The Eve of Destruction

August 29, 2019 at 2:57 am | Posted in 1960s, Australia, Culture, Destroying nature, divisions in society, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, historical fiction, History, Politics, Religion, Social Responsibility, War and Conflict, Ways of Living, Writing | 16 Comments
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It is after 2.30am and I cannot sleep. I am energised. I have realised that the book I thought I was going to write is a nothing story. I have another tale to tell, from another perspective. I had thought Tori (the main character of my second novel, “Thursday’s Child”) was going to be the MC of my third novel too, but she will be a secondary character. She has had her time and done well, but it is up to another now to take the story forward.

 

Meet Gemma Henderson. She is the 71-year-old me of 2019 in the body of a 17-year-old girl in 1965 (as I was then). She is the activist I wanted to be. She is the idealist who wants to stop wars because they are so damned stupid. She is the one who wants to raise all people to be equal. She is the one who sees the folly of toeing the political line of the times, the futility of consumerism and the falsity of the world the politicians offer.

 

She is the one who believes that women are every bit as good and as intelligent as, and even more caring than the men who seem to want  nothing but to destroy – destroy the youth in wars, destroy the marginalised, destroy the prospect of beauty with the horror of war and capitalism, destroy the world with their greed for money and power.

 

Gemma is a warrior; an Amazon; a young woman who wants to change the world. She is an fierce idealist who will brook no barriers to her desire to improve the world, to take it out of the hands of war-mongering, greedy men and bring it back to Mother Earth, to the Nurturer, the Carer.

 

She will be the main character in the third of my YA historical novels. She is the sister, the daughter, and the prospective mother of future generations. The world, its ordinary people and its creatures are her passion, and although the odds are stacked high against her, she is willing to fight for what she believes is right.

 

She is what I wish I could have been when I had the energy of youth. She is what I would have perhaps become had I not been bogged down in conformity to a dead, corrupted Catholic religion. She is what I wish I could be now, but age, health and energy are lacking in this older body. I cannot be her in the way I want to be, but I can be her in the days of my youth, the 1960s, when our country was about to go “all the way with LBJ”.

 

I did march against the Vietnam War once when I was at Sydney University in 1966, but I was bound by the ties I had to my family, church and the belief that women were not meant to be a force for good in the world outside of their nurturing role within the family; that they were not supposed to take a stand in a world that looked to the so-called heroics of war and the destruction of others for the meaning and justification for existence.

 

I wanted to be a force for peace, even then. When I thought of all the young men who’d died in the two world wars, in Malaya, in Korea, and then what we were doing all again in Vietnam, I remember crying to my mum, saying that this should not be happening. If older men want to fight then it should be they who go out and put their bodies on the line – not young men in the flower of their youth.

 

Yes, I know I am using a cliché there, but it really does mean something. Those young men – boys, really – were only budding,  their whole life was ahead of them. They had barely bloomed when they were sent to suffer the horrors of war; a war that had no real justification beyond greed, nationalism and military might, and fear of the different. Maybe it’s because I am a woman who has borne five sons that I feel this way. But even then, years before I bore more than the weight of “womanly expectations”, I felt the same way.

 

Tonight, I cannot sleep because I believe I can see the world more clearly than those who supposedly rule it. They can only see their immediate future, the rewards of power, privilege & wealth that they will receive at the expense of those who will bear the brunt of their ambitions. I want to show that the world has not changed, no matter how much we want it to.

 

People are still ruled by fear, a fear that is fostered and capitalised on by political bosses. Back in the 1960s, it was “The Domino Effect” – that China would take over South-East Asia, and that Australia would be next on their list. Today, it is the fear that Muslims are taking over the world, or again, that the Chinese will be our masters if we don’t oppose them. Why do so many always believe the lies they are told, the Goebbelsesque indoctrinisation, based on fear, that is pushed by those who want us to allow them the power to rule us; that we are lost if we do not oppose everyone who looks, prays or eats differently to how we do?

 

Well, anyway, I am energised by my new project in a way I haven’t been for years. The wishy-washy story I was going to tell has been flushed away in a tide of anger at the world of then and now, at those who would take us to the brink of total destruction, just for their own greed. I won’t just sit down and let them do it. I will be a Greta Thunberg of the 1960s. I will be Gemma Henderson.  

 

(c) Linda Visman

The Price of Progress

April 4, 2019 at 1:50 pm | Posted in Australia, discrimination, divisions in society, Politics, Social Responsibility, Society, Ways of Living | 16 Comments
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This is a short story I wrote about power & powerlessness; rich vs poor. 

