Does China need to invade Australia?

The drums of war are beating. Australia is preparing for war with China as politicians and senior bureaucrats warn of armed conflict with the emerging superpower. Citizens are stockpiling weapons or boycotting their local Chinese restaurant and the tabloid media is disseminating fear to increase sales.

But would China ever invade Australia militarily? Would it ever need to?

China’s global ambitions are undeniable. Its construction of islands in the South China Sea and its actions in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang indicate plans to expand its influence. Counties throughout Africa, the Caribbean and the South Pacific are also being heavily courted, and China watched on with glee as its major rival self destructed under the disaster of Trump’s presidency. Boris and Brexit must also have pleased Xi Jinping.

China will not need to launch a military attack on Australia because the land Down Under is following Britain and The USA down a path of self destruction. China simply needs to wait and pick off the weakened state when the time is right.

Numbers

China can dominate Australia numerically. Millions of Chinese people comprise the diaspora which has created entrenched communities in Australia, as in other countries. Chinese people came to dig for gold in the 1860s, and since then to seek better opportunities for their families. Chinese influence will continue to grow as the number of migrants, students and tourists from China continues to grow.

Economics and trade

Chinese dominance of Australia will be achieved primarily through economics and trade. China is Australia’s biggest trading partner – and statements from Beijing remind Australia that it is the junior partner in this relationship. Indeed, when the Australian government made ill-timed and thinly-veiled racist comments towards China recently, Beijing imposed restrictions on Australian exports, and many Australian businesses suffered significantly. Some of the comments mirrored those of former US president Donald Trump, and were deliberately designed to appeal to the same demographic: ignorant, racist, narrow-minded, bigoted, lowly educated citizens whose influence has grown in Australia in recent years.

Australia has itself to blame for this situation. Australia has a ‘dumb’ economy. The nation exports almost nothing that requires a university degree to make, and its exports consist mainly of natural resources from mining, and the products of agriculture. Australia’s refusal, inability or reluctance to diversify its economy has made it dependant upon China, and this grants China economic control. It is also another reason that China does not need to invade Australia militarily.

One economic opportunity Australia continues to squander is renewable energy. Intelligent countries, including China, recognise the future economic as well as environmental opportunities inherent in renewable energy, but Australia remains fixated on fossil fuels which will destroy the environment and the economy.

The abundant sun light which attracts so many tourists to the land Down Under each year, especially from China, could be captured as solar energy and even exported for profit, but the fossil fuel industry controls the current government, and the semi-literate Australian mainstream believes the government’s rhetoric about the need for fossil fuels in Australia’s energy market. This is a situation entirely of Australia’s making, and one which weakens the country and makes it susceptible to Chinese dominance.

Education

Academia and intelligence are not prized in Australian culture. This is the reverse in China. Public education is poorly funded in Australia and more money appears to be stripped from government schools each year, especially under a conservative government. There are young Chinese people, studying at Chinese schools in China, with higher standards of English literacy than native-speaking Australian students studying at schools in Australia. Many Australian students don’t read, and won’t read. Their parents don’t appear concerned, the students are not concerned, and both major parties continue to strip money from public education and to further damage literacy rates across the country. Numeracy rates also continue to fall in Australia, and without succumbing to national stereotypes, China’s prowess in mathematics is well known.

In addition, many young Australians lack resilience. Too many primary and secondary students are diagnosed with stress and anxiety disorder, ADD, ADHD and myriad other academic or behavioural conditions. Some students genuinely suffer from these conditions, but many don’t. Australian society has allowed the over-diagnosis of these conditions, and a generation lacking resilience will inherit this country, making it ripe for the picking from a country that does not allow the same exceptions for its students.

A solution to this problem is to fund schools adequately, and to increase wages for teachers – as a starting point.

In a globalised world, Australia is weakened. Young Australians now compete for careers with youth from across the globe, including China, and need to form habits of resilience and dedication in their daily lives in order to protect their own futures and the future of the country.

Universities

Disrespect for academia extends to tertiary education in Australia. Public universities are inadequately funded, and this has further weakened the country. Universities are subsequently forced to operate as businesses and chase international fee paying students, most of whom come from China. Lecturers are pressured to award qualifications to international students even if they fail, because universities rely on their continued income. University staff tell tales of students from overseas, and from Australia, who lack the necessary English literacy skills to pass a course, but are awarded qualifications regardless because the universities need the money. The result is a decline in academic standards which will eventually devalue the qualifications international students have paid a fortune to receive. Soon, international students will seek degrees in other countries, and another lucrative source of income to Australia will be lost. This is a situation of Australia’s making.

Poorly funded tertiary education creates another problem for Australia – brain drain. If the country’s best and brightest are denied opportunities for research in Australia, they will take their intelligence overseas.

Historical pragmatism

China is not a coloniser. Not traditionally anyway. History reveals China’s focus on establishing trade and extracting resources from other lands instead of colonising those lands. Colonisation requires the invading power to manage the lands they invade and to manage the government, as well as transport, health, education, communications and other public services, which all require personnel, money, time and effort. China knew it could still enjoy the economic benefits of dominance over other lands without having to deal with the mess of governing the country. It is likely to do so with Australia.

Three superpowers in three weeks.

The Australian government has managed to upset three superpowers in the space of three weeks. Comments from the prime minister and senior minsters or staff have provoked negative responses from China, India and the United States, and the results could be very harmful to Australia.

China.

The threat of war. Senior government figures provoked China with comments about imminent armed conflict. Former Liberal minister Christopher Pyne, Senator Jim Molan, Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo, and even Defence Minister Peter Dutton made comments suggesting Australia is already, or will soon be, engaged in some form of direct conflict with China. In contrast, an article by Ewen Levick appeared in Australian Defence Magazine in March this year entitled:

War with China is not inevitable.

