Following Larry Kramer's attack on the US Human Rights Commission, and the suggestion that they might work with the Bush administration , supporting the privatisation of social security in return for the recognition of inclusion of gay and lesbian couples, the National Gay & Lesbian Taskforce responded with an open letter in the press. HRC declined to sign.
WHERE THEY STAND
What better statement can you have of our rights? Wise words for our own times and country, too . . . .
"although the struggle for freedom can be difficult and painful for those without full equality, it would be an historic mistake to grow tired of the battle or surrender basic rights and equality in order to make the road easier."
"We will not sacrifice our rights—or the rights of others like senior citizens on the altar of political expediency. Most of us, if confronted with that choice, would not even know where to begin. Which right would we give up?
The right to adopt children? The right to serve our country proudly and with honor? The right to be at our partner’s bedside in death? . . . . "
"Nothing short of full equality and protection granted to all other American citizens is acceptable."
Couldn't have put it better myself.
So I won't.
Sunday, December 19, 2004
Following Larry Kramer's attack on the US Human Rights Commission, and the suggestion that they might work with the Bush administration , supporting the privatisation of social security in return for the recognition of inclusion of gay and lesbian couples, the National Gay & Lesbian Taskforce responded with an open letter in the press. HRC declined to sign.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
The Village Voice: Nation: 'You Can Never Not Fight Back!' by Alisa Solomon
Good old Larry Kramer - what a wonderful parcel of advice for all those arse-kissers who think we should be cosying up to the Howard government because they might be what we have to work with for the next six years.
His advice to US lobbyists is equally true for Aussie ones: their job is not to ask, beg, or request, it is to demand, and who cares if they don't like it? What worse can they do that what they're already doing?
Thursday, December 09, 2004
Now that I’ve finished my on-air duties for the week, I wanted to have a rant about the despicable craven piece of advice masquerading as 'being realistic' in MCV last week, on how to deal with the Howard government.
In essence it said that the gay community had to pick some new leaders willing to engage with ministers and bureaucrats, not activists who want said ministers etc. thrown out, and who embarrass them in public by holding nasty things like demonstrations, mouthing off about their homophobia etc. etc. We have to accept we can only work for little changes, give up on our dreams, accept whatever crumbs they condescend to drop.
Well, as my good mate Kaye Sera would say, “Pardon Me, Mary!”
You can dress up in your Armani suits, pack your shiny black leather briefcases with glossy position papers, and make all the smooth and soothing noises you like: the minute we hit Canberra it’ll be “Down on your knees boy, and give me tongue.” And then they’ll walk away with a grin, having given nothing in return, except a bad taste in our mouths.
This government isn’t interested in us. Never mind gay marriage – it won’t even fund AIDS tests. The Minister for Health said on World Aids Day – if I may paraphrase, “It’s your own stupid fault, just stop fucking each other and it’ll go away.” We can bow and scrape all we like, the message is clear – fuck off and die, faggots.
Instead of sitting around wondering how best to grovel, we should take a leaf out of America’s book. Yes, I know all the gay marriage constitutional bans got up. Yes, I know George Bush got elected. And I can hear from here the cries of “cultural cringe” and “ Australia’s not America”. No, it bloody isn’t, more's the pity. Do you see the Yanks sitting around whining about how to make people like them? Trying to work out the most appealing way to crawl to their enemies?
No – they conduct earnest symposia, such as the recent one for young activists, studying the strategy and tactics of the Christian groups that defeated us and said, OK, the God Squad were very successful. Let’s learn from that – borrow some of the same tactics for our side.
Did couples wanting to marry in Oregon, New York, California etc. etc. cry into their beers saying, “It’s no good, they’ll never give it to us, boo hoo.” ? Maybe for about five minutes – then they were back in the press, on TV, in the courts, battling on.
Did the HRC stick with the strategy their chair had fashioned? No, they booted her out and got in some fresh thinkers.
We have to get off our butts and sue, attack, embarrass, upset, out and damage this bunch of smug murderous idiots with all the power at our disposal, not queue up to beg for a job wiping their bums. We don’t have the Democrats – they imploded. We don’t have the Greens – they didn’t get up. We don’t have Labor – they’re in thrall to the Catholics and the Aspirational Assholes. We only have ourselves.
The gloves have to come off.
If there are any closet gay pollies we know of in Canberra who won’t speak up for us, any gay journalist, lawyer, professor who won’t go to bat for us, out them. If media tarts badmouth us, sue their tits off. If lunatic clergymen gut up on their hind legs and call us pagans on a par with wife-stranglers and widow burners, as one opponent of NZ civil unions did, sue them, ridicule them, make their lives hell. Pay them back in their own coin. It’s time to stop being nice: that’s what got us where we are, ignored and left to rot. Now it’s time to get nasty.
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
Once again I see John Howard but I hear the voice of the Maggatollah Thatcher. Curb the unions! Enforce secret ballots! Weaken or do away with unfair dismissal laws! Ban pattern bargaining! Outlaw the closed shop! Give management the freedom to manage and enterprise will blossom!
Am I missing something here? On the one hand people are complaining – and rightly – that employers are demanding more and more of our (unpaid) time, that work and life are seriously out of balance, that we have no choice but to work till we drop or else, that once you hit 50 no-one will employ you, that none of us will have a decent pension when and if we finally do retire. On the other hand everyone’s lining up to clobber the unions.
Hello, people, reality check time.
It was the unions that put an end to excessive working hours and thus allowed people to have leisure and family time.
It was the unions that made sure that if you had to work more than the basic number of hours in a day, at least you got paid for it.
It was the unions that made it possible for people – except those working in radio and television of course :-) - could go on holiday with some money in their pockets and the guarantee of a job to come back to.
It was the unions that made sure that people couldn’t be dismissed without proper thought or consideration for their futures and their families.
It was the unions that made sure people weren’t thrown on the scrapheap at 50 and left to starve.
The list goes on……..
Listen up people – there is a direct connection between the horrible working conditions you now have to endure to be allowed to earn a crust, and the weakened state of trade unions.
Individuals have no chance against the economic and social power of employers: unions supplied the essential balance that made sure people weren’t just ground up to suit the convenience of business.
Your life is out of balance because the employer-employee relationship is out of balance. And the only way to redress that balance is for employees to be organized in some way, otherwise we just get picked off one by one.
The biggest single domestic social challenge is indeed to reform the unions, not so that they have less power, but so that they can once again become an effective counterbalance – and so we can all get our lives back.
Saturday, November 13, 2004
Thursday, November 11, 2004
THE TRAGEDY OF TODAY'S GAYS By Larry Kramer
(A speech made at Cooper Union, New York on Sunday, November 7, 2004, presented by HIV Forum in conjunction with NYU's Office of LGBT Student Services, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids, Callen-Lorde, and the Gill Foundation.)
I think this has been the most difficult speech I have ever had to write and to deliver. It is a long speech. I pray you will bear with me until it's end.
It is an attempt to give you some idea of who and what we are up against. It is also an attempt to discuss our ability to deal with these.
I recently learned about two dear friends, both exceptionally smart and talented and each in his own way a leader of our community. One, in his middle age, has sero-converted. The other, in his middle-age, has become hooked on crystal meth. Both of them are here with us tonight.
I love being gay. I love gay people. I think we're better than other people. I really do. I think we're smarter and more talented and more aware and I do, I do, I totally do. And I think we're more tuned in to what's happening, tuned into the moment, tuned into our emotions, and other people's emotions, and we're better friends. I really do think all these things.
To us it defies rational analysis that this incompetent dishonest man and his party should be re-elected. Or does it?
I hope we all realize that, as of November 2nd, gay rights are officially dead. And that from here on we are going to be led even closer to the guillotine. This past week almost 60 million of our so-called "fellow" Americans voted against us. Indeed 23% of self-identified gay people voted against us, too. That one I can't figure.
The absoluteness of what has happened is terrifying. On the gay marriage initiatives alone: 2.6 million against us in Michigan. 3.2 million in Ohio. 1.1 million in Oklahoma, 2.2 million in Georgia. 1.2 million in Kentucky. George Bush won his Presidency of our country by selling our futures. Almost 60 million people whom we live and work with every day think we are immoral. "Moral values" was top of many lists of why people supported George Bush. Not Iraq. Not the economy. Not terrorism. "Moral values."
In case you need a translation that means us. It is hard to stand up to so much hate. Which of course is just the way they want it. Please know that a huge portion of the population of the United States hates us. I don't mean dislike. I mean hate. You may not choose to call it hate, but I do. Not only because they refuse us certain marital rights but because they have also elected a congress that is overflowing with men and women who refuse us just about every other right to exist as well. "Moral values" is really a misnomer; it means just the reverse. It means they think we are immoral. And that we're dangerous and contaminated.
How do you like being called immoral by some 60 million people? This is not just anti-gay. This is what Doug Ireland calls "homo hate" on the grandest scale. How do we stand up to 60 million people who have found a voice and a President who declares he has a mandate?
The new Supreme Court, due any moment now, will erase us from the slate of everything possible in no time at all. Gay marriage? Forget it. Gay anything, forget it. Civil rights for gays? Equal protection for gays. Adoption rights? The only thing we are going to get from now on is years of increasing and escalating hate. Surely you must know this. Laws and regulations that now protect us will be repealed and rewritten. Please know all this. With the arrival of this second term of these hateful people we come even closer to our extinction. We should have seen it coming. We are all smart people. How could we not have been prepared?
