My Father Forever

He was born in 1949. A gentle, loving, intelligent, simple man. Father to four children. Grandfather to five. Husband to his loving, caring wife – my mother. A professional footballer in his heyday. Somewhat tortured by a past unfairly characterised by poor treatment and ill-fortune. Afflicted by Parkinson’s syndrome the final decade of his life. He will be missed. He was and remains loved. His suffering is over. He is cured.

He died today (May 10, 2018).

My first memory of dad took place on a beach in Victoria somewhere.  He kicked a football so high and straight into the sky that it would almost disappear.  It would hang there for a while, then hurtle back down and he’d catch it with ease – while I was surely scurrying for cover.  The man seemed a god.  Unfortunately my memories since then are dominated by Parkinson’s syndrome.  It was at times a nightmare – especially for dad.  I’m hoping now death has cured him of his disease more memories of better times with him will swim to the surface.  Even during the past decade or so, there were good times.  I was with him and mum at the aged care home one day.  It surfaced that during his football days his nickname was Magic.  I asked him if that was his reputation with the ladies.  He grinned wryly, and mum playfully reprimanded him.  There was always something so comforting about dad, that extended beyond the fact that he was my dad.  He was a good listener, and he was logical.  You could lay out your problems to him and, even if he couldn’t practically help, he could spell out a solution in only a few words.  He had a cheeky sense-of-humour, that I for better or worse inherited.

Most of all he was a teacher – which all the best dads are.  I learned from his words.  And his actions.  Or inactions.  The best lesson he taught me: love and respect for women, through his love, adoration of and admiration for his wife, my mother.  The importance of familial love.  The precious fragility of chosen love.  The love my parents chose to have for each other always seemed as strong and eternal as it was priceless.  Until Parkinson’s came along, but that love didn’t go away.  It merely changed.  Dad reaped what he’d sown.  He’d worked hard.  Suffered.  Endured.  Been wronged, even.  Most importantly he loved and protected us, and his wife.  And when the time came it was our turn to look after, love, and protect him.  As much and as best we could.  We, or at least I, started saying goodbye to dad when he was diagnosed.  He’d been dying ever since, agonisingly slowly.  And now, both tragically for our grief and gratefully for his suffering being over, he has gone.  He was of course not a god.  He was just a man. A good man.  The football he booted is hanging, resisting gravity for a few more moments, a black dot against the blue sky.  Dad is not there to catch it anymore.  But we are.  Those who loved and were loved by him.  And we will catch it.  He taught us how to.  And we can teach others how to.  So in that way, at least, dad was a god – who will live forever down through the lives he touched and created, and taught.

Dad, just this summer past. Edited by Mitch Gilmore

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Two Things I’m Obsessed With

The first is commonly known as the (technological) Singularity. Put simply, it refers to the moment in which a machine emerges that is not just smarter than humans, but smarter than the collective intelligence of all humans. The average prediction of various experts places this occurrence at about 2045. Which means it could happen much sooner, or much later – depending on the rate of technological progression. I won’t bother with references. You can look this up if you choose.

For me, the consequences are simple. And about three-fold. One: humanity will be capable of achieving a type of immortality, through people being able to upload their minds to what we now call the cloud. This will possibly also permit downloading minds into bodies of any imaginable type, not unlike in the Netflix series Altered Carbon. Whether one would actually want to be immortal or not, is worthy of an entire book. Two: machines will replace humanity as the dominant species of Earth, and possibly the universe. This might happen through the direct destruction or dying out of humans, or because humans fuse with technology to the point in which the cease to be explicitly human (cyborgs). Such an occurrence could be seen as evolutionary – as in the next logical step in human evolution is superior beings originally of our creation taking over.

And three (which leads me to the other thing I’m obsessed with): the current ownership class (the bourgeois) of humans (think Elon Musk, Rupert Murdoch et. al.) use their ownership of the increasingly automated means of production to render the vast bulk of working class humans obsolete, perhaps homeless, or even liquidated by the very machines which made them obsolete. Frankly, as things currently stand, I think the third scenario is the most likely. Wealth inequality is at catastrophic levels, and the super-rich are showing no signs of either intending to, or actually balancing things out. While I admit this possible future might solve the problem of overpopulation, I also venture that technology advanced enough would solve the problem of overpopulation (and associated resource shortages and pollution and climate change) itself.

