Absolving Change the Date of Andrew Bolt's sins

28 January 2017
With the recent passing of the date variously noted as Australia/Survival/Invasion Day, it was gratifying to note that ever year, the Change the Date campaign grows louder and more visible. Seems it's going the way of the campaign for marriage equality - from those wanting change being a fringe movement, then going mainstream until those who don't want the change are a fringe movement (though still controlling the law in Australia, alas).

Of course there is the inevitable backlash from the cranky, condescending and confused. Australia's most urbane and sophisticated frothing right wing nut job, Andrew Bolt, has published his latest missive pompously proclaiming the "Seven sins of the change-Australia-Day movement". Now refuting Andrew Bolt is like confusing Malcolm Roberts; it seems too pitifully easy to be fair. Nevertheless, we'll just quickly dispense with him here.

First of all, the ABC has not "thrown its weight" behind the campaign to change the date; they have merely reported on it. Are all news outlets in favour of what they report on? And the protesters who marched on Sydney on January 26 were not "violent". An intense police presence characterised by attendees as menacing shadowed the marchers every step of the way. When one protester exercised his legal right to burn the flag, the police moved in immediately, causing a melee and arresting the person involved. Even the police admit the march was peaceful apart from that "isolated incident" - hardly the terror on the streets it was portrayed in some sections of the media. (And yes, policing protocols vary between states, but it is interesting to note that NSW police immediately pounced on an attempt to burn the flag; Victorian police were unable to prevent a man doing donuts in front of Flinders Street Station from then mowing through the Melbourne CBD killing five people).

To the seven "sins":

1. Bolt claims changing the date solves nothing as it won't change the fact the "invasion", as he put it, happened. Exactly! The invasion happened and it's not a day to have a party. Change the date.

2. Bolt claims changing the date will never appease the "grievance industry", who have already had a formal apology. But the work of reconciliation doesn't end there. Of course changing the date won't make everyone happy. But it's a start. Anyway, what evidence does he have of this grievance industry? Do they pay people? Can I get paid? Seriously, it's just a characteristic slur to demonise those who devote their time to the fight for equal rights. In 1955, Mississippi columnist Tom Ethridge attempted to blame the murder of 14 year old Emmett Till on the NAACP, "handed a trump card" over the incident. The grievance industry. The eternal backlash against marginalised people fighting for their rights. Nothing changes. Change the date.

3. Changing the date will encourage fake history, Bolt grumbles. He repeats his very favourite lie that no one can so much as "name ten" Aboriginal children stolen for being Aboriginal, ignoring that Robert Manne has spent years trying to do just that. He then argues that Aboriginal people today lead better lives than they did prior to invasion, as if working class white people still live in the slum conditions they did in England prior to 1788, as if two hundred years of dispossession, wars and slaughter are worth it to have WiFi. The legacy of colonialism is not uniformly 100% awful. But that doesn't change the fact it's been pretty crappy for the first inhabitants of Australia. It's not something to celebrate. Change the date.

4. Bolt whines that changing the date will encourage more division on the grounds of race. How? It's simply a mark of respect, that people aren't out partying and wishing each other a happy day that represents such pain for so many other people. January 26 is not a date people of all races can celebrate. We can still have a fun day where we can all celebrate what's good about Australia. I personally would love that. But not January 26. Change the date.

5. Bolt argues that what makes Australian society "so free and rich" is the legacy of British settlement; there is virtually nothing from Aboriginal settlement.

Are you shitting me?!

Colonists did everything they could to wipe out Aboriginal culture, laws, society, connection to the land. Aboriginal people were removed from their homelands. They were moved to missions. Forbidden from speaking their languages. Their children were taken from them and sent to institutions and families to forget their Aboriginal heritage so they would grow up white. To this day, governments are trying to close Aboriginal homeland settlements. And Bolt has the cheek to complain this devastated society has been unable to influence modern Australia to the degree he deems sufficient? Surely that is proof itself of the ravaging effects of colonisation. Change the date.