They have not exactly been making a secret of their hate. This last campaign has seen examples of daily hate on tv and in the media that I do not believe the world has witnessed since Nazi Germany. I have been reading Ambassador Dodd's Diary; he was Roosevelt's ambassador to Germany in the 30's, and people are always popping in and out of his office proclaiming the most awful things out loud about Jews. It has been like that.
All Mary Cheney is is a lesbian! Even her mother is hateful! That Cheney must be one fucked-up kid to stick around that family. I hope she doesn't want to teach school. One of the reelected Congress persons vows to make it illegal for lesbians to teach school.
I know many people look to me for answers. Perhaps that is why many of you are here. You want answers? We're living in pigshit and its up to each one of us to figure out how to get out of it. You must know that by now. Crystal meth is not an answer. You must know that by now. And quite frankly statistically it is only happening to so few of us that it is hard to get anyone worked up about that problem. Just as it hard to get worked up about a middle-aged man with brains who sero-converts. You want to kill yourself. Go kill yourself. I'm sorry. It takes hard work to behave like an adult. It takes discipline. You want it to be simple. It isn't simple. Yes it is. Grow up. Behave responsibly. Fight for your rights. Take care of yourself and each other. These are the answers. It takes courage to live. Are you living? Not so I can see it. Gay people are all but invisible to me now. I wish you weren't. But you are. And I look real hard.
No one likes to be told to grow up. It's insulting. But these are always the answers. They will always be the answers. The only answers. There will never be any other answers. Grow up. Behave responsibly. Fight for your rights. Take care of yourself and each other. Be proud of yourself. Be proud you are gay. I don't know why so many find all this so complicated. But then I am 69 years old and have less patience for the many problems I had myself when young. It is one of the privileges of getting old.
It is 25 years since 100,000 of us marched on Washington.
The Aids service organizations are all about to collapse. No money. And the problem is too big to handle anymore. We have not slowed this thing down at all. $100 billion we're spending on Iraq. This is a conscious choice by our "leaders" and by a large portion of the population of this country. They have in their infinite and never-ending cruelty decided this was the most effective thing to do with 100 billion dollars that might also end Aids, and a few other things like worldwide hunger. But the cabal doesn't care about these. People say: well we can't take care of the rest of the world. That is so stupid. The rest of the world is us. We are so intertwined geopolitically that we cannot separate ourselves off into parts, into sections. Those days are over. If they ever were here. We have everything required to save the world except the will to do it. In a recent New Yorker piece Michael Specter writes that because of Aids Russia is on its way to disappearing. Disappearing. Imagine that.
The immense knowledge we have learned about Aids has provided us with precious little more than that knowledge. HIV/AIDS is now the worst disaster in recorded human history. In parts of Africa 7000 people are infecting each other each and every day. We who are here are idiots if we think this fact is not going to alter our lives mightily. If your company loses enough world markets, which it most certainly will, you are going to lose your job. You will not have health insurance, for a start. And for a finish. Economies are simply going to collapse. This is already happening.
In 1990, that is some nine years into what was happening, 46% of gay men in San Francisco were still fucking without condoms.
60% of the syphilis in America today is in gay men. Excuse me, men who have sex with men.
Palm Springs has the highest number of syphilis cases in California. Palm Springs?
I do not want to hear each week how many more of you are becoming hooked on meth.
HIV infections are up as much as 40%.
You cannot continue to allow yourselves and each other to act and live like this!
One of these days the miraculous drugs we have to keep us alive are going to stop working. Our systems cannot process these extreme chemotherapies indefinitely. That is what we are on. We are on daily chemotherapy. No one wants to call it that. We call it the cocktail. We are on chemotherapy! Chemotherapy either kills the disease or kills us! What are we going to do when they don't work any longer?
Some 70 million people so far are expected to die. "July 3, 1981, Rare cancer seen in 41 homosexuals." When I first started yelling about whatever it was there were 41 cases. THERE ARE NOW OVER 70 MILLION WHO HAVE BEEN INFECTED WITH HIV. Somebody up there is really listening, don't you think? There is no way that all infected people can be saved. No one ever says that out loud. Have you noticed? Somehow in some dream world we are going to get treatment into 70 million people. It is never going to happen. IT IS TOO LATE. We told them. But they didn't do anything. Did you notice? Nobody every does anything. I hope it's finally dawning on you that maybe they didn't and don't want to. So, in case you haven't noticed, we have lost the war against Aids. I thought I'd tell you that, too. I hope you might have noticed. I can't tell.
The President refuses to buy generic drugs for dying people. He is still saying he is waiting to hear if they are safe. These drugs have been approved. In some cases for several years. Does this sound like a President who wants to save anyone?
I do not understand why some of you believe that because we have drugs that deal with the virus more or less effectively that it is worth the gamble to have unprotected sex. These drugs are not easy to take. There are many side effects. Not life but certainly comfort threatening. I must allow at least one day out of every week or two to feel really shitty, to have no sleep, to be constipated, to have diarrhea, to require blood tests and monitoring at hospitals or in doctors' offices, and to have the shakes.
The shakes, which come often, are not useful with a mouse or reading a newspaper or with a lover in your arms. And I don't enjoy eating anymore. Keeping on weight is a constant problem. I have dry mouth. I get up six or seven times a night to pee. Many of the meds we are now taking are new meds and were approved quickly and side effects have a sneaky way of showing up after FDA approval, not before. I recently discovered that I was taking an FDA approved dose of Viread that has turned out to be five times the amount I actually need. We are all probably taking too much or too little of every single one of our drugs. Doctors don't want to test for this; tests are not readily available. You have to do a lot of homework yourselves on these drugs. Is a fuck without a condom worth not being able to taste food? Obviously for too many of you it is.
My lover often sits on top of me to make me eat. The first time this happened I was in the hospital just after my liver transplant and I wouldn't eat and Dr. Fung said I had to eat, or else I would die, and I just couldn't eat (do you know how strange this is to someone who was always on a diet?). It was New Year's Eve. We were in beautiful downtown Pittsburgh. David had brought a hamper filled with my favorite dishes. And I could not eat anything. Furiously he crawled into bed with me, boots and all, and started to cry. "We haven't come this far for you to die because you won't eat," he screamed, tears streaming down his face. I will never forget that. I will never forget this man I love so much in bed with me with his snowy boots on starting slowly to spoon into me whatever he'd made and I trying so desperately hard to swallow it, looking at him, this man I love so much, doing this for me, both of us now bawling our eyes out and hugging each other in this strange bed in this strange town, wondering how we got here.
It's so wonderful being a gay person. I said that before. I'm going to say it again. I love being gay. And I love gay people. I think we're better than other people. I really do. I think we're smarter and more talented and more aware and I do, I do, I totally do. And I think we're more tuned in to what's happening, tuned into the moment, tuned into our emotions, and other people's emotions, and we're better friends. I really do think all of these things. And I try not to forget them.
Since the very first day of this plague we have been given, almost as if by some cosmic intentionality, American leaders who most assuredly wish us dead. There can no longer be any way to deny this fact. Each day brings more and more acts of hatred. Tell me it is not so. Tell me that the amount of good that is being attempted is not totally and intentionally overwhelmed by the evil. Point out to me how this is not so. I cannot see it. I have been unable to see it since July 3, 1981. I thought it was because it was a tricky virus. That is what we have been told. It's a very tricky virus. I hoped for a while. But we are being played for chumps and it has been so since July 3, 1981. And we never saw it.
We of course continue to be in our usual state of total denial and disarray. Whatever structure the gay world had, if we ever had one, is gone. Our organizations stink. Almost every single one of them. I cannot think of one single gay organization that despite the best will in the world is now anything but worthless to us. Oh maybe one or two. We have no power. Nobody listens to us. We have no access to power. The cabal disdains us totally. We are completely disposable. It is a horror show. There is not one single person in Washington who will get us or give us anything but shit and more shit. I'm sorry. This is where we are now. Nowhere. And you expect me to cry for you if you get hooked on meth or can't stop the circuit parties or the orgies. OK, I feel sorry for you. Does that change nything? I would say I feel sorry for myself, but I don't. I know I am fighting as hard as I can. I may not be getting anywhere but I am trying. It's exhausting and I have to do it every day, every single day, like taking my meds which if I stop I know my body will cease doing something or other. I have accidentally missed a few days of meds and boy do I know fast that was a mistake.
I fear for us as a people. Is that crazy? I am always being called crazy by somebody. I love being called crazy. That's a sign to me that I'm on the right track. Maybe it takes a crazy person to see into the future and see what's coming. Straight people say "my how much progress gay people are making. Isn't that Will and Grace wonderful." If it's so wonderful why am I scared to death? More and more I am filled with dread. That is my truth that I bring to you today. Larry is scared. Do you see what I see? I don't think so. Most gay people I see appear to me to act as if they're bored to death. Too much time on your hands, my mother would say. Hell, if you have time to get hooked on crystal and do your endless rounds of sex-seeking, you have too much time on your hands. Ah, you say, aren't we to have a little fun? Can't I get stoned and try barebacking one last time. ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FUCKING MIND! At this moment in our history, no, you cannot. Anyway, we had your fun and look what it got us into. And it is still getting us into. You kids want to die? Because that's what I sometimes think. Well, then, die.
You cannot continue to allow yourselves and each other to act and live like this!
