Olympics so far.

We’re halfway through the Olympics so I figure it’s a good time to reflect on what I’ve seen so far. Michael Phelps is a phenomenon. When he crashed and burned a few years ago I, like many others, mourned the sad end to a wonderful career. But then, like a phoenix, he has arisen from the ashes and assumed greatness once again. Good on him and good luck to him for the rest of his life. I was heartened to see the “refugee” team but then saddened when I realised that these wonderful people still can’t find a country that will give them sanctuary. I saw two young athletes – one from North Korea and one from South Korea – taking a selfie together and thought, “Ah, the Olympic spirit. How wonderful.” Then I heard that some members of the Lebanese team refused to share a bus with some Israelis; an opportunity missed. I’ve seen some “stars” fail to achieve and I’ve seen some “unknowns” break records and win races. This is fine when it’s an Australian doing unexpectedly well (eg the archery team) but not so nice when the Aussies have fallen short of expectation (eg the Campbell sisters…those poor girls). I’ve seen the delightful Fijian rugby team celebrating their country’s first ever Olympic gold medal. It brought tears to my eyes. I’ve seen the first ever female Egyptian beach volleyball team – good on ’em – and have been disgusted that some media people could only focus on one competitor’s hijab. Grow up, people! And, I’ve seen the American male basketball players. They’re not living in the Olympic village with the rest of the world. No, they’re living on a luxury yacht that’s anchored in the harbour. They’re too rich and important to mingle with the hoi poloi. I see, too, that it’s only the male basketball players. I guess their female counterparts just aren’t ‘god-like’ enough. Quite frankly, I am well over the American basketball players. They’re paid way too much money and treated far too delicately for men who just play a game for a living. It’s time someone reminded them that they play basketball – they don’t heal the sick, they’re not rocket scientists, they’re not working on a cure for cancer…they just play ball! (I’m sure that, individually, they’re delightful young men who are good to their mothers, but even so…) Rio looks beautiful as long as the cameras don’t head out into the slums. I find it sad that so many poor people were pushed out of their homes so that the city could be ‘prettied up’ for all the visitors. But, I have to admit that Rio is stunning with it’s curving bay and strange shaped hills. Once again, the Olympics are the world in a microcosm: beautiful/ugly; generous/mean-spirited; uplifting/disheartening; inspiring/frustrating. Let’s see what week two brings....

Read More

The Statue of Liberty

So Mr Trump says he’s going to make America great again. He’s going to do it by building a wall between the USA and Mexico to keep the Mexicans out; he’s going to stop all Muslims from coming into the USA; he egged on his supporters when they attacked blacks at his rallies and he’s happy to be endorsed by David Duke, the leader of the Klu Klux Klan; he makes fun of disabled people and says that women should be “treated like sh*t” (I am quoting him); he’s going to make the rest of the world “respect America again” by refusing to negotiate with anyone and thereby refusing to respect anyone else… And the list goes on. His supporters wildly cheer every time he says these things, which makes me sad and fearful for the America that I know and love. I used to think that Australia and America had a lot in common. We both believed passionately in a democracy, which had the foundations of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of conscience and the belief that “all men (people) are created equal”. We’ve been allies in every war since World War I, in which we fought to uphold those ideals at home and abroad. The Statue of Liberty used to be a beacon for all freedom-loving people everywhere. Do you know the poem that is engraved on the statue’s pedestal: The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus? No? Well, here it is. Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. “Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she with silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”  That, America, is what made you great. Now you, and to some extent we, have bought the rhetoric of fear, espoused by Mr Trump and others. Once more bigotry has raised its ugly head. Due to the work of terrorists, we’re now suspicious, and even fearful, of our neighbours. We choose anger, rejection and judgement, rather than forgiveness, (cautious) dialogue and open-mindedness. The more we give in to our baser fears, the more we give victory to the terrorists. Rather than reacting with “an eye for an eye” or “kill before being killed”, let’s choose not to stoop to their level. Let’s choose to be the better people, demonstrating in our lives and in our communities that there is a better way to live. That is what will make America, Australia and others, great...

Read More

Take a moment

Bella, my daughter’s dog, is spending the day with us. The Wonder Dog is in heaven. He adores her. So, to give the “kids” a treat, we took them out to one of our favourite spots in the countryside. It’s a little water hole, off a dirt track out in the Mt Crawford area. There were lots of baby Christmas trees; a good smattering of old gums; moss and lichen a-plenty, thanks to the recent rains; a few adventurous birds, and several ponds of water, as well as a couple of little creeks that had enough water in them to send them tumbling into the pools. We even heard a few frogs. The two dawgs had a lovely time, sniffing everything and piddling everywhere. Bella barked at a couple of horse riders as they ambled by. (The Wonder Dog didn’t even notice them until Bella went a tad ballistic.) After rounding her up for the umpteenth time, the Old Boy put her on the leash and took her for a walk. Rex, trotted along behind. He doesn’t need a leash. He’s too scared to venture too far without us. Bella, on the other hand, has selective hearing. All in all, it was a pleasant respite from the world. For a couple of peaceful hours, I didn’t think about bomb blasts and shootings and bigotry and unkindness…I just savoured the joy of being alive. There should be more of it. Do yourself a favour this week. Every now and then, turn the TV off, shut down the mobile phone, put away the laptop or tablet and give yourself a break. Take a few moments to breath in and breath out, to listen to the birds, to watch a bug or two slowly crawl up a tree trunk or a plant leaf, and remind yourself that this is what it’s supposed to be like....

