On “Border Force”

Once upon a time Australia used to have a Federal Government department called something like “Department of Customs and Immigration” … something like that. It’s now called the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

Of particular interest, with respect to the use of language, is the language around “borders”.

One of the agencies in the DIBP used to be called the Australian Customs Service until 1 July 2015. One imagines it did the things you traditionally expect a Customs service to do. And that’s an excellent starting point for attention to the effect of language on your imagination, the setting of the context and the establishing of the culture of our society.

When you think of “Customs” what activities come to mind? If you saw someone working for Customs, how would you imagine they would be dressed? How might they speak to you? How would they perceive their job and, more importantly, what might they consider to be the priorities of their job?

If you were given the job of running the Australian Customs Service, what priorities would you establish? What would be the contribution of the service to the nation’s general physical and psychological health? What would be the priorities that directed the allocation of funding?

On 1 July 2015 the agency got a new name – Australian Border Force.

Now when you read that name what is in your imagination?

Re-ask yourself all the questions above – but this time from the perspective of someone working for Australian Border Force. What does that do for your personality and your attitude in the job? If you were in charge of running that agency, what are your priorities now?

To guide you through a more specific example, where do the words “border force” direct your attention? How much attention do you have for protecting Australia’s livestock and crops from invasive pests and diseases, for example, now that you work for Border Force?

When you find yourself working for an agency with “force” in its name, how does the hearing of that word affect your body? Does it change your posture? Does your muscle tone change? If you saw someone seeking refuge in our country – someone whose life was genuinely at risk in their homeland – to what extent do you seek to understand them now that you work for Border Force (as it’s now commonly referred to)?

As a member of the public how do you regard living in a country that has an agency called Border Force? Do you feel safer? Are you able to maintain the same quality of compassion for others in genuine danger when you think about Border Force?

Words in our language are only meaningful because they are associated with sensory representations: that is, the word “Customs” can only be meaningful if you have some associated combination of some or all of an image, sound, body sensations, smells and tastes. “Force” is a different word and it has different meanings from those of “Customs”. It has those different meanings because of the different images, sounds, feelings, smells and tastes you associate with “Force”.

Because of that, it has to change how you think when an agency changes its name from Australian Customs Service to Australian Border Force.

For each of us, then, the question is: is the change in you a healthy one? And, collectively, is the change in our society a healthy one?

On “Team Straya”

The gentry of Team Straya now have their Titles back
’cause our anglophile PM thought it was so slack
that there was no noticeable remnant of medieval tradition
for the entitled to further aggrandise their position.

“The Age of Entitlement is gone”, we have been told
by the Lord Chamberlain so big, certain and bold;
but it’s important to have Knights and Dames once again
so with airs of importance they can themselves entertain.

It’s important too to be surrounded by servants
fulfilling each whim and being fully observant,
so quickly they can anticipate the needs of their Betters
and in their busyness not complain of their fetters.

The parties, champagne, luxuriant grandeur and glory
leave no time for a small jot of concern or worry
about climate, the poor, the weak or responsibility
but to the delusions of mindless frivolity.

But the echo of Ozymandias sneaks up behind,
and erodes self-entitlement with invisible wind,
chipping away the gloss of hubris and greed
and exposing beneath Ego’s desperate need.

And when the edifice of self importance lies in ruins,
a resilient spirit can embrace and nurture with fervour
the soil, sea and air, and all that lives intertwined therein,
and sweep away the foul remnants of oppression forever.

Tribute to Our Times

A choking pall oozes across this once proud land,
emanating from the tightening grip of a vitriolic hand
extending from a soul poisoned and obsessed with revenge
and rending the fabric of civility, leading to an ignoble end.

Whatever it was that was fair, honourable and humane,
of those sustaining qualities little will remain
when this pernicious poison finishes infecting our land’s soul
and shovels our humanity into a dark, bottomless hole.

All is sacrificed to delusional fantasies of grandeur,
as the Lords and Ladies demand that servants work harder,
sweating through longer hours from sunrise to late night
because that will put everything back to the Right.

The Leader

Don’t bother me with facts or evidence today,
They too inconveniently get in the way
of my desired plans and grandiose schemes
that I pluck from fantasy and wild day dreams.

It’s important to remember that I’m Prime Minister,
I’ve worked all my life to become Your Leader,
I went to the vote and passed the test;
That’s proof for me that my ideas are best.

What need have I of science or good theory?
When you shout for evidence, it’s so terribly dreary.
What I say is so, is the way that things are,
and for global warming I really don’t care.

We must not bend or give in to the enemy,
and at all costs revere our god, The Economy.
This concept that lives in our minds as real thing,
with due obeisance will true great treasures bring.

The Environment is only tedious externality,
and the bleating from greenies mere banality.
With faith and delusion we can ignore
all the threats scientists say are in store.

I don’t understand the way science progresses,
ideas against The Economy are vile transgresses.
How can new evidence require us to change
and our ideas of how things work rearrange?

You don’t need facts, figures and thought,
you just need faith is what I was taught.
So trust me, my subjects, and let me lead,
and all that science crap don’t bother to read.

I’ll do the bidding of the powerful and rich
and to the grovelling poor I won’t give an inch;
I’d be mad to take on those at the top
when it’s easier to kick the lower-class crop.

In ravaging compassion I’ll be very thorough,
and to brook any complaint, I will not bother.
All the knowledge I need, I know I have,
and I warn you all, it’s time to behave.

I am The Leader, so listen to me,
Follow me now and you will see
we don’t need science or theory or thought,
such things with confusion are terribly fraught.

