Lamplight on the darkened path

May 7, 2017 at 4:04 am | Posted in capitalism, creativity, Democracy, Living creatively, media negativity, public squalour | Leave a comment
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A Bigger Prize and The Short Goodbye

In Sickness, in Health and in Jail by Mel Jacobs

‘The world breaks everyone, and afterwards some are stronger in the broken places.’ Hemingway said that, and Mel Jacobs quotes him in the front of her poignant memoir, In Sickness, in Health and in Jail (Allen & Unwin, 2016). The author describes the shock, social stigma and logistical nightmares involved when her husband went to jail for two years after breaching the rules concerning his online hunting weapons business.

It was being uncharacteristically slack with a couple of technicalities (which were, granted, against the law, but seemed so minor in the scheme of things) that landed a decent, normally highly moral, small business guy in jail. A pity that the justice system doesn’t use such finely honed powers of legal scrutiny on anyone in finance or banking, I thought, since at the same time I was reading Elisabeth Wynhausen’s riveting The Short Goodbye (Melbourne University Press, 2011) about the global financial crisis.

Almost no one in finance or banking – no matter how illegal, unethical or immoral, no matter how many millions of lives they’ve ruined – will have to endure the appalling conditions of Australian prisons described in Jacobs’ book, and it’s exactly the same in the UK and Europe and the US. As Wynhausen states:

‘Even as unemployment around the globe soared, the financial institutions responsible sped from the wreckage they had left in their wake, to grab whatever they could get their hands on. After nine big Wall Street banks … were bailed out with US$175 billion from American taxpayers under the program President Bush signed into being, though President Obama would cop the flak for it, they handed out nearly US$33 billion in bonuses. (p. 189)

Continue Reading Lamplight on the darkened path…

’62 people are as wealthy as half the world’

February 10, 2016 at 4:43 am | Posted in capitalism, Inequality | Leave a comment
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‘62 people are as wealthy as half the world.’
I haven’t been blogging lately because I took on two small writing jobs, and, like most writing jobs – big or small – they took longer than anticipated. Plus I was visiting my beautiful nieces and their progeny and returned late last week. But now the writing jobs are (nearly) finished and I’m back here.

Finally we got a new fridge at our house. The previous one was an old biological specimen fridge that we got for free from a university biology/zoology department (Bozo at ANU) nearly ten years ago. Like most people I put stickers, postcards, photos and bits and pieces on the fridge, which I delete from and add to from time to time. When the new one came I took them off and culled them all for a fresh aesthetic start.
One of the bits of paper held up by my wooden pear magnets was an article from The Sydney Morning Herald, 18 Jan. 2016. The headline says:

‘62 people are as wealthy as half the world.’

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Cheerfulness is an achievement: favourite books of 2015

December 28, 2015 at 9:48 pm | Posted in art, Books, capitalism, creativity, health | 2 Comments

The Guardian Weekly ‘Books of the Year’ (18-31 December this year) is where writers and critics present their favourite reads of the past year and it is a reliable guide to some great reading. You can also hear authors speak about their work on theguardian.com/books/series/books

Popular choices of ‘Books of the Year’ were Ali Smith’s short story collection Public Library, Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet and Colm Toibin’s Nora Webster. Kate Mosse recommends selected essays by women under thirty entitled I Call Myself A Feminist (Virago, 2015).

The uplifting website www.brainpickings.org also lists favourite books of the past year. The first is the late Oliver Sacks’ On the Move: A Life.

If The Guardian were to ask me, I’d recommend Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go (Sphere, 2014). The plot leaps into action from page one, gripping the reader until the end. After a tragedy, protagonist Jenna Gray leaves everything and moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast. The novel is written from the perspectives of several characters, in first, third and even second person. I don’t usually read crime novels except for the psychological thrillers of Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell’s nom de plume for her novels in that genre) but, like the Barbara Vine novels, I Let You Go has much more insight and psychological depth than your average crime novel.

Continue Reading Cheerfulness is an achievement: favourite books of 2015…

Capitalism and gardening

May 12, 2013 at 7:59 am | Posted in Books, capitalism | Leave a comment
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A businessman was on holiday in a small Greek coastal village where he started chatting to a humble Greek fisherman who had just come in with his small fishing boat with his morning’s catch. When asked why he had come in after only a few hours’ fishing, the fisherman replied he had enough for his family and to give to some friends.
‘But what do you do with the rest of your time?’
The fisherman smiled. ‘I eat with my family, play with my children on the beach and take a siesta with my wife.’
‘But you could spend twice as much time at sea, catch twice as many fish and sell them.’
‘And then?’ the fisherman replied.
‘After a few years you would have saved enough money to buy another boat, employ someone and within a few years you could have a fleet of boats.’
‘And then?’ the fisherman asked.
‘You could open a fish processing plant and with another few years could control all the seafood processing and distribution in Greece.’
‘And then?’ the fisherman replied again.
‘You can retire and spend quality time with your family, go fishing in the mornings, play with your grandchildren on the beach and take a siesta with your wife.’

That story has been around for a while and but it bears repeating; this version is from Trisha Dixon’s Adagio: Living and Gardening Mindfully (Murdoch Books, 2012, p. 37). As that author writes, ‘So easy and yet so hard to just live life instead of racing through it.’ (p. 39)
And this society’s aggressive capitalism – someone recently coined ‘totalitarian capitalism’ for what it is – makes it very hard to slow down and really do what we want to do and find out who we are and what we want. We’re supposed to be out shopping for white goods or clothes or whatever or working to earn the money to buy the white goods or clothes or whatever.
The best book I’ve read on the global financial crisis is John Lanchester’s Whoops: Why everyone owes everyone and no one can pay (Penguin, 2010). Lucid, funny, accessible. Lanchester has written a novel about the financial situation too, called Capital. When I have time I’ll read it; definitely on my list.
‘For every dollar spent on UN peacekeeping, $2,000 is expended for warmaking by member nations. Four of the five members of the UN Security Council, which has veto power over all U.N. resolutions are the top weapons dealers in the world: the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Russia.’
(Paul Hawken. Blessed Unrest: How the largest social movement in history is restoring grace, justice and beauty to the world. Penguin, 2007)
Depressing. But that book isn’t. It is a book full of hope. And as Voltaire advised about what to do when politics etc is distressingly malevolent – cultivate your garden. And our garden is writing, art, books, ideas or anything creative. Or indeed for some of us it is gardening. I used to have a green thumb. But then I had a change in circumstances that necessitated living in flats for many years and I lost the habit – and maybe even the talent. And now I don’t have time – But I love having a garden. It reminds me of that saying: ‘I love work. I can watch it for hours.’ Someone else does the work in the garden and I get to reap the benefits. I do the simple things like strawberries and jonquils.
My mind is not on this blog because I feel guilty not working on the commissioned book. So I am going to finish this one with a quotation from somewhere – it is quoted in Sir Ken Robinson’s The Element. (Fabulous book on creativity and how our education system does us no favours in this respect.) I’ve got two years for this thing (somewhat less than that now) but I’m approaching the third phase.
The six phases
Enthusiasm
Disillusion
Panic
Search for the guilty
Punishment of the innocent
Praise for the non-participants

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