AS I SEE IT…. “It’s my right!”

“Sometimes I wonder how normal normal people are, and I wonder that most in the grocery store” – Elizabeth Moon
8777596-vieux-grincheuxI was talking to an old mate the other day about a number of things as we do.. I asked him how his ANZAC day was  and had he enjoyed seeing his old diggers once again?…  He just stared at me with eyes of steel….raised his stick….and I knew I was in for an ear-bashing!!  Before I had said another word, he had spurted forth a myriad of expletives and was not about to let up!! He told me that he was not allowed to march in the dawn parade because he was too old and he would hold up the parade!!. He went on to tell me, in no uncertain terms, I might add, that the “Bastards can stick their ANZAC day fair where the sun don’t shine”. He said it was his God give right to march!  I didn’t disagree with him for one moment! Just when I thought he had settled down, he saw his bus coming… Off he went again… It was his right to ride public transport for free…After all, he paid for the bloody bus service through all those years he worked and paid his taxes!! He fought for this country he said,  so we could enjoy living in a safe and free world! His kids and grand kids would never have to fight the likes of the Japanese and the Germans ever again!. He was on a roll like a run-away train! Nothing I could say or do, was going to shut him up.. I just had to sit and listen to his rumblings!

So,I got to thinking about some of the things he was peeved off with. Not that I was going to put his world right, but I hoped to perhaps get a better understanding of why he was so angry.  I discovered a few interesting reasons and I guess it all started to make sense… Growing up as a child, he was never allowed to question his father.. His father was always right! He was to be “Seen and not heard”  (Yep, I can relate to that!) If he disobeyed him, he copped the sharp end of his old mans buckle.. I was starting to see a bit of a pattern emerging here! If he did not excel at school he got belted, if he never chopped enough wood to last a week, he felt the leather of his father’s shoe! and so on it went! I started to feel sorry for my old mate, so I asked what he did to overcome this pain… “Simple,”  he said.. “I buried my head into a book…escaped the reality of my surroundings”  a lugubrious expression overcame him.. he said, “I just wanted my father to like me… isn’t that my right?” Shortly after that, he left the family home and took a job as a grave digger… “No one but the dead and they tell no tales” he would often say.. Then it happened, the Army recruiter came to the small town where he lived…He signed up immediately. Met new people, helped them through their training.. He used to say how ironic it was, because the army took away all their rights… He went off and fought in the Pacific and in the Middle East…Obtained the rank of Captain and I believe won a medal or two for bravery..  He doesn’t talk much about those days, ‘too many bad dreams’ he would say. He told me of a time he was, in his words ‘on the bones of his arse’ Had no food, no basics like bread or flour, so he decided to pop into the local corner store and help himself..  I interjected, saying that he could be arrested for that.. “Yeah, but those bloody foreigners come into this country and get everything handed to them on a plate” he said.. Look son, he continued, “I fought for this bloody country!! I’ve got a god given right to a loaf of bread!” He told me how every day he and his wife would make it their mission to to walk down the hill to that store with fresh seasonal produce from their garden and once a week, his darling wife would bake the family a beautiful Rolly Polly Pudding…

After his wife passed, he continued with the veges until the son took over the store… He  didn’t need the produce anymore..”Kicked in the guts!!” he’d say.. “chocking to get the words out… “So yeah! I’ve got a right to walk in there and nick a loaf of bread… I am reminded of Elizabeth Moon’s words – “Sometimes I wonder how normal normal people are, and I wonder that most in the grocery store”

AS I SEE IT…. “The Forgotten!!”

Ernest Hemingway wrote..
“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places.”11109504_10202784240646800_1687920510832940099_n

Despite what some in the RSL (RSA in New Zealand) along with many others might have you believe,  Australia and  New Zealand were not born at Gallipoli” nor did they‘come of age’ there!!   Unfortunately it was politicians, not historians,  who made this ANZAC myth what it is today – nothing more than a fantasied  idealist retrospect  of what was a bloody catastrophe !!