Average Aussies don’t know who to believe. They also might not understand the true motivation behind the comments, but China does, and Australia’s largest trading partner has already responded the best way it knows how – economically.

India

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Australian citizens attempting to return to Australia from the COVID-19 hotspot of India could be issued massive fines or sent to jail. Many Australian citizens were born in India, have family in India and hold dual citizenship between the two countries. Australian citizens have access to Australia’s health system, and could be treated in Australia after completing mandatory quarantine, but they are being forced to remain in a country in the middle of a crisis, and are placing more pressure on India’s overburdened health system. This has not just angered Aussies in India and back home, but upset the government of India, which is battling to bring the crisis under control.

The United States

The Australian government set itself at odds with The USA when it refused to follow plans to reduce carbon emissions and protect the natural environment. New US president Joe Biden has publicly stated an ambition to actively reduce carbon emissions in the US in the near future, but Australia has refused to match these efforts. One specific policy which will harm Australia is the carbon tariff. The tariff, or fee, will be imposed on any goods being imported into the United States which have not been produced using more environmentally-friendly methods. Goods that are produced using fossil fuels will thus be worth less, and those businesses will lose money. The European Union is proposing a similar plan.

Ironically, this will adversely affect traditional Coalition voters, whose businesses will suffer due to the tariffs. Australia, rightly or wrongly, has a very close relationships with the United States, and cannot afford to alienate the superpower.

Upsetting other nations is inevitable in international diplomacy. Upsetting other nations is also justified if those nations are acting in a way that clearly contravenes the interests or the accepted values of the nation making the comments. China, for example, needs to be called out for its actions in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang. In this case, however, the comments are calculated, but careless, and are deliberately designed to appease specific sectors of the Australian population.

China. Anti-China comments appeal to the racists. Australia is a racist country, and anti-Chinese racism has existed since the gold rush in the 1860s. The Liberal National Party coalition taps into this anti-China sentiment because it is dependant on the votes of the country’s racist underbelly. Warning Australians of the threat of war is also a convenient way to justify enormous spending on defence, and observant commentators noticed that the comments were made close to ANZAC Day, which commemorates fallen Aussie soldiers and is the nation’s most sacred day. Ironically, however, the public comments about China have adversely affected trade with China and this severely disadvantages Australian producers of beef, wheat and wine, who would normally vote for the Coalition.

The USA. The prime minister rejected the US proposal in order to appease the fossil fuel industry. Australians are now cognisant that the fossil fuel industry owns the Coalition.

India. Racism, or damage control? Threatening to imprison Australian citizens returning from an Asian country is clearly racist, but the proposal could also be an attempt to save face. COVID-19 quarantine is ultimately a federal government responsibility in Australia, and it has been handled very poorly. The COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been even worse. Many Australians are staring to see through the government’s COVID-19 publicity stunts, so the threat to fine or imprison citizens could be an attempt to appear tough and decisive on border control and biosecurity.

Some of the Australians trapped in India have no Indian heritage. They are cricketers, chasing big money in the lucrative Indian cricket competition. A few of the cricketers have criticised the government’s stance. Will the words of some Aussie sports heroes be enough to the change the government’s stance?

For a government that is nothing but publicity, photo opportunities and marketing, this is a massive public relations faux pas. Will it persuade Australians to stop voting for the Coalition at upcoming elections?

Image: Aditya Joshi

Australia withdraws from Eurovision Song Contest.

Fans of Australian music are distraught after waking to the news that the country will no longer participate in the enormously popular Eurovision Song Contest. The country’s nominated contestant, Montaigne, has been officially withdrawn from the 2021 edition, and the government has steadfastly refused to sanction the participation of any other singer in the international extravaganza at any time in the future.

In the face of scathing criticism across social media platforms, Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Paul Fletcher, justified his government’s shock decision.

“Australia contributes so little to the overall voting tally of the Eurovision Song Contest every year that there is no point us taking part. We have never won the event so we should leave it to countries who have won the event and who collect more votes to take responsibility for the survival of the competition.”

Average Australians and music devotees slammed these comments.

“The Australian government is blatantly ignoring the evidence,” claimed one outraged fan. “Dami Im finished second in 2016 and we’ve had three more top 10 finishes – look at the facts Minister!”

Other comments were just as negative:

“We may have a smaller population, but we actually got a lot more votes than bigger nations…open your eyes Fletcher!”

“Absolute disgrace – makes me ashamed to be an Aussie”

” gov totally out of touch with Aussies. They must go!”

“Lame excuse. Lame decision. Lame govt”

“Wake up to the modern world – or get out of government”

Experts also fear that if Australia does not embrace the contest, it will become an international pariah and that this could impact negatively on so many aspects of daily life in the country.

Minister Fletcher thanked the organisers of the event for inviting Australia into the competition in 2015, but explained that the land Down Under no longer shared the values of the majority of European nations.

“Most of these countries are transitioning to modern technology with a whole host of new devices which can create and share music, but we in Australia will continue to rely on devices like cassette tapes and CD players.”

“We will not be pressured by outsiders, or even by citizens in our own country, to embrace any of this new technology – nor will be brainwashed into thinking that this technology represents the future. Even if Australia is the only country in the world using cassette tapes in the near future – we will continue to use cassette tapes.”

Minister Fletcher also explained that the decision supported his party’s policy of allocating only minimal funding to Arts and Entertainment.

“We believe this money could be better spent on a CD deck in a mining truck, or a juke box in the break room of a coal seam gas site.”

Image:www.eurovisionworld.com

This Land…

Darkness enveloped the land.

A depressing grey pall hung heavily over the land and fomented despicable violence which entrenched anger, frustration, despair and fear in those victimised by birth. Toxic masculinity leeched from the pores of rabid salivating animals and sullied the pristine waterways, the same waterways which had offered solace and retreat in an imagined past; the white-capped waves and golden sands since converted into a haven for leering eyes and lecherous ghouls.