And by the way, when are you going to realize that for the rest of your lives, probably for the rest of life on earth, you are never going to be able to have sex with another person without a condom! Never! Every time you even so much as consider this I want you to hear my voice screaming like crazy in your ears. STOP! DON'T! NEVER! NO WAY, JOSE! Canadian scientists now warn that even partners who are both un-infected should practice safe sex. As I understand it, more and more new viruses and mutant viruses and partial viruses that are not understood are floating around. Are you ready for that one?
Does it ever occur to you how much you have been robbed by both your country and your behavior? America let the men who should have carved out a space for you in the social discourse, the development of your history and being, America let these men who should have been your role models die. So there is this big empty space in which you live. And you don't know where to go or how to fill it in. This is not my original thought but Michael Brown's of the NYU gay student organizations that helped to bring me here, who gave me this to think about. It is sad for a young gay person to feel this way.
I had people to follow and many of you have not. No baton was passed to you. In a way you must start everything over. You must invent a world from which you can move forward from. This is both an extraordinarily exciting challenge and a terrifying one, one that can just as easily leave you by the wayside as make a new man of you. I say man because it is gay men who appear to have the greatest difficulty, it seems to me, in moving forward, getting off their particular dime.
Many of you deny the horrors of what happened to your predecessors. That is something I do not understand. Every moral code I know of requires respect for the dead. I often hear that many of you don't want to know about them or admit to them. You disdain anyone older who was there.
This is denial of a most destructive nature. You cannot move forward without accepting your past. I am going to say that again. We cannot move forward without accepting and understanding our past. We were as varied as you are. We were no different, really. We were very different from those who preceded us. We were the first free gay generation and we were murdered because of our freedom. And yes you were robbed of this freedom that for obvious reasons could not be passed on to you as your heritage. So instead of being understanding of all this, you condemn your predecessors to non-existence and flounder into a future that you seem unable to fashion into anything you can hold on to that gives you emotional sustenance. You refuse to be part of any community. But if you don't have any community you have no political strength. You are too busy denying and disassociating to know that. You do not seem able, it seems to me, to fashion your future. To discover what you want. You don't even ask what you want. You don't even ask what you need. Your needs are as mighty as needs always have been, but you don't ask what they are, which amazes me.
How can you not have curiosity about your future as a gay person? Don't you want to go anywhere? Do you want to stay where you are? That is too bad if you do because we are about to enter a place more monstrously worse. You can deny that, as you deny those of us who went before you, but just know that down this path of your numerous denials lies your own continued destruction, the continuing destruction of gay people as gay people, which this cabal of haters I shall shortly describe, and its supporters, which are legion, are intent on accomplishing with increasingly ruthless vengeance. If you do not fight back you will be murdered in ways just as hideous as the ways in which we got murdered.
Every single president since 1981 has denied our existence and denied the existence of AIDS. And we let them get away with it. Oh a few thousand of us fought for the drugs that we got but many millions of us did nothing and of course an enormous number of them died. They died because they lost their health along their journey of non-involvement and their lack of responsibility to their brothers and sisters. Instead of learning from this lesson, you are repeating it. And you are acting like this with your health intact, many of you, which strikes me as even more perverse than what your dead predecessors did to destroy themselves.
Does it occur to you that we brought this plague of aids upon ourselves? I know I am getting into dangerous waters here but it is time. With the cabal breathing even more murderously down our backs it is time. And you are still doing it. You are still murdering each other. Please stop with all the generalizations and avoidance excuses gays have used since the beginning to ditch this responsibility for this fact. From the very first moment we were told in 1981 that the suspected cause was a virus, gay men have refused to accept our responsibility for choosing not to listen, and, starting in 1984, when we were told it definitely was a virus, this behavior turned murderous.
Make whatever excuses you can to carry on living in your state of denial but this is the fact of the matter. I wish we could understand and take some responsibility for the fact that for some 30 years we have been murdering each other with great facility and that down deep inside of us, we knew what we were doing. Don't tell me you have never had sex without thinking down deep that there was more involved in what you were doing than just maintaining a hard-on.
I have recently gone through my diaries of the worst of the plague years. I saw day after day a notation of another friend's death. I listed all the ones I'd slept with. There were a couple hundred. Was it my sperm that killed them, that did the trick? It is no longer possible for me to avoid this question of myself. Have you ever wondered how many men you killed? I know I murdered some of them. I just know. You know how you sometimes know things? I know. Several hundred over a bunch of years, I have to have murdered some of them, planting in him the original seed. I have put this to several doctors. Mostly they refuse to discuss it, even if they are gay. Most doctors do not like to discuss sex or what we do or did. (I still have not heard a consensus on the true dangers of oral sex, for instance.) They play blind. God knows what they must be thinking when they examine us. Particularly if they aren't gay. One doctor answered me, it takes two to tango so you cannot take the responsibility alone. But in some cases it isn't so easy to answer so flippantly. The sweet young boy who didn't know anything and was in awe of me. I was the first man who fucked him. I think I murdered him. The old boyfriend who did not want to go to bed with me and I made him. The man I let fuck me because I was trying to make my then boyfriend, now lover, jealous. I know, by the way, that that other one is the one who infected me. You know how you sometime know things? I know he infected me. I tried to murder myself on that one.
Has it never, ever occurred to you that not using a condom is tantamount to murder? I cannot believe you have never considered this. It is such a simple and intelligent thought to have. And we all should have had it from day one. Why didn't we? That has been haunting me for a while, that question. Why didn't we? It is incredibly selfish not to have at least thought that question at that moment, all those moments when we were playing Russian roulette.
>From here on I am going to get even more complicated. I want you to pay attention. This is the most important part of this speech.
Bill Moyers recently said this in a speech on October 20, 2004 at the Palace Hotel:
"For years now, the corporate, political, and religious right-this is documented from 1971 on-the religious and political right has been joined in an axis of influence whose purpose is to take back the gains of the democratic renewal in the 20th century and restore America to a rule of the elites that maintain their privilege and their power at the expense of everyone else. For years now, a small fraction of American households have been garnering an extreme concentration of wealth and income while large corporations and financial institutions have obtained unprecedented levels of economic and political power over daily life."
"Take note," Moyers continues. "The corporate, political, and religious conservatives are achieving a vast transformation of America that only they understand because they are its advocates, its architects, and its beneficiaries. In creating the greatest inequality in America since 1929, they have saddled our nation, our States, and our cities and counties with structural defects that will last until our children's children are ready for retirement, and they are systematically stripping government of all its functions, except rewarding the rich and waging war."
In other words, our country has been taken away from us by a cabal that includes all the people who hate us.
These people make the rules. They are rarely elected officials. They may or may not know each other. They have several things in common. They are very rich or have strong connections to money or power. They are in agreement on what they do not want. They believe fervently in their God. And that they are doing all this for Him. And they stay in constant touch.
I hope you realize that all these people Bill Moyers is talking about hate us. Thriller writers write better histories of our times than actual historians.
Anyway, it is done. What Moyers is talking about. It's already happened. On a scale of such magnitude that it is difficult to see how we can ever take it back. It's all in place now, this cabal of power. It almost doesn't make any difference who is president.
You want to know why AIDS was allowed to happen. This is your answer. You want to know why gay people have no power and are unlikely to get any. This is your answer.
The top 1% of wealth holders control 39% of total household wealth.
The richest 5% of households own 2/3 of the value of all stock owned in the our country.
The top 1% have as many after-tax dollars to spend as the bottom 100 million.
The richest 20% of households received almost 50% of the national income, while the bottom 20% received only 3%.
At a time when 265 people in the United States were billionaires, 32 million people were living beneath the official poverty line.
This inequality gap in the United States is the highest in the industrialized world.
"That drive," Moyers continues, "is succeeding with drastic consequences for an equitable access to public resources, the lifeblood of any democracy. From land, water, and natural resources, to media and the broadcast and digital spectrums, to scientific discovery and medical breakthroughs, and even to politics itself, a broad range of American democracy is undergoing a powerful shift in the direction of private control.
"We are experiencing a fanatical drive to dismantle the political institutions, the legal and statutory canons, and the intellectual and cultural frameworks that have shaped public responsibility for social harms arising from the excesses of private power."
In 1971, Lewis Powell, a Richmond lawyer who called himself a centrist, was secretly commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Congress to write a confidential plan on how to take back America for the survival of the free enterprise system. Not democracy. Free enterprise. Barry Goldwater had lost, Nixon was about to implode, Vietnam had sucked the nation's soul dry, the cabal saw their world unraveling. They saw the women's movement, black civil rights. student war protests, the cold war. They saw the world as they knew it coming to an end. (We are not the first to feel our world crumbling and becoming powerless.)
This is what Lewis Powell wrote: "Survival lies in organization, in careful long range planning, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing only available through joint effort and in the political power available only through united action."
This was the birth of what is now called the vast right wing conspiracy. It is known as the Powell Manifesto. You can google Lewis Powell (not the one who helped to assassinate Lincoln) and read it in its entirety.
Under the supervision of some of the richest families in America, that plan has been followed faithfully since 1971 and it has resulted in these past years of horror and the reelection of George Bush. Nine families and their foundations, all under the insistent goading of Joseph Coors, have financed much of this. The Bradley Foundation. The Smith Richardson Foundation. Four Scaife Family Foundations, The John M. Olin Foundation. The Castle Rock (or Coors) Foundation. Three Koch Family Foundations. The Earhart Foundation. The JM Foundation. The McKenna Foundation. From 1985 to 2001 alone they contributed $650 million to this conservative message campaign. They have helped to launch and gain financing for networks of newspapers and magazines. They have seen to it that hundreds of the most powerful think tanks have appeared, including the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institute, the American Enterprise, Cato, Manhattan, Hudson Institutes, and many more. There are now in place an ever growing number of well-funded student organizations at many colleges. There are legal advocacy foundations, such as the Center For Individual Rights and Judicial Watch. There are Leadership Institutes and Action Institutes and Institutes on Religion and Public Policy and Religion and Democracy. There is a heavily visible media participation: Fox Television and Pat Robertson and Oliver North and Radio America and the Washington Times and Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, to name but a very few, including the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal.