New Zealand and Australian troops formed an alliance. In 1914, the ANZAC’S were born. ANZAC is the acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and in December 1914 the Australian Imperial Force and New Zealand Expeditionary Force stationed in Egypt were placed under the command of Lieutenant General William Birdwood. Initially the term Australasian Corps was suggested, but Australians and New Zealanders were reluctant to lose their separate identities completely. No one knows who came up with the term ANZAC. It’s likely that Sergeant K.M. Little, a clerk at Birdwood’s headquarters, thought of it for use on a rubber stamp: ‘ANZAC’ was convenient shorthand. Later the corps used it as their telegraph code word. The ANZAC’S first saw action at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. The small cove where the Australian and New Zealand troops landed was quickly dubbed Anzac Cove. Soon the word was being used to describe all Australian and New Zealand soldiers who fought on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Eventually, it came to mean any Australian or New Zealand soldier. These forces at Gallipoli were indeed ‘fighting for our freedom ‘and their lives. Alongside this, is received wisdom such as how an Englishman and a donkey somehow embodied the ANZAC spirit and that the Aussies and Kiwis could have succeeded if it wasn’t for British amateurism and tea making.  The merits or accuracy of these legends can be debated endlessly. (According to Mat Hardy Lecturer in Middle East studies at Deakin University.)
However one of the clichés that always irks me is the assertion that at Gallipoli our forces were fighting against Turkey or ‘the Turks’ This is completely incorrect!
Just to further provide some factual evidence, you should know this…
The Republic of Turkey was not declared until 1922 and was only formally recognised in 1923. Prior to that, the place we now call Turkey was the heart of the Ottoman Empire. In 1915 it was Ottoman, not Turkish soldiers that were shooting at the ‘diggers’ (as they later became known) when they hit the beaches in the darkness.
Some will try and get around this hair splitting premise, by saying that the Ottoman Empire is synonymous with Turkish ethnicity. This is also false. Even rolled back from its medieval hey-day, the Ottoman Empire of 1915 still covered a wide patch of turf and this included huge numbers of Arabs, Armenians, Greeks and various Caucasians.
In fact without the assistance of nearly 300,000 Arabs in the ranks, the Ottoman forces would have never been able to bat on for as long as they did in the First World War.  A general policy of making troops serve away from their native lands meant that plenty of the Ottoman troops in the Gallipoli campaign were not ‘Johnny Turk’ at all, but men from the Levant, Iraq and all the far-flung corners of the dying empire.
On the first day of the landings, roughly two thirds of the troops doggedly defending the heights were Arabs, mainly from Syria. They and their like served throughout the war, usually unwillingly. For the Arabs, there was no great love of their Ottoman masters. Many of these conscripts were little more than slave coffles of untrained cannon fodder. Just as Australia has a great deal of national identity invested in Gallipoli, so do the Arabs place a lot of stock in their role fighting against the Ottomans. The Arab Revolt and their use as a guerrilla force against the over-extended supply lines of the Ottomans makes for a good film. This was the point where the noble desert warriors rose up to be a nation again and were to be rewarded with self-determination at the conclusion of the war.
Naturally it didn’t quite pan out that way. The numbers actively involved in the revolt were a fraction of those serving on the other side and the rebels were often from regions where the Ottomans had very little control anyway. Not that it did most of them much good. After the war, the British and French did as they pleased. The Cairo Conference of 1921 saw Churchill and his ‘Forty Thieves’ parcel out the rewards to some favourites and make up some borders, stamping a political geography on the whole Middle East that still persists today. Only two Arabs were invited. Favourites like Faisal and Abdullah were given puppet kingdoms, setting the scene for decades of squabbling and the eventual rise of nationalists like Saddam Hussein and Hafez al-Assad a generation later.
So whatever you think about the idea that Australia was ‘forged’ at Gallipoli, the fact remains that many other nations were, much more literally, born from the ashes of the campaign to solve the Eastern question  Including Turkey.
(Many thanks to my researcher..Hanay Qulacq..)
Now, here are some facts and figures you may like to ponder…The Battle of Gallipoli took place on a small peninsula on two, later three, different battlefields, not far from each other. On one of these fields merely Anzac soldiers (from Australia and New Zealand) fought – and died. In the other two places British and French troops took the Turkish blow. The casualty figures give a good understanding of who suffered:
Australia: 18.500 wounded and missing – 7,594 killed.
New Zealand : 5,150 wounded and missing – 2,431 killed.
British Empire (excl. Anzac) : 198,000 wounded and missing – 22,000 killed.
France : 23,000 wounded and missing – 27,000 killed.
Ottoman Empire (Turkey) : 109,042 wounded and missing – 57,084 killed.
Furthermore 1.700 Indians died in Gallipoli, plus an unknown number of Germans, Newfoundlanders and Senegalese.
( These figures are educated guesses, but still approximate and controversial. They are taken from various sources, i.c. official Turkish, Dr Geoffrey Partington, Bernd Langensiepen, Robert Rhodes James, Spencer Tucker and Geoffrey Moorhouse. )
The British, French, Ottoman Empire and the Indians, along with Somalis are “THE FORGOTTEN” Yes we remember our ANZAC’S and rightly so. Sons, Fathers & Grandfathers pledged their allegiance before their King, just as every nation did with their own Sovereign.

