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Seeing the truth

I WENT to Doctor S yesterday up at the Epworth and said I was in strife. That much I know is true.

Something was wrong with my vision, I said. I wasn't seeing things as they surely must be if all was well.

And that's true, too.

Please tell me all I need is the long holiday I'm going on this very week, I pleaded.

But Dr S rules out stress. So the awful suspicion grows that there's nothing wrong with my vision and the unbelievable things I've been seeing are all true, as well.

How frightening.

For a start, I this week read - or thought I read - a United Nations Environment Program manual, which insisted the real problem with Zimbabwe was not that it was ground so deep in the dirt by its brutal leader that it was short of food, work and even power. No, it was simply growing too fast.

"Zimbabwe is presently entering a stage of rapid industrialisation and motorisation," the UNEP sighed.

"This has resulted in increased air pollution, as well as the increased emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide."

Still, I guess the country's huge power blackouts will soon fix that.

But please tell me, dear reader, that it's just my eyes letting me down. Can such madness really be?

Not all the odd things I'm seeing are so serious. Take Dust, a book the ABC has published with the sole purpose, it seems, of making happy children very sad.

Again I thought I must have gone cross-eyed because no publicist could sell a children's book like this:

"In a perfect world, this book would not exist. But we do not live in a perfect world. At any given moment of any given day, there are people dying from natural disasters over which we have no control. Beyond natural disasters we add disasters of our own making, but even if we all learn to live in peace, there will still be millions of people who need help."

And no book for children could open with these words of a starved child in Niger: "I died last night." Or end with an image of the Grim Reaper leading black children across a hill littered with skulls.

I know this is just a trivial example of those things I see that cannot be, yet like all the others it shows glad being subverted for grim, or foul being hailed as fair, or evil mistaken for good. A world stood on its head.

I first feared my eyes were playing up when I read the diatribe of Amnesty International's chief, Irene Khan, in her latest annual report on the world's worst villainy.

She'd singled out just four evildoers by name: in order, our John Howard, the US's George Bush, Sudan's genocidal Field Marshal Omar Al-Bashir and Zimbabwe's brutal Robert Mugabe.

I must be reading wrong, right?

Or is it really also true that of all the regimes that crush workers, ban unions and shoot union leaders, our ACTU picked Australia for the International Labor Organisation's shame file of the worst of the worst?

Indeed, I heard ACTU president Sharan Burrow on radio, confirming that's exactly what she did.

So maybe the problem's affecting my hearing, as well.

After all, yesterday I heard journalist David Marr complain for 15 minutes on the government-funded ABC that this Howard Government was silencing exactly his kind of dissent.

What's more, I've witnessed Marr make the same claim on ABC television (twice) and in a new book and huge articles this month in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

If the Government is crushing dissent, what is this Dissenting Marr, this Sydney Solzhenitsyn? Just another of my strange visions?

Indeed, Marr even spent a whole session of the government-backed Sydney Writers Festival whingeing along with Clive Hamilton, who so furiously agrees the Government is stifling debate that he's written his own book, Silencing Dissent, one of at least six new tomes this past year that damn dissent-crushing Howard.

Whole perches of intellectuals now squawk that they cannot speak in fascist Australia, deafening us with complaints of being silenced, and deaf to irony themselves.

I'd laugh if I wasn't still worrying about my eyes, which cannot see the Australia that all these smart people say festers under my feet.

Take retired County Court judge Peter Gebhardt, who this week said he agreed with Fascist America, in 10 easy steps, in which writer Naomi Wolf tells how America supposedly lost its freedoms under Fuhrer Bush.

Gebhardt listed some of the ways: "creating a gulag (Guantanamo Bay); developing a thug caste (security contractors); setting up an internal surveillance system; harassing citizens' groups; engaging in arbitrary detention and release; targeting key individuals; controlling the media (arrests of US journalists are at a record level); believing that dissent equals treason; suspending the rule of law . . ."

And he warned: "Over the past decade, many of Wolf's 10 steps have been evident in this country . . ."

Gosh, they have? Yet the police state this ex-judge describes resembles nothing remotely like the country I've lived in, and still see today.

But you see why I worry. Surely all these intellectuals, so many with important public jobs, cannot all be mad?

You might try to cheer me by saying such people see things more gloomily than the rest of us, but up bobs Prof Robert Manne, voted our Most Influential Public Intellectual.

Sure, Manne is as convinced as Marr that "debate is presently under threat", but he's also quick to hail a kinder, gentler, more moral society when he's told of one.

Hear barking Manne start to coo when he describes not our own foul society, but the "enchanted world" of Aborigines before whites came: "(Anthropologists have) discovered a world that was filled with economic purpose; leavened by playfulness, joy and humour; soaked in magic, sorcery, mystery and ritual; pregnant at every moment with deep and unquestioned meaning."

But still I worry: How could our top intellectual so praise a society in which the strong ruled the weak, infanticide was common, death rates by warfare horrific, life expectancy low and bashing of women - as measured by the fractured skulls since found - astonishingly high?

Is it me? Or is upside now down? Inside out?

Maybe it is. Consider . . .

We now worship global warming preachers who belch more greenhouse gases from their mansions and private planes than do their disciples.

Our richest musicians stage Make Poverty History concerts in which not a dollar is raised for the poor and even the fans get in free.

Our politicians say "sorry" for stealing Aboriginal children no one can find or name.

The head of Melbourne University Press, formed to publish academic works of the highest quality, now wants to publish the memoirs of al-Qaida recruit and dropout David Hicks.

The Sydney Peace Prize is given to a writer who tells us to join the "Iraqi resistance" - now blowing up women and children - because their "battle is our battle".

The Australian Catholic University gives an honorary PhD to Age cartoonist Michael Leunig, who likens Israel to Auschwitz, paints George Bush as the devil, asks us to pray for Osama bin Laden and praises "the music you can hear playing in your toes at night".

Our leading historians defend the fashionable untruths they tell about our "genocidal" past by sighing - as did Professor Lyndall Ryan - "Two truths are told. Is only one 'truth' correct?"

Marrickville Council, in inner Sydney, decides this month to twin, not with any town in Israel, but with the Palestinian town of Bethlehem, now under the control of Hamas extremists.

On it goes: the artists who take pride in displeasing; the Age columnist who yesterday declared, "I'd be happy with a benevolent socialist dictatorship"; the prominent Leftists, led by the ABC's Phillip Adams, who invite Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez to come here to "inspire" us to be just that; the academics who want to try George Bush, not David Hicks; the immigrants who want Australia to be more like the countries they fled; the discrimination police who entrap Christian pastors, but leave hate-preaching imams well alone; and . . .

And? God, it's all true. I'm out of here. Goodbye.

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Here is an even more revealing article: and here is the antidote written shortly after 9/11

Posted by Malcolm Sedgman on 2007-06-17 04:40:08 GMT