Tuesday 12th of December 2023

Making a Difference - What can *I* do?

There are times when having discussions with those of my friends who are not as politically aware or as active as I am when I wonder what the point of it all is? After all, I'm just one person, who has one vote in a system that is not built to ensure we have an active democracy.

Fortunately, those times are the exception and not the rule otherwise I'd soon lose the motivation to be active and to try to make a difference. I attend forums and talk to those who are not politically aware. I share information and website addresses and talk about the inequities in society. I write letters to the paper, and to politicians and I've even tried my hand at old fashioned political involvement to little avail.

The structures in political parties do not encourage participation. There is sectarianism and factionalism for a start. There is branch stacking and undemocratic political processes to be dealt with - all before there is an opportunity for real debate and discussion.

But above all, it seems to me that there is fear of the electorate. There is fear that by standing up for your beliefs or having a ideological framework that says some things are unacceptable the electorate will abandon your particular brand of politics.

I would like to see a political party that is prepared to attempt to LEAD the Nation not one that will stand back and be led by the lowest common denominator.

And so, my question to you is how do we make a difference? When people read about the East Timorese refugees who after 10 years of living in Australia, many with jobs paying taxes, are given deportation notices in the middle of the night or - even worse - at work and ask what they can do to express their horror and to influence policy what can I say?

Please share with me the ACTION things that you think we can do, individually or collectively to influence our democracy.

Here's to making a difference!

Democracy - We've lost it! Wheret could we have left it???

 Where is the democracy we talk about so often?

Where are those who mourn its demise???
Many are seriously disturbed  at the increasing trend to autocratic
party government, but can't see the answer.

When John Faine was speaking to Mark Latham on ABC radio, some time ago, about the corruption of the political process, neither had any answer to the mess we are in.

There is an answer - simple and complete.
We need  a referendum of the people for the  installation of the ballot in parliament for all debates and elections.  There is no other answer.
Since the parties are not interested in real democracy we need a new initiative. We need leadership which actually believes in democracy - government by the people - through freely voting parliamentary representatives, and an executive in submission to parliament.

This is something from which we have strayed a long way - called ministerial responsibility. Or should we say rather, accountability, since irresponsibility has become so blatant.

Where can this kind of leadership be found ???
The Secret Ballot Party is still in its infancy but it stands for the real democracy which only the ballot in parliament can attain to.
Our membership is slowly building, with concerned people who are not afraid to think outside the square.

This the answer.

Convenor: Secret Ballot Party: secretballotparty.fastmail.fm

Networking for outreach

Labor needs soul to win conservative hearts by Marion Maddox, author of 'God under Howard', is in SMH.
Once upon a time, Labor shared something else with evangelicals and pentecostals: passion. If the party of true believers wants their votes, it's time to recover some.

The left won't listen for New Matilda Wednesday 6 July 2005 by James Gallaway, is available only to subscribers. Here's a taste.
Some may have wondered at the possibility of the left's engagement with religious values, but most took home perhaps an uncomfortable notion: God doesn't exist but Hillsong does.

I'm posting this response here, because I can do links and preview the layout. Also, the crowd is friendlier.

Here are some tips, if any secularists or orthodox believers are thinking of engaging in some sort of collaboration with fundamentalists, evangelicalists or pentecostalists.

Let's imagine another hall, filled with a broad specturm of activists, a meeting to map out a program for the common good, say, unemployment, or poverty or the threat of terrorism. There are infidels, old-fashioned marxists, feminists and unionists, all happily mixing with the Hillsong crowd. The gathering has been called by Brian Houston, Peter Costello and Bob Carr. This is, on the surface, a non-religious meeting, and there will be no singing, not even the national anthem. Houston will not even lead out in one of his God-ordained intercessions for the health and wealth of the nation. But, behind the scenes, as he will divulge later to a more understanding audience, teams of the faithful will be meeting in small groups to pray for success. One group of warriors will have been hand-picked to gather in a backroom, to uphold Pastor Brian in prayer for the duration. Other groups will be meeting in homes and churches around the city. Afterwards, Brian will tell how he felt the Spirit moving on the audience, and in the hearts of believers and non-believers. He may even have seen waves or sparks of light or electricity, linking the praying groups for this special occasion. But he won't confess these delusions to the sceptical mob in the hall this night. Psychological tricks and emotional blackmail are the common tools of high-flying preacher-folk, best reserved for the easy marks.

