Allan Takes Aim Blog

Archive for January 2013

Old events in new costumes

If the organisers hoped the Centenary celebrations would create the impression of Canberra as the Capital of Progress, Innovation, Culture and the Arts I think they will be disappointed. How on earth can this impression be created when many programmed events are old events dressed in new costumes?

In the same way as many programmes on our new TV channels are repeats of programmes as old as Canberra’s main demographic, the Centenary is taking the old saying ‘everything old is new again’ to new heights.

Although I might be growing long in the tooth I have fond memories of birthday parties made exciting and entertaining spontaneously. As I grew older and my tastes changed so did parties. But one thing didn’t change: my hope that the parties would still be exciting and entertaining.

To digress, having worked for decades in the local tourism industry which is hoping the Centenary will fill beds and rattle tills, I trawled the Centenary website hoping to see messages that substantiate the industry’s hopes. I was looking for messages designed to stir the latent jingoism in Australians that would encourage them to cancel an already planned overseas visit for a trip to Canberra.

Sad to say, the messages on the website did little to suggest they would encourage such a thought. Bear in mind that prospective tourists, Australian and overseas, will look at the same site. One hopes they don’t reach the same conclusion as me.

In terms of infrastructure and physicality Canberra is a young city yet the website seems designed to appeal more to an ageing demographic. And so I ask: where are the ideas from young people that some of an older demographic will think zany? They may be there, but if they are they are not obvious, so why expect young people to visit?

This is not to say the photographs on the website are not useful, but I have to say that during my sixteen and twenty five years age span, it was not that I didn’t enjoy some moments of cultural appreciation but in the main my mind was focused elsewhere. I suspect that in this regard things are still the same.

Don Allan
dca@netspeed.com.au blog: Allan Takes Aim; web: donallan.wordpress.com

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The ACT Government needs courage and new ideas

The start of the ACT’s new four years of political fray is now upon us. I live in hope that the start of every new Government heralds a new state of political honesty and the discarding of the usual words of denigration that politicians throw at each other in parliaments.

I hoped also that the incoming Labor/Green Government at the start of its new contract with ACT voters would wish to give them hope that things have changed. Unfortunately, indications are that they haven’t.

Already rumours are rife that Liberal Zed Seselja is moving on the Senate seat held by fellow Liberal Gary Humphries. In all honesty I think that’s more a rumour created by Labor to counter the rumours of unease within Labor, than it is true. But true or false, what it indicates is that things will go on in the same way for the next four years as they did in the previous four.

That apart, what do we mean by honesty in politics? It’s a wonderful idea, but what does it mean? Does it mean we always want our politicians to tell the truth no matter what the truth is, or does it mean something else? Talking to people I get the impression they think that “honesty in politics” means they want people in politics to think the same as they do and deviation from that path means they are dishonest.

Much as most say otherwise I suggest the real truth is that we want are politicians who will confirm our prejudices or, better still, give us good news. Politicians who give bad news are, as Sir Humphrey would say, “courageous.” Sad to say examining the record of the last ACT Government shows that it had few courageous politicians.

For forty years of my forty four years in Australia I’ve enjoyed living in Canberra and for twenty five of those years I enjoyed the benefit of Canberra being subsidised by the rest of Australia.

That subsidy gave my family access to a health system, arguably the best in the world; an education system envied not only by many other countries but also other Australian States; a relatively unpolluted environment; world class sport and recreational facilities that were more generous than in Australian cities with a population size comparable or larger, and better than in cities with seven or eight times the population size in other developed countries; a first class road and transport system; superb cultural facilities; and virtually no unemployment.

In some respects Canberra could be likened to the dream city of “Utopia” described by Sir Thomas More in his 1516 book of the same name as “a seat of perfection in moral, social and political life.” Sadly, however, and much as we all would like our dreams to continue, they fade. Eventually we wake up to be faced with the harsh realities of life.

Canberra was suddenly wakened to the harsh realities of life when self-government was introduced in 1989. Fortunately for Canberra, the infrastructure of the dream remained; unfortunately, the money needed to maintain and grow it, did not.

At last Canberrans were faced with the reality that to maintain their dream city, they would have to put up most of the money because the subsidy from fellow Australians would decrease. Unfortunately since self-government, while most ACT Governments talked of the new reality they continued to hope that Canberra would continue to be treated as dream city.

