Saturday, September 23, 2006


Yesterday the left indulged one of it's most cherished and useless rituals: the rally and march. The subject is the war on terror, war in Iraq, anti-terrorism legislation and the plight of "Jihad Jack" Thomas the Australian muslim who was prosecuted under said legislation and locked up for a good long while. According to Jack and his advocates it was a wrong place, wrong time scenario. He was in Afghanistan on September 11, 2001. I don't know what Jack Thomas is into. He might be the nicest guy in the world, hell bent on blowing up the building I'm writing in or both! For all I know in these bullshit for news days he doesn't exist. But that's another story. What's really up my nose this afternoon is how the left insists on outmoded and predictable tactics to "take a stand" accomplishing absolutely nothing.

It was a small crowd with enourmous flags. Amplified catalogues of injustice echoed off disinterested buildings; the left are addicted to loudspeakers. Within seconds the area was covered in Socialist Alliance posters - what would they do without photcopiers? . For such an innocuous event the police presence was substantial: six mounted cops, two paddy wagons and a bicycle squad. They almost outnumbered the crowd. Still I never saw a truncheon or a gun so it's still democracy. I wondered if the cops came in with gas and truncheons swinging; how many of these people would've turned up?

Then the inevitable march to somewhere. The megaphone'd ringleader geared up the crowd with the usual cliches: the people united we'll never be defeated; and that old classic: one two three four we don't want no [insert appropriate adjective here] war. An hour or two of speeches and slogans outside some hapless building then to the pub to do the People's Front of Judea routine.

Surely there's something better.

At university I was involved in the 'campaign' against the reintroduction of tertiary fees. A meeting planning the usual protest-rally-march scenario with the usual list of factional egos giving the usual boring speeches. A few of us suggested that something else might be more effective. Most students had conflicting schedules and little time. A paltry rally would make the government's case for them. And listening to speeches and shouting slogans is not most people's idea of fun.

The point was to get on TV; create a media event. We suggested traffic disrupting street theatre to make a deft humourous point re. fees. Instead of the stereotypical screaming horde, there'd be a succinct, well-crafted statement put across as a joke. A joke makes a political point more effectively than a slogan. The viewers would be more likely to understand our case and more receptive to it. Traffic would be disrupted intentionally, yes. To get on the tube you need drama. But it would be less disrupting than a march. And there would be fewer arrests. It was blown down without consideration. Many of the organisers were the aforementioned factional egos and loathe to miss out on their pathetic fifteen minutes of 'fame'. And the suggestion required lateral thinking to understand and boldness to attempt. There was very little of either in the room.

The whole student 'movement' re. opposition to the reintroduction of fees was a farce. Many of the 'movement's' leaders were in the ALP and didn't want to rock their future careers by sabotaging government policy. They in fact supported the policy but refused to say so openly. Other parts of the leadership (myself included) were more interested in romantic leftist posturing than in dull political nitty-gritty. But it was the complete absence of any will to win that really made it a non-starter. The ingrained, unspoken conviction that we would not and could not prevail.

Of course others thought that we would win simply by simply turning up and starting a riot. We just needed, citing Hunter S. Thompson, more of the speed that fuelled the sixties. Relying on some organic mass-movement pulsation to effect meaningful change is like relying on the Sunday horoscope to plot a course to Mars. It's sloppy, wishful thinking and it won't work.

Sloppy thinking is also one of the left's cherished rituals. Consider the phrase: anti-globalisation movement. This commonly refers to a disparate set of groups and individuals who organise protests outside various economic/trade conferences. They think that globalisation and multi-national corporations are a modern evil and they fly all over the world and use the internet to say so.