Fear racked the fairer sex. Survival strategies were devised and disseminated, carried in nervous whispers through the darkened streets and the darker web. Clothes, make-up and sobriety were scrutinised before safety was promised in the world outside – the land outside which they called home. Home, where violence had been domesticated, by those who had not.

Keys to unlock inherited power were now held between forefingers. Capsicum spray sat beside scented spray and self-care acquiesced to self-defence. Avoid the darkness, they were told, but darkness was everywhere. Darkness had swallowed the land and voraciously consumed all that was good.

Emboldened by self-appointed truth tellers and by the weakness of their rulers, they threatened and struck, abused and demeaned, dismissed and suppressed. Emboldened by the apathy, silence and spin of the law makers. Law makers or law breakers? The lines had blurred, the distinction lost.

Depravity extended its greedy tentacles from the distant corridors of power to the hallowed grounds of prestige, where the elite schooled their offspring in the perpetuation of power.

How good! they cheer,

How good! to leer.

Retain your grace, remain the same,

Make-up your face, your words be tame.

Enough is enough, the victims declared, but it was never enough. Never enough for the rapacious scourge which infested their world and controlled their bodies, and the bodies within bodies.

The fair were few and far between, ignored in print, ignored on screen. They and their allies drowned under a deluge of ignorance and noise as the heavens unleashed a torrent of hate and lies, and cowardly cries.  It comes from the sky, it comes from up high, the news we use to justify.

Dystopia was not an imagined future, dystopia was a lived present, dictated for eternity by one bite of a forbidden fruit.

Then he emerged.

Short in stature, but bold of heart.

Follow me, he declared, in messianic tones, and I will deliver you from darkness and into light. I will protect you, he promised. So, follow him they did and the light returned. Joy, gaiety and unimagined bliss filled their souls.

Pink roses blossomed. Pink roses bloomed with hope and the promise of a new future.

All was well in the land of pink roses.

Image: Carlos Quintero

First published in The Beast magazine, May 2021

Burned

“The business dies without it,” declared Mr M with palpable anxiety.

“We know it arrives tonight, but we don’t know where.”

Nadia’s father and his associates were still desperately poring over a heavily coded message and a map when she snuck into his secret room. Suddenly, the door swung open. Nadia leapt for cover.

“What the hell Benny!” admonished Mr M, “knock 3, wait…knock 2, wait…How many times have I told you?”

“Sorry boss,” whimpered Benny, grasping for the pride he’d felt moments earlier after returning from the first meaningful task he’d been entrusted with; buying burner phones. He chose the ones with flame symbols on them, thinking that was why they were called burners.

Phones were hastily shoved into pockets and the men returned with increasing concern to the code and the map.

“Where is the drop site?!” Mr M demanded of his subordinates. Nadia felt her father’s anger and snuck out of the room. She didn’t know exactly how he paid her private school fees, but she had some idea what ‘hostile takeover’ meant in his line of business. She counted 10 seconds then burst back in with exaggerated clumsy innocence. An uncomfortable silence lingered.

“What about the Eels last night, eh” Mr M said eventually.

“Um…ah….yeah,” replied Stan.

“They’ll win the comp this year,” declared the boss calmly.

With doe eyes and rehearsed timidity, Nadia apologised profusely and asked for the day’s newspaper,

“…for the crossword.”

Her father thrust it at her and his boiling frustration swept her out the door.

Mr M didn’t understand his 13-year-old daughter’s obsession with cryptic crosswords, any more than he understood the code which hid the location of tonight’s shipment. When he emerged in a frantic search for whiskey, Nadia told him. He wasn’t convinced, so Nadia explained the hidden meaning behind each clue, and subsequently the precise location of the drop. Her father didn’t know whether to feel shocked, angry, usurped, proud, humiliated or impressed, so he succumbed to all of the above.

“You got lucky this time,” is all he could muster. Nadia smiled inwardly and returned to her cryptic as her father gathered his boys and rushed to the drop site.

“Move the second I call you on your burner,” added Mr M after he’d explained the meticulous plan to intercept Mr Smith’s shipment.

“Now spilt up!”

“How does the boss know so much about Mr Smith’s operations?” Benny asked Stan when they set off for their posts.

“They were partners until Smith crossed him, took every penny from their biggest haul years back.”

Truck after truck arrived.

The boss waited and breathed deeply. Revenge and riches were within arm’s reach. He was bursting with excitement and desperate to reveal himself to Mr Smith with the haul safely in his possession.

This is it. His trembling hands dialled the number and raised the phone to his ear.

‘Welcome to Flame mobile – your call has been placed in a queue and will be answered shortly…’

ANZAC Day is an ideal time to denounce right-wing extremism.

Will Scott Morrison denounce right-wing extremism on ANZAC Day?

Will the Prime Minister of Australia use his national address on April 25 to publicly denounce the rise of right-wing extremism in the country and make a strong statement that the racist ideology is not welcome in a democratic country? The prime minster’s speech writers will fill his public statements with phrases about ‘protecting our way of life’ ‘laying down their lives for our freedom’, upholding ‘Australian values’ and ‘defending democracy’, as well as encouraging us all to ensure we never live through another war. He might even pretend to cry again. But will he denounce one factor which contributes to war?

Why do it on ANZAC Day?

ANZAC Day recognises the sacrifices, suffering and deaths of individual soldiers from Australia and New Zealand since WWI. It also reminds all of us to do whatever we can to prevent war in the future, and this includes preventing right-wing extremism and excessive nationalism from becoming entrenched and accepted.

Excessive nationalism = war.

Excessive nationalism is a form of extremism. Hitler understood this very acutely, and labelled his party the National Socialist party. He also created a nationalism which was deliberately exclusive. He famously scapegoated Jewish people, and excluded them from notions of German identity, and excluded anyone else who did not conform to his party’s ideal of the pure Aryan race. Ironically, Hitler himself did not satisfy his own criteria for pure Aryan blood. Right-wing extremism caused World War II.