The first and only Chief Minister to face up to reality was Liberal Kate Carnell. Unfortunately at the moment I cannot support Chief Minister Katy Gallagher because, unlike Kate Carnell, she seems unwilling to be honest with voters by telling them their dream city could become nightmare city unless they change their attitude. To do this she might have to risk unpopularity by doling out doses of strong political medicine.

But perhaps she prefers celebrity to courage?

Blog: Allan Takes Aim; web: donallan.wordpress.com; e: dca@netspeed.com.au

Important announcement
to all readers of Blog – Allan Takes Aim

I am loathe to take the following action but, but to help reduce the volume of spam on the site, as from February 1, only people registered and logged on to donallan.wordpress.com will be able access and comment on the blog.

Those who do not wish to make their comments privately can contact me direct at: dca@netspeed.com.au

Let me restate that this site was not established as a means of free advertising under the umbrella of another site, but for the purpose of promulgating the exchange of ideas and t Bloghe promotion of free speech.

And people whose first language is not English should not shy away from making comment: most people will understand what you have to say.

Let me thank you in advance for your co-operation.

Yours sincerely,
Don Allan OAM

Tomorrow, 25th January is Burns’ Day, a day that Scots around the world hold in reverence. As an Australian Scot to show what I mean let me quote the Roman Poet Horace, who said: “Coelum non animam mutant qui trans mare currunt: they change their skies and not their souls who voyage across the sea.”

However, in any tribute to Burns it would only be too easy to concentrate on his sex life rather than his poetry. Indeed, one could be tempted to say, as no doubt some worthies of his time did that, due to his dalliances with ladies too numerous to mention, it was surprising he lived for 37 years. I suspect they were jealous

So what kind of man was Burns?

He said of himself that he had “a strong appetite for sociability as well as from native hilarity as from a pride of observation and remark, a reputation for bookish knowledge, a certain wild, logical talent and a strength of thought something like the rudiments of good sense, made me a generally welcome guest.” Being endowed with the same kind of vanity, I hope that at the end of the blog you say the same of me.

Burns would also be at home in today’s world – but disappointed that the social issues he wrote about 250 years ago are still with us. Not drawing too long a bow I think Burns had an anarchist streak and that this showed in his attack on the English/Scottish parliamentary union with his poem a “parcel of rogues in a nation.”

As a reminder I give you the middle verse:

What force or guile could not subdue,
Thro’ many warlike ages,
Is wrought now by a coward few,
For hireling traitor’s wages.
The English stell we could disdain,
Secure in valour’s station;
But English gold has been our bane-
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!

Unfortunately despite many attempts since to dissolve that union it has remained
Indeed were Burns alive today I think he would be would be in the vanguard of Scots trying to achieve Independence.

At another level the more I study the poems of Burns and his letters the more I feel that Burns was schizophrenic or bipolar and that he suffered from depression. I am also of the view also that had Burns been exposed to examination by today’s psychiatrics or psychologists Burns Day might never have eventuated

He certainly lived a life of contradictions: at one and the same time he was a Jacobite and a Scottish Nationalist. Indeed, many think his condemnation of class inequality and his social ideas were the building blocks of the eighteenth century socialism that later influenced the Russian Revolution which perhaps accounts for Burns being held in high regard by the Russians. As for myself, while sympathetic to his anti-clericalism I doubt he was either atheist or agnostic.

I am also inclined to the view that Burns drank to excess in an effort to cure his depression that In today’s world would have been treated by drugs which, in all likelihood would have prevent him from expressing his thoughts. So credit to John Wilson and his 350 Kilmarnock Freemasons whose generosity stopped Burns from emigrating to Jamaica.

On the other hand, perhaps had he gone to Jamaica perhaps on Burns’ day a steel band would lead in a dish of Ackee and Saltfish, Jamaica’s national dish and wash it down with tots of rum, instead of piping in the Haggis,

Finally, let me end with a verse from one of Burns most famous songs.

Flow gently, sweet Afton,
amang thy green braes,
Flow gently, I’ll sing thee
a song in thy praise;
My Mary’s asleep
by thy murmuring stream,
Flow gently, sweet Afton,
disturb not her dream.

