Travels in the twilight of Western civilization

Peloponnesian war theme

How I came back to Thucydides

What follows here is not an essay or thesis, but a far less structured collection of observations, recollections, and meandering thoughts collected in my longhand journals through the late antipodean summer, autumn, and winter of 2020. The coronavirus isolation season in Brisbane. I typed up the longhand entries as I had time or inclination, with integrating commentary for the disparate entries as it came to me at the keyboard.

We don’t start with Thucydides at all, but with Alain de Botton, and Seneca.

Continue reading “Travels in the twilight of Western civilization”

Why overlook the Saudis?

Reading about the solidarity between the USA and UK about pointing the finger at Iran for the oil tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman recently, and the haste with which Western media uncritically reported these pointed fingers, I couldn’t help letting my mind wander a little. Why were Western analysts so quick to endorse ‘official’ statements? What should they be doing instead?

‘Teleology!’, I thought. The analysis of phenomena not by looking for causes, but by examining who benefits.

Continue reading “Why overlook the Saudis?”

Morrison regime threatens press freedom

'Unfailingly' polite federal police arrive at reception, ABC Ultimo headquarters in Sydney
‘Unfailingly’ polite federal police arrive at reception, ABC Ultimo headquarters in Sydney.

Australian Federal Police (AFP) raids on the public broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), and News Corporation journalist Annika Smethurst’s private residence, are clear indications the AFP is being used to intimidate journalists and ‘whistleblowers’, meaning public servants willing to leak information about questionable government activities.

Continue reading “Morrison regime threatens press freedom”

Folau, Morrison are just wrong

Folay scores

Gifted Australian rugby player Israel Folau has been in the news quite controversially lately.

He claims to be a devout Christian, as justification for social media posts that seem, to me, to be more hate speech than religion.

Continue reading “Folau, Morrison are just wrong”

Joyce: hypocrisy unbound

Barnaby Joyce can’t help himself: in his own words he convicts himself as an adulterer, liar, and hypocrite.  And still he has the nerve to ask people to ignore this chain of serious failings, and to continue to entrust him with the second-highest public service office in the country.

It is timely to remind all politicians that they are public servants, not divine right princes and princesses.  They have a duty to the nation, not merely to party politics and their own bank accounts.  They should be held to higher standards than Wayne and Cheryl Citizen.

Joyce is either an incredibly simple-minded man who believes his own lies, or he thinks of the public as simple-minded and gullible.  The third option is that he’s following a strategy of deceit designed by his co-conspirator in this matter: Vikki Campion.  She is trained in this sort of propagandizing, and she is certainly the only real friend Joyce has at the moment.

Continue reading “Joyce: hypocrisy unbound”

THE VIETNAM WAR (2017) part 1 of 4

Notes on the overpowering documentary by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick

On Patrol

CONTENTS PART ONE: APERÇU | DIRECTORY | GESTALT: PROPAGANDA | GESTALT WELTANSCHAUUNG | GESTALT: EXCEPTIONALISM | GESTALT: CIVIL WAR
CONTENTS PART TWO: GESTALT: AUDIENCE | GESTALT: MULTIPLICITY | GESTALT: COMPARISONS | DIFFERENCES: TIẾNG VIỆT | DIFFERENCES: WOMEN | DIFFERENCES: CONFESSIONS
CONTENTS PART THREE: DIFFERENCES: BARBARITY | SPELLBOUND: FERRIZZI | SPELLBOUND: BEATLES | UNRESOLVED: McNAMARA | UNRESOLVED: KISSINGER | FRAMEWORK: SUBJECTIVITY | FRAMEWORK: MYTHIFICATION | DISPATCHES: BEZOS
CONTENTS PART FOUR: DISPATCHES: PARTISANS | VERDICT: CHỢ ĐEN | VERDICT: ABSOLUTION | VERDICT: ALIENS | VERDICT: VALEDICTION | SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY

APERÇU

Nothing compares to this film in terms of that daily sense of obligation, of responsibility, coupled with the possibility for art and expression.

Ken Burns.

