Twenty-Four Hours: On Erotic Love and Long Haul Flights

With transit in Saigon and Paris, my flight time reaching Tel Aviv is exactly twenty-four hours.

The transition is not merely countries, but I will be leaving the peaceful safety of my home and into the occupied territories, where armed soldiers freely walk with AK47s and are at liberty to interrogate and take what they want from me, where people are killed by snipers from long distances and where one can be detained without charge. Am I afraid? From the world’s most liveable city to a refugee camp, from the freedom of my life in Australia into the restricted and immobile space where I am at a much higher risk of being killed? Of course I am scared.

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It is in moments like this where you are confronted with guilt or with regret, where you find yourself wishing you could have said something that you buried within, or even reminisce on love and all that is beautiful and sad. Who are you and what have you done with your life? Who do you love, your family, friends? We can all imagine ourselves to be as honest as St. Augustine, but the truth is that most of us are – either intentionally or unintentionally – liars, especially when things are comfortable. We sometimes knowingly deceive and try to keep up appearances despite the utter exhaustion and anxiety doing this, and other times we are genuinely unaware of what we or others are doing. The long-haul flight has me thinking about the past, present and future, sometimes the echoes of the pointlessness of my existence and the futility in everything that I do, but mostly I think about what it is that I want in life.

The Past: Erotic Love

As I meander through Ho Chi Minh airport waiting in transit, the endless supply of lollies and souvenirs compelled me to crunch down some freeze-dried durian crisps, despite the empty calories. I am an extreme minimalist although I am a great cook, eating what is necessary as Dozer from The Matrix would approve given the sludge they ate: “It’s a single-celled protein combined with synthetic aminos, vitamins, and minerals. Everything the body needs.” These delicious pieces of dried fruit are not what the body needs neither was the disgusting airline food, so I do feel guilty. I then remind myself that it is a much deserved delight given the next twelve hours will be spent flying into Paris and the anxiety of having to sit in close proximity beside a stranger is too difficult to digest, so let me digest something sweet!

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It initiates thoughts leading to this confession. I am not going to deny it, but despite all that I do – from my profession to my creative pursuits, or hiking and travelling – it seems that only one man has occupied my thoughts for a long time. I will admit that over the last three and a half years, I have thought about him everyday and I oscillate between love and anger, hope and hopelessness, the latter becoming more and more ever since he made it abundantly clear when he recently refused to even say hello despite seeing me. I think the reason he never left my thoughts was because my heart was unsettled, because he never allowed me to speak or to retrieve the answers I needed to lay things to rest.

The truth is, I did love him. There, I said it! Although it is completely insane, that is what I felt and I was embarrassed to admit that for a number of reasons, claiming it was brotherly love. It wasn’t. I was compelled by erotic love. Everything about him was wrong, reason and logic told me something completely different because he behaved like a moron and his lifestyle remains far from anything that I would admire or respect, but I still felt something. It was terribly confusing. It is like my intuition spoke to me without words and told me he was the one and that has never happened to me before, not with anyone. It was everything else that was sensible and logical telling me to run the other direction, to push him away and indeed all his wrongdoing created the silly things that occurred between us.

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I often asked myself what did he want as I hated all the games and feeling like I needed to lie just to communicate with him – which was why I was compelled to confront him physically as though saying ‘here I am’ with my presence – but then I realised the question I should be asking is what do I want? He once said to me that his girlfriend controls him and he has no idea how, which I guess is not that surprising. I cannot be with a man who doesn’t know what he wants, where I would have to manipulate and indirectly convince him to stay with me. I want a man to want me and for him to clearly articulate that, as an equal, someone who feels a strong desire to be my friend and admires me for what I do and how I think. The question what do I want? was enough to make me stop chasing a ghost and to really think about the value of my own personhood and I guess in some respects I should thank him for that.

I can write about everything wrong about him, but the reality is that I loved him and he doesn’t know neither did he reciprocate any feelings, that I have traditional standards of male/female courting and that I am someone that a man needs to earn and fight for, a challenge he refused. An unrequited love story really, nothing spectacular. It feels great admitting that I really did have feelings for him rather than trying to make excuses or attack him or deny my feelings as I have been doing for quite sometime. I felt something real and it was very powerful.

I have left the possibility of encountering him in public with the hope he may be encouraged to say something to me, I have moved far away and intentionally disconnected from the online forum where his ghost haunted me and what originally compelled me to return. I don’t mind indulging in the hope that he may one day find the courage to sit with me and talk as two adults and two friends, something I would have been deeply grateful for and perhaps the reason for my activities the last year. But sometimes you have no choice but to live with the scar. I smile at my now healthy, plump 59kg body that is no longer starved as I was several years ago, of how I am no longer sad and heartbroken as I was when flying out to Italy in 2015. I am rested,  my soul at peace today. My voluptuously athletic womanhood is a testament to the improvement of my mental health and I look forward to meeting someone else who has the courage the person I fell for lacked, to find a man that is not vain and who does not tolerate the things I find intolerable. I am eager to fall in love again as the new me.

 

The Present: Me

It was only a few hours before I landed in Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to pass the horrible time flying for almost twelve hours that I watched Tomb Raider with Alicia Vikander who was refreshing for her honest and powerful appearance and I suddenly understood what envy can feel like.

I want adventure!

 

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And here I am on my way to make a documentary. Suddenly, I am overcome by the dread that I will ruin everything because of my lack of experience, especially with audio. As said by George Lucas:

“I feel that sound is half the experience… filmmakers should focus on making sure the soundtracks are really the best they can possibly be because in terms of an investment, sound is where you get the most bang for your buck.”

My thoughts seemed to be occupied by the fear I am going to ruin the whole experience because I am not that confident in my audio skills. I have a Takstar SGC-598 Shotgun Microphone that I will use on a Panasonic GH4 and I have tested it and it works perfectly well. It is directional, however, and in the case of filming groups of people in a room, the audio will clearly need to done more adequately. I could not afford wireless lavalier mics to attach on the main people, although I do have one Rode wired lavalier with an extension cord that I can connect to the DSLR and great for any one person interview I might do. To manage the group thing, I needed a condenser microphone that I could attach to a boom, but the costs of anything good and the weight it would add to my pack made it an issue for me given that I am completely broke. I instead purchased a Tascam DR-40 that I believe works really well in concert environments and any echoes can be removed in post. I may try and attach the Tascam to a boom pole with some duct tape if I have trouble feeding the voices into the inbuilt mics. I wish there were inflatable boom operators slash audio experts I could take with me!

Take a deep breath, I think to myself, and remember this is just something small, something so many others have done before me. I am learning, experiencing, going on an adventure both morally and mentally. And I am excited.

 

The Future: My Family

I open the window to see the sunrise before we land in Tel Aviv and such is the beauty! The slithers of pastel pink and purple wave over the tidal sky like sand underwater, burnt orange shattering the horizon that blinded me from the screen in front of me that played the pianist Shoshana MichelA Prelude to A Dream, perfect for this moment between me and the stunning sunrise high above the clouds. The contrails left from the planes tear across the skyscape like a sword slicing through fog, the lid of grey mushrooms below was blinded by the glare until suddenly the light came together and awakened the view.

It is nice to stretch the legs after such a long flight where I was trapped in the window isle for twelve hours and I feel dystrophic. This exhaustion is aligned with my somewhat indifference to Paris and I am glad that I am leaving, despite the nationwide celebrations for winning the world cup. I am not a tourist, I like to get lost in cities walking around and visiting strange and quiet places, including gardeans and galleries. While I am happy for the country and intrigued by the politics behind sports that is reminiscent of the Roman Empire, it is not the time to feel like a mouse among millions of drunk people and the garbage they seem to produce.

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I think that my attitude is telling of how I am as a person, that while I am happy for others and what they choose to do with their life, I much prefer the quiet solitude of home. A home has always been what I wanted, for someone to actually love me where together we can provide for one another. It is funny, for most people that is normal, a given, but it is something I have never had and that safety and togetherness is what I long for. It is probably the reason why I feel a little glad that I am navigating back to my parents and have begun communication with them, building a new relationship and a new way of living. Despite the difficulties of a past of wrongdoing, my focus is only on the future and only strengthening our bond. To get to know them as they are or the people that they are and not because they are my parents.

