Running the race


The truth is that I’ve been in such an existential fog these last few years that I’m constantly defining and redefining what I feel and what I want. Even what I mean. And it changes all the time because I change, and because for all my peering I can’t see clearly. I’m in a state of flux according to mood and circumstance, but whereas once I was firmly rooted in a sense of self, much of what I do and feel these days feels precarious. I can’t help but search for sense or meaning regardless, that – at least – is a part of who I am, but there is little constancy in what I find. One day I think this. The next day the opposite. I proclaim what I want, what I need even, but the conviction waxes and wanes. It’s fortunate that I remain pragmatically competent, otherwise I’d be totally lost.

I’m of the type that I think if I can figure things out then I’ll be I’ll be right. I like information. I like to understand things. If I lack for information or understanding I go searching for it, even though little of it seems to add to my knowledge. The search is a meaning in itself. But then it needs to come to a point also. If this is the case, then what can I do? But it shifts all the time because that tenuous part inside me shifts all the time.

I’m a writer and I can’t help but by thinking in metaphors often. I’ve a new one.

I feel like a former athlete who back in the day was top notch before injury struck. I’m over the injury now and to my surprise find I can run just as quick as I did before. I still like the sense of running fast. I even enjoy the odd competitive outing. I like the adrenalin, and proving I’ve still got it.

What I’ve lost is any joy or interest in the hard work that goes with it, the training and diet, etc. The idea of being organised into competitive events is anathema to me. I don’t mind racing, but on my terms, my whim almost. The joy I take is in the experience, not the outcome. I don’t have the appetite for anything else.

What complicates it is that I still like to win. I can choose to compete less, but when I do I expect to come out in front. In the meantime I watch others, cocky with their achievements, but never as quick as me, take the kudos that were mine once.

When I choose to extend myself they get their noses out of joint, but I enjoy reminding them of what’s what. It doesn’t mean anything, though. It’s indulgence. Ego. It adds up to nothing because while I show up occasionally they’re busy racing on the circuit.

This is the truth of my professional situation, at least. Sometimes I think I want to compete at a higher level, but I know it in my stomach it’s not something I can apply myself to. I’m lucky I’m still quick. I have small wins, I find a measure of respect but I shirk the big races because I don’t think I want what victory brings me. But I still want to win.

There’s something frail in me these days which upsets mightily that macho sense of self. It’s new to me. I’ve always been sensitive, but I was always robust (and, you know, most people who know me would claim I still am – they just don’t know the full picture). I was brought up to take challenges head on. I never shirked anything. That made me hard and strong and honed my skills. I’m not that man now, or hardly. I understand in a way, and wonder even if it might not be for the best – but it’s a hard thing to concede.

I was browsing Twitter last night and encountered the latest faux outrage about something someone has said or done. As always, the reaction is totally disproportionate to the incident, and the tone and language violent and over the top. I’ve seen this so many times, but last night I quietly went about unfollowing people I couldn’t abide anymore, while something feel away in me. My grip on things then was very tenuous. I felt emotional. It upset me that I was so upset. This is who I’ve become now, though. Imagine that.

Then a movie came on an I started watching that, an old classic from the forties: A Matter of Life and Death. It’s a Michael Powell movie and very well crafted and entertaining, but what really got to me was the humanity of it. This was made just after WW2, and maybe some of the euphoria of victory infected it a little, but it was a horrible event – and yet here was a movie positive and hopeful and full of simple wisdom and belief in common people. It served as an antidote to what I’d been feeling, but I wondered also why we’re not like that anymore? What have we lost, and can it be regained? And I thought, next book I write, let’s make it positive.

That’s the state of the nation today.

Things pass, but they’re never gone


A couple of months ago I ordered in a book from a rare and secondhand bookstore in London. The book was The Torrents of War, by Igor Sentjurg – one of the better novels to come out of world war two, but long out of print and hard to find.

I first discovered this book many years ago – shall we say 40 years? My grandfather was a gentle, learned man whose passion was books. At my grandparents home in Strathmore, a whole wall in the living room was given over to bookshelves crammed with hundreds of books. We were regular visitors, and on school holidays I’d spend a week there with my grandparents. I can remember bits and pieces of my visits there – the roast meals, my grandmother’s Anzac cookies, a day out shopping with my grandpa, my grandma driving an old silver Holden. I remember the elegance with which my grandfather always dressed, and the severity of my grandma (doted on me nonetheless).

