The shocking truth


Last week the shocking news broke that 19 SAS soldiers were being charged in relation to 39 murders committed during their tours of Afghanistan. Some of the details were horrific. The cold-blooded nature of the killings struck at you. This was more than murder, it was perversity.

There were the usual platitudes amid the outrage. Many, probably quite rightly, pointed out that these were bad eggs, and that the majority of Australian troops served honourably. Some, very predictably, call it un-Australian, as if that absolves the rest of us of any responsibility.

I’d like to think it un-Australian much in the same way as I thought ball-tampering was un-Australian, but I think there was more justification before.

Going all the way back to the Boer War, Australian soldiers have had a reputation for being ruthless. In the WW1 particularly, they were often guilty of not taking prisoners. It was the flip-side of the dash and aggression they showed in attack. But then, it was in the heat of battle mostly, and they were not the only troops to do it. Not to excuse it, but it’s been happening since ancient times.

This is different. Some of those they murdered may well have been Taliban sympathisers, but all were civilians. In the cases I’m aware of, the murders were all committed coldly, the battle done and dusted. There are stories of Afghan civilians murdered by the newbies in the squad to blood them. More often, it was a cavalier after-thought – it was easier to put a bullet in someone than take them in as a prisoner. And then there were the teenage boys who had their throats casually cut on the off-chance that they might report to the Taliban.

To read of these things is to observe a deep disconnect between the world they inhabited, and ours. These are the very elite of troops, superbly trained and highly proficient in the arts of war. They’re different from you and me because their job is perilous, but I don’t think that excuses a different morality.

Some, in muted defence of the accused, said the problem was that they are sent on tour after tour of duty. They’re exposed to the harrowing and raw nature of the battle zone for years on end. I can imagine how the nature of their mission makes the effects more insidious – dealing with shadowy, unseen, fleeting opponents, rather than an enemy army in the field. They become cynical, they become jaded, they become burnt-out, and the values they grew up with supplanted with a kill or be killed mentality.

There is no excuse for what they have done, but perhaps there are reasons we can begin to understand. The blame for this is much greater than the men accused.

It’s strange to think that all of this could’ve gone on without anyone in authority knowing about. I find that hard to believe, and in either case, it represents a failure. They should know and be accountable. And if they knew and did nothing, then they are equally at fault. Military command, who have expressed dismay at these happenings, have also been very careful to draw the line and decline responsibility.

The fault goes all the way to our politicians. This was a political war from the start, and much of it conducted for the optics. It’s a cynical and ugly battle that has gone on for over 15 years. Our government sent them off again and again so as to be seen as a good ally, and for the privilege of claiming to the electorate that we stood for good.

All the while, they were bleeding our combatants dry. And, very cynically, betraying the principals they sought to espouse.

I understand there’s much bitterness in the military community about how our government has treated the Afghan allies our troops have served beside. Promised the opportunity to immigrate to Australia, they’ve been denied instead and left to the mercies of the Taliban and punished because of it.

This whole story reads like a moral inversion. Terrible things have been done. In some cases, it may be as simple as that. I can’t help but feel though that this is a manifestation of a deeper and more complex betrayal.

The murdered civilians were betrayed by the men who were sent to protect them. But those men, perhaps, were betrayed by their commanders, and by a political leadership that cared not one whit for their welfare. This is the result.

First things, first


I feel like I know all I need to know about the US election now, and US elections in general, after following the coverage very keenly over the last few days.

As it stands, there’s no winner declared, but it looks very likely that Biden will win. Yippee. There were a lot of nervous commentators on Wednesday as early results favoured Trump, but I have to say, I wasn’t nearly as nervous as last time. It could be that that disaster conditioned me, but there seemed a clear difference between last time and this.

Last time there felt a wave of early results that became insurmountable pretty early, never mind that some states weren’t called until days later. The vibe was all Trump.

This time it felt a bit like the last hurrah. A few nervous titters and then back on track knowing – unlike last time – that the great bulk of postal votes would favour Biden. And that’s been the case.