For the preparation of this manifesto, Lewis Powell was rewarded by Richard Nixon with a seat on the Supreme Court, where among other things he voted against gays in Bowers v. Hardwick, and against Black people in Bakke v. University of California.
It is vital for us to realize that this plan was written in 1971. The people it was written for did not go off then to a disco, or to the Pines or into therapy, or into drugs. They took this plan and they have executed it religiously every day and night for the next thirty-five years initially with some 400 million dollars and always from then until now with unending hours of backbreaking, grinding, unglamorous work, of civic engagements county by county across the entire expanse of America. They took the richest and most liberal nation in the history of civilization and turned it hard right into a classist, racist, homophobic imperial army of pirates. 30% of America now self-identify as conservative or extremely conservative. When Lewis Powell wrote his Manifesto that figure was less than 10%.
And on the morning of November 3d we wrung our hands and wondered why.
And we have a community that still cannot decide on what we want or what to do. We are completely inept at organizing ourselves and have a monstrously bad record of attempting unity.
The continuing existence of HIV is essential for the functioning of the totalitarianism under which gay people now live. It works out like this: HIV allows "them" to sell us as sick. And that kills off our usefulness, both in our own minds, their thinking we are sick, and in the eyes of the world, everyone thinking we are sick. All of this obliterates the consciousness of those who should help us and don't. This liquidates and incinerates our individuality and our spontaneity, our abilities to fight back, to hold our oppressors to task. They want to keep HIV going as long as they can! Why haven't we seen that? The signs have always been there! But like everything else we couldn't believe them. No one could be as cruel as that. They want to make us superfluous. Their media, their newspapers, their networks will see to it that our good qualities are invisible.
It should therefore come as no surprise that when HIV came along they, this cabal, facilitated its rapid deployment and continue to do so. Before even making the feeblest attempt to commence any miniscule response or inquiry into what their press was not reporting, which they most certainly knew about themselves, they waited until masses of us had all been exposed to the whatever it was. We on the other hand chose to not believe that the whatver it was was a virus until this was incontestably proved. But they knew what it was, or were willing to take the chance and hope that it was, and they just sat back and waited. Their wildest dreams then started to come true. The faggots were disappearing and they were doing it to themselves! I can locate no work of any urgency, or indeed much work at all on aids for most of the period between 1981-1984. Oh many claim it, as many claim seeing cases many years earlier, which I also doubt, but I cannot locate whatever these are claiming. In those four years almost every gay man who had fucked in America had been exposed to the virus.
And when they did start doing anything it was with such feebleness that it amounted to nothing for ten years. You can give me all kinds of reasons why it took so long but my research has convinced me that the actual scenario was completely intentional neglect. Oh perhaps not the doctors or the scientists. But they had no money. And they were not going to get any money. Or enough money. People upstairs were going to see to it that there would be no money. Let even more people get infected first. Blacks, junkies, prostitutes. Every color of skin but straight white. Every religion but Christian. Excuse me, white Christian. Then we'll throw them a few pennies to make it look like we're concerned.
The cabals Bill Moyers talked about have called all the shots in facilitating and accelerating the plague of aids. If scientists discovered something useful, it has rarely been available. I spoke earlier about the refusal of this president to allow already approved generic drugs out to a desperate Africa and elsewhere. Of that huge Congressional approval of many billions for HIV around the world that Bush brags about, something less that 2% has left Washington almost four years after its approval. Does this sound like a President and a government and a country that wants to help?
I guess I have suspected behavior like this all along. But I never knew it in quite the way that I have now come to see it thanks to Bill Moyers: intentionality is the only word to describe the genocidal treatment the world is drowning in. Much of the world, most assuredly including us, has been intentionally hung out to die. So far some 70 million of us. That is some manifesto Lewis Powell birthed. And all we have to do is keep fucking each other without condoms and the rest of their "moral issues" will be dead.
Do you seriously think they care about the continuing rise again of HIV infections? They are grateful for them. Do you think they care about a sudden plague of crystal? They thank us for our cooperation. And we thought for one brief second of time that we might even be allowed to marry the ones we love.
And while all this happened, even if we had enough suspicions to act, what did we do? We completely shrank from our duty of opposition. Those are Christopher Isherwood's words: "the duty of opposition." But he was flagellating himself with these words. He fears that should he have to live face to face with a war in his backyard that he "would shrink from the duty of opposition."
Marriage? Forget it. Non-discrimination laws? Forget them. Those that have been enacted will be rescinded or amended into toothlessness. Adoption? Equal rights? Forget everything. We are going to be erased into nothingness. They hate us so much and now they are in complete and utter power, the most dangerous situation in the world for the unwanteds to live under. And I no longer think it matters who is President. Clinton turned out to be as rotten for us as George Bush, either one.
Ok, keep putting your life in jeopardy. 110 of their drug companies certainly want you to do so. Keep dancing your asses off at circuit parties all over the world as you go down to the sea in ships that are made to intentionally capsize and take you down with them. Ok, keep being bored and crying for your poor selves. You ain't seen nothin' yet. With our complete cooperation they have already murdered several generations of us so far. They won't have to murder so many more of us to get their wish. Like Russia, we will disappear. That is what they want to do. Disappear us. And now they are able to officially do it. George Bush has his mandate. Can't you see all this! People high up there in their secret powwows don't want us here. Word has come down from on high: get rid of the faggots once and for all. You think the law will protect us? Think again. Wait until you see the new Supreme Court.
You are here as a gay person because of certain events and certain people who lived and suffered and died before you. You must learn about them and not continually deny their existence and importance in our history, the history of gay people in America. You must learn about them! They have made your life possible! What kind of person doesn't want to learn about themselves? I don't know why but you don't want to. Most of our fellow gays don't read books about us. Or come to plays about us. What do you want to do? I don't know. And for all I can tell in talking to many of you, you don't know either. And this is very frightening. A large uncongealed mass of potentially superior beings doesn't know what to do with themselves or bother to learn their history. So they dance. So they drug. So they go on to the internet to find more sex. These are useful lives being wasted. Why is that? Why is there no useful creativity going on? Why is there no mental agility visible, no audible questioning discussions of. almost anything of importance? Don't you long for some involvement in the humanity that you belong to, for your place in the scheme of things? You don't know how to make entrance on these playing fields, is that it? I don't know what is wrong with us. I wish you could tell me. What do you do with yourselves all week long, seven days and nights a week, that amounts to anything really important? I can't see many of you as doing anything important, to give your lives meaning. Oh I can see lots of frocks on the runway but I can't see bodies inside of them, bodies with brains and concerned with anything but pretty and orgasms. What do you do to make your world, our world, a better place? A world that needs every bit of help it can get, our world, not their world. You don't seem able to connect with anyone beyond the basest ways.
"Why can't we look at our bodies and see not just a sexual definition? Why can't we see in the body all that the body represents? Sexuality, yes. But also mortality, humanness, humaneness, innocence, purity, health, sickness, strength, consideration, responsibility, divinity. When did we rob our bodies of all the complexity they possess? Why do we refuse to see all that we are capable of? All the other things that make us full beings." That very beautiful paragraph was written by my friend, Jordan Roth, who is one day going to be a very fine writer if he just keeps at it.
Do you know you are taking the same crystal meth as Hitler? The stuff that was being used well into 1997, the government outlawed one of the ingredients and so the orignal process was resurrected, the one as used by the Nazis. It was first synthesized by the Germans in the early part of the 20th century. Hitler was a crystal addict. The new version is much more potent than the stuff you were taking before 1997, which is the main reason why it is so hard to break an addiction. Dr. Howard Grossman told me this bit of history. Maybe I shouldn't have told you about the Hitler part. To the more twisted among you it may be a turn-on.
I love being gay. I love gay people. I think we're better than other people. I really do. I think we're smarter and more talented and more aware and I do, I do, I totally do. I really do think all of these things. And I try very hard to remember all this.
But I am finding that I am not so proud of being gay anymore. It's come over me slowly. As much as I love being gay and I love gay people I'm not proud of us right now. It's disappeared. I almost could say we've disappeared. But since you are here I can't quite say that. But that's how I feel.
I do not see us, don't you see? I do not see us! They are killing us. They are eradicating us from this earth. Little by little by little we are disappearing. I do not see us and I am beginning to see us less and less.
I have recently come to believe that gay men and women are tragic people. We are so wonderful but we are also so fucked up. So blind. So ignorant in ways to look after ourselves. So uninterested in the Outside World that is subsuming us when we thought we were making them pretty and giving them songs to sing. So without agendas to utilize our wonderful-ness. We know who the enemy is and we just stand here letting them shoot us over and over again. WE STAND HERE AND LET THEM DO IT!
