Wednesday 23rd of September 2020

how good was that year of preserved old fruits at st brutes...

change  From Gadfly...

There’s a carnival atmosphere at St Brutes (motto: Tabula in naufragio) as the end-of-year speech day gets under way.

Parents, boys and staff are assembled in a marquee on the oval. Professor Flint on the Wurlitzer falls silent as the headmaster, Mr Morrison, strides to the lectern, droplets of lunchtime pie and sauce on his chin catching the afternoon light. Pastor Houston is invited to say a short and meaningful prayer.

“God, keep our lads upright. Keep their hands from straying in unguided directions. Pray the Lord keeps donations flowing, in your tax-deductible name. Forever, and ever, and ever. Blessed be preserved fruits. Amen.”

The headmaster wastes no time getting down to brass tacks. The school, he announces, not only needs to balance its books, it should be returning a PROFIT. “If this means cutting back on teaching, so be it. It’s important that the school provides certainty, continuity and…” (His words are lost in the prolonged applause.)

“The profits are being managed by our very capable bursar, Mr Frydenberg. He tells me that this year’s profits will be lower than anticipated because several classrooms were burned to the ground by fires started by Green-Left students who failed to clear dried leaves from the gutters.

“Consequently, fees at St Brutes will increase and students from economically fragile families will be assisted by being asked not to return next term.” (Enthusiastic applause.)

Headmaster Morrison presses on:

“I’m very pleased to announce that we at St Brutes are redoubling our efforts to give the students a solid appreciation of the much neglected Old Testament. To that end, Pastor Houston will be joined in the Divinity Department by Mr Shelton, who may already be known to many of you.

“To afford this extra commitment, unfortunately, we have had to make some adjustments, and redundancies have been offered to all our science staff.

“We are also confident that further economies can be achieved in the art room.”

Grass isn’t greener


“You may have noticed that the grass from the oval has been sprayed with Agent Orange and looks in very poor shape. Who did this, we do not know, and we are certain not to find out. The school electrician, Mr Taylor, has had briefings from Mr Frydenberg about what can be done, if anything.

“One suggestion is that the grass should be replaced with asphalt, which I believe is a fossil fuel byproduct, giving rise to an amount of carbon dioxide emissions.

“But these are emissions we can offset against the petrol-driven lawnmower that will no longer be in service. In any event, asphalt is character building. A few split skulls and broken knees in a game of rugby league on this new surface can easily be managed by our resident medical team, led by Nurse Credlin.

“I should mention – quite apart from trying to get to the bottom of the poisoned grass issue – Mr Taylor has been attending to the decoration of the Christmas tree in the staff common room.

“The quality of the baubles, tinsel, decorative glitter and flashing lights are a real credit to him. We are fortunate indeed to have an electrician with such a grasp of Judaeo-Christian ethics.”


Sky hooked


“The media studies teacher, Mr Fletcher, who took over the reins from the departing Mr Fifield, is one of the school’s leading innovators. After discussions with Mr Murdoch, our most generous benefactor, the school council has adopted his suggestion that Sky News be on permanent relay in all the classrooms.

“This will be a fine educational tool as it can show the boys that people without any qualifications whatsoever can still lead thought-provoking debates on subjects that test their intellectual capacities to the limits.

“This term Mr Fletcher regrettably had to make major redactions to the school newspaper, The Brutalist, after students tried to publish articles critical of our master-in-charge of discipline, Mr Dutton.

“As we all know, Mr Dutton is vigilant and has done a first-rate job in cracking down on pocket billiards, a craze that regrettably was almost out of control in the playground.

“However, there was some very unpleasant commentary about his recent inspection of the locker room, where he seized an alarming quantity of mobile phones, cigarettes and condoms.

“As I have said on numerous occasions, it’s all very well having a free student newspaper, as long as it’s a responsible newspaper. At the moment there is too much gossip and stories that only interest people writing the stories.

“I have asked Mr Abetz, who has been on furlough for some time, if he would mind mentoring the editors of The Brutalist with a view to bringing the paper into line with community standards.”