Granted the portrayal of the anti-globalistaion movement's activities is a mainstream media caricature but I've yet to see a more sophisticated self-portrayal by the 'movement'. They can't even create a more accurate collective noun for themselves. Even its more articulate advocates like Naomi Klein fail to provide constructive alternatives. No Logo is a well written, relevant description of global capitalism. Linking the logotypes of contemporary textiles back through the corporate matrix to virtually enslaved factory workers is a good start; demonstrating things are fucked up. But so what? The feel-good ideas of Ms. Klein and the rest of the left re. the way the world should work are great as long as they don't have to be tested in the real world. Progressive writers are abundant. What's really needed are progressive industrialists.

The Brazilian firm SEMCO: is a functioning industrial democracy. The normal management heirarchy has been replaced by a decentralised structure underwritten by profit-sharing, universal accountability and open finances. No matter what job you have at SEMCO you're entitled to know the finances of the company and trained to understand them if you can't. The process is open and free. Marks of privilege and status are banned. No plush chairs or big offices. The CEO does his own photocopying. The result is a firm that has persisted and grown through highly volatile times with little bloodshed. It works because it's better. And it's not just easier on the factory floor but on executives as well.

The life of modern corporate executives although rich in privilege, status and power is stressful and tends to exclude other aspects of life. Much of the energy expended by those at the 'top' goes toward keeping their subordinates in line. Monitoring their work, auditing their time, kicking their butts etc. If you remove status privileges and link the prosperity of the company directly to the prosperity of every employee you remove the labour-management conflict saving a massive amount of energy. Energy that can be spent making the enterprise more competitive.

Semlar didn't intend to make SEMCO a democracy when he inherited the business. He simply wanted to modernise it. The resulting stress made him think he had cancer. He began to delegate the burden and ended up creating a democratic company. By the time he finished he was able to take two months off each year.

But Semlar is not fashionable among the activist set. At a party I got into a pointless argument with a member of one of the fringe left groups. I forget which. It had to do with 'revolution'. The dolt naturally thought 'revolution' was the next step up from the rally-protest-riot. So many people get on to the streets that parliament, the army, the banks and the cops crumble to dust and divine light breaks through the clouds announcing the dawn of Utopia.

I tried to explain to him that this is not what Marx meant by revolution. Strangely the fellow, a self-proclaimed marxist, hadn't read a word. Don't blame him it's dull. But Marx meant a shift from one economic model to another i.e. from a feudal-agricultural economy to a capitalist-industrial one. Each shift is an improvement. And in fact according to the mature Marx, this kind of shift is the only one that matters. Political activity is sort of a skin on the top of the economic soup. Marches, rallies and riots are part of the system not a force for changing it.

I tried to explain SEMCO as a functional form of 'socialism': economic democracy. He wasn't interested. No reason. He simply refused to believe that a private enterprise could be a catylyst for social progress. Like Ned Flander's TV set; most of his channels were blocked. At the end he just looked at me (with pity!) and said: all you've got are ideas, I've got an ideology.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


A guy who's far too well-dressed to work in information technology but nevertheless does, told me blogging was like filling a cup full of urine. Easy to do, hard to get anyone interested. He's also too witty to work in IT. And he's right I've been doing this over a week now and I'm not rich and famous yet. So what's the point?

Well set aside twentieth century notions about status, wealth etc. Because the twenty-first century will be a different place. I'm not saying there won't be any rich people or any famous people. There will. That won't stop. But fame and wealth are not intrinsically connected to cultural activity. It's a feature of contemporary customs which may become a thing of the past.

Shakespeare was never famous the way Dan Brown or Stephen King are today. Fame as we know it didn't exist then. And the closest thing to it was reserved for political, military and religous figures. Elizabeth Tudor, Charles de Lorraine or Clement VIII may have been "famous" but Shakespeare?

Charlie Chaplin's tramp, probably the first global human icon was a product of a complex intersection of stuff. Chaplin's impoverished upbringing imparting a certain social perspective and sense of humour. Years in tough English music halls leading to "overnight success" as one of Mack Sennett's players. The rushed grabbing of a few wardrobe items that became the Tramp look. And there was the early twentieth century with it's economic upheavals, it's terrible wars and nightmarish political landscape. It's difficult for us to imagine how bad things looked to people who made their way through the world between 1914 and 1950. But they were universally attracted to Chaplin's Tramp who was a new thing. A movie icon. The key to understanding the power of icons like the tramp is to understand how unprecedented they were.