All of the brains and abilities we have among us are useless. The smartest among us, our famous ones, our rich ones, seem to allow this most of all. The ones who should help us and speak up for us refuse that responsibility. We have enough rich gay men and lesbians to finance a takeover of the world but their brains and their money and their skills are not available to to help us. To lead us. To inspire us. To finance us. To be like Lewis Powell's Nine Families. That, too is tragic. To have so much money and to not to use it for brothers and sisters, for family, for our continuation here on earth. Why is that? Rockefeller tithed himself from his very first dollar, to go to his church for his salvation. Please, can we get word to every rich gay person to show up to help save us. We need our Nine Families desperately.
Public service: how many religions demand this of their members? How much public service in behalf of your brothers and sisters, your family, have you performed recently? Don't tell me you don't know what to do. If you can find another ass to fuck, and you seem endlessly inventive at accomplishing this, then you should be able to locate a more useful and responsible outlet.
For a few brief years we had some noble moments, of togetherness and anger and progress. Not many of us, mind you. If you are still alive, you know who you were and where you were during those worst years of our mass murder. You know what you did and what you didn't. And I know too. I know that most of you, should you still be alive, didn't do a goddamned thing. In fact, you were ashamed of us, many of you were. I remember that as well as I remember those who died. "Friends" crossing the street to avoid me because I was advising cooling it. I was actually told to not come back to Fire Island Pines. Lots of people come up to me now on the street and say, thank you for what you did for us. I do not consider that a compliment. My response quite often's been a curt Fuck You, why aren't you doing it too! I don't do anything that anyone else couldn't do. I just do it, and some 10 or 15,000 other people did it too then. And the rest of you sat on your asses. And, those of you who are still alive, know who you were and how little you did.
Yes for one brief moment in time we got angry. Correction, a few of us got angry. Of all our many many millions of gay people in this country, about 10,000 of us or so got angry enough to accomplish something. We got drugs. We got aids care. We got enough so we could continue fucking again. That in the end is what it amounted to. As soon as we got the drugs, you went right back to what got us into such trouble in the first place. WHAT IS WRONG WITH US? The cabal can't believe their good fortune.
How many gay people in America in those years of Aids? Ten million? Twenty million? Thirty million? How many of us are there now? We don't even know how many of us there are! Or how many we lost! And every time some statistical number is released by some faceless organization or government office, I always wonder: how the fuck do they know how many of us there are when we don't even know how many of us there are? And none of our so-called gay organizations ever bothers to find out. It would be nice to know, helpful to know. Don't you think?
You know, it isn't meant to be easy, life. I don't know why it isn't meant to be easy, but it just isn't, so we might as well get used to it and try to find things that give us a certain sense of pride. We must create ourselves as something we can live with. It takes energy, yes. Why are we so crippled intellectually? Oh, we study sexuality and gender stuff until it comes out of every university's asshole but we don't study history, who we were and where we came from and our roots, the wellsprings of our historical existence. We do not honor our dead as we do not honor ourselves. We continue without surcease to be and remain, endlessly, day after day, helpless victims. "In my country when they raise the bus fares, we burn the buses," a Brazilian journalist said to me as she watched a sparsely attended Act Up demonstration.
There is never one single hour that a disenfranchised minority does not have to fight to breathe and stay alive. The hate out there will never lessen. It only grows and grows, this hate. Most of you refuse to face this. I hate you for your doing that. I really do. I have no more patience for this kind of weakness. I know this is uncharitable of me. I don't care. I am too tired of fighting with so few troops. You are now dancing your own dance of death, you know. And I hate you for this, too. Grow up, I beg you. Oh, grow up.
Time goes by so fast. We are allotted so precious little of it on this earth. How sad that you use it so stupidly. Every minute that goes by is gone forever. You who have been given a new lease on life, the very gift of life itself, piss it away. It is so incomprehensible to me who has come so close to death a couple times. I find your inactivity and ingratitude and lack of imagination on how to act in emergencies incongruous, incomprehensible, insulting. And unacceptable. I could never understand during all those years of Aids why every single person facing death would not fight to save his own life. And I cannot understand now how, life having been given back to us again, again you treat your life with such contempt.
Yes, all that I have spoken of tonight is the stuff of tragedy.
I wish we could truly look upon each other as brothers and sisters. It sounds corny I am told when I keep using terms like this. How can we be related I am asked dismissively. You do not know or want to know that we have been on this earth as long as anyone else and that we have as many available heroes and heroines as anyone else. Your family has been here a very long time and has an ancient and distinguished lineage. You must learn that Abraham Lincoln was gay and George Washington and Meriwether Lewis and so many others we are only just beginning to uncover. But they will not let gay history be taught in schools and universities. And we seem unable to teach ourselves. My own college, Yale, with $1 million of my own brother's money to do just this, will not teach what I call gay history, unencumbered with the prissy incomprehensible gobbledygook of gender studies and queer theory. Abraham Lincoln did not talk that language.
We richly deserve the government we have received. We do not even know who we are. And our enemies participate in their convictions every day of their lives. We only show up when we want to, which is not very often. But then perhaps you do not love being gay. Or think we are better than other people, and smarter and more talented and more tuned into what is happening, and are better friends.
I leave the hardest topic we must face till last.
How do we fight as a united front when they don't approve of our "behavior" and when our behavior is inseparable from our beings? How do we fight as a united front when some of us won't or are unable to change certain behaviors that many of us have difficulty in supporting and defending ourselves? We've been so concerned about showing the world a united front. We feel the need to say that everything gay people do is good and it simply isn't so. We must have an honest discussion amongst ourselves about what's good and what isn't. This is of course the problem that has finally brought us down because we have refused to deal with it, and perhaps is one reason today's youngsters have difficulty in acknowledging our past. It is the unfaced devil in our closet, if you will, that we have refused to deal with and which, now, now that they have achieved their position of imperial power, will be used to hang us once and for all. To be crude about it, how do we market and sell our wishes and our needs as they have been able to package and sell their wants and needs so successfully for thirty-five years? How do we frame this issue? How do we claim the God that they have subsumed into their own ownership? It is inhuman to think that the only way we can get through to some safe other side is by policing each other and in so doing destroy whatever hope we have of getting along? If they have been able to convince this country that the Republicans are the party of the people, surely so many sons and daughters can be smart enough to find a way to sell our parents permission to co-exist.
I do not know how to answer any of this. And I don't think anyone among us does either. To talk out loud about what our bodies have done and continue to do is asking for trouble from others of us. How do we admit our past, own it, and evolve from it and move on? For we must do this.
I know some of you will immediately jump up to act. I caution rushing off to form anything quite so fast until we decide how we want to deal with what I have raised tonight. I know many of you are prepared to tough it out and say to them, "fuck you, I am what I am." And point out quite rightly that they have simply pushed us too far and, no matter what we have done and continue to do we simply cannot allow them to treat us this way any longer. We are human beings as much as they are, and their God is the same as our God and He simply cannot be allowed to be as punishing as they are requiring Him to be."
But this is perhaps too honest and reasonable to say to those who are not either. Reasoning like this has not worked for us in the past. But I sense that ignoring this question of responsibility for much that has murdered us will only please them more.
These are the problems we must confront as we go forward. If you are going to fight in a united way, which I am convinced is now the only way that can save us, we must find a platform that all of us can support without divisiveness and shame and guilt and all the other hateful weapons they will club us with.
And if we do want to go out and fight again in a united way we must ask ourselves: are we able to replicate the kind of devotion and commitment and backbreaking thankless work and tactics that continues to bring them year after year into such positions of unlimited power. Thirty-five years of that? For thirty-five years the cabal I have spoken of has worked every single day and night to bring them their success. Quite frankly they deserve their victory and we deserve our loss.
I would like to quote this from a Baptist minister, Tom Ehrich, in Durham. By chance, I found it on a Christian website at 3:00 this afternoon. "It would be helpful if we started in silence and just listened to each other's voices. Whether we can muster such maturity amid toxic political attitudes remains to be seen. If we are to have a meaningful national discussion of moral issues, we will need to start with the sexual issues, not because they are the most important but because they are the fire engulfing the tower. Let's get it all on the table.
"And let's do so openly and boldly, without the code language that we often use in moral debates, without our usual cherry-picking of Scriptures, without our usual blistering indignation, without the bullying that elevates one's viewpoint into divine certainty."
So we are being invited to this table whether we want to or not. We must be prepared.
I love being gay. I love gay people. I think we're better than other people. I really do. I think we're smarter and more talented and better friends. I do, I do, I totally do. I really do think all of these things.
And I passionately and desperately want all my brothers and sisters to stay alive and well and on this earth as long as they want theirs to.
Can we all help each other to reach this goal?
(Note: I would like to acknowledge the help of my friend Rodger McFarlane, my lover David Webster, and my editor, Will Schwalbe in preparing this speech. I am grateful to Rodger and the Gill Foundation for educating me about Lewis Powell and the Powell Manifesto, about which I had been previously ignorant. Thanks too to Bill Moyers for his extraordinary speech which is quoted here without permission. LK)
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
Monday, November 01, 2004
Back in Oz again . . . . and just to prove I don’t just think about gay issues . . . I’ve been struck lately by another parallel between John Howard and Margaret Thatcher, this time in the area of education. I notice that Wee Johnny likes to make life difficult for universities, restricting access by raising costs and cutting grants and subsidies, just as Madame Belgrano did, at the same time extolling the virtues of apprenticeships and other non-academic education and training programs.
Johnny couches his arguments in bland, reasonable-sounding language. He talks of the need to find more money for education, and the regretful necessity of not taxing his own supporters to pay for it. He stirs up envy, musing on the unfairness of people who will never have the opportunity to have an academic education being forced to pay through taxation to help create a privileged class who will then lord it over them. And he claims the real demand is for skilled tradespeople, not graduates.