Lapse dance


“A moment ago I mentioned the word ‘ethics’ and I don’t do that lightly. Ethics has been at the heart of much of what we do here at St Brutes. To that end I have asked our heavily tattooed school porter to draw up a scheme whereby there will be a committee of old boys overseeing complaints about ethical lapses.

“I emphasise that complaints are just that – complaints. Nothing is proved and under the proposed charter nothing will be proved. Nonetheless, we are confident that this committee of Old Brutalarians will keep everyone on their toes. So, socks up and hands out of pockets.”

Prefects and prizes


Enough speechifying. It’s time for prizes and who will move to the prefects’ study in 2020.

New prefects and monitors for 2020:

Tim Wilson, 5th form, who thoughtfully showed retired members of staff and parents how to get the most out of taxpayer subsidies.

Nick Cater, 6th form repeat. Cater is on a slow-learner’s scholarship and we feel it would be a useful boost to his confidence if he were appointed monitor in charge of possible flood dangers. A challenging task in times of drought.

Josh Manuatu. Like Izzy Folau, Josh is a Tongan lad on an IPA-sponsored bursary. He has been assisting Mr Taylor with the Christmas tree and redrafting documents for the school newspaper. He will now be the senior monitor-at-large with a roving brief to do anything he wants.


The George Pell Prize for Scripture: This year shared by Gregory Sheridan and Gerard Henderson for their joint essay, “Why George Pell must be found innocent”.

The Alan Jones Prize for Gender Awareness goes to Prue MacSween. Prue, who delivered a wonderful message to school assembly the other day, where she managed to bring together the themes of Christmas, gender identity and child abuse:

“So a 4 yr old is walking through Myer Bondi Junctn. Thrilled to see Santa. Then realises Santa, complete with beard, is a woman. Distressed, he cries ‘that’s not Santa’! Why are we traumatising little kids with this gender nonsense? Child abuse? You betcha”.

This award was a close call, with young Rowan Dean a runner-up following his suggestion for a royal commission into “messing up” children’s genders.

The Maurice Newman Science Trophy: There’s only one winner, Kris Kenny minor, from the Lower Remove, for his research project, “How fossil fuels keep bushfires under control”.

The Schicklgruber Award for Reconciliation: Andrew Bolt, for a moving “show and tell” to his class on how he ate a pavlova on top of Ayers Rock.

The McCormack Prize for Proficiency: Regrettably, no award presented this year.

The Headmaster’s Prize for Excellence: A captain’s pick. By popular acclaim awarded to Principal Morrison himself.

“How good am I?” he asked those gathered.

The school band struck up a snappy rendition of “Roll Out the Barrel”, as parents, staff and pupils mingled in amazement, wondering what possibly could outshine the achievements of the passing year.


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the sneaky might as well rack off back to hawaii then...

After trimming his holiday by a day, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison rolled into political action on Sunday and immediately posed a question: Is he deluded or just happily trolling his critics?

“I am comforted by the fact that Australians would like me to be here simply so I can be here alongside them as they go through this terrible time,” Mr Morrison said.

Does he really think that? Is he deluded?

Or is it one of his prepared “talking points” used to flabbergast and annoy opponents, i.e. trolling?

Scott, the criticism that built up about your holiday really wasn’t because Australians wanted you to be here just to be here alongside them, to be ‘here because we’re here’, to hark back to a song of the trenches.

As I’ve previously wondered if the Prime Minister is a nutter, I have to give him the benefit of the doubt and explain the reality he might not have grasped:

Scott, you might like to ‘comfort’ yourself with that thought – though it’s strange that you think you’re the one who needs comforting – but it’s simply not the case.’’

The most obvious reason you were wanted off the Hawaiian beach was the absurd secrecy surrounding your little getaway while the nation was in crisis, the needless lies and deception of your staff about your whereabouts, the suspicion that it looked like you were sneaking off without the usual notification of who would be holding the fort for how long.

It did indeed make it look like you were embarrassed, had something to hide.

We don’t like that.

And when it comes on top of so much secrecy and obfuscation, when you refuse to be open with the nation from “on-water matters” to “Canberra bubble” to “gossip” to “family matters”, there’s the suspicion building that you’re naturally given to being sneaky and evasive.

Just like the weird business of your attempt to bring Hillsong’s Brian Houston to the White House with you, it was the cover-up more than the initial act that became the bigger worry.