I saw a pretty good effort to commit spiritual fraud, on a small scale. It happened to a suburban congregatioin of a non-conventional denomination. The leaders came up with the idea of a 'prayer tree', probably seen on a televangelist show. A small leafless shrub was brought down the front in a pot. Bits of coloured paper were given out to the members, who wrote their prayers on the slips of paper. The notes were then pinned to the bush. This Shinto-oid abomination was to be the focus of intercessory prayer for the members. In the discreet confines of a side-room, a small privileged group would take the anonymous notes off, one at a time, and devote their spiritual energies to it. The results of these efforts would, of course, be broadcast to the general body. In time, it may have transpired that someone's sick puppy had got better, or that an aunt had been cured of cancer.

The evangelists like to collect their miracles, and none is better than a hands-on cure of cancer. No documents, or any kind of evidence, are produced to verify the claims. Idiots who ask for proof get the cold shoulder. This is, after all, a spiritual matter, and doubt is not part of modern evangelicalist faith. If you go to this mythical meeting, and you get a chance to confide in Brian, ask him about his street-cred for miracle healing.

Secularists may wonder why God would need to be reminded about the needs of suffering people, or the need for a bigger residence for the congregation. Secularists may wonder about a God who seems to be moved by cases of special pleading. But this is the avowed modus operandus for evangelicalists. If they weren't at it, the world would degrade into a mess. The evangelicalists are here to save the world, but on their terms. Secularists may be offended by evangelists spruiking that the 'Christless masses' (that includes kids starving to death in Africa) are without hope. Hillsong enshrines that ideology in their chants. You could ask Brian what he believes about eternal death and hellfire, too.

Don't be fooled by the evangelicalists who drop the facade of spirituality, seemingly to mix with others and share for the common good. That earnest, clean-cut dude in the seat next to you, making polite conversation - he could be after his gold pin in the Bible study group leaders contest, he could be booking sales for Brian's fresh croissants delivered direct to your door, he could be touting for the resident repressed memory extractor, or he could be just a harmless Amway pusher. Just be careful, and do not swap phone numbers. Whatever you do, though, don't let them touch you. They know, and so does every charlatan and con-artist, that a soft touch and a teary eye will get straight into the wallet. If you are in need of a hug or a session of therapeutic touching, ask to see the practitioner's police clearance.

If a secularist is trapped in corner by an ardent fundamentalist, it's pretty easy to bring on a stalemate. Just ask them to explain why the two accounts of the Creation in the first two chapters of Genesis are so different. Or ask why there are at least two different versions of the Ten Commandments. Words and detail are very important to fundies, so don't let them escape with generalities and glibness.

It ought to be possible for people with a variety of beliefs to work together, without any need to make religious statements. A good paradigm for helping others, from the context of church-going, is the collection. Once the money leaves your hand, it is gone, to whatever the church treasurers want to do with it. Our giving, to aid programs, follows the same rules. We give what we can, knowing that no material benefit will come back to us. That may be how infidels and believers can get together. The infidels should able to laugh at the preacher's subtle self-aggrandisement, and all the nonsense that goes with it, as long as all can contribute to a non-partisan cause, a project that isn't tied to a particular belief system. Medical and educational outreach, and disaster relief, should be given freely.


