Monday, November 15, 2004

On Holidays..and no maid!!! ( A fate worse than death for us housework challenged males - otherwise known as lazy male syndrome)

Quiet here at the moment, am on holidays until 22nd for Idul Fitri, fasting month ends this weekend, most ppl have gone back to their villages etc causing a mass exodus from the city, including our maid so we have to do things ourselves for a week. Indo's without maids typically go away somewhere, causing all hotels to be fully booked everywhere! We decided to stay at the apt. as it’s easier with the young ones, just not much to do. Thus the swimming pool gets quite a workout each day, as does the computer and DVD player for those moments when the eternal questions from Lil C gets a bit much…thank Christ for kids movies! Her fav’s at the moment are Sharks Tale, Ice Age and the Toy Story series..plus the odd Barbie movie thrown in for good measure!

Watched Arafats (body) arrival by helicopter at Ramallah live on BBC Friday night, quite an amazing thing to watch. The crowds were huge, and it seemed to get pretty out of hand for a long time till they put his body in the ground which you couldn’t see due to the crowds. They said the Israelis were very nervous and you could understand why when seeing the emotions of the crowd, interestingly enough I saw a few western tourists wandering about amongst them.

Lil D and Lil C are very well, tho Lil D is sleeping somewhat erratically thru the night (tho usually get at least a four to five stretch) and not much at all during the day, think he takes after me, a night owl! He is a very cheerful sort, always smiling and laughing if you smile at him and pull the faces etc! Lil C has started ballet lessons once a week on a Saturday to help with her coordination and give her something to do on a Saturday. She is also becoming more proficient in the pool and will take off her floaties if you turn your back on her but can only dog paddle at this stage…causing some anxiety for yours truly when she suddenly springs from the side of the pool and doesn’t warn you first...lil devil.

C is doing well, tho understandably tired after up and down nights with Lil D, he is still breastfeeding. C is keen to start language lessons and is looking at twice a week after Idul Fitri. We have a teacher lined up, a nice woman who is also teaching some of the other expats in the apt. complex. Hopefully it will give C more confidence to get about, not that she is really lacking any, but it is helpful to speak the language. No one can play dumb on you, tho you can play dumb on them, makes for interesting times listening to ppl speaking about you to their friends/co-worker etc in front of you thinking you are an ignorant bule (white foreigner)! Must admit I sometimes have fun with this, usually just as everything is concluded to everyone’s satisfaction, I thank them or make some remark pertaining to whatever personal observation they made about me in the course of the discussion, leaving them flabbergasted before quickly recovering and dissolving into bouts of laughter...Indonesians have a great sense of humour...guess that’s why I like them so much.

Lil C and Lil D are sharing a bath tonight, so have to go and do my part, cook the dinner… did I mention we don’t have a maid at the moment? ...sigh…


Expats Find Coming Home Hard

By Mark Coultan (SMH)
November 15, 2004

A study of Australian expatriates has found that many have trouble settling back into Australia, feel undervalued and sometimes decide to leave again. Professor Graeme Hugo, from the University of Adelaide, is about to publish a new paper, The Australia Diaspora?, which reports the feelings of many Australians living overseas.

Drawing on a survey of 2000 expatriates, plus a series of in-depth interviews, it reveals people often torn between two countries, between the lure of a new job and the yearnings of family and lifestyle. Professor Hugo asked multiple-choice questions, but left space for written answers. Many respondents felt so strongly that they wrote long narratives about their experiences and feelings.

As a group, they maintain a strong attachment and interest to Australia and keep themselves informed of events here. For example, the study said that during the football season, one quarter of all hits on the AFL's website came from overseas. New technology, and particularly the internet, allowed Australians overseas to maintain regular, sometimes daily, contact with home, which had the effect of maintaining bonds with their homeland.