“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard

My mother has changed considerably, she is showing more affection and is responsive and happy, something that she never was before. My father has changed too, he is calm and we can have some great conversations about history and politics. He seems to have bonded well with my sister’s husband, Mark, who is American and I think he admires how he treats my sister and their daughter. He told me that I am the only person who he feared to hurt and always wanted my blessing and approval as I would always respond and fight back as a child, leaving home when I was very young because I disapproved of his behaviour toward my mothers, the violence culturally embedded and normalised.

While I admit that it is strange to have started a relationship with my parents, they still remain somewhat alien to me. I am not Turkish, I am not drawn to the culture at all and feel no connection to it. I felt more at home in Tel Aviv then I did trawling through the streets of Istanbul. I feel no emotional love for anything it offers other than the experience a tourist would have. It makes me understand them better and why we never connected or formed a bond. My siblings are a different story, there is still some work that needs to be done with them because they are not excused for their behaviour given that we were raised in the same environment and I was never as cruel as they had become. I was belittled for a considerable amount of time by most of them that I lost the opportunity to learn about my own identity.

My respect is something earned, however if I remove those expectations that I have in others and take a relativistic approach, that if I remove the emotions I feel for a negative history and instead try to understand who they are from a sociological and psychoanalytical method, I can work through the emotions that I feel and I simply love that challenge. It is navigating and creating a better future, a positive one.

 

My Journey Into Documentary Filmmaking

It is not that I am talented in so many different fields from philosophy to law, politics to astronomy neither am I genius, far from it. Actually, I would say that I am probably one of the most stupidest people I know. I have absolutely no idea how to be social for a start, probably because I have a nobullshit policy. That is not some flamboyant dismissal due to an arrogant indifference to others, but a very simple, unassuming honesty. Men find me attractive, for instance, but how come I don’t know about it? Because they never say to me ‘I really like you’ or ‘I would love to take you out for coffee’ and instead I get men batting their eyelashes and giving me long, affectionate stares. What am I supposed to do with that? Do they behave that way because they are nervous and fear rejection, or are they nervous because their conscience is aware that they are being deceitful, the same kind of nervous someone feels before stealing?

I have long been intrigued by this inauthentic mental state that enables one to become immersed in their own imagination, creating this physical duplicate of themselves where consciousness becomes symbiotically absorbed into an illusion. It is like watching a movie or reading a fiction novel but dreamily imagining that emotional responses to this fictional reality is characteristic of something actually real. Someone who believes in their own lies. I never trust such men because they simply use women to imagine something exciting, an object where he can have one or two weeks of secretive lovemaking to escape the terrible boredom of his own life and by creating this fictional world, this duplicate existence, his consciousness becomes absorbed into the fiction that enables him to forget reality. It is only when actual reality sobers his perceptions that suddenly he tries to escape any responsibility, create excuses and justifications, even lie or slander. It would be no different for me to interact with a drunkard. They do not want to be responsible for their own actions and over and over again, repeat themselves in this cycle rather than change the source that is causing them to behave that way in the first place, whatever is going on in reality that they are trying to escape from.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

People seem to understand one another using this indirect language and are comforted by meandering communication to prevent self-defence mechanisms from being provoked. People are fictional. In the movie V for Vendetta, Evie said: “Artists use lies to tell the truth, while politicians use them to cover the truth up.” I have been quarantined from this imagined landscape and so all I see are zombies playing strange games with one another.

This leads to my flare for the theatrical – burning bridges, causing trouble, that sort of thing – because I am that artist who enjoys provoking the ego in order to expose the truth, a quiet part of me that creates the exhibition because the irrational reactions that others have in an attempt to cover the truth up verifies my position on the subject. I find myself trying to figure out what language I can speak to such people who are evidently sleepwalking, how I can ‘wake them up’ from their existential lethargy.

So, it is not that I am talented. The real problem lies in the mental energy that people exert thinking about bullshit, giving all their cognitive space to this secondary layer of reality, this unwritten and yet largely understood social identity. The constant continuity given to pointless thoughts like what other people are wearing, how they look, how they appear to others, material goods, even to the importance of how many likes one can get on Instagram or Facebook, all that takes up most of their mental energy and time, all of which are mindboggingly pointless to me.

I understand fiction. Storytelling has given me the opportunity to find that point between these two worlds, creativity breaking the barriers through this dichotomy between the real and unreal, the imagined and the actual. I have access to a way of expressing the truth using film as a medium without forcing people to decide or make them think what I want them to think, unlike Hollywood or especially contemporary Asian cinema that has a hidden political agenda within the plot to subtly coerce an opinion. Documentary film is simply as it is.

 

My History in Film

My first ever degree that I was accepted into was the Bachelor of Film and Television at Swinburne University. I did Studio Arts as a subject during high school and was permitted to do film, making a number of short videos predominantly of a comedic nature. To name one, Lowered Expectations, a mockumentary about a Muslim man hoping to find an obedient wife but who accidentally exposes his desire for blonde women with big breasts. This was before the September 11 attacks at a school filled with wogs or kids from an ethnic background and we instantly became a hit. No one took offence back then when Semiha borrowed her dads Muslim gear and a girl with a fake moustache played a Muslim man. Copies of the mockumentary were distributed on VHS and parents would identify us at the local shops and remark at how funny we were. It continued, a horror mockumentary called The Reebok Killer that involved Lisa’s pigeon-toe feet sprawling around school killing people, and another about a soul-searching Kung Fu expedition Triple Dragon involving violence, witches and dangerous flips off the school roof. The funniest bit was the fight scene between me and my best friend Sureyya, where I provoked her in agitation to attack me by screaming “come on!” repeatedly while ripping my clothes off as she awkwardly stared at me, until with one punch I was down. I was the funniest person in school and everyone wanted to be cast in my videos, to hang out with us spending most of our days mucking around and getting kicked out of class. I had the best time because we had a video camera.

My main project was a folio on Luis Bunuel and that introduced the movie The Obscure Object of Desire to me, which is predominately about the sexual frustration of a middle aged man. What Bunuel did, however, is challenge the symmetrical idea I had of film and his surrealism expressed through human emotions like desperation and the grotesque made me think about the diversity and opportunity I had to express myself.

Sadly, I could not undertake the degree because I could not afford the costs. For someone living independently the $2000 per semester price-tag was excessive. I could barely make ends meet, working at Hudson’s Coffee and KFC at $6-8 per hour, sometimes both on the same day where I would make coffee from 5am-1pm with a short break as I make my way to sell fried chicken from 2pm-10pm. The pleasures of having nothing, but by the time I turned eighteen I had managed to save $800 to buy my first car, a brown, beaten-up 1983 model Toyota Cressida. What a car! It was the best thing that happened to me and my friends, enabling us to travel around Melbourne and watch movies most weekends from mindless action films at Hoyts to my favourite classic at the Astor. I spent most of my late teens and early twenties in a cinema rather than a nightclub, with Yul Brynner rather than a boyfriend.

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My favourite actor of all time Yul Brynner. Give me John Wayne, Orson Welles and Steve McQueen over anyone! 

I decided to pursue studies in politics and international relations instead and moved into other areas of thought including human rights law, literature and philosophy. Things started to change with my friends as I was the only one studying and our interests, well, we just became different people. It was emotionally difficult for me as I became more and more aware of how different I was and that made me feel more and more isolated. So I decided to enrol myself into a small media and film group at Latrobe University at the time and made short films as a way to interact with like minded students. It was a strange time for me. I was away from everything that I was familiar with and I could not really connect with the other students and so I expressed myself in those films in ways I did not entirely understand, trying to regulate the emotional stress of all the changes that were occurring in my life at the time. You could see the confusion through the short films that I did or the screenplays that I wrote.

