Refugees, boat people, immigrants, illegals, aliens – whatever you want to call them have been a hot topic in the media in Australia for about the last 13 years. Really, it all started with the Tampa Affair, which flared issues with Norway due to a freighter carrying refugees from Afghanistan (mostly) being disallowed entry to Australian Waters. There’s a bunch of other terms that have evolved through this – mostly from our elected officials in Canberra (that’s our capital to those of you who aren’t aware) throwing blame on one another for the results of this death, or that sinking, or this plan that didn’t work.
Now, we have in place a policy known as Operation Sovereign Borders – a joint task force headed up by the Australian Defense Force to “Stop the Boats”. Indeed it has, according to the releases from government.
But that’s another story.
You see, dear readers, what I want to talk about is how we, the Australian people, could possibly benefit from the incoming refugees. How we could use them, and help them at the same time to create a better Australia for us all. I warn you though; these opinions are far from the centre as my usual opinions are. They are, in fact, going to make a lot of people very upset when they read them. But, if it does, then it means at least you’ve given it some thought. Well, I hope so.
It’s no secret that Australia’s economy isn’t in the greatest shape. Partly, yes, it is to do with the GFC. It also has quite a bit to do with an incompetent Labor government who couldn’t organise a booze-up in a brewery – at least not one which makes any kind of money at the end. And there are a few other little things as well which influenced it – but the big kick in the pants for the economy happened in late 2007 – when it was almost certain that the Labor Government – for the first time in over a decade – was to seize power under Kevin Rudd.
The economy wound back – simply because the business heads of Australia don’t’ have confidence in those in the left. And you can find this out by doing one of two things – talk to a big wig in the business sector, or just look at what happened when it was certain that the Liberal Government was about to reclaim power in 2013. Things began to pick up once again. The building industry began to pick up, the retail sector had a massive boost, and the flow on from that will be seen soon enough.
But the Economy of Australia is certainly not as awesome as it once was – under the Howard/Costello government. Nor is it anywhere near the powerhouse of emerging economies today such as China, nor is it anything like the powerhouse economy that was (and to a certain extent still is) the United States. The big reason for this? The Manufacturing industry.
In fact, President Obama himself said: “If we want to build and economy that lasts, that is strong, that has a strong foundation… we’ve got to do everything we can to strengthen American manufacturing.” Now, that’s obviously talking about the United States, but the same rings true for any other country around the world – including our own. You only have to look to the afore mentioned China and another western economic powerhouse – Germany – to realise that the ones with the strong manufacturing sectors weathered the storm of the GFC much better than any other. In fact, any emerging economy will need a manufacturing sector to become prosperous and to become economically sound.
So what does this have to do with Australia? And what does it have to do with refugees? Well, it’s simple. Australia cannot, ever, be deemed to be globally competitive on price with Australian manufactured goods – simply because the cost of manufacture here in Australia is far too high – by comparison to the rest of the world. Things like our minimum wage – which is the highest in the world, drives our goods production up like crazy. However, there is a massive opportunity here with people coming from other countries. And, I should note, this is the point you should stop reading if you’re easily offended. If not, please continue.
If we were to let refugees come into Australia, on the provision that they had to work, for a company of the government’s choice, for the first 3-5 years of their stay in the country and use their skills, at a reduced rate of pay (by comparison to the rest of Australia) such as, $5 an hour, we’d be competitive again. Competitive on a global scale. Sure, we wouldn’t have the cheapness of China, for example, but we would have good quality controlled goods coming from Australia. We’d be bale to sell these goods to Australia and around the world and bring the profits home.
Now, whilst the people are working in these companies, the Government would have to do their bit. Namely, teaching and education of fluent English, Australian way of life, the Australian ethics and ‘way of doing things’ if you will, along with housing and food etc considering the lowered wage. Not to stamp out culture or anything like that – but a simple way of teaching people what is acceptable in this country and what is not. For example – don’t beat people up, don’t disrespect people because of sex, etcetera. And you know what, you’d find that when these people finish their stint here and are released into the community (for want of use of a better term) you’d find that some would want to stay and become managers of that facility they were working in. The same as we see in the Army, when conscripts want to stay in the military and work their way up in places such as Switzerland and Italy.
Now, that solves two sides of politics. The right, who want to look after business, and the left who want to let refugees in. But there’s another side of politics who could, very easily, destroy the entire plan. The Greens. Ah yes, our tree-hugging ‘alternative choice’ (who’s preferences all go to labor anyway, so you might as well vote for them instead) who would be crying out about the impact on the ecology and the local environment because of industry.
So, how to deal with them? Simple. We turn the manufacturing industry’s sights to the best thing Australia could produce: Solar Energy. The Australian climate in the middle of the Simpson Desert for example, is one of two places best suited for the production and development of solar energy on the entire planet. So why not use it? And, with a government hand in the pot as well, it’d be seen that the government is doing something about climate change. Not seen to do something, but actually doing it as well.
By taking these produced panels to the rest of the world and selling them to – for example – the biggest two polluters on the earth (the USA and China), they’d be lowering their emissions. What would the advantage of that be? Well, we’d be helping them do so. They’d be more likely to buy Australian goods than Chinese, and not to mention if we could develop a true energy conversion (which let’s be honest, if anyone can do it, it’s Australia) then they’d be a hot little item. And it’s a million times better than a carbon tax – both logically and fundamentally. So, in one felled swoop we’ve done a few different things:
First, we’ve taken in refugees to keep those on the left-ish side of politics happy. We’ve boosted productivity in the Australian Economy, and warded it against another potential GFC by creating jobs, and a whole new manufacturing industry through the use of immigrant help. And, we’ve kept the greens at bay by using the industry to create globally changing technologies to reduce not only our own, but the world’s carbon footprint. All the while, helping people seek a better way of life, and find a better life to live here in this wonderful country, which was built on people coming by boat.
I know there are going to be nay-sayers who are reading this, probably scoffing at the idea of Australia changing the world on such a dramatic scale. Well, we’ve done it before. In 2003, two brothers who were immigrants to this country from Denmark created a little application called “Where 2”. The app was bought by Google and became what we now know as Google Maps. Yeah, Google Maps – Australian invention. But that is small compared to the biggest Australian invention of them all. The fact that you’re reading this now on your smartphone, or tablet, or laptop is thanks to the biggest technological advancement of the past twenty-five years. That little thing, which was actually a failed experiment on black holes, by CSIRO John O’Sullivan, went on to become Wi-Fi. Yup, Wi-Fi is an Aussie invention that is in every single smartphone, laptop, tablet, and nearly every TV. All from a place of just 23 Million People.