The second thing I’m obsessed with is called Universal Basic Income. UBI involves giving everyone, from poorest to wealthiest in society enough money to live on. Say four or five or six hundred dollars per week. Without any obligations in return. The idea is that they can then work or create/expand a business for more money. Or they can travel the world eating banana sandwiches. Or they can become the artist they always wanted to be. And etcetera and etcetera. When I mentioned UBI to a narrow-minded but intelligent friend recently, he gave a cliched response, something to do with that it wouldn’t work because people need an incentive to work and excel and achieve. Unfortunately, what he didn’t grasp because he clearly hadn’t read into the issue is that, yes, UBI is not an incentive. It’s a tool. Much of the world is too impoverished to be really of any use to their fellow humans. You have to spend money to make money, as the old adage goes. But if you don’t have any to start with, then you can’t make any from it.

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Current welfare systems across much of the developed world already seek to achieve this purpose. The problem is they provide a subsistence, not dignified, level of income. And they require recipients to look for work – ignoring the absurdity of such a requirement in a rapidly automating labour industry which is increasingly prohibitive of the sort of low skill, low wage people on unemployment benefits. UBI gives people enough financial power to not just survive, but live a comfortable life, and also possibly live an even more comfortable life if they wish to work/innovate/invent for it. UBI gives people choice. Freedom. Freedom they’re otherwise denied, whether they’re working or not. It gives them the ability to achieve their dreams – even if their dreams involve sitting around at home, ordering in pizza and buying products from the internet.

Another criticism of UBI is the cost to taxpayers. Firstly, it’s a “basic” income. They’re not going to be squirreling away much of the money. The vast bulk of it will be returned straight to the economy, and into and through again the hands of taxpayers. Secondly, even if they are saving a lot of the money, eventually they will make a big purchase with it. Maybe use it to create a product beneficial to mankind that wouldn’t otherwise had appeared. Third: the cost of current welfare systems are bogged down in their complexity. Their bureaucracy. The myriad different payments to and requirements from welfare recipients make up a sizable bulk of their cost. The argument goes that UBI would eliminate this complexity by giving everyone a flat basic income. Any losses of employment in the public or associated private sector would be mitigated by the fact that said unemployed would be receiving the UBI, and would now be free to pursue activities or work surely more enjoyable than sitting in an office unnecessarily managing the lives of society’s worst off.

Barring an unforeseen catastrophic event, or perhaps a foreseen one in the event of climate change, technological progress will only continue to accelerate. Humans will become, in a productivity sense, more and more redundant. Artificial immortality is an at the moment science-fictional ethical dilemma for individuals and their families. If humanity is replaced or absorbed by machines, then by then we won’t have much to whine about. But if the vast bulk of humanity is not just enslaved, but made redundant, homeless, starving by a tiny clique of super-wealthy elites who own all of the machines that produce everything, that would be the worst option for me and any children I might have (that currently I don’t want to have because I believe that’s exactly what might happen in their lifetime). Wealth will always be limited, depending on how much of the universe’s resources we eventually have access to, but it has never been more abundant. Why is it not psychotic that this world has several billionaires, while millions starve to death? We need to start asking ourselves, and our elected representatives, one simple question: is it necessary, or even humane, for people to be forced to work for water, food, housing, clothing, and small luxuries such as technology and travel, or otherwise languish in poverty?

I say no. Certainly not. And I hope for ever more agreement.

(Another) Unemployment Reflection

Well, more of an update really. Should say I’m full of shit, considering previously writing so smugly about supposedly figuring out how to gain and keep work. I’ve been let go from one job. And I’ve resigned from three or four. But when the site you’re working all but full-time at doesn’t pay the labour hire company you’re employed by, well, it makes it hard to figure up from down in an employment market sense.

So I’m essentially unemployed, again. I’m vending The Big Issue magazine. TBI is a social enterprise (people are paid, but no profits are given to an owner/shareholders). It’s designed for homeless/marginalised (I’m the latter) people (men) to sell in high foot traffic areas. Women in difficulty work indoors packing and distributing the mags. It’s ok. It keeps me busy.