It was until I took a subject in my final year with Richard Freadman called Writing Autobiography that gave me a chance to recognise that I had buried deep within me something I did not completely understand. It was clear because I was unable to write autobiography, indeed anything at all about me. I needed to fictionalise my life because whenever I thought about my reality, a feeling of anxiety and neuroticism would manifest. I could escape those feelings through fiction or when I focused on scientific facts and figures. I admitted my predicament to him after nervously reading my short story in his tiny office with other students in the class and he said that I write like a cross between Simone de Beauvoir and Voltaire, which remains the greatest compliment I have ever received. While people often assume that tortured artists are geniuses, the fact is that they are unable to adequately piece together their own story, that their creativity is really their search for an answer, but often in all the wrong ways.

While I found peace in science and where politics and philosophy satisfied my intellectual needs, hidden deep within me remained the creative pangs of a venture I had not been able to undertake. Until only a few years ago when my story within, when all that pain that I had buried finally released and I was forced to face my demons. I had to learn how to write autobiography and slowly I started to speak about my father and my mother, about my siblings and a childhood of constant belittling and harassment, to recognise that esteem, my identity and self-hood until I finally found that peace within myself. To understand how to film a documentary is to piece together a narrative, to form a person on camera and explain an identity, something that cannot be achieved without first being able to tell your own autobiography.

It seems that most of my decisions in life ended up looping in one cycle back to the very beginning, as though all the effort I made learning about so many different interests was to broaden my knowledge and understanding so I could reach this point in my life. It just suddenly made sense, my passion for justice, human rights and peace, my difficulties and overcoming them, writing autobiography, my philosophical obsession with authenticity in our thoughts and who we are, my work with children and education, all the way to what is now my creative pursuit in making honest documentaries and telling real stories.

 

My Panasonic GH4

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As a hiker, I get the chance to meet some amazing people and luckily met a friend who was a professional in the industry where we discussed our interest in film. It was one of those moments where – without prejudice or assumptions interfering – we just both comfortably connected and talked openly about movies and cinema, about equipment and my decision to learn video and documentary as a creative pursuit on the side of my professional desires. I am already in a job that is perfect for me doing community work with children and I was recently promoted into a senior role. I feel comfortable in my job and so many people in my community know me and respect me. It seemed the right time to renew my creative side that was abandoned so many years ago. I began that process by purchasing a Panasonic GH4 that is capable enough for my amateur beginnings.

My amazing experience as an intern at Tel Aviv University and my visit to Bethlehem enabled me to form a strong partnership with a small school at a refugee camp nearby that teaches children non-violent expression through creativity and the arts, including dance, theatre, and music where talented people from all over the world come and teach the children there. My friend Phil from the United States is coming to teach children painting, and Ray from Australia is directing a play with the children. While I will be teaching women about human rights law, I will also be spending most of my time documenting the play and filming it on my Panasonic GH4, telling the story of several young students who are starring in that play. I have no political agenda, no fiction to add to the story but want to give others the opportunity to witness the real. Authenticity and honesty, love and peacefulness, human rights and justice, everything that I am is being expressed through this documentary.

I am one week away from my journey and I will write more about this in the coming weeks.

Freakonomics

Some actually believe that they are entitled to more than others, that somehow the colour of their skin and how popular they are determines this privilege. They grow up being served and like a spoilt child who with a cry or with a scream can ensure he gets what he wants, he grows up to believe that despite doing nothing for this world, despite having nothing interesting about him, everyone will still adore him as he did growing up. He then continues by injecting steroids into his system to physically appear masculine and finding a stupid, attractive girlfriend and there you have it, the image of perfection and happiness, just like the millions of others doing the exact same thing because they think the exact same thing. These young men then interact with virtual reality by playing violent video games to give them artificial feelings of strength and power to compensate for the powerlessness they feel to be themselves. I think this quote perfectly epitomises the biggest problem in our society today: “It means that mummy and daddy have been spoiling you, and now you think that the world owes you something, but it doesn’t. And if you don’t learn how to work hard now, then you’re going to just grow up to be like another entitled little white dude who thinks he’s awesome for no reason. And then you’ll start a Ska Band and it’ll be awful and you’ll be mean to girls, and you’ll grow this ironic moustache to look interesting but you won’t actually be interesting, and I’m not okay with that.” [1]

And yet, if so many millions think that happiness is attainable by these superficial means, suddenly this imagined ideal requires ugly people to go, the elderly need to be hidden away, where rape, terrible violence, poverty are somehow swept under the carpet so that life becomes perfectly singular. If you deviate from this norm you are damaged and need to be removed, just like a divorced child is outcast in a society that regulates marriage. It is a social pathology of being ‘normal’ and that suddenly – despite being superficial in order to achieve this normalcy – you are safe and secure from the terror of being different and the isolation of being disliked. A pathology explains a mental state engaged in constant maladaptive behaviour and actual reality becomes a shadow, an imagined state and like a neurological disease it has somehow become broadly acceptable because it blinds our fear to recognise the absolute futility and vanity of our behaviour. “Let them eat cake!”

Has a parasite infected the minds of the masses or am I unable to recognise that such mindlessness is a necessary component for a functioning economy, that despite the absence of a moral compass, capitalism requires men to believe that the drudgery of their existence, the deep and incredibly profound boredom that they feel is nevertheless worthy, that they are important and that they are the best human that they can be? The amount of money that women spend on cosmetics is reprehensible – the average woman in Australia spends up to $3,600 on beauty products each year – and the fact that millions upon millions of women are doing the same thing in this highly competitive space that makes all of them look and appear the same, starving themselves, changing their bodies, and acting or behaving ‘nice’ makes me wonder how terrible our spending priorities have become.

Capitalism needs people to imagine individuality. Benedict Anderson wrote of Imagined Communities that examines how nationalism emerges out of our creation of a community as it forms through the discourses that are generated by the capitalist marketplace where we start to construct likes and dislikes that enables people to think in masses. For Karl Marx, the competition forms a monopoly that perpetuates a great divide between the wealthy and the exploited and thus the incentive for wealth sows the seeds of its own destruction. For Foucault, the discourses strengthens the social network and can effectively enable positive relations despite there being no real ‘truth’ in what is broadly accepted as truth.

“I think that the word bored does not get the attention it deserves. We speak of all sorts of terrible things that happen to people, but we rarely speak about one of the most terrible things of all: that is, being bored, being bored alone and, worse than that, being bored together.”

I realised that I lack sympathy, that my disgust for those types of people who believe in the vanity of appearances and spend money on fashion and make-up and who follow an image of “good” behaviour despite the shallowness and emptiness of who they are, deserves more compassion. These people are trapped in that constant repetition, they are paralysed by a fear of confronting reality because if they do, if they become conscious that their existence as merely a tiny, irrelevant speck attached to a delusional mass, the system would collapse. Would that be a good thing?

In the book Freakonomics, there is the exploration of the immoral that is formed within this system, that ‘good behaviour’ is in fact a disguise rooted by incentives that compel people to act as long as they receive something that they want in return. Even with our relationships with one another, it is not about being honest or humane but whether or not there is an incentive, something that I can receive in return. In Japan, for instance, society ignored that match-fixing existed in the realm of Sumo wrestling and that the violence and abuse of this hierarchical and highly competitive system was impossible. The terrible truth was eclipsed by tradition and the image of something beautiful and perfect. Like the myth of Narcissus who viewed his own reflection and fell in love with his own image, he no longer lived neither as a man or a hunter and died staring at himself.

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I decided that while the system is there for a reason, it is morally broken. The supplementary book Think Like A Freak speaks of the “upside of quitting” and that by thinking like a ‘freak’ and therefore challenging the norm in an absence of fear can lead one to greater success and happiness.  As said by the authors: “Quitting is hard because it is equated with failure, and nobody likes to fail, or at least be seen failing. But is failure so terrible? We don’t think so.” If society functions under an imagined landscape where our moral compass is really just ignoring the bad things that are happening or pretending that there are no vulnerable that need our help, that there is happiness in the objects or things that we buy, it offers the opportunity for politicians and institutions to take advantage of this propensity to self-deceit. They begin to irrationally consume and forget the importance of our humanity.

