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Thursday 31 December 2015

Long and Winding Road

2015 is nearing its end. Another 12 months ticked off the bucket list.Time flies.

I have returned to Sydney surprisingly refreshed after a short holiday. A family wedding at Byron Bay drew us up the coast ( some 800 kms from Sydney) which we extended into a road trip.  I chose to drive. I always feel at home behind the wheel; free to wander whither the wind would will. Alas, we rarely go without plans.

For many years when the children were young we made the annual pilgrimage to Port MacQuarie, to a well trodden kid-friendly resort. Together with friends and their families we formed a large chaotic group.

Returning after all these years it has all changed. The roads are much better. Though bustling as ever with pre-Christmas activity the townships are much developed. Most surprising was the countryside. Around this time of year we were always confronted by the harsh reality of the Australian bush, Even on the coast the vegetation would be various shades of brown. Not this time. This time it was a pervasive lush green.

Gently rolling hills, lush green vegetation, all too beautiful. It seems a direct contradiction of the many dire predictions of global warming. Our dams are full, rain is plentiful. Mmmm. Still one swallow does not a spring make. Adverse effects could be elsewhere. We just happened to be driving on a much improved region of the world. Even if so, it raises the notion that Global Warming is not universally bad and that global warming will improve the environment in some parts of the world. A warmer world will be more humid. The greater humidity and more carbon dioxide will increase fertility of the land and therefore food production. These will no doubt be offset by negatives, but what is the nett impact? I have not seen any evaluation of the benefits vs the costs of Climate change. Indeed very few benefits are ever mentioned. (If you have please send them to me.)

Leaving the city, our daily lives, made hectic by work and family chores, and the ever present and screaming media, is surprisingly therapeutic. Of necessity one switches off. Yes, the mass media is always available, but we don't pay as much attention. We look at the scenery. The social media? Yes, I did turn on and submit a few tweets, but alas it was more sporadic. After a few days, it is somewhat irrelevant.

One cannot but consider the pervasive impact our media has on our daily lives. It sets the agenda for what we consider important, what we discuss, it even offers our opinions.. It sets the tone and the mood. We rile at the inhumanity, we cry at the tragedy, we fear the threats. It often dictates our actions; donate, march, join in, protest. The media is an all too powerful beast which corrupts our individual selves. Yet all it takes to break its spell is to switch off. Even if it is for a just short while.

This time of year the media beast is also switching off. The industry itself, like most in Australia, enters the Christmas lull. In Australia, it lasts much longer than elsewhere with a slow-down lasting to the end of January. Of course many are back to work by then but somehow the atmosphere remains in 'holiday' mode. I guess everyone welcomes the slowdown and does their best to maintain a festive mood. It is quite therapeutic.

Reflecting on the year just passed it is easy to get stuck in the minutiae on which the country spent much time. Of knighthoods, of winks, of helicopter rides at great expense, of corrupt advice to relatives. Many of these hold the audience hostage for but a few days or weeks, then lapse into the background.

However the main theme that has without doubt held centre stage throughout the year has been war and terrorism. In many ways these are two sides of the same coin. Both products of a people stuck in a time warp, largely of their own making. Stuck in a whirlpool of hate which is spawning bodies and terror on the world stage. From a helicopter view it is a global conflict of enlightenment vs barbarism. But lets not beat around the bush. It is Islamic barbarism. The battle is both within and with-out Islam. The fundamentalist Wahhabi Islamic ideology that is at the root of our worldwide conflict has too many adherents. For enlightenment to win, both the active extremist fighters must be defeated in war and their ideologues and preachers must be defeated through debate. The ideology must be seen as unacceptable to all Muslims. We need a cacophony of Islamic voices to scream to the world that the extremists are hijacking their religion. This has not happened, yet, but needs to. I like to think enlightenment will win , as it has for many other challenges that the world has faced, but we will see.

While terrorism and war have had their sway on our daily lives, so too has politics. Changes in governments in England and Canada, a raised profile of an aggressive Russia, and a weak America have all had their impact. As too has the change from Abbott to Turnbull. I did not like the way the change was made, but Turnbull has been doing well.

In the final days of the year things are looking up. IS has had a major defeat with the recapture of Ramadi by the Iraqi forces. Dyson Heydon released his Royal Commission's damning findings on the corruption that is widespread in Australian Unions and by their connection into the Labour party. This will have real consequences as many Union, and some company, officials face charges in the new year. And finally, perhaps much later than he should have, Mal Brough has (been) stepped aside. What will the new year bring?

Thank you readers for the positive feedback and indeed all the feedback over the year. I hope I have kindled some debate out there.

I wish you a healthy and peaceful 2016.

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