on writing photography life

Tyranny and Oppression

Misgovernment is of four kinds, often in combination. They are: 1)tyranny or oppression […]; 2) excessive ambition […]; 3) incompetence or decadence […]; folly or perversity. This book is concerned with [folly or perversity] in a specific manifestation; that is, the pursuit of policy contrary to the self-interest of the constituency or the state involved. Self-interest is whatever conduces to the welfare or advantage of the body being governed; folly is a policy that in these terms is counter-productive.

Tuchman, Barbara W. 1984 The march of folly—From Troy to Vietnam, Abacus

In beginning this post with this quote, you may think that I am going to talk about Donald Trump and the USA, but I am more interested in my own country and the absurdity that is Scott Morrison, the Liberal/National Party coalition (LNP), and the half-hearted Neo-liberal arse-licking of the Australian Labor Party (ALP). (But the ALP is a confused, politically schizophrenic instance: many of its members belong to what might be called the traditional Labor left; the vast majority of sitting ALP members, however, are as Neo-liberal and as socially conservative as their LNP brethren, there being nothing to distinguish them but the names of their political party.)

Quietly speaking (because any perceived criticism of the Australian government and its policies can be taken to be subversion and lead to detainment and arrest) the Australian government has passed masses of “national security” legislation over the past decade, and is in the process (courtesy of “Home Affairs Minister” Peter Dutton) of passing more. Much of this legislation criminalises quite ordinay behaviour, and all to often it is passed on the grounds that it will assist with fighting paedophiles and preventing the abuse of children. In fact, the most recent legislation before parliament will only be used against paedophiles, according to Dutton, even though the legislation in no way limits the application of its provisions to paedophiles; or should I say that, if Dutton is to be believed, all Australians are paedophiles, because all Australian citizens, if this legislation is passed through both houses of parliament, may have their online accounts taken over by the security services and/or the Australian Federal Police (a part of Border Force―my apologies: the Department of Home Affairs―and hence accountable to no one in particular, except Dutton himself). Once the online account is “taken over”, whomever does so will have the right and ability to copy, delete or add information to the account (but, you trust your local government lackey, don’t you? I mean, if this power is only to be used in respect of paedophiles and drug dealers, how are you going to defend yourself if photographs of naked children romping suddenly appear in your online account? Or “invoices” for drugs ordered magically incriminate only you, the account holder?).

Moving on, but just as quietly, please…

Not only are privacy protections being removed, but the government’s right to privacy is being strengthened. There is anti-terrorist legislation, for example, which renders news reporting of government “secrets” a criminal offence. Moreover, when a “terrorist” is whisked away under anti-terrorist legislation, it is illegal (against national security) to report on the arrest other than to say it has taken place; the arrested can be held and interrogated without charge, and if they are released, it is a criminal offence for them to talk about it to anyone or to say that they have been detained, nor can the news services to say more than that it happened (no details please! We are guarding the country!). If charged (but not before) the detainee will be allowed to see a lawyer, but if and only if that lawyer is approved by the various government officers and departments involved in the process. The important point, however, is that the majority of the Australian public will never know if the powers granted under the legislation is misused, nor will they know who was under suspicion, nor even if they were convicted. (Unless the person convicted is a Muslim; Muslim’s are easy targets because Australians are quite devoted to their racism, and find it easy to believe that all Muslims are terrorists, terrorist sympathisers, and generally just not to be trusted. God help them if they are just ordinary people wanting to live happily, because there always are those who will just walk up and tell them that they are terrorists.)

In all honesty, I only know about this legislation because…but I cannot tell you; in Australia it would be a criminal offence to do so.

That seems to take care of the first type of misgovernment, but as is so often the case, the reality of the law is hidden, and the nature of the penalties for talking about any particular instance of the application of the law are extreme. What this means is that the nature of the tyrannical anti-terrorist (apologies again: anti-drug dealer and anti-paedophile) laws simply are not discussed in Australia; most don’t know anything about these laws and their application; most don’t know about them, and if they are told, they just say Fair enough, we don’t want terrorists/paedophiles/drug dealers here!

 If you get the feeling that I hate these laws, you are correct. But more than anything I hate the secrecy which surrounds them, and the public ignorance which permits new and nastier laws to pass parliament.

I should end at this point, but the ongoing detention of refugees who have come to Australia by boat needs to be mentioned. Australians see themselves as fair and easy going and as people who stand up for the rights of others (even if they do not stand up for their own rights). But most seem to be perfectly happy to see refugees being oppressed by our Beloved Leaders. One wonders if they would stand up and be counted when their neighbours are taken away for no good reason at all?