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Translating our understanding of the world realistically based on economic terms may actually benefit us. The system won’t collapse. It will improve, no matter how terrible we think the outcome will be. “When failure is demonized, people will try to avoid it at all costs—even when it represents nothing more than a temporary setback.” Whatever the change is, whether it is job, partner or friends, what might appear to be the complete destruction of your life is just a temporary set back to something better. That way, our moral compass becomes real and impenetrable.

I have spent so long pointlessly trying to fight against the grain of social cliche and have decided to spend my time actually making a difference.

On Forgiveness: The Individual Represents The State

I seem to find myself saying that we need to give love and then having to explain what that means, so I may as well start with it. Love is moral consciousness, that being loving is having the awareness and the need to create what is both right and good to all. Each time I wanted to write about forgiveness, it felt inappropriate as though I were not allowed considering that I still felt resentment, still fought with people, or that people thought I was bad or weird and therefore I did not have the authority to discuss such a subject. To be angry is wrong or as the Stoics believe ungoverned anger begets madness, and while the idea that anger and love are mutually exclusive, is there no such thing as injustice? The term humanity explains our capacity for benevolence, propriety and loving-kindness, but there are crimes against humanity and gross injustice that demonstrates our capacity for evil, to look the other way, to hate or abuse those who are vulnerable. There are many layers to anger, one being the socially constructed character where ‘masculinity’ is defined by this permission to display aggression while ‘feminine’ is restraining such emotions, thus when a woman displays anger she becomes ‘crazy’ because of this contrast just as much as a quiet man is labelled cowardly. The other is anger as primitive, egotistic, an unauthored state of mind that rises like steam in the heat of the moment from the reservoir of our deepest emotions and fears especially when we lose control, giving us a false sense of empowerment. Does a person scream because they seek to display power and dominate the situation, or do they scream because they feel they are not being heard or acknowledged?

 

The Individual


Unrequited feelings of rejection is one thing, but having the person that you have feelings for mistreat you is another. The hurt is considerable. I felt incredibly small and worthless, shrinking into the shadows that it soon became clear that my life was withering away.  ‘Stop. Leave me alone,’ I would mutter in desperation when his taunting became unbearable. I could no longer fight against all the games he played and the pretending he did that quite simply broke my heart. I needed him gone so the hurt could go with him. He was another monster in a series of people who had let me down, including my father. My father was a very aggressive man and his aggression stemmed purposefully because he was raised in an environment that told him how he should treat women, his wife and children and his fellow men and my father was the type to do what he was told. It is unfortunate that in the Turkish culture that he grew up in, what he was told to do were all wrong and where masculinity and ‘being a man’ were defined by your capacity for violence. The survival of the fittest. He often ruminated, however, how much he wished to have been educated and you could see deep within him that longing to shatter the chains of the cultural repression that forced him to be a monster and normalised and accepted his bad behaviour.

My mother could never tell my father that he was a monster that she instead took her aggression out on me and she would always do this when no one was around to witness her behaviour. Words like ‘slut’ and ‘bitch’ were hurled in my direction, opinions like ‘you are worthless’ and ‘never come to my funeral when I die’ were consistently launched before she would go to my father and others and claim that I abused her. I was mistreated and then blamed as though I deserved the mistreatment. It was much worse from my siblings who constantly taunted and belittled me in much the same manner, my eldest brother violent and my sisters cruel. I was ugly, stupid and had no purpose in life other than to serve and as this occurred from such a young age being the youngest in my family, I came to believe it. Violence is both physical and psychological.

It is incredibly difficult finding dignity and self-respect when people directly or indirectly tell you that you are not good enough and it is especially worse when it comes from the people that you love or admire, from your parents or siblings, your lover and your friends. We are taught from a young age that receiving any love or approval is conditional, that we need to obey and do what we are told, that right and wrong behaviour is defined by others, to make decisions and appear a certain way that is approved of by society that our identity is determined by this approval. We build on that, our efforts become all about performing the best according to what our environment dictates, to appear popular and congratulated and so we work hard trying to receive the love from others. When others tell us we are good, that must mean that we are good. When others tell us we are bad, we must be bad. It is about quantity, the more people like us or agree with us then we become more right and more worthy.

But what happens to our identity within all of this, what happens when we realise that all our efforts are simply trying to get other people to tell us we are good and it does not matter how artificial we are in our attempt to attain this? Do we exist, or is our real identity a Jungian ‘shadow’ or the unknown part of our personality that even we don’t completely understand? To realise that we – who we really are – does not actually matter, we come to see that our efforts is vanity, our relationships artificial, and that we are in fact alone because you cannot satisfy something that is insatiable. That is, within that existential nightmare where hedonism and aggression are suddenly permitted, can people recognise who we really are, can love – moral consciousness – be possible? If so, if we create meaning consciously and if our humanity is dependent on our moral fibre, how do we reach out and find that capacity to work against the grain? How can we give, rather than try to receive, love?

The State


In Plato’s The Republic, Socrates explains the individual soul by dividing its purpose into a triptych of 1. rational, 2. emotional and 3. instinctual or the appetites that compel us to pursue our desires. The analogy of the soul is an attempt to demonstrate that while we have those three functions, an individual is capable of being just or moral when they can find an equilibrium or balance between all three. This psychological account of the subjective self is similar to the Freudian division of the psyche, that to repress or restrain our desires can lead to a tumorous pathology elsewhere. Socrates further explains that the soul of the individual or what makes the individual capable of being just is aligned in similar vein to the function of a city or a state. Thus the individual represents the state; murder and mass murder function in much the same way, but on a larger scale.

The Palestinian/Israeli conflict epitomises continuity of aggression and violence and with the diplomatic difficulties between both parties when attempting to find a solution, forgiveness at political level becomes all the more difficult. Following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the United Kingdom gained administrative control of Palestine under the 1922 mandate that formalised British rule in the region by the League of Nations. The violence between Jews and Palestinians occurred at this time as decisions of who will sovereign the region became announced as discussions on the subject ensued. Palestinians were ignored until the British finally announced that it will be a place for Jewish settlement at a time where the Jews themselves were – through Germany and the holocaust – required protection. It did not help that Palestinian leadership under al-Husseini decided to strengthen relations with Germany, a British enemy at the time. When World-War II was over and the United Nations forged, the General Assembly Resolution 181 (II) Future Government of Palestine was articulated as a way to divide the territories into what is known as the two-state solution, something that continues to be rejected by Palestinians. At the time, it was largely rejected by the Arab world that led to Arab-Israeli wars of 1948 and 1967, the former leading to ‘The Catastrophe’ or An-Nakba that resulted in what remains the longest refugees without a homeland in the world.

What happens to the identity of the Palestinians in all of this? The lack of acknowledgement, impoverished without proper leadership and guidance? The rise of the Palestinian Liberation Authority further perpetuated the anger and aggression, where the conditions within the occupied territories worsened to a point of leading to several ‘Intifida‘ or an attempt to remove the powerful grip that Israel had on the Palestinian people. In the context of international law, sovereignty is limited to a state with geographical boundaries, recognised by other states as having stable governance and a capacity for diplomatic relations defined by a permanent population or citizenship. Israel has successfully done this and have the right to be there, but symbolically they continue to struggle justifying – other than through a historical and religious context – their reason to be there. They have adequately and successfully developed a stable polity and society but borne out of aggression and violence such as building settlements in illegal territories. The victim – the Palestinians – are socially and politically in disarray and without adequate leadership and proper legislative boundaries that enable a ‘natural balance’ of the political soul to form a just society, factional differences such as that between Hamas and Fatah will continue to cause delays in reconciliation. They are left with the symbolic right to determination without any practical or organised capacity in our contemporary legal definition of statehood.