6. We shouldn't change the date because "many Aboriginies" see no problem with January 26. It's interesting to note that throughout this article, Bolt repeatedly uses the term Aboriginies rather than Aboriginal people, even though the former is generally seen as offensive these days. I'm sure Bolt would argue the terminology doesn't matter, so if I ever meet the dude I will exclusively refer to him as Andy-Pandy and complain he's being too PC if he objects. Anyway, it's no surprise Aboriginal people are not a monolith. There's 700,000 of them, and there's going to be a very broad diversity of opinion. So instead of cherry picking examples, why not ask Aboriginal people themselves? Something that has happened far too rarely. Get the consensus from Aboriginal people on whether to change the date. 

7. This might be even worse than the lack of culture thing. Having tried to position himself as anti-racist with the "we're all just people" line, Bolt now states changing the date won't do a thing to fix the problems of Aboriginal people because...they have a fundamentally inferior culture. 

The evidence Bolt gives for this is Peter Sutton's book "The Politics of Suffering", which has been widely discredited as scientifically and anthropologically invalid. But to Bolt, the problems of Aboriginal society can be traced back to their simultaneously violent yet lazy culture. Aboriginal people, by inference, just don't care about their kids or themselves enough to fix their own problems, which are not caused by racism and generations of dispossession, violence, slaughter, being used as slave labour, child removal, loss of land and kinship ties...


And even if it were true, changing the date wouldn't fix those problems. You know what else won't fix these problems? Whacking on a pair of flag boardies on January 26 and drunkenly proclaiming you love Australia and no bleeding heart fuckwit is going to take it away cause of Aboriginal people (you know, the ones with all the special privileges).

No, it won't fix anything. It won't make everyone happy. But not celebrating our national holiday on January 26 might just show a little bit of sensitivity. It might start some people thinking about the true nature of Australia today and how we got here.

Change the date.


Are you a neo-Nazi or just don't think they should be punched? Read this.

26 January 2017
"The actual camp appeared like an untidy slaughterhouse. A pungent smell hung heavily in the air… The further we walked into the site, the stronger the smell of burnt flesh became, and dirty-black ash rained down on us from the heavens, darkening the snow… Innumerable exhausted, wretched figures with shrunken faces and bald heads were standing outside of the barracks. They didn’t know that we were coming. The surprise made many of them faint. A picture that would make everyone wither away who saw it. The misery was horrifying. The ovens [of the crematoria] were still hot and some were still blazing fiercely when we approached… We were standing in a circle, everyone was silent. From the barracks more and more hungry children were emerging, reduced to skeletons and enveloped in rags. Like ants they assembled in large groups, making noise as if they were in a large school yard. With arms extended, they were waiting, begging and screaming for bread. They were whining out of despair and wiping away their tears… Only death reigned here. It smelled of it"

"I was a translator at the front. Our forces had taken half of Poland. At New Years we reached Krakow. I interrogated German and Italian officers there, because I knew Italian and Polish besides Russian. I’ve learnt that from my mother and during school. We then got the order to push beyond the town and into the concentration camp Auschwitz. 

When our tanks reached the front gates of the KZ [KZ = Konzentrationslager; German for concentration camp] early on the 27th of January 1945, the guards had already caught wind and had fled. Only some remained, others had died by their own hands. Nobody resisted. The front gate of the camp was locked. Our tank broke through. One truck after the other, full of soldiers, drove onto the camp site. Our soliders disembarked, disarmed the remaining guards of the camp and arrested them. So we drove up to the extermination camp Birkenau. 

 Knowing the Red Army was closing in, the SS gave the boilermen (?) [people operating the ovens] the order, to throw the prisoners, who were already emaciated to the point of looking like skeleton, into the crematorium alive. They wanted to get rid of the sick and weakened to cover up their tracks as fast as possible.
The boilermen looked surprised to see us officers and soldiers. They were strong people, mostly Kapos [prisoners forced to work in the camps]. They greeted us with shy smiles on their faces, a mix of happiness and fear. Like on command, they threw away their poker. With us, they talked freely. Angry words about Hitler were spoken. I still remember an old boilermen stammer “Thank you”. “Thank you, friend. May I call you [the Russians] friends?”.

One of them, a Ukrainian, I asked: “Why did you do that?” and pointed towards the ovens. Without blinking he replied: “They didn’t ask if I wanted to. No, I didn’t want to. But better be the guy working the oven, then be the one burning. That’s why I did it.” I was speechless, could just shake my head. “Why aren’t the other ovens burning? There’s no smoke coming up the chimney”, I asked the guy. “Deconstructed”, he said.

