You don't have to understand the world. You just have to find your own way around in it. - Albert Einstein

Saturday, 26 January 2013

on Invasion Day

How can you 'celebrate' the armed invasion and occupation of the Australian continent for penal slavery and the attempted genocide of the Aboriginal peoples?

For me and many other Australians, today, January 26, is a day of mourning, and we call it Invasion Day. The myth of Australia Day was just one of those lies we were taught by society for the purpose of suppressing its true history. Like I said on December 25th, there's no fucking way I'm going to celebrate that.

By the time I was twelve years old, I was pretty well educated for a kid, and a star student. But still, after 8 years of public school education, my understanding of the 'settlement of Australia' was that it went pretty much like this -

Captain Cook discovered Australia and turned up with a boatload of convicts on January 26, 1788. When they got there, there were Aborigines living there. However, they weren't really people, they were actually just native Australian animals, so it was okay for the British Government to declare the land 'Terra Nullis.' The Aborigines were quite chuffed with the white people coming along and bringing them things like blankets, mirrors, iron nails and beads. They couldn't understand how they had survived the last 200,000+ years without them, and were so happy that they just tripped off into the desert of their own accord and left the arable coastal lands for the new white people to found their glorious cities. That was why we all got a public holiday and had a barbeque lunch on January 26 each year.

In year 9 at school, the year I was fourteen, I had Mrs. S for History class, and Year 9 was reserved for Australian history. Until then, we had been learning in great detail about ancient civilisations and Asian history. I knew all about the wonders of Mesopotamia, I could debate the possible uses for Stonehenge throughout history and list centuries' worth of dynasties of the feudal system in Japan, and I knew all about how the Indonesians won independence from the Dutch - but I still had the 'peaceful settlement' story for my own country's history. Mrs. S had lived in the Northern Territory among Aboriginal communities had and seen all those things I never had. She didn't pull any punches. She blew the 'peaceful settlement' story wide open and told us the truth. It was a horrible story, with guns and slaughter and genocide and epidemics and dislocation and theft and forced assimilation and slavery and rape and abduction. I finally learned the truth of White Australia and its black history. I spent those classes in deep thought of the implications of what I was learning, while the other kids giggled because they'd noticed that Mrs. S had neglected to shave her underarms.

Actually, I've spent years contemplating those implications, and I'm still working on it.

At first, I resisted any sense of responsibility. When Mrs. S said "...we did these things..." I wanted to say no, not we. I didn't do any of those things. I wasn't there, and if I were, I wouldn't have done those terrible things to Aborigines. Surely, it should be they who did those things, not we. It took me a long time to understand the parameters of generational responsiblity, in which I continue to benefit from a system which my ancestors established.


Indigenous Australians have a life expectancy that is 17 years less than that of non-Indigenous Australians.

 Indigenous Australians are hugely over-represented in Australian prison populations. In 2008, Indigenous Australians made up 28% of the prison population, and 48% of juveniles in custody were Indigenous, while Indigenous people represented only 2.3% of the Australian population.

Indigenous women are five times more likely than non-Indigenous women to die in childbirth, and double the proportion of Indigenous babies are of low birth weight compared to non-Indigenous babies.

Indigenous students are only half as likely to continue schooling to Year 12 compared to non-Indigenous students, and only one-fifth as likely to earn a graduate degree.

Aboriginal children are 7 times more likely to experience childhood sexual abuse than non-Aboriginal Australians.

Aboriginal women living in traditional communities or remote areas are 45 times more likely to experience domestic violence than their white peers.

The unemployment rate for Aboriginal people is around three times the rate for non-Aboriginal Australians.

The truth is, I am living on stolen land. Every single social or economic benefit that has ever been afforded me as an Australian citizen is a privilege that was provided by an economy based entirely on stolen land and stolen resources, which were procured by an aggressive military invasion. Gubba guilt* much? Oh yeah. I had it bad for a long time. I wanted to renounce my Australian citizenship. I wanted to commit suicide and address my suicide note to John Howard (the Prime Minister, not the actor), explaining that I could not continue to participate in an illegal government.

*(Australian lingo note: Gubba is an Aboriginal term meaning 'whitefella.' Gubba guilt is the Australian brand of the 'colonial guilt' experienced by Europeans all over the New World.)

