Third Anniversary edition

Three years before the masthead and what a year.

Last year I decided that I wanted to stretch my wings and write something other than op-ed pieces.

Op-ed’s are fine and most bloggers write them as a staple but I wanted to get out of the office and report a few first hand accounts.

I’m not a professional journo and I have no ties to the MSM, so I was curious to know whether or not whoever I approached for whatever story I was chasing, would even talk to me.

Surprisingly, nearly everyone I approached agreed to give me some of their time.

I began my quest by ambushing Bill Mitchell, who to his credit, took it very well considering that he has a wary relationship with the MSM, coupled with the fact that I’d button holed him during his free time.

Mitchell gave me two interviews but would only consent to the second for publication as he felt the first was far too personal.

So I spiked the interview.  Rule one; If you want people to talk to you and you’re not an accredited writer, it’s best to remember that ethics are not people who come from a long way overseas.

Without telling too many tales out of school however, it turned out that Mitchell and I grew up in Melbourne a few suburbs apart, shared similar experiences and tastes in music and while there really wasn’t a lot said about MMT during our first meeting, there was a fascinating insight to Bill Mitchell, steely-eyed warrior of the Left and champion of the unemployed – and he means it! Heartfelt thanks for your time, Bill.

This year I got to meet some fellow bloggers such as Eugene Stein. Thanks for the cold beer and the time spent in warm company, Eugene.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Michael and Carol Taylor who continue to provide an excellent news and current affairs  forum for bloggers and readers alike and bear the cost out of their own pocket.

I’d wanted to ask Michael what it takes and makes a good ongoing blog site since I had started reading AIMN’s forerunner; Cafe Whispers back in the day.

It turned out that the question wasn’t necessary. The combination of Michael’s affability and Carol’s genuine warmth created an instant sense of camaraderie.

Carol and I shared the experiences of growing up in the working class sections of Melbourne’s eastern suburbs and somewhere between the “do you remembers” and the “did you ever go to’s”; Michael asked me to take the wheel while he lit a cigar.

Sincere thanks for the trust Michael, it was – and remains – a real buzz.

I also spent a perfect spring afternoon in Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens with Sally Baxter and her partner the current Mr.Baxter, who unreservedly gave me the benefit of the combined knowledge of two A-grade working journalists and in Sally’s case, two generations of experience.

I couldn’t have asked for better tutelage if I’d taken a degree in journalism and a cadetship at The Guardian.

Gong Hey Fat Choy and Doh Je, Sally, Mr. B (current model).

Meeting President of the Australian Unemployed Workers Union, Owen Bennett arose out of a newspaper article I read while waiting for a hair-cut, so I chased him down, interviewed him and became involved in the media arm of the AUWU.

It’s said that Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath came out of his interviews with dispossessed Okie families he’d encountered along the roadsides in Southern California, and like Steinbeck, I quickly found stories of misery and suffering on a grand scale. Perhaps more horrifying was that unlike Steinbeck’s Okies who were visible for all the world to see, the modern day individual who’s out of work is almost invisible.

They’re people like ‘Sue’, who have only five dollars to live on for a week but who have to stand in line with at least eleven others in the hope that they can get a couple of hours employment in a casual job for day or two a week while trying to feed and clothe two kids at primary school.

Or ‘Charlie’, forced to dismantle junk jewellery and sort coloured beads as part of his Work for the Dole obligations. At the end of the day the sorted beads are gathered up and placed all together in a storage bin to be redistributed to Charlie the next day so that he can start the sorting process all over again. This is done in order to make him ‘job-ready’.

While they’re standing in line trying to get a job or performing useless tasks, the unemployed are constantly being demonised in the MSM as dole bludgers and welfare cheats.

They’re hounded by an increasingly draconian system of punishment imposed by private providers modelled on similar schemes in the UK and US and like their overseas brethren, are almost literally held captive to these organisations for the purposes of profit.

They have few if any rights of appeal.

These schemes have now been expanded to include the disabled in order to provide them with a ‘Transitional education to work.’ There’s gold in them thar cripples and depressives and switching from work for the dole contracts to being a ‘disability services provider’ is the new fashion among the smart set of overseas corporations who tender for tax payer funded contracts.

There are nine hundred and ninety nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety eight people just like Sue and Charlie. A powder keg with the fuse burning yet none of the three Australian political parties seem to be able to smell it.

The lack of olfactory senses combined with a cognitive dissonance have been the order of the day in Australian for far too long in Australian politics but while the electorate screams for change, the parties who claim to represent the progressive vote continue to sit on their hands and repeat the time worn mantra of ‘more of the same policy but slightly different.’

Shorten went from zero to hero and then back again with the replacement of Tony Abbott by Malcolm Turnbull as leader of the Coalition, while the Green’s Richard Di Natale admitted he’d be quite happy to see a Green-Labor alliance as long as he was given a cabinet post as Minister for Health.

For many Greens voters, it was a case of Vale Dickie, we hardly knew ye. And so the Caravan of fools moves on oblivious to the looming shadow of the strange beast that now slouches toward Bethlehem.

The Spanish philosopher George Santayana wrote that those who don’t give a fuck about history will surely be fucked over by history in return – or words to that effect. So far the advice continues to fall on deaf ears.

No annual musing would be complete with out few honourable mentions to the following;

Simon Kneebone who generously donated his considerable talent and energy to help promote the AUWU through cartoons and animation. Many thanks, Simon – love your work Comrade!

John Armour, the Paladin of MMT in the lists at The Guardian and other sites.

For the past three years John has tirelessly espoused La Causa, and gathering a steadily growing number of converts in his wake. As regular contributor to AIMN John Kelly, will confirm, John’s the go-to man when you need to clarify a few points about MMT and you’re in a hurry to get your post up. Once again, I thank you for your advice and ongoing friendship John.

There are writers who can take your breath away with their fearless approach to speaking what’s on their mind. There are other writers whose barbed commentary on society and its mores can cause you to roll up laughing.

Alas, these writers are fairly rare, and rarer still is a combination of the two.

Ross Sharp is one of those combinations.

Ross has the unerring knack of giving voice to the thoughts most of us are feeling whenever we’re assailed by a squall of neo-liberal bullshit.

Sharp has written some very funny, and straight from the shoulder posts this year including; ‘Abetz Macht Frei’, ‘The Day the Clown cried’, ‘Not Feminism’, and the hard working staff at the Post‘s personal favourite; Reasons why Mark Latham should be beaten to death with a hammer’. Kudos Ross, and keep them coming.

So there it is gentle reader, another year passed. Let’s get together and do it again this year.