Caught in our own thoughts, everyone just stood around. Nobody cared about the burning ovens. “Stop this. Out! All of you!”, the commanding officer Sergejew shouted. Outside, he was shaking and said with a stuttering voice: “How can this be in the midst of the 20th century! I can’t comprehend this. If there’d be a god, maybe he could explain how this all came to be.”

We visited the barracks and couldn’t believe our own eyes. Naked and groaning people, hardly looking like humans, were laying on straw bags. I touched one of the people laying there. He didn’t move. He wasn’t alive anymore.

 In another barrack, a woman was dying. I asked if someone from her family was also in the camp. She said yes. Via speakers we tried to find her relatives and reunited the family. Shortly after, the woman died, although our doctors tried to save her.

After that we concentrated on the camp headquarters. In the hallway towards the office of the camp management I found a paper pinned to the wall which concerned me, too, since I’m Slav. It said something along the lines of “Germans! We are the masters. Our interests are the only that matter. The reproduction of the Slav people is not desired. Childlessness and abortion are to be encouraged. Education of Slav children is unnecessary. If they can count up to 100, that’s sufficient. Those who can’t work, shall die.”

I translated the text for the others who just shook their heads. One teared it down. The offices were empty and chaotic so we went outside.

In the meantime our soldiers had gathered the female guards and brought them to us. “Should we…?”, asked a Corporal. “No, don’t do anything stupid”, the officer replied. “This is to be decided by the Ordnungstruppe” [something like 'commanding unit' or 'military police' perhaps; definitely a higher authority; can’t find a solid translation;].

“What does she have in her bag”, I asked another woman, since I saw how filled her bag was. A soldier grabbed into the bag. It was a brochure. The headline was “About the law to defend the hereditary health of the German people”. I took it, read some pages. Proof of being Aryan, marriage prohibition, Anglo-Jewish plague … I took note of it and was shocked. People are still carrying these with them! [Nikolai Politanow is surprised that these people still carry things that will be used as evidence against them.]

“Are you all Aryan women?”, I asked. They give me a cold look. “I don’t know”, one of them replied. We laughed. “Where are the camp doctors?”, I asked. “Not here, ran off”. “And the male prisoners, where are they? I haven’t seen a single man. What is this all about?”. “A week ago they’ve been escorted out of the camp. Probably relocated to Majdanek or Treblinka”, she replied. I tore the brochure into pieces and threw it onto the piles of garbage.

Until evening, many reporters had arrived. Nonstop buzzing and flashing cameras everywhere inside and outside the barracks. We had to learn one step after the other that Auschwitz was a central selection camp. Jewish people were selected for forced labour or death in the gas chambers. The immediate extermination by Jews who were unable to work was expressly insisted upon.

The field kitchens arrived soon. Nearly at the same time, the Ordnungstruppe and surprisingly high ranking officers from the staff of Rokossowski and Konjew showed up. Medics distributed sheets and clothing to the prisoners. To prevent the prisoners from eating snow, soldiers distributed tea and bread to the nearly starved skeletons. In the meantime, military trucks had arrived. Around midnight, all prisoners were taken out of the camp. Those still able to walk had no patience to wait and had already taken off by foot towards Sosnowitz. The only remaining people were Kapos and guards. Those were immediatly ordered to dig up mass graves outside the camp and to bury the dead bodies there. Floodlights and generators had already been put in place.

The camp was now empty and it was as silent as a monastery. Some torches were lighting the ground here and there. We had to leave, since we are a combat unit assigned to the front. We caught up to the rest of our unit in Sosnowitz, approximatly 15 kilometer east of Kattowitz." 

 - Account (with translators notes) of Nikolai Palitinow, one of the first Red Army soliders to enter Auswitzch-Birkeneau at the liberation. 

To Neo Nazis, I ask is this your end game? Do you want this? Do you know this is where all your racial homeland stuff is leading? Is this what you want?

But I'm sure neo-Nazis could care less what some SJW snowflake Tumblrina butter golem (have I covered all the insults) thinks of them. So what I really want to do is talk to those who say "well, I don't like neo-Nazis, I hate them, but I don't think we should go around punching them in the face". 