But, as much as I appreciate the opportunity, the area (my “pitch”) I vend at just isn’t busy enough. (It’s between two others that are much more lucrative.) I buy them for $3.50 and sell them for $7. Some people will give me ten and say to keep the change. Even then, if I make any more than $40 in six hours most days then that’s better than average.

I’m trying to get off Newstart (the dole, $250 per week). But so far I haven’t made more than that in a week so I’m essentially wasting my time mostly staring off into space while people ignore me, on top of my obligations to Centrelink. I’m grateful for the support of the businesses and locals at my pitch, and again to TBI, but it feels like bad luck within good luck (great opportunity/terrible location).

Otherwise, I’m still registered with a labour hire company but they don’t offer anything below south Brisbane (apparently Centrelink requires job seekers to travel a three hour round trip to work, which is ridiculous bureaucratic bullshit). They did get me two weeks’ work before a trip I took recently that I’d never have booked last year if I’d known what dire straits I’d be in currently. Sure enough, I was offered more work at that site that conflicted with the trip so I doubt I’ll hear from them again.

For a few months I volunteered with a wonderful group named Orange Sky, that washes clothes for the homeless. My team leader gave my details to a bloke he knew who runs a rim (car wheel) repair business. Again, sure enough this guy got in touch with me just before the trip. I mentioned the conflict with him and got in touch with him after I got back, but, haven’t heard back. I’ve since stopped volunteering to focus on my mental health and search for employment. And I’m going to just vend TBI Sat/Sun, instead of also Wed/Thurs/Fri, now. Because it really is a waste of time during the week, in my location.

I visited another, busier pitch during the week just yesterday (Wednesday) and it was busy! Sometimes I think I’m cursed. Or I would if I was superstitious. So yeah, I’m full of shit. I have no idea what I’m doing. I apply for jobs, and hear mostly nothing back, or rejections. My application to McDonald’s failed. The local casino’s warehouse rejected me. I did a certificate 3 in security. But the license, I since discovered, costs about $500. And my “job service provider”, to her credit, said security probably wouldn’t be great for my mental health – when I mentioned my recent increasing struggles with it.

I have no idea what’s on the horizon. Or if there even is one. Hopefully I’ll have some good news to report, soon. But optimism is lacking, and hardly growing.

“Living in the Past”*

It’s something someone said to me recently. Aside from the fact that it’s a horrible cliché, it’s also incorrect. I write about the past. And also the present. But I’m living in the present. And where necessary looking to the future.

It’s one of the things I find frustrating about socialising. People just say things. They don’t really think about it. They don’t ask a lot of questions to ensure that any judgement they pass might be at least somewhat accurate. They have a tiny window into others’ worlds.

They shout judgement through this window, usually to distract themselves from the problems in their own lives. Judgement and advice are useless. Indulgent. If you genuinely want to help someone you should do so practicably, or not at all.

Because making obviously prejudicial statements to people you know will only alienate you from them. Which is fine if that’s your intention. If it’s not, as they say: put up, or shut up. Anything other than genuine assistance is nothing but empty rhetoric.

* I put the title in double inverted commas for two reasons: 1) it’s a partial quote, and 2) my use of it is sarcastic (as in I’m not actually living in the past).

#latecapitalism ups the ante

Just answered my landline phone. I know, I shouldn’t. But I was curious. Straight away it’s weird. I say hello, and there’s background scrambling as if his phone was lying on his desk because he didn’t actually believe anyone was going to be stupid enough to answer.

So anyway, I say hello, and then there was a delay, so I followed up with “how are you?” And then I get a response: “Hello sir how are you?” Good, I reply then again ask him how he is because he didn’t answer me the first time. He says good and thanks for your concern.

I’ll sum up the rest of the conversation. He says someone’s trying to take over my Internet connection. I say that’s not good and is there anything I can do about it. He says go to your router and tell me is there a light flashing or not. I look at it, groan a little at the slight exertion of bending down to get close to see the router. Then I hang up.

It sounds absurd. And I might be wrong. But I’m pretty sure this guy was calling me to tell me someone was trying to gain control of my Internet connection literally so he (or whomever he represents) could try to gain control over it. Why, I’m not really interested in. Where to from here is the question uppermost on my mind, in the wake of the conversation.