Consider the Rolling Stones who emerged after the second world war. There was no such thing as a rock star before the Beatles and the Stones came along. Even previously massively successful recording stars like Crosby and Sinatra didn't have the god-like aura of these English guys who just wanted to play American music. I'm certain if you could go back in time and tell a fifteen year old Keith Richards that he'd become rich beyond imagining for playing this back door music he'd think you were crackers.

But again there's time and place. Sure Richards plays wicked guitar and the Stones are one of the best bands in the world. They click and it's a pleasure to hear them play even when they're awful. But time and place. The world had gone through decades of deprivation and grey-faced discipline, bad food, shabby clothes and marching up and down the square. This was a new generation and it wanted to shake it's arse. Such Dionysian gaisers after decades of repression make big waves in the cultural waterways. A whole pantheon of legendary figures appeared between 1950 and 1975. Often not doing all that much. James Dean's immortallity rests on three pictures, a catalogue of foxy photos and one spectacular death.

Now we've had sixty years of people wanting to be guitar gods and screen idols. And for exactly the same reason they used to work for Wall Street. Money and power. People are crawling over each other to be famous. And less and less do they have to do anything worthwhile to get there. A pimple treatment infomerical featuring a swag of the famously mediocre wearing extremely serious expressions as they discuss blemishes as if they were the Third World Debt. My favourite is Jessica Simpson the icon for what one can achieve if you swap dignity for fame. With that zap-eyed look of the media crazy she announces that she has cameras on her face twenty-four hours a day as if it's a massive accomplishment.

And it is! She has been working at it her whole life. Her schtick is to do whatever various armies of publicists, journalists, choreographers, directors, photographers, producers, executives and stylists want her to. It is hard work I'm not being sarcastic. But there is absolutely nothing memorable about anything she does. It's all fast food wrapping to be dispensed with likewise. The originality of Chaplin and Richards are gone. People are following a template that is less exciting then the career path of a chartered accountant.

Which brings me back to blogging and other related internet activity. Blogging is underground. People have to seek you out. There's no money in it; no recognition much. People do it for a variety of reasons. But they don't do it for the same reasons that people go to Wall Street. Is it a waste of time? Depends on your terms, but the phenomena at least is interesting. Even if the results are frequently not.

Monday, September 18, 2006


The world is not your oyster, it's not your breadbasket, it's not at your feet. The world is a living, breathing entity complete unto itself. It doesn't need you. You need it.

There's a fierce debate in the media, in political salons, on the street. In a general way this debate is about something called 'the environment'. No matter the side of the debate people refer to 'the environment' as a thing apart. The argument is about human activity and it's relation to the environment as if they were somehow seperable.

It's easy to think you can seperate these things. Go out bush that's the environment - trees, grass, insects, creeks, wild animals. No protection from heat, cold, bites and scratches. In cities, human activity: cafes, offices, museums, galleries, cinemas, theatres, busking, resteraunts etc. This is an artificial zone born of human imagination and designed for human comfort. We never give a thought to the source of those things bought with that ultimate product of human ingenuity: money.

What do we do in the city? Drink latte? Latte consists of coffee, water, milk and sugar. Where does the coffee come from? Coffee beans. Where does the milk come from? Cows. Sugar from sugar cane, paper-wrapped. And lots and lots of water.

A kilo of coffee requires a thousand litres of water. This does not include the steam forced through espresso machines, or the water used to clean the glasses. To grow a litre of coffee costs a thousand litres of water. This means if you like your coffee and buy a weekly half kilo of your favourite Columbian gold you're using twenty-four thousand litres of water a year. Just for coffee.