Obviously, I didn't do any of those things. I'm still working on appropriate ways to express my anger at the injustice of this situation. For today, I'm writing a blog post.

Midnight Oil  says it so beautifully, and ROCKS at the same time -

The time has come 
to say fair's fair 
to pay the rent
to pay our share

The time has come 
a fact's a fact 
it belongs to them
let's give it back.

And all those people who are celebrating today, getting pissed on European-style alcoholic drinks (that ruin the people), and stuffing themselves with the meat of introduced, hard-hooved, commercially farmed animals (that ruin the land), I would just like to say - Why don't you just fuck off back to where you came from?

Yes, I mean that as a rhetorical question. But still, I like to ask that question of white Australians, just to remind us all who the 'boat people' were in the first place, and that the Aboriginal people never gave up sovereignty.

Special thanks to my friend Mr. E for permission to adapt one of his protest placard messages from the 1980's into the first sentence of this post.

Friday, 25 January 2013

of Treasure Found - at the Op Shops

Some beautiful things that I've found at the op shops today, or lately, or maybe a while ago. The point is, I got around to taking photos of them.

A set of art cards with artwork by Sandy Mein, copyright 1992, made in Australia, printed on 100% recycled paper. $2.

Floral print cushion with velvet trim, $2.

This delightful, charmingly vintage set of picture puzzle blocks. $2.

Goldilocks blocks. Goldiblocks?

The contents are complete and in wonderful condition. Six different images can be made from the six sides of each block arranged together.

Lovely maroonish handbags. Left, by Olga Berg, right, by Modapelle, $3 each.

I have to show you the detail of the embossing on this one.

The contents of this little ceramic bowl are guarded by a ring of six pixies. $5.

Each little handcrafted pixie face has its own personality. Sometimes I wonder if a couple of those personalities might not be a bit creepy, actually.

Trio of amethyst glass vases, up to $3.50 each.


Sunday, 6 January 2013

Around the Traps

As I surf and stumble around these here Internets, I find things. Sometimes, I find extraordinary things, ridiculously beautiful things, and things that can change the way you see the world. Sometimes, my heart leaps, or a shiver goes down my spine. I want to share these things with you. Here are some that I've come across lately.

* Oh, how I would love one of these real-life hobbit houses.

* An anatomically accurate kimono called Silk Me Back.

* A lesson in perspective from children not looking at modern art.

* A beautiful short film (just under 10 minutes) called The Invention of Love by Andrey Sushkov.

* The actions and words of one awesome kid brought tears to my eyes. And again when I read it through a second time. Bonus points to the awesome parents for supporting him to do this. Could there be hope for humanity yet?

Friday, 4 January 2013

of the Garden, and Things I Made with Things that Grew There

I went out early today to give the garden a good drink before it got hot. According to the weather website, it's 41.6 degrees Celsius right now. That's over a hundred degrees in the old money. Positively ghastly.

(Question. Why doesn't my keyboard have a degrees symbol? It would be most useful.)

This morning, I harvested my first ever zucchini that I've grown myself. I was soooo excited. It's a yellow zucchini, because differently coloured vegetables are more fun. I'm sure I feel as proud of it as if it were a baby.

But it's not a baby. It's a zucchini. So I cut it up into tiny pieces and cooked it.

I think we'll call today's creation Yellow Zucchini and Corn Fritters. Yum.

And there's plenty more where that came from.

Last full moon, the sky was clear and the light was bright. It was a perfect time for harvesting some magickal herbs. In particular, the sage and the lemon balm were getting a bit unruly and crowding out some of their less assertive neighbours, so I cut them right back, harvesting all the mature growth and leaving the new shoots to grow back.

Now I have home-made smudge sticks from home-grown sage.

I wonder how many pots of lemon balm tea this will work out to be? Or I would love to try making the triple lemon balm tincture described in this article here by Susun S. Weed.

I made these herbal charms to be placed under the four corners of one's mattress, to encourage peaceful, restful sleep and to protect one from nightmares. Each one contains a sprig each of the following, all from my backyard.
white violet - Viola blanda
sage - Salvia officinalis
rosemary - Rosmarinus officinalis
lemon balm - Melissa officinalis
German chamomile - Chamomilla recutita
California poppy - Eschscholzia californica

Each bundle is bound thirteen times with red thread, and tied in knots thrice thrice.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy New Numbers Day

People who are prone to listening to my rants and rambles will soon notice that I'm quite particular about which holidays and celebrations I will endorse and practice. I feel the need to investigate the history, etymology, and social and political implications of the recognition and practice of a holiday, and make an informed choice as to whether that is a tradition that I want to uphold in my life. So what about New Year's Day?