The ANZACs fought against the Hitler’s Nazis in WWII.

Recent media reports point to an increase in public declarations of excessive nationalism and growing support for Neo-Nazi ideology and activity in Australia. Neo-Nazi groups, emboldened by right-wing media and defenders of ‘free speech’, have been gathering in groups and happily publicising their existence across social media platforms. Swastikas have been spotted on people’s cars, their clothing, their skin and their social media accounts, and racially motivated attacks on innocent people are reported regularly.

Furthermore, Brenton Tarrant is Australian. Tarrant carried out the two terrorist attacks on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019, and Australia produced him. Tarrant grew up in Australia and is known to have followed various right-wing extremists groups on social media before he carried out the pre-meditated attacks. He also admitted that racial and religious intolerance motivated the attacks. New Zealand soldiers fought alongside Australian soldiers during the battles which are remembered on ANZAC Day. Is this how we repay their service?

The prime minster and his Liberal National Party coalition have yet to publicly criticise the extremism which provoked the massacres.

Will he do it?

No.

Morrison and the LNP need the Nazi vote. The conservative party’s new constituency includes right-wing extremists who believe in exclusive nationalism which excludes anyone who is not white, straight and Christian. The Nazi vote is even more important after the party and the prime minister failed disastrously to handle the 2019/2020 bushfire crisis, the abuse of women in parliament house and the COVID-19 vaccine roll out. Die hard coalition voters and right-wing extremists may well save the LNP from defeat at the next federal election. This is also the party which famously boasted about ‘Turning Back the Boats’ as the cornerstone of a racist immigration policy, and which has a disastrous record on Indigenous issues.

Should he do it?

Yes

Denouncing right-wing extremism close to ANZAC Day will carry more weight. War and the suffering of conflict are at the forefront of people’s thoughts. The desire to prevent another war is stronger during commemorative days, so denouncing the philosophy which led the world to war in the past is very appropriate on ANZAC Day. In addition, ANZAC Day has become more patriotic in recent years and right-wing extremists may be more likely to exploit the surge in patriotism to push their racist agenda, so the government should denounce this ideology strongly and publicly.

Image: http://www.abc.net.au

ANZAC Day is the one day of the year…

ANZAC Day is the one day of the year that many Australians show any genuine respect for Australian history. For the remaining 364 days, many remain ignorant, dismissive, racist, sexist and bigoted. These overtly patriotic Aussies access a deeply-hidden reverence on April 25 and demand that the remainder of the population display an equal amount of pride in the achievements of soldiers and the nation as a whole.

Respect Australian history!

Many Australians implore us all to respect the nation’s history on ANZAC Day during personal conversations, across social media, in the workplace and on the flagpole in front of their house. These same people exhibit very little interest in the stories of women, migrants and Aboriginal people and the part they played in the nation’s history. History for many Australians extends to accounts of WWI and WWII, the Gold Rush, Federation and the Explorers. The figures they credit with building the nation are Diggers (soldiers) farmers, sportspeople and Explorers – almost all of whom are Caucasian and male. All Australians recognise the part these people played in shaping the modern nation, but some realise that women, migrants and Aboriginal people also made a significant contribution to contemporary Australia, and deserve to be remembered.

The respectful mourners cling to the following tried and true phrases about the history of this nation:

Australia has no history

Proud, flag-waving patriots often bemoan the fact that Australia has no history. They perpetuate this idea with reference to the age-old cultures and structures of Europe or Asia and compare these to Australia’s comparative youth. There is one major flaw in this thinking; it completely dismisses the existence of Indigenous Australians, who continue the world’s oldest surviving culture.

It happened long ago, forget about it

When confronted with the truth of colonisation and the forceful dispossession of Indigenous people from their land, many Australians tell Aboriginal people that ‘it happened a long time ago’ and that everyone should ‘let it go’, ‘move on’ or ‘forget about it’. They issue the same response to stories of the Stolen Generation, The Aboriginal Day of Mourning’ and accounts of individual massacres of Aboriginal people across the nation. Interestingly, they refuse to forget about WWI even though that happened ‘a long time ago’.

They defend our way of life

We are told that Australia’s armed forces defend the nation. We are told that our armed services personnel ‘keep us safe’ and ‘protect our way of life’. The last time we were reminded of this our prime minister, Scott Morrison, even forced himself to cry for the cameras. Most of us believe these broad statements, out of patriotism or naivety. We fail to recognise that these statements are often used to justify support of the multi-million dollar defence industry, and to send young people to needless deaths. Armed forces play a part in defending the nation, but so do trade and diplomacy.

Did the ANZACS protect Australia?

ANZAC Day was created to recognise the sacrifices, hardships and deaths of soldiers in WWI, particularly in Gallipoli, Turkey. WWI never directly threatened Australia. Australians lost their lives protecting Great Britain. ANZAC Day also recognises Australia’s contribution to WWII, when we fought again for the British. Our own country was directly threatened in WWII when Japanese submarines entered Sydney harbour and their planes bombed Darwin. It is also argued that the fall of Singapore posed a subsequent threat to Australia, and that Australian soldiers suffered while defending the tiny nation. That said, most Australian armed forces personnel fought for Great Britain in WWII, in battles waged a long way from Australia. Did they protect Australia, or did they protect our relationship with our colonial masters?

Current ANZAC Day commemorations pay tribute to soldiers who have have worn the Australian uniform in any war, but all of these battles have occurred overseas, most often in service of The United States during their wars in Vietnam and the Middle East. The only extended battle that occurred on Australian soil was the battle between the British colonisers and Indigenous Australians, but the ANZAC Day commemorators don’t like to be reminded of this. They cling to another popular phrase associated with the history of the nation: Australia was settled, and not invaded.