And, now, join me in a toast to the immortal memory of Scotland’s and one of the world’s greatest poets: “Robert Burns.”

Blog: Allan Takes Aim; web: donallan.wordpress.com; e:dca@netspeed.com.au

Canberra is a place where lots of people who know little about a lot eagerly join the queue of people who want to be seen as ‘elite.’ Such is their vanity that not only do they delude themselves into thinking they deserve the title they also delude themselves that they are people of influence.

Many of these people can be seen at functions attended by local politicians, bureaucrats, business people and people from the Arts who labour under a similar delusion. In an effort to dismiss any suggestion of being snobs they describe themselves as part of the common herd to avoid being seen as discriminatory.

Politicians are urged to use this phraseology by well-paid public relations advisers as protection from being seen as making a politically disastrous comment or engaging in equally disastrous conduct. I confess that in Australia’s egalitarian society I thought everyone was part of the common herd. We live and learn.

Although I can understand the politicians’ behaviour, I cannot say the same for some bureaucrats or business people. The former cannot blame anyone but themselves for being seen not as elites but toadies who hope their reward will be an upward step in the bureaucracy.

And much as I always thought the goal of business people was running a successful business. For some however, status is clearly more important. However in past times this strategy has been seen as disastrous because keeping too close to politicians makes the common herd wonder about their politics.

Another group of self-appointed elitists are to be found in Arts/Culture. These elitists are forever on the lookout for appropriate politicians and business people whom they can butter up in hope they will fund the next great Art/Culture idea that will spread across Australia and the globe.

That said, I think elitism is dying. Why? Elitism is dying because it no longer is it a title conferred on someone with special talent. Today, everyone wants to be seen as elite when more often than not they are big-heads. And if elite ever meant a person of status some so called elite have done a good job of wrecking its meaning.

Current examples of that wrecking can be seen in cycling. Reprehensible as the behaviour of Lance Armstrong and other cyclists’ has been, with major sponsors now threatening to sue him for the return of monies, I haven’t heard any of them say they will refund the monies people spent on their products because of Armstrong et al.

Nor do managers of the various football codes do it when ‘elite’ players are found morally wanting or managers’ of other elite sportsmen and women. The fact is elitism is rampant in sport although one could argue about what is sport these days.

For example I love ballroom dancing and when a young man (so long ago that I scarce remember it), I visited the local palais de danse (by the way though my mother and father were local ballroom champions I never ever heard them describe dancing as a sport), I enjoyed nothing more than taking to the floor for a quickstep, foxtrot or tango.

And what about other games that today are called sport?” Marbles, for example or billiards, snooker and darts, all of which have elite player not to mention angling or tossing the caber plus lots of other activities (now sports) in a list too long to mention.

I find it surprising that in egalitarian Australia they use the word elite so lightly. I think it’s time we coined a new one. Suggestions welcome.

Blog: Allan Takes Aim; web: donallan.wordpress.com; e: dca@netspeed.com.au

The day is getting close when few executives in a company can expect to stay on forever. The terms might vary but today the expectations are geared to between five and eight years particularly in the top job. This was brought to mind by a TV news report of the rumour that Andrew Scipione, Chief Commissioner of the New South Wales Police Force would soon be leaving the job.

Adding substance to the rumour were his words during a fairly recent interview when he said that though his contract still had two years to run, having served six years in the position, his use by date was approaching. This is happening more frequently in the world of big business as experienced executives move from one company to another and in doing so gave support to the old adage that ‘a change is as good as a rest.’

After moving I doubt the executives will need to change their management skills. In all probability these skills will improve with the change of business scenery. They might also regain their capacity for invention and innovation and also develop new skills.

If you don’t think this is true an examination of the employment background of many executives (including CEOs) in Australia’s major companies will display a background that shows lack of experience in the field which the company they are employed is operating. And while I won’t go as far as to say that the company they left and the company they work for now will have benefitted from the change, I think it more than likely.

This is not to say there are no exceptions to my theory. Some small self-owned and self- managed businesses are unlikely to benefit from change if only because customers like dealing with familiar owners and managers.Unfortunately however, that is changing, as small businesses get gobbled up by big business and the familiar is replaced by the unfamiliar.

