endemic to the Liberal Party Cabinet. Both Prime Minister Howard and his sadistic side-kick, Attorney General Phillip Ruddock, regard 5 years solitary confinement in Guantanamo Bay as a "fair go". Whereas it is becoming obvious to even to our docile mainstream that what David Hicks got was an "unfair go". These Hicks tormentors are the ones who have decreed that aspiring immigrants to Oz should be tested on "Australian values" before being granted citizenship. Easy you might think, so long as you have mastered English and are aware that these values have flip flopped. "What's a fair go?" People treated equal under the law with a sprinkle of compassion for special cases, you might think. Wrong. "Fair go" now means no Minister gives a sh*t about your plight unless you're a tax evading scoundrel who supports the Government. We're a franchised culture now. Our values are a replica of the values of the Bush administration. How is it that one man has the right to murder citizens anywhere in the world? Caligula the First was restrained by the terrain and logistics, then murdered by his bodyguards. The lunatic in the White House plans to send more troops into the Iraqi hell-hole. If this happens, thousands more people will die. How can other nations stand by and allow this to happen? Will the UN impose sanctions on Washington? What the whole world is watching is a global gothic horror show in slow motion. A small number of white warmongers with a colonial mindset are endangering the future in order to shore up the status quo, the supply of oil and their own fortunes. They reject inconvenient truths, they usurp human rights, they bypass the law, they torture at will. The message on their Christmas cards will call for Peace in Earth and Goodwill to All, except for those being waterboarded. You can talk to a thousand people each day without finding a single person who admits to supporting the Bush agenda, so why doesn't it all fall down in a heap? That's the mystery of modern times. Everyone knows what going on, but we are much too comfortable to storm the Bastille. Easier to watch the decline and fall of the West on TV, where it provides conversational fodder for dinner parties. The morning after the bushfires had circled my home, I walked down the hill to inspect its impact. Endless acres of ancient shrubs are reduced to black sticks jutting from the ground, still smouldering. The crash of a mighty tree echoes through the valley, its limbs flying. Spread as far as the eye can see is nothing but bare rock, silvery ash and scorched earth. Is this what the end of civilisation will look like?

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Richard Neville has been a practicing futurist since 1963, when he launched the countercultural magazine, Oz, which widened the boundaries of free speech on two continents. He has written several books, including Playpower (71), the bio of a global (more...)
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