This is just an idea. It’s an idea I’ve had rattling around in my brain for some time now – but I can’t see how it won’t work. It’s better than sitting on our hands and doing nothing, it’s better than saying no to everything, and it’s certainly better than pretending nothing like this could help at all. In fact, I think if we gave it a go, we’d probably go from that country that places like the United States know a little bit about, to being a country which would be studied for aeons to come as the little nation that changed the world – for the better. And most of all, did it with the most upheld views of the Australian adage – a fair go for all, a strive to make our little patch of earth better than it was before, a fighting spirit to stand up for what’s right, and reject what’s wrong. Even if the odds are against us.
As Phillip Adams once said: “Unless you’re willing to have a go, fail miserably, and have another go, success won’t happen.” And no one else on this entire earth, rolls up their sleeves and gives something a go, like our little nation of convicts, on our small patch of sunburnt earth, a nation of underdogs often ignored by the masses of the rest of the world. Maybe we’ve got something to prove, maybe we just like a good challenge. Whatever it is, I know we’ve changed the world before, and we can damn sure do it again.
On Friday, I managed to head over to the cinema and watch that new Disney movie that has seemed to swoop everybody into a frenzy. I went in with no prior knowledge and certainly had no idea that it was essentially a musical (which is lucky, because I’d have probably passed on it if I had known before the fact) and certainly had no idea that it was going to be the first Disney movie to say “But you can’t marry a guy you’ve just met.”
So with the spirit of Frozen in the air, I figured it was high time that I wrote out my own theories on this thing called “love”. So, dear reader, sit back and prepare to either agree or disagree with what I’m about to say.
Firstly, love doesn’t exist. The whole idea of true love was somehow morphed from the idea of “love at first sight” which, as any half-brained human will tell you, is a total crock. The traditional sense of LAFS was introduced, we think, by the Greeks, who described it as “theia mania” or “Madness from the Gods”. In actual fact, it was often explained through the use of magic arrows or darts, which were usually explained by a certain small child floating around firing his bow at people.
The idea was fleshed out in a few books and poems from both the Roman and Greek times (after all, the romans did err… borrow heavily from the Greeks when it came to a lot of their gods and deity influence) such as Ovid’s Metamorposes or Plato’s Symposium. Both, funnily enough, described “love” similarly as some kind of an immediate longing for the other person. There was also another kind of “love” – one which came about after some passion and dating and all that good stuff which we know today as the forerunner to getting into someone’s pants.
I mean hell, even the bible has references to LFAS, with Isaac and Rebekah and Jacob and Rachel – both are deemed to be LFAS by historians across the world. And even later in human history we find examples of the concept running deep in literature and music – from Shakespere’s As You Like It: “Who ever lov’d that lov’d not at first sight?” right through to today’s pop music charts where we can see any kind of addition to the notions of “True Love”, Love at first Sight, or even just general, ordinary, every day “love”.
And whilst the artists of the world may wish to believe such a nonsense exists, luckily for you dear readers people like me and other logically, rationally brained humans exist so we can get to the bottom of the facts of the matter. And the fact is, there is no scientific basis for Love At First Sight. Ever. What we merely are seeing is a physical attraction – which humans are very good at deducing by the way – which usually takes about 1-5 seconds. So in 1-5 seconds you’re supposed to know if you’re to be wed with a complete stranger who you haven’t even so much as been spoken to by yet? C’mon. No this is called physical attraction. And I’m sure you, dear readers, will agree when I say that it is a far cry from being “true love”.
In fact, what we are talking about here is a theory called “Interpersonal Attraction”. Now, whilst Physical Attraction relies on the other person being pleasing to the eye, interpersonal attraction on the other hand relies on the overall image of someone who we create in our head of them, which later develops into friendships or romantic relationships. And funnily enough, there are a few different types and causes that completely debunk the ideas of LFAS.
The first two, are relatively easy to explain so I’ll get those out of the way. Firstly, the Propinquity Effect: Simply the more you see of someone and spend time with them, the more likely they are to become a friend and/or sexual partner. This is a little different from the Expose Effect, which states that the more we are exposed to something, the more we like it. So, both of these theories are, in short, reliant on being in close proximity to a person for an allotted period of time – not limited to but usually a few weeks.
The next one is a little bit more involved, so I’ll try to make it as fun as I possibly can. It’s called the “Similarity Attraction Effect” and it relies on a few different things, which basically all revolve around the idea of “birds of a feather, flock together.” Physical Appearance, attitudes, personal style, interests, social skills, demographics etc all come into play, and the more of these are in common or similar with each of the other, the more likely the people are to become friends or more. Physical Attraction is an interesting one – because studies across the field have shown that people who are of similar attractiveness seem to wind up together, or at the very least prefer to be together. Even things such as having a gentle, cheerful voice can be a deciding factor in someone wanting to bone you.
And then there’s the attitude side of things. In 1971, “Law Of Attraction”, an essay by Byrne, was released. It found that there was a positive correlation between similar attitudes and attraction between people. Put simply, this is that people who share the same attitudes are more likely to hang around each other. In 1972, Miller noted that similarity in attitude means people are more likely to find each other attractive and favour one another – and dissimilarity has the opposite effect. And difference in these theories and ideas lead to dislike and avoidance. So if you share attitudes in general, you’re more likely to get together. And it’s not just the above. People with a massive similarity in Social and Cultural Background, Personality, Interests and activities, social skills, even down to their opinions and beliefs on marriage, are more likely to get together, and people with all of the above shared are more likely to last longer in marriage than those who do not.
It’s interesting to note that all of the above rely on someone knowing someone for a little bit longer than four seconds. But then there’s the evolutionary theories which speak more to us having an attraction when the people we are looking at indicate that they are the most fertile. In fact, these seem to make the most sense scientifically – with the mixture of the chemicals and electronic synapses firing in the brain such as Oxytocin for attachment, Dopamine and Serotonin for attachment, and Testosterone or Estrogen for lust. That is the chemical, scientific basis for “Love” as we know it and yes there are a few more chemicals there than what I’ve listed.