There’s a vivid memory of one day being dropped off in Joliment near the Hilton hotel with my grandpa and walking to the MCG the day of the Boxing Day test when Kim Hughes struck a magnificent hundred, and Lillee bowled Viv Richards on the last ball of the day. I remember the garden – roses in the front, and fruit trees in the back my grandfather had grafted one on another – and taking the border collie, Lassie, for walks in the evening. I remember how he would measure me against a piece of timber, scratching in it my latest height. How tall am I? I would ask, and I remember the last time he measured me before he died telling me I was six foot and three-quarters of an inch – how I cherished those three-quarters of an inch!

All this was true.

An abiding memory is my grandfather’s books. I was a book-loving kid and I would browse his shelves every time I visited, plucking books from the shelves to check out, returning some, and taking others to read myself. Often I would find myself in the rear bedroom that had been my uncles growing up, but which I would sleep in when I stayed. The bed had drawers beneath it, and a rug across it broadly striped in yellow, white and red. I would lay on the bed with the book on the floor and my grandma going by would say, “can you read that? Aren’t your eyes good!”

One of those books was The Torrents of War, but there were many others too. Forty-odd years later I own some of those books, history mainly, but also grandfather’s books on Muhammad Ali (I was with him when he bought the Wilfrid Sheed book) – I wish I had spoken to him about Ali – as well as the Sentjurg paperback. Its pages are brittle and yellow now, and the spine cracked from decades of reading, a keepsake rather than something I could read – and so ordering in a replacement (the same edition, the same cover) was an act of remembrance as it was of literature.

All this is recalled to me now because I began a book this morning about the great Australian correspondent, Alan Moorehead. Moorehead was one of the very best war correspondents covering the second war. It was a great observer, which he would render in evocative prose. He came to write several books thought to be classics now, but an author seemingly long forgotten – a man from another age.

My grandfather had Moorehead’s Nile books. I can’t remember if I read them, but I can picture them on the shelves still. No doubt I pulled them out and browsed through them (and I was curious enough to read Moorehead’s classics on the North African war as an adult). Memory was at play, but so too was imagination. These old books became a part of life in my mind, long passed.

Once upon a time, Moorehead would have been almost a household name. I imagined my grandfather, younger, hale and hearty, a doting father, a dedicated employee of the PMG, a quiet man of refined tastes and routines, spotting the Moorehead’s as they were being released and thinking to himself, that sounds interesting – must buy that. And he would, as he did for decades, his one real indulgence.

That was real world for him. Real life. And it was for Moorehead then in his own way, scratching out his books in a life that was current and vibrant – no matter how dusty and distant it appears now.

It’s not that you forget that there’s a time and a history before ours, but it doesn’t have the same pulse and vibrancy of today because, well, it was long yesterday. It doesn’t feel quite real because you weren’t there to see it. What was current and present and often in the balance has passed now into history. The outcome has been determined, the characters no more than names long gone, and all of it given a solemnity by being recorded history books and literature. It’s all true, but it has a flavour of hearsay because it’s not now.

It’s good to remember – and not just remember, but feel it – how there was a time before and it was real and people lived their lives as we do and probably thought much as we do and even if times have changed, and tastes and desires, then there are universal truths that persist, and probably do going back millennia. My grandfather would get out of bed and catch the train to work (probably an old red rattler), as I do, he followed the footy and cricket, and even if the players are different, it’s much the same. He read his books and made his plans and nurtured his children, and it was all real for him, though he’s been dead nearly forty years.

One of the things I inherited from him was a leather-bound scrapbook in which he had cut and glued newspaper articles of the day – the fifties mainly, the sixties – little home improvement projects, and carpentry tips, gardening, even architectural design. It’s always fascinated me because it was of another life – and now I could imagine him reading an article in the Argus and thinking, I’ll do that, before cutting it out and putting it in his scrapbook.

