Mbabane, Swaziland | 15 October 2014
Greetings from afar.
I write this column from the land of my birth, Australia. I have travelled across the Indian Ocean to visit family and friends.
I am pleased to report that not much has changed, except to say that since my last trip home, there is a new government; more people are watching mindless reality television; and we are now at war in Iraq, along with other Western and Middle Eastern nations, battling an inhumane group who behead innocent civilians under the so-called banner of Islamic State.
Whether this “new Iraq war” will, as US President Barack Obama says, degrade and dismantle this true terrorist organisation, is another question.
Dropping bombs on already angry and irrational people — many of whom believing there are virgins waiting for them in heaven — has a tendency to make them even angrier and more irrational.
And just as there are dangerous Christians — one need only look to Nigeria, or America, or Australia — there are also more humane and moderate Christians.
The same goes for Muslims: people who follow the Islamic faith.
There are cowards who kill and deceive in the name of a peaceful and honest god; and there are more sincere and courageous Muslims who build bridges in the name of a loving and caring god; who speak out against the more violent and suppressive aspects that are conducted in the name of their faith and culture.
You may already guessed, but I am not a religious chap. However Blind Freddy can see that fighting and killing in the name of any religion undermines the very fabric of all religions: peace, understanding and tolerance — particularly towards those who think differently to you.
All jargon aside, though, this talk of religion and war makes for a complicated yet necessary discussion, and only time will tell how it continues to unfold. May sanity soon prevail.
Apart from that, and of course much more, life in Australia — often referred to as the “Lucky Country” — continues to tick by much as I remember it.
Donald Horne, the Australian writer who coined the term Lucky Country in 1964, didn’t quite mean it as we might think.
His full sentence reads: “Australia is a lucky country, run mainly by second-rate people who share its luck.”
There is much truth in that, for sure. But, that said, I do consider myself fortunate, through no actions of my own, to have been born into a free and wealthy country.
Despite its many problems, and a history built as much on oppression (and continuing to overcome that oppression) than on any self-congratulatory notion of “Western hard work”, Australia does strive to offer the individual every opportunity and choice to create a good, healthy and prosperous life for him or herself.
Anyhow, enough of that half-baked patriotic talk. Let me finish on a note of criticism.
It will come as no surprise that modern Australian leaders, like many other elected or self-appointed leaders, continue to speak in a language that is difficult to understand.
Jargon, much like Ebola and HIV, knows no boundaries and does not discriminate against its victims. The leader of Australia’s parliamentary opposition, Bill Shorten, who heads the Labor Party, made some comments recently about our involvement in the fight against extremists in Iraq.
When asked by a journalist when he thinks Australia will pull out of the fight, Shorten replied: “Well, I think its a task-based function rather than setting a specific date.”
Task-based function! I’ve heard it all.
Last time I checked, flying planes with bombs over enemy troops is called a war, Mr Shorten.
This column was originally published in the Times of Swaziland on 15 October 2014