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Friday, 19 October 2012

To Occupy Sydney from Austin G Mackell

On Occupy Sydney, Steve Keen and Indigenous Yorta Yorta activist William Cooper , Wilfred Burchett and integrity -perhaps a bygone era?? Save for a few!!

originally delivered as a birthday message at the Occupy Sydney Anniversary October 13th 2012

First of all: Thanks, and congratulations to all of you for making it out today. What you are doing is having a huge impact.

 In just one year the Occupy movement has changed the whole discussion. Gone is the myth of an apathetic generation, who, because they weren’t cueing up to join the youth wings of the major parties were presumed to be without political vision or a sense of justice.
The taboos that protected those at the top from the scorn their actions deserve is starting to erode.  Success at the expense of others is no longer celebrated with quite the same gay abandon.
 Cutting through the din of commercialism and horse race politics, this new movement has managed to be heard. People know what you mean when you say “we are the 99%”.
Perhaps not gone, but severely damaged,  is the myth of market magic, the idiotic idea that you can build a nation by cutting the funds that build its roads, schools and hospitals.
This is just the beginning.

It’s my understanding that Occupy had the good fortune to be addressed by rebel aussie economist Steve Keen -  one of the few economists clear headed enough to realise that debts which can’t be paid won’t be paid, and for this reason, one of the few to see the current crisis coming.
It’s not news to anyone here that the 1% and their courtiers have turned the world economy into a Casino where homes and jobs of millions of people became little more than chips these playboys toss across the table to impress each other.   
What Keen tells us goes beyond this however, exposing the systemic problem – untenable levels of private debt, built up by asset speculation bubbles like the one driving Sydney’s housing crisis. His call for you to “Occupy the Economics Departments” should not go unheeded. Of course, with the formal institutions are not the only way to learn – the point is we need a whole generation of bright young economists with good hearts and independents minds. There is going to be one hell of a mess to clean up by the time this is over.
Of course his ideas, while demonstrably head and shoulders above the standard theories in describing what is happening, are still mostly ignored by mainstream economics.
In this he carries on a proud Australian tradition of being there first, way ahead of the moral and intellectual pack.

   Aboriginal land rights activist William Cooper from Yorta Yorta country, near where the Murray and Darling rivers meet, who in 1887 was among 11 signatories in a petition to the Victorian governor that marks the first time the campaign for aboriginal land rights would be articulated in a language the invaders could not pretend they didn’t understand. It was only when he was in his 70’s however, after moving to the Melbourne suburb of Footscray that he truly found his calling as an activist. HE still managed to achieve more than most of us could in several lifetimes. By 1935 his energy had helped create the  Australian Aborigines League which called for indigenous people to be given direct representation in parliament, land rights and generally equal treatment before the law.
A petition in this spirit managed to gather 1814 signatures despite what Wikipedia calls “active obstruction from the national and state governments of the day.” And we should note, without twitter or facebook to help him. IN 1938 he helped organise the first combined, interstate protest by Australian Aborigines – a protest of mourning to mark the anniversary of the invasion, which whites celebrated calling it “Australia Day” [do the scare quotes thing with your hands].
But Cooper wasn’t only interested in the plight of his own people. He also led what  the Israeli Holocaust museum named in his honour, "the only private protest against the Germans following Kristallnacht."- arriving with a delegation from the Australian Aboriginal League at the German Consulate in Melbourne, where they delivered a petition condemning the “cruel persecution of the Jewish people by the Nazi government of Germany.”

Another great, but mostly forgotten figure is that of Wilfred Burchett – best known for his work as a war reporter of great note. Even before becoming a journalist, however, he had written from Germany to Australian papers warning of the rise of the Nazis, even helping, at great personal risk, to become a people smuggler – saving many Jews before barely escaping with his own life.
After returning to Australia Burchett would go on to cover the uprising in New Caledonia. From there he would go on to China, where he would accompany Chinese troops as they marched south to Burma to assist the British.  Following a Japanese victory he and George Rogers, a Life photographer, escaped through the jungle with the help of local Naga guides, taking a hard route to India through the mountains never before travelled by white men. He would later be injured on another trip to Burma, and survive a kamikaze attack against King George V. He would also be the first foreign correspondent to reach Hiroshima after the bomb was dropped, shocking the world with his descriptions of the devastation.
Defying attempts by the US Military to suppress reporting on the results of their bombng wrote:“‘The damage is far greater than photographs can show. After you find what was Hiroshima, you can look around for twenty-five and perhaps  thirty square miles. You can see hardly a building. It gives you an  empty feeling in the pit of stomach to see such man-made destruction’. ”His work also included the first public account of radiation sickness and it’s terrifying effects, saying:
T"hey lost their appetites, their hair fell out, and bluish spots appeared on their bodies. They then began bleeding from the ears, nose  and mouth. Doctors first diagnosed them as suffered from general debility, and gave them vitamin injections. The results were horrible. Their flesh began rotting away from their bones, and in every case the victim died. Minor insect bites developed into great swellings, which would not heal. Slight cuts from falling brick and steel splinters caused acute sickness. The victims began bleeding from the gums, then they vomited blood, and died’.
 As one of the many online tributes to Burchett  details: "The official narrative of the atomic bombings downplayed civilian casualties and categorically dismissed reports of the deadly lingering effects of radiation. Reporters whose dispatches convicted with this version of events found themselves silenced."
 General MacArthur ordered Burchett to be removed from Japan, and his camera with photos of Hiroshima mysteriously vanished while he was in the hospital. U.S. officials accused Burchett of being influenced by Japanese propaganda. They scoffed at the notion of an atomic sickness.
The U.S. military issued a press release right after the Hiroshima bombing that downplayed human casualties, instead emphasizing that the bombed area was the site of valuable industrial and military targets.
Other journalists, having been busy covering the pomp of the official surrender ceremony, knew no better than the military told them.
Burchett would go on to report the deal that ended the Korean War from the northern side, before travelling to Vietnam where he detailed the destruction of that country by foreign powers, and the heroic resistance of the people there, and is said to have been on friendly terms with Ho Chi Minh.
 No good deed goes un-punished of course, and Burchett was attacked ferociously by reactionary forces in Australia, who labelled him a traitor, as they always do with those who tell too much of the truth.  The government refused to issue him a passport in 1955 after his was lost, repeating the claims against him of being a communist agent, effectively sending him and his family into exile for more than a decade. 

While both Cooper and Burchett are now experiencing somewhat of a revival, they still gain nothing like the prominence their remarkable achievements deserve – and which one would hope was awarded to any Australians of such a calibre, regardless of their political beliefs and affiliations.There is a reason for this – the same reason we don’t hear about the early white setllers who decided to live with their aboriginal partners and children rather than stay in the bigoted white society with its irrational fear of their love for each other. 

It is the same reason Assange is so fiercely attacked now by his vastly inferior contemporaries in the Australian media. It is the same reason that a group of aboriginal protesters, banging on the windows of a restaurant and chanting – desperate for our leaders to listen - is reported as a mob who have attacked the Prime Minister. She lost a shoe! She lost it, that is, when security decided to whisk her out of there as if she were about to be speared and boomeranged to death, their actions providing the only basis for the impression of any violence. The people in charge don’t want us inspired by these examples. 

 They don’t want us reminded that it is possible to stand up, to say no to power, to go against the grain, to speak the truth without fear for the consequences.
It’s always important to remember, that just like a big hairy spider, they are much more scared of us than we are of them.

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