So if there is no basis for “Love at First Sight”, and in reality love is just a mixture of chemicals and electrical pulses coupled with our logic of knowing a person for longer than a minute, what exactly is love?
Well it’s simple. It’s nothing. It doesn’t exist. Love, is merely the above – logic of situational awareness coupled with some chemicals rattling around in our skulls and possibly linked with some evolutionary process which wants us to procreate. And that’s where we have gone wrong.
You see, “Love” is merely an image. When we meet someone, we ascertain where they are from, what they do, what we think of them – both sexually and intellectually – in about the first fifteen seconds of “Knowing” them. As the weeks and months pass, you might be fortunate enough to know this person for longer and hang around them more often until that tipping point comes – where the little thing in your head goes “Click” and you decide that maybe you like this person more than you thought and maybe you should date. Or get busy with it. Whatever the point is, you end up with the person and you start dating, and then the inevitable “I love this person” comes out. Well, that is until the image that you’ve built up for ages in your head of this person is shattered. Because when people “Fall of of love” it is simply a point that the image in their head is no longer in line with what that person is seeing in the real world – and it happens more often than you think.
You see, the image is created as an evolutionary measure to get us to procreate – to care long enough to have sex, and then bail. Like it or not, it’s true. We were never supposed to be monogamous – and doing so is completely against everything, which we, as humans, are. Sleeping around is a part of our genetic code. So the image, which by the way is what we “fall in love” with, is there temporarily to get us to procreate and move on. The difference is, that in today’s day and age, we don’t move on. We stay with the same person. So the image we have built up in the first few seconds that we see the person from across the smoky and hazy room of the club has a greater chance of being shattered. Instead of remembering the wistful days of your teenage years with that girl, Stacey, instead you now have an ex girlfriend who is aptly named Stacy and “Broke your heart”. The image also happens to explain love at FIRST sight, because we create it initially as a way of saying “Yes, I would like to have sex with that person.” The image is all that matters.
“But what about the people who are IN LOVE? I know…” I hear you cry in an overly judgemental tone. Well, that’s easy. It’s not Love. It’s caring. You have gotten to the point where you realize that this person who you are sitting across the table from, who does all those little things which irk you, as a whole, is worthy keeping around. You overlook the small things that piss you off, and go with the things that don’t. You, as a logical human, care more about that person’s feelings and opinions and you put them first. That’s not a chemical reaction; it’s a logical override that we, as sentient beings, have evolved to embrace. We call it “Love” because we’ve been told for aeons that people fall in love and that’s what it is. It’s not. It’s simply a binary statement of putting them first.
This theory, which I personally hold, also explains why people have trouble letting go. One party might have seen the change and the other not. The image for one was corrupted and thus they “Fell out of love” with them. But for the other, well the image was never corrupted. And there it sits, laying on the top of their brain and still, it cannot and will not be changed for they are never going to, or if that rarely see each other enough any more for it to be corrupted to enable them to let go. Not amount of telling yourself that the person has changed, or moved on and therefore you should too, will change that either. People cannot let go, because their image is still intact. And these people are deemed to be wimps, or deemed to be whingers. No, they are just the victim of evolutionary process which was never completed.
Love does not exist readers. Love, as we define it in a modern society, is an abstract. It’s a human construct. A collection of matters that go against the very nature of humanity, and instead work with the ideas of monogamy and playing ideals of a society which is all based on consumerism and nostalgia. As in the afore mentioned movie, the act of “True Love” was the sister sacrificing herself for the other one. That’s not “love” crap, that’s caring. It was putter her first. And that’s all it is. And all we can do about it is recognize it. Realise that we live in the world where we are going against the naturalistic way of life, and figure out just how much we care about the person sitting across the table from us.
Because after all, that’s all that matters.
One of my biggest pet peeves is that four-letter word that you seem to hear flung about at universities and young people these days. It’s often used in conjunction with other six-letter words, seven-letter words, and any other number of phrases and saying that all mean the same thing. Wealthy, well-to-do, well-off – it all means the same thing: Rich. And, I really, really hate the term.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll tell you now – my family is probably classed as “Upper-middle” class. My Dad has done well for himself in his career and my Mum also worked – also doing rather well for herself. And yes, they are still together. Myself being an only child meant there was only one mouth to feed whilst I was growing up. It also means that unlike most kids who were playing with Action Men (yes, I’m a child of the nineties), or hanging out with their brother and learning about new music and all that culturally specific stuff that siblings seem to pass down, I hung out with mum and dad most weekends.
So I didn’t really have that cultural specific knowledge – I had more so the business money-making brain due to endless hours of listening to my parents talk about investments and wise money management. But, I’m the first to admit, that my tastes are quite eclectic. And my circle of friends have influenced me to look at different things and life in a different matter. But, if I have the choice of a Mercedes or a Holden, I’ll take the Benz. It’s what I know. So yeah, I’m well-off.
So what do I hate about the term “rich” then? If it’s true, surely I can’t be that annoyed about it? Well I am. It pierces my ears every single time I hear it. Because, it’s used as a slur. Going to University, you rub shoulders with a lot of different people – but sadly being a university it means that these people are generally left-leaning. Now, there’s left, and then there’s those left people. The ones who say things like “people shouldn’t have a house that big. That’s just wasteful.” Or, one of my personal favourites, “You drive a what? Oh, I don’t’ see why you’d spend that amount of money on that.”
You see, people judge me for my tastes. That is what it comes down to. And that is one of the reasons I hate the term “Rich”. Because all of a sudden, I’m lumped into a category that I don’t think I belong in. You see, that’s the big problem here with the term. Wealth is relative. To me, I’m not wealthy. Sure, I’m better off than some people who I know, but I’m not rich. A family friend I know, who owns a house which a thousand square metres, with a guest quarters of four-hundred square metres, and a garage, swimming pool and a driveway which is about half the length of my street all paved with individual stones? He’s rich. The family friend who has a house in which the skirting boards are made of carved marble? Yeah, that’s rich.
So somehow, I’m put into the same category as them. I just can’t see it. And yet people still comment on the car I drive, on my clothes, my house (I still live at home by the way) and class me as “rich”. Even to the point of insult – my favourite being “F*****g rich people and their houses.” Or “What a waste of a house for only three people.” What they don’t see is my work hours – which are still in retail thanks to a lack of jobs in the Journalism sector. My own scrimping and saving to one day buy a house. Am I going to be buying it tomorrow? No. But I’m not renting either, so instead of paying $300 a week to some other land owner, I’m saving that toward my own home.