Four out of five expatriates "still called Australia home". But men were less likely to feel this way than women, and this attitude decreased the longer they stayed away. Half those questioned intended to return to Australia, with one-third undecided. Marriage to a foreigner was a common reason for not coming back, especially among women.

For many, it was a conflict between job and family. One said: "Many of us overseas are desperate to return home, but there are very limited opportunities and salaries [in Australia] are less than half what they are here in the US." Another said: "I love Australia and want to return and hopefully make a contribution, although I will need to compromise my career to do so."

Many struggled with balancing two national identities. Among the comments were: "It is important that people understand that you don't stop being Australian just because you don't live in Australia."

Some feel forgotten by the Government. One said: "I feel expat Australians tend to be forgotten once they leave the country. Only through my own efforts was I able to receive any information via the [Australian] embassy here about current events at home. The embassies don't ever give one the feeling they are particularly interested in us."

When expatriates did return the experience was not always a happy one. "My return to Australia in 1997 was a real eye-opener. I realised how inward looking it is," wrote one respondent. Another said: "If your business is not property development or selling imported products, then Australia is a career cul de sac."

Some that returned even left the country again. "I feel very bitter about not being able to fit in, so I returned to a country that values my skills and provides me with more opportunity [Japan]".

A separate study by Dr Michael Fullilove and Dr Chloe Flutter, published by the Lowy Institute and to be launched tomorrow, calls for greater government action to recognise and use expatriates more.

Interesting article, though not directly applicable to yours truly. However, it does make sense of all those old fellas propping up the bar in Blok M.....


Thursday, November 04, 2004

It's so damn fustrating...

I read this speech (see below my own little diatribe against the evils of Howard & co) and just had to put it in here. After watching the news all day yesterday and again this morning, first hoping against hope, then plunging into despair once again with the win of the intellectually challenged Bush, so soon after seeing that nasty little freak of nature re-elected in Australia, sometimes you wonder just what on earth is going on in the world of ours.

Australians turned their backs on their inherited culture of fairgo, equality, humanity and tolerance; and embraced all the nasty attributes of a corrupt and ideologically bankrupt government. I remember years ago saying to watch out for Howard, he is the anti-Christ (and I don't use this term loosely), come to destroy our way of life...and destroy it he has.

Now we have another 4 years of Bush and his own special brand of extreme rightwing evangelical Christian madness.

SMH today: "One of America's leading conservative intellectuals, Professor Francis Fukuyama, said Mr Bush's victory foreshadowed an increasingly tense relationship for the US and the world. "This is very important internationally. People will say that its not George Bush that's the problem, its the American people that's the problem."

International antagonism to US foreign policy had, up until now, centred on the Bush Administration, while sentiment towards the American people was more benign. But Mr Bush's return will entrench world opinion against the US as whole."

Really? I guess we deserve what we get. Australia deserves a Howard, afterall, 50% of its population voted for him. Half the populace didnt care about Iraq, boat people (and the 350 odd drowned), concentration camps, children incarceration, government corruption of both themselves and everything they touch, no republic, no reconciliation, no welfare, no medicare, no public education...and the list goes on. All they cared about, according to most observers, was their own hip pocket. 50 % of Australia deserves everything it gets.

Onto the speech:

What we call peace is little better than capitulation to a corporate coup
November 4, 2004

The Iraq war is a sign that the world has lost the will to fight for true justice, writes Arundhati Roy.

Sometimes there's truth in old cliches. There can be no real peace without justice. And without resistance there will be no justice. Today, it is not merely justice itself, but the idea of justice that is under attack.

