Marking time in February 2003
Reclaim the beach!
See Peter Spearitt’s piece on the Brisbane Institute website in which he reveals the liberties taken by beachside developers to lure potential customers, and why we don’t have to keep off the beach, just because they say so. Yes, assert your right to walk on the beach!
In the 20th century the beach became our prime holiday site, a place of fun and escape. Even in the midst of this drought the only sign of trouble - and only at some beaches - is that the outdoor showers have been turned off. But in the last forty years the beach has also become a place for real estate development and speculation. Many of us choose to retire at the coast and lavish apartment blocks, from Port Douglas to Perth, now cater for domestic and international holidaymakers.
Nowhere is Australia’s preoccupation with the beach more pronounced than in Queensland. In the 1920s and 1930s Sydney was Australia’s beach capital. It dominated the surf lifesaving movement and all the big carnivals were held there. But in the 1950s the mantle of beachside culture moved irrevocably to Queensland and the Gold Coast became the dominant image of beachside fun and fashion.
In New York thousands of pictures of people in Baghdad have been pasted up in the streets, a prompt to consider the human consequences of attacking Iraq. Join the campaign.
Here’s a drawing my daughter Sally ( who just turned four) did today. She explained: “It’s me. I’ve got a fringe and plaits. I am wearing a green checked dress. I’m smiling. My name is Sally.”
The earth at night
See the earth at night by the light of its cities. The image is a composite of hundreds of pictures made by US Defense Meteorological Satellites.
These small sections compare the darkness of central Australia (the arrow shows the part of western Queensland where I was last week) with the bright lights of Europe.
I spent last week out west — at Longreach, Ilfracombe, Isisford, Blackall, Barcaldine, Winton, Kynuna, and other places in the district. While I wait to get the photographs back from the lab I am sorting through my notes and impressions: the heat, the drought-struck land, the stoical people. And the flies.
Rice for Iraq
This is from an email message that is going around:
There is a grassroots campaign underway to stand for peace with Iraq in a simple, but potentially powerful way: Place 1/2 cup uncooked rice in a small plastic bag (a snack-size bag or sandwich bag work fine). Squeeze out excess air and seal the bag. Wrap it in a piece of paper on which you have written:
“If your enemies are hungry, feed them. Romans 12:20.
Please send this rice to the people of Iraq - do not attack them.”
Place the paper and bag of rice in a small jiffy bag, close well with tape and address to: PM John Howard Parliament House Canberra ACT.
Drop this in the mail ASAP. It is important to act NOW so that PM gets the letters ASAP Each one of these packets is effective, and hundreds of thousands of such rice deliveries to Parliament House ACT will make hopefully make an enormous stand. We can do this if you each forward this message to your friends and family.
There is a positive history of this protest! In the 1950s, Fellowship of Reconciliation began a similar protest, which is credited with influencing President Eisenhower against attacking China. Read on:
“In the mid-1950s, the pacifist Fellowship of Reconciliation, learning of famine in the Chinese mainland, launched a ‘Feed Thine Enemy’ campaign. Members and friends mailed thousands of little bags of rice to the White House with a tag quoting the Bible, “If thine enemy hunger, feed him.” As far as anyone knew for more than ten years, the campaign was an abject failure. The President did not acknowledge receipt of the bags publicly; certainly, no rice was ever sent to China.
“What nonviolent activists only learned a decade later was that the campaign played a significant, perhaps even determining role in preventing nuclear war. Twice while the campaign was pending, President Eisenhower met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to consider U.S. options in the conflict with China over two islands, Quemoy and Matsu.
The generals twice recommended the use of nuclear weapons. President Eisenhower each time turned to his aide and asked how many little bags of rice had come in. When told they numbered in the tens of thousands, Eisenhower told the generals that as long as so many Americans were expressing active interest in having the U.S. feed the Chinese, he certainly wasn’t going to consider using nuclear weapons against them.”
OK, I’ll do it, to express my view to John Howard: I don’t want Iraqi people attacked in my name. But I have decided not to quote St Paul to the Prime Minister — I find the passage, in its biblical context, puzzling.
In his Epistle to the Romans St Paul was quoting from the Old Testament. Here is the original, and the verse that follows it, from the King James version:
 If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:  For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee. [Proverbs 25]
I looked for help in understanding what this might mean. I read what John Wesley wrote about the passage in Romans, and was no less puzzled:
Feed him — With your own hand: if it be needful, even put bread into his mouth. Heap coals of fire upon his head — That part which is most sensible.
“So artists melt the sullen ore of lead, By heaping coals of fire upon its head; In the kind warmth the metal learns to glow, And pure from dross the silver runs below.”
Can someone explain that bit about heaping coals of fire upon an enemy’s head?
The third gasoline war
From a piece by Professor Ian Roberts of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine: The second gasoline war and how we can prevent the third:
War in Iraq is inevitable. That there would be war was decided by north American planners in the mid-1920s. That it would be in Iraq was decided much more recently. The architects of this war were not military planners but town planners. War is inevitable not because of weapons of mass destruction as claimed by the political right, nor Western imperialism as claimed by the left. The cause of this war, and probably the one that will follow, is car dependence.
The United States has paved itself into a corner. The physical and economic infrastructure of the United States is so highly car dependent that it is pathologically addicted to oil. Without billions of barrels of precious black sludge being pumped into the veins of the US economy every year, the nation would experience painful and damaging withdrawal.