And while I’m on the subject of it, another pet peeve is people who are against people generating more wealth for themselves. If people are able and wanting to take risks, and they pay off for them – then all the power to them. So what if they own fifteen houses across Sydney, each one pulling in $1000 a week in rent? It’s not your place to judge and lump them into a vein of people who are despised by the lower-middle class for the simple notion of jealousy.
And before you say something about my family probably being wealthy from the get go, I’ll tell you this. My grandfather on my dad’s side was a truck driver, and grandma didn’t work. They never owned their own home until nearly the end of their lives. My grandparents on my mum’s side were farmers. Wool farmers to be precise. They weren’t anywhere near well-off. My dad was a TAFE teacher, who threw it in to become a builder and now builds houses which are not exactly your standard project home mark for clients – some of which have won design and building awards. So my dad was a risk-taker and luckily, it paid off.
I’m a firm believer in being able to be whatever you want to be in this country. Generally speaking, there’s a risk involved, and there’s a pay off. You have to weigh up the risk and pay-off and see whether or not it is worth it. Some people risk trying to become wealthy, and it works. Like Twiggy Forrest. You want to talk about rich? The man’s worth four-point-eight billion dollars (yes, with a “b”). Or how about Rinehart? Triguboff, Lowy, Packer, Walker, Lew, Stokes… the list goes on. And nearly all of those people have risked something to make something of themselves.
You see, it’s all about perspective. Does anyone need billions of dollars? No. But do I have a right to tell them they can’t have it? No. Just like no-one has the right to judge me for my clothes, or my hair, or my car or my house, I have no right to judge them either. And that’s how it should be, period.
So next time you or someone else goes to call someone “rich”, think before you say it. Wealth is relative, and in fact if you’re reading this, then you’re better off than a lot of people around the world. We live in the best country in the world. Stop trying to make out like you’re so hard done by, and give us a rest.
I want you to imagine something. You’re sitting in a coffee shop talking to your friend in Berlin on the latest social media website, “bookhead”. You happen to mention that you’re coming over in a few weeks’ time and you’re looking forward to seeing your friend. The time passes and you eventually get off a plane at Brandenburg Airport, only to be whisked away by some men in black suits and asked some rather pointed questions about your stay. Little did you know, that your friend was under surveillance by German authorities, and now you coming to meet him is deemed suspicious. The police tell you that your bookhead account messages have been sifted, and searched, and you seem to spend a lot of time talking to your friend. “How well do you know him? What are his plans?” they ask you. You protest you don’t know, but they say that have all the evidence they need. You can’t get into Berlin, and you’re left in limbo until you can prove you’re not some kind of mad man (or woman) who’s going to try and blow up the Brandenburger Gate. All because of that one joke your friend made about Nazis a year and a half ago.
It’s a farcical story that really sounds like the content of a Hollywood movie, or a bad video game. However, the reality is that this is no longer the stuff of the silver screen. As we’ve seen in recent weeks with the Snowden revelations, the internet is being monitored and watched by none other than the United States government, with the help of four other countries including England, New Zealand and Australia, the latter of who was confirmed to be heavily involved with PRISM on July 8. The five countries make up the “Five Eyes” network – known formally as the UKUSA agreement (1946), or ECHELON by the global press. Despite this, and post the outcry from the wider internet community over the past few weeks regarding the United States’ spying program, the German government’s Intelligence agency BND has revealed it is going to spend 100 million Euros on upgrading and expanding its internet surveillance. According to German Newspaper Der Speigel on the 16th of June, the Federal Intelligence Service plans to expand its Internet Surveillance program to cover 20 per-cent of all internet communications between Germany and the rest of the world.
Evidently, this raises massive privacy issues. Are the European governments taking a step too far? Is spying on the citizens ever justified? Well to answer that, you need to have a brief history of espionage, and more information on where this debate came from. And the fact of the matter is, we don’t know who started spying or even when. Ancient writings from the Chinese military strategist Sun-Tzu talk about misdirection, subversion and deception. The ancient Hebrews and Egyptians used spies and intelligence networks, and Feudal Japan would use ninja to gather intelligence by keeping to the shadows. More recently however, Francis Walsingham of the Elizabethan era of England is known to have developed a lot of the spy techniques which are still used today such as interrogation, entrapment and infiltration. And then of course we have the biggest spy era of them all – the Cold War which not only spawned some of the greatest spy fiction of all time, but some of the greatest real-life spy stories.
However the key difference from then to now, was technology. Yes, listening devices and button cameras had been invented by the 60’s, but with the rise of the connected world through mediums such as Social Media, e-mail and GPS, it’s now even easier for the “spy agencies” to watch their targets. Or even people who these agencies think might be of interest to national security. And certainly, in a post 9-11 world the very term ‘national security’ has taken on a much darker form. No one has latched onto this idea more than the United States, with more than $7.6 Trillion USD spent on US National Security since 9-11, $343.3 Billion of which was spent on the National Intelligence Program, with the Military Intelligence Program adding another 50% on top of that figure, on average per year. In the now famous interview in Hong Kong, whistle blower Edward Snowden said that the US Surveillance state operates by “Getting intelligence wherever it can by any means possible… and to do that it targets the communications of everyone – it ingests them by default.” He also admits that the amount of evidence required for someone to be placed on the watch list is becoming less as time moves forward, to the point where even a “wrong call” can make you fall “under suspicion”. The power of this network, and its storage capabilities is such that after you’ve been placed under suspicion, Mr Snowden says the NSA can “Go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made… and paint anyone in the context of a wrong doer.”
So, with the world’s largest intelligence superpower being able to do all of this, what does Germany do? They declare they want in on the action as well, all whilst the politicians of the EU, which Germany is a member of, slam the United States’ and her allies actions of spying. If you were to question how effective 100 Million Euros will be, I’ll put it into perspective. Considering the NSA has an estimated $10 Billion pumped into it per year, according to Steve Aftergood – the director of the government secrecy program at the Federation of American Scientists, but PRISM only cost an estimated $20 Million USD a year to run, probably a lot. According to worldbank.org, Germany already spends 1.4 per-cent of its GDP (roughly $53 Billion US Dollars) on defence, in contrast to the US’ 4.4 per-cent ($656.59 Billion). Of that $53 Billion, the BND has a budget of around 400 Million Euros (or $523 Million USD). So a boost of nearly 25 per-cent will allow the German secret intelligence organization to expand their network substantially. However, Mr Aftergood did tell me that United States Intelligence “aspires to global reach in a way that German Intelligence does not.”