Do Australians realise this historical truth, or are they too enamoured with the patriotism of ANZAC Day to accept the subtle and nuanced details of modern history?

The strength and depth of emotion prompted by ANZAC Day could be explained by a question:

What is Australian?

The problematic nature of Australian identity also explains the heightened reverence towards ANZAC Day. April 25 has become a quasi national day and surpassed January 26 in the minds of many Aussies, because Australia Day is problematic.

Many Australians continue to celebrate Australia Day with joy and pride, while Indigenous Australians refer to it as Invasion Day. The day itself raises the difficult question of what it means to be Australian. Is an Australian an Indigenous person? Is an Australian a Caucasian soldier, farmer or athlete, or is an Australian a migrant who could have been born anywhere in the world? Is it all of the above?

For many Australians, this question is too difficult to answer, or even to consider, so they impose their patriotism on ANZAC Day. Some keen observers have tracked the increasing patriotism associated with ANZAC Day, and fear it could overshadow the remembrance of fallen soldiers, for whom the day was created.

Don’t criticise ANZAC Day

ANZAC Day is sacred. ANZAC Day is off limits. Even this article is likely to be met with scorn and criticised as unpatriotic or an insult to fallen soldiers – most likely by the same people who carry bumper stickers reading:

Australia, if you don’t like it, fuck off!

Any questioning of any aspect of ANZAC Day is interpreted as an attack on the memories of fallen soldiers and their surviving families. These reactive, emotional responses exemplify the blind reverence for April 25 among a section of the Australian population, who show little to no interest in nuanced and varied accounts of Australian history for the remainder of the year.

Should we ignore ANZAC Day?

No

Absolutely not.

This article is in no way intended to diminish the sacrifices of individual soldiers, civilians and their families. It is not intended to brush aside the sufferings and horrors of war. It is designed to remind people that historical perspective should be exercised every day of the year, not just when commemorating war. It is also designed to remind all Australians that patriotism is a vital component of ANZAC Day celebrations but it should not overshadow the original purpose of the day; to pay respect to individual soldiers, and to do everything possible to make sure war never happens again.

Image: http://www.abc.net.au

Cordelia

“Cordial”

“What?”

“Cordial, that’s her name,” smirked Kayden, as his buddies sniggered concomitantly.

“No, it’s Cordelia”

“Yeah, Cordial” and the remainder of Kayden’s posse sniggered again.

Cordelia rolled into the car park on her trusty hardtail and confirmed her presence, before Mr ‘Ev’ Evans continued checking attendance. The new teacher marked off a number of boys before arriving at an unfamiliar name:

“Adian”

“Eeeuuh,” protested the smallest member of Kayden’s posse, “It’s Ai – dan, not Ad-i-an.”

“Sorry,” replied Mr Evans, “it’s spelt A. D. I. A. N. – Adian”

“Eeuuh, that’s not how it’s said, it’s Aidan.”

“OK, settle down. So that’s Aidan, plus Brayden, Hayden and Jayden…”

and the three remaining boys grunted reluctantly at the teachers.

“Alright guys,” advised Ms Symonds, “we’ll start today on the skills track and the pump track, then we’ll go for a free ride, maybe right to the top today. Oh, and there’s a little surprise for everyone today.”

“That’s gay,” muttered Kayden under his breath. “Why can’t we just ride?”

It was futile to engage with Kayden, so the teachers led half the group to the skills area and the other half to the pump track. One group of students sized up the skills track: balance features, cornering challenges, a little rock garden, a seesaw and one final drop. The students laughed, stumbled and strained their way around the skills track with varying degrees of success, while Ms Symonds offered advice at various obstacles,

“Throw your bike forward off the drop,” she reminded them as they filed through the final obstacle.

“Good TJ”

“That’s it Matty”

“Exaggerate the throw Cordelia, so you don’t land on your front wheel like that”

Thud, whack, ouch!!!

Stuart crashed to the ground in a tangle of limbs and metal. His full rigid Malvern Star offered no shock absorption from the half metre drop and even the WD40 his Dad had sprayed all over the chain upon arrival couldn’t save him. He dusted himself off and assured Ms Symonds he was ok to continue amid a cackle of mocking laughter from the posse.

“He rides like a girl,” Kayden muttered.

“Kayden, don’t be sexist,” Ms Symonds admonished.

“What, I didn’t say anything about sex.”

“No, sexist, when you make bad comments about girls or women.”

“So what, there’s no girls here anyway.”

“What about Cordelia?”

“You mean Cordial?”

…and the boys laughed on command.

Stuart limped away from the obstacle course to put his bike and his pride back together.

“I didn’t do it properly either,” whispered Cordelia sympathetically, and Stuart’s rosy blush turned bright red.

Hayden and Jayden had excused themselves from the skills session and were obsessing over the positioning of their GoPro. Ms Symonds wondered when they’d ever do anything worth posting to their much-hyped Youtube channel.

“Yes Matty,” she complimented as he negotiated the drop.

“Perfect Angus”

“Yes, that’s it Cordelia” and the students bounced off the drop for the last time.

All except one.

Stuart picked his way through the skills course on his unforgiving retro bike, before nearing the final drop. Ms Symonds moved her hands instinctively towards the first aid kit, and the remaining students held their breath. The rigid front forks inched closer and closer to the edge of the drop while Stuart’s eyes widened in terror.

Would he make it?

Then something snapped and the terror disappeared. Stuart slammed down on the pedals, and with two strokes his front forks took flight. He leaned back, and with a strength belying his skinny arms he thrust the bike upwards and forwards.

Everyone waited.

His front wheel remained airborne and his back wheel finally left the boards. Arms extended and weight back, the bike flew down, down, down towards the dust. From tangled mess to perfect landing, Stuart had nailed it. A casual thumbs up from Cordelia turned his cheeks an impossible shade of red. He could always blame sunburn. Yep, he would blame sunburn.