Pointless senseless loss of beautiful lives…For what? In my opinion one of the biggest British balls-ups in history. Our Grandfathers, Fathers, & sons served their country without question…Today we honour these men, but…while we do on this 101st anniversary..Let us also honour “The Forgotten” They too, were Sons, Fathers and Grandfathers.
We all know of someone who fought in that horrendous war at Gallipoli.. We are after all both small Nations. Today this ugly war continues as our troops are now deployed to the Middle East.  Let us remember all who have served and are still serving our countries, as we take a moment  to reflect..
As Hemingway said..
“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places.”

AS I SEE IT… “Just a little smack!!”

lawKhaled Hosseini once said….. “It may be unfair, but what happens in a few days, sometimes even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime… “

This started me thinking. You see, I’m getting sick and tired of opening the paper, turning on the television news and watching or reading the same thing  over and over again..  Another drug pusher… burglar… thug…  drunk driver…  abusive partner… just to name a few… walking free! These pieces of excrement laugh in the face of justice! Just recently I watched in astonishment as the perpetrators of a serious domestic violence assault walked free from the court.. Not once, but on numerous occasions, I’ve witnessed the Judge just give the offender a “slap on the wrist” I don’t know about you, but I find this  is an insult to our judicial system!.  Magistrates are making a laughing stock of our laws and these offenders know it! …  Mind you, this is nothing new…. it’s been going on for a long while… Theirs is a unique club that we are not privy to…

So, where does the blame lay? Is it with the Magistrate or the Solicitor defending the offender?   As I write this column, once again I am disgusted at a headline in the paper that shows a woman believed to be Queensland’s drunkest driver, having set a new record for DUI of 0.48,  walking ‘Scott Free’ from the court! Let’s look at this case a little more in depth… The Magistrate handed down a sentence of 2 months in prison. This was  appealed by the woman’s’ counsel, citing the fact that she would have served her sentence before an appeal could be heard… Even the Police prosecutor suggested she be sentenced to a term of probation, rather than imprisonment.  Well, I’m sorry, I don’t  agree! quite frankly, I don’t really care about the extenuating circumstances! Even the Magistrate said and I quote…. “There needs to be an element of public deterrence because to endanger everyone’s lives on the road is absolutely appalling, absolutely outrageous,” – (end quote…) Yes, she pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol and even the medical authorities have indicated such a level of alcohol in the system could easily have lead to her death.

Well pardon me???  what about all the innocent people in her path?? Children, mums, grandparents, people with disabilities, the list goes on! I can only hope and pray that this is a ‘wake up call’ Sadly I am not sure it will be. This is not an exaggerated example or for that matter isolated.. It is an every day occurrence.  One we are becoming far too familiar with.. Just cast your minds back the the beginning of the year and the Coward punch on the young 18 year old, who sadly had his life support disconnected… This started a flood of vicious cowardly punches.. Not all, thankfully ended in tragic loss of life, but once again the sentences handed down to these thugs was laughable.. I could go on and on, they all read the same and have a common thread! Sure, there are others that have been given a ‘second chance’ and they have embraced it.. Their night out fueled with drugs and alcohol has cost them dearly and they have sat and thought about their mistake. Most have never re-offended. Others who have been involved in the selling of class A drugs and because of their high profiles again, have been given a ‘slap on the wrist’ and told ‘don’t do it again’ These people have been in a position of having the means to afford the best of the best when it comes to defending their charges… Tell me money doesn’t talk…. It sure does!! Once again, do any of these people, Magistrates, lawyers, the offenders really care about the damage they have done and are doing to the victims??… Personally and in my opinion I do not think so!

Hey.. I’m not perfect either!! In my younger  days, I got away with ‘blue murder,’ drinking, driving drunk, experimenting with substances.. (yes!! I’m sure most of us can relate) we didn’t have a care in the world. (My mother, God bless her soul, would often say I was chemically enhanced!!)  I never meant any harm by my actions.. The only person I hurt was me…. Or so I thought!! Sadly that was not true! I hurt those around me, those that loved me and cared about me..  It’s no different today. Unfortunately we just have to look at the news and see this carnage reoccurring…

Judges need to return to sensible sentencing… Someone needs to grow a pair!! Remember, “It may be unfair, but what happens in a few days, sometimes even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime…

AS I SEE IT…. “How are you today?”

