Receive email updates of this blog

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Does a can of soup equate to the end of human civilisation?



Some ponderings for a cold and quiet Monday morning...


I am pondering whether we ever actually get to chose some of the most common aspects of our lives: especially the technological side of it. I ponder this because it has occurred to me recently that the car that I currently drive is the car that I have owned the longest. This is really quite weird.
This car “Trotsky” (because it’s an old red commo, where the powers and privileges of the driver match those of the driven in every way except those which are necessary to drive) was bought for $700 many years ago as a very short interim measure because we needed a six-seater car and couldn’t find a decent one. But it’s a daggy old bucket of bolts. It’s strange how we tend to form our identity, at least partially, on dumb things like the kind of car we drive. Does it matter if we drive a daggy car or not? 

I was hearing this story the other day that some fairly prominent female thinkers were arguing about what point in history, what event, thing or factor did more for the liberation of women than any other. Mary Wollstonecraft’s fantastic treatise was suggested, as was the sweep of voting rights around the world, starting with South Australia in 1897 and the two World Wars which threw the female population into the workforce. The winner though, was the invention of the washing machine. It seems strange and practical to the point of being offensive, but the argument that the washing machine was the single biggest blow for the freedom of women is a very strong one. It allowed women time – which is really all they needed to do everything else relating to equality. 

With the invention of the steam engine and development of a steam train system, some of the wealthy, ruling classes in Britain worried that the freedom to move would be the death of the class system that existed. If you allowed the working and poorer classes to move around, that would end life as they knew it. They would no longer be a slave to the local production, thus the bogan was born. 

Similar concerns existed about the increase in the production of sugar. To an extent, they were probably directly right about these two things. But these two things pale in comparison to the one thing that wiped the ruling classes off the face of the earth, at their absolute high point of wealth, luxury and freedom. This was without a doubt World War One. It destroyed five empires and their ruling classes at the peak of their existence.

Coming into the twentieth century, the ruling classes of the five empires were at their most lucrative, powerful and discriminatory, none more so than in Britain. Sometime toward 1918, they were all broke and in debt without the productive means for recovering ... ever. One hundred years later, we are still in debt to the stupid choices they made. We have to pay for what has always been free. 

But is this just the ability of human intelligence (or lack of it)? We have always been willing and eager to cut our own noses off in spite of our faces, even with the knowledge that doing this is pointless. 

‘how did we get so advanced then?’ I hear you ask. 

And that is a point. If we are stupid, how did we end up rising to the dominant species on the planet? Maybe we’re just the slaves of some groovy green men who visit us, or live amongst us. Some fairly strange things have come out lately about aliens: from the CIA kind of fessing up about Roswell, to the University of California saying that we have always had them amongst us (says so in the bible even) and to the discovery of a planet that could sustain us, less than 16 light years away. 

But surely the old adage that the one proof that there is intelligent life forms out there somewhere is that they have never visited us? All joking aside, where are the little green men? The contemplation of the infinite in the universe must lead to the existence of planets lesser and greater than us.  

Maybe? 

There is an argument from science that states that there are aliens out there. There has to be. There are simply too many planets capable of sustaining life (as we know it) for there to not be one. There are hundreds of billions of planets in hundreds of billions of galaxies, any one of which would do. From a scientific point of view, the maths is beyond convincing. But the problem, the counter-consideration then, is where are they? Why are we not swamped with them? Why is the winner of Miss Universe always from Earth? 

An answer may well be that they have all wiped each other out. If these groovy aliens want to come visit us, they have to be able to travel through space – Star Trek style. Well before any civilisation develops the technology to do this, I think it would be a fair assumption to say it must, necessarily, develop the technology to wipe itself out. I’m not talking about mass-killings, genocide or the like; I mean to annihilate its own species.  The production of power, the ability to transport its own kind and the ability to economically exist at that level is way beyond the ability to wipe out one’s own kind. 

That’s not really the issue though, the issue is – does this have to happen to a species when that species mechanises itself beyond a point?  Does the mechanisation of labour necessarily sow the seeds of a species’ annihilation ? 

Well, firstly we’d have to ask when did us good old homo sapiens develop the ability to wipe our own species out of existence and how? 

I know what you’re thinking dear reader – the atomic bomb and its use. But I don’t think so. It has only ever been used once, and it was used by a power that had it against a power that didn’t. That may well have been our saviour there – atomic warfare was witnessed first on a country that could not return fire. If they could, we probably wouldn’t be here. The witnessing of this power has probably saved us since: and since then, no one really has had the chops to push that button. 

