Saturday, 15 November 2008

And a Merry Christmas to you too, Griffith!

In a few weeks the Griffith affair will have entered its tenth year.

A decade of ludicrous stubbornness, secretive actions and uncivilised behaviour on behalf of Griffith University.

Not everyone is included of course, only certain individuals whose academic background should suggest greater maturity.

There is Ian O'Connor, a vice-chancellor who is unable to speak face to face and instead decides to put me in a police van. There are the two surviving examiners at the School of Information and Communication Technology who hide their identity in order to escape scrutiny of their ignorance. And of course there is Grigoris Antoniou who, in his role as former supervisor and now in distant Greece, remained silent from the very beginning despite spurious criticisms being made right under his nose. The late Terry Dartnall, the third examiner, may well been his dear friend, but that should not have caused him to condone outright phantasms.

One wonders how the rest of the staff view the case; after all, they are members of the same collegium.

Another demographic would have responded with more direct action by now, but apart from my background the one thing I have is time.

Still, as we enter another Brisbane summer the heat and humidity bring home the effects of years passing by. Once I already experienced what it means being on the verge of loosing consciousness on the street; the tingling in the head, the reversal of sensation where hot becomes cold and cold becomes hot. Another one of those episodes and time becomes less plentiful. If at that point I could put my hands around the neck of an Ian O'Connor my fingers would know what to do.

So, Peter Bernus, does that constitute yet another case of bullying and defamation as you once called it?

Then you threatened me with court action but nothing came of it although I repeated that same action again which had prompted your outburst.

The pertinent law up here is not rocket science, so was it fear that made you back down? Afraid of what might come to light under a forensic examination?

Anyway, holidays are at the door. Maybe, just maybe, the fun and games are tinged with a thought of what the future will hold.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Otoom on Obama

They may not have danced in the streets as they did across America, but a collective sigh of relief ran through the governments around the world.

Becoming increasingly uncomfortable with local and foreign US policies, a John McCain raising the spectre of another hundred years in Iraq and his gun-slinging, moose-shooting comrade whose only difference between her kind and a pit bull, in her own words, was the lipstick, was viewed with alarm.

In an unprecedented move the twenty-seven member states of the European Union signed a letter to Barack Obama within hours of his election win urging him to take Europe seriously as a partner. The French foreign minister's words emphatically directed to "our American friends, not America" spoke volumes. The EU being slow and cumbersome? Not this time, baby.

Talking about a water shed, a new era, a seismic shift, are no exaggerations. The new wind is sensed by Obama's followers, by his opponents, and most of all by the man himself.

The outcome of these elections defined the break from the familiar as only a spectacle representing a nation of three hundred million can. But the undercurrent, the broad cultural river which carries the daily affairs along on its stream, did not really need that latest turn to define itself.

Human affairs are dynamics which demonstrate the growth of clusters, the emergence of new domains, their eventual branching away from their source, to enter a renewed cycle of assertion and growth. They can be observed at any scale at any time, only the size and the content changes.

The United States was the cultural child of Britain, coming from a broader European heritage and Anglo-Saxon parents. As any healthy child it eventually sought independence, fought for it, and won.

Just as independence brings freedom, it also puts distance between the former home and itself. The lack of direct access to maturity is balanced by a sense of adventure and the drive for a separate identity. The generations that followed filled that new space in the name of the youth now on a path towards finding himself. The lessons were hard, often disastrous, and many a times caused a shaking of heads at such naiveté.

Yet as powerful a conceptual tool as the functional perspective is, one must not overlook the content. In tandem with the growth came the developing composition of American society, broadly summarised in terms of its three main elements: the original Anglo-Saxon demographic, its Hispanic counterpart, and alongside African-Americans.

None had the benefit of growing up among its traditional cultural peers, all needed to forge a new self in a society as wild as it seemed unbounded. Under such circumstances anything can happen, and it virtually did.

While the Anglo-Saxons revelled in their self-defined power the Hispanics worked to gain their share, but neither possessed the sheer urgency to escape the tyranny imposed by an age of enslavement. Step by step the former slaves fought their way from the burnings, the lynchings, the separation.

This century saw the degeneration of the American ruling class, its foreign excesses and its anti-social greed grown locally but affecting all of us. In those broad terms the comfort of luxury was no match against the vigour that comes from knowing first-hand what it means to have nothing.

The results from a competition between the laid-back rich and the hungry lower class manifest sooner or later. At first no immigrant struggling in a chaotic neighbourhood can take on the establishment, and no labourer sweating on a plantation can even hope to offer serious resistance to his masters. Only gradually does the balance of power shift, but it does.

And now, what does the future hold for a nation that is coming to terms with its new identity?

Previous expansionism, a concept which tells not only of strength but also of further opportunities to test its still existing sense of adventure, is not an option for a system that seeks to consolidate itself. A more local view will replace it, a perspective that is more focused on internal affairs than the outside. With the evolution of the self comes confidence, a security that stems from beginning to understand the newly-gained self.

Whether the outcome will be measured by the degree of influence in world affairs, so familiar to a certain older generation, remains to be seen. Today's world is a different place from what it was a century ago. Surrounded by the age-old, self-sustaining cultures of Europe, China and India the new America will not only need to negotiate its way through sophisticated interpretations of a common reality, it will also have to draw on its still developing inner resources to grow a confidence in matters of perception.

Already there is talk of the Age of China, supplanting the Age of America. Islam poses a cultural threat going beyond the effects of localised acts of terrorism. And trade, that medium which controls and channels the wealth of individuals as well as nations, can be a source of power if based on real goods but can also lead to destruction when harnessed to contrived phantasies.

In the end race, skin or hair do not matter. It is the mind at any scale that defines its owner.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Griffithgate: the next phase

After the law firm Minter Ellison so haughtily referred a reply to my letter to Griffith University - whose Pro Vice Chancellor, it seems, emailed me on their behalf - I am wondering what their clients in general would have to say about that scenario.

Letters are therefore going out to them with a brief summary of the background and the links to the Otoom website and the blog. The text describes Minter Ellison's attitude as aiding and abetting the actions of Griffith. Who knows, perhaps one or the other comes up with some kind of response.

The last few years have shown how intransigent the corporate culture can be in this state. Serious complaints can be raised by staff and rather than addressing the issue their superiors keep them quiet and sometimes even threaten them with dismissal. Only when other parties are brought into the picture, whether the media or more formal investigative bodies, are situations brought into the open.

Considering how human activity systems work, outside pressure is only becoming effective if its sheer weight is sufficient to overcome the obstacles put into place by individuals who prefer to retreat into obstinacy. It is a reflection of the general ambience here, the persistence to disregard verbal communication in favour of more aggressive options. Not without reason did the following comment appear in this year's September/October issue of the travel magazine arrivals+departures, "Now, in a city that regards late night diners with suspicion and philosophers with scorn...".

As to those options, what would other, more locally situated demographics consider when faced with a treatment representing a similar degree of destruction to one's life?

This question has been put to Gold Coast lawyer Chris Nyst, known for his defence of famous people but also for his films that deal with Queensland's underworld. So far he has not responded.

As the case drags on it says a lot about the underlying culture of this society.