But Germany isn’t alone in upping the amount spend to defend their digital landscape. Norway has boosted its cyber defence budget by 30 per-cent, England by £650 Million (or $996.6 Million USD) and France by relocating funds from their troops abroad to cyber security. And, out of the EU China has boosted their overall defence spending by 10.7 per-cent to $119 Billion USD. With all of this money being thrown around at Cyber Security and defence in general, you’d be forgiven in thinking there was some kind of event the world governments were preparing for. In a world where information is so freely available thanks to the internet, the capabilities of terrorist networks being able to communicate has only gotten stronger. The thing is though, they aren’t using Gmail, or creating a facebook group event. According to a report released by the Netherlands Intelligence and Security Service, modern-day terrorists favour the deep web – the 90-odd per-cent of the internet that’s inaccessible to the general public and full of the darkest material available – over the surface net, or where the normal companies such as Google and Facebook sit. And with Google – one of the ‘backbones’ that the NSA tap into having indexed only 0.004 per-cent of the entire internet, you’d have to wonder why the terrorists would use the search engine in the first place – especially when the deep web’s content would be far more beneficial to them.
But of course, there have been reasons given for the surveillance network. Former US President George W Bush told CNN that Snowden had “damaged the security of the country”. He did however, defend the program and its tracking of online traffic, stating that “One of the certainties were that civil liberties were guaranteed.” Further, the head of the NSA Keith Alexander told AFP that the program had “…help prevent over 50 potential terrorist events in more than 20 countries around the world.” And even US President Barrack Obama weighed in, stating in a press conference that the American people would have to “make some choices” when it comes to privacy, or security, and went on to say that you can’t have both.
According to the above, terrorism seems to be the big justification of these Orwellian-style surveillance states. But now, regardless of reports and claims of terrorism, the European Union has finally reacted to the PRISM reveal. And they’re less than impressed. Because of the overreach of the NSA – not just spying on United States citizens but also anyone who happens to go onto a website whose servers are in the USA, the EU has warned of the “grave adverse consequences” for the rights of the EU citizens. And with seven of the world’s ten most trafficked websites being based in the USA, that’s a big problem. The Justice Commissioner of the EU, Viviane Reding stated in a letter to the US Attorney General that “…the European Commission is accountable before the European Parliament, which is likely to assess the overall trans-Atlantic relationship in the light of your responses.” Translated, that reads like the EU is seriously looking at its alliance with the United States. And considering one of the fundamental rights of the citizens of the union is to be protected by the diplomatic and consular authorities of any EU country, which includes the right to protect personal data, you would have to reasonably assume that this is a valid response from the European conglomerate.
Further, considering the added reveals of the far-reaching NSA program spying on Europeans by way of wiretapping European Union offices and representative buildings in New York and Washington D.C., as reported in Der Speigel, and the increased backlash which includes federal prosecutors in Germany gearing up for a potential investigation into the National Security Agency to assess whether or not the US agency has broken any laws, you would assume that the German Government is going to realize that the surveillance of its people and the internet is a bad idea. Some such as Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the co-president of the European Greens-European Free Alliance, have put forward the opinion that trade negotiations between the US and the EU should be suspended until this matter is cleared up.
Germany’s wish to snoop on 20 per-cent of all communications traffic coming into/going out of Germany is legal under German law. However, it seems to be in violation of the EU laws regarding private data. The question that arises from this, is where does the proverbial line in the sand on privacy get drawn – especially in a country which takes its privacy very seriously. The main difference between the BND and the NSA is that the NSA’s PRISM program saves data so it can be called upon later, whereas the BND apparently does not. So is the line dependant on the spy agency keeping the data stored? Or, is it simply putting something online, period. The American Civil Liberties Union believes that there need to “be a bright line on where intelligence gathering stops.”. Not only is this their belief, but they have recently filed a lawsuit against the NSA, arguing the spy program is in violation of the United States’ First and Fourth amendments – those which protect Free Speech and Privacy particularly. However, it is worth noting that the last time the ACLU challenge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act controversy, in which the Bush Administration had authorized the “warrantless wiretapping program”. The court ruled against the ACLU in February of this year on the basis that the plaintiffs couldn’t prove they had been wiretapped.
Until the verdict of this court case is revealed – which could be years from now, the whole situation seems to be a question of morality versus law. Legally, the German government can look at what you’re writing to your friend in Berlin, but morally should they? If they have no reason to suspect someone for any crime, petty or otherwise, then I’d like to think they have no reason to view what anyone has been writing to someone else from the comfort of their office. There is no doubt in my mind that the US has overstepped their mark in spying on the citizens of the United States, let alone extrapolating it to the rest of the world. If Snowden has taught us anything, it’s that the people of the United States are seemingly trading freedom for comfort, and that is something we in the western world seem willing to do. If the backlash from the rest of the world’s six and a half-odd billion people, their governments and even some within the USA has taught us anything, it’s that the rest of the world shouldn’t follow suit – and that includes Germany.
With all of these numbers, names and allegations flying around it’s easy to lose sight of the reality of the situation. And it’s as simple as this. E-mail has replaced the written letter. Facebook has replaced the group catch up. And more and more, we are integrating the internet into our everyday lives. What is said between two people in an e-mail is no different to what was said between two people in a letter seventy years ago. Just because something is placed on a wall in a digital space, doesn’t mean it’s subject to the stares of everyone. And what you do in your home, shouldn’t be broadcast to the world. And none of the above should be subject to the prying eyes of a person behind a computer just because you’re visiting a website from a different country. It’s morally wrong. And that’s not even touching the idea that it’s essentially a form of piracy – something the United States government has been so vocally opposed to.