There is also a fair argument to say that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had little to no effect on ending the war. The Americans had already destroyed most of Japan by firebombing it. 

The Hiroshima bomb was dropped on 6th of August, 1945, the war didn’t end on the sixth. On the ninth, Stalin ordered the Red Army to invade Japan. The very next day Japan unconditionally surrendered to the United States. I know – you’re saying what about Nagasaki? Well, maybe, but I think we developed our own power a long time before 1945. I think we had easily had it by 1914.

The question then becomes how? What exactly was it that gave us this power? 

Transport. Not from sugar or steam or washing machines, but not devoid of them either. 

In the first four weeks of the First World War in August 1914, about three quarters of a million people were killed. This figure is a military one, and may not accurately represent civilian deaths as well. Never had anywhere near that amount of people been killed in such a short amount of time. The Belgian forces worried that the piles of dead, German soldiers were creating a decent barrier to their guns and didn’t know whether to shoot through the dead or send out soldiers to try to clear the way. How messed up is that? 

So was it the machine gun? While this was the specific device that allowed much of the killing, artillery and conditions did a lot too, but that’s to overlook the fact that armies had, for a few decades at least, the ability to launch many, many bullets at one time. While the machine gun did this more efficiently, it didn’t invent the concept. The supremacy of the British in a great part came from their ability to launch many bullets in a short time. Many accounts of the BEF in the Battles of the Frontier retold their skill with a rifle as far more effective than a machine gun. The statistics of the BEF being able to slaughter 160,000 German college boys at the Massacre of the Innocents of Ypres would support this idea. 

The invention of the machine gun does nothing to put someone in front of it. 

So guns don’t kill people, people kill people. The people who put the people in front of the guns killed them, not the people pulling the trigger. The reason three quarters of a million people died in a month in August, 1914, is that they were in front of a machine gun, or in range of an artillery shell etc. Never before in human history had this been able to be achieved. Never before was an army able to be so large and so mobile. Never were millions of men able to be alone and divorced from their homeland, occupying or defending on strange lands, while being kept alive. 

Most battles prior to 1914 lasted a day or two. The massive defeat of Napoleon in the Battle of Waterloo was over in less than a day. All of a sudden, armies could be mobilised, and they stayed mobilised; they stayed engaged at each other for weeks and months of constant death. Later in the war, on the Western Front, even in ‘quieter’ parts of the conflict hundreds of deaths per day were expected and recorded. 

How did this happen? What invention led to this new ability? 

Well, probably the humble can of food. Canned food enabled armies to be fed while mobile. It didn’t matter where they were or how many chickens or fish or whatever was there. One soldier’s life became accountable in all circumstance. Humanity had been able to be treated as a standard number. No longer were there good soldiers and bad soldiers. They were now all soldiers. 

Maths then replaces honour and skill. 

So what happened ? The military had become mechanised. Killing became a mathematic equation. This equation was no longer about life, nor was it about money. An entire army was able to be killed without any thought for the human element or the monetary cost. 

Devoid of a lack of a qualifiable element such as money or life, the military looks for some value scale to rate itself. This is where capitalism comes in to probably destroy the human race. This is also where we stop asking how much money it costs to have a military. This has become a silly question; the military then just becomes a necessary part of the modern state. We spend more money on it than anything else. We spend more of our life on this type of death than on anything else. 

But we have to, lest we have a lesser military than our neighbours. This is the true destruction of the human race. We can no longer stand still, we have to move forward, and this costs every spare penny we have, and quite a few that we don’t have (let’s just take that away from poor people and families – they don’t need it).

And this is the true destruction that capitalism brings – the inability to be stable. Think about it from a military point of view. There has not been too many changes to the way military types kill each other prior to just over a century ago. If you had the ability to take people out of history and put them in battle, you could take Julius Ceasar’s army and put it into battle against an army that is about a thousand years further along in history (say Charlemagne) and he’d do alright. This is regardless of the fact that there are hundreds of years of human development between them. 