One thing is reasonably certain: if Australia had a Crystal Nacht, they wouldn’t even bother to listen to the breaking glass. They are not listening now as their rights are taken by successive pieces of legislation that will only be used against―whomever the government wants, really, because what is at issue is their self-interest. By keeping the average Australian frightened of terrorism/paedophilia/drugs, they increase their power and limit the questions asked of them, and if they can keep their self-interest secret, then that is even better.

The wonderful world of covert surveillance

At a time when governments are increasing covert surveillance of their own populations (in Australia we must thank Potato-head Dutton for this), there is a lot of commercially based covert surveillance going on.

I became aware of the depth of commercially based covert surveillance of internet users when Paul Read (Monash University) proposed that I be a PhD candidate with him.

One of Paul’s many areas of research and work has been in treatment of “victims” of paedophiles, but he has had little to no contact with paedophiles, according to him. None the less, he categorised all paedophiles according to the same criteria, and all adult-child romantic and sexual relationships according to the same stereotypical “monster” category. As near as I can tell, my writings were the first he had read which did not portray paedophilia and paedophiles as monstrous in some way, and he seemed surprised by the proposal, from Michael Seto, that paedophilia may be a genuine sexual orientation, rather than a “perversion” (a mental health problem).(Seto, 2012) He was surprised even by some of what James Cantor(E.g., Cantor & McPhail, 2016) had to say, and Cantor cannot be regarded as radical in any way. Needless to say, some of what Rind, Bauserman and Tromovitch (1998) had to say seemed almost incomprehensible in the suggestion that adult-child sexual contact was not necessarily and always harmful; he had, after all, built a career on the assumption that just this was true. None the less, he proposed that we work together.

The project would be paid for primarily by IBM, and involved the development of a programme designed to conduct covert surveillance of all relevant areas of the internet with the goal of identifying paedophiles so that they could be reported to the police.

Although Paul’s justification for my working on the project was that I would bring some compassion to it, I immediately objected that I was completely against such surveillance, be it government or a commercial enterprise intent on increasing profit. (Whatever other justification they may have, profit always is the underlying motive for such a company.)

There are massive difficulties with such a project, not the least being (a) the person identified as a paedophile may not be a paedophile, (b), if the person identified is a paedophile, they may be non-offending, and quite purposefully keeping their contact with children at a distance and (c), the “child” may be provoking sexual discussion (and more). There was, however, a financial incentive and, after discussing the proposal with Tom O’Carroll, I decided to go ahead with it, should it actually go ahead.

In the past ten months I have heard nothing, except that IBM had decided to prioritise covert surveillance in respect of potential youth suicide. (One wonders just how many other programmes which rely on covert surveillance they are planning.)

I have no doubt that the project will go ahead at some stage, but it will not include me. I will, instead, maintain my stance that covert surveillance of this type is morally repugnant, at its very best.


Cantor, J. M., & McPhail, I. V. (2016). Non-offending pedophiles. Springer Nature.

Rind, B., Tromovitch, P., & Bauserman, R. (1998). A meta-analytic examination of assumed properties of child sexual abuse using college samples. Psychlogical Bulletin, 124(1), 22–53.

Seto, M. C. (2012). Is pedophilia a sexual orientation? Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41(1), 231–236.

Back, sort of…

For the better part of the past fourteen months, I have done less than nothing: no photography, no poetry or stories, no study or serious writing.

Having been ill until just a couple of months ago, it was enough to maintain myself and my household whilst various people in my life took a break from sanity.

The last thing I felt like doing was—anything at all, but I am now, ever so gradually, coming back to “normal” and beginning to think a little more clearly.

None the less, the end result is that my interests have changed direction for the time being, though there will produce a few posts to round off some of my past thinking, some of my past plans and directions.

I may write about it all at some time, or take some explanatory photographs…. Nah. I have better things to do!

Until then…

Some new poems

I am pleased to say that two new poems have been published here, on Otoliths.

As always, this journal contains some amazingly good work, so please have a look around and enjoy.

If you like my work, you may be interested in my collection Laughing, hoping, praying, joking.

Rejection slip

Back in the day when stories and poems and other writings were sent by mail, and a rejection slip was the most common reply, it was all very interesting.

I received many rejections, some saying that they wished they could publish the essay  (it was always essays which got this reply) but that it just didn’t suit their publication.

But by far the best rejection slip, and the only one I still have, is the following from Island magazine, way back in the late nineteen seventies.

I couldn’t help but write about sex, and especially the most strange aspects of sex. I guess they didn’t like it, but I was very serious, at the time, anyway. And yes, it was a little pornographic, but more int he mind than in what was written.

No adults, children, dogs, cats or other animals were harmed in the writing of the story. Only the paper when it was burnt. (Grin)

Years later, although I thought it was still a good story, I burnt it, along with masses of poetry and essays and stories that had not been published. It was a glorious burning, made even better by the fact that my visiting sister kept coming up the back and asking if I was ok.

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