 

“Can’t you just admit that the Council laws are only meant to help the rich?”

“Of course they aren’t. You’re just like the rest, trying to find somebody to blame for your own shortcomings. Our city re-development is for the good of everyone; who wants to live in a slum? And our labour laws are fair and just. They reward those who put in the effort.”

His words seemed relaxed enough, and he appeared outwardly at ease. However, to the eyes of a keen observer, the Mayor’s impatience with the journalist’s questions showed in a brief narrowing of his eyes and a slight shuffle in his chair. He was tired of this incessant revisiting of the subject.

“It’s a pity those sixty people were made homeless when the old tenements were bulldozed, but there was nothing I could do about that. Those old buildings were an eyesore. How could we hold a major inter-city event with buildings like that still standing? We’d be laughed at.”

The fact that many, indeed most, of those former tenants had been forced to move derelict houses outside the city boundaries and were living there in squalid conditions was not his fault. His tenure as mayor had seen continual development and economic progress in the city. Many people had benefited from his social and industrial reforms.

“But those people can’t find a decent place to live now. They’re too poor.”

“True Kangans should be too proud to live in such conditions. Those people should get themselves a job like any other good citizen, instead of blaming the Council for their plight.”

“But Mayor, most of the men do have jobs.”

“Then what’s the problem? What are they carrying on about? Can’t they manage their money properly like sensible people?”

“Mayor, the only jobs they can get are menial ones, like cleaners, or factory labourers or hospitality work. Those jobs pay so little that no one can afford to even rent a decent house in the city.”

“Then they should work harder instead of whingeing. The reforms in the Council’s labour agreements means that if they work hard they’ll get more money.”

“That would be fine if the hourly rates were sufficient, but even when they work ten hours a day, they barely make enough to feed and clothe their families.”

“They signed individual agreements with the Council that they would work at those rates. They didn’t need to do that. They could have found other work.”

“There is no other work for them. They don’t have the education required for higher paying jobs.”

“They should have finished their education, just as I did, then they could have well paying jobs. Why should I be blamed for their indolence?”

“Their parents couldn’t afford to send them to high school, Your Worship. You abolished free secondary education, remember.”

“Education is never valued unless it has to be paid for. It’s not the Council’s role to provide free services. Anyway, that’s not the issue here.”

“It’s part of the problem, sir. If these people had been educated, they might have been able to bargain a little, at least at one time. Now, with your new laws, the employers have all the say. The workers don’t have a chance.”

“But of course the employers should have a say in how they run their businesses. They are the ones who are putting up their own money, after all. Look how much these companies have done for the people of this city. They’ve cut the cost of production so that goods are much cheaper. Why, I can buy a computer package now for half what it cost five years ago.”

“I’m not denying that, Your Grace. You certainly can, but those workers can’t. They get less money than they earned five years ago – a third of the pay, and they must work longer hours for it. They don’t even get a guaranteed fifteen-minute meal break, or annual holidays.”

“That’s their own fault. They took the jobs. They knew the conditions.”

“What I’m saying, sir, is that you’ve taken away the workers’ right to fair conditions. They are not allowed to unite to provide a common argument to help their cause. The employer just tells them that if they want the job they must accept the conditions. They are just like slaves.”

“Don’t be silly. That’s just using emotive language instead of reasoned argument. Now, if they need more money, then their wives can work. After all, we live in a city that values women’s input just as much as men’s.”

“The women who have children can’t go out to work, Mr Mayor. There’s no one to look after the children. You passed a law forbidding children to be left alone after that boy fell off the broken swing in the park and the parents threatened to sue the council.”

“That was a good law, just like the one forbidding parents to traumatise their children by smacking them on the wrist. If people can’t look after their children and keep them safe from abuse and danger, then the Council must pass laws to make them. Anyway, they can put them into child-care centres. The Council has wonderful facilities to care for children. It’s one of Kanga Council’s achievements that I pride myself on. My wife thinks the one our children attend every day is wonderful. She wouldn’t be able to go to the gym or to tennis or even to civic functions if we hadn’t established those centres.”

“Mr Mayor, you can afford child care at those centres, but these poor people can’t. The cost for one day there for one child is equal to what a woman can earn in a week.”

“Well I’m not to blame for that. The centres have to make ends meet.”

The mayor stood up and leaned across the desk.

“Look, young man, I’ve had enough of all this. You want me to back down and say that my, er, the Council’s policies, are to blame for those people living in disgusting conditions. That’s simply not true. Everyone makes a choice. If they’ve made the wrong one then they have to live with it. Now, thank you and good day.”