Meanwhile, Ev was guiding his new students through the pump track.

“Look through the corner,” he said,

“Where you look is where you go”

Rider after rider rolled the bumps and swept through the turns. Some smoothly, others with a grating screech of brakes.

“Brayden and Adian can you not skid around every corner!”

“Why?”

“You churn up the track, you damage it for everyone else.”

“So?”

“Well, are you going to repair it?”

“As if, that’s so gay.”

Ev focussed his attention on the more receptive students, before realising one was missing.

“Kayden, are you going to join us?” he enquired. Kayden instructed the teacher to talk to the hand, while the other clutched his phone.

“I need it now,” he was saying, “hurry up and bring it…”

Kayden didn’t lower himself to skills sessions. His Santa Cruz Megatower 29er wasn’t built for technique practice or advice from ‘gay’ teachers. The brand-new, shiny, super expensive machine played the supporting role on his much-hyped Youtube channel.

The teachers swapped groups before deciding it was time to ascend.

“Let’s go,”

“What about the surprise?” asked Matty.

“Ah,” the teachers looked at each other, “…we’ll tell you when we get to the top.”

“Tap out a tempo on the climb, take your time, and we’ll meet at the start of Sidewinder. TJ, can you lead?”

“Wait!”- Kayden wasn’t ready.

“What’s the matter Kayden, are you OK?”

“Yeah, I’m waiting for my Mum. I need my other GoPro.”

“When will she be here?”

“I dunno!” Kayden snapped.

Again, discussion was futile, so Ms Symonds waited with Kayden and Adian, while Ev started the climb with the rest of the group.

Cordelia tapped out a rhythm on the long, slow climb, and the hill sessions she’d done by her house seemed to be paying off. Behind her, Stuart was puffing and panting on his heavy metal frame. Ev sensed a greater motivation in Stuart today – maybe it was the blonde ponytail up ahead.

Back at the carpark, a young boy stepped out of a late-model Hilux with a confidence Ms Symonds recognised. He walked to Kayden and thrust a GoPro into his hand.

“You might be riding with us soon,” remarked Ms Symonds in a friendly, off-hand manner.

“Nah, this is gay,” replied the young upstart, before being summoned impatiently by his mother,

“Get in the car Zayden!”

With his second GoPro attached, Kayden granted Ms Symonds permission to begin the climb. It wasn’t long before they caught Jayden, Hayden and Brayden, who were already pushing their bikes up the hill. The teacher was forced to dismount and listen to the posse whinge about the heat and the steepness of the climb,

“…they should put a chairlift in,” said Adian.

Ms Symonds distracted herself from the drudgery of the hike-a-bike by examining the bikes the posse members were riding. She was very happy with her Giant hardtail, especially after the dropper post had been added, but she was amazed at the machines in the hands of the 14 and 15-year-old boys. Kayden led the hike with his Megatower, while his minions trailed on Commencal , Canyon, YT, Nukeproof…all new, all carbon fibre. Ms Symonds began calculating the combined cost of the posse’s bikes, and how long it would take her to earn that much money. She stopped when it got too depressing.

“Now we can have some fun,” Ev assured them at the top of Sidewinder “…and I’ll be filming you guys on this trail, then on Taipan, Billy’s Bobsleigh and Sewerside, and the final edit goes into a video we’re going to show at the presentation night.”

“What, in front of everyone?”

“Yep. Classmates, parents, teachers – everyone.”

“Sick, cool, great…” they replied, with excitement and a hint of nervousness. The pressure was on.

“Send it!” and they were off.

Kayden’s posse had forced it’s way to the front of the convoy and led off with hoops and hollers and skids. They popped over the little jumps and sent dust flying from every corner and berm. Dom and Paddy followed and pulled off a ‘turnbar’ and ‘one foot’ on the little kickers in a determined effort to star in the video.

Ev knew some of this footage was usable and was even more excited when he reached the end of the trail and turned around to see Matty pull off an ‘ET’ on the big jump which concluded the trail.

“YEEEEUUUUUWWWWWW” they all screamed as Matty skidded to a halt.

“Ev, is that going in the video?” Matty pleaded hopefully.

“Maybe”

Next was Sewerside. Starting beside the stinky water reservoir, it was steeper, a bit more technical and a whole lot of fun for anyone light on the brakes.

“Relax, and keep your hands off the brakes as much as possible – just like Tracey Hannah,” Ms Symonds encouraged.

“Go!”

Off they sped, twisting and turning their way through the top technical section over rock gardens and drops. Jayden was the first to fall at the rock garden, followed by Hayden on the second drop. Only their egos were bruised, so the group careered its way down the hill straining to make their way onto the final cut.

Then it appeared.

“Nooooo!!!” screamed Stuart. A startled wallaby stood dead still in the middle of the trail, rooted to the ground. Stuart was going way too fast to stop and somehow threw his bike from side to side to avoid the poor animal and scare it off the trail into the bush. He returned his bike deftly to the trail and hung on with sweaty palms and gloveless fingers over the rocks, drops and gravel at the bottom of the trail.

More great footage, thought Ev.

Cordelia was beaming.

“Stu, you almost hit that wallaby”

Stuart was embarrassed, and mumbled,

“I just tried to get out of the way.”

“Yeah, with a tail whip – that was so impressive.”

This was the best day of Stuart’s life.

During the traverse to Taipan, Ev suggested to Kayden that he and his buddies contribute their GoPro footage to the presentation-night video. Even through his designer sunglasses, Kayden could be seen rolling his eyes.

“Nah, this is for Youtube – not for some gay school video.”

Discussion was futile.

Before sending the excited teenagers off Taipan, Ms Symonds reminded them to concentrate on their technique. They were getting tired. Plus, technique equals speed,

“…just like Jolanda Neff.”

