Monday, 27 April 2015

My apologies to those who

were expecting a blog post earlier today. I was overwhelmed with work. I am now surfacing to say that the doctor I wrote about yesterday left me a direct message on Twitter to say that he and his guide were on their way through the valleys to their destination. 
Normally he would travel by "road". You can, apparently, go a considerable distance by a road of sorts before you have to abandon vehicles and complete the journey on foot.
This time he could not go quite that far but a helicopter took them up into the valleys and left him as close as they could safely get. It was barely daylight, dangerous but essential flying has been taking place whenever possible.
T says it is a scene of utter devastation and that they will need far more help than they are getting. At present Kathmandu and Pokhara are getting far more help than the surrounding areas. There is very little food and the limited water supplies have been disrupted.
T has been warned that survivors from surrounding villages will start to arrive when news reaches them that he is on his way. It's dangerous. People, like people anywhere, want their injured treated first. 
Nepal's economy depends on tourism. There are political issues the most in the outside world are barely aware of or wish to know about. An entire culture could collapse without help. 
If that happens then we will all have lost something. 

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Nepal, a doctor and a hospital

I was planning to write something else this morning but the physical world gave me a jolt - another earthquake in Nepal.
Nepal is a beautiful country trying hard to remain independent. Please help them.
I know a doctor who spends some time there every year. He is one of the few foreigners the government there actually welcomes back into the country time and time again. You see, he saved some lives and he didn't ask to be paid for it.
The first time he did it was accidental. He had gone to Nepal out of curiosity. 
Being T he had not gone to Nepal on holiday but as part of a medical team. A member of the Nepalese community met him, discovered a connection, and asked him whether he could do something similar in another part of the country.
Being T he "wandered in" to see what he could do. And, being T, he did things.
The local community built a tiny hospital for him. It is not a fancy sort of western hospital but it is much better than anything they had before - and now there is a room for T to sleep in when he goes. He goes for a month each year. He operates under the most difficult of conditions. He doesn't always save lives but he does save some. He has trained local medical staff in some western techniques but he  respects their traditions as well - indeed he has high praise for much of what they do. 
No, wait a moment - they had those things. Their hospital has been damaged. They sent T a message, relaying it across the valleys. Please can he come? They need him desperately. They are trying to repair the hospital so he can use it.
So late last night T contacted me to tell me that his colleagues are covering for him. They have put together the things he thinks he will need. He is being flown up there by the authorities as I type this and they will take him as far as they can. After that, it will be a journey largely on foot as there has been so much damage. He should be there tomorrow and he will stay for at least a week. 
Communication with the outside world is limited so we e-mailed one another multiple times over the hours before he left. Yes, he's got his communication system working the way he thinks he wants it to work. He speaks some Nepalese now but sometimes medical words elude him.
And this time he will again sleep in the house of the grandson of a man who guided his grandfather out of India during World War II.
He says he owes it to them to help.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

ANZAC Day 2015

The air is still
The hills sleep lightly
The trees watch
Water weep across the sand

I have left you one small stone
It came from the place
Behind the house
Where the creek's tears ran dry


Friday, 24 April 2015

The "Aboriginal Provisional Government"

which lacks any recognised status is apparently issuing "passports" and Callum Clayton-Dixon, the chairman of the group, tried to use his to re-enter Australia. He was eventually allowed to re-enter the country when immigration authorities decided that he was an Australian citizen. He claims he used his "Aboriginal" passport by default. 
There are claims the passports have also been "recognised" by countries like "Libya" but claims that they have been recognised in Scandinavia and Canada are a little trickier than that.
I also note that Callum Clayton-Dixon has a name that would not instantly be recognised as "Aboriginal". His physical appearance suggests he has a mixed heritage. 
I wonder what made him do all of this. Does he feel so strongly about the indigenous part of his heritage that he is willing to give up everything else and even risk breaking the law? Does he genuinely believe that he is doing the right thing and that there will one day be an "Aboriginal Government"? Does he genuinely believe that there is widespread support for such a thing? How does he believe it would work? 
Or is he simply seeking publicity and power for himself? Is he, in a different sort of way, a Belle Gibson or Helen Demidenko or the man several streets away from here who acts out a sort of Walter Mitty existence?
Belle Gibson had signed a contract with Penguin before many people became aware that she was lying about having had brain cancer. She had made a great deal of money out of desperate people. She knew she was lying and her actions disgust me. I had a cousin who died of a brain cancer. It was an appalling journey and the best of modern medicine could not save her. That someone like Belle Gibson could add to the misery and distress felt by her and her family is something that makes me angry, very angry. 
Helen Demidenko, who wrote "The hand that signed the paper",  was highly disrespectful of victims of the Holocaust but she was quickly found out - although again she managed to fool a group of literary judges. I don't think she has managed to get anything published since and she may not even be writing. She now works for a rather whacky "independent" senator in Canberra - one who is not averse to similar tricks.
Our local Walter Mitty type character does less harm. He just lives in his own world. He is often kind and generous and willing to help others. You just need to go along with which ever character he has decided to be for the day.
I wonder what makes people do those things? I know I sometimes have a bit of fun in my "cat" persona. I wrote a letter to the editor once from the supposed point of view of the cat at the end of the street. It was published and it caused a great deal of amusement - as I intended. I was well aware though that it was just a bit of fun, that I am not a cat. Everyone else knew that it was a bit of fun too. Clayton-Dixon and Gibson are not doing it for the fun of it and neither are other people who do similar things. So, where's the fun? What do they get out of it?
Would anyone like to offer an explanation?  