I expect within a few hours the election will be called for the Democrats, not that that’s the end of it.

Not surprisingly, Trump has already spread discord and dissent at the course of the election. He cast doubt on the process the very first night while claiming a false victory. He made accusations of corruption and threatened legal action. His numbnut supporters, der, then followed suit.

There’s almost a comical element to watching these vapid bogans protest at the injustice of the election, alternately demanding that the counting is stopped, or started, according to the state and whatever suits them.

In fact, it’s very ugly. In effect, they’re protesting against democracy, which is what it’s come down to. They rally and cry; they threaten and demand. They lay siege to the counting stations, some of them wearing automatic weapons. These are people who have lost the thread on civilised democracy.

That’s the danger in the weeks and months ahead that they’ll continue to rally and protest and refuse to accept the result, and ultimately, that it might lead to acts of civil disobedience and violence. I think everyone is concerned with that, but that’s the America that Trump has made manifest.

There’s much I find shocking. I don’t know a single Australian who doesn’t think that Trump is a ratbag at the very least, and a menace to the world society. There are Trump supporters in Australia, no doubt, but they’re way at the extremes. And yet, I look at polls and see that most White Americans favour him, and that white males predominantly support him.

If this true, then there’s a significant divide between minstream Australia and America, and maybe that’s the difference between living there and not, but maybe it goes deeper. (I suspect the Australian government, in comparison, is in Trump’s camp).

I think the risk goes beyond the immediate future for America. No matter that Biden looks like becoming president, it’s hardly been the resounding rejection of Trump that many hoped for. I will be a divided society for years to come, and it may take a generation to heal. Part of that is mending the damage done to the very concept of democracy, which will take education and leadership.

But, let’s be positive. The journey back has to start somewhere and is impossible while that corrupt clown is still in office.

Fingers crossed


How well I remember this day four years ago! I was at work in my old, shitty job, sitting across the way from an English traveller doing some temp work with us. Her name was Katie, she was an attractive and intelligent blonde from the south of England, and we’d become friendly in the month preceding.

Like the rest of the world, we were all fascinated by the American election, and like the rest of the world, we fully expect that the buffoon Donald Trump would be knocked off by Hilary.

That was all the conversation through the morning, though pretty much in a general way. Because I was working, I had my browser open to a page tracking the results as they came in. By early afternoon, results were coming in counter to expectation. I watched, I listened to the analysts and comforted myself that they were early numbers and they would swing the other way as the day went on.

But it kept happening, to the point that later results were shoring up the early results. I was consumed by it by now, and much of the floor had got wind of a potential shock, and it went through it like a charge of electricity – and I’m sure it was the same across hundreds of other workplaces.

By now, I was on tenterhooks. I was urging the results to switch-back before it was too late. I was giving constant updates to Katie through the afternoon and engaging in long, surprised, political discussions. Around 3 pm, I think it became clear that no matter what came next that Trump would become president.

There was a state of shock at that, as if the known world had upended – I don’t need to tell anyone what it felt like. There was a numbness, not knowing what would come next.

We now know what came next, and it wasn’t good. America, and the world, can’t afford another four years of this man. It would end America as we know it, and the flow-on effects to the world in general disastrous,

I expect Trump to lose, but I’m wary. There are just too many variables. Hilary Clinton won the popular vote clearly last time, but still lost because of the dodgy electoral college. Even so, had more people bothered to vote on the day she would have won.

It appears the American electorate has been energised since, and so they should be. There are predictions of record voter turn-outs, and that should favour Biden. But then there’s the electoral college, which is a diabolical construct. It’s ridiculous that the whole election might ride on a few key states because they’re disproportionately represented.

On balance, I think Biden should win easily – but I’ll guess we’ll find out. Today, four years on, I’m sitting at my desk at home, with CNN on in the background. Give it a few hours, and we should know if it’s to celebrate or commiserate.

Do it for the kids


There’s a couple of elections in the next few days. The first is today with the Queensland state election.

I find it hard being roused by anything much that happens up in Queensland (which includes the recent AFL season), but in the context of the nation, this is an important election.