Then there’s the perhaps quaint idea that the Australian PM should present as a leader in a time of crisis, should be able to use the power he has to make a captain’s call about making more money and facilities available to the states, to maybe deploy the hundreds of trained firefighters in the ADF for a start, to represent us to those who have suffered so horribly.

And there’s the matter of volunteer firefighters losing their social security payments.



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surveillance capitalists control you...

By Shoshana Zuboff
A fragile new awareness is dawning as we claw our way back up the rabbit hole toward home. Surveillance capitalists are fast because they seek neither genuine consent nor consensus. They rely on psychic numbing and messages of inevitability to conjure the helplessness, resignation and confusion that paralyze their prey. Democracy is slow, and that’s a good thing. Its pace reflects the tens of millions of conversations that occur in families, among neighbors, co-workers and friends, within communities, cities and states, gradually stirring the sleeping giant of democracy to action.

On the demand side, we can outlaw human futures markets and thus eliminate the financial incentives that sustain the surveillance dividend. This is not a radical prospect. For example, societies outlaw markets that trade in human organs, babies and slaves. In each case, we recognize that such markets are both morally repugnant and produce predictably violent consequences. Human futures markets can be shown to produce equally predictable outcomes that challenge human freedom and undermine democracy. Like subprime mortgages and fossil fuel investments, surveillance assets will become the new toxic assets.
In support of a new competitive landscape, lawmakers will need to champion new forms of collective action, just as nearly a century ago legal protections for the rights to organize, to strike and to bargain collectively united lawmakers and workers in curbing the powers of monopoly capitalists. Lawmakers must seek alliances with citizens who are deeply concerned over the unchecked power of the surveillance capitalists and with workers who seek fair wages and reasonable security in defiance of the precarious employment conditions that define the surveillance economy.

Anything made by humans can be unmade by humans. Surveillance capitalism is young, barely 20 years in the making, but democracy is old, rooted in generations of hope and contest.

Surveillance capitalists are rich and powerful, but they are not invulnerable. They have an Achilles heel: fear. They fear lawmakers who do not fear them. They fear citizens who demand a new road forward as they insist on new answers to old questions: Who will know? Who will decide who knows? Who will decide who decides? Who will write the music, and who will dance?

Shoshana Zuboff (@ShoshanaZuboff) is professor emerita at Harvard Business School and the author of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism.”

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email:

Shoshana Zuboff has faith in Democracy. We, on, should also have faith. This is why we’re here. But we — I mean Gus (I guess all others on this site as well) — cannot be as optimistic as the professor emerita at Harvard Business School, otherwise our job would have been done. We'd be happily redundant.

Democracy is far younger than we love to talk about it, it seems. Real democracy started … I was going to say yesterday. I will postulate that real democracy has not started yet. We have the vote and we can influence our elected representatives, but we are victims of the “majority” whether it is clever or not. This leaves us open to having useless bunfights about values, and being manipulated for what we can believe in, rather than what we should know, or even seek for the benefit of self and all. 

There is a certain elasticity about our selfish interests and those of the collective that will be manipulated by various forces, including the price of fish and the surveillance capitalists — but we are mainly under the influences of smart spruikers and crafty politicians who can twist a narrative for their advantage with a pat on our back and one of their hands in our backpocket. 

For example, tonight’s speech about the Australian of the Year, by our PM, Scott Morrison, was great at pumping the Aussie Spirit, especially that of the bushfire fighters with whom he swiftly aligned himself with the “we’re all Australian”. But he did this without mentioning that he had abandoned everyone, for a family holiday in Hawaii and stuffed up the situation thereafter, as he seeked more restoration of his standing than show real empathy for those who had suffered. Not a single mea culpa came forth — a little gesture which could have restored some humanity in the guy, but he only left us with the impression he was still a crafty advertising man on the prowl for your recognition that he was a good spruiker and that you shall eat out of his hands once more… It’s on par with Pence speech about the Holocaust that praised the liberation of Auschwitz without mentioning the Russian soldiers

Yes, the system of surveillance capitalists is a worry as we’re often willing about telling others, “friends”, including the systems, about our hopes and desires. What is more of a worry is that our media try to influence our hopes and desires through advertising and opinions, our governments bullshit with gravitas, and the surveillance capitalists collect our hope and desire thus manipulated (our mind) automatically — and the three of them all work hand in hand. They need each other. Say, for example, the general MSM has been woeful at protecting someone like Julian Assange. We get reports about his dire situation, but no media OUTRAGE. NOTHING. Analyse this...