Thursday, 23 April 2015

One of the United Nations officials

has been suggesting that "rich countries" needs to take in another million refugees from Syria over the next five years.
It is a typical response from an organisation that has lost control and has no idea how to handle a crisis. The UN simply does not work any more. 
The Refugee Convention is out of date and does not meet the needs of the present day. It was designed to deal with another century, not this one.
Taking in a million people from Syria is not going to help. There are at least five million who are displaced for a start. And that is just Syria. There are millions more people who are looking for a better life somewhere else - preferably in Europe (particularly the UK) or Australia. These places are seen as accessible. People smugglers will get you there by boat. That's the hope of far too many people.
The UK is overcrowded already. Parts of Europe are overcrowded. Unemployment is high. Sending more people there will only add to the problems. 
Australia has an unemployment problem too. It may look as if there is a lot of space but the reality is that most of Australia is desert and nobody has yet found a way to live there and produce enough to live on, let alone live well on.
I really don't believe that just continuing to take in refugees and economic migrants is the answer. It is not because I don't care. I do care. It is not because I am selfish. I would actually love to share. It is because it won't work. 
It won't work for three major and very complex reasons. The first is the political, social and religious situations in the trouble spots of the world. There are no easy answers to those situations, certainly not answers that the rest of the world is prepared to accept or even tolerate.
The second is the economy built around arms dealing. The United States, Russia and Germany make billions every year through supplying weaponry. France and China are not far behind. Indeed China may be supplying more than is presently thought. North Korea's economy may also be dependent on arms supplies but the secrecy surrounding their dealings makes it impossible to tell.
Whatever the situation the money made from arms is so much that none of those involved - and that includes governments - has any real interest in stopping wars. (The UK supplies about 4% of the world's arms - most of which go to the US. Australia supplies less but one of the companies based here still comes in the first 100 companies in the world. We should be ashamed but I doubt many people even know.)
The third is a different sort of weaponry altogether. It is closely tied to corruption and bribery. Corruption and bribery makes people Poorly organised and administered "aid" programs make people poor. The very programs that are supposed to assist are actually making matters worse. Political correctness, non-interference and other issues get in the way of aid working. And companies like Monsanto move in with programs that make matters even worse. Yes, a good crop one year but the seeds cannot be saved. You need to buy new seeds each time - and that makes you poor. Indeed, you might not even be able to afford to buy seeds again. Then there is the water supply which is now controlled by the aid organisation which has been "given" the seeds by the company and... 
It is the tip of a giant aid iceberg which is actually causing part of the "refugee crisis" - causing people to become economic migrants.
Taking them in to other countries is not the answer, especially when their own countries are losing so many young male workers. 
The world has to start thinking about those things. Mass migration is not the answer. It doesn't solve problems now the way it once did. 
We need to stand up to extremists and dictators. We need to stand up to arms dealers and the economic dependence on them. We need to stand up to those who are endeavouring to control food supplies through modifications claiming to be in our interests. 
I don't see it happening - but please don't tell me we will solve the problems by taking in another million refugees. We won't. And I will still worry about the millions more in refugee camps with nowhere to go. 