These are all Thatcher arguments, only she didn’t bother to dress them up in polite language. I can’t be bothered to look up the references, but I can still remember the gist of what she said, it hit me with such a shock.
Let them clean loos
What was the use, she demanded, of spending all that money on education, only for the newly qualified graduates to find there were not enough graduate-level jobs with graduate-level salaries to go around.. We’re producing too many, she said. What’s worse, these ‘over-educated’ people have ‘unrealistic’ expectations. Now they have degrees they won’t take perfectly respectable jobs emptying our dustbins, mopping our floors, building our roads, driving our buses, washing our hair and cleaning our toilets.
So they go to other countries to find jobs: that expensive education paid for by the British taxpayer is snapped up by other countries, and we never see the benefit. At the same time, we can’t find enough people to empty our dustbins, clean our toilets and mop our floors etc.. Which means we have to bring in lots of immigrants, who are swamping British culture. We don’t want that either.
And what was her solution? Replace student grants with loans, hike university fees to a more ‘realistic’ level by removing government subsidies, and pump money instead into ‘vocational’ and ‘trade’ education and training.
Use the universities to generate cash, instead of costing it: sell expensive educations to overseas students and wealthy locals. If poorer people really want it, they’ll work for it – thus ensuring on all levels that the next generation of the elite will, as far as possible, share the values of Messrs. Thatcher and Howard.
If we have to have an 'elite', they're going to be my elite
The real unspoken agenda behind this is simple. Keep the well-paid elite small, and preferably in debt during their early potentially rebellious years. Result, fewer pesky students demonstrating for expensive things like human rights: they can’t afford to. They’ve got to flip those burgers in order to survive, buckle down to the nine to five to pay off the loans.
And keep the bulk of the population educated – if I remember her phrase correctly – to an ‘appropriate level’, so they’ll be happy cleaning toilets etc., and not have the education to see that their self-styled betters have duped them into living at less than their full potential.
A docile, servile electorate is what’s required to re-elect Messrs. Thatcher and Howard and others like them. An electorate who become so indoctrinated with their philosophy, and be working so long and hard they will have neither the time nor the energy to question it, forcing the opposition parties to move to the right if they ever want a share of power. Which leaves the real money men and women untouched and free to plunder at will, working people into the ground with 50hr+ weeks . . . . . . . . .
. . . doesn’t it seem familiar, somehow?
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
A week and a half in London, a week and a half to go, and already I’m looking forward to Oz again. The weather here is as bad as I remember: apart from the odd hour of sunshine on two days, it’s has either been dark and grey and/or raining the whole time I’ve been here.
Of course, that means the colours in the countryside are much more vibrant than I’m now used to: instead of dusty reds, browns, and grey-green, it’s mainly vibrant green grass – the garden’s just had it’s last mow of the year – with trees mostly still deep green, but here and there red and yellow as the leaves turn and fall. Soon it will just be the charcoal sketches of bare branches against a background of green grass, grey sky, and ploughed brown earth.
Back in Eltham I hear it’s hot days and cold nights. There the view from my balcony across the valley is green, but it’s that grey-green of eucalypts, and to English eyes all Oz trees look half-dead, near-leafless, hurried impressionist sketches of trees, arty minimalist trees, compared to the thick foliage of England. Nowadays, however, my eyes are Australian, and the thick lush English countryside seems excessive, almost oppressive, as if the trees were only just held in check by humans, standing ready to take over once more as soon as we are gone. Tolkien’s ents seem much more likely here than in Oz. I guess Australian ents would be like those incredibly thin, bony aborigines, more twig than trunk. Here they’d be hulking Schwarzeneggers. Termin-ent-or?
Good day / Bad day
Mother is having a good day so far today: she’s humming to herself, tackling housework, and can remember her PIN number, so we can get some money from her account. Two days ago she didn’t even know what a PIN was. Today she’s argumentative and pretty near normal. You never know how long this will last, however. Yesterday, by contrast, was a bad day, culminating in an ‘accident’ in the bathroom which today she doesn’t remember, the consequences of which are currently in the washing machine. Still, at least this brief stay gives me some time with her (while she still knows who I am, as my sister puts it), and means my sister doesn’t have to worry for a week or two. And compared to what Sis deals with 24/7/365, it’s a small sacrifice.
More of a theme park than a city
None really, although it might have been nice to catch a show or two. On the other hand, looking through the listings, there are shows still running that I saw before I left the UK almost ten years ago. It used to be The Mousetrap was the only show that ran for ever: now London theatre has morphed into something like a theme park, where most of the rides run for years, and occasionally one is torn down for something new.
A new Lloyd Webber, for example, much the same as the old one, or a new Les Mis / Miss Saigon / Blood Brothers. Once a roller coaster is scrapped, it’s gone for ever, but old shows never die, so every so often there’ll be a ‘new’ Shakespeare, or a revival of a Sondheim, this time probably by an opera company. Most West End productions nowadays, rather than representing the pinnacle of an actor’s career, have become the equivalent of a stint as Prince Charming in Disneyland, or a residency on a cruise ship. On the other hand, the generally high standard demanded and the constant turnover of cast members means England still produces and trains lots of good actors. It just gets very boring for the people who actually live here.
Old fags out
As to schlepping around the gay scene, I have no interest in it whatsoever. It was bad enough when I was thirty-five, being ignored and avoided, and I’ve no reason to enquire how much worse it might be twenty years later, having committed the cardinal gay sins of getting older, fatter, and wearing glasses. I don’t like the music, I don’t dance, I don’t do drugs, I barely drink any more, I never liked drag, I don’t care for group sex, backroom sex, rent sex, or sex in public, the kind of guys I fancy don’t fancy me, and anyway, I’ve got a man back home in Oz. Why on earth would I bother?
New fags in
It’s wonderful to see how much we’ve become part of the mainstream here. While the situation is still far from perfect, it’s light years ahead of Oz. I have yet to open a newspaper that doesn’t have at least one GLBT-related story, and while the coverage isn’t always positive, at least it’s there. Gay couples are a standard feature of soaps, dramas, cop shows, doctor shows, quiz shows, lifestyle shows, property shows and gay issues feature regularly in the nightly local and national news.
Last night I watched a lifestyle show which aims to find an ideal second home / holiday home / rental property for a couple: the twist is that they show them three properties in the UK and three in a European country, such as France, Spain or Italy. So far every couple has plumped for Europe, after discovering that what will buy a two-bed row house in the Lake District will net them a six-bedroom palazzo in Piedmont. Mother sleeps through it every day, so I’ve seen quite a few editions.
Mostly they’ve been comfortably-off suburban couples approaching retirement, and last night was no exception, bar the fact that they were two mid-fifties guys, retiring after running a B&B in Devon. The fact that they were a gay couple was never mentioned, nor ignored, just taken for granted. And the same thing happened – this time with two lesbians – on another show which aims to help couples starting out find a home within their target area and budget. And these are shows on the commercial stations.
Then in the evening news third lead was the Anglican report on gay clergy, while a feature piece covered the gay group in the European Parliament teaming up with the socialist bloc the get rid of that dreadful Papal bedwarmer, Rocco Buttiglione, who thinks homosexuals are sinful, single mothers bad mothers (Really, asked the press? You misunderstood me, he said, actually they’re heroines of our time for refusing abortions), marriage is to give women children and a home and the protection of a male: and this is the man who the Italian Prime Minister (and the Pope) wants to see installed as the European Justice and Human Rights chief.
Later we had a brief item on the progress of the civil partnerships Bill in committee. And please don’t get the idea there was anything abnormal about this level of coverage in either the press or television - it’s normal. OK, the news bulletin above was on the BBC, but all the issues have also been covered on the commercial channels, too.
The situation on the ground isn’t quite as rosy, especially in Northern Ireland, where sectarian bigots on both sides, no longer able to terrorise each other, have taken to terrorising gays and lesbians instead. The fact that the government south of the border, in the Republic of Ireland, is looking at legalising gay marriage, only fuels the fire in the north. And I do mean fires – people’s houses have been set alight, people have been attacked, and the suicide among young gay men in particular is the highest in Europe.
And you wouldn’t want to live in the West Country – Devon and Cornwall – either, with England’s highest reported rate of homophobic violence. Now we know why that couple sold their Devon B&B and plumped for a place in Italy
Friday, October 15, 2004
England is making me feel I have gone through the looking glass. Here, for all Tony Blair’s troubles, the Labour Party is well entrenched in government; gay issues are just news stories in the mainstream media like any others – at least in the quality media; television programs on commercial stations are watchable and not interrupted by ads more than once every 15 minutes; the national broadcaster is well-funded and creative; the national TV news really is national (and international) and not just local parish pump stuff – even the “I took a dive,” says Beckham story remains in the sport section; television presenters (and checkout operators) are all colours of the rainbow, including grey; and stories about loony god-bothering would-be moral arbiters, censors and general holier-than-thouery is confined to the quirky pages.
Gay politicians, actors, TV presenters, radio commentators, characters in soaps and dramas and comedies are unremarkable – indeed it almost seems as if you want preselection as an MP you have to be gay nowadays.
How different from the home life of our own dear Aussie queens!
Say Hello to Dementia
All of which has only a glancing impact on my mother. Doctors, relatives, carers all use words like “memory loss”, “confusion”, as if an anodyne label on what is happening to her makes it somehow less horrid than it is. It wasn’t until I opened her Care Plan that I suddenly met the word DEMENTIA spelled out in capital letters.