The basic idea of celebrating a new year, as defined by the revolution of our planet around the sun, is a perfectly understandable thing for humans to want to do. Exactly which point at which to define one year as ended and a new one begun is something we can all disagree on for ourselves. There have been many different systems of reckoning the passing of time and the seasons used throughout different periods of history, by different cultures. They are all valid from the perspective of their culture, but still, we can see that it's really very useful to have one system that we can all use all over the world, simply for the purposes of basic communication. The forces of political power and history have created a modern, global society which uses the Gregorian calendar. It's not the one that I would have voted for if I'd been there, or if there'd been a vote. But it's what we have, and it's just too fundamental to the functioning of society to live outside of its constructs.

The calendar and our system of naming dates is something I use a lot in my life. I couldn't function properly in this society without it. Like most literate, socially active people, I find myself writing, typing and thinking about dates a lot. I do, indeed, have a mental construct of time based on the calendar, although I recognise that other systems of reckoning time may be valid. Yes, the calendar is a fact of life, whether I like it or not - and so, of course, the best thing to do in such situations is find something to like about it. The best thing about dates, for me, is simply that they are numbers.

I love numbers. I've always had an affinity with numbers and mathematics. I loved maths classes so much in school. I would take my seat at the start of the class, put down my head, take up my pen, and... whoosh. Quite suddenly I would enter a trance state and lose all sense of time. The sound of the bell ringing to mark the end of class time woke me up, and I would see that I had filled several pages of paper with neat lines of strings of numbers and mathematical symbols. And I loved those pages, I even loved just looking though them afterwards. My god, I loved numbers. I felt that maths was a language, a language that I could understand better than human interactions, and that could understand me, a pure language that was beyond all the inconsistencies of life. I remember walking through the school grounds between classes, wondering - where did numbers come from? It was clear to me that people hadn't just made numbers up. Numbers clearly have a reality unto themselves independent of humans. If people had never existed, whatever form the world could have taken, there would have been numbers. They might not be called by the same names, or symbolised in the same ways, but the reality of a quantitive system is immutable.

Numbers and maths were the only things in the world that were not artificial, man-made. I saw that maths was the language of God, that my pages of equations were the story of the unfolding of creation itself. I even wondered whether or not perhaps humans had come about simply because the numbers desired a vehicle through which to express themselves.

This was the sort of stuff that was occupying my mind through most of my early teens. In retrospect, no wonder I didn't have any friends.

So for me, the New Year is mostly about new numbers. We reset the calendar clock and start counting from 1 again. We get to write a new number in  the year space when writing the date. The New Year is when I get a new diary. And that is such a treat!

That might have been my second favourite thing about school, after the maths - the stationery. Getting a new diary at the start of each year... well, okay, I know it's ultimately arbitrary and meaningless, but it's so exciting. Or maybe it's just me...

The last few years I've bought a new appointment book/diary each year, a few days after New Year when everything is marked down. It's one of the few things that I was still buying new each year rather than using something second-hand, and I thought I could push the Buy Nothing New envelope just a little further this time. I found this adorable duo, just my vintage, in the op shop.

The pages don't have dates marked on them, so you can use it any year and fill in the dates to the appropriate days yourself. The little 19 in the corner where you're supposed to write in the year makes me smile. I used to wonder, when I was a kid, what would happen to all those documents marked with a permanent 19 when the millenium kicked over. Now I know. They still exist, and they look old-fashioned. That's about it.

An extra special bonus feature is the gilt-edged pages that sparkle like glitter as you flick through the pages. Like I said, adorable.

And yes, I really do need an address book. I had drifted over to digital in the last several years, but a recent experience with my phone going for a swim in a handbag full of juice was a sharp reminder of the falliability of the digital information age. If I were going to have a New Year's Resolution, I think it would have to be to write down phone numbers again, like we did in the old days. And of course, I do so love things that are numbers.

So, the best way for a numbers geek to celebrate the New Year - by watching the countdown. Any countdown will do, as long as I get to see the numbers ticking over.

I do have a fondness for the number 13. So here's to the New Year!