One day there may be someone reading this from a time when my today seems long distant and me, long gone. Let me tell you – I lived. Sometimes the days went fast, but mostly just one at a time. I can hear a bird sing as I write this, and the sun is shining. This morning as I walked by the foreshore, the sea seemed particularly briny. There are things in me – but you know that if you’ve read the stuff that comes before – as there was my grandfather, though I don’t know what they were. We all look, some of us see, we feel even if sometimes we’d prefer not to, we hope and cheer, grizzle and grumble. The trivial looms large before falling away, and the great bewilders us.

These are my times. And now I’m going to make myself a sandwich for lunch.

The next meal


From Thursday I’m running the show in my department as the manager will be away on holiday. Basically, it means I’ll have a bit more work to do and a little less support, but it’s no big deal. I’ve done much more.

In general, I’m much more positive on the work front. The new role has given me a much higher profile and on view to a greater range of people. I’m fortunate that I’m the sort of person who appears competent and in control (even when I’m not), and I get a lot of brownie points because of that. No matter what else they think of me, most believe me to a reliable and capable operator. On top of that, now I’m in a position to innovate – my sweet spot – and that’s going well also. I think I’m well poised for higher duties if and when they come along.

Ideally, when the next opportunity comes along, it’s elsewhere.

I’ve just come from having coffee with the RM of the chatbot business we’re a client of. I met him about seven months ago, and we hit it off right from the word go. He’s about my age, an ex big-wig at Optus who’s trying his hand at the gig economy – he works on a contract basis, with other irons in the fire. We’re similar types, though he’s more garrulous than I am. We’d happily share a beer or two, but in the meantime, we’ve had a lot of coffee.

He’s moving into a venture of his own, which sounds fascinating and exciting. He’s sort of living the life I would if I could. In any case, he’s not sure about his tenure in his present role, but we’ve committed to keep in touch. All that is very cosy, but he also raised the option of me doing some work in his new venture if and when it gets off the ground – “no promises.” I think it’s unlikely anything will come of it, but it’s nice to be wanted.

A couple of weeks ago, I caught up with the ex-Digital Manager from here for coffee down St Kilda Road, where he works now. One of the first things he said to me is that he’s always looking out for opportunities for me. He’s one who thought I was under-valued and poorly used in my previous role, and was instrumental in me moving into my current position. One of the interesting things he said was that my last manager was scared of me, which is why she would sideline me. I thought this myself, but it was interesting to get it also from someone else.

Besides looking out for me, he gave me some advice to follow up on, believing still that I’ve got a lot more to offer .

All of this leads me to believe that something will give eventually. I’ve broadened my network, and there is apparent goodwill towards me from people I respect. You’d hope to think that’d translate into a job at some point.

There’s the moral aspect too. When I went through my tribulations, I wondered if I’d ever come out of them. And if I did, I wondered if I’d be the same man. I had big doubts, which is normal I’d suggest when you’re coming back from homelessness and virtual bankruptcy.

It’s funny; you even question the things that should be beyond question. There were times I wondered if I was a fraud. If my previous achievements were a fluke or exaggerated. I questioned if I was as smart as I’d thought I was, and if my experience was as valuable as I’d believed.

They call this impostor syndrome, and it’s quite common, I gather. That’s interesting in itself. I’d never really suffered from it before, but then I was like a shark that cruised the waters seeking my next meal.

And that’s the other part of it. Was I still a shark?

You know, attitude plays a big part. And when I call myself a shark, it wasn’t in any unfriendly way – simply that I was always on the lookout for the next opportunity, and didn’t pay much attention to any doubt. I just did it.

The big question was if I still had that mojo? I’ve asked that a lot in recent years, and the answer has been different every time. I think the answer is yes, but it’s different from before. And others recognise it, too.

All this is reassuring, for my material prospects, and my soul. I’ll wait to see what comes next, but I’m confident that whatever it is that I can do it.

A safe place


I was shocked at the depth of my feeling yesterday. For the first time in my life, I felt despairing.

Sometimes you don’t always feel the full force of things until you name them. I think it’s great that people can be so more open about the state of their mental health these days, but I sometimes wonder if by saying it that you open yourself up to all its consequences. I’ve observed this a lot.

You see it in infants and kids who have minor mishaps and look to their parents. Generally, they’ll start bawling when a parent makes a fuss over them, almost as if they’ve been excused to feel sorry for themselves. Then some parents spare them a glance and play it down, “you’re alright mate”, and distress then is invariably muted. I’m sure we become conditioned by these experiences, and it informs our behaviour.