To those people I'd like to say, well this is what neo-Nazi views leads to. This is where visions of white supremacy and racial purity end up; with emaciated humans being flung alive into crematoria. So this isn't a matter of free speech or respecting the right to a difference of opinion. And it isn't something that should be resisted with non-violence, peaceful protest, using our words or being better than that. It should be fought ever millimetre of the way.

And now, enjoy. 


America, I Am Not Your Ally

21 January 2017
Today (Australian time), Donald Trump was inaugurated as US President. Now I'm not going to add to the millions of words already written expressing peoples' real grief, fear, anger and horror, except to respond to what Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said today:

As millions of principled, decent Americans have proclaimed Trump is not their president, so I would like to say that Malcolm Turnbull does not speak for me, as an Australian citizen. As long as Trump is in the White House, swept in on a tide of treason, interference and corruption, standing for bigotry, hatred and pessimism, I am not an American ally. I am not an ally of the Trump administration.

My alliance - my solidarity and love - is with the millions of Americans who fought and will keep fighting against everything the Trump presidency stands for. Who fight for healthcare, women's rights. Who fight for the environment. Who fight for economic equality. Who fight against racism and bigotry. Those who protest and march. Those who write to their elected representatives. Those who fight for Planned Parenthood. At Standing Rock. Black Lives Matter. Those are who I want to be an ally to.

My fight will be here. As the dark spectre of alt right fascism rises, as elements within the Australian government seek to being this populist, reductionist ideology of hatred here, I will be marching and writing and petitioning and - if they dare touch Medicare - sitting in the streets. I will not let them destroy our egalitarian democracy. I will fight to strengthen it.

But Malcolm Turnbull does not speak for me. I am not an ally and friend of America, America in the guise of the Trump administration. I will not condone or endorse it as an ally or friend. I stand with those who fight. I will keep fighting here.

Shitkanless: Sydney to Newcastle without the Shitkansen

17 January 2017
Ah, the Shitkansen, our much beloved train from Sydney to Newcastle. Where would we be without it? Without its strange smells, its majestic purple hues, its constant delays and disruptions, the ever present threat of violence to keep things from getting dull? (Stuck in Sydney, Newcastle or - gasp - the Central Coast is where we'd be). Heck, the ride has even served as a muse:

But for some of us, the Shitkansen just isn't enough. We dare to dream higher. That, or we're just sick of the damn thing. Anyway, there is a way to travel from Sydney to Newcastle entirely on public transport, without needing to avail yourself of the Shitkansen. I must warn you though, it isn't really an alternative in the sense of being just another way to get from one city to another in a reasonably straightforward fashion. No, going Shitkanless is an adventure. An odyessy. It requires time, patience, dedication. With great effort comes great reward. But it's not easy. Not all of you are going to make it. So if any of you little Betty Crockers out there think you're just going to be teaching toddlers to bake cuppy cakes, then you can leave now.

But for those of you who wish to soar with the eagles, here is how you go Shitkanless - Sydney to Newcastle, by public transport only without catching the train. All the times are current as of writing this post, for travel on weekdays. Be warned (again), some of these legs are long. Pack snacks. Bring water. Use the toilets in between trips, but don't count on having time to get food.

Ready? Here we go.

1. 5.33am Stand B Wynyard: Bus L90 to Palm Beach; arrive 6.41am

Yes, it's early. Really fucking early. You can get a coffee now, before you board, but my advice is to wait; it will give you a chance to snooze on the L90, Sydney's longest bus route at 45km, as it goes over the Bridge, through North Sydney and then on the long trek up the Northern Beaches to arrive at the northern tip of Sydney, summer playground of the rich and famous, Palm Beach. You'll have nearly an hour to kill before your next leg, so now you might as well get that coffee. I don't know if anything up there is open at this hour, but given that rich baby boomers love getting up early, I'm guessing there's an early open cafe somewhere. Just make sure you're on time for the ferry.