We live in a age of abundance. Clever monkeys we are. After millenia of struggle we've carved out this grand comfort zone for ourselves. We emerge from the womb and can persist to oblivion never once considering the material costs of the things we eat, drink, watch and play with. What materials, for instance, are required to produce a half hour of television? I don't know. Certainly someone, somewhere is capable of calculating the costs, ecologically. But well over 99% of us never even stop to consider it.

How many litres of water does it take to make an episode of Neighbours?

A human being can live without food for several weeks. Each one of us can go the rest of our lives without another movie, another pair of Levis or another Kylie Minogue cd. But water? Different story. A few days without water and you drop dead. You, me, everyone. With water the environment ceases to be out there and becomes integral to your very being. You are alive and you need water or you kick.

The ecological argument right this minute centres on Global Warming. That the earth is heating up is not in question. The question is why? The obvious correlation between the emergence of the industrial system in the nineteenth century and the corresponding heating of the world is treated with skepticism by many who frequently use their voices to champion our current economic model and all those who sail in it. They call themselves 'skeptics'. The Australian a few weeks back characterised the debate as that between skeptics and alarmists. Given the choice which one sounds rational?

The 'alarmists' are those who say that human activity causes global warming. Skeptics often characterise these people as loony, trendy, even evil. A particular target are the Greens. Surely our current economic system, based on the free use of resources in the pursuit of riches couldn't be a factor. The skeptics are not being skeptical simply because they don't want to held irresponsible for persisting with their air conditioners and four wheels drives. I'm sure also that the Murdoch press is being totally objective. That the Greens refuse to get into bed doesn't factor at all.

No! The skeptics are rational. They are fully informed. They've taken the time and the trouble to learn the basic science, to understand the limits of our knowledge re. non-linear systems like weather. They've researched the scientific discourse thouroughly and taken the trouble to filter out those skeptical scientists pouring cold water on the 'alarmists' for scientific reasons like keeping their job. They've come to their own conclusions. The effects of halting economic expansion for ecologically prudent reasons hence diminishing stock market dividends and losing real estate development opportunities never once crossed their minds.

And let's just say that's true. Does it matter?

Whatever the impact of human activity on the ecology, the ecology's impact on human activity is certain. Just ask someone who owned a hotel that got wiped out by the tsunami. President George II has declared that the American lifestyle is not negotiable. Well Mr. President, Nature doesn't negotiate. It doesn't care. To Nature, you and me are no different to the trees. It does as it will according to it's own logic and our stock market portfolio isn't relevant.

Humanity can now look back with unprecedented clarity on its history, its origins and development patterns. We can understand the link between some mutating wheat and the birth of civilization. It wasn't just hard work and bright ideas Mr. President it was luck. We were lucky. And luck always runs out.

It's time to advance little monkeys. It's time to look hard at the facts of existence and take our carved little niche in the cosmos a few steps forward. Whatever the facts re. global warming we must be aware of the relationship between ourselves and the planet. We need it and living according to an entirely human code of ever advancing riches and 'progress' won't kill the planet. But it just might kill us.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


I'm not much of a conspiracy theorist. I don't believe aliens built the pyramids either. But Andrew Bolt's tirade against "insane" academics who believe the United States government responsible for September 11 made me curious. For the uninitiated, Bolt is Melbourne's resident right-wing mouthpiece. Andrew provided a link on his blog to a Brit newspaper's URL and their piece on the subject. They shared Andrew's point-of-view re. the immorality of even considering such a thing.

God bless the Internet brothers and sisters. Unsatisfied, I found these people for myself: Scholars for 9/11 Truth sounds like Lisa Simpson's nerdy superfriends. To date I've only read one piece on the site: Steven Jones's "Why Indeed Did the World Trade Centre Collapse".

Interesting. Dr. Jones DOES NOT advocate any conspiracy. He simply posits 13 reasons why he thinks the official report - largely compiled by the National Institute of Science and Technology - is bogus. The 13 points are all based on evidence. I wouldn't call it conclusive but I've still to read anything that brings it down.