 

 

To Fight The Good Fight


 

How do you proceed when you have been hurt so much? How do you find forgiveness? When I experienced the violence both verbally and emotionally, that feeling of emptiness and heart-ache made it difficult for me to function adequately. I was sad and emotional. I lost a lot of weight and became very sick. I had to take care of myself through the difficulties and that resilience through the mental and physical difficulties is hard, because as the victim you should not be the one making the effort to improve. You took it from me and I want it back from you. Until I was able to find that inner voice and function with a healthy mindset, forgiveness within an unstable and unsettled subjectivity is impossible. As Tracy Chapman perfectly said, “unsettled hearts promise what they can’t deliver.” When I reflected on most of the hurt that I experienced from others, from those who were responsible to care for me and those who were irresponsible as people while my own personal life was in disarray, I was not able to see things objectively.

It was only after this, after having lost so much and building myself up again through all the hurt that I was able to understand why my parents and others mistreated me. They have the same pressure as everyone else, to work for and try and impress the people in their social environment or culture in order to gain their approval and recognition so as to form that meaning and identity. While they were making every effort to be recognised by their society, they were failing and became resentful themselves, attacking others in this highly competitive social dynamic thinking that by bringing other people down, they can climb up higher and feel greater worth. It is an artificial sense of empowerment where they feel some control because they feel they have no control. They become destructive and cannot articulate or explain their frustrations because they simply do not understand it.

Just like capitalism, aggression is as Rousseau claims, namely that people are good by nature but are corrupted by society. The Judeo-Christian concept of evil is this considering it opposes authenticity in moral consciousness and thus evil is our failure to think for ourselves and this is the root of our aggression and hatred. The narration by Jesus that “small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” is an explanation of just how difficult it is to recognise yourself and overcome the anxiety of letting go of social norms that stops you from ever finding the capacity to create meaning for yourself. It is in morality and creativity that meaning can be formed and why Kant concludes God as necessary (although I actually believe in the existence of God). It does not, however, suddenly mean those who have mistreated and wronged me are no longer responsible for their actions given the fact that they are ignorant.

I realised that I first needed to apologise to myself, to forgive myself for failing to find my own voice, my own identity through all that I had experienced. Despite the difficulties, when I reflect I see that most of the struggles that I endured were really my own self-defence mechanisms refusing to let go and move forward. Acknowledgement is something that is given and I needed to acknowledge myself through the echoes of all the hateful comments and attacks and transcend all that to appreciate myself and find that dignity and self-respect. To give love does not suddenly exclude you, you too are as much a part of humanity as anyone else and that enabled me to see me as a part of the world around me, to recognise and appreciate my consciousness and freedom to create what is beautiful; that is, what is good. I began to commit myself to helping people as I was taking care of myself at the same time, learning and increasing my knowledge or as said in Isaiah, “lengthen your cords, strengthen your stake.” I am still learning and I have indeed a great deal to learn, but it is a process that creates and improves, something aggression cannot do.

In doing so, I recognise all the suffering my mother went through, and I began to feel compassion for my mother and can see why she struggled, what she experienced and went through, all her hardship. It does not change that she wronged me, but I found forgiveness as though I could see a little girl in my mother and despite the tantrums, I wanted to hug her and kiss her. I saw in my father the intensity of the constructs of masculinity coerced by his environment that obstructed his genuine identity and a little boy afraid that he is not strong enough in a violent society that continuously threatened him and suddenly I wanted to embrace him and read him a book, to keep him safe from that harmful and toxic culture. Despite my father’s violence toward me and my mother, even he deserves the acknowledgement and by giving both of them that acknowledgement without giving up on me but that together we are a part of something bigger, the attitude of forgiveness is solutions-focused, forward or future-thinking to improve a situation and something aggression will never do.

Palestinians need to improve their government and themselves through the hostility and aggression, that despite the symbolic right to the land and a past laden with violence, they need to work through the reality that Israel is there and there to stay, to form a solid government toward the formation of a recognised state as accepted by international law. Palestinians need to acknowledge Israel and the Jewish people, however hard that may be. There is an absence of rationally defensible moral ideals that has made reconciliation and the effort to overcome the resentment in the region difficult. Working through the numerous issues takes time, but the primary effort relies on the Palestinians despite being the victims. They will then see with justice the reasons why Israel exists, why they needed to form a homeland, the history of the Jewish people and the reasons for their hostility. In the process, however, their conditions will improve and justice will be established. Love is something that we give and justice is something we create.

 

 

 

Mechanisms of Escape: The Occult and Nazism

“The more the drive toward life is thwarted, the stronger is the drive toward destruction; the more life is realized, the less is the strength of destructiveness. Destructiveness is the outcome of unlived life.”[1] Society has created the conditions that frustrate the capacity for real individuality. The alienation that one feels unless they adhere to society leaves a person feeling obliged to conform and yet as their own freedom is suppressed become impregnated with agitation that grows into a type of pathology or destructiveness toward both their own humanity by being automaton or to others. Our will is always driven by the question or problem of human existence, to try and find the solution that will enable us to feel happiness. When we do not have the answers, we become insecure at the disassociation or that separateness we feel with ourselves, our past and our future because there is no concrete relatedness or meaning available. We recognise the futility and while feeling profoundly small and insignificant also realise the responsibility we have to create meaning for ourselves. It is at that point that we come to a decision. Do we completely annihilate the self through conformity or create false significance by enlarging our sense of worth by destroying the happiness of others? Or do we embrace our freedom by taking responsibility for our own happiness and thus instead destroy our place in society?

A number of years ago now, I experienced personal afflictions that left me feeling very vulnerable and without any answers as to how I could improve my situation. I found myself desperately wanting to change my environment but did not have the answers for how that could be achieved. In order to alleviate those distressing feelings, I tried to attach myself to something concrete to help save me from realising the abyss of an unlived life. It was as though my life was a painting that initially had symmetry until splatters of paint made it messy, all the mixture of colours blurred and blackened the outcome of what was the purpose of my existence. I had a choice; cover the messy canvas with an artificial layer by forming an attachment to something that will save me from having to take responsibility for creating meaning myself, or destroy the old canvas of my life and start all over again.

But what is this artificial ‘layer’ that covers the canvas? “The frightened individual seeks for somebody or something to tie his self to; he cannot bear to be his own individual self any longer, and he tries frantically to get rid of it and to feel security again by the elimination of this burden: the self.”[2] It is absorbing oneself into another, allowing something other than your own consciousness and rationality to think on your behalf whether it is people, dogma or at the pathological end occultism or new ageism. According to a paper by B. Rosenthal, the occult is a symptom of social and cultural stress. “The occult revival of late 19th and early 20th century Russia was a response to the fading credibility of the Russian Orthodox Church, the spiritual/psychological inadequacy of intelligentsia ideologies, the destabilizing effects of rapid industrialization, and continued political upheaval.”[3] There were many clandestine groups that existed in ancient Europe that were revived in the late 19th century as an answer to social stress as they contained symbols of unity and of special importance that membership enabled meaning. The esoteric or spiritual language established purpose and why the ‘secrets’ can only be revealed to special members to supplement authority and authenticity.

Madame Blavatsky started the Theosophical Society in the United States blending esoteric and the occult with Hindu mysticism and she strongly influenced the revival of occultism all across Europe, including Thule Gesselschaft that was instrumental in the development of the Nazi regime. Aryanism developed as an ideology off the backbone of Theosophy, where Blavatsky claimed that we ultimately evolved from “The Root Races” or ethereal beings from the island of Atlantis, referred to as the Chaya Race. Plato wrote of the lost city of Atlantis in Timaeus and Critias that was later taken by Ignatius Donnelly as an actual historical reality when he reignited the idea that there are descendants of a more advanced or sophisticated culture, all this furthered by Blavatsky in her book of pure nonsense The Secret Doctrine.[4] Despite the actuality of her garbage being eclipsed by the apologists that follow her teachings, the ‘universal brotherhood’ implies that we are single race of beings ‘rooted’ or attached to one another back in time.

But, not all.

