The Official Organ of LaborNET
click here to view the latest edition of Workers Online
The Official Organ of LaborNET
Free home delivery
December 2003   

Interview: Muscling Up
Labor�s Craig Emerson discusses how the changes to his party�s leadership will impact on the industrial relations agenda.

Unions: Thinking Pink
What�s the difference between a Nursing Home and an Aged Care Facility? More than semantics, according to nurses worried Australia is woefully unprepared for the crash at the end of the baby-boom cycle, writes Jim Marr.

Bad Boss: Global Bully
If nothing else, US-based call centre giant TeleTech is consistent. After being nosed out of last year�s Bad Boss gong it is back, bigger and badder than ever in its search for Tony honours.

Unions: National Focus
In this national round up by Noel Hester, Hugh McKay tells us how the young are sticking together in a bewildered society, the gongs get handed out at the ACTU awards and there is a chance to win as a worthy wordsmith.

Economics: Friend or Flunkey?
On New Years Day as you look at the wine stains and tread on a soggy puddle on the carpet, will you look for the phone and call a cleaner? Gabrielle Meagher gives a few ethical dilemmas to confront before you make that call.

History: Young Blood
Youth is no barrier to political leadership, as the 37-year-old John Watson proved 100 years ago, writes Neale Towart.

Industrial: Living For Work?
Mark Hearn reports from a recent conference addressing the dilemma of work, citizenship and community.

International: Fighting Together
The international trade union movement is launching a Global Unions HIV/AIDS campaign to combat the spread of the virus.

Poetry: Medicare Plus Blues
Is the Government's new health plan a plus for Medicare? Asks resident bard David Peetz

Review: Human Racing
Seabiscuit is a great horse movie but more than that it serves as a powerful metaphor for the importance of living for the future while maintaining passion and compassion in the present, writes Tara de Boehmler.


The Soapbox
Dear John
In his 500th piece of activist journalism, long-term Workers Online contributor Rowan Cahill sends a personal message to our prime Minister.

The Locker Room
Retired Hurt
Every innings comes to an end, some too soon, and others not soon enough, writes Phil Doyle.

Wedge Watch
Labor's Craig Emerson puts the spotlight on the Howard Government's politics of division.

The Westie Wing
Workers Friend Ian West MLC is back with his monthly round-up from Macquarie Street.


A New Mark for Labor
Few of us who care about the future of the labour movement would not admit to a surge of hope and sense of excitement following the election of Mark Latham to the federal parliamentary leadership.


 Peeking Dicks in Pickle

 Lights Out on Cheap Labour

 Blackout Hangs Over Sydney

 Contractors Hang Up on Telstra

 Uni Workers Too Smart For Minister

 Employer Bullies Vie For �Tony�

 South Coast Deal to Build Movement

 TeleTech Safety Rep Vows to Fight On

 Corporates Urged to Come Clean

 MP Too Busy For Teachers

 Bosses Block Good Shops Code

 Engineers Ground Safety System

 Workers Win At Safety Meet

 Merger Threats

 Activists Notebook

 Feds Ignore Building Deaths
 Bob Gould On Kicking The Liberals Out
About Workers Online
Latest Issue
Print Latest Issue
Previous Issues
Advanced Search

other LaborNET sites

Labor Council of NSW
Vic Trades Hall Council
IT Workers Alliance
Unions on LaborNET
Evatt Foundation

Labor for Refugees


The Soapbox

Dear John

In his 500th piece of activist journalism, long-term Workers Online contributor Rowan Cahill sends a personal message to our prime Minister.


Dear John,

I reckon you are in need of counselling, nothing short of a solid dose of psychotherapy; you are one sick puppy. Let me explain.

Instead of casting aside the toy soldiers, the war games, and the war adventure stories of childhood, like the majority of WASP boys of your generation managed to do successfully, you simply never grew up.

Somewhere along the line you developed a massive feeling of inadequacy. Your Grandad and Dad both fought on the Western Front during World War 1, and Dad fronted up again for World War 2. Dad might even have enjoyed the martial life so much that in between he may have joined martial mates in the quasi-fascist New Guard during the 1930s.

But you missed out. You never felt the rough thrill of a khaki uniform against your soft Waspish flesh, nor the shoulder kick of a .303, nor the revolting thrill of skewering another human being with a bayonet, nor the power of being in control of a weapon with immense destructive power, transforming a human being into something elemental and primitive, more wrathful god than mortal.

Yes John, you missed out. You missed out on World War 1 because you weren't born, and on World War 2 because you were too young; and you kept on missing out. You even missed out on Cold War National Service, the boy scout with a gun interlude, and were too old to be conscripted for the Vietnam War.