05145435a34a5525550918c45897041e608a9f-wm“If you want to change the way people respond to you, change the way you respond to people” –  Timothy Leary

Why is it when you’re asked “how are you today ?”  you  just say ‘fine thanks’.  Truth is, you yearn inside wanting to say forbidding things like.. “I feel like crap” or “I just want to curl up and die” more often than not… it’s simply “bugger off!!”  This started me thinking…. How am I really today?  Sad,  happy,  hurt,  angry.. or simply going through the daily motions. Sadly for most of us, it’s the latter. Even sadder is that when we are asked how we are, we just say ‘good thanks’  Most of us brush it off with a bit of grumpy rhetoric!  Truth is, most of us are far from good.. So, it started me thinking.. What would happen if we changed the way we responded to people? I decided to give it a go!  To be honest, it was hard going! I’m pretty much a ‘keep it to my self type of guy.. If I’m not feeling on top of things and someone bounces up to me and asks “How’s it going?” I’ll smile and say “great” There might be a hundred and one reasons why I respond in this way. The simple plain fact is, I just can’t be bothered engaging with this bright eyed bubbly over the top individual,  who for all I know may just have won the lottery!

So,  after some careful self analysis and evaluation, (I’ve already been told I’m a grumpy old fart!) I decided to change the way I reacted to people that asked  “how are you today?” Before I even ventured out, I get a phone call from a telemarketer.. “Hi it’s Mark here how are you this morning?” My golden opportunity to put my new found positiveness into action.. “Oh hi Mark, thanks for calling and asking how I am… Well, to tell you the truth, I’m not feeling all that great this morning, was awake all night worrying about my Guinea Pigs!”  Silence…  then a compassionate  ‘are they OK?’ “No not really” I reply,  “Studmuffin and Snickerdoodle got out during the night and I think they were bullied by Jack Hammer and Goliath” he gasped “ooooh!!” (this guys good, right in there with me!!) Then I opened the flood-gates and poured out a few soft sob’s.. “I’m very upset, I hope the poor wee darlings are going to be all right” (sob). At this point, Mark was displaying all the right emotions with his responses.. He had pretty much forgotten the reason for his call and was assuaging me about the imaginary Guinea Pigs and their plight.. “Look” he said, “I don’t know too much about Guinea Pigs, but I’m sure it’s just a territorial thing and you sound like a lovely gentleman that cares very much about your animals, so I’m sure everything will be fine” “Thank you so much” I said, trying to sound sincere.. He chimed in with “I’m glad I was here to listen.. Look, go and make a cuppa and just relax! Is there someone you can call?” “Yes,” I said. “Good, now make sure you have a nice cuppa then call your friend” he said with sincerity. “I’ll let you go, but please don’t worry…it’s going to be fine!!”

After Mark hung up, I stopped and processed what had just happened… By simply changing the way I responded, Mark forgot about his job and became a caring benevolent person, concerned about my Guinea Pigs and more so, my well being. My response could have been very different… and curt! Time to venture into the city. Next person was the train guard.  “How are ya mate, where ya going?’ “To the city buddy, and how are you this beautiful morning?” That clinched it!! Off he went, he didn’t want to be here, despite his 100k plus salary… He wanted to be with his daughter…. she was having treatment for breast cancer.. He was sad that he couldn’t be with her, but he knew that by being at work, he was contributing to the cost of her treatment… She was just 32.. I immediately offered him my best wishes for a successful outcome.. He thanked me and went about is duties with just a hint of a smile.. I felt good! All of a sudden it was dawning on me… I had to be the one to make the changes… I had to shift my focus from a negative one to a positive one and I was learning by taking a chance on a stranger.. All of a sudden, I began to feel good….really good! It made me smile inside and I began to get it..