The six root-races are the Astral, Hyperborean, Lemurian, Atlantean, Aryan, and the Coming Race, that complete the evolutionary tree. According to Blavatsky, there are sub-human “Semitic” people who are degenerate and ultimately responsible for miscegenation.  She claimed that these were off-shoots that were degenerating the roots of these so-called perfect beings. Despite the current denial that root-races refer to actual race as defined in contemporary intellectual circles, Blavatsky wrote: “The Aryan races, for instance, now varying from dark brown, almost black, red-brown-yellow, down to the whitest creamy colour, are yet all of one and the same stock – the Fifth Root-Race – and spring from one single progenitor.” This gave rise to the idea of purifying or evolving back to the Aryan race with blonde hair and blue eyes progenitors. This relationship between Nazism and Blavatsky is obvious with the Swastika – an ancient Hindu symbol that implies wellbeing or peacefulness – that was used counter-clockwise by the Nazi Germans who imagined a correlation or shared history with the Indian culture as per Blavatsky’ theory. “The Aryan race was born and developed in the far north, though after the sinking of the continent of Atlantis its tribes emigrated further south into Asia.”[5] The Fylfot or Thor’s Hammer is a similar example of Odinic symbolism in Norse and Germanic mythology adopted by the Thule Society, where the Nazi ideology emerged and they had close contacts with the Theosophical society that appropriated the ideas of Blavatsky.

Somotaform disorders is an example of how a person experiencing anxiety is capable of causing actual physical changes. These states communicate psychological distress as though a person understands there to be a problem but does not have the language or words to express this inner life, resulting in physical symptoms that symbolise this distress. The depths of our capacity to believe in unreal or imagined ideas are so powerful that it verifies insanity to be a preferable option over reason or rationality. Just like Somotaform disorders, Aryanism became a real concept that this collective pathology became the tool to justify the murder of so many innocent people as a way to reverse the miscegenation and racial impurity. If occultism is born following the destabilisation effects from the social and political upheaval of the time, it is clear that the social distress following World War One where Germany was pressured with exorbitant repatriation payments vis-a-vis the treaty of Versailles, combined with generations of European anti-Semitism with falsely attributed suspicions of world domination from the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion and particularly with Martin Luther’s legacy of anti-Jewish literature, and a mixture of Theosophical, Rosicrucian and Roman history combined became the ingredients that enabled the Nazis to create such an ideology. By imagining the Other in the Jew, they generated the mobilisation required to envision pan-Germanic nationalism, enabling validity and ultimately meaning by enlarging the ego that – through the destruction of others – helped overcome the smallness and insignificance they felt. As said by Schopenhauer: “But every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud adopts, as a last resource, pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and glad to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority.”[6]

Occultism or even fundamentalism – where people revert back to old religious traditions and practices since the past is viewed to be a time of ‘happiness’ – is fuelled during periods of social destabilisation, used to explain the problem of human existence by engaging in possibilities for a stable future. Twenty-first century capitalism has fashioned contemporary society to feel more and more alienated from one another that germinates the anxiety and thus the need to form superficial bonds where people become object-related. People attach themselves to the culture and operate en masse but this can only be achieved when everyone believes that they are independent in their decision making, that they are unique and different despite doing exactly what everyone else is doing. The pathology has changed and but still rooted in the same false or imagined idea of reality, leading people to the same destructive channels.  

It is as though destruction seems inevitable until we find the inner peace that comes with independent thinking. Everything else is simply a mechanism to escape from that ability, the fear we have to create meaning for ourselves. Some, such as the Occult, are dangerous for its highly imagined narratives that channel the insanity of this fear. For me, the castle made on sand collapsed – the mind that never thought for herself – and through morality and creativity as variables that confer meaning, I started anew.

 

[1] Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom, Open Road Media (2013)
[2] Ibid
[3] Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal, The Occult in Modern Russian and Soviet Culture (1993)
[4] Helena P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Penguin (2006)
[5] Ibid
[6] Arthur Schopenhauer, Essays and Aphorisms (1970)

The Ethics of Nature

I remember as a child being completely overcome by the beauty of the Dandenong Ranges, the rain hitting the large ferns that danced to the ambience of the meditative bird sounds echoing from the colossal trees above, the smell of the moisture from the earth below that pirouetted with the scent of plants and wood of the forest and it kindled such joy within me that this emotional affinity continues today. I now often find myself retreating into the cool, forest enclaves across Victoria that ignite the same speechless feeling that I experienced many years ago. There are a number of sources that indicate that our time spent out in nature can improve our physical and mental health, from reducing blood pressure, stress, fatigue and even inflammation that lowers the risk of early death, as well as improvement of mood and even self-esteem that alleviates the symptoms of depression and anxiety and enables improved cognition and increased concentration. But, what is this therapeutic benefit, this strong bond or relationship humans have with nature? Like a person who smokes cigarettes, conscious that this is a major health risk but indifferent to the destructive nature of this pointless habit, humanity has become indifferent to the environment, and the ecosystem – like our body – is slowly being poisoned by the damaging effects of greenhouse gases. Do we have a moral obligation to ensure the preservation of our ecosystem and if so, what does the future of this discipline look like?

Several years ago, I went with friends to the Botanical Gardens to watch a movie at an outdoor ‘moonlight’ cinema they created and the noise from the fruit bats living in the surrounding trees brought to light the reasons for their controversial culling. The colonies of flying foxes are migratory and are both a pest as well as a risk to the plants and flowers of the gardens that make them a potential threat to the survival of many rare botanical species. In addition, the fruit bat – also known as the flying fox – carries the Hendra Virus that is transmitted to horses as it ingests food contaminated by bat droppings and other fluids, causing a number of severe symptoms leading to death. This virus can be transmitted to humans from the horse that causes influenza-like symptoms that potentially lead to death. The mortality rate is high and as a consequence fruit bats were ordered to be culled to reduce the growing numbers that reached crises levels. However, animal rights activists called out against the culling of the fruit-bats on account of their declining numbers and the reason for their migration being due to changes to their original habitat. This calls into question the actual problem that should encourage their protection. Indeed, the fruit bat was soon listed by the Federal Government as an endangered species that required an adequate approval process for culling.

When the Prickly Pear Cacti was introduced to Australia in the early twentieth century, the species quickly became an ecological pest that infested millions of hectares of land and devastated the Australian landscape that a radical method to destroy the outbreak was required in order to reduce the invasive botanical spread. Australia did not have the natural resources that could control the cacti and along with the warm climate and bird species that ate and ultimately distributed the seeds, the prickly pear wrought havoc on the land of the early settlers of New South Wales and Queensland. The tremendous effort required to manage the prickly pear cost more then it was worth that a prickly pear destruction committee was developed! It was until the introduction of the cactoblastis caterpillars that they found a solution to successfully control the outbreak and using this biological method – where the eggs and larvae extracted the plants moisture until the plant died – they were finally able to control the infestation of the weed.

It is clear that human behaviour can shape and control some aspects of our environment and our intellectual activity has enabled us to communicate and alter our decisions that allow us to ascertain our responsibility and forecast a sustainable or improved future scenario. To protect the integrity of our ecosystem, however, can sometimes appear to be bigger than us such as the consumption of natural resources including gas and oil that makes the average individual assume an abstract position in this ethical framework, that we can recycle our cans of drink and paper but still drive cars and use the gas stove. What is the difference in value between the prickly pear and the fruit bat? Why do we place more value on the fruit bat over the prickly pear?

Moral consciousness – what I call “love” or our ability to feel empathy and morally deliberate – originates from our understanding of value, where we give objects a moral status or as David Hume would suggest, that moral value is the value that I attach to the object and therefore relational and dependent on the agent. It is aligned with the theory that love is something that we give or entirely subjective and emotive and that what is value is simply what I believe is valuable and does not have an actual real, objective moral value. I clearly have an issue with this despite the logic behind such relational epistemology, because there is an absence of any value at all and thus if nothing has value then morality does not exist either. It also arouses questions on the exclusivity of moral actions – such as human life is intrinsically better than animal life for instance – or whether one outcome is more morally valuable over another. Intrinsic values are deemed to be valuable for itself or ‘in its own right’ whereas instrumental value are actions that are morally permissible based on a number of variables that leads to a moral outcome. If fruit bats were not an endangered species, would culling them be morally wrong?