“Your Worship, before I go, can I ask you one last question?”

“All right, but that’s all. I have to get to a banquet for the Mayor of Yankey, who’s visiting for our Games.”

“Mr Morris, why do you think “fairness” and “justice” and “equality” are dirty words?”

 

4th April 2019

Self-fulfilling Prophecies

December 12, 2018 at 2:48 pm | Posted in Australia, divisions in society, History, Philosophy, Religion, Society, War and Conflict | 11 Comments
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My thoughts on a new news item

Trump Rally Cheers Because Jerusalem Move Will Launch Armageddon PATHEOS.COM

Comment 1:  This is where the Religious Right are taking us… RIGHT TO WAR….hoping in their stupid way that it is the final war that ends the world.

Comment 2:  Delusional fairy stories believed by the insane.

Comment 3:  Trouble is – some lunatics will use that to justify violence somewhere, and that could very well unleash armageddon. People are very good at fulfilling prophecies.

 

The story above was shared on Facebook a day or two ago, and a few of the comments led me to think about this whole Armageddon thing. So I wrote those thoughts and share them here.

 I think the last comment is right. The religious right believes the extremist words of prophecy in the Book of Revelations. They think that, as “Christians”, they expect they will be lifted to heaven when the world collapses, so they actively work towards that collapse in order to prove the prophesies were right.

It actually does seem inevitable that there will be an apocalypse of some kind, but you don’t have to be religious to see that, and it won’t be the kind of Armageddon the evangelicals are hoping for. It is the greed and intolerance of human nature and the desire for power and control over the masses and the means of wealth creation that are fuelling our own destruction, just as it has throughout history.

In recorded history the very same human traits have led to the fall of many nations and the rise of others. Those nations were not so intertwined as they are today. Instead, as Marshall McLuhan said over fifty years ago, we live in a global village. That village is now even more closely connected via almost instant communications networks.

It is this very increase in the population and the interdependence of nations that drives us to our own inevitable fall and to the rape & destruction of so much of our natural world. There is a struggle among the top dogs of the village to be the alpha, and they don’t care who gets hurt in the process.

I am sure that there have been prophets in almost every age who have foretold the end of the known world of their times. They didn’t need to have had a vison from some etheric entity to see what was before their eyes. As I write and talk about how the world is going to the edge of a precipice, I don’t believe I am a channel that is telling me that. There are no religious under- or overtones to what I am saying, apart from the use of religion as a power base. I am just stating the bleeding obvious.

But I also have some hope, little though it might be. Hope that it is the rational who will survive the end of the world as we know it. Hope that they will be the ones who will learn to live with the natural world and stop the destruction. Hope that somewhere in the future, any of my descendants who survive will create the world most of us wish we had now.

Of course, human nature being what it is, as those survivors grow & develop new societies, unless there has somehow been a genetic change in our brains, it will just start all over again.

Here is a poem I wrote over twelve years ago on how history repeats itself.

What History Lesson?

 

When looking at people throughout all the ages,

It’s clear that they go through the very same stages.

Just go back and look at our civilisations –

You’ll see the same problems throughout all nations.

 

One country gets stronger; thinks its ways are best;

Through warfare and conquest, it dominates the rest.

Time passes; it weakens, and its morals decay.

A new one takes over – it’s another dog’s day.

 

These cycles continue as centuries go by:

One nation brought low by another rising high.

Each struggles for power, takes its “god-given right”,

Before it cedes to another; that has risen in might.

 

Why Man cannot learn from the lessons of history,

but makes all the same mistakes is a mystery.

I suppose it is just that his nature won’t bend;

So, while Man’s on this earth, the destruction won’t end.

 

It will take far too long for our kind to evolve

To the stage where, as one, our dilemmas we’ll solve.

Before then, with our hate and our need for a fight,

We’ll have killed ourselves off, just to prove ourselves right.

© Linda Visman, April 2006

 

I wouldn’t mind hearing your views on this – but do keep it calm. 🙂

 

 

Thursday’s Child – Introducing my Main Character

January 15, 2018 at 11:58 am | Posted in 1960s, Australia, divisions in society, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, historical fiction, History, Reading, Social mores, Society, War and Conflict, Ways of Living, Writing | 4 Comments
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I would like to introduce the main character in my new Young Adult novel, Thursday’s Child.

It is 1961, and Victoria (Tori) Delaney is in her second year of high school. Her class has been discussing social issues that affect Australia. Her teacher, Miss Bradshaw, has given the class an assignment to complete for homework.

Choose an issue that you think is important and write a one to two page essay on it.