If the sharp edge of capitalism has gotten to the point in which it almost blatantly has to be a problem in order to solve the exact problem it is, where else is there to go?

I don’t know. But I suspect it will be very interesting.

Atheism

Religion’s biggest and most fundamental problem is that it’s complete fiction.  I don’t mean that just in the sense that it’s not true.  I mean that in the sense that it’s deliberately fabricated.  Ironically, the reason why it’s a problem that religion is fiction doesn’t have to manifest itself in religious ways. To wit: the problem is religion, but the consequences of the problem can manifest themselves in any manner imaginable other than and including religion. The following anecdote will help articulate my point:

I once shared a duplex with a man who was religious.  Christian, of whatever denomination, to be specific.  He was also an early-30s full-time student earning not possibly any more than $400 (and usually some or much less) per week.  To compound this, he had debts in the tens of thousands.  And he also had serious anger management issues, which is beside the point other than that I can’t resist pointing out religious hypocrisy (despite the fact it’s EVERYWHERE).  One day, this man decided he was going to buy a house.  He did have two financially reliable housemates in me and another guy. 

Nevertheless, one day I tried to explain to him the unlikeliness bordering on impossibility of his at the time current personal circumstances gaining him a mortgage.  His response?  He had “faith”.  I like to think I did, but if I didn’t then I wish my next words had been something like: “Economics doesn’t care about faith.”  Needless to say, his application was denied.  To this day I’m still not sure whether I hope the bank laughed at him or not (like I said, he had anger management issues, and while living with him for a full eighteen months I didn’t escape entirely without incident).

Once you believe the in actual fact stark, raving lunacy of there being a “God” out there, who you can talk to and ask for things from, you can and probably will accept literally any imaginable nonsense in any part of your life.  I’ll leave the various ways that can and definitely has fucked up the world to you.

For most of my life I’ve been agnostic about most things.  I’ve always valued learning about a wide variety of topics, albeit not to enough of a degree of depth on any one of them to become an expert on it.  I’m a generalist.  And if I aspire to anything, I guess it would be to move from being a generalist to a polymath (though in my opinion, in the strict definition of the word, I don’t think anyone has lived long enough to genuinely become a polymath and it’s probably a state only truly attainable by advanced artificial intelligence).

This has taken me to interesting topics and encounters with interesting (sometimes for all the wrong reasons, such as in the anecdote above) people.  Such as religion, and the religious, respectively.  The first notable example is a concise history of religion I read probably a decade ago.  To put it simply, it outlined the various religious beliefs humans have had down the ages.  From paganism (worship of many gods, often represented by features of the landscape or small figurines) to monotheism (worship of a single deity, ie Christianity, Judaism and Islam).  This book caused me to ask myself one simple question, which may have actually put me on a path to atheism: if religion can change, how can it ever be true?

In other words, if every single ancestor of every single Christian, Jew or Muslim on this planet at one time backward through history once had absolutely no idea who Jesus, Yaweh, or Allah was, how could Jesus, Yaweh or Allah then, now or ever exist?  Again, I’ll leave that up to you.  The second example is more controversial: the Koran.  It took me a good year to read, because it’s laboriously preachy and repetitive.  Positively, it’s a staggering work of imaginative (if somewhat plagiarised from Judaism and Christianity which came before it) genius.  And proposes many ways in which people not only can but should be a good person.  Negatively, it mentions some pretty reprehensible stuff about treatment of women.  Without intending a defence of it, it was written in the 8th century.

The Koran cemented for me the question of how could religion be true if it changed (arguably the next, and second in ridiculousness only to Scientology, big one to appear was Mormonism, from the United States in the 1700s, from memory).  It also caused me to ask another, not particularly original, I must admit, question relating to terrorism and child marriage and the like: if religion proposes such good, antique attitudes toward women aside, why does it seem to cause such bad?  The answer lies in the fact that, as I said at the start, it is deliberately fabricated.  Religion is literally everything, only just to religious people and not in the way they believe.  Every time something good happens, they interpret it through their religion (God’s work).  Every time something bad happens, the same (God’s plan).  Ever heard of Christians saying a natural disaster was the fault of gays or some other scapegoat? Yep.