However, if you take the worst army from the First World War, the Austrio-Hungarian Army and pitted them against an army from merely a century earlier, say Napoleon, it wouldn’t be a battle, it would be a massacre. It would be a blood bath and you wouldn’t expect too many casualties on the side of the Austrio-Hungarian Army.  However, if you take that same Austrio-Hungarian Army from 1914 and put them into battle with an army from less than thirty years later - say the Nazis, and it would be the same result, but the other way around. It wouldn’t be a battle, it would be a massacre. The only difference between these armies is the technology. The people are no different, neither is much of the training. The military itself has become mechanised. The rate of advancement in technology is the new honour, the monetary cost is not regarded at all. We have to spend it, lest our neighbours have a gun with a bigger range or a plane that can fly faster. 

This ‘development has crept into all aspects of our life. I can do more on the phone that came free with a contract today that I could even dream of doing with a multi-thousand dollar computer ten years ago. The music quality at times rival my Dad’s old solid state Rotel, and the pictures it takes rival that Nikon F90 the price tag of which made me feel ill a few times when we bought it about fifteen years ago. Yet the pictures I take on it are fairly crappy. I don’t give more than a cursive glance in the viewfinder before pressing the button. Most of the time I couldn’t be bothered finding the HD or whatever is the best version on youtube of the song which has been dancing in my head all day.  And I am no better driver in my crappy old, $700 Commodore than I was in its predecessor, an unbelievably expensive and costly Jeep. So I guess I’ll continue to drive around in my daggy old car, named after a communist ... 

But I know that capitalism doesn’t have just the seeds of its own destruction, it contains the seeds of ours.



Friday, 25 April 2014

On DaVinci Planes, really big crows and why the guy at 000 is a douche bag.




You know that the words we speak are the only thing that keep our feet on the ground.  The whole thing about gravity is wrong don't you ? The man just tells you that so you keep talking.  Apparently scientists have worked out that it takes about four weeks for the weight of our words to work their way through to our feet and then out our toes. We float off into the groove and then beyond the great beyond.  

No but seriously. ...

Have you ever thought about what four weeks is? What can we achieve in four weeks that can permanently change us forever? We could learn a language, perhaps start a really decent garden, lose a tone of weight and get in shape. What if we only had four weeks to live? Could we achieve ten years worth of goals in those four weeks? I believe so at one stage.  I still do, but only because i have never had four weeks.

The closest I ever came was three and a bit.  Then I did fly.  I flew over Bribe Island in a sort of daze and all the way as far as the hospital at Caboolture.
 

This was about six years ago.  I had just left a life in Brisbane.  Packed up a life and one of those swishy houses and hit the road, hippie style. We got rid of all the expensive crap that life in the city demands we have, the shiney stuff and the stuff that makes noise.

We meant to travel around the country in a campervan, but at the time, half of Queensland was underwater and half of Victoria was on fire. Maybe not such a good idea.

We ended up living on Bribie Island. Looking back now, we really did do the hippie thing way too much. While we still shirk extravagance or money stuff, we were floating too far out in to the cosmos. I am really glad we did though, not that we gained anything from it overly, just as living in the city and then the suburbs teaches some of us that we don’t want to live in the city and the suburbs.

One of the many things that Bribie has going for it is it was the beginning of the Brisbane Line. Part of the job I had left behind involved teaching about Australian political history. One of the essays for this course asked for an answer to when and how Australia became legally independent from Great Britain. 

There are basically five answers to this question That Australia was never really tied to Great Britain in the way many think it was; that this happened in 1901 due to section 128 of the Constitution providing for any changes to be made by a referenda of the Australian People, so theoretically, we could have had a referenda on 2 January, 1901 to get rid of the ties to England; thirdly, it happened on the battlefields of both World Wars;  fourthly it happened in 1986 and finally, it hasn’t happened yet.

I always meant to write up a book on this subject as I don’t think that it has been ever clearly reviewed by the academy in an all-encompassing way. I will write this book someday, maybe tomorrow. Nah, I’d doubt it.

Anyway, it is one of those areas where legal scholars don’t really take into account what straight political historians say or what sociologists and other parts of the academy says, and visa versa. My whole idea came about as a result of, and in response to AT Ross’s wonderful book, “Armed and Ready – The Industrial Defence of Australia 1900-1945. It’s a very interesting read if your a dork like me due to it painting a very different picture of Australia’s reliance on Great Britain and general niaiveie that main stream history, and certainly political and legal history recall.

The part that I wanted to check out was the Brisbane Line, which starts on Bribie Island. A few kilometres north of the main settlement on the eastern side is a gunner’s nest, then about ten kilometres further up the beach are other things, including an underground hospital that has been (and still is) lost to the world probably by the changing sand bank. I had previously elected myself a military historian of great knowledge yet had never had a lesson.

