Riots - the language of the unheard

2011 - Volume 14 Number 3

In the scramble to comprehend London’s August riots, almost every commentator opened with a ritual condemnation of the violence.

There was no doubt that arson, muggings and lootings are ugly occurrences. But it just seemed too easy to dismiss it all as mindless and needless, opportunistic theft and violence, ‘pure criminality’, or the work of a ‘violent minority’.

A reasonably objective view of Britain’s political landscape and the civil unrest witnessed in Britain would suggest that the responsibility lay exactly where it always has since the beginning of ‘civilisation’: the leaders responsible for the society they have helped to create.

It is no coincidence that this violence in London takes place against the backdrop of a global economy poised for free fall. John Kenneth Galbraith has set out the causes of recession: bad income distribution, a business sector engaged in ‘corporate larceny’, a weak banking structure and an import/export imbalance. With no jobs and no sense of a future – a human catastrophe was waiting to happen!

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Insidious Violence - Depleted Uranium Weapons

2011 - Volume 14 Number 2

The 2004 US assault on the small Iraqi town of Fallujah was one of the most horrific war crimes of our time. And yet today, another war continues daily in Fallujah. The populace is gripped by a stealthy killer - a slow and silent violence where the best medical advice given to young women is: ‘Do not have babies!’.

An average of three babies are born daily with severe deformities. Many are stillborn, others live a few hours, and most who survive live for only a few months because of their severe abnormalities. A new study, ‘Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005–2009,’ showed higher rates of cancer, leukemia, infant mortality, and sexual mutations than recorded among atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The prevalence of these conditions in Fallujah at levels many times higher than in nearby nations proves that a high proportion of the weaponry used in the US assault on Fallujah contained depleted uranium, a radioactive substance used in shells to increase their effectiveness. Fallujah provides us with stark evidence as to the urgent need for a treaty to ban depleted uranium weapons.

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Disaster Capitalism

2011 - Volume 14 Number 1

The concept of ‘disaster capitalism’ was conceived by extreme neoliberals at the University of Chicago dedicated to eliminating the public sphere so that business would be free and unfettered; and almost all social spending cease.

It feeds on the misery suffered by people whether in war, terrorism, natural catastrophes, poverty, trade sanctions and market crashes. Disasters are opportunities to generate huge profits and earnings.

The concept also applies in countries such as Australia where people who are asylum seekers are detained in centres, and prisoners held in prisons, run by ‘for-profit’ corporations. This new economy is outlined in Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. The scheme always exploits people for profits.

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Murray Darling - Environmental and Social Tight Rope

2011 - Volume 13 Number 8

Covering one seventh of Australia, the Murray Darling Basin is one of the largest river basins in the world and contains 440,000km of rivers, 30 000 wetlands and one world heritage site.

The variety of ecosystems within the basin is as diverse as the size of the basin and provides a variety of habitats for flora and fauna including more than 60 fish species and around 98 species of waterbirds. Covering four states and the ACT and with 3.4 million people relying on water from the Basin, the management of the Basin is a political tightrope.

Nevertheless, unless serious action is taken sooner rather than later the beauty, diversity and ecological significance of the Basin could be permanently lost.

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Consensual Democracy vs Conflictual Democracy

2010 - Volume 13 Number 7

The role of leadership is to envision and enlighten, to put the national interest before personal gain, to think about the next generation rather than merely the next election, to look for what is right and good and fair so that most can agree to it rather than seek only to humiliate and embarrass political enemies. An over-emphasis on adversarial or combative politics can lead to parliamentary ineffectiveness and a deprivation of the wisdom and contribution of half its members.

An adversarial approach means conflict where beating the enemy at all costs means that truth and wisdom are early victims and whilst bickering occurs real problems are ignored and meaningful action is impossible. Social reform has come under the control of cynical calculators who measure success by winning elections, patronage and status on the political ladder . Political parties seek power, not change. Causes have given way to careers.

Though there are politicians who would like to adopt a more meaningful, inclusive and less aggressive approach to politics, civil and reasonable dialogue on major issues seems the exception rather than the norm, and the volume and shrillness of debate contributes to policy gridlock, civic disengagement, declining standards of behaviour , and lack of accountability.

We need go beyond the view that the status quo is the best one can hope for.

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