Dear friends,

Santa’s loading up his sleigh, shopping malls echo with carols, schoolkids dream of weeks of sunshine and freedom and, yet again, I find myself looking back on the year in wonder and bewilderment.

I wonder how time flew so fast and am bewildered as much by what has happened as I am by what did not happen.

 Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.

H. L. Mencken

Osama was assassinated and Obama survived political assassination, but only just.

The Republicans in the US, like the Abbott-led Liberals in Australia, appear only to pursue a policy of obstructionism. Their response to ‘Yes we can’ has been a loud ‘NO we won’t.’

Similarly, Abbot’s response to everything the Gillard government proposes is No! He gives a whole other meaning to No policy. Even on Uranium export upon which, apparently, at the time of my writing this, he has no opinion.

Regardless of your political persuasion, you have to admit this is not simply conservatism but bloody mindedness. Hence bipartisan cooperation and compromise for the good of us all remains a pipe dream. What we hope for will not happen.

As for Obama’s opponents: Can anyone explain to me why a humane health care plan for all was viewed as a threat to Democracy and the American way of life? I just don’t get it. Imagine Australia without Medicare.

Actually, the current line up of hopeful Republican Presidential candidates in the US is quite scary. The thought that anyone would vote for any of them is scarier still. Cain, Perry, Bachmann, Romney, Gingrich — clowns one and all. Four are dangerously stupid and one is clever and even more dangerous.

Meanwhile, those wonderful people who gave us the GFC not only escaped prosecution, some now find themselves in powerful positions in government. They now help set fiscal policy. The mind boggles.

Despite my inclination to lean to the left, I believe capitalism and democracy are preferable to socialism and autocracy; nevertheless it seems inarguable that the democracy we like to believe in has long since been replaced by a form of plutocracy and capitalism has lost both its heart and soul.

Although, given the tawdry and inept actions of some of our politicians, I often think idiocy might be a better descriptor for what we have in Australia.

Ironically, right across the Middle East, nations that had suffered decades of tyranny rose up, put their tormentors to the sword — physically and metaphorically — and appear to have brought some form of people power back into being.

Whether this was the work and will of extraordinarily brave citizens or the clever manipulation of well meaning people by forces with darker objectives is yet to be seen. Can democracy prevail in lands so long used to despotic rule? Only time will tell. Either way things are irrevocably changed in the Arab world.

In the Western World frustration, anger and degree of naivety spawned the Occupy Movement that began in Wall Street and appears to be spluttering to a slow death.

Not simply because the media portrayed them as unwashed hippies, socialists and anarchists, but because ordinary folk are too concerned with day-to-day survival to support a movement that has no clear manifesto or identifiable leaders.

Even I, empathetic to the cause on many levels, can understand where they are coming from but can’t see where they are going.

Also the rhetoric of some of the Occupy supporters sounds like anarchistic ranting to me.

I recently got involved in a forum on an Occupy Friendly website about proposed legislation aimed at protecting copyright online. After posting a comment that said, in short, that online piracy was stealing pure and simple, I received an avalanche of messages from those claiming any legislation aimed at policing intellectual property abuse online was part and parcel of the government’s effort to institute mind control, destroy the Occupy movement and protect the interests of corrupt corporations.

One idiot said, among other anarchistic ramblings, that words are just words and music just notes so he could not see why songs could or should be copyrighted.

It annoys me that anarchists manage to infiltrate and discredit so many worthwhile causes. It makes it too easy for jaundiced right-wingers to mock the good intentions of genuinely concerned and well-meaning people.

Speaking of mockers, was I the only one who thought it ironic that the same financial institutions that had required billions of dollars in government funds to save them — and us — from the ruins of their profligate ineptitude, accused the Occupy people of being socialists. Were they serious? If government subsidising business on such a mammoth scale isn’t socialism, what is it?

And when the conscienceless criminals who run these businesses turn around and spit in the face of government and the taxpayers by continuing to pay themselves huge salaries and bonuses what do you call that?

Sociopathic, is what it is, and unacceptable by any measure. Their actions were criminal and the fact that not one of them has been charged is a crime.

Despite what you may have read or heard in the media, or what you may feel about the displeasing aesthetics of tented villages and general disarray caused by those who occupied the public spaces of your city, protesting against this blatant inequity is, essentially, what the Occupy movement is all about.