Of course you could have volunteered to serve in Vietnam, to combat the Yellow Peril in a hands-on way, to breathe and drink Agent Orange, step on your own landmines, face friendly fire, combat unseen enemies in hostile jungles, and count the corpses of women, old men and children and pretend they were soldiers for the statisticians back home. But you preferred to stay at home to build your legal and political careers, and dream your martial dreams in private.

I am being facetious about volunteering, John. For you it was never an option. I am well aware of the deafness that has plagued you since childhood and the grief it has caused you over the years; so far as service in the armed forces is concerned, basically you have always been medically unfit. No matter; in reality you never really wanted hands-on military experience anyway. You were better than that. For you it was always about playing toy soldiers, and the idea of martial leadership. Hence your resolute and grim faced announcements of Australian martial involvements, your media saturated farewells to departing service personnel, your welcomings when they return, your tireless pursuit of wreath-laying opportunities, and the way wars, past and present, feature in your public utterances.

You remind me of Kaiser Wilhelm who plunged Germany into World War 1. He also had a disability which battered his psyche around; he was born with a short and virtually paralysed left arm. As an adult he loved to pretend he was a soldier; he dressed in military uniforms, and reportedly found the experience sexually stimulating. His study was shaped like a military command tent, and he had a military saddle on hand to mount and pretend he was on a cavalry horse. He was also a very sick puppy.

As you got older, the fact you had never been to war burnt deeply into your psyche; maybe Grandad and Dad were better than you. They were real men. They had been part of something terribly masculine, and really Australian. They were part of something that set them apart from those on civvy street who had never undertaken the Passage of Arms.

Vulnerable, you embraced the hype about Australians at war that originated in the writings of journalist Keith Murdoch and the Government war historian C.E.W.Bean. War, specifically World War 1, was not about military blunders, political stupidity, crimes against humanity; nor was it about pain, suffering, carnage, destruction, and the obscene waste of human life for economic and political gain. No, it was about the glory of sacrifice and the amazing fact that people under great duress, like those on battlefields, tend to stick together and help each other, often using humour to alleviate stress and to distance themselves from the horror of their situation. These latter universal human traits were appropriated as being uniquely Australian, lumped together and called the Anzac Spirit, which generations of spin doctors and their political masters later used to send future generations to the slaughter house of war.

And so to today where in your lexicon it seems that war, far from being a human tragedy, is the apotheosis of national and cultural endeavour, not far removed from sport. You even dare speak for all Australians who ever served in the armed forces, but particularly during the two World Wars, conscripting in the process a century of war dead to justify your decision to be involved in the Iraq disaster. According to you, everyone who ever served did so to protect and defend Australia, and to combat "militarism", "terror", and "totalitarianism", and you freely throw around the words "freedom", and "democracy".

Well, that is rhetorical and historical nonsense. During your cherished World War 1, Australia was never threatened; the conflict boiled down to being about the rival imperial interests of the Great Powers, and blood feuds within one European Royal family. When it comes to World War 2, John, you conveniently ignore the way your hero Robert Menzies admired Nazi Germany during the 1930s and went out of his way to appease militarist Japan.

Part of your act is to play the reluctant warmonger, and portray Australia in your rhetoric as a peace loving nation; hence the studied long face when you talk of war. But you know you are on a potential winner when it comes to war, because the nation has a militaristic underside, and it is this underside you exploit. Since Federation, Australia's armed forces have been engaged in a litany of hostile actions globally, a veritable atlas of involvements stretching from South Africa at the time of our nation's birth, to the quagmire of Iraq today. The only deployment in actual defence of Australia occurred during the war in the Pacific, 1941-45.

In the process of speaking for all of those who participated in armed conflicts, you fail to mention the horror of war, or the traumatised legacies of those who survived, or acknowledge the hundreds of thousands of Australians, dead and alive, for whom the experience of war was, and remains, something decidedly unnatural, an experience best avoided, and their detestation of those whose political and diplomatic failures led to them being served up as cannon fodder. Indeed, John, every time you open your mouth about martial matters we further glimpse your weird, sick, world of martial pornography; synthetic experience, titillation, manipulation, and exploitation.

You keep harking on about mateship, specifically mateship through war. Well, John, if you really want to experience mateship, and see people helping each other out, and caring for fellow citizens, you don't have to go to war or even join the armed services. Simply become part of the trade union movement; now there is real mateship in action. But hey, as you and the Mad Monk keep insisting, trade unionism is the enemy.

Rowan Cahill.


email workers to a friend printer-friendly version latest breaking news from labornet

Search All Issues | Latest Issue | Previous Issues | Print Latest Issue

© 1999-2002 Workers Online
Workers Online is a resource for the Labour movement
provided by the Labor Council of NSW
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005

Powered by APT Solutions
Labor Council of NSW Workers Online