I think, personally, that Julian Assange said it best in his press release from the 22nd of June this year: “Who arrogates the power to spy on the entire earth – every single one of us – and when he is caught red handed, explains to us that “we’re going to have to make a choice.”” The choice we need to make is clear: Do we follow the United States agencies in this radical mess of spying on and cataloguing the open web, or do we strive for real freedom and leave the people of the world alone. We are at a crossroads. And it is the governments of today who will make the decision for us. I just hope, for the sake of true, unbridled freedom, that the right choice is made.
For those of you who were unaware (which i’ll assume was… well all of you probably), I recently spent the Christmas holidays over in the United States.
Now, this here is a place that I’d wanted to visit ever since ever. I mean growing up in Australia you’re basically told that the USA is the shining beacon of everything that is great about everything in the world. For those of you who actually want to read what I had to say (albeit very limited) in my blog, you can see it here
However, for the rest of you, and indeed the few of you who will actually listen, I’m about to tell you the exact reasons why I never ever have any - even SLIGHT intentions on going back to the “home of the brave and free”
1. Land of the free? My arse.
The first second I got to the USA, after a long 15 hour plane flight (and mind you, I HATE flying with a passion) I stepped out into Los Angeles Airport (And don’t worry, this isn’t the last time I’ll mention this place) to find a huge queue for actually getting into the country (you know past the customs guys etc). Not only was this something I brushed off, but i figured it was early in the morning, and there were a lot of people probably flying in to see their loved ones at the festive time of year.
However, my what the moment came, when I was asked to be fingerprinted AND have my photograph taken by the TSA. What for? I’m a visitor? “Well sir,” replied the TSA agent “It’s in case you commit a crime in the country. We have to be safe you know.”
I love the fact that in the “Beacon of freedom” that the USA proports to be, a visitor to the country has to be fingerprinted to actually gain access to the country in case they do something wrong. I love the whole assumption of guilt there, like they’re assuming i’m going to come into the country and kill someone and then fly out.
But this was pale by comparison to other places and other things I witnessed in my time abroad. The entire country is so security focused, they’ve managed to convince their citizens that they are indeed free. You have to get to an airport 3 hours early for a domestic flight, because the TSA have a nasty habit of holding up the lines to the tune of 2 hours or more. This happened on my flight from L.A. to New York. Got to my plane by only about 20 minutes, despite being there nearly 3 hours ahead of schedule.
New York - you can’t even go to the trade center site without first taking off your clothes, going through a metal detector, being patted down, and all whilst being in the middle of the cold that New York has to bring. You can’t go to the Statue of Liberty anymore - thanks there to the hurricane AND the 9/11 events. You’re not allowed to take photos of government buildings - such as the post office. No word of a lie - not allowed to take photos of the place you go to sent a letter.
And then, there’s Washington DC. I have NEVER in my life been more frightened of a city. Police literally everywhere.Security cameras, government buildings everywhere that you can’t possibly take a photograph of (remember, Post Office) and then there’s that feeling. You know the one you get when someone’s watching you? That feeling. ALL THE TIME.
Even getting food was a problem. I went to the Reagan Center - which is akin to our own MLC Center for lunch. To get in I had to show a Passport, Be frisked, take off jacket and shoes, walk through a metal detector, and in the mean time get called an “Alien”. This is “Freedom” is it guys?
And then you have the outright stupidity of the government in this vein. In Washington DC, you can catch a train to the Pentagon. A Literal TRAIN, where you get off at the stop “Pentagon” and you can go right up to the front gate. Hell, if you get background checks you can even go inside for a tour. But remember no photos. Have you ever seen the size of the Pentagon? It’s HUGE. It’s not exactly a well-guarded secret or anything. It’s a big building in the middle of a big plot of land, next to a highway. But no photos.
I don’t care what government says that it’s a good thing, it’s bloody not. Any person who thinks that the government should keep constant tabs on what their citizens are doing is mentally deficient It’s alarmingly apparent to me that the people of the USA, all 314 Million of them have managed to sacrifice freedom for comfort.
2. The Health System… Or lack of it.
Whilst I was over there, I managed to pick up the New York Flu. I believe it hit the headlines here in Australia as well, but it was a pretty nasty one this year. Fever of nearly 40 degrees (Celsius, not that Fahrenheit crap you Yankees speak in). So, whilst I was in DC, I opted out of seeing a doctor. Now, despite having scripts with me which couldn’t be filled (Because they weren’t made in the USA) I’m glad I didn’t go and see a doctor over there.
In Australia we have a government subsidised healthcare system. Even if you have Private Health insurance you can still reap the benefits of subsidised medication, cheap doctor’s visits etc. I knew in the USA it would be expensive, so i decided to opt out and see how i went.
Thankfully it cleared up in a week or so. However, when I was in LA and about to get on the plane to go back home, I got talking to another Aussie who had also gotten sick in the States but had opted to go and see a doctor. It cost him: $400 for the doctors visit. $100 for the script. $100 for the medication. All up: $600 to go to the doctor for the bloody flu.
If I had done that HERE in Australia, It would have been TOPS $50. All up. Finished. Your system is SHIT. And BROKEN. All because you let moronic capitalist ideals run it. Take a leaf out of our book and do things our way for a change.
3. The Cities: Nothing special, Nothing Great.
I was really looking forward to getting to San Francisco, and New York. San Fran was OK. New York was one of the dirtiest, crappiest, crowded and altogether horrible cities I have ever been to in my life. I Mean what kind of a city allows sewer steam to billow into the streets? Central park was huge, but nothing really to write home about, and the shopping? What a load of bullshit.
Unless you went to one of five stores, and got there on boxing day, you missed out. That’s the plain and simple fact of it.
The good thing about NY at least was the food. It was much better than anywhere else in the USA. Mostly because it didn’t taste like salt, chlorine and fat.
Now, I’m aware I went in the winter. And yes, i’m also aware it gets cold there in the Winter time. However, If you really want to see how good a city is, go in the most miserable time of the year. For NY, it’d be winter. And all it is, is Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey with a lot of people running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Trust me you aren’t missing out on much.
4. The Movie things aren’t all that movie-esque.
Quick question. How big is the White House? If you answer anything other than “No bigger than two normal sized houses put together” then you’re wrong. It is seriously, tiny. To it’s immediate right there is a massive building that literally dwarfs it. But you never see that. All you see is the tiny white residence at 1600 Penn. IT’s two floors. Don’t get excited people.