I’m not a great fan of the incumbent, the Labor premier Anastacia Palaszczuk. There’ve been some fine leaders in Queensland, and some shockers. I don’t live there, but from my perch, it feels as if she falls somewhere in between.

Like a lot of Queenslanders she’s parochial, some of which is natural, I’m sure, and some I would guess is studied – parochialism plays well to parochial voters. She has a touch of the populist about her and otherwise appears a bit of a lightweight. I find her deputy more impressive.

It needs hardly mentioning, but her Liberal opponent today is pretty dreadful.

Palaszczuk should win, and I think it will be an important victory because it holds the LNP at bay and keeps a balance in Australian politics between the conservative and progressive wings. And it could well be important in the next federal election. Queensland cost Labor victory last year, but they must – and surely, can only – improve next time around.

The big election, of course, is the US election next week. I need hardly to add to things I’ve said before, or what any one of the hundreds of reasonable commentators have said: Trump must go. He’s a disaster for America, and he’s a disaster for the world in general. Neither can afford another four years from him.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of reasons why Trump must be voted out. One, less tangible, struck me as I lay in bed this morning.

There was a time when we lived with hope and optimism. Kids left school full of confidence and wanted to make a difference in the world. Broadly speaking, there was the expectation that we would leave the world a better place than we found it – and we would be a part of that. We carried a light.

I fear that light has dimmed, if not gone out altogether, and a big part of that is the state of our polity. What true hope can there be if the standard of leadership is so poor, and when political machinations take precedence over the common good? In many aspects, society has become more open and progressive, but in reaction, society is now fracturing. The pity of it is that it plays into the hands of the divisive and opportunistic leadership we’re burdened with.

Joe Biden is hardly inspirational – far from it (and I’d say the same thing about Albo here), but he’s a far, far, far better option than the alternative. I don’t think Biden can heal society, but he can stem the bleeding – and others who follow in his steps, and around the world, who can take it further.

Things must change. For the sake of our future, we need leaders with the courage to do the right thing, who go forward with hope rather than cynicism, with generosity rather than selfishness. We must knit society together so that there is reason to believe in a better place and strive for it. As much as anything, it’s our hearts that must be mended and begin to sing again. We owe it to our children, to be part of a world that has meaning and worth, and inspiration to make it better.

It must start now.

Donuts


We got the news yesterday we’ve been waiting for for so long. As of tonight, at midnight, retail re-opens and cafes, bars and restaurants begin to accept customers again. It’s not a full-blown opening, but it’s a big start on the way back.

I think for most Victorians it was an emotional moment. The premier, as he announced it, appeared moved by the occasion. You could understand. For about 110 days straight he’s fronted the media to provide updates, bad and good, and through most of that has been assailed by an obstreperous media and a federal government that has betrayed its constituency and undermined the community effort. This was a relief for all of us, but for him, it must seem a vindication of sorts and a reward for holding the line so steadfastly.

It was like all this time we held our breath, through thick and thin, denying ourselves and staying true to the restrictions, until yesterday we let out a collective breath when the news came through.

This is a great achievement. For two days running now, we’ve had zero new cases. A couple of months back it was over 700 daily, the same rate as other countries. They’ve gone through the roof since with new cases in the multiple tens of thousands daily, and we’ve gone the other way – donuts.

There’s a lot to be thankful for and much reason to be proud. Gratitude to each other is not out of place. But – and here’s the thing – it’s tinged with some bitterness. It seems a common sentiment.

Many individual Australians across the country have offered their support and strength through our journey, but it’s been absent from the federal government and a large swathe of the media. Then there are the ratbags doing the wrong thing and the snipers happy to take potshots along the way while the rest of us do the hard yards.

Until you’ve experienced it, you can’t understand what it feels like when you’re doing your best to get by from one day to the next while others, on the sideline, cast aspersions and seek distraction. And those who use it for political advantage are the very worst. It’s a sense of being undermined and disregarded.