A good try, published in eSKEPTIC on Sep 11's 5th anniversaryis Phil Mole's 9/11 Conspiracy Theories: the 9/11 truth Movement in Perspective, . Mole's article is not specifically aimed at Jones but at the 9/11 Truth Movement in general. The 'movement' is a convenient collective noun for a range of persons from those with unanswered questions like 9/11 relatives or Dr. Jones to (I suppose) utter nutbags. I can't really say, I haven't read them all. The 9/11 truth 'movement' will get you a million plus hits on Google. And I'm not much for conspiracy theories.

Mr. Mole's article deals both with the Pentagon and WTC alternate theories. I'm only going to deal (briefly) with his attempts to debunk Dr. Jones' hypothesis re the WTC collapse.

Mole states that the twin towers do not collapse straight down one floor on top of another but that the halves of the buildings above the impact points weaken and buckle first. That's true. Jones doesn't say otherwise. Mole acknowledges that the temperatures inside the towers on impact would not have exceeded 1000 degrees farenheit (when will Americans convert to metric, Bloody hell!) far short of the temparature required to melt steel. However it is hot enough to weaken steel by half. The structure then buckles and down it all comes. He goes on to say (like the NIST report) that the molten metal was probably aluminium.

He does not mention that there was molten metal at the base of all three doomed WTC buildings for weeks. Dr. Jones does. He also counters the aluminium theory.

During and after the collapse a red to yellow hot liquid metal was observed. Indeed weeks after the event molten metal still glowed red-yellow beneath the rubble. Trouble is Aluminium does not glow red-yellow in daylight. It only glows a bit and looks silvery grey. Mole either ignores Jones on this point or didn't read the article. Moreover Mole fails to address Jones's other objections including NIST's tweaking of computer models to make their hypothesis work, the fact that before Sep. 11 no skyscraper ever collapsed because of fire and the eyewitness accounts of several explosions in the buildings on that day.

I'm still not advocating any conspiracy theory. But a very good case has been made questioning the official story with no sufficient answers. Dr. Jones's article by itself doesn't prove US government calluding. It simply throws the standing story into disrepute and calls for further investigation. Of course it implies a collosal cover-up.

Why would the United states Government cover up the truth? And how could such a gigantic conspiracy be organised and kept secret? Good questions and very difficult to answer. But Dr. Jones's article does present solid scientific doubts about the standing story and like him I think they deserve addressing. So far the only response has been hysterical cries of "nutcase".

More on this later.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


George Orwell, Eric Blair to his friends, inspired me to my vocation. Until I was twelve I was headed to the sciences. I wanted to be a physicist: astrophysics or atomic. I couldn't decide. I'd read quite a bit of quality literature by that time. The short stories of Oscar Wilde and Edgar Allen Poe which I still love. Mainly I liked science fiction. Stories that were drawn from real possibilities opened up by the discoveries of the twentieth century: space travel, time travel. It was to satisfy this taste that I picked up a copy of Nineteen Eighty-Four whilst a very unhappy boarding school student.

It was the first time I learnt a book can change your life. Nineteen Eighty-Four is a complex book. It isn't merely a criticism of totalitarianism. It's a satire deriding the self-image both of the new order visions of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia but also of the Western democracies of it's time. For Orwell there was very little separating them. The blind obedience to authority, the conveniently flexible memory, the demonising of enemies for doing exactly the same things one's own army was doing.

Orwell started me on the path to becoming a writer.

After school I drifted into Campus politics and, for a while, I succumbed to ideology. I became a tape recording. It was not a natural disposition and it didn't last long. I had a deep interest in social progress; in improving civilization to the extent that human lives would become more than just an exercise on the money machine. Naturall the 'radical' ideologies challenging the status quo interested me. Various political and artistic 'isms' that might carve a path to a better place to be.

This was the beginning of nineties and members of the 60s generation were everywhere ascending to authority. Change marked the culture. It was no longer just about football and beer. There were urbane people making sophisticated noises. Homosexuality became visible. Different points of view, different cultures were celebrated not concealed.