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

"Labor to propose superannuation

tax hikes for the wealthy" screams the headline. 
Yes, you know that ever popular "hit the rich" line. It seems to be the only way the Australian Labor Party can come up with trying to "save" money. 
Now please don't misunderstand me. I believe everyone should pay their fair share of tax. I also believe that "fairness" means some people will pay more than others. 
But there reaches a point at which "the rich will have to pay" ceases to be sensible. I have always believed that one of the reasons old fashioned "Communism" didn't work was because of the idea (rather than the reality) that people should be paid equal amounts for doing unequal amounts of work or for taking unequal amounts of responsibility. 
Why should a heart surgeon only take home the same amount as the person who drives the rubbish truck or the teacher take home the same amount as the person who works at the supermarket checkout?
The surgeon and the teacher work much longer hours. The surgeon literally has a life in his/her hands. It is an enormous responsibility. The teacher has lives in his/her hands too - the future of the country.The general belief is that they should be paid more. 
There is also a general belief they will pay more tax if they are paid more. The tax on money put into superannuation is lower of course. It should be. It encourages people to save for the future. It saves the government money in the future. It makes investments funds available. Where's the incentive to put money into superannuation if, in the end, you end up paying just as much - or potentially even more - tax?
Labor's argument is that "only the rich" will pay because there will be a point at which this extra tax cuts in. They say it will bring in "only $14bn over ten years". When any political party starts to talk in those terms I start to think of the measure they are describing as a populist measure designed to win votes rather than do any actual good.
If Labor really wanted to do economic good they would propose raising the GST and compensating the lower paid and pensioners for that rise. It would, in the end, bring in more. It is something that everyone has to pay. People would continue to contribute to their future needs through superannuation.
It makes more sense to me but no doubt some reader of this will be able to explain why I am wrong. 

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

After the latest disaster in the Mediterranean

the European Commission has put forward a "ten point plan" to "tackle the crisis".
I have just read it - and I despair. It's meaningless. They use words like "will reinforce" and "extend their scope", "make a systematic effort" and "will meet regularly". Here's the list from the SBS website: 
"Here are the 10 points put forward by the European Commission and backed by EU foreign and interior ministers at a meeting in Luxembourg:
1. The EU will reinforce the EU's maritime patrolling operations in the Mediterranean, called Triton and Poseidon, by giving them more money and equipment. The EU will also extend their scope to patrol a wider area of sea.
2. The bloc will make a systematic effort to capture and destroy vessels used by the people smugglers, using the EU's counter-piracy "Atalanta" operation off Somalia as a model. EU officials said it would be a combined civilian and military operation but gave no more details.
3. The EU's law enforcement, border control, asylum and prosecutors' agencies will meet regularly and work closely to gather information on how the smugglers operate, to trace their funds and help investigate them.
4. The European Union's asylum support office will to deploy teams in Italy and Greece for joint processing of asylum applications.
5. EU governments will fingerprint all migrants.
6. The EU will consider options for an "emergency relocation mechanism" for migrants.
7. The European Commission will launch a voluntary pilot project on resettling refugees across the EU.
8. The EU will establish a new return program for rapid return of "irregular" migrants coordinated by EU agency Frontex from the EU's Mediterranean countries.
9. The EU will engage with countries surrounding Libya through a joint effort between the Commission and the EU's diplomatic service.
10. The EU will deploy immigration liaison officers abroad to gather intelligence on migratory flows and strengthen the role of the EU delegations."
These points are not the answer of course. Nothing is going to stop people trying to seek refuge. Nothing is going to stop people trying  migrate to Europe. For them Europe, particularly the United Kingdom, France and Germany are seen as desirable destinations. The streets are "paved with gold".
At present there are also people fleeing violence. They are fleeing from places like Syria and from groups like ISIS and Boko Haram. They genuinely fear for their lives. There are women and children in the groups. Far too many of them have lost their lives trying to reach safety. Others can't. They have no money to pay the people smugglers.
Stop the warfare and the violence in their own countries? Make it safe to return and many of those fleeing violence would want to go home and start rebuilding their lives? If it does ever become possible then they are going to need new and different sorts of support.
That list above is nothing more than vague waffle from those who have no idea what to do about the multiple crises and problems which cause people to want to move on. How do you remove those who cling to power against the will of the people they have control over? How do you stop those who want power and claim to have "God" or "Allah" on their side?
I would be happier if the list acknowledged that there are two groups of people here. There are first those who are seeking asylum, those who are genuinely in fear of their lives. The women and children are the ones in that group who should be given priority. They are the future of any society. The very old need to be cared for. Many asylum seekers hope to "go home" one day. They dream of returning to their towns and villages and their old lives. Even when they know that their old lives will never be possible again they want to return if it is safe to do so.Home is home.
There is also a second group of people, people who are simply seeking to migrate. They believe life in another country will be preferable. Some believe that they will get rich and be able to support their families or bring their families to join them. Others abandon their families. 
The European Commission, the EU, other desirable destinations (and I include Australia) and - most of all - the United Nations need to recognise these two separate groups. Until we do that those who are most in need of help are going to take second place to those who simply want "a better life" somewhere else. 
I sympathise with the desire for a better life - but I would rather see children out of reach of the bombs and snipers. I would rather children were fed and going to school and getting ready to rebuild their countries. 
Isn't it time to start thinking about that?