Kant suggests that intrinsic moral value is the source of morality, that is, that since humanity exhibits as I suggested earlier the rational or cognitive capacity to deliberate moral agency, they thus contain moral value. Humanity contains intrinsic value and thus the agency to rationally will sufficient moral understanding, and while this may be anthropocentric, rights are also aligned with ethical responsibility or that our moral status is multi-faceted and thus we are enabled with the capacity to question and evaluate objects making values variable in nature. This is the nature of the ethical problem at hand, as human beings as moral agents have intrinsic value and with the criterion of rational cognition place value on objects that otherwise are instrumental in value that abandons the moral status to animals or our environment. What that means is that the effects of deforestation in order to power the economic engine of capitalism has more instrumental value than protecting forests, and those for or against deforestation will raise ethical pros and cons of both sides of the argument to try and justify the instrumental value of the environment.

quote-with-all-your-science-can-you-tell-how-it-is-and-whence-it-is-that-light-comes-into-the-soul-henry-david-thoreau-301249

Let’s take a look at McDonalds, with what I believe to be the most strategic and incredibly intelligent marketing campaign that attempts to justify the immorality behind their business by pretending that they are actually going to make a difference to what is their global impact on our environment. McDonalds had started adding “healthy options” to the menu to lure a continuity of customers, to try and be open and accountable about their ingredients to remove doubt as to the quality of their meat, and now are perpetrating a marketing campaign that claims that they are going to reduce their emission intensity by 2030 because of the sheer scale of the food chain’s impact on our environment. How is that possible when aligned with this is their global growth strategy that aims to increase consumer and ultimately business profitability? If the predominant item in the McDonalds menu is beef, let us take a look at cows for a moment. Agriculture is the primary reason for deforestation and not only is this destroying the habitats of thousands of species, but cows that make the meat in the burgers people eat contributes to global greenhouse gases since they produce more methane that has a greater impact on the environment than C02 emissions. What shifty bastards. People are now going to think that since McDonalds is being so-called open and accountable to global warming that eating McDonalds will no longer be immoral when any real attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would be to completely stop eating McDonalds, which would contradict their profit goals. It is value-nihilism at best.

Like the gas stove or using the car, people believe their ethical position in this network of environmental change is abstract and that buying lunch at Maccas is really not going to change anything. It challenges the anthropocentrism of our moral position. Intrinsic value is not something exclusive to rational beings who symbolically project from their own mental reality, but rather as Henry David Thoreau states, “to be always on the alert to find God in nature,” and there is no symbolic or spiritual relationship but that moral realism is present in the physical world and can be directly perceived. That nature has intrinsic value and this biocentric angle moulds together the schism between good or bad qualities that we force on nature and thus rational thought and values become inseparable. Consciousness is no longer separate from nature. That like McDonalds, the primary cause of our problems with nature is the coercive projection of our irrational suggestion that only humans have intrinsic moral value; we become a part of nature, giving spirituality or that symbolic or metaphysical moral system a concrete reality (excuse the pun). While there may be a number of limitations to this since everything becomes almost morally impermissible, it certainly avoids that disillusioned or disembodied separateness, an us and them, the same disillusionment between a person who smokes cigarettes and their own body that they treat as an inanimate mechanism.

At the rate of global destruction that has reached a point of existential crises, civil disobedience and our duty to protect the environment and engage against injustice is very clear. I am preparing to embrace this reality around us, that I am not distant or abstract in the world but that spirituality and that symbolic connection is physical and real. As said by Thoreau: “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”

Turnbull and Privacy of Information: A Deliberate Attempt To Prevent Open Governance?

Whilst Australian politics certainly appears lacklustre in comparison to the complications and political machinations of a number of global powers and a challenge of which I am naturally compelled, nevertheless Australia has and will always remain a country – insofar as human rights and law is concerned – that I am proud of and have an inherent respect for, regularly comparing  when researching or thinking about international relations as a whole. But it is not without its embarrassing moments, no doubt influenced by factious relations whether from powerful industry moguls or promoters of international conservatism. While I was happy to see Tony Abbott ousted, my fears that Malcolm Turnbull – being one who has public support – would cause Australians to overlook the fact that the Liberal Party contains a significant number of policies that have and continue to work against the improvement of Australian civil society. Being one more inclined to the judicial rather than executive elements of public policy, the first budget release of the Liberal government during the rather short period of Abbottism that cut funding for the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner [OAIC] proved that an intentional challenge against the very heart of the Australian Constitution appears to exist. Since the OAIC remains a legal entity, the intent of the Abbott government’ proposed abolition uniformly contradicts statutory obligations vis-à-vis section 61 of the Australian Constitution[1] in that to simply bring a legal entity to an end independent of parliament is to usurp the constitutional role of parliament itself, since only the latter has the right to legislate accordingly. This act against the OAIC raises manifold issues particularly with legislative and executive functions and the required separation of powers, the composition of the ministries and ultimately the impact such an implementation of executive powers in defiance to legislative obligations can have on the future of human rights in Australia. The Freedom of Information Act [FOI] itself was established to ensure the principle of an open and accountable government and ultimately the health of Australian democracy without polluting the overall objective of the constitution that gives people the ultimate control of the government.

Are we living in an age where privacy is no longer paramount to our individual happiness? There are complex, dynamic and swift system and processes readily available that can easily locate the details of any one. If one knows how to look, the system of finding private information is not as difficult even for a common person. So imagine that when you make your information on social media public, the technically advanced algorithms and programming can detect that information and combine it with other information in order to establish and predict private, even sensitive information. You google “prams” and suddenly every page you visit has various baby retailers and the more information one is able to attain, the more accurate the predictability. If social networking sites wanted to advantageously use the platform as an opportunity to gain more information – since retailers could use that information to sell their products – they would naturally compel people to give more information. Let’s take it one step further. You download an app that requests access to your friends list, it can detect who your best friend is or a family member because you have suggested it (I can see who last viewed my Facebook profile in less than ten seconds just by scanning through sources codes). It can also detect which page you visit the most  by using more refined systems and together, they can create a personalised facial composite using advanced software of your family or friends, whereby the image of this ‘person’ – a mash between someone you know and someone you don’t know – is used as part of an advertising or marketing strategy that implicitly compels you to a product, because you are unconsciously attracted to the image of that person that happens to be someone that you know.[2]

The abuse of privacy is not uncommon, i.e., the recently exposed News International who hacked phones to obtain sensitive data – Rupert Murdoch being on friendly terms with the Liberal Government – and there currently stands no strict policies that would prevent or protect ourselves from abusers. Whilst I could, in this instance, begin discoursing on the social contract theory and perhaps the rather calculating, Orwellian agenda where society has gradually sacrificed their privacy and freedom for the sake of ‘national security’, in principle the disclosure of even the most basic information that we supply can be used against us. I can say that capitalism and globalisation is at the very heart that compels one to disclose information openly and freely. The incredibly narcissistic marketing stratagems tell us to conform, to not care about privacy, to avoid forming our own opinion, even what we think we should desire, unconsciously manipulating the decision-making process through the inducement of receiving positive things whether it is material, or friends, or popularity, sexual pleasure etc. &c., that we end up buying products that we don’t even need or want. People will eventually believe that material determinism is the only truth when in fact they have unconsciously been told to give up their own autonomy, that we are already living in a ‘A Spacetime Odyssey’ in that the very technological mechanisms we created to advance are – ‘the root of its own destruction’ – actually working against us.