By nature, I was and remain very much in the stoic camp. That’s a very Australian way, or at least it used to be. There’s a lot of risks that comes with that – bottling up emotions, losing touch with the inner self, being closed off to others. The danger is by never expressing distress, or even owning up to it, that it causes critical damage. We’ve come a long way, though.

The other side of it is to feel victimised. I think it’s healthy to voice how you feel, but equally, I think there are times when you have to make a stand against it. The danger is losing the sense of agency in your own life. By putting your emotions in the spotlight, there’s the risk of magnifying them.

Look, I’m no expert so take what I say with a grain of salt. I know there have been occasions over the last 18 months when I’ve struggled and felt as if I couldn’t face the world. There were occasions I opted out, and that was good because it took the pressure off me. Sometimes you know putting yourself in that spot is going to make things worse and it’s sensible to take a step back.

There have been other occasions though when I’ve felt just as bad but knew I had to front up. Sometimes you need to do it to prove it to yourself. You know that if you step away now, then it’ll be harder the next time not to. Sometimes you need to make a stand. It’s not always possible, but sometimes – I think – you have to grind through it. And though it’s hard afterwards, you find your depths. Sometimes you have to fight it, not give way.

This is what I believe, and it’s true of me, but I’m sure everyone is different. All of us are made differently and have different experiences. In my case, it’s years of conditioning and a bloody-minded attitude that makes me think twice – but today I’m able to admit to frailty I would’ve been too ashamed to only a few years ago. I think that’s the healthy balance – a pragmatic acceptance of what it is.

Up till recently, I believed my ‘issues’ were personal, and so I had to address them at a personal level. It’s only in the last few weeks that I came to think that a large part of my issues was symptomatic of the times. I’m disaffected and alienated from the world about me in many attributes, and while there’s a personal element to it, it’s also becoming quite common. What I feel is felt by many others.

Knowing that changed a lot. Writing it out as I attempted to yesterday (very inarticulately) made it very real. As I wrote, I felt the sentiment infect me. The more I wrote the worse I felt. Afterwards, I felt morose. Here was true existential anxiety.

The problem is that I feel powerless in the face of these forces. I will analyse and resist and set out plans of action to address the issues that impact upon my intimate self. I’m diligent with that, driven even, unwilling to concede. But what can I do about climate change? How can I overcome corruption and apathy?

What upsets me most is not the cause of these things, most of which I can do nothing about – it’s the symptoms of it, which I feel with equal powerlessness.

The world is in the grip of a series of catastrophic trends. In a healthy society, you would expect there would be the force and will to combat them – and maybe once upon a time there was. But not now. That’s what demoralises me. To my disgust and sorrow, I’ve come to believe that nothing will happen. Why would it? What’s going to change? Who is it to drive change? Who?

In any case, I fear it’s too late now. There’s a sense of hopelessness mixed in with disgust. It’s undone me.

As I reflect, the critical moment came after the federal election in May. I approached it with such anticipation. Here was the moment I was waiting for, an enlightened government. There was reason to believe that things would improve. Instead, the same shonky politicians were returned, and it was not just disappointment I felt, but a bitter betrayal. The betrayal was as much by my fellow Australians as it was by the politicians. I lost belief at that point, and it’s all been downhill since then.

I’m fine today. You get through. These are the facts, after all. I have to deal with them. But I understand now why people turn to drink – to drown out the disappointment. I’m not about to do that, but I need something to comfort me to endure this.

I’ve always been wary of such distractions. I wanted to know the truth and confront it. I felt like a warrior. I would look upon my friends with families and be happy for them, but I also observed how it turned them inward. That’s natural, after all, your prime concern and priority are your loved ones. Single people like me could afford to be cultural warriors.

But then there’s lifestyle with a capital L. Lifestyle is the opium of our times. I’ve succumbed to it myself. We’re a society that consumes things at a rate never seen before – consumer goods and gadgets, social media, big occasion TV, and so on. We set out schedules by what we can consume and enjoy.

It’s very seductive, but the Game of Thrones isn’t real life. Lifestyle insulates us from reality, and maybe that’s a big reason the world is as it is now. Everything got too easy and comfortable.