I set out to see if I could find this lost hospital, ignoring the fact that many people who actually did have some skills in finding such things had been trying for a long time. I think I figured that I’d just fluke it. But mainly what I wanted to do was to look at these gunner’s nests and see if I could figure out whether they were a rouse, that would have been only designed to get the invading Japanese forces to land, or whether they were what the army at the time would have put all the effort into.

I initially thought it was the former with all of them due to where they were and what they looked like –they stood up tall and were very visible, but since talking to a few people about how the sand dunes of the island have changed drastically  over the years, I am not sure there is an answer here.

I set out on a push bike and was able to ride about eighteen miles up the beach. I put my bike in the dunes right on the eighteen mile marker as I kept falling off it. Due to the four-wheel drives that cut through and up the beach, the tracks they leave behind create a gutter that will throw you off your bike. I set off further up the coast on foot. By this stage it was mid morning.

It was mid November and the sun was hot that day my friends. I reached the top of the island, pondered my pondering and the like and turned back towards home. I only had a litre and a half of water on me, but I knew that there was another three litres on the back of my bike, which was at the eighteen mile marker.

Then it got really hot. I started to get very worried. I had run out of water and was starting to feel the dizziness that that sort of heat brings. I had a phone on me, but it wasn’t able to reach my wife. I knew that the signal for 000 would be considerably stronger once I called it, but was I really in that sort of situation?

I thought not.

I kept walking. The tide was coming in and pushed me onto the soft sand, which greatly slowed my pace. Still it got hotter. I didn’t think it could. I set my phone alarm for twenty minutes and kept walking. I figured someone would drive by sooner or later. Then someone did. A pudgy bloke in a dual cab hilux ute. I waived. He pretended to not see me.

My twenty minute alarm went off. I thought about what to do. I reset it for another twenty minutes and figured that I’d reassess my situation in twenty minutes. I did this another two times.

By this time I was really worried. But it wasn’t life threatening yet and I knew that I had another three litres of water and some shelter and other stuff at my bike, which was tied to the eighteen mile marker. I had passed the nineteen mile marker almost half and hour ago. It was slow going on the soft sand, but I kept going, figuring that it would be just over the next dune.

I kept in mind that my phone probably would be able to call 000, but was it a life threatening situation yet? I did have water just up ahead ...didn’t I.

I kept walking and then it occurred to me that I was starting to run. I was starting to run because I was being chased by one of those DaVinci planes and this really, really big crow. He must have been about the size of a four storey apartment block.

Now my situation was life threatening I thought. I called 000. Funnily enough, even though I was still thinking quite clearly (except for the DaVinci plane and the really, really big crow) when the bloke answered the phone to ask whether I needed police, ambulance or fire, I couldn’t seem to speak. My mouth was very dry, which made speaking hard, but mainly, I couldn’t seem to control my mouth. The noises I was making were more like drunken grunts than anything.

The person on the other end of the phone became very cross. “This is a emergency line, you’re wasting our time.” he said and threatened to hang up on me and inform the police.
I still couldn’t really say anything. Then I realised my problem was I was trying to explain my situation, rather than just stating the word “ambulance”.

I stated “Ambulance

He stroppily put me through.

Thankfully the guy at the ambulance place knew how to speak to people, told me to check that my phone was charged, which it was mostly, then told me to take three deep breaths and then start again. We got to the end of it. Not too long later I got back to my bike, sipped water on the advice of the ambulance guy, and waited there for help.

I didn’t really ask what help was. I realised that I couldn’t move my legs. I hadn’t even noticed that I’d sat down. There were more cars going down the beach now. Even though I was lying in the middle of nowhere on the beach, they pretended not to see me. I must have

Still more cars came by. None of them stopped. I felt lost, abandoned, I didn’t know where I was but was greatly angry with these unfeeling people for not stopping and for wrecking the beach with their cars and inappropriate tyres.

Now they’re landing a fucking helicopter on the beach. I was really getting cranky. I mean, walking, sure; cars, maybe if need be, but a helicopter? And to make things seem more silly, they were dressed up in ambulance overalls.


Why Defamation should be a Crime, not a Tort


A few years ago, when I was in my early twenties, we traveled around for half a year and then moved back to the sleepy little town we’d lived in for four or five years previously for me to do my PhD.  