Democratically speaking, we thus face a massive network of three-pronged deception — plus fake news about fake news. The web of deceit through the “surveillance capitalists” is as solid as the invention of the motor car, with no turn-back except “improvements” and tweaks as needed. Should regulations come in, like limits on exhaust gases, the “surveillance capitalists” will adapt and create a new dynamic/synergy that the lawmakers would take another 20 years before understanding the new subterfuge and “doing something about it"...

Our best defence is not to trust anything, not even our own history of likes and dislikes which we should never share online. Here, we can also fill the “questionnaire" with bullshit and make sure we don’t accept pop-up adverts, nor “unnecessary” cookies — WITHOUT TELL THEM… Let them believe that your are genuine when you are bullshitting to their algos…

They might invent an algorithm, if they don’t have one already, to detect your bullshitting them…

Our persona isn’t that of the electronic sphere anyhow… and we can pull the plug rather than wait for government “regulations” that will make the surveillance capitalists smile, rather than fear... 

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form your battalions...

"Today, the idea that we are no longer in a democracy, that a form of dictatorship has taken hold in our society - and in a seditious way, through extraordinarily guilty political discourse - has taken hold. But try dictatorship! A dictatorship is a regime in which a person or a clan decides the laws. A dictatorship is a regime where you don’t change the rulers, ever. If that’s what France is, try a real dictatorship and you’ll see! " - Emmanuel Macron, January 24, 2020.


On several continents, 48 peoples are currently rising up against their governments. A movement of such magnitude has never been observed on a planetary scale. After the period of financial globalization, we are witnessing a contestation of political systems and are imagining the emergence of new forms of government.

The "supremacy" of democracy

The nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw both the triumph of the use of elections and the enlargement of the electoral bodies (free men, the poor, women, ethnic minorities, etc.).

The development of the middle classes gave more people time to take an interest in politics. It has encouraged debate and helped to soften social mores.

The nascent means of communication gave the opportunity to participate in public life to those who wanted to do so. Presidents are not elected in response to social struggles, but because they can be elected today. In the past, automatic successions were favoured, usually hereditary, but not always. It was in fact impossible for everyone to be informed of public affairs and to give their opinion quickly.

Stupidly we have assimilated the sociological transformation of societies and this technical progress to a choice of regime: democracy. Now, democracy is not a law, but a state of mind, an ideal: "the government of the People, by the People and for the People," as Abraham Lincoln put it.

We soon realized that democratic institutions are no better than others. They enlarge the number of the privileged, but in the end, they allow a majority to exploit a minority. So we designed all kinds of laws to improve that system. We equated the separation of powers with the protection of minorities.

However, the democratic model no longer works. Many citizens find that their opinions are no longer taken into account. This is not due to the institutions, which have changed little in terms of substance, but to the way they are used.

Furthermore, after we have convinced ourselves, with Winston Churchill, that "Democracy is a bad system, but it is the least bad of all systems", we realize that each political regime must respond to the concerns of people who are different according to their history, their culture; that what is good here will not be good there or at another time.

We must be wary of vocabulary in politics. The meaning of words changes over time. They are often introduced with good intentions and misused with bad ones. We confuse our ideas with the words we use to express them, but which others use to betray them. I will therefore clarify in this text what I mean by the most important ones.

We need to re-examine the question of our governance. Not in the fashion of Emmanuel Macron, who contrasts "democracy" and "dictatorship" in order to end the debate before it has begun. These two words cover realities of a different order. Democracy refers to a regime in which the greatest number of people participate. It is opposed to oligarchy, where power is exercised by a few. On the contrary, if we no longer talk about the number of people involved in the decision, but about how the decision is made, dictatorship refers to a regime where the leader, a military commander, may have to make his decision without being able to debate it. It is opposed to parliamentarianism.