That will linger for a while, and there are some I’ll never trust now. I’ve never felt more Victorian, and I think the community has strengthened having endured this. The cunts can please themselves.

We have a way to go, but it looks like we’re heading back towards a semblance of normality by Christmas.

Hang in there


I get that this lockdown has been pretty tough, and getting tougher every day. And I appreciate that all of us are struggling with it to some extent, but some pretty badly. And I share the impatience of most people. But…

There’s no shortage of talking points around this. We’re bombarded every day by conflicting, hostile narratives and click-bait headlines, most of which make everything feel worse (the media’s reputation has taken a pummeling).

I have genuine sympathy for the premier and the medical professionals behind him who’ve mapped out the course out of this because they’re in an impossible situation. There are so many different opinions even among experts, let alone the self-styled ‘experts’ in the media and online that there’s no right answer for them. No matter what they say or do, there will be someone critical of it. In cases like that, it’s best to stick to your guns and hold the line. That’s what they’ve been doing.

I wish we were coming out of this quicker, and with more certainty, but the intermittent flare-ups along the way worry me. They’re proof of how quickly this thing can get out of control. In the wash-up, it seems very sensible to me that we err on the side of caution. An extra week or two now is better than further months in lockdown if we don’t get it right.

That’s a very sensible, level-headed take on the situation. I understand when others aren’t so level-headed. The media is very unhelpful – really, their motivation seems not to enlighten but to inflame. And many are directly affected by lockdown. If I were the owner of a small business or in hospitality, I’d be chafing too. And then there is common folk just doing it hard.

I read a lot of comments like that on social media. It feels quite foreign to me. I know we live in times when to share is second nature, but there’s so much I read I wouldn’t dream of sharing publicly. I don’t know if that says more about me or others.

It may also seem a strange comment from a man writing on his publicly accessed blog. I’ve been pretty candid here for many years and have made a point of not holding back when it comes to the uncomfortable stuff. My defence is that I write this anonymously, though in this day and age it’s probably not that hard to find out my true identity. More fundamentally, I write this for myself, and it’s a fundamental part of my mental health because by writing I will often lance the boil, and as I lay down these words I find an understanding lacking before. It’s therapy.

I guess the point is, I don’t write for clicks or likes. If you read this or not is a matter of indifference. I’m not rapt up in how you respond or what your reaction is. I’m insulated from that, whereas that seems the very essence of so much social media these days: not just look at me, but see me. And acknowledge it.

I’m sure there have been theses written on the topic, but I suspect the difference is generational. I grew up without any social media, and in a time where computers were new-fangled and the internet unimagined. I was never conditioned to be so transparent with every feeling and event in my life.

I often feel uncomfortable reading the intimate news of strangers. I can understand people being more open on something like Facebook when the audience is hand-picked friends and acquaintances. Still, it’s puzzling on a site like Twitter to read of every raw and intimate detail of a strangers life and mentality. Mostly, I don’t want to know about it.

That stands by way of caveat when I say that I don’t want to act the victim. Terrible things are happening, but I refuse to be cowed by them because this is my life. It will be what you make it to be. I’ll deal with the facts of it, but I won’t pander to the base elements of the situation, nor give in to hysteria or self-pity. I don’t intend for that to sound harsh – these are my decisions.

How others feel, or choose to feel, is their business, and they have my support. I just don’t need to read about every woeful detail of it. I may be wrong, but I think we have a duty to each other to stay strong. And we’ve done that mainly – just a little more, just a little longer.

When ignorance fails


Bit of a bombshell yesterday in the ICAC (anti-corruption) hearing in NSW when the NSW premier was called to the stand and revealed that she’d been in a lengthy relationship with a former parliamentarian accused of dodgy dealings.

Naturally, it caused an uproar. Most were flabbergasted by the news. A good many said that she must resign (but with different motivations), while others claimed that her personal life shouldn’t come into it.