Then the strangest thing happened. We had phenomenal trouble getting work. For months, we looked and applied for anything that was open, regardless of what it was. It took forever, but we found work only after someone had told us that a previous employer (who we had listed as a reference) was saying nasty things about us behind our backs. This was very strange for us. We had left employment with him on amicable terms and because we were leaving town to travel for a while. We didn’t know of any ill will between us. I approached him about it. He was friendly to me, denied the whole thing and seemed too genuinely shocked considering he was a bit of an apathetic slob to be believed. 

It took forever for us to be told about this. This is a huge problem with something like defamation: the subject of it is usually about the last to know and by then, there is nothing much that can be done to repair or account for any harm.

Once we knew of it, we got my father to ring this bloke (sans information about exactly who Dad was) for a reference to confirm that there was foul things afoot there. I remember Dad got off the phone and was visibly livid from the conversation and he was not a man who ever really let emotion show at all. He refused to tell me exactly what was said. He simply said that I didn’t want to know (which made me want to know more).

Thankfully a friend of ours was a senior partner in one of the local law firms and agreed to smack this guy around the chops a bit. He got his office manager to ring for a reference for us, with no disguise on who she was but allowing an inference to be made as to why she was calling. She then wrote up what was said and was prepared to witness it. The content was ridiculous. 

According to this guy, we were “known to the police” who ran us out of town and would not let us come back to our hometown to live (even though we actually did live in the town and hadn’t ever had any involvement with the police or anything like that at all.

At the time, I remember being absolutely furious about this. The injustice, the cowardice and the deceit of it made me want to do everything from smash this guy’s face in to burn down his shop to start rumours of my own. And you know me dear reader – I am not a violent or vicious person. 

Time passed on a bit, we got on with things and my friend arranged for a barrister who specialised in defamation to meet with us to discuss the case as he was in town on another case.

The barrister was a nice and talkative old bloke. I remember he was wearing silk (literally) with the most hideously bright suspenders and socks. But then, it was the late 90s and we were still being blackmailed by fashion of the 80s. The barrister agreed that we had a good case. There was clear loss to us. There was no problem in proving it false. There were no evidentiary issues and there was little that could be taken from us if we lost. He agreed to take on the case.  But he gave us some good advice – don’t – just walk away.

He said that any lawyer that advised to take a defamation action to court is an idiot and should be shot. The reason for this was clear. Defamation, no matter how costly or large, is essentially statements that exist in a community with the relevance of gossip or innuendo. If that rumour and innuendo is ignored, it goes away, if it goes into a courtroom, in the eyes of the public it comes out as gospel. It doesn’t matter what happens. It doesn’t matter who wins, the court process, by the very fact that it allows the defendant to ignore everything, validates the rumour (which by that stage have usually grown considerably more saucy and specific than the instigators of the rumours started). He said we could get some money, but it would take years and after that, we probably would be run out of town quite literally. I am not sure if he was a fan of Schopenhauer (to be honest, I don’t really know what a Schopenhauer fan looks like) but I guess what he was saying was if a truth is violently opposed, it will become self-evident. If it is ignored, it will lose its reference point and become obsolete. The moon is after all, made from blue cheese.

At the time I thought he was wrong and I was upset about it. But I trusted my friend and he trusted this old bloke, so I took his advice and thanked him for it. Don’t get me wrong – we had our retort against our former employer – he got his ... and then some. We just didn’t need a lawyer to do it (mind you, we would have needed a lawyer if we were caught, but we weren’t).

Funnily, I have just been through the process from the other side. I have been a part time writer now for a while and the responses received from some people  are to be avoided if possible – they seem quite obscure: they are like exceptionally drunk friends – they only ever tell you one of two things – how much they love you or how much they hate you. You have people convinced that they were the inspiration behind character x or y and that is either endearing or insulting to them. You have people saying that a particular story was based on a mutually shared experience that you have no recollection of. ]

But defamation is different, in defamation, your words cease to be your words. They are taken out of context and owned by people who are not able to understand their meaning. That’s very frustrating. Being abused by some twit who thinks he is a thousand times smarter than me because he apparently read Descartes in the original French [sic] when his daddy was stationed in Belgium is annoying, but easy to ignore. He is not really criticising me, he is not really even criticising my work, he’s just a dick. He’s not right. He’s not even partially right enough to be considered wrong.