The assault on vulnerable, fragile sections of society is so complete, so cruel and so clever that its sheer audacity has eroded our definition of justice. It has forced us to lower our sights, and curtail our expectations. Even among the well-intentioned, the magnificent concept of justice is gradually being substituted with the reduced, far more fragile discourse of "human rights".
This is an alarming shift. The difference is that notions of equality, of parity, have been pried loose and eased out of the equation. It's a process of attrition. Almost unconsciously, we begin to think of justice for the rich and human rights for the poor. Justice for the corporate world, human rights for its victims. Justice for Americans, human rights for Afghans and Iraqis. Justice for the Indian upper castes, human rights for Dalits and Adivasis (if that.) Justice for white Australians, human rights for Aborigines and immigrants (most times, not even that.)
It is becoming more than clear that violating human rights is an inherent and necessary part of the process of implementing a coercive and unjust political and economic structure on the world. Increasingly, human rights violations are being portrayed as the unfortunate, almost accidental, fallout of an otherwise acceptable political and economic system. As though they are a small problem that can be mopped up with a little extra attention from some non-government organisation.

This is why in areas of heightened conflict - in Kashmir and in Iraq for example - human rights professionals are regarded with a degree of suspicion. Many resistance movements in poor countries which are fighting huge injustice and questioning the underlying principles of what constitutes "liberation" and "development" view human rights non-government organisations as modern-day missionaries who have come to take the ugly edge off imperialism - to defuse political anger and to maintain the status quo.

It has been only a few weeks since Australia re-elected John Howard, who, among other things, led the nation to participate in the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq.

That invasion will surely go down in history as one of the most cowardly wars ever. It was a war in which a band of rich nations, armed with enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world several times over, rounded on a poor nation, falsely accused it of having nuclear weapons, used the United Nations to force it to disarm, then invaded it, occupied it and are now in the process of selling it.

I speak of Iraq, not because everybody is talking about it, but because it is a sign of things to come. Iraq marks the beginning of a new cycle. It offers us an opportunity to watch the corporate-military cabal that has come to be known as "empire" at work. In the new Iraq, the gloves are off.

As the battle to control the world's resources intensifies, economic colonialism through formal military aggression is staging a comeback. Iraq is the logical culmination of the process of corporate globalisation in which neo-colonialism and neo-liberalism have fused. If we can find it in ourselves to peep behind the curtain of blood, we would glimpse the pitiless transactions taking place backstage.

Invaded and occupied Iraq has been made to pay out $US200 million ($270 million) in "reparations" for lost profits to corporations such as Halliburton, Shell, Mobil, Nestle, Pepsi, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Toys R Us. That's apart from its $US125 billion sovereign debt forcing it to turn to the IMF, waiting in the wings like the angel of death, with its structural adjustment program. (Though in Iraq there don't seem to be many structures left to adjust.)
So what does peace mean in this savage, corporatised, militarised world? What does peace mean to people in occupied Iraq, Palestine, Kashmir, Tibet and Chechnya? Or to the Aboriginal people of Australia? Or the Kurds in Turkey? Or the Dalits and Adivasis of India? What does peace mean to non-Muslims in Islamic countries, or to women in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan? What does it mean to the millions who are being uprooted from their lands by dams and development projects? What does peace mean to the poor who are being actively robbed of their resources? For them, peace is war.

We know very well who benefits from war in the age of empire. But we must also ask ourselves honestly who benefits from peace in the age of empire? War mongering is criminal. But talking of peace without talking of justice could easily become advocacy for a kind of capitulation. And talking of justice without unmasking the institutions and the systems that perpetrate injustice is beyond hypocritical.

It's easy to blame the poor for being poor. It's easy to believe that the world is being caught up in an escalating spiral of terrorism and war. That's what allows George Bush to say, "You're either with us or with the terrorists." But that's a spurious choice. Terrorism is only the privatisation of war. Terrorists are the free marketeers of war. They believe that the legitimate use of violence is not the sole prerogative of the state.

It is mendacious to make moral distinction between the unspeakable brutality of terrorism and the indiscriminate carnage of war and occupation. Both kinds of violence are unacceptable. We cannot support one and condemn the other.

This is an edited extract from the 2004 Sydney Peace Prize lecture delivered by Arundhati Roy at the Seymour Centre last night (3/11/2004).


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