Continue reading “THE VIETNAM WAR (2017) part 1 of 4”

THE VIETNAM WAR (2017) part 3 of 4

On Patrol

CONTENTS PART ONE: APERÇU | DIRECTORY | GESTALT: PROPAGANDA | GESTALT WELTANSCHAUUNG | GESTALT: EXCEPTIONALISM | GESTALT: CIVIL WAR
CONTENTS PART TWO: GESTALT: AUDIENCE | GESTALT: MULTIPLICITY | GESTALT: COMPARISONS | DIFFERENCES: TIẾNG VIỆT | DIFFERENCES: WOMEN | DIFFERENCES: CONFESSIONS
CONTENTS PART THREE: DIFFERENCES: BARBARITY | SPELLBOUND: FERRIZZI | SPELLBOUND: BEATLES | UNRESOLVED: McNAMARA | UNRESOLVED: KISSINGER | FRAMEWORK: SUBJECTIVITY | FRAMEWORK: MYTHIFICATION | DISPATCHES: BEZOS
CONTENTS PART FOUR: DISPATCHES: PARTISANS | VERDICT: CHỢ ĐEN | VERDICT: ABSOLUTION | VERDICT: ALIENS | VERDICT: VALEDICTION | SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY

DIFFERENCES: BARBARITY

One of the things I learnt in the war is that we’re not the top species on the planet because we’re nice. We are a very aggressive species.  It is in us.  And people talk a lot about how, ‘well the military turns,’ you know, ‘kids into killing machines’ and stuff.  And I’ll always argue that it’s just finishing school.

What we do with civilization is that we learn to inhibit and rope in these aggressive tendencies.  And we have to recognise them.  I worry about a whole country that doesn’t recognise it.  ‘Cause you think of many times we get ourselves in scrapes as a nation because we’re always the good guys.

Sometimes I think if we thought that we weren’t always the good guys we might actually get in less wars.

– Karl Marlantes, former Marine, about 48 minutes into episode five.

Continue reading “THE VIETNAM WAR (2017) part 3 of 4”

THE VIETNAM WAR (2017) part 4 of 4

On Patrol

CONTENTS PART ONE: APERÇU | DIRECTORY | GESTALT: PROPAGANDA | GESTALT WELTANSCHAUUNG | GESTALT: EXCEPTIONALISM | GESTALT: CIVIL WAR
CONTENTS PART TWO: GESTALT: AUDIENCE | GESTALT: MULTIPLICITY | GESTALT: COMPARISONS | DIFFERENCES: TIẾNG VIỆT | DIFFERENCES: WOMEN | DIFFERENCES: CONFESSIONS
CONTENTS PART THREE: DIFFERENCES: BARBARITY | SPELLBOUND: FERRIZZI | SPELLBOUND: BEATLES | UNRESOLVED: McNAMARA | UNRESOLVED: KISSINGER | FRAMEWORK: SUBJECTIVITY | FRAMEWORK: MYTHIFICATION | DISPATCHES: BEZOS
CONTENTS PART FOUR: DISPATCHES: PARTISANS | VERDICT: CHỢ ĐEN | VERDICT: ABSOLUTION | VERDICT: ALIENS | VERDICT: VALEDICTION | SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY

DISPATCHES: PARTISANS

Of all the press treatment the film received, only a handful of writers had interesting things to say, both positive and negative.

Continue reading “THE VIETNAM WAR (2017) part 4 of 4”

The Remains of the Day (1993)

A friend recently remarked to me how similar the British and Japanese are, for their rigid class systems, and stolid custom of surrendering personal indulgence and judgement to ritual obedience of customs that fix social and personal boundaries.

Today I re-visited the 1993 film The Remains of the Day.  An understated gem that makes my friend’s observation come to life.

How striking, still, after all these years, to see the privilege and tragedy of British aristocracy told quite so poignantly by Kazuo Ishiguro.  How odd, too, that he met with the approval of the British literary establishment, winning the 1989 Man Booker Prize for the novel.
Continue reading “The Remains of the Day (1993)”

Thirty years tracking Hannibal Lecter

Lecter-Blake-500px

Imagine a world in which Hannibal Lecter was unknown.  It existed until 1981, when Thomas Harris published the novel ‘Red Dragon’.  My own relationship with the Hannibal Lecter myth now spans three decades and takes in unimaginable changes in the world as well as in myself, which is to be expected in the span of almost half a life.  That relationship began when I was an undergraduate student, still naïve and inexperienced in the ways of the world with which I coincided.  That’s why I think of it as a personal experience.  A journey that has significance to me because of the way I experienced it, not as an impersonal series of film reviews.  A journey that did not come about as unaffected by changes in the real world, and the fictional ones I traversed.

Continue reading “Thirty years tracking Hannibal Lecter”