“Who?” blurted Kayden.

“Jolanda Neff, world champion, world cup champion, she’s a Cross-Country rider from Switzerland, and she won a lot of races with strong technique on the descents…

“What, some chick!!” Kayden

“Yes, some chick who would beat anyone here, including you”

“As if,” and Kayden trailed off to his boys to issue orders for the impending descent.

“Don’t forget to smile for the camera,” Ms Symonds told everyone, and they were soon hurtling down Taipan.

Ev let all the riders glide onto the trail hoping to capture the kaleidoscopic train wind its way down the descent. The juxtaposition of vibrant colours on red-grey dusty trails enhanced the footage, and the beginnings of the final cut were coming together in his mind.

Brayden soon hit the deck after an ill-fated attempt to skid around a berm, and the camera focussed right on him as Ev turned his head to negotiate the corner.

“Smile,” he said as he whizzed by. Brayden didn’t see the funny side. Could he include that in the final cut? Ev asked himself, just before he witnessed something astonishing.

Cordelia was cruising through the flow trail with her distinctive blonde ponytail swishing around the turns, when he saw it;

Reddish-brown.

A metre long.

Venomous.

Just 2 metres in front of Cordelia.

Oh no!

A taipan. Smack bang in the middle of the trail.

Ev was helpless.

Please no!

Cordelia spotted the snake just in time.

Instinct took over.

Down, back, up..

In one deft movement she bunny-hopped the world’s third-most venomous snake before pushing into the next jump and flowing around the berm. The snake slithered off for cover and the newby teacher exhaled. She’d saved her own life, and probably his.

That was close.

Only two people had seen it. Soon, the entire school would.

Students and teachers soon found themselves at the top of the final run: Billy’s Bobsleigh. Tired, thirsty, sweaty, dusty, hungry and happy, they took in the amber glow of the afternoon sun and sipped from water bottles.

“This is it,” Mr Evans declared.

“Your last chance. Everyone has footage, but the final cut hasn’t been made. Now, remember to be careful and concentrate, and think about one thing:

Drop Dead.

The students gasped.

Silence ensued.

Yes, Drop Dead. The highest drop on the the hill. Wooden boards which followed a berm then stopped abruptly. Nothing but fresh air.

Remember, you can take the ramp to the right, or take the drop. It’s entirely your choice. You’re all capable. It’s the same technique you’ve been taught, just higher…

“A lot higher,” – said Matty.

“Yes, a lot higher,” confirmed Ms Symonds.

“If you take the drop, focus straight away on the little jump just after you land. Now, I’ll ride down first and wait at the drop. I’ll watch you down the trail, then hide under the drop and film you all go past. No matter what you choose, you’ll be on film.”

As Ev set off to position himself for filming, he heard Kayden barking orders at everyone. he gave the signal, then pressed record.

The smiling students cruised up and down the embankments which gave the trail its name. The first bike approached and Ev recognised the distinctive whirr of a bike he wished he could afford. He heard the violent screech of disc brakes as the rider succumbed to fear, and Brayden’s Canyon Strive rolled tentatively down the ramp. Three more carbon fibre contraptions repeated Brayden’s efforts, then the remaining students threw their bikes to the right and down the ramp.

Thud, whack, ouch!!!

A bike crashes to the ground in a tangle of limbs and metal. Ev peeks out expecting to see the trusty Malvern Star sprawled all over the trail, but instead he spots the shiny Megatower beside its owner writhing in pain. Ev zooms in cheekily on the whimpering Kayden, and while he decides whether to leave that shot in the final edit, he calls,

“Kayden, get off the trail!”

But it’s too late. Kayden submits to the pain and can only look skyward. The final rider whirls down the trail. Ev hears the tyres grip the berm and roll onto the boardwalk. He points the camera at the ramp to the right but at the last second senses the bike approaching the drop.

Is this it?

Is someone finally going to take on the drop?

Before he can mentally prepare for a mid-trail rescue of a broken-boned teenager, he sees it.

The front wheel separates itself from the wooden board and there’s no turning back. The back wheel follows and bike and rider fly out into the bright blue sky and fill the frame of the camera. It’s magnificent. The tropical afternoon sun dances off the frame of the bike to backlight the rider perfectly. The lens tracks the bike as it plunges toward the rocky trail with rider still in place. The danger is not over. The landing has to be stuck, and this is no mean feat from a drop of such height.

The rider sails over Kayden and his Megatower, and with perfect technique the hardtail lands gracefully on the trail and two slim legs cushion the blow, before sending the rider high up into the next berm and sailing over the ensuing jump.

Ev is already anticipating the reaction of the entire school body when they watch the footage on the big screen, and he runs out to catch the final shot. He points the lens at the long blonde pony tail as it snakes its way effortlessly down the trail.

A Request

“You’ll have to go back,”

Oh no, thought Tim, I’d really don’t want to. What will she say?

Tim was extremely reluctant to return and demand a refund, because of what had happened since he’d purchased the medicine from the chemist.

The specialist explained why Tim was entitled to a refund, and the difference between the correct medicine and the one he was given. Meanwhile, Tim weighed up the consequences of demanding a refund or forgetting the matter entirely. The hit to his wallet had been hard, but the hit to his dignity might be more severe, and more lasting.

“…and make sure you speak to the pharmacist directly, not just the front desk staff. And if they don’t want to give you a refund, call me straightaway, I’m happy to speak to them.”

Thoughts raced through Tim’s mind while he sat in the consultation room. I could just do nothing, the specialist might forget. But the doctor’s conscientiousness made that unlikely, and is why Tim made the four-hour round trip for the appointment.

The specialist continued explaining the mistake and the reason that Tim had broken out in red rashes from head to toe after taking just one tablet. Tim wasn’t completely focussed, but did hear the words:

“…ended up in hospital after taking that medicine…” Tim had been lucky.