The difference for atheists is they see good things as a purely human construct, even and regardless of if done by a religious person or people.  And bad things as simply the weather (or climate change, but that’s another story), or again a non-spiritual human construct in the form of some nut with a gun/bomb/car, or some religious nut (terrorist) with a gun/bomb/car.  There are two things and two things only which need to be used to explain good or bad things: science, and psychology – which could also come under “science”.  Attributing anything to a fictional construct is dangerous at worst, and an unnecessary waste of time at best.

So why isn’t everyone atheist?  Again, let me refer to the beginning.  Religion is not just fabricated.  It is deliberately fabricated.  The Bible, Koran, Torah, etc. didn’t just fall from the sky.  They were written (and rewritten and translated countless times) by people, and almost certainly, in the case of every religious text ever written, exclusively by men.  But why did men write them?  To control women and other men.  That’s why religion’s fundamental problem is that it’s complete fiction.  Because, it is complete fiction written by men to control other people. And, it’s complete fiction written by men to control other people not just in regard to their religious (or absence of religious) lives, but their entire lives. Or as much of them as possible.

And they’re still using it to control people to this day. But not for the sake of control. For the sake of manipulating you into believing lies. Like my former housemate above, if you can be convinced there’s a god, you can be convinced  (or convince yourself) you can afford a house, even if a reasonable person can see you can’t. If you can be convinced of that, you can be convinced that prohibitively costly medical care for your needlessly terminal child is all part of “God’s plan”, when it’s really because of bloated pharmaceutical company profits  and shareholder dividends. Or you can be convinced that, when you die after blowing yourself up in a crowded shopping strip, you’ll awake in eternal paradise. I don’t want to be controlled, or at least I’d like to be less controlled in ways I have choices over (as opposed to ways I don’t, such as living in a capitalist system of wage slavery).  So I’m atheist.  And in the spiritual aspect of my life I am perfectly free, ironically because there is no spiritual aspect of my life.  I highly recommend it.

That Time I Was Called Racist

Once upon a time in a former, office-working life, a colleague of mine called me racist.  I was bagging out (Australian for criticising) “Kiwis” (New Zealanders).  Can’t remember exactly what I said, but it inspired her to call me racist.  I can’t recall if she directly said: “You’re racist.”  But the word “racist” was in there somewhere.  My response that was I was not racist.  She said something to the effect that if I had to say I was not racist, there was a good chance I was, in fact, racist.  Defensiveness implying guilt.  My reply, and last word was: “Well here we are.”  In other words: “I don’t care for that reasoning.  I’m not racist.”

Her partner at the time, who just happened to be a New Zealander – and specifically Maori (native) – was visiting her later that day.  I’d asked her earlier that day or week if he might be able to set me up with hospitality work, as my office gig was only temporary.  And he worked behind bars.  Not sure if she said she would or not.  Later that day, the day I was accused of being racist, I was downstairs getting something from the nearby convenience store, when I saw her and him as I walked back to the entrance of the office.  They were both outside the entrance.  She pointed to me, looking at him, and he started walking toward me.

From memory, he was smiling, and as he came up to me he tried to give me one of those handshakes in which you come from up high with your right hand, in a more casual manner I can’t describe any better.  I prefer normal handshakes, and more recently fist-bumps.  Or no touching at all when greeting another man in a casual setting, and quick hugs either way with women.  Other than asking me how I was going, and me returning the greeting, nothing further transpired and we both went on our respective ways.  I later thought perhaps that he was going to help me with hospitality work, but decided not to.  And that his girlfriend had put him up to it.  When I got back upstairs I said nothing to her about it other than that I prefer normal handshakes.  She either said nothing or little but a murmuring sound.

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The hoop I used to shoot at during lunch breaks in this particular office job.

Much later, I realised why she had called me racist.  It’s because she thought I was talking specifically about Maoris, instead of New Zealanders in general – the latter being the actual case.  (It’s somewhat of a good-natured national pastime for Australians to give bulk shit to (criticise) New Zealanders, and vice-versa.)  And I still can’t help but suspect that what she was actually pointing him to do that day outside the office was punch me in the face, or similar.  Though that might just be paranoia.  Either way, it’s been playing on my mind for some time now, occasionally, the fact that she incorrectly labelled me racist (I actually believe and have seen evidence to the effect that there is in fact no such thing as races, or racial division within the human race.  It’s just another construct designed to divide and control us).