But defamation is speaking to someone who thinks that they own those words, because they think it is about them. You try to understand why he thinks it’s about him, but it’s just a waste of time, the answer is “obvious” yet not forthcoming. What was said was amplified, changed and exaggerated but it was still gossip and innuendo. Until he took it to court.

When this type of matter goes to court, the victim is no longer the victim: they are on the front foot, they are the aggressors, they appear as if they have something to hide. They are the agitators. Nothing will ever really come out of it. It doesn’t matter what happens, but if the slandered party can’t come out of it and tell everyone that the judge considered it the worst case she had ever witnessed and ordered the guilty party to go to gaol for ten years followed by exile to New Zealand, then the slandered party will be labelled as not only as whatever it was the rumour ended up after it had done the rounds, but there is a great potential that there will be implications that the slandered party is also a whinger/ dobber.  

But think about it this way – what if defamation were no longer a tort? What if it were solely a criminal offence? It basically is a form of assault, so it does fit in there somewhere. If it were a criminal offence, the victim would stay the victim. The involvement of the police in investigating it would be enough for the victim to justify to people that there was some seriousness in it. The gossip would then be mostly dismissed, if not entirely. The police would give it the integrity that slip-and-trip lawyers lack and the accused would not be bound to respond. S/he could stay silent, as s/he should be allowed to do. In the tort of defamation, every claim has to be pleaded and responded to. If it were a crime, it would simply be a case of “not guilty your honour” and then watch the prosecution try to bumble through a committal.

If found not guilty, the victim can claim that there was just not enough evidence or just bad luck, but be stoic about the way it all happened and the accused can just say, “well, I told you so.” If the accused is found guilty, the victim is vindicated and the accused can be badly done by and suffer some harm at the hand of the state. The punishment would not need to be much as it would be real, as opposed to the very hypothetical punishment that appears in most tort cases where there is no  actual outcome.

That would suit everything a lot better.

Damn the Man, Save the Empire - A Tragedy of the Commons.


It has been said of journalists, but I think it more apt to say of lawyers that – the problem with lawyers is that they don’t read, can’t write and are unable to tell the difference between a bicycle crash and the end of civilization. 

I ponder this thought as I am having to put up with being unsuccessfully sued by a creepy looking chick and a guy that looks like he could be his own grandfather. I write as I am waiting in court, listening to two barristers with pasty skin, looking exceptionally cheap in expensive suits, argue one way and the other for whether a bloke could get his driver’s licence. The person in question isn’t actually in court today, as is too often the case, but listening to various arguments he is described in simple facts.

He is in his early thirties, had lost his licence eight years ago after a string of driving offences and other crimes. Both barristers and the judge muse that these were “obviously” concerned with his involvement with drugs that was the cause, and all else was the effect. 

Does it strike you, dear reader, that when someone says “such and such is obviously...” what they really mean is “please don’t ask me to explain what I mean, cause I don’t understand it”?

But anyway, I digress. At the time that he lost his licence, the judge ordered that he never be able to get it back again. This decision was made because of his history, including the then latest event, which involved speeding away from police in a stolen car and colliding into another car causing serious injury to the lady driver. She had to spend seven days in hospital due to her injuries. 

In this situation, you immediately feel for the other driver don’t you? You put yourself in her shoes, in her car. She was probably on her way back from the chemist caring for a sick, orphaned child while knitting socks for lost puppies. When simple facts are presented, they result in simple truths, and the truth is never simple, only misunderstandings are. For all I know, she could have been a crack smoking kiddie fiddler on her way home from murdering a string quartet.

But she is the victim, so she is nice. 

The guy lost his licence as a result, apparently the law has the ability to permanently deny someone their driver’s license, but the law also provides for this permanent decision to be cancelled, thus making it kind of stupid to use words like permanent. But the law deals in absolutes and simple truths, which is why it uses these words and may be half the reason it is quite useless. 

In the eight years since losing his licence, our boy has been in and out of gaol and still might have a thing with drugs (apparently we can presume that fact because his affidavit doesn’t specifically say otherwise). In recent times, he may be turning things around: he is a bit older and wiser and has found employment that may lead to a plumbing apprentice providing he can get his driver’s license (thus the whole process began). His boss has also told the court that if he can’t get his license, there is little chance that he will be able to continue with his current work. 

Now we all feel for him don’t we? We think about the stupid and reckless things that we did when we were kids and think “well, that could have been me”. Surely he (I) deserve a second chance. 