OK, the lines are open. Let's have your thoughts on the London bombings. Over to you, Merv from Marrickville ... Oh, before I forget, there's a blanket ban on the use of 'absolutely'. And 'barbaric'. You are, of course, allowed to commence your homily with reference to the first act of terrorism in the modern era, the bombing of the King David Hotel by the Irgun Gang in 1946. OK, Merv, over to you. Let's have it loud and strong, starting with a flip to the *right* kind of faith, eg 'our thoughts and prayers', and toss in a little bit of 'solidarity'. Round it off with a 'hunt them down and lock them up', please.

making a difference

Dear Ange, who knows what people think? After you and I and people like us have had our say, think of us.  Don't care really, but then you never know and they may start to think about the Australia we used to know. Perhaps they tell a friend. All people in business know that if you tell 10 people something about your business in the morning usually 100 know about it by the next day,  so keep going we need people like you. And if you do the wrong thing in your busines usually 500 know about it by the end of the week,  I learned that somewhere at a management course I did in my last life.

Good on ya Ange.


My Picks of Their Picks

Great post Ange. I come from a culture where the theatre of the Absurd rules under communism and in that spirit I tend to wonder what would happens if I got scared half to death twice.

'If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.'
-Anita Roddick - complements of Yvonne DiVita

'Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.'
- Erica Jong



Hey Ange, nice to meet you.

Your comments about political parties are spot on. These entities destroy the hopes and ambitions of those new to politics don't they? Those candidates that have ideals and intend to represent their electorates are quickly brought back to reality if they are elected. The machine is in control.

No, they don't want participation at all. They just want a face to put up in each electorate, a face that will go along once they are told the cold hard facts of politics. Do what you are told or lose your pre selection. That's the least they can expect if they break rank and actually say what they really think.

Do you think there is fear of the electorate? Or contempt? Maybe the individual has fear of not appealing to their electorate but the parties have contempt, not fear. The major parties know that they will share the seats between them and it's really just a matter of destroying the campaign and image of the other major party. That's all politics is about in Australia.

What can you tell people when they express outrage at what they hear? Get involved. Talk about it. Raise awareness. Do something. Don't accept rubbish responses. Demand a direct answer. All that. Make a stand.

The two options really are to either start a new party or try and change the allegiance of existing members. We've seen how desperate and damaging the major players can be if a new party appears that has a tide swell behind it. It becomes the target and they join forces to demolish such upstarts trying to have a say.

I don't see that as practical but that's just my opinion. I would prefer to try and change the allegiances of existing members from their party to their electorate. If they are not influenced by the bully boys in the party then they are likely to want to do good things for Australia rather than what happens now.

How do we influence any of the current members? The key seems to me to be simply one of numbers. How many people do you know that think either major party is wonderful and want to vote for them? Don't they just choose between the two while mumbling about lack of choice?

I don't know many that like either party but in the end their vote generally goes to either of them. There are exceptions of course with the Senate and a few independents in the Lower House.

To me the first task is to increase membership here and similar sites and organisations. How we do that is the question of course.

I think we need to do something that has a result so that we can say to other people "Look at what this group has done". Otherwise the people we talk to will just say "It's too hard and nowhere to start.

Do you have any thoughts about strategy and so on. There are a few comments about this on various forums here and there is a starting point raised which few have commented on. What do you think of the proposed starting strategy?

making a difference ....

Hi Ange.

From my limited experience:

*   network, network, network

*   participate & support other activists

*   research & correspond

*   ask for help

To elaborate:

I'm a late starter. Apart from a brief period of activism over the Vietnam issue, I spent 35 years focused on business & only ever worried about issues that impacted that, my family & friends. I'm afraid that that sort of selfishness is quite common. Two years ago I became concerned about the Australians held at Guantanamo Bay. In my typical approach to things, I wrote to the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister & the Attorney-General about it. After receiving the usual self-serving, meaningless responses, I raised the issue with Brendan Nelson, my local member. He mimed my efforts by writing to his colleagues, alerting them to my concerns, not his. From there I started writing to the press & soon found my letters being published. I became expert in the subject & was able to hold the government's position up to ridicule. Along the way, I forged loose alliances with other groups, primarily concerned about justice issues. I developed contacts with human rights groups & soon found myself receiving information from a host of individuals & groups. We shared our energies & talents: organized petitions; campaigned to politicians, including in the US; pamphletted US Embassy functions etc. Through that effort, I encountered Margo Kingston & by invitation, Hamish Alcorn & this group. I'm learning to "blog" - here & as a guest on some other sites. I believe fervently in the power of the written word & the strength of messages communicated with passion & conviction. I believe that lots of people want to "do something" but don't know how. The only way is to start & you've already done that.