I guess I have no choice, he surmised, but the task ahead soured his mood on the long drive home.

Tim’s finger hovered over the button.

Follow.

Should I? he pondered.

Should I request to follow her?

He’d been struck by her physical beauty as soon as he’d approached the counter, even as she was partially obscured by the cashier and the plethora of medicines which surrounded her. She’s obviously intelligent, too. She looks quite young but that might be the result of her genes, and she must have spent at least four or five years at university before taking up this current position. She’s not too young for a man of Tim’s vintage. She possessed the two qualities Tim genuinely admired in women – brains and beauty. He certainly didn’t subscribe to the the theory that men should never date a woman who is smarter than them. He craved an intellectual sparring partner. Maybe subconsciously he wanted intelligent children, maybe he just wanted someone who could converse. Either way, he knew he would like to get to know this woman more.

He felt his heart beat faster as his finger remained fixed over the button. He imagined the optimal outcome, and his heart beat faster again.

When he first entered the pharmacy, he thought he would be in and out in a few minutes, but he’d been unable to find the correct bottle of tablets, so approached the cashier, who wasn’t able to help.

“The pharmacist will be with you shortly,” she offered.

While he waited for the pharmacist to bring him the medicine, he surveyed the chemist aimlessly. Locals waiting for scripts. Parents buying cold and flu tablets. Tourists stocking up on sunblock and repellent. Then his eyes rested on the board.

The supervising pharmacist had a Sri Lankan or Indian name, while the pharmacist on duty had a name that stood out. It was uncommon in these parts. The pharmacist who had caught Tim’s eye was clearly not from the sub-continent, so she must be the owner of the second name. He rolled it over in his mind a few times, committing it to memory, and realised that unlike most people from this suburb, he had visited the land of her ancestors. He had an ‘in’, a conversation starter. He then tried to remember some of the words he’d picked up from his travels through that country. They trickled back, but then he remembered that those words belong to languages in the south, and her family name comes from the north. No problem, he still recalled a few words of the northern language – at least enough to surprise her. Maybe even impress her.

His finger continued to hover.

Is it creepy?

Will she think I’m a creep, a stalker?

Will she remember me from the pharmacy? We’d spoken for quite a while as she explained the tablets and their likeness to the ones I couldn’t find on the shelf. It was a typically mundane conversation that had been made substantially more enjoyable by her presence. Surely she will notice my profile pic when she sees the request.

Is it normal, is it flattering?

Lot’s of people meet online these days, via social media, via Tinder and all sorts of dating apps and dating sites. Millenials connect via socials, even if many of them don’t admit it – and the photogenic pharmacist was a millenial. People lived most of their lives online, so of course they could meet a partner online. COVID had even forced people to socialise entirely online, so sending an electronic request to initiate a connection with another person is surely somewhat normal these days.

On the other hand, is it too forward?

Will she wonder how I found her? If she remembers it was me, she will know that she never told me her name, nor asked for mine. She was definitely smart enough to deduce that I’d taken it from the board in the pharmacy. She was also smart enough to realise I’d committed the name to memory while in the store – after all, it was not a ‘common’ name.

She might think it was endearing that I’d gone to so much mental effort to remember her name, or she might find it very disconcerting. Some might even call it the early stages of identity theft, or cyber bullying. What’s more, the social media account looked like it hadn’t been updated for quite some time, so she might become suspicious upon seeing a follow request completely out of the blue.

He must think I’m single, she’ll also think. Did he check if I was wearing a wedding ring?

Yes, Tim certainly did. As soon as she emerged from behind her counter.

Will she think less of me for not saying anything in person? Should I have expressed my interest face to face in the pharmacy, upon first meeting? It was hardly a romantic setting. A chemist, surrounded by cures for illness, next to a shabby old man with all manner of health complaints waiting for who knows what medicine. And the middle-aged lady coughing through her nicotine-clogged lungs and showering the chemist with coronavirus: very romantic. Plus, she was giving me medicine, and knew what I was likely suffering. This is what people try so hard to hide on a date.

Will she think me cowardly for not speaking face to face, and for hiding behind a social media account to connect with someone?

His finger descended.

Requested.

Armed with the proof of purchase, the doctor’s business card and the bottle of offending pills, Tim approached the pharmacist.

“Um, hi…”

Image: Ilan Dov

Slogans for Bogans.

Australia’s new rulers are beholden to bogans,

and win their support with cheap empty slogans.

True leaders lead and make tough decisions,

but bogans treat truth with ingrained derision.

Our leader needs loyal and fast-breeding bogans,

so keeps them on leash with cheap empty slogans.

How good are slogans, and an arrogant smirk,

for replacing policy or actual work!

The Almighty Rupert runs free propaganda,

for a party with nothing but cheap tricks and slander.

Slogans are cover for scandal and vice;

an ignorant bogan will never think twice.

JobMaker, JobKeeper, Homebuilder, JobSeeker,

just more PR spin while the nation gets weaker.

The bogans believe he is fighting corona,

thanks to the monster behind the persona,

the faceless and scheming marketing masters,

who shield their puppet from self-made disasters.

Go to the football, be seen to drink beer

and ignorant bogans will laugh, clap and cheer.

Follow a team that is not your own,

your slogans will keep you entrenched on the throne.

Back to the football, sink some more beers,

and do little else for four more years.

Fool all the bogans with stage-managed drinking,

and gut public schools to stop them from thinking.

Boast to the bogans, you turned back the boats,

tell them we’re gert by one giant moat.

Change just one word in our national song,

don’t dredge up the past, we did nothing wrong!

He fled to Hawaii with the nation on fire,

his bogans took selfies with Scott the Messiah!

The branding of ScoMo

Put progress in SlowMo,

But now real Aussies

Want ScoMo to GoMo

Image: http://www.nypost.com