This “confusion” over what exactly is wrong with her allows people to pigeonhole her actions and behaviour according to their own needs rather than hers. For example, the care plan shows that her carer, who is supposed to drop in before ten each morning to make sure she has eaten breakfast and taken her meds, has been arriving later and later, until now she doesn’t show up till after 11.30. It clearly states, in the comment column some weeks back, “visits must commence before ten.” Yet when I challenge the carer on this, she tells me she can’t come earlier as she has another client at that time, and she OK’d the change with Mum. Whose care plan clearly states DEMENTIA.
Mum, of course, has no memory of this event, if indeed it ever happened. She resents having strangers in her house and doesn’t listen to anything the carer says – she just makes the appropriate responses while she waits for her to leave.
There can be nothing new in Mum’s world. Her television broke down after 20 years, yet each time she uses her new one, which she’s now had for over a month, she cannot remember how it works. Ditto the washing machine – each day she stares at it as if willing it to work, but cannot remember how it works, and when she finally presses the right button, is convinced the machine is broken, because it takes longer than the old one, and sounds different.
Yet when I suggest she write down the instructions and tape them to the TV and the washer to remind her, she goes silent. My sister says she did exactly that for her, but they vanished within a day. In one of the lucid intervals, I press Mum again, “Write things down. Remember what the doctor said, write things down. Keep a diary with you and write down who comes and when, when your appointments are – and keep simple instructions on the washer and the telly.
“But folk’ll think I’m going daft!!”
Sorry Mum, but you are – and they all know it anyway.
Some days, some hours, are better than others, and it’s possible to have something resembling a normal conversation. These are times to watch for, because you can press her to accept a greater level of care. And these conversations she remembers, for the most part.
The house shows evidence of neglect. It isn’t particularly clean. A drain in the back yard was blocked and flooding the patio over which mother must walk to fill the dustbin. And a freezing winter is forecast. I clean the drain, but it seems to have been that way for a long time. Mother hasn’t noticed, and my sister, who usually comes only after dark, hasn’t either.
All the kitchen appliances are grubby and fingermarked, and the floor is sticky. There are cobwebs in all the corners of the rooms. The belt driving the brushes on the vacuum cleaner is broken, making it nearly useless, but no-one has noticed that, either. But mother doesn’t want ‘just anybody’ messing with her things, she’s ‘managed all right up to now’, she ‘doesn’t like some of the things you’re trying to make me do’, she ‘wishes I’d go home and leave her alone.’ She says she’ll be alright when she gets over her cold, stop fussing,
At other times she says, “It was alright when you were looking after me,” even though I haven’t been here for four years, and have never looked after her. When the psychiatrist at the local hospital, assessing the progress of her memory loss, asked her if she lived with my sister, she said yes.
Much of the time our conversation goes round small loops. You have to imagine short pause – no more than a minute or so – between each exchange. It’s like a Pinter play, minus the meaning.
My carer didn’t come this morning.
Yes she did Mum – I was here – and look, it’s in the book.
When’s that woman coming?
No she hasn’t. I haven’t had my pills yet – she’s supposed to make me take my pills.
You had your pills – look at your dose box.
What day is it today.
You’ve got a newspaper in your hand – look it up.
She’s late this morning.
She just left.
I didn’t get my visit today.
Yes you did.
I haven’t had anything to eat yet.
You had breakfast an hour ago.
Are you making breakfast?
You had it.
And on and on, the same point having to be made twenty, thirty times. Tomorrow morning she’ll say she didn’t eat anything all day.
Yesterday I popped out for some shopping, returning at four in the afternoon. She woke with a start, having fallen asleep in front of the TV. She was convinced it was four am and she’d slept there all night.
But she is capable of focussing, albeit briefly, if the issue is important to her. After several attempts to get her to accept cleaning help, I finally said, well Mum, you could always go and live somewhere where all these things, like cleaning, taking pills and so on, are done for you.
I am not going into a home! They all sit round staring at the walls and smelling of wee!
So let us get you all the help you need to stay here – it’s obvious you can’t manage on your own.
It’s not nice to be told you’ve got a dirty house. Is it really? It’s only while I’ve had this cold, it’s got on top of me a bit.
Mother, from what I’ve been cleaning up, it’s obvious this has been happening for months. We’re trying to get you the help you need to stay here.
Yes, and I don’t like some of the things you’re trying to make me do!
This is one conversation that sticks, is remembered, and returned to. Eventually she agrees, after three days of coming back to it, trying to think up objections, to let me arrange something.
But if I don’t like ‘em, they’re getting their marching orders!
Return to Oz
Little news seeps out of Australia now the election is over – Londoners ideas of Oz are derived from Summer Bay and Ramsay Street, not Canberra, and the pretensions of a little Sydney solicitor aren’t of much interest.
That’s another looking-glass effect. Australia is still living through that revolting time known in the UK as Thatcherism, without the swivel-eyed old harridan herself. Howard’s kinder, gentler presentation of that smug, self-satisfied, me first and bugger the rest of you creed, his veneer of respectability over the snobbishishness, has allowed it to continue, whereas here, people have gotten over it, and in fact mostly are a bit shamfaced for having been taken in for so long. I guess lounge-bar fascism finds colonial soil more fertile somehow.
What Thatcher – and Howard – have done is taken the half-baked unthinking nastiness that emerges from otherwise fairly nice people after a bottle or two of Chardy and dressed it up in polite language, elevated it to a political philosophy. Bush does much the same. The Cretin Fundamentalists like this kind of politician, because all of them prefer an unthinking electorate that simply does as it’s told, that operates on feeling, not thought. They offer simple solutions, either those of popular prejudice, or nostrums conjured from a 2000 year old book of magic and fairy tales. And behind this façade they more or less do as they and their backers wish.
Blair may be an over-earnest bore, and his government unwieldy, but although commentators bleat about his huge majority rendering him untouchable and in effect undemocratic, alternative parties still flop about in the shallowest of pools, gasping for support. He doesn’t offer easy solutions, but does try to spark honest debate. He would probably prefer an opposition – any opposition – to keep his party on it’s toes, the competition generating new ideas. What he doesn’t do – or at least, not so much – is over-simplify the complex, or pander to prejudice. Like him or not – and I don’t – he does at least try to do what he sees as the right thing, then packages it for sale.
What a difference from John Howard, who tries to do whatever will retain his grip on power, and if it means a few poufs and abbos have to be thrown overboard, who cares anyway? I suppose what I find most offensive about Howard is this power-at-any-cost attitude. Blair wants power for what he can do with it, and mainly wants to do good. Howard just wants.
The Hebbers of Wagga Wagga
The Dutch have a label for the sort of people who, a generation ago, were peasants on the land. They’ve moved to the city, done well for themselves, and have turned into mindless consumers. They want a big car, a fancy flat, flashy clothes, a big TV, the latest gadgets, fashionable furniture – all discarded as soon as something new comes along, again and again. The Dutch call them Hebbers, from the Dutch verb hebben, to have. They have to HAVE things, and once they have them, they lose interest, and want the next things.
It seems that this is the class Howard panders to. They want reconciliation – give it to them. They prefer the blacks died out – leave them to sniff themselves to death. They want to play at being American – sell the farm to the Yanks. They want to feel British and superior to the Yanks – keep the Queen as head of state. Contradictions don’t count, so long as the Hebbers get what they want when they want it. Howard isn’t concerned about principle, consistency, or doing what’s right, although he’ll use those words to cover his arse.
He knows the environment doesn’t play with these people – the hard decisions there mean telling them what they can’t have. So he doesn’t sign Kyoto, he doesn’t put money into renewable energy.
There are English Hebbers too – a recent cartoon had a smartly-dressed woman, leaning on her Humvee outside her suburban home and shouting angrily at a protester, “We’re very concerned about global warming too – we’ve just ordered an amphibious four-wheel drive.” She’d make a beaut Aussie!
At present, the Australian way looks for cheap petrol – cheat the Timorese, take a bung from your ethanol mates - the British way patiently explains the need for high petrol taxes, and uses the money to promote alternatives. And puts up with the squeals.
Oh well. Mother is stirring, so I’d better make a move.
Monday, October 04, 2004
Does anyone really think J Howard Esq. is going to give Peter Costello the leadership when the time comes? Why would he? Costello's from the small l liberal wing of the party, and Victorian to boot.
Tony Abbott is far closer in belief and temperament to the PM, as well as being an NSW boy. What's the betting the whole Costello thing is just a furphy to keep little Peter onside, till Pell's little altar boy is big enough to get out from under His Master's Robes?
So the Coalition hopes to get over the line with the help of Family First. People should know exactly who these people really are.
It’s not hard to discover: they are the political wing of the Assemblies of God (AoG) church. There may be no legal connection, and no direct funding, but:
FF Federal Chairman, Peter Harris has been a church member for over 10 years and is on the board of AoG, and almost all FF candidates are either ministers or church members or staff.
In NSW, for example, all the candidates are either church ministers or parishioners, with 11 of the 23 lower house candidates from Hawkesbury Church.
Hawkesbury Pastor Ian Woods is NSW AoG president – his wife and co-pastor Joan is lead FF senate candidate, their son Mike and his wife Melanie are both candidates. Another Hawkesbury pastor, John Dorhauer and wife Caroline Dorhauer, are also standing. The number two NSW Senate candidate Ivan Herald is an AoG pastor. Five more are members of the church’s paid staff and the rest are ordinary church members. The only NSW FF candidate who is not a member of AoG is Greg Briscoe-Hough.