That the world desperately needs to take stock and redirect its focus from profit to people is undeniable and long overdue. When all’s said and done that’s the root of what is now known as sustainability here on planet Earth. And at the projected rates of population growth, the need for a more human and human approach to life and the environment underpins everything. Our future depends upon it.

Why so many people can’t see this confounds me. They seem to view ‘our way of life’ as sacrosanct and under threat by boat people and new age hippies. As far as these people are concerned if you believe in Climate Change or a Mining Tax you are either demented or society destroying Greenie or Pinko.

I remember people hurling similar accusations at those who took a stand against the Vietnam War and Nuclear Arms.

The Vietnam War was insane. Nuclear weapons are insane. And whether you believe in humankind’s role in climate change or not, to continue to pollute the air, water and earth is clearly insane. Something must be done about it.

This is not opinion it’s fact.

Why are we so divided over these things?

By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.

Oscar Wilde

That much media reporting ranges from propaganda, to out and out ineptitude, only aggravates the situation. The Murdoch Empire may be under fire in Britain for invasions of privacy on a criminal scale, but if biased, distorted, malevolent and just plain inaccurate reporting were a crime some journalists would get the chair.

As would half the talkback radio hosts on the planet. These bottom-feeders have made a living fuelling and plying the superstitions, suspicions, ignorance and prejudices of their audience.

Hitler did the same, with about the same level of community spirit.

That said, I sometimes think we get what we deserve. The media simply figured out what we want to see and hear and gave it to us.

And that’s the nub of it folks: Two stupid, self-serving people can outvote one informed, community minded person. The Lowest Common Denominator is setting the bar for us all.

Oh, how I would love to know that people were thinking ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ and to see them better informed by news sources with facts more than opinions, and information more than infotainment.

 But in a world intent on Keeping Up with Kardashians, I have more chance of spending the holiday season with Sandra Bullock.

Which brings me, finally, to Christmas, the end of the year and what I’ve actually done other than getting another year older and deeper in debt.

 Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.

Mark Twain

As always I threw myself into my various projects during 2011 with age-denying exuberance. Some good stuff got done.

My long promised book: ‘Golf. A course in Life’ is finally published.

You can read more about this book and buy it here.

<http://www.publish-me.com.au/books/golf-a-course-in-life/>

Please tell everyone. It’s a great gift, you won’t have to be a golfer to enjoy it and 30% of any profits I make will go to www.streetworx.org an organisation that helps at-risk children. Needless to say, you can help them without buying my book and I urge you to do that.

I’m now in the process of trying to market this book but, (even though some of you think my favourite subject is myself); I find it hard to self-promote my work.

As well, despite promising I would no longer ‘waste money’ recording, I’ve written a whole bag full of new songs and will be unable to resist recording them in the not too distant future. Albeit that they will be acoustic and sparse in production.

I’m not sure why I’m driven to keep pursuing music in this way — it’s my blessing as well as my curse and, perhaps, my folly.

I also found time to paint this year, too. Mostly just to see what I could do and to ascertain what style if any, would evolve. I’ve decided my style — such as it is — is basically impressionism. Where I go with this remains to be seen.

Other than that, reeling from the impact of the GFC like many of you, I spent part of the year having a life crisis of sorts. Yeah, yeah … I know I’m too old for such nonsense but there it is.

I have no great problems, merely an underlying discontent: I’m single and independent and my life is largely stress free accordingly, so what, you may well ask, is my problem?

(Cue the music for ‘What’s it all about Alfie?’).

Well … Footloose spontaneity can sometimes equate to a rudderless existence. Where am I going and why? Where do I want to live? How do I want to live? Should I stay or should I go? I feel the need for change but I’m not sure what or why. I ponder. I vacillate. I drift.

We all experience such thoughts from time to time. And, as you well know, slothfulness and procrastination loiter at the door of those without a point to their purpose.

To avoid this I set myself projects and deadlines in order to implement some form of discipline into my life. Mostly I do what I set out to do, with the exceptions of my weight and my golf. My waist is expanding and so is my handicap. Reducing both is a priority for 2012. Feel free to hold me to this.

As for the other loose ends, these are things I will resolve in 2012. By this time next year I will have made some decisions and have some answers. I hope.

I love youse all and wish you a full and fulfilling 2012.

 

 John Hanlon, December 2011.