In 1996, the Australian Law Reform Commission published Open Government – A Review of the Federal Freedom of Information Act 1982 (ALRC Report 77) designed with the intent on ensuring the principles of public scrutiny and the accountability of government that encapsulates the quality of democracy is applied viz. the objective of the act itself. “The FOI Act provides a right of access to information in the possession of government departments and agencies. The fundamental reason for providing this right is to ensure open and accountable government.”[3] The publication confirmed the necessity to improve the quality of the decision making process that citizens should possess and as a consequence access to information is a criteria of democracy. Whilst democracy itself is ambiguous in definition, particularly since it poses intractable theoretical issues that limits its conceptual interpretation, broadly speaking the minimalist view of what constitutes a democracy can be defined as the ‘participation of all adult members of society, freedom to formulate and advocate political alternatives, and the credible availability of political alternatives.”[4] During the developmental stages of FOI legislation in the late 1970’s, the Senate committee reported that the significance of implementing FOI laws was to ensure that individuals have access to what information the government may have and to have the capacity to correct what they consider to be misleading; in doing so, it will enhance the transparency of the government and ultimately a community better informed can participate democratically in a more effective manner.”[5] Thus, the Freedom of Information Act 1982, an “Act to give to members of the public rights of access to official documents of the Government of the Commonwealth and of its agencies”[6] was put to force.

Whilst initially accessible, over time the administrative process became problematic and overwhelmed, particularly attributable to compliance. Accordingly, it was recommended by the ALRC[7] that a new statutory position of an FOI Commissioner to act as an “independent person to monitor and promote the FOI Act”[8] should function to ensure compliance with the FOI Act and to raise the profile of the agency to the public through the improvement of the decision-making process. At the time there existed no independent person committed to act and contribute to resolving any difficulties that the agency experienced. Thus in 2010 the freedom of information reforms were implemented by the Australian government particularly concerning the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) and among those reforms included the appointment of the Australian Information Commissioner supported by statutory officers, namely the Privacy Commissioner and the Freedom of Information Commissioner, both appointing Mr. Timothy Pilgrim and Dr. James Popple for a term of five years.[9] Appeals for any rejected FOI claims that previously were dealt by the Administration Appeals Tribunal (AAT) and were in addition an expensive and lengthy process can now be made directly to the Commissioner that ultimately reduced the backlog and turnaround times. It will additionally aid agency compliance, whereby “[t]he reported cost attributable to agency compliance with the FOI Act was $41.719m, an increase of 14.9% on the previous year.”[10]

However, in the budget release of 2014-2015, the Abbott government withdrew the funds necessary to maintain the OAIC with the intention of disbanding the agency by the 31 December 2014. This was challenged by parliament since legislation with the intent of abolishing OAIC was not passed and consequently funds contributing to the agency were partially reinstated in the 2015-2016 budget. The initial objective was to transfer functions over to the Attorney-General Department and the Commonwealth Ombudsman who were already enabled with the powers to exercise the same powers of the OAIC.[11] This is where the controversy lies, that without the approval of parliament for this decision, it has in point of fact exposed a deficit amid the separation of powers and the function of the executive branch of government. The withdrawal of funding and the intent to legislate the abolishment of the OAIC nevertheless appears to be a practice implemented previously. In September 2013, the Climate Commission funding was removed by the Abbott budgetary changes prior to the implementation of its abolishment by parliament.[12] This confirms that the process of abolishing depends ultimately by parliament to be sure but the progression by procedurally defunding prior to any legislative changes confirms that there exists a rather discomforting executive system that stands on a thin line between the required separation of powers.  The doctrine of the separation of powers is a concept that ensures accountability and strengthens the checks and balances through the constitution necessary to ensure a fair and just governance of citizens. Simplified, the legislature enacts, executive applies and the judiciary interprets the law and since the rigidity of the body of rules once enforced is binding, therein requires the appropriate checks that ensure the law is beneficial to society as constitutionally implied, to prohibit and regulate to the effect of protecting and enabling Australian citizens and for the “peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth.”[13]

Thus, to what extent does the removal of a regulator and a specialist low-cost review body undercut the benefits of the 2010 reforms to the Commonwealth FOI regime? The difficulties experienced by the commissioners due to budget cuts is perhaps sufficient enough to show the difficulties they experience performing the key functions of the agency, particularly with the effectiveness that it previously achieved. This is no doubt the reasons behind liberal government’ intent to close down the Commission, since the commissioners have been successful in a very short space of time in changing the structure and processes that have simplified accessibility to Australians and facilitated transparency as the original 1982 FOI Act had purposed. For instance, a strong emphasis on interagency networking all of which are subjected to the act and publications used as part of its information policy was resourcefully published and built, working on reforms implemented viz. the publication of information, “including information about what the agency does and why it does it.”[14] In addition, the resolution of complaints that would otherwise remained fixed in a backlog of lengthy and expensive was significantly questioned and ultimately reduced allowing public access to information that would have remained locked in a loophole. The costs involved to appeal decisions particularly related to public interest cases prohibit the rights of many due to their incapacity to financially afford the associated costs. A recent and landmark decision viz., the ruling in Bare v Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission exposed this problem, whereby the Supreme Court of Victoria granted a protective cost order that limited the costs of Nassir Bare, a 17 year old Ethiopian man who was assaulted by police.[15] Mr. Bare sought his right to have an independent body from the Victoria Police – the distrust that a fair and equitable assessment is clear since Mr. Bare himself was assaulted leaving chipped teeth and cuts along his jaw and thus breaching Section 38(1) of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities – and when consulting the IBAC, the latter deciding not to investigate the claim. Accordingly, public interest is tested and determined when public interest substantially outweighs the entity in question[16] and the court therefore ruled that costs associated with the case do not exceed a maximum of $5000 to allow Mr. Bare to continue with the proceedings.

The costs associated with FOI cases vis-à-vis the principle of the right to freely access information by public bodies establishes a reluctance by a significant portion of those attempting to access information and thus limits or excludes the disclosure of information. A report by the Australian Information Commissioner Prof. John McMillan highlighted the issues related to the scale of charges and the required simplification of its framework.[17] That is to say that to prevent burdens reaching to an unmanageable state, limitations to accessing documents is applied through both the ambiguous practical refusal mechanism under the former ss 24[18] of the FOI Act, along with the power to impose charges.[19] While it is clear that either a full or partial waiver of associated charges for those experiencing financial hardship are taken into account, what is considered ‘financial hardship’ indeed, what is considered ‘public interest’ itself required a more thorough definition to assist agencies with determining on a case by case basis the exemption of applicable fees.[20] The success of the commissioners indeed has caused wide-eyed nervousness amongst more than one quarter in the liberal camp, no doubt the reasons behind the attempt to shut them down as abruptly as they intended. What exactly is it that they have to hide that they sit in trepidation that disclosure of information on matters of public importance is now becoming more efficient? Are the tests that facilitate transparency going to be too transparent?

[1] §61 Australian Constitution, to execute and maintain the constitution and the laws
[2] Sonam Samat. “Visceral Targeting: Using Personalized Face Composites for Implicitly Targeted Marketing” 11 October, 2013.
[3] ARLC 77, 2.2
[4] Sylvia Chan, Liberalism, Democracy and Development, Cambridge University Press, (2002) 10
[5] ARLC 77
[6] The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act)
[7] ARLC 77
[8] ARLC 77, 6.4
[9] Freedom of Information Amendment (Reform) Act 2010
[10] Dr James Popple, “Message from the Freedom of Information Commissioner” OAIC Annual Report 2011-2012
[11] Office of the Australian Information Commissioner PBS,  §1.1 p471
[12] Thomas J. Goreau, Ronal W. Larson, Joanna Campe, Geotherapy: Innovative Methods of Soil Fertility Restoration, Carbon Sequestration, and Reversing CO2 Increase, CRC Press (2014) 580
[13] The Australian Constitution, 1900 §52(i)
[14] Freedom of Information Amendment (Reform) Act 2010 (NO. 51, 2010) – Schedule 2: Division 1, §7A
[15] Bare v Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission & Ors [2015] VSCA 197
[16] For instance, see Privacy Amendment (Private Sector) Bill 2000 (Cth) Part VI, §72: 2(b)
[17] Prof. John McMillan, Review of charges under the Freedom of Information Act 1982: Report to the Attorney-General, February 2012
[18] This is no longer applicable.
[19] Review of Freedom of Information Legislation: Submission to the Hawke Review, December 2012: Section 198
[20] Freedom of Information Act 1982 – ss11B