According to the Syndey Morning Herald, Briscoe-Hough is a Catholic father of six who says he is motivated by concern that other parties have "weird" social policies in areas like the "gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender/intersex agenda".
Other Family First candidates with strong church connections are: Andrew Evans, founder of AoG in Australia and pastor of the Paradise Community Church SA (who also gave the world Guy Sebastian, the man with the Pubic Hairdo); his two sons – Ashley, Pastor of Paradise AOG Adelaide, and Russell, director of Planetshaker Ministries (AoG youth wing) and Pastor of City Church Melbourne, who meet at Storey Hall RMIT.
They connect to other fundamentalist churches, too: Louise Markus, FF candidate for the western Sydney seat of Greenway, on paid staff of the Hillsong Community Church. Danny Nalliah (aka Evangelist Danny), pastor of Catch The Fire Ministries – who was recently on trial for religious vilification concerning his remarks on Islam - standing for FF in Victoria.
Where do they get their money from? AoG Australia founder Andrew Evans specialises in Business Ministry, which reassures rich businessmen that their profits are sanctified if some of them are devoted to church purposes, so it seems likely some donations come from there.
And candidates and representatives are known to come to AoG services and spruik for money. Sunshine Coast Daily reported elderly parishioners at Nambour church getting very annoyed at a service being interrupted by 15 minute appeal for funds and votes by an FF representative.
It’s not hard to find out what they really stand for either. They may have taken down their Australian website at the start of the campaign to hide their true colours (it’s now flagged “under construction”) but AoG Australia is an affiliate of the American church, so it seems fair to assume church members, especially pastors, espouse the same beliefs.
To put it bluntly, if you favour a Taliban-style totalitarian regime in Canberra, vote Family First. The US parent church believes:-
The answer to everything is in the bible, so all laws should be based on it; it is the sole, first and last authority on everything, inerrant in every particular
Only Christianity is the truth – all other religions are false; therefore laws forbidding discrimination, or banning hate speech, are wrong because they prevent preaching against Moslems, heathens, pagans and gays, among others
No mixing with non-Christians or those who call themselves Christians but lead ungodly lives; never date or marry an "unbeliever'
Environmentalists are pagans whose beliefs are a form of witchcraft
Wives must always be subject to their husbands authority; a good marriage is characterised by mutual love, respect, submission and servanthood
Divorcing your partner, even if they’re abusive, is an absolute last resort, and even then, only permissible if they abandon you permanently or are persistently unfaithful
Homosexuality is a choice which can be reversed if the sufferer wants to. Strong hints that the penalty for gay sex should be death, because the Bible says so
The internet, television, radio and all forms of communications should be censored to ensure ‘decency’. In the meantime, be guided by your pastor
“Social dancing” (i.e. with members of the opposite sex, for pleasure) is not permitted; single sex charismatic dancing and speaking in tongues in church under the watchful eye of the pastor is OK - in fact, it’s a condition of being considered ‘saved’
Dress modestly, no tattoos or piercings – these things are “heathenish”
There are pages of this nonsense - exclusivist, divisive, smug, and replete with all the apparatus of thought control and manipulation. These are the truly evil people.
Don't mix with people who don't think as we do - you might change your mind.
Don't read or listen to or watch anything we don't approve of - you might see things in a different light.
Incidentally, isn't it odd that all these self-styled 'pastors' can watch / read all this allegedly harmful stuff unscathed, but they want to withold it from us because of it's supposedly evil effects? That must make them the most corrupted people on the planet and hence unfit to lead anyone, mustn't it?
Dress modestltly and don't dance, you might 'provoke lust' either in yourself and others, and discover there are other things in the world besides AoG.
Do yourselves a favour and put Family First way down the bottom: at least Fred Niles and his gang have the courage to show us who they really are, not like this bunch, who seek to pull the old 'bait and switch', pretending to be nice Mums and Dads instead of people who would like to stone to death others they don't approve of.
Thursday, September 30, 2004
It has been asserted that it is “un-Australian” for state-based GLBT lobby groups to join in a national effort to influence the government at the Federal level. It has also been said our efforts should be purely Australian – that we have nothing to learn from, for example, our US counterparts, and should neither import their structures nor form local affiliates of their organisations.
The fundamentalist evangelical opponents of gay rights have no such purist inhibitions, forging close ties with US evangelical organisations, and have learned from them how to infiltrate and influence mainstream political parties. For example:
The Fatherhood Foundation
Campaigns for “father’s rights” in both “divorce and non-divorce” situations. Australian subsidiary of the US Fatherhood Foundation of Colorado, an evangelical organisation which aims to “heal marriages” and “restore families” – in other words, opposes divorce, and offers men anger management classes. The Australian operation was started by the Australian Heart Ministeries.
The US FF is a creation of the World Prayer Centre , Colorado Springs, a “prayer factory”, with a series of prayer rooms staffed by “prayer teams”, praying in shifts in an attempt to resolve problems emailed in by individual members. Their website says “The Holy Bible, and only the Bible….. is the final authority for determining all doctrinal truths . . . it is inspired, infallible and inerrant.” They believe in creationism, not evolution. They do not believe in sex outside marriage, divorce, or IVF. Or homosexual equality.
Focus on the Family
Focus on the Family is a subsidiary of the US organisation of the same name. Former leader Glenn Williams who now works for the US parent organisation, freely admitted that the Australian body was financially supported by the much larger and very influential US parent.
Like many other fundamentalist organisations, FoF do not initially mention religion, stressing instead the resources they offer, such as “Family Forums”, workshops on parenting, etc. Their policies are anti-divorce, anti-abortion, anti-gay and pro-censorship. Both US and Australian organisations have close ties with the Destiny Church in New Zealand and the Australian Family Association.
The Catholic Connection
The Australian Family Association is a subsidiary of the National Civic Council, one of a number of such subsidiaries established according to B A Santamaria’s plan to surreptitiously insert catholic doctrine into mainstream political life “each [organisation] with a single limited objective. To deal with … policy and organisation associated with the…family, the Movement (NCC) has fashioned the Australian Family Association.” (Santamaria 1990)
Former AFA leader was Mary Helen Woods – B A Santamaria’s daughter – also a major supporter of Fred Niles Christian Democratic Party. Current AFA head Bill Muehlenberg was previously on the board of The Salt Shakers, another micro-group vociferous in their condemnation of gay rights (these fundamentalists may be few in number, but they have many names).
Catholic links cut across party lines: the chief opponent of gay rights in the Labor Party is Joe De Bruyn (Gough Whitlam called him “the Dutchman who doesn’t like dykes,” because he opposed IVF for lesbians). He heads the Shopworkers Union, which wields the largest block vote in the Labor Party.
His Liberal Party counterpart is ex-trainee priest Tony Abbott: the two of them have been spotted sharing a platform at a conference run by the hugely powerful but secretive Catholic organisation Opus Dei.
Political parties Family First (with whom the Democrats have exchanged preferences) and Fred Niles Christian Democrats, supported by these evangelical networks, are standing on a strongly anti-gay platform, including:
· No gay marriage
· No recognition of gay relationships
· No gay adoption
· No IVF for lesbians
· National ban on X rated videos
· Block all internet porn
· Enforce moral standards on TV and radio
· No support for Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras
· Allow religious bodies to discriminate in employment
· Exempt religious organisations from vilification laws
If we are to stand any chance of countering the pernicious influence of these backward-looking medieval fundamentalists, we need to do as they have done: link up with the might and power of our US and European counterparts and – given our smaller numbers - link together within Australia into one effective, internet-based national grouping.
Some evangelical organisations and networks
(you can find these on the net)
· Australian Evangelical Alliance
· Australian Christian Lobby
· Australian Prayer Net
· Transforming Melbourne
· Endeavour Forum
· One Heart for the Nation
· Living Waters Ministeries
· National Marriage Coalition
· National Association of Christian Leaders
· National Prayer Network
Sunday, September 05, 2004
Fascinating little piece in last week’s New Scientist (Aug 28th edition).
A study by Jon Agnone, a University of Washington sociologist, has found that sit-ins, rallies and boycotts were highly effective at forcing new environmental laws 1960 –1994.
The study compares the number of bills passed by Congress with the tactics employed by green groups in the same year. Each protest raised the number of pro-environment bills by more than 2%. Neither the state of public opinion at the time nor the effort spent schmooozing politicians, by contrast, had any influence whatsoever.
He also found that, unsurprisingly, more bills pass when both houses controlled by sympathetic parties – in US terms, the Democrats – and protests in an election year are more effective than at other times.
Agnone, addressing the American Sociological Association meeting in San Francisco, said protest groups lose effectiveness when they become part of the system, and the most effective weapon is disruption.
“If you make a big enough disturbance then people have to recognise what you’re doing.”
Greenpeace USA agreed. Director John Passacantando said, “Unless a politician feels real pressure, or a CEO senses a threat to his market, everything else is just talk.”
This agrees neatly with what Canberra politicians were saying when they decided it was OK to ban gay marriage: they weren’t hearing anything, so they felt safe to go ahead.
Moral: it doesn’t matter if the general public doesn’t like it, it doesn’t even matter if it upsets some of our own constituency – make enough of a stink and you CAN get stuff passed. Just don’t expect to be liked or thanked for it.