I don’t really want to comment on the rights and wrongs of it. It’s the human interest angle that fascinates me. Generally, I’m of the view that the personal lives of our politicians have no bearing unless there’s evidence of criminal or corrupt behaviour, or if it risks the integrity of the office. Everyone’s entitled to a life of their own, and if they choose to engage in behaviours a bit different to the rest of us, it’s nobody’s business but their own.

For me, morality barely comes into it, though I might form an opinion on someone if something saucy is exposed. Having an affair with another man’s wife or if you’re into threesomes, or even if you get a blow job from an intern in the Oval Office, should make little material difference to your ability to do the job.

Gladys is ‘guilty’ of none of those. She’s a single woman who found companionship with a fellow parliamentarian. I’m sympathetic towards her. While others rail at her foolishness or accuse her of corruption, I see a person subject to the same very human whims and desires as most of us.

It’s very simple for people to look at everything through a political prism. In that way, everything becomes good or evil, and there are hard lines – and rules – that separate one from the other. That’s why you see a lot of grandstanding and people getting on their high horse, because the landscape has become so toxic, and because, for many, this represents opportunity. Some will rail against this in one person but excuse in another.

There are more sensible commentators, thankfully. They are independent-minded and clear of the muck. A lot of them are sympathetic but declare that Gladys should probably go because she’s perceived to have turned a blind eye to the dishonesty of her partner.

I doubt very much Gladys is corrupt. I think she has limitations as a leader, but I’m not sure that integrity or dishonesty are among those. Her faults, in this case, were human. If she chose to overlook his faults, she did so as a woman, not the premier of the state. She has a heart too, and hopes and fears and the need for comfort and the desire for love. Unfortunately, this may be one of those occasions where the premier can’t be separated from the woman.

Whether she survives this or not, I think her leadership has been fatally wounded. In politics, perception so often becomes a reality. In this case, the truth is that she was intimate with a man shown to be corrupt, and who tried to use her to further his own cause. I truly believe she wanted nothing to do with it, but she did nothing to stop it. Ignorance is not always bliss.

The absence of imagination


The federal budget came out the other day, and I’m not here to write about it because it was predictable and disappointing. As usual, all about tax cuts as if they’re the panacea for all ills, and directed to the top end, as usual. No kick-along for renewable energy and nothing about climate change, no social housing, the arts were either forgotten altogether or had budgets cut, and bugger all for the less advantaged – unless you’re under 35 and unemployed, in which case your benefits come at the expense over the over 35 dudes.

It’s predictably mean spirited and politically charged. It’s more about re-election and looking after their mates than it is helping those who need it (outside the tax cuts, which are spurious anyway, advantage high-income earners, and will inevitably come at the cost of reduced services). Above all, it shows an abject lack of imagination.

This is what I really want to talk about. If there’s ever a time to get creative, then it’s now. We’re in the middle of a historic moment. This pandemic is something none of us will forget and which will be written about as a turning point – for good or ill is up to us. This is a moment in time when we must act, and with so much money being splashed around, it’s one of the rare instances when bold and innovative thinking might be rewarded.

The problem is that the conservative side of politics isn’t geared that way – certainly not in the 21st century. I could argue very persuasively that hard ideology and pragmatic politics holds them back, but I think the reason goes deeper than that. I actually think the modern conservative mind is fearful of the chaos of creativity and incapable of grasping its transformative power. And, it makes sense in a way.

When I was growing up and asked what the difference was between Liberal and Labor, one of the first things I was told is that Liberals are for gradual change whereas Labor sought swift and bold change. Right from that moment, I was drawn towards the left because it was sympathetic to my temperament and was in accord with my own desire to make a difference.

I’m not making a judgement in saying that. Many people are more comfortable with gentler reform. And not everything calls for a drastic overhaul – gradual change is actually sensible in most instances. What I am saying though is that a government leading the way must be able to shift gears when the situation calls for it. It’s like a footy coach who must shift game plans according to the players he’s got and the state of the game. Being stuck in dogma isn’t going to help you in times of volatility, which is what we have now, which is when we must act – and should do with boldness.