This is what Tori writes:

*         *         *

Why are girls and women treated as if they are not as good as boys and men? Why are they not allowed to do the same things as they are, or given the same opportunities?

It surprises me that women are even allowed to vote. I am sure that if it hadn’t been for the Suffragettes, they would still not be allowed to. I think it is very unfair that we are treated as if we are inferior. Women have often shown that they are just as good as men, the most obvious way is when they had to step in during the Great War and again in the last war.

Women who had never even lived in the country joined the Australian Women’s Land Army so that farming could carry on when the men went off to war. They did everything that the men had done. They drove tractors and did the ploughing, the reaping and the carting of the crop. They cared for the animals, shore the sheep and milked the cows, as well as butchering them for meat.

Some women took over jobs that needed specialist knowledge and strength. They became mechanics, drivers, engineers and aeroplane builders, as well as producing guns and ammunition.

The Australian Army, Navy and Air Force would have found it harder to keep going without the women who joined the special Women’s Services. They drove jeeps and big trucks, piloted planes to be repaired and returned to service. They became radio operators and even observers and anti-aircraft gunners.

It was mostly the women at home who made the men’s uniforms, who went into danger to nurse the sick and wounded, and who took over from the male doctors when they joined the forces. And many of them did this as well as raising families, often on their own, and worrying about their husbands and sons who were fighting or imprisoned.

When the war ended, the men returned home and, of course they wanted their jobs back. Most women were happy to go back to the home life they’d had before the war, but more than a few thought they had earned the right to work at jobs they had done well for many years. They didn’t want to go back to being under men’s thumb again.

They had kept vital industries going, kept the country fed and the forces clothed and supplied. They had learned new skills, felt they could contribute something to society. Now the exciting days of responsibility and self-respect were over, they didn’t want to go back to household drudgery and lose what they had showed they were capable of. It must have been really hard for them

Many women and even girls like me resent that they are not treated as equal to men, and are not satisfied with a life of pandering to them. What hope is there in that?

 

Tori will tell us a bit more about herself in the next few posts.

If you wish to purchase Thursday’s Child on Kindle, click here to pre-order. It will be available for download on the 1st of February.

 

 

 

 

 

What does the future hold?

September 22, 2016 at 8:16 pm | Posted in Australia, divisions in society, family responsibilities, Health, heritage, History, Mental Health, Politics, Religion, Social mores, Social Responsibility, Society, War and Conflict, Ways of Living | 10 Comments

 

I sat down tonight and just began to write. This is what came from my pecking at the keyboard:

 

All the news on the TV is bad. Nothing is positive. All we have is hatred, violence, intolerance, war and war-mongering, people being treated as cannon fodder. It is not a good world to live in – apart from local communities which support and nurture their residents.

 

One always must come down to the place where you live, where your family belong. Here in Australia, we have a reasonable lifestyle, though it is gradually and by stealth becoming more difficult for the ordinary person to make ends meet.

 

In the 1960s, 70s and 80s, it seems we had a golden age, though things began to change in the 1980s. There was a decent level of employment, and when one talked about employment, it related to full time positions, not to those who work only a couple of hours a week so the government can ‘cook the books’ to make itself look better. The government wasn’t working too hard to transfer financial benefits from the less well-off to the rich. We actually welcomed refugees and gave them a safe place to make their home. After Vietnam, we were not a part of any major violence in other countries. We were trying to preserve our environment and even make it better.

 

We raised our children to be tolerant and considerate of others. In Australia, education was free and available to all who wanted to improve themselves, whether through the university system or through trades with the TAFE system. We actually believed that money flows from the people upwards, to the owners of industry – who even had socially progressive policies. And so did governments, who realised it was financially better to support the poor and benefit from the taxes they paid than to demonise them.

 

But now, everything is focused on money, on the financial gains that can be made from those who have the least. A social conscience is seen as a weakness rather than a strength. The focus is on  so-called ‘trickle-down economics, where all the wealth goes to the rich but does not, in practice, benefit anyone on the lower economic scale.

 

Education, health, income support, in fact any formerly government-run social enterprise, is being privatised to companies only interested in making money, not in improving the lives of their clients. The environment upon which we rely has become the resource, with destructive mining practices instead of conservation.

 

Refugees are seen as a threat, rather than as people in need of assistance. Their presence is regarded as a negative that will destroy our society. But we have, through history, seen the great benefits brought to many nations through new blood, new ideas, new ways of thinking, and from the efforts of entrepreneurs who are happy to be safe to pursue their ideas and to develop new ways of doing things that benefit all of society.