That’s what I need, though: ease and comfort. Indulgence even. I don’t think I can ever give away the cultural warrior stuff, and don’t think I want to – it’s a kind of brain death. I’m strung out and exhausted, though. I need to be loved and supported. I need to re-integrate myself into the community. And I need to heal inside and start to hope again. I need something, somewhere, someone I can go to and feel safe, and I haven’t had that for a long, long time.

The end is nigh


I started watching Years and Years during the weekend and boy, did it strike a chord. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s an English program that looks at a family group based in Manchester. It starts off in present-day and then tracks the family for the next 15 years (our future) as the world and society deal with a series of challenges – political, economic and social.  It’s pretty full-on, but what surprised me most is how much it aligned with my vision of our dystopian future.

I don’t know why, but I imagined that I was a bit of a pessimistic outlier. I’ve never really been a pessimist, but the last few years have hit me hard. It’s only a couple of weeks ago I realised how alienated I had become from the world I live in. Most of what passes for discourse these days is superficial and antagonistic, and there’s fuck all intellectual enquiry. I have serious fears about our climate future, and in the back of my mind figure we’ve just about run our race. Politically we’re up shit creek, and that’s most of the world. Authentic leadership is a lost art, and in its stead, we have a variety of shonky and inept characters whose prime motivation is self-interest.

I used to think that would change, but I reckon the only thing now that’ll upset this wretched status quo is a catastrophe, and I’m not sure I want to wish for that. Politicians govern for the here and now. t’s all about political advantage and while there’ve always been shysters like that, there were fewer of them before and you could rely on them getting the arse at the ballot box. My idealistic soul held true to that right up to the federal election in May, then choked on the reality. The shysters were re-elected, and it killed a part of me. What chance do we have when we don’t boot out the charlatans when we have the chance? After that, we deserve what we get.

I still wonder how many are as bitter as me, but it was a surprise to find how many others are disillusioned and lost in these awful times. That’s the thing about being disaffected and alienated – you feel on your own and as if no-one else could feel what you do. It’s comforting that others might, but so depressing also.

I haven’t watched the full series yet, but what I’ve seen marries up very realistically to what I see of the world. The most out-there premise is a Trump re-election, but who’s going to bet against that after last time? It’s like a play where the characters take the stage and extend their performance from what we know to what becomes realistic conjecture. We know that Trump is a nutter and that Putin a machiavellian schemer – let them play out in the years ahead, what happens then? China is in there, and the contentious South Sea islands, as well as refugees and racism and labyrinthine social channels and fluid identity and language. And the continued rise of authoritarianism, let’s not forget that.

I was surprised that Brexit seemed played down – presumably, it happens, and I expect it will be worse for England than this portrays. The biggest surprise – in what I’ve seen so far – is that climate change is only a peripheral player. There’s reference to tsunamis being a modern invention, but beyond that, not a lot. Perhaps that’s in episodes to come. It’s all quite depressing.

I wonder if climate change was played down because this is an English program? If it was Australian then I ,think climate change would be front and centre, because as a nation it’ll likely hit us harder than most parts of the world.

There are few Australians walking down the street these days that don’t believe in the reality of climate change and global warming (those who don’t are at home with their heads in the sad, or in parliament). I’m always shocked when I come across a doubter. Forget the science, I’ve experienced the difference. Most of us have. It’s both warmer and more volatile these days, and the scale more tumultuous. Extreme weather events are no longer unprecedented.

It’s November and the, first bushfires started weeks ago, and more massive fires on Friday. The scale and ferocity of these are unlike we had before, and summer hasn’t even started yet. Prolonged droughts have contributed to this, and the damage compounded by governments who refuse to believe in climate change, and so don’t prepare for it (and defund those who might fight it).

Hundreds of homes have been lost, people have died. The images are apocalyptic. But this is the world now. Even if we do something now it’s not going to get better for years, and will get worse first. But then we’re not doing anything really and this is the best of it. I hate to say that’s my attitude, but it is. I’m like the people who wrote Years and Years. I’ve lost faith in our leaders and any real intent to make a difference. It would be nice to think this was a dystopian warning shot: watch out, this’ll happen unless you do something! Unfortunately, I’m now of the belief that when finally something might be done it’ll be too late to make a difference.