How I’d have loved to have been the Federal treasure putting this budget together! Here was the chance to make a real and long-lasting difference. Here was the fork in the road – one way led to more of the same (which we already know doesn’t work), the other way invited imagination and painting a picture of how Australia might be. Here was one of the few bona fide opportunities to do some nation-building. (and what a great phrase that is – what do you do? I’m a nation builder. Swell!).

It didn’t happen. It’s a missed opportunity, but more relevant now is the fact that I don’t think the budget will do the trick it’s intended for. You see, a lot of the nation-building stuff would super-charge the economy because it requires us to spend money and transform the way we do things. It’s like setting off a chain reaction. Instead, the government are spending money – or at least, growing the deficit – but it’s on the back of relatively modest infrastructure projects, and reducing revenue by cutting taxes (and hoping taxpayers will spend the extra money in their pockets).

One last thing. At a time like this, something that might have caught the imagination of the public and given them something to believe in, and even hope for, is just what the doctor ordered. We got none of that.

I said it then, I’ll say it again now: the LNP winning the election last year was a national tragedy.

The butler did it


On Friday afternoon I took a break from work to sit down and watch Dan Andrews testify at the Hotels Quarantine inquiry. I sat there for over two hours watching, fascinated by the process in general, and by the slow reveal of information.

It’s pretty basic. You could even call the process ‘dry’. The assisting counsel asked a series of reasonably simple questions, each building on what has come from before. She was polite and friendly. Her probing was gentle, hinting at times, nudging at others, seeking the basic facts of the matter before teasing out an interpretation from the premier, and occasionally a statement.

Throughout he was as we have come to expect from him – calm, deliberate, never flustered, and seemingly in command of the situation. Occasionally there’d be a glimpse of humour, just as in his press conferences. As ever, he was well mannered and courteous.

I found myself drawn into the narrative as the pieces fell into place and some kind of sense began to emerge. Throughout the inquiry to that point, most witnesses had denied knowledge or obfuscated their evidence. A thread was disseminated that there was shared responsibility, and therefore shared accountability, for the hotel quarantine operation.

It wasn’t a pretty picture and one was left to wonder what the truth was. Like most, my take on the inquiry was second-hand, from news grabs and commentary. That is often misleading and subject to manipulation, however, many before the inquiry seemed to condemn themselves with their lack of candour. It wasn’t a good look and led me to wonder at what the truth was. No-one put their hand up, no-one claimed ownership, and without exception, everyone said they didn’t know who had decided to use private security guards. Either the structure was so bad that everyone thought that someone else was doing the job, or those who were responsible didn’t want to admit to it.

We know now, as far as the premier is concerned, that it was the DHHS who should have been controlling the operation, and that their minister, Jenny Mikakos, was responsible. You’d think Andrews would know as that would have been his departments’ decision. The result of that is Mikakos resigned on Saturday, quite appropriately, but not before insinuating that it wasn’t her fault.

I like Mikakos. I think she’s one of a number of very talented ministers the Victorian government had in their ranks – more of them women than men. I think she’s a very decent human being and no-one disputes that she is hard-working and passionate. It’s sad that it comes to this. As she alludes to, I’m sure she’s been badly let down by her department. It seems that not everything was communicated to her as it should’ve been and that the model – basically outsourcing expertise (a neo-lib scourge on politics generally these days) left the department short of expertise and muddied the lines of communication. I think a re-structure is required generally, and other heads should roll (including the department secretary, Kym Peake). I doubt any of that will happen until the report is out in a couple of weeks, but even so, Mikakos has to take responsibility for her department.

(Donna, who works in the Victorian public service and who is well connected, was telling me all sorts of horror stories. She’s unsurprised by some of the bungling, for the reasons given above – because of outsourcing, and because some bureaucrats have been elevated beyond their competence and enjoyed untoward power).

I have no doubt that there were decisions made without proper consultation. Reading between the lines, the Emergency Commissioner appeared to go off on his own tangent at times, and it seems the answer to the timeless question regarding who decided to use private security guards is that it was Crisp, but pushed into it by the police commissioner of the time, Graham Ashton (who suddenly resigned soon after).