Don't look for instant results: you'll be disappointed. Be content to make your contribution & encourage others to do likewise. Be vocal & be unafraid & be prepared to be unpopular: even with family & friends.

Ask Hamish for bumper stickers: if he hasn't got any, get some made yourself & "brand" your cause - & then give me some: everyone-else does.

At the end of the day, remember that if you do nothing, then nothing will change, But if you do something, you can at least live with yourself & you just might strike a chord, even unknowingly, with someone you'll never know or meet, who can make something happen. Be dogged & determined - I've been pursuing one issue (torture allegations against members of the ADF in East Timor) for nearly two years & feel only now that I'm starting to make progress. Believe in the power of one & remember that a flea can drive an elephant mad.

The most critical requirement for a healthy democracy is participation by its citizens. If you don't use it, you'll lose it.

Want nothing for yourself other than the sense that you may have been able to do something for someone who couldn't do it for themselves. You will make a difference. And please don't wait as long as I did ...



making a difference.

Hi John,  I  like you was very active during the Vietnam war and  get really worried about the apathy in students today. Then I thought  perhaps it was because of national service because it effected them that they where active then and of course the many mothers also became active. Perhaps Australians are always like this: if it is not in their back yard they do not worry.

Well it's too late when the horse has bolted re: their work place. It will be very interesting to see if these changes wake up a few more Australians.

be the patient flea!

Hi there Ange, and welcome to the site. I think we all feel like you do on a regular basis, and the nice thing is, the more of us who get together to talk about the 'state of the nation' in the broad, or how to tackle specific issues, the better. For starters, it breaks down that terrible feeling of being alone & powerless.

I wanted to support all John said, especially about the flea & the elephant, and change taking time, and the value of networks.

For myself, I am starting to do pretty much all of the above, but given that it does take time, and is very frustrating, I also have taken time to make sure I have some practical outlets. For me, this is supporting the Australian Bush Heritage Fund to save valuable native habitat, and supporting Oxfam-Community Aid Abroad to build long-term poverty & inequality alleviating solutions in the developing world, that are also sustainable. On the day to day level, my partner & I run our household & small property as 'green' as we can, ensure as much as we can that we don't buy products made by companies or processes (eg, use sweatshop labourand) that we are ethically opposed to, and we occasionally do some volunteer work, so that we get out into the community & feel like we are doing something.

In short, as well as trying to participate in democracy more effectively, and do my little bit to change policies etc., I also firmly believe that the personal is political, and how we live our lives is as important as the letters of outrage we send - if that makes sense.

For the political stuff, this is why I'm, so glad this site is here. I want to see us use this site as a place to network, discuss issues, agree on a plan of action, decide who is doing what, then report back on what happened & evaluate our success. I also want to see this site be a place where people can discuss their concerns, frustrations, anger etc. and get some support from like-minded souls.

One of the greatest difficulties in our modern lives is a sense of isolation & disconnection, brought about by the fast pace and ast array of technologies we now must master to be successful. Via the internet, in some ways technology in this instance has conme full circle, giving us a powerful means by which to connect to each other, and if used well, to change things.

I have watched and participated at similar sites in the USA, and not only do they do all of the above, they have enough critical mass in their community that they are able to design and implement very effective campaigns on specific issues, be it writing to their members to protest a particular bill, to boycotting certain companies, to instigating / taking part in national days of protest. They have become such a force, that the politicians come to them. I'd love it if we can work together to build something similar.