Read More

Oh you kids!

I don’t know; I go on a little holiday and, when my back is turned, things go awry. I can’t leave you kids alone for two seconds! I hear that little Johnny Britain has taken his ball and gone home. He reckons he doesn’t want to play with the other kids anymore. I’m not sure what it’s about. Some say it’s because he didn’t like the other kids telling him what to do. Some say it’s because he didn’t want to play with the foreign kids that had been coming into the playground. I’ve also heard that someone at home told him he didn’t need other children, and he’d be fine playing on his own. Of course, he’s already feeling lonely and now no one wants him back to play. They’ve even said he can keep his football; they’ve got plenty of others. I don’t know why you kids can’t learn to get along. After all, you’re all from the same family. Then that rotten Daesh/Isis gang of no-hopers went on a rampage again. This time they attacked poor little Turkey. It’s time those ratbags found some manners and learned to behave like civilized people. I don’t know what the answer is but we need someone with experience in working with gangs to deal with these kids. No one wants to play with them. No one wants to invite them home for dinner. No one can trust them. I feel sorry for their parents. Aussie’s having an election today. I have mixed feelings about that. I hope he’s mature enough to handle the responsibility. Sometimes youngsters can make foolish decisions that leave a trail of disappointment and, the consequences of which, have to be lived with for quite some time afterwards. I hope he’s given this a lot of thought. And that, at least, he has got one of his mates to be the designated (non-drinking) driver. Kids grow up so fast these days. Anyway, the Old Boy, the Wonder Dog and I are back home, ready to keep an eye on things once more, so be warned and...

Read More

My two cents worth.

It seems as though everybody has had something to say about the incident at the Cincinnati zoo, so I might as well add my two cents worth. There was only one winner in that sad situation: the little boy is okay. I can just imagine the vitriol that would have been handed out to the zoo and the parents if the gorilla had lost control and killed the lad. It’s incredibly sad that the gorilla died; especially considering how endangered his species is. And, the sadness was heightened when we learned that the zoo had just celebrated his 17th birthday, the week before. This was a well-loved animal. I could weigh up the pros and cons of the zoo’s decision to kill him. Should they have tried to tranquillize him? Should a zoo keeper have tried to intervene? Could they have lured him away with treats? The thing is, unlike everyone else on the internet, I’m not an expert on gorillas. I don’t know everything there is to know about interacting with them, or caring for them. I do know that just because the animal is in the zoo, it doesn’t mean it’s a cuddly teddy bear; it’s still a wild animal. The zoo knew enough about gorillas to decide that the child was in danger and they had to act quickly. I don’t envy them. I’m sure that many of the keepers there were in tears at the time and are now sad and angry that they were forced into that situation. I could climb on the “punish the parents” bandwagon but I won’t. And, before you start heating the barrel of tar and collecting the feathers, please give this statement – uttered by a wiser man than me – a bit of thought: Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone. I’ve had two little kids and I’m surprised they both survived past their fifth birthday. Let me just say: hindsight is a marvellous thing. Should they have used a leash? (I tried it with my son. He lay on the floor and refused to move. Other than me dragging him along the ground like a tonka toy, the leash just wasn’t going to happen.) Should they have kept a better watch on him? Sure. But, haven’t we all had moments that we wish we could do over? Don’t tell me that mother isn’t having nightmares about it, reliving the moment and wishing she had done something differently. I wonder whether the zoo should take another look at the height of the barriers and see if they can make it that much more difficult for a child – or a stupid/inebriated adult – to get inside the enclosures. I’m sure they’re already doing that. I could join the crusade against zoos in general, but I won’t. I’m still undecided about that issue. I agree that there are some horrendous zoos in existence but I’m also aware that many zoos are wonderful facilities that educate us about these creatures, do a lot of wonderful conservation work – even to the extent of helping re-establish colonies of various species back into the wild – and in which there is a wonderful bond between the animals and their keepers. I’m sad that the gorilla died. I’m sad that the child’s parents learned an important lesson in a very hard way. I’m sad that many species are nearly extinct in the wild because of our species, who want to kill them for their hides, or their heads, or their penises, or their bile, or their horns, or just so they can say they did. I’m also sad that the internet has become a place where people can vent their bile on others from the safety of their own homes. They can make someone else’s life a nightmare because, they’re just not good enough; they aren’t perfect parents; they sometimes behave like the teenagers that they are; they’re not a size 8; they’ve got acne; they’re black or Asian or white, or green; they’re Christian; they’re Muslim; they’re Buddhists; they’re atheists; they vote for Trump… actually, I’m struggling with that one. In other words, we think it’s okay to chuck bucket-loads of condemnation on other people who aren’t as perfect as we are. So, now, I brace myself for the onslaught. I wonder how long it’ll be before someone is braying for my blood for actually being happy that the little kid lived, while still being sad that the gorilla didn’t....

Read More