Keep your mind simple and free,
find freedom in being just like me;
No care for the weak and impoverished we need,
on hard work and simple scraps they can feed.

Through financial pain and suffering and long hard toil,
the poor can keep the powerful rolling in good oil
and coal to burn and steadily clog the planet’s air,
but as long as The Economy’s good, we need not care.

I am The Leader and you will follow,
every whim and wish in which I wallow,
I need no advice and counsel from you,
All others but me I deem as a fool.

Whatever floats into my head today
and which you claim that I did say,
tomorrow I’ll deny it and claim that weren’t it;
the problem is yours, it’s the way you interpret.

I know that I know what I think I’m thinking.
By the way, it wasn’t a wink, I was blinking.
I am The Leader and answer only to my god,
at least until it commands something odd …

For, then, I know best because my brain doesn’t rest,
You have to remember, I’m here, I passed the test.
I’m an action man, and of science not a reader,
My own thoughts are all I need to be Leader.

Whence come my whims and great inspiration?
Who knows, but be sure I’m here for the duration.
So, I am The Leader and I’ll tell you what’s what
and compassion and care are a load of rot.

Take your science and great theories,
I reckon you must be away with the fairies.
I think I reckon I have a clue when I say,
When I became PM, it was a glorious day.

I am The Leader and I’m here to stay.
It’s best not to try to get in my way.
If you complain and push me any further
you will feel the mighty wrath of The Leader.

©2014 Peter Frank Thompson

Light after Dark

It may be cliché to say light follows the darkness,
but still it’s a truth to which we can harken.
When greed and self-interest steal the narrative,
it’s time for the light to become active.

Ignorance and poverty are powerful weapons
that keep the suppressed from learning the lessons
that create opportunity that is equal for all,
and allow the Thieves to create a barrier wall.

Keep them struggling with little money to survive,
and ensure equal education we do not provide;
for an educated populace puts us on collision
with forces that threaten our privileged position.

That is what their contrived actions say
while their thoughts are secret day after day.
It’s time to bring light, education and love
to help the suppressed stand and rise above.

Demand real facts and expose those that are false,
When the Thieves contrive spin that is worse
than blatant lies because of its seductive power
as it is spun and spread wide hour by hour.

Help people learn and see through the web
of deceit that keeps them in poverty and dread;
Because sweet words can make them follow,
but may be disguised poison for them to swallow.

15 June 2014
©Peter Frank Thompson

The Last Bird

8 June 2014

A sunset so brilliant was never seen
except in times so long in the past
that none had arisen who could have been
witness to the splendour of the cosmic blast
whence came the rock from which we crawled.

Once we crawled we grew in numbers
and walked across lands we overthrew
with tools gripped firmly with opposable thumbs
directed by the gift of language we knew
and which captured our visions of self grandeur.

From tree to tent, then manor and castle
we swept aside all impediment to progress,
seduced by dreams, we never thought to ask
who invented the myth and sought to impress
our small minds with the blight of Dominion.

“Go forth and multiply”, and surely we did,
until our lands bulged with the ominous
spread of our awful numbers that undid
the glory of our Dominion and saw us push
perilously and mindlessly towards Oblivion.

Our economist luminaries misinterpreted the Smith
who forged a social theory that they turned to myth,
All that mattered was capital and economic growth
which we measured in ignorance without taking note
of the cost of fouled soil,waters and air,
But we kept using more without a care.

Still our numbers grew ever more, every where,
We tore out forests and covered the land in brick
and our rubble and filth befouled sea and air
making species by thousands wretchedly sick.

Flora and fauna disappeared day by day.
Many called out that all could not withstand,
but still our leaders extolled the Economic way
“More people, more growth”, was their demand.

Species died or retreated fearing our relentless spread,
but still we continued, self-absorbed in gross hubris.
We continued taking and using ’till the sea was dead,
but still all that mattered was the money of big business. 

They told our governments what they could do
and dictated to poor workers what was their lot;
yet some cried out said it was time to say ‘No’,
but with money to make, the powers said ‘Not’.

We poured more poisons into the ground and air
and our politicians replied that they did not care,
for this they called Progress, and the poisoned sod
was the sacrifice demanded by The Economy god.

The land was dying and refused to produce food
sufficient for vast numbers on the crowded planet.
‘Supply less than demand, this is must be good’,
gloated those who turned this into a junket.

But the land finally died and creation began to fail,
and as the globe warmed, chaos replaced seasons;
The rich waved their slogans and money to no avail,
ignorant and too selfish to comprehend the reasons.

As birds fell from the air, monetarists said ‘more growth’;
so far were their perceptions removed from reality,
impenetrable to the consequences of their oath
sworn to The Economy that demanded their fealty.

With their dying breaths they cried to their gods,
‘Why did we deserve this; what did we wrong?’
That only Silence answered, they thought was odd
But on dead ears the Universe would not waste song.

A sunset so brilliant was never seen
except in times so far in the past
when the red dust was not poison
and this time of beauty not the last.

The splendour and colour belies the tale of destruction
and failure to accept the Environment’s instruction,
as I sit and absorb this sunset last.

All are gone, all round the planet
Man, beast, fish and bird,
Sweet memories of beauty past.

For a moment I hear,
a song sweet and clear—
and think ’The last bird’

Silence follows and says,
‘You were given Dominion
and you brought Oblivion!’

And the sweet song stops,
a pure note, the last ever.

And the light fades
on a creature thought Clever.

©2014 Peter Frank Thompson