The legitimacy of the Republic

First and foremost, we must ask the question of legitimacy, that is, why do we recognize the government, and then the state, as being so useful that we accept their authority?

We are obeying a government that we believe is serving our interests. This is the idea of a "republic" in the Roman sense. Thus, the kings of France patiently constructed the idea of "general interest" to which the Anglo-Saxons were opposed from the 17th century onwards and from the experience of Oliver Cromwell. Today, the United Kingdom and the United States are the only countries where it is claimed that there is no general interest, but only a sum - as high as possible - of disparate and contradictory interests.

The British suspect a priori that anyone who speaks of the general interest wants to restore Oliver Cromwell’s bloody Republican regime. The United States wants every federal state to be republican (i.e. serving the interests of the local population), but they do not want the federal state - which they distrust - to be republican (because, they believe, it cannot serve the interests of all the components of this immigrant nation). This is why a candidate in the USA does not present a programme setting out his vision of society as in the rest of the world, but a list of interest groups that support him.

The Anglo-Saxon thinking seems strange to me, but it is theirs. I will continue my reflections with those peoples who accept the idea of the general interest. For them, all political regimes are acceptable, as long as they serve the general interest, which unfortunately is no longer generally the case in our democracies. The problem is that no constitution can guarantee this service. It is a practice, nothing more.

Republican virtue

The question then arises as to the qualities necessary for the proper functioning of a political regime, whether democratic or not. As early as the 16th century, Machiavelli had answered this question by stating the principle of "virtue". By virtue, one should not in any way understand a moral of any kind, but a form of disinterestedness that allows one to take care of the general interest without seeking personal profit; a quality that almost all Western political personnel seem to lack today.

Machiavelli is often cited as the thinker of trickery in politics and described as a manipulator. Certainly, he was not a naive man, but a man who taught both the prince how to use his power to triumph over his enemies and how not to abuse his power.

We do not know how to develop virtue, but we know what made it disappear: we no longer have any respect for those who have money, we no longer have any respect for those who devote themselves to the general interest. Worse still, when we find someone who devotes himself to the general interest, we think a priori that he is rich. However, if we remember virtuous politicians, we know that they were only rich if they had inherited a fortune or earned money before entering politics, so they were generally not.

Gene Sharp’s work and the experience of colourful revolutions show us that, whatever political regime governs us, we always have the leaders we deserve. No regime can last without the support of its people.

Therefore, we are collectively responsible for the lack of virtue of our leaders. Even more than changing our institutions, we must therefore change ourselves and no longer consider others according to the thickness of their wallets, but first and foremost according to their virtue.

Revolutionary Brotherhood

To virtue, the French Revolution added brotherhood. Again, this was not a moral or religious matter, nor was it a matter of any social welfare, but the brotherhood of arms of the soldiers of the second year. They had volunteered to save the country from the Prussian invasion, in the face of a professional army. Among themselves, they no longer differentiated between the aristocracy and the Third State, realizing their ideal of equality. And they were victorious.

Their anthem, La Marseillaise, became the anthem of the French Republic as well as that of the Soviet Revolution in its early days (before the Gulag). Its refrain is misunderstood today: 

To arms, citizens, 

Form your battalions, 

Let’s march, let’s march! 

That impure blood 

Water our furrows!

It is wrongly interpreted as if we were going to water our furrows with the blood of our enemies. But the blood of the tyrant’s soldiers can only poison our land. In the imagination of the time, the "impure blood" of the People is opposed to the "blue blood" of the officers of the Prussian Empire. It is the exaltation of the supreme sacrifice that founds the brotherhood of arms of the Revolutionaries.

The brotherhood of arms of the People corresponds to the virtue of the rulers. The two answer each other.

What’s next?

Today we are living in a period not unlike that of the French Revolution: society is once again divided into orders. On the one hand, there are leaders chosen from birth, then clerics dispensing their social morality through the media, and finally a third state that is being pushed back with tear gas and rubber bullets. But there is no reason at the moment to die for the fatherland in the face of the interests represented by the thousand business leaders meeting in Davos.

In any case, people everywhere are looking for new forms of governance, in line with their history and aspirations.

Thierry Meyssan


Roger Lagassé


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