You see, everyone carries a piece of the puzzle. Nobody comes into our lives just by mere coincidence…. So, trust your instincts… Do the unexpected.. Find the others!! When someone asks you “How are you today?’   Remember…..“If you want to change the way people respond to you, change the way you respond to people”

AS I SEE IT…Being Catholic. Part 4

–  “Growth is painful.  Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck  somewhere you don’t belong!!” – imagesAnon 

Having served my apprenticeship, so to speak, growing up Catholic, during the 50’s surviving the convent, the priests and the nuns, then a strict Catholic  boarding school, I felt pretty comfortable that I had come through this ordeal mostly intact. Oh there were scars and wounds that needed to heal, but as they say… “Time is a great healer”… or is it?

So, the spiritual coaching continued and I longed for Saturday to come around.. I learned so much  from my mentor and so called “Spiritual Adviser”. Kind, gentle, caring , compassionate and  of course very Gay! A priest that was ahead of his time. He, was after all, the Bishops’ Secretary and ran his affairs and those of the Diocese. Not for one moment did I feel threatened or intimidated by this incredibly intelligent and learned scholar. When it came to church doctrine, or Canon Law, there were not many that could complete in his arena. As the weeks became months, I learned many things about the indoctrination of seminarians. I was caught up in this doctrina and once again heaped with the guilt. I had many open and frank discussions with my  Adviser and I came to the conclusion the the power that the Vatican wielded was more than immense. He told me that The Vatican has large investments with the Rothschild’s of Britain, France and America, with the Hambros Bank, with the Credit Suisse in London and Zurich. In the United States it has large investments with the Morgan Bank, the Chase-Manhattan Bank, the First National Bank of New York, the Bankers Trust Company, and others. He also told me of the billions of shares it has in some of the most powerful international corporations in the world, including Gulf Oil, Shell, General Motors, Bethlehem Steel, General Electric, International Business Machines to name a few! He also said that The Catholic church is the biggest financial power, wealth accumulator and property owner in existence. He said that it is a greater possessor of material riches than any other single institution, corporation, bank, giant trust, government or state of the whole globe. I was not entirely surprised at this forthright statement. He had seen much in his time as the Secretary to the Bishop. He warned me to think long and hard about this so called “Vocation”..  Was I doing this for the right reason, or was it grown out of guilt and a sense of duty and obligation to my local priest, but above all… to my mother?

I was wracked with guilt as I didn’t want to be in this institution any longer. I fell into, what I believe now to have been guilt inflicted depression.. I began to rebel against the daily teachings and begun questioning. Once again I was summoned to the Rectors’ office. Again, I refused to sit in his chair and this time rebutted pretty much everything he said..  I was angry as I firmly believed I had been tricked into this vocation by the church, it’s priest and my mother.. So, I did the unthinkable! I told this narcissistic rector to stick his seminary where the sun will never shine! Turned out, I was not the only one who left… or as the church will have it, was “Cast Out”…there were 5 others.  I turned to the only person I knew at that point who would show some empathy.. Fr Kevin! He comforted me  by simply saying what I had known all along… It was a decision surrounded by guilt that had led me here. Over the next few days, I met more of his colleagues, priests that had a very different view of the church at that time and were concerned with the increase of abuse that was taking place. It was a common topic at the time, that may be priests should be allowed to marry. A number of these men I met, had female companions, sure, there were a couple in relationships and from what I saw and those I became friends with, I believed that it had had a huge influence on their ministry.

I left the security of my friends and joined a commune. I lived with a great bunch of men and women and it was during this time that I worked on myself  alleviating this guilt! I took a job in the local wool store, regained my fitness both mentally & physically and became involved in theatre. I took a flat in the city and my life changed for the better..  I moved to another city, fell in love and married.. Still, being catholic and still with that underlying guilt.. I went to Mass, met up with one of the priests I had got to know. He became a good friend and on Sunday, shocked my fiance when we were both  going to receive Communion, he said “The Body of Christ Brian” I replied “Thanks Brian” This blew her away..  So, life was good…then the unthinkable happened.. I was working on the railway, shunting trains and I had a horrific accident, loosing both legs above the knees.. I recovered, still got married (in the hospital Day Room) and went on to have two fine sons.. I feel that I have been dealt a pretty good hand… Sure, in hindsight, I would do a lot of things differently, wouldn’t we all? After the accident I was told on more than one occasion that this was God punishing me for not becoming a priest!!

It took me back to that time all those years ago when that guilt was instilled in to me by those Nuns, Priests  and my mother. I was just  a small boy growing up, simply “Being Catholic” Thankfully time’s a great healer… I’ve moved on. I’m reminded of this these words again… “Growth is painful.  Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck  somewhere you don’t belong!!” – Anon

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As I See It….A Social Comment