The Brooklyn Bridge? Golden Gate? Sure. HUGE structures. Nothing super special. Along with the Empire State - which is completely packed with people all the time, every day of the year. I’ve already mentioned the Pentagon. Vegas is a tacky, crappy town.
And Memphis? Elvis Presley’s “Mansion”? Get. Stuffed. It’s the equivalent of an old house you’d see anywhere in Sydney that was built in the 70’s. Get over it.
But by far the most disappointing - Hollywood. You know that place you see every year at the Academy Awards? The Kodak Theater? The special little red carpet and the hourglass staircase? That’s a Shopping Center. It’s called the Highland Mall. It puts the red curtains and such up every year, just for this one event. IT’s not anything purpose built - it’s just a tarted up shopping district. And Hollywood itself? Tinsel town is probably right - that’s all the place is worth.
5. Stupid, Stupid people.
I knew that the average US person is stupid. But I was unprepared for the question of “What language do you speak in Australia. German?” And no, i didn’t miss-hear the girl - she said AustraLIA. Not Austria. Not to mention, that the majority of them look at you with some kind of blank look when you ask them where something is in their own city, let alone ask them what direction something else is.
And then there are the usual southerners (yes I ventured into the deep south - the place where you can hear the banjos before you hit town) where you have people spewing hatred for Obama because he was “Born in Kenya”. My brain hurts at the a) stupidity of the statement, and b) the fact that this redneck didn’t even vote.
And this is also reflected in their design of things like shopping centers, where you have ONE toilet for an entire building. It’s mindbogglingly stupid.
Instead of giving all these things a separate heading, I had to put them all under one category. Honestly, there was so much that was wrong with the USA, that i’m going to forget most of it.
The Food. Is complete and utter crap. It is not cheap, either, it’s about the same sort of money as we pay here for a meal. The difference is that it’s bland, and if it’s not bland it’s full of crap that you didn’t want anyway. I couldn’t wait to get home to a decent steak.
The Wine. Californian wine has to be the most insulting wine I’ve ever drank. To give you an idea, a $4 cleanskin here, will easily outstrip a $60 bottle of Californian wine, any day of the week. The wine there, white or red, is just like grape juice. Seriously, buy a ribena and compare them.
The Taxes. This one REALLY pissed me off. Everything over there is Plus Tax. So, if you see something that is $100, it’s $100 PLUS tax. Oh, but that’s not the best bit. The taxes are all different. So, you have 11% in one state, 14% in another, 9% in another… It’s a complete and utter joke.
The mobile networks. You want 3g? Too bad. You can’t get it unless you go on a plan. That’s just how it works. Yay for Capitalism.
Arrogant People. I mentioned Stupid people. Well people were also arrogant, and rude. “Haha, He said Toilet! What the HELL is a toilet?” It’s a restroom you uneducated, overgrown moron.
The Homeless. Go to New Orleans. It’s a shithole of a city to begin with, and no this is nothing to do with the hurricane. But you’ve got streets that are worth millions, and then you have streets with houses that have no roofs. Literally, two streets over. Something here is broken.
These are just a FEW reasons why the USA isn’t the greatest country in the world anymore. Would I go back? Yes. I’d go back to Nashville. But that is literally the only place i’d go back to. New York, New Orleans, DC, San Fran, LA, Diego, they can all go jump. They are all places that have a name with nothing to show for it. Nashville - at least the people there are nice enough.
We don’t have it all together here, in Aus. But by god we’ve got it more together than those up-them-selves so-and-so’s in the USA.
Truth be told, when the announcement was made as for the line-up for this year’s Soundwave festival, I was a little un-phased. The big draw card was obviously the heavy-hitting names of Slayer, Anthrax and of course the mighty Metallica. But these names didn’t have me salivating as much as one a little further down the list – A Perfect Circle – who joined the fray with Dragonforce, Stone Sour, Periphery, Bullet for my Valentine and others. So needless to say it was always a promising line up.
It was a humid day, and we were prepping for rain so needless to say there were a lot of mixed outfits in the crowd, but thankfully most people had the common sense to lather up in sunscreen – or a raincoat of some kind. So arriving early enough to see Dragonforce, we headed out to the stage and stood around waiting for the English speed metal legends to take the stage. And when they did, my suspicions were confirmed.
Now for those of you who remember my review of their latest album The Power Within you’d remember my saying that it was a far more live friendly album. And by god, it was. Every song they played off that album was as good as it could have been without any studio magic. In fact, “Cry Thunder” was absolutely incredible. And of course, they ended with their massive computer-geek loved hit “Through the Fire and Flames” which was actually passably good. Not as stellar as the songs off the latest album, but still better than some of the performances I’ve seen on YouTube.
Next up for me was the mighty (some would argue the gods of Djent music) Periphery. Now, I’ve never seen these guys before but honestly, they hit the stage and despite a major mixing issue (that being microphones being somewhat non-existent for the first song) they sounded huge – especially on such a small stage. I also loved the fact that the crowd was just as responsive as you would ever want it to be. Singing, and despite the mud on the ground, moshing and pitting like it should be done. They ended on “Icarus Lives” which just to put it bluntly, went off. I also saw some people get reefed up in the pit just as they fell down – which is fantastic and there will be more on this gesture a little later.
Next for me was a short break before I was to hit the main stage mosh for Stone Sour and Kyuss Lives. Now here’s a helpful tip for all you guys heading to the festivals. Pack a lunch. It will save you a ton of cash. And please, please don’t be a drunkard. It doesn’t help anyone… ever. It just ruins everyone else’s experience. Anyway, before too long we headed on into the pit to wait for Stone Sour and in the mean time got treated to a personal favourite; Kyuss Lives. The first time I’d ever heard of these guys it was on a Triple J CD way back when, and I fell in love with them. So hearing them here on stage was fantastic – but alas it wasn’t without its downfalls.
So, I have to ask. When the hell did metal music start attracting blonde bimbos who look more at home at Future Music? I’m sorry, but if you’re in a mosh pit and you’re spruiking off about how the “Old guys should get off, I mean, like, as if they are even good.” To which your friend agrees you obviously haven’t stoped to think about why they are playing on the main stage in the first place. Or perhaps you haven’t even thought at all. And then, if you continue to whinge about how this pit is the “Worst Stone Sour pit I’ve ever been in.” then no one is stopping you from getting out. Either enjoy the show, move into the part of the pit where it IS going off, or leave. Those are your options.