The downside came in the moral paranoia and secular puritanism collectively know as political correctness. Often this was just pure hatred expressed by the idiotic ranting of gramaphone minds. Common sense, good humour and courtesy were almost totally absent. Taste was not a matter of personal choice but an emblem of political and moral 'soundness'. Free thought was purged. I found myself unable to say what I wanted among many of my peers.

The mindset had little to do with anything relevant or meaningful. It sabotaged the possibility of change rather than promoting it. What profit in declaring the law an unsuitable career for a woman on feminist grounds! The 'reason' - the field's pervasive stench of masculinity. Better to go and weave baskets instead. Don't laugh this was actually promoted at a conference I attended.

More the use of a pseudo-technical, virtually unreadable jargon became compulsory. I remember doing my post-graduate thesis using a thesaurus. I'd constantly be on the look out for a more complicated and less clear way of saying simple things. This language disease is an epidemic in my generation. I don't point the finger I succumbed myself. It's use of scientific symbols and words to make itself sound important, radical or deep created plain ugliness passed on to subsequent generations. English classes now teach the construction of narratives and discourses as opposed to simply writing stories and essays.

French theorists are worshipped and taken literally when often they are using wild hyperbole. Roland Barthes, in response to the New Criticism, declares the death of the author. He means to direct literary criticism away from biography to more textual questions. But that doesn't sound quite dramatic enough so: the author is dead!

And we've taken him literally to the extent that a colleague of mine commenced her PhD thesis by declaring her thesis was going to argue such and such. Theses don't argue. The thesis is the argument. The argument is made by a human. This is common sense but common sense is banned in the contemporary humanities.

I did it too, I confess: thesaurus abuse. the police should interfere. I had abandoned Orwell. Never use a long word when a short one suffices. Is it possible to cut a word, do it. Simple rules for the creation of clear a beautiful prose. I had forgotten.

Nineteen Eighty-Four reveals the nature of freedom of thought. Oceanic society is oppressive because reality is controlled by the collective human will to simply ignore what is inconveniently 'out there'. People disappear for political reasons, the correct response is simply to forget they ever existed. Winston Smith writes correctly that 'freedom is the freedom to say that 2+2=4. If that is granted all else follows." It is on this point that he suffers most greatly at the electric rack. O'Brian must make him see five where there are four.

Freedom in other words comes from believing what own senses regardless of what others think: ergo the empirical method. But the Left has taken cultural relativism way past the point of useful application Truth is held to be a completely human construct. Even scientific knowledge is a human construct. The implication is that chemical, biological, physical facts are actually culturally dependant. They are customary. There is no world outside the human mind.

Of course this is complete horseshit.

What Orwell understood so well is that the problem with the Left is that it does not have enough regard for certain 'bourgeois' traits. For example: freedom of speech, multi-party democracy, freedom of association, the right to privacy, the seperation of the judiciary, legislature, executive and law enforcement aspects of government.

These attributes of capitalist society represent real and important advances in human society. Why? Because they limit the power of the authorities over the individual. Indeed they ensure that authority itself must succumb to higher authority. It is a structure that allows people to think and speak freely and the benefits are enormous.

The Left often neither respects nor understands these things. I remember recently seeing a tiresome 'speaker's forum'. The ringleader was a woman railing at the government. She spoke of free speech and democracy as precious things threatened. Afterwards a man started to give a badly thought out case for Intelligent Design. He couldn't be heard above the shrill, screaming of the former speaker effectively drowning him out. Funny, she'd just cited Voltaire: I don't agree with what you say but I'll fight for your right to say it. Fight? She could even shut up and listen like a civilized person.

The Right is in ascendency all over these days. Social welfare and public services rolled back for laissez-faire capitalism. Newspapers and media are stuffed with pompous Tory populism disguising itself as the thought of the common people. The Left is discredited and marginallised.