I’ve thought about getting in touch with her and clarifying.  But frankly I don’t wish to get in touch with her for any reason at all.  She was a regular, and often quite galling (deliberately or not) critic of mine.  So all things being equal, I felt it easier to simply use this blog post to square the ledger, so to speak.  I do agree that sometimes it’s not generally a good sign if your only defence to being accused of being a bigot is to simply say that you are in fact not.  But then, if your accuser has misinterpreted what you’ve said, and you haven’t realised they have, then what other argument could you possibly make.  Ironically, prejudice on her behalf might have kept her from hearing me correctly.  Though, she too might since have come to understand the way things actually went.  Whether you, dear reader, think me racist, is up to you.  I’m not going to repeat that I’m not.  But I will say that I find bigotry of any kind to be stupid at best, and abhorrent at worst.

Hansonism Mk II

We are in danger of being swamped by Asians, is the gist of what I remember from Hansonism’s maiden voyage into the Australian consciousness.  This was the ‘90s, when my focus was more on adolescent existentialism.  But now we’re nearing the end of the first quarter of the 21st century, and history, as it does, is repeating itself.  Now it’s a Muslim swamp we need worry about, apparently, which is not the least of the, nor the sole, irony, considering Islam sprung from the desert.  What is a swamp, really?  I see it as a stagnant body of water in which exist somewhat base creatures such as bacteria and fungi and frogs and birdlife.  So was she saying Asians were bringing the swamp with them, way back when, or that our home was a swamp and they were going to en masse join us in the fetid pool?  And surely she’s not saying Muslims are bringing the swamp, unless from certain parts of Indonesia or perhaps Malaysia outside of urban centres.  So in this case ours must be the swamp?  Or our home becomes a swamp upon letting them through the door?  Or Asian and more recently Muslim culture is swamplike?  Is she even capable of effective analogies?

Let’s leave the waste of consideration right there – is something I’d not normally say about anything.  Because there is absolutely zero point in giving serious consideration to anything this crazy bitch and her political movement has to say about Australia or the outside world.  Hanson is to a true reflection on this country what shaving is to using a broken, mouldy, rusted mirror: ineffective, distorted, and bloody.  Now, forgive me for using the B word, but I’ve long been of the mind that if a man is a bastard or a woman is a bitch – especially those with baffling relevance and influence – they should be labelled as such.  I guess a unisex term for the two could be: arseholes.  But I’ll leave that up to you.  There’s a reason why Hansonism, at least and almost exclusively (Cory Bernardi aside), deserves only some attention and zero consideration.  It’s quite clear what her movement really is.  Even clearer, now, than it used to be – as her policies and their appeals have not just expanded but also strengthened.  Sometimes, this has occurred very recently, and on the run, such as in regard to vaccination.  And obviously others are longstanding, and quite crystalised policies of hers.

Hanson is exploiting bigots and dullards’ ignorance and prejudices through her own intelligence and bigotry, which are just strong and restrained, respectively, enough to at all effectively do so.  This is Hansonism II, and hopefully it goes the way of the first.  I prefer not to believe that after this pimple of hatred whiteheads, pops, and heals, this country can’t learn from its two former mistakes and keep its damn face clean.  I refuse to believe that Hansonism turns normally intelligent, tolerant people into stupid bigots, and that she simply empowers those who incurably are already.  And I am absolutely convinced that the particular brand of hatred and ignorance she represents and propagates will be increasingly, if not ever totally, rejected by Australians in the future.  It could get worse before it gets better.  But if it were ever to become so strong it were considered mainstream, the tragic irony for me would be too much to bear.  And if I at the time had children, I would fear for their future; and if I did not yet have children, I would never have children, to spare them the crushing dystopia their potential country had become.

The human race is at or approaching many of its to date most consequential crossroads – Hansonism and Trumpism and Putinism and Kimism and the like, being not the least of them.  We must reject hatred and bigotry and exploitation and oppression and inequality wherever we can.  Because if we don’t, or not enough of us do, or not enough of us do often enough, we may all be fucked.

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