That may appease some, but I really don’t think that was ever the big issue for mine. The bigger problem was how the situation was managed when problems emerged from the program – and it seems likely that was lost in bureaucratic red-tape and incompetence.

The report comes out in a fortnight. I expect it will claim unclear lines of responsibility/communication, failures of key staff and processes in the public service, and – potentially – unilateral decision making outside of the process. Mikakos is gone, I hope and expect others will go also, and I hope from this it becomes clear the public service model in use all around Australia, of public/private partnership, is failing us badly. Reform is needed, but it really needs to be across the board and extend to the federal level, where it’s even worse.

I would hope this would be the end of all the backbiting and controversy as I’m thoroughly sick of it – as are most Victorians I reckon. We’ll see what the report has to say, but I suspect Andrews has come out of this well by staying the course. And that’s after the federal government and the Murdoch media throwing everything bar the kitchen sink at him.

At the end of the day, the good news story is that as of this morning the daily infection rate was down to five cases. We’re well on our way out of this, and there’s much to be grateful for and proud of. We’re doing this.

Grumpy bastard


Was having a laugh with a friend from Sydney last night discussing the absurdity of the conflict over koalas in their state parliament. Look it up if you’re interested, it doesn’t bear repeating here.

Then our conversation turned to the latest story about our PM getting emotional on tabloid radio describing the privations of a woman who couldn’t get into Queensland to farewell her dying father. It’s an unfortunate story, but there are hundreds of unfortunate stories right now. Morrison said he was afraid that Australia might be losing its humanity through this pandemic, which is very rich coming from a man who’s never shown any sign of humanity himself. This is the man who denied asylum seekers the right to attend family funerals and, even now, has locked up a young family on Christmas Island for over a year. The man is a rank hypocrite and self-promoter.

As my friend said, it can’t be doing much for my blood pressure. He knows that I’m more affected than most by the dire behaviour of our politicians and media. It’s funny, most of my life I’ve been pretty sanguine about everyday events. Most people consider me unflappable and calm. Even as a teenager I was called phlegmatic. It’s only very few who see the other side of that.

While there have been occasions when I’ve been disgusted or disappointed, up to recently there wasn’t really an ‘other side’. I wonder now if it’s existence now is because I’m getting older, or if it reflects the deteriorating and deplorable state of current affairs? Probably both. In terms of my blood pressure, they’re a perfect match.

I’ve said it before – there’s so much I can stomach any more.

The petty bickering, the negativity, the rank politicking and infectious stupidity – not to mention, the spread of fake news – has been bad for my mental health. If I engage with it I end up with a knot in my stomach and my blood pressure likely going through the roof. It’s the fact that it has become this, without any brake or impediment to it, that infuriates me so. I’m sick to the soul about it because it goes against everything I believe in.

My routine over many years upon waking is to check out the morning news – on the radio initially, then online. I’m a news junkie, always have been. I switched on the radio this morning to be greeted by another sensationalist and utterly dumb headline, and with a groan, I switched it off. Much like the other news services, I’m now avoiding the radio news as well.

How has it come to this – a news junkie avoiding the news? Because, with few exceptions, there’s no rigour to it, no examination. It’s just a ritualised rehash of whatever somebody has said or claimed. The standard of journalism has plummeted so far that it appears few journalists are capable, or willing, to analyse the ‘news’ presented to them. Because of this, reams of arrant nonsense are reported as true. And because most of society only really skim the headlines, the nonsense becomes accepted fact.

I can’t deal with it anymore, though much of that is due to the lockdown we’re in. So much destructive and unnecessary commentary is dangerous to the collective mentality. It’s hard dealing with it but much harder having this rubbish piled on top.

All I want is for our politicians and media to act responsibly, and for us as a society to question what’s fed to us as a matter of routine and habit. Ask questions of what you read and hear and make up your own mind.

We’re getting further from that every day, and I don’t see it changing. I am, I suppose, becoming a curmudgeon. I may have to accept that and be much more selective with where I get my news.