I believe I was born at a good time, and those after me less fortunate. I had the best of childhood, I think, and grew up to straddle generations. I had carefree years and was full of belief in myself and the world. I’ve lived to see the decline of all things that make for a healthy civilisation. I’ve lived a good life and there are years of good living ahead, but in the shadow of looming catastrophe – that’s not something I’ve ever felt till now. I will go and, unless there’s a miraculous intervention, it will get worse for those who stay. They’ll never know the life I had, or those before me. And then? Personally, I think there’ll be a breach. Something will break and much will be lost. What comes out of that is anyone’s guess.

Maybe, sooner than you think, I’ll be one of those characters waving a placard prclaiming the end is nigh. Maybe this time it’ll be real.

Next stage


I’m working from home today because most of the office has taken the day off the day before the Melbourne Cup, and there’s no point me being there. I’ve been busy, but working from home is always pleasant.

About the time I’d usually be getting ready for work I lay in bed with a fresh-made coffee and read. Something I read caught my eye. It was something about how, when people hit a certain age, they suddenly stop to reflect. They’ve reached the stage where the life they’ve known is transitioning into something different. The kids are grown up maybe, or the house paid off, or maybe they’ve reached the limit of their ambitions. They begin to consider where to next? What do they want now?

This hasn’t happened to me, but probably because my life has been disrupted. I’ve been so busy scrambling to catch up and fighting for what I have that there’s not really been the time to think of that. I can’t afford the luxury, regardless. Had none of the adventures of recent years occurred then chances are I’d be sitting back in the next few years mapping out the next phase of my life. I’d have money in the bank and property in my name. I’d be comfortable enough to feel a little indulgent, knowing that I was pretty well set-up. The reality is totally different now because of those adventures, but so be it. Inshallah.

I read and it didn’t worry me because I’m well reconciled with what happened. I’m busy trying to make good at least fraction of what I lost, and that’s been my focus. Reclamation. That’s going to take a while and so I hardly think of other options but very vaguely – dreams I might write a best selling novel mayhap, or notions that I might branch out and take advantage of the gig economy. Just notions though, nothing concrete, and nothing in the immediate future.

But then I read this and it struck me that I’m at that age, too, even if my circumstances are unusual. And sure, I have to be pragmatic and hard-nosed, but does that stop me from being bold in my personal choices? It’s a narrow road I’ve set myself. Pretty Calvinist, and though I can be dogged, I’m not of a puritanical mindset.

Translated, it means I’ve got to keep my nose to the grindstone but maybe it’s time I become more expansive in my personal life.

Touch wood, I think I’ve got work sorted now – I’m on an upward path, I’m re-building my network, I’m well regarded and have people looking out for me. I reckon it’ll look after itself and I expect my salary to steadily increase. Without an act of god I’ll never get back to where I was, but I can repair a lot of the damage in the next ten years.

That leaves the life of my mind and heart. I finished my second novel yesterday. By this time next year, I expect both will be in the market and to have made a start on a third. My social life is improving, though not a shadow on what it was. I don’t know if I want that now anyway, but I wouldn’t mind eating out more. I’ve got to travel again, but not yet. Gee, I miss it, though. Have to be financially circumspect still – no can do.

Two top things on my list then – a better place to live. This is well located but small. And I have to get amongst it again. There are women that like me. Some are married, so cross them out. Another is keen but I’m unsure of her. Maybe I should try her. But then there are the little flirtations I engage in before withdrawing. Maybe I should be going for those. You second guess yourself, though. You don’t have enough dollars. Or maybe you think you’re too old. Maybe that’s true, but if they’re willing, why shouldn’t I be?

In the end, it’s a state of mind. The old me didn’t think twice. He just went for it. It was a natural thing as it isn’t now. I’m too Calvinist 😉

It mattered less then because I had plenty of time and lots of everything else – family, security, fun. Now there’s less of everything, but it makes it more pressing, I think, and maybe more precious.

They’re timely considerations. Reckon it’s time to press down on the accelerator.

Then one day it’s gone


One good thing recent protests have done is to draw out the government. After the protests last week Morrison made a speech condemning their actions and questioning the rights of the protestors, further suggesting that legislation may be required to limit the damage of boycott action by basically making it illegal.