Now, speaking of Stone Sour they played a fantastic set. Albeit short, it was full of songs that people knew – and loved – and despite the language being a tad over the top for the achievement level it was well put together. The sound was fantastically mixed and didn’t have any of the issues I’ve usually associated with big acts on big stages at big festivals. And speaking of big, the number was something like 75,000 people. Not all were here – yet – but that again is something I’ll touch on a little bit later. But for me, it was time for a restroom break after the SS set, before heading back in for a band who I’ve wanted to see for a long, long time.
In the meantime, I watched Slayer from the stands. Frankly, these guys were just what I’d expect them to be – typical old school metal full of screaming, bad guitar riffs, horrible tones, and inaudible sound for the most part, complete with a mosh pit that seemed to be greater than what the band really should be allowed to have. Sorry, but that style of metal turns me off a bit – yes they’re kingpins of the metal world, but I’m sorry they just leave me cold with all the screaming and crap lyrics.
However next up was the band that honestly – I came to see. A Perfect Circle’s banner was raised high over Sydney for the first time in over Eight years – and needless to say the TOOL singer’s side-project and spin-off didn’t disappoint either. They played so well it was hard to distinguish from the CD I’d listened to that morning, all except one song. It was, according to Maynard, “A new one.” Now these words brought the house down. The song itself was incredible and everything you had come to expect from the experimental/industrial/progressive/whatever-the-hell-the-genre-is juggernaut. They left the stage with a few final words from Maynard, saying he will see us in May (I’ll let you know how THAT band is in May) and we turned our attention to the other side of the stage for a favourite from my teenage years.
Linkin Park hit the stage running, and played a fantastic mix of old and new. Not only this but they were surprisingly good. And, polished. Chester’s voice has only gotten better since the last live performance I remember listening to (Live in Texas, I believe), and the band’s sound was MASSIVE. I could feel the bass pushing into my chest, and despite a small mixing issue (I couldn’t hear guitars at all during any of the songs from Meteora) the guys played a stellar show. Now, this show also came with one of the biggest – and best examples of band integrity I’ve ever seen in my entire music career. And possibly the worst example of crowd integrity.
Half way through one of their older songs (I can’t quite remember which one, but it was heavy and they had to skip it thanks to this) Chester stopped the show. Literally STOPPED it. The reason behind this was that there was a young man who had fallen over in the pit, and no one had picked him up. The guy apparently received a broken leg, and Chester probably saved the guy’s life. Now, this is a point that he stressed on the day but I figure if you’re reading this you want to hear it anyway – if someone falls over in a pit PLEASE pick them up. Usually metal gigs are good for that but for some reason (and I’d suspect it’s the infiltration of the afore mentioned Future Music crew to blame here) he didn’t get picked up and wound up with a broken leg. But after he was stretchered out (yes, stretchered) the set continued until finally they ended on one of their newer songs.
One thing I will mention – and this goes to all the people who were with me in the Metallica Stage pit waiting for the Metal Masters themselves to start – if you don’t like a band, stand by your conviction. If you’re standing there screaming abuse at one band and then start singing their songs, you lose all of your credit instantly. And yes, I’m looking at you Metallica fans. Honestly there was at least one song that I really wanted to hear – and that was Crawling. But hey, I didn’t get to hear it and that’s what happens some times. All the rest I was happy to sing a long to, and as were the die-hard metal heads whom were screaming abuse when anything off Meteora or Hybrid Theory came on.
The band finally left the stage and we were left with a long wait (because it’s Metallica – they can make everyone wait as long as they want, right?) which pushed their set back by half an hour. They finally walked on the stage at 8:15pm, and I’m so sorry to everyone else that played that day – but you just got taught a lesson in Metal 101. The opening song really got the crowd moving and unfortunately left yours truly with an elbow stuck in the back of my ribs. Now, this isn’t really a problem, assuming one can turn around and ask person to get their elbow OUT of your ribs. When said person decides to shove you hard for such a request (I’m not kidding) and then I shove back (self defence, guys) and then I get pulled out of the pit that I’d been waiting in all day? That’s when I get pissed off.
So here’s lesson number three for mosh pits in metal gigs. If someone kindly asks you to get your something out of their something – please do it and don’t be a jerk off. Because the person who is there with you gets pulled out if you’re being a down right moron. I don’t, and no one else cares either, if you are a metal head with a full body tattoo. There’s a thing called common human decency – and yes we are all in the pit together, but if you get someone pulled out because you’re being hard to get on with, then it’s only fair you should be pulled out as well. Sadly, the security guard didn’t see it this way, and I was forced after song number four (of a two hour set) to re-join my smaller group up in the stand, which is where I got to, luckily, see the full destruction of ANZ Stadium.
It was packed. It was loud. It was filled with people singing the lyrics, jumping up and down, and I don’t know WHO it was that tweeted that the crowd for Linkin Park was bigger than the Metallica crowd but that person must have been somewhat blind. The pit covered the entire stadium ground. No word of a lie. And needless to say, Metallica put on one hell of a show. Kirk needs to lay off the wah a little bit, but beyond that they were phenomenal. The sound was fantastic (despite the half second clap-back from our seating position) and the stage’s pyrotechnics were also fantastic. The one in the middle of the pit – ie the moron with the flare –not so much. But the flamethrowers and the explosions were a great additive to an already loud as hell concert that I’m sure was heard suburbs away.
The concert wound up, and we left. Ears were ringing, I was sunburnt (not an odd thing I promise you) and the rain had held off for the majority of the day to make a concert that was well worth the money. Probably worth more to be honest. But on this day, I crossed so many bands off my list to see – and none of them disappointed me even in the slightest. The latter of which is not only a rarity in a festival situation, but a testament to the bands who played and their calibre and status in the world of metal music.
In summary, or for those of you who are looking for a potential TL;DR, Soundwave 2013 not only bettered last year’s Soundwave, but it was the best Soundwave yet. It will be hard, very hard, nigh impossible to top this one next year. Despite a flare incident, a broken leg for one punter, two trucks not turning up due to floods and probably a few drug arrests, the entire gig went off as smoothly as a well-oiled apple machine. So my congratulations go out to everyone – including the festival’s organizer – for making this year’s Soundwave festival the place to be in the fleeting days of summer.