Sure there are fine Left-wing writers but they continue to plug into a select section of the Intelligensia without being heard by a wider public. Time was the Left knew how to talk to Joe Sixpack. Those times they changed. Meantime we have media polls asking ordinary people if they think torture might be okay in certian circumstances. How long will it be before we go back to the world that preceeded the Enlightenment?

Our world resembles Oceania more than we think it does. Institutions like the US National Security Agency monitor billions of daily communication, the internet provides the individual with a cheap method of global self-expression, but it also provides various institutions with a lot of information on the individual. The endless War on Terror bears a certain resemblance to Oceania's constant war? True, we haven't Newspeak or thoughtcrime. But obfuscation is the politician's standard tactic. And so many opinions and very few facts make it quite difficult to find the truth out about anything. How does one examine the veracity of a standard edition of the morning paper?

I don't know. What I do know is that democratic institutions must be defended and strengthened and that the left must do this. To do this the hysterical, fist waving march and rally addict must recede and give way to a more conscientous, civilized and intelligent figure. A figure like the tall, thin man in corduroy who once declared: the enemy is the gramaphone mind.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


First thing in the morning five years, one day ago; I remember. My flatmate was giggling nervously against the usual background of morning TV bullshit. The bullshit was normal but the giggling wasn't. My eyes focused halfway thru my first caffeine fix on the smouldering twin towers. The coffee ran cold. The normal TV bullshit wasn't the normal TV bullshit, not today.

Like a chain smoker expects lung cancer to show up; I knew it was coming. But I wasn't expecting it that morning. Not then. That's the first thing I thought NOT NOW!! There's a cowboy in the White House and a toady in the Lodge. But who better to pick a fight with than people who'll start one without thinking twice or even once.

The next thing I thought (callously) was at least they didn't get any of the really important buildings. They didn't get the Chrysler building, they didn't get the Empire State. That was cold, but I have to admit it. The effects of TV brothers and sisters, you see death and disaster every day and the experience makes it somehow unreal. I was thinking of the architecture.

Then I began to think about the real people getting killed. And all the real people who were about to get killed. And most of them just doing whatever it was they do. In New York, in Afghanistan, in Iraq still. Ordinary people who have no control over events losing limbs, and loved ones, their lives because of decisions taken by shady persons unknown.

I worked with three Muslim women at the time. No-one said anything disparaging that day. Not to them, they were well-liked. But the next day two of them were late because of abuse suffered at the tram stop. The third, Turkish, didn't wear a headscarf 'til then. She favoured the modern style. But after that she wore one every day. Solidarity, if muslims were to be abused she'd take it on the chin like the rest of them. Something still not understood these days.

Now the country's awash with anti-muslim this and that. All maintained under a facade of "Australian values". But what we really mean is choose: "us or them". It's almost as if the failure of muslims to overtly support everything America's done in the middle-east is an active declaration of support for terrorism. The middle ground has fallen away like an earthquake chasm. People have to cling to one side or the other, flinging stones across.

And what's the result? An invasion of Afghanistan resulting in that country reverting (again) to medieval fragments. An endless, increasingly complicated insurgency war in Iraq for some reason. Sure Hussein's a bastard but he wasn't involved in 9/11. And we were doing business with him til recently. If we want to spread democracy why don't we start with Burma? They have an elected leader who's now in her second decade under house arrest. They want democracy. Or why don't we improve our own democracies, lead by example?

Sadly not. Instead our democratic rights have been rolled back in the name of preserving our democratic rights. And the hypocrisy which so infuriates the rests of the world has been amplified. We simply refuse to admit any culbability in this our new world scenario. This is the test brothers and sisters. Democracy - use it or we lose it.

I remember many hushed and extremely diplomatic private conversations that day. People dancing around their own opinions. Trying to say the right thing. Walking to the pub a friend and I heard someone say: "yeah. I'm glad America got it!" on the phone. We laughed. Cold again but we couldn't help it. No-one had said it but everyone was thinking it.

Now all I can do is light a candle. A useless tribute to the hundred thousands plus who've perished. And all those still to come. AMEN.