Perhaps we think this is a new and undesirable chapter in the life of business but the fact is history will show that this was ever so. Since the start of commerce the same process has occurred time and time again because the wheel of life has never stopped turning. In a sense and though it applies to other than human and/or animal life, the process is Darwin’s theory of evolution writ large.

Unfortunately, one business that should have changed but hasn’t is politics. The West endorses democracy as the system in the wheel of life that will cure life’s inherent problems. Despite centuries having passed since the idea of democracy made its first appearance, ambitious people have used the idea to enhance their life at the expense of others.

Which brings me to political wars and the election of politicians: in reality, politicians are business executives because government is big business. Unfortunately unlike business, where executives can be sacked because of incompetence, politicians manage to escape that possibility even if after being elected it becomes apparent they don’t measure up to the CV presented to voters. (Think Thomson and Slipper)

Why should this be the case? After all billion dollar businesses carry on even when executives get sacked.

So let me suggest that in the same way as business organisation use technology to advance their business, why, on a regular half yearly basis, can’t voters use technology to advise a Government’s Managing Director of their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their government’s business management They would also be able to suggest as to which politicians should get the chop because their performance is below par.

Such an idea might be too revolutionary for politicians but I think voters would l welcome it.

Some politicians will say the idea is daft but, following 508-507 BCE when Cleisthenes established what is generally held to be the first democracy, democaracy would undergo many adaptations before our current system was accepted. And so I ask: is the proposed idea daft? Some politicians I know think this is the future of democracy beyond tomorrow or the next election and that eventually it will come.

At the same time I think politicians should not be allowed to serve more than two parliamentary terms thus avoiding the current system which encourages politicians to think a seat in government is a sinecure. Importantly, such a system would refresh government and keep politicians on their toes. Also they would have to keep close to the electorate to find out first – hand what voters in their electorate thought important not what biased staff thought.

But that’s enough for today and perhaps to your relief, tomorrow I shall be silent.
Blog: Allan Takes Aim; web: donallan@wordpress.com; e: dca@netspeed.com.au

Enervating is the only way to describe the weather around Canberra and many other parts of Australia today. But if enervation is making you feel sorry for yourself I ask you to energise yourself and start thinking about the people affected by the loss of life, not in the physical sense, but mentally, as they return to where once they lived.

In all probability they will continue to experience that loss of life as they remember the home that had become the repository of how they had lived and loved over more years than they care to remember. The memories will be sad particularly for those people whose wife or husband is already experiencing memory loss. No amount of money, no matter how large, will ever be able to compensate for that loss.

I can write about the latter because as that particular danger has already intruded into my life, when it reaches its zenith it will feel as if a firestorm has consumed the person I have been married to for fifty three years come Wednesday, 16th January.

Even if not affected by any of the foregoing I know many future experiences will trigger past memories for people. It could be a smell of perfume, the smell from a particular dish being cooked and anticipating the feeling of pleasure it brought even if only a meat pie and chips which, though not an epicurean delight, felt that way because in its preparation it carried that special love ingredient that was part of their everyday life.

That said, I have no intention of getting on my soap box to harangue you about other matters that have the same effect as bushfires. In fact I only have to read the daily papers, listen to news broadcasts on radio and television to bring memories of seventy years ago.

But I would be wrong not to say something so let me start with the firebombing carried out by the Luftwaffe on Glasgow (my paternal grandparents were affected and had to be evacuated) and other parts of Britain, that were reciprocated at a later date by the RAF with its attack on Dresden. I hoped that, as civilisation improved, no longer would people deliberately start a fire that would kill. It seems inconceivable that some people in society today that some people still do so.

Of course I don’t have to go as far back in time to the two examples I’ve used. One only has to look at Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt and those other Middle Eastern countries that on a daily basis face bombing that cause fires, kills many and leaves families in a similar state to those damaged by the bushfires.

But perhaps the reason that this condition still exists is because so much violence still exists; that society has become so acclimatised to violence that whatever its form and whenever it occurs it is now taken for granted.

Little wonder that some people are given to say of civilisation: bah, humbug.
Blog: Allan Takes Aim; web: https://donallan.wordpress.com; e-: dca@netspeed.com.au



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