This story takes a little over an hour for the court to deal with, mainly because there is so much speak of tiny little legal facts: standards of proof, standing of the people in the court, the actual name of the case - apparently the police don’t know their own name and filled in the initial form wrong which takes another five minutes to deal with.

The judge then, in a very long winded judgement, allows the bloke to get his licence back while making me cringe because he used the term “for all intensive purposes” (which we’ve discussed before haven’t we?). We always knew he would give the bloke his licence back, but just had to figure out the reasoning – the rules.  We knew because to say no would be unreasonable.
“No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?”

Now, the thought occurs to me that the guy was always going to get back his licence, the decision was made on grounds that in no way resemble what the rules are.  We like to pretend that we are above our base instincts, and the more removed from how we live, the more this is true. 

However research such as the Kill Whitey Project and the various Trolley dilemmas prove that our decision making faculties have little if anything to do with our reason. We are just monkeys with car keys. The less we have to provide for our own lives, the more we forget this and sitting here in the Supreme Court building, I am surrounded by people who are so greatly removed from having to look after their own lives.
“Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals. He sets them to work, he gives back to them the bare minimum that will prevent them from starving, and the rest he keeps for himself.”

Things that allow us not to look after our own lives also seem to convince us that we are more developed. People who choose to cook their own food are seen as less evolved than people who pay for others to do it. The same can be said for most facets of life: growing or catching food, cleaning, gardening, building...

The best one we have come up with is rules. A series of rules allow us to think that we are making reasoned choices about things. We can give this guy his licence back because the rules allow us to. We are not deciding his fate, we are simply observing the rules.  If the rules apply to everyone, then they are apparently fair. Their true genius lies, as John Stuart Mill pointed out, in the fact that if there is a complete system of rules that could cover the events of life, they could never possibly be known by anyone. The list would be too long and contrary. 

That same contrary point can be seen in the current case: is it fair or just that the guy gets his licence back? That is really what is being asked here. It’s not a question of law, it is a question of opinion. Does his want to keep his job outweigh the want of safety on the roads or vengence of the prior events' victims? In our hearts, we think that eight years is long enough.

The contradiction in the answer is hidden by the rules. The rules say that this guy is capable of having a driver’s licence, but they hide the claim that a driver’s licence exists to stop people from driving away from police, in stolen cars and crash into our puppy-sock-knitting orphan nurse.  

The rules say that people can feel safe on the roads due to the rules allowing for it. There has to be a ‘defcon one’ for this to have any chance of working. If there is no absolute, then what is the point of having a driver’s licence system? Why don’t we just burn down the courthouses, kill all the lawyers, remove safety labels from everything and let nature take its course?

The answer- The rules don’t allow for people to be safe, or even feel safe. That's not the point. They allow for the state to own what was once owned by the people. If you need a licence to drive on a road, you have to respect the courts and the whole system. The state has purchased the roads and the very concept of travel from us. We now rent it back from them at a great cost. At one stage, roads and tracks were able to be trodden on freely. We built them, not the state. There was a time when we grew and caught our own food. Now we purchase it from people who don’t grow or catch it, but they have licences from the state to ensure that the food is not going to make us sick, or be misleading  or the like – the state, the law guarantees us this. 

The people that get sick or are mislead are seen as the exception to the norm, rather than the norm itself. It is never much considered that this is mere proof that the whole system doesn’t provide for us, it takes from us. The state gives out mining leases to large corporations so that they can dig a massive whole in our land and put up a big fence that says “get out and stay out” with more force than we currently advise refugees. I ponder if this is the same feeling Indigenous Australians had when white settlement first arrived. So many people were slaughtered mainly for killing a sheep or a cow that “didn’t belong to them”. Imagine being brought up in a tribe, catching or collecting your food, then these people come and tell you that they own that food. How can you own food you would ask? Those people must be crazy. Then those people have, somewhere along the way, convinced us that they do own the food, water, shelter and everything there is. If we would like to be, we cannot be and be free.
“Comrades!' he cried. 'You do not imagine, I hope, that we pigs are doing this in a spirit of selfishness and privilege? Many of us actually dislike milk and apples. I dislike them myself. Our sole object in taking these things is to preserve our health. Milk and apples (this has been proved by Science, comrades) contain substances absolutely necessary to the well-being of a pig. We pigs are brainworkers. The whole management and organisation of this farm depend on us. Day and night we are watching over your welfare. It is for your sake that we drink the milk and eat those apples.”