2. 7.30am Palm Beach Wharf Ferry to Ettalong arrive 8.00am

You'll like this bit (bring your camera!); the ferry ride across Broken Bay, at the mouth of the Hawkesbury River, to the southern end of the Central Coast. Please note this is the only leg of the trip where you can not use an Opal card; you can buy tickets on board, $11.60 for adults and $5.80 concession. Anyway, you've made it to the coast. On arrival in Ettalong, stroll down Broken Bay Road to the little strip of shops, where there are several decent cafes where you can grab a quick breakfast, although my preference is to get something from the bakery and eat it overlooking the water (I lived in Ettalong for the year preceding my recent time in Sydney; I found it quite a lovely little place, when the isolation and quiet were not sending me quite mad); there's public toilets there too.

But don't get too comfortable; make sure you're at the bus stop in front of the Memorial club/Mantra (you can't miss it, the thing is huge and I've no idea how it got planning approval) in time for your next leg.

3. 8.47am Ettalong Bus 70 to Gosford arrive 9.39am

There's not a lot to say about this leg. You'll go through the suburbs of the peninsula - Ettalong, Blackwall, Woy Woy - and then get some pretty views of Brisbane Water before swinging past the bulk retail and light industrial areas along the Central Coast Highway before arriving in Gosford.

4. 9.49am Gosford Stand 2 Bus 19 to Wyong arrive 11.26am

I apologise in advance for this leg. Wait, no I don't; I told you it wasn't going to be easy. The 97 minutes you will spend on the 19 (assuming it runs to timetable) will test the patience of the hardiest traveller. The Central Coast has many bland, uniform housing estates and the 19 visits them all, some of them multiple times, from lots of different directions. When you, at length, finally reach Wyong station, you may well be tempted just to get the train back to Sydney. Don't. You've come so far. Grab a bathroom break if you need, a drink from the vending machine, and then saddle up.

5. 11.41 Wyong Stand A Bus 12.07 to Lake Haven arrive 12.07pm

You're more than halfway through the journey now. You've got 28 minutes to kill. And there is, at Lake Haven, a dine in, all you can eat Pizza Hut - one of only five in NSW - for the measly price of $10.

It wasn't as good as I remembered; YMMV.

What you do with this knowledge is up to you. However believe me when I say you cannot miss the next leg of the journey.

6.  12.35 Lake Haven Stand 3 Bus 99 to Charlestown arrive 14.11

This bus runs only twice a day, the other departing at 7.19am; so this is why you had to get up so early, all connections have been leading to this and you can't miss it. It's another epic leg, northwards out of the Central Coast via Charmhaven and Doyalson, then on up the south eastern side of Lake Macquarie, through townships such as Catherine Hill Bay and Nords Wharf, over the entrance to Lake Macquarie at the Swansea Bridge, then up through the east lakes suburbs of Belmont and Charlestown where your humble correspondent spent her formative years.

Anyway, after all that, you'll fetch up at Charlestown, no doubt tired and cranky and hungry and wondering why the hell you ever did all this. From here, you don't have to keep a strict schedule. There's a great big boondoggle of a shopping centre (very much changed from when I lived there, which disconcerts me mightily). Take a chance to get something to eat, if you didn't over indulge at Pizza Hut.

7. Whenever you fancy, Charlestown Stand A, Bus to Newcastle

On a weekday, there's a tonne of buses from Charlestown to Newcastle; just show up and one should arrive in ten minutes or so. The 320, 350, 310 and 349 are generally the fastest; however, if you want to really round out your experience, why not take the chance to catch the Famous 100 bus? Sure the 100, connecting Newcastle and Charlestown with some of their less salubrious suburbs, takes a darn long while and you've probably had your fill of long bus journeys, but I can guarantee you'll have an experience to remember, as long as you don't receive a concussion on the trip.

You've made it to Newcastle! 

Well, you've done it. The complete Sydney to Newcastle without using the Shitkansen. Have a drink, have a meal, have another drink if you want I'm not your mother. (Unless I am your mother, and if you're reading this you're too young to be riding around on your own like this young man). Anyway, sooner or later it's time to go home. Let's just hop on the train...no wait. If you're the type to read this, then I'm sure you're aware that the State Government closed the rail line between Newcastle and Hamilton on Boxing Day 2014. If I live long enough to see that, as with trams in Sydney, they one day regret the closure and rebuild it, I will find all the ministers in charge in their respective nursing homes and slap them silly.