It’s laughable in a way. How do you police that? If I choose not to buy one brand of beer or jeans or choose not to shop at a particular shopping chain, then what’s the difference between freedom of choice and a political boycott? How does the Gestapo make that distinction – or is guilt simply assumed and applied en masse?

Of course, it’s ridiculous but much more than that it goes against our democratic principles. I’m putting a lot of faith in that statement – our democratic principles – for while I believe they remain true to the people, and intrinsic to our democratic history, there’s real doubt that the government of the day cares for it at all.

This is not news, though perhaps it’s only now that people are waking up to it. The statements by Morrison have been condemned and rightly seen as an attack on our right to free expression. This attack has been building for years, and the truth of it is that today we lack many of the rights that we had a decade ago. Government policy has become much more intrusive and repressive, all of it justified by contrived threats on our national security. Today the government can read our emails and track our movements. I was reading yesterday about facial recognition technology being used in some schools. There’s a push to have a national database of identity drawing on all states data and, most importantly, the photos taken for various licence categories. We’re but a hop, skip and a jump from being a surveillance state.

Add to that a generally inept media which is, nonetheless, constrained from reporting so much in the national interest because of government restrictions – witness the recent raids on journalists by Federal police. Then there is the absence of laws to protect whistleblowers, who are more likely to be prosecuted by exposing corruption and fraud than be rewarded for it.

Much of this has happened by stealth – an opposition too afraid to oppose, and generally a media either compliant (News Corp) or inneffectual, means that the interrogation of these policies hardly occurred. There was little of it made in the press, and even less that disturbed the general torpor of the Australian electorate. And that’s how it happens. Little by little, you lose your liberties until one day you wake up and find you have precious little left.

It suits the government because they control the narrative then. These are politically motivated. If you can shut down the avenues for free expression and identify the dissidents then who is left to oppose you? With a feeble media and an enfeebled middle class, where does the resistance come from?

I remember I was embarrassed when Tony Abbott became prime minister. He was everything I didn’t believe in, but I recognise now that at least he believed in something. Then Turnbull came along, a great hope for those of us passionate about society. Here was an intelligent, decent man, who also turned out to have no idea what was happening behind his back. What a disappointment he turned out to be. Now we have Scott Morrison, and I’m not sure, but it’s possible that I hate him most of all.

I don’t know that Morrison believes in anything but his own personal god. He is pure politics. A cynical Trumpian. He governs only for advantage and isn’t a leaders arsehole. There’s something particularly soul-numbing about people like him. He likes to get around and to be seen as a man of the people, but the reality is that his sole ambition is for power. He leads a do-nothing government more intent on wedging the opposition Labor than developing policy, more intent on serving his industry donors than the Australian people. (As I’ve been arguing a long time, we as a people lack true representation. It’s the opportunity that Labor are too timid to grasp – break the nexus and do what is right rather than what is merely politic.)

Then there’s Peter Dutton in the background pulling all these strings. I reckon the average man in the street has a better idea of Dutton than his party colleagues do. This is a man fundamentally lacking in moral decency. He’s a despot in waiting. I have no doubt that he has his eyes on the top job still, and if ever he achieves it, then Australia will become a tyranny.

People are objects in his world-view. They are tools to be exploited. He has the rigid perspective of a dictator – anyone who isn’t for him must be against him. It’s an attitude that informs recent calls by him that the unemployed found protesting should have benefits stripped from them. Here combined is the vision of a society where surveillance is so pervasive that one can’t protest without being identified, and so punitive that to do so is to have your rights denied. That’s effectively a police state, and a senior minister is saying it. How does this opinion go unchallenged? And yet, more or less, it’s gone unreported.

The scary thing is that this is the man who runs Homeland Security! A man like this shouldn’t be in parliament, and he should certainly be nowhere near running our security agencies. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so terrifying.

We’re the frogs in the pot of water. For years now the water has been getting warmer, but we’ve become acclimatised to it. What would have been shocking before is but the temperature of the times now. I wonder now if finally, we’re starting to feel the heat? I hope so. As a humane, open society, we can’t survive much more of these oppressive policies. Time to make a noise.