 

The poor are seen as bludgers on the common purse. They are treated as if they have nothing to offer. But so many of them have, in the past, brought freshness and enthusiasm to the workplace when they have been given the chance to work. Now, however, they are relegated to a cycle of poverty from which there is little chance of escape.

 

The selfish and heartless policies of too many modern government have led to intolerance of those who are different, to violence against a society that has become indifferent to their frustration, to hatred of the unknown. Here in my country, they have resulted in the loss of the tradition of a fair go that so many Aussies prided themselves upon. Now, the mantra is, ‘if you don’t do what we say, then get out!’

 

I despair at our modern world. Our hopes for a brighter future for all have been shot to pieces. I see that my grandchildren will have to fight for the human rights we once took for granted – unless they become brainwashed by narcissistic and power-hungry leaders to believe they deserve to be the dregs of society. Dregs who are not entitled to the benefits the rich accrue unto themselves.

 

I wish I could be more positive. I know things go in cycles – what was once seen as normal becomes abnormal, what was once a moral value becomes something to avoid, what was once ‘good’ becomes ‘bad’, and vice versa. I hope that what is now negative changes to become positive.

 

So, I hope that my grandchildren will not become that which is acceptable today. That, at least in their local communities, something will happen to show them it is better for them to respect others, to help those less fortunate, to bring out the best in people rather than the worst, and to strive for a world that sees real justice for all instead of the false and negative world we see today.

 

What do you think of the world today? Do you have concerns for the present and the future?

 

(c) Linda Visman

Some Thoughts on Indoctrination

November 2, 2015 at 12:30 am | Posted in divisions in society, Philosophy, Politics, Religion | 8 Comments
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monday-memoir-badge

This may not be strictly memoir, but it is related to issues that writing my memoir articles is throwing up.

After I had written last Monday’s post about the things I learned as a Catholic child. I went through it and added the photos – including one of the Sacred Heart statue that sat in Mum & Dad’s home for 72 years.

The statue made me feel somewhat nostalgic, as did the photos of the holy cards I used. But my overall feeling after having written and thought through those things I learned as a child was a mixture of sadness and anger. Anger at what I was brainwashed into, anger and sadness at both what I lost as a thinking person, and at how my life has been blighted in some ways by the doctrines I believed were true when I was a child.

There were other feelings there too; anxiety and foreboding, but also an awareness and understanding of one of the problems we face in today’s local and international turbulence. Looking back at how we were taught Catholic dogma, kept within the confines of that one religion, and with no comprehension of what the real world was like, certainly makes me much more able to understand now how young people can be brainwashed by authorities into believing pretty well anything.

They are taught, and can come to deeply believe, that theirs is the only, the one true religion. That theirs is the only system that will save them and the world. That all those who don’t believe as they do wish to destroy them. And, therefore, that those ‘others’ must be destroyed before they themselves are destroyed.

The younger and more isolated they are from the outside world and its pluralist nature, the more easily children – and even adults – can be controlled, even to the point where they will freely give up their lives for the cause.

I look at how I believed, as a child, that I would have given my life for my faith if called upon to do so. I’d been taught that martyrs would be automatically granted entry to Heaven. And that is what the teachings of some other radical religious groups are. The fear of dying can be overcome by the intense belief that Heaven, Paradise, whatever it is called, is there, just waiting for you when you give this earthly life for the cause.

I am not doing research here; I am just looking at my own life then and now, reflecting upon it and seeing what could have been had the Catholic Church in the 1950s and 1960s been as militant as it used to be only a few hundred years ago. As militant as some factions are today. And it is not just religious beliefs that can be this way.

What about other belief systems – political parties and governments; belief in racial superiority and inferiority; the ‘them’ and ‘us’ of any situation that human beings find themselves in? Look at what has happened in history – Communism, the Nazis, the KKK, and what is happening today in North Korea and the Middle East, among others.

This polarisation will continue for a long time yet – perhaps for millennia if we survive that long. Because, unless our brains and bodies evolve from the base animal instinct of fighting for survival against any group we perceive to be different, to an instinct that is more co-operative and supportive, I believe we will always see Them and Us.

But evolution takes time. So our species may have killed itself off – along with the rest of the natural world – before we manage to get to that stage of development. I only wish it could be different

Isn’t it interesting how small things, like remembering one’s childhood, can provoke deeper thought – even upon the essence of mankind and our future of the world!

Are these thoughts familiar to you? Do you agree with the deliberate inculcating religious or other beliefs into the minds of young children? Please play nice! J

(c) Linda Visman

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