Anyway, you'll have to get a shuttle bus back to Hamilton. Then, you can finally board a Shitkansen, the delays and meandering detours of which you will never complain again.

Now you're probably wondering the obvious question by now. And the answer is - not really much of a singer, though I've been known to do a mean "Oh, Sherrie" after a few hard ciders. The answer to the other question? No, I haven't done the whole journey myself. I mean, I've done all the individual legs of it, sometimes in combination, but not all in one go. But that leaves the greater honour to you, going first. Let me know how you get on.

Trump the Toddler: the Final Proof

13 January 2017
It's hardly a novel observation that incoming US President Donald Trump acts like a toddler, as anyone who's ever had a toddler in the house will recognise: the tantrums, the self-centredness, the meltdowns when things don't go their way. We see this all with Donald Trump, but how does his behaviour on his favourite communication platform, Twitter, reflect what the parenting experts have to say about the carry on of the little people with sticky fingers careening around the house?

In his 2001 collection, The CEO of the Sofa, PJ O'Rourke quoted from 1982's Your One Year Old: The Fun-Loving, Fussy 12- to 24-Month Old by Louise Bates Ames as to how the characteristics of toddlers can be seen in managers. O'Rourke describes himself having a shock of recognition, and frankly so did I.

All of the "Characteristics of the Age" Ms Ames describes can be seen personified in Trump:

He seems to want everything, to prefer everybody else to have nothing:

A busy little person. Though much of his activity is purely...bumbling around from one spot to another:

Almost anything may attract his attention, and then he almost seems to have to respond, without rhyme or reason:

Extremely self-involved. He relates to others if and when it pleases him:

All too likely to put on a full-fledged temper tantrum over what may actually be only a minor frustration:

Can be seen as enchanting if the viewer appreciates an almost total egocentricity:

There you have it. There's more, much more of course - gleefully listing all the foreign leaders who've called to offer congratulations; other meltdowns over this or that "dishonest media. Sad!". We can't work through the stages of grief here; we're all stuck in denial.

A Centrelink Job Search Horror Story

09 January 2017
The treatment of people with disabilities by the welfare system is well known for being Byzantine in its complexitiy and lack of understanding of people's lives. But it can also be horrifying in its ignorance and danger, as I saw today. 

A Requiem for Gothic Sydney

04 January 2017

Venerable Sydney Goth, Steampunk and Victorian clothing boutique Gallery Serpentine recently announced that they are shutting up shop on Enmore Road and moving to Marrickville. Having shopped there for many years - I got my wedding outfit at GS - I wish them well, but it's sad to see them go. With the departure of Gallery Serpentine, the last remaining hold out - more of an elder statesperson, really - we see the end of Enmore Road as the Gothic heart of Sydney.

Fifteen years ago, Enmore Road was home to a thriving Goth scene, by Australian standards. There was Cabinet de Curiosities, In Visible Light, the Wild One, GS of course, and many others I have no doubt forgotten somewhere between my first corset and my first age spot. There was also a decent club scene in the city at large, in those magical days before lockouts or drink restrictions or even smoking bans; a group of us would travel down so regularly we were known as the Newcastle group.

And I'll never forget the excitement of the Under the Blue Moon festival; the first, held in 2004, with the whole street filled with hundreds of goths, shopping, going to shows and exhibits, having drinks, meeting and chatting. It was awesome.

It is impossible to imagine anything like that now. All the shops are gone - even stalwarts such as Furr Hair and Polymorph piercing. The clubs are few and far between. The Facebook groups are dead. The scene is on life support. Because young people just don't want to be goths right now. And you need them to support the boutiques and clubs. Nostalgic thirty and forty somethings who manage to turn up once in six months, have two drinks, give a slightly stiff and embarrassing go at dancing to Mother Russia then leave at 10:30pm cause their back is getting sore and the kids have early sport in the morning aren't enough to keep a club running. And what's the point of being a goth if you can't go to clubs to show off your costume?

I hope Gallery Serpentine do well in their new venture - there's still a busy market for wedding and formal outfits, cosplay and steampunk - but I feel a small pang of nostalgia for the old Sydney Gothic. If ever there was an appropriate time for a momento mori, this would be it.

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