A Ganma Odyssey

March 11, 2009

 

This is the title I used for an article published in  “Education Australia”  way back in 1998. I think it is still relevant in many ways, particularly now that Australia has had a change in goverment. Since it already is online I will just give you the link to it here  “A Ganma Odyssey” . If the link should ever become inactive I will upload it to this blog.

I chose this title to connect an Aboriginal word with my Greek heritage – the Odyssey. Ganma is an Aboriginal word from the Northern Territory which is the name for a waterhole that has fresh and salt water mixing together in a rock pool. One of the speakers at the conference (see below “The Ganma Metaphor”), suggested we use the word “ganma” to refer to a “multicultural space” as in a classroom. Anyway, read the article and you will see the full context. By using the word “odyssey” I alluded to my own Greek heritage and the fact that the journey to the Heart of Australia was also a journey to the centre of my own heart because I was retracing a journey I undertook about 25 years earlier as a young man on the road looking for truth . . . . my own naive version of a Dharma Bum.

The coloured text excerpts and photos, beneathe “The Ganma Metaphor” are scanned from the hard copy of “Education Australia” Issue 39, 1998. So, check the article out >> “A Ganma Odyssey”.

The Ganma Metaphor

“This metaphor I had learned during earlier visits to Yirrkala Community School in East Arnhem Land, on the coast of the northeast corner of the Northern Territory. Yirrkala has organised their curriculum and teaching around a metaphor of the contact zone where rivers meet the sea, named ganma in one of the local Aboriginal languages. Literally, ganma is where fresh and salt water meet. Metaphorically, ganma is where cultures meet: fresh water is indigenous Yolngu knowledge and practices; salt water is the white Balanda knowledge and practices; and one place where they meet is in school.

Flying in a small plane from Yirrkala west to Darwin after a visit in 1993, l could see clearly the swirls of different colors in the ganma waters: bluer from the sea, browner from the land. Manduwuy Yunupingu, who was principal of Yirrkala when I first visited in 1991, has also described the role of Yothu Yindi, his internationally known rock group, in the meeting place of popular culture in these same ganma terms (Shoemaker 1994).

At first thought, this ganma metaphor may seem to ignore the important power differential between dominant and nondominant cultures in institutions like schools. But if you think again about literal relationships between fresh water and salt, the potential threat of unequal power is there: salt water tides and typhoons can flood the land, while fresh water cannot seriously harm the ocean. But if the two can be kept in balance in the ganma space, then the rich nutrients that come together from the mix of different waters nourishes richly diverse forms of life-biologically in the literal situation, culturally and intellectually in the metaphorical.”

Courtney B. Cazden

Quote from ‘A Postscript from Alice Springs’, in Multiliteracies: Literacy learning and the design of social futures.

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Here is an excerpt from the article :

It has been suggested that the human notion and definition of self has been through major shifts since the beginning of human consciousness (Julian Jaynes, “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind”, Boston, Houghton Miffen, 1977 ). The closest to us historically, that may demonstrate this shift, is said to have occurred in Homer’s Greece.


According to this view, in Homer’s day, the people did not have the same sense of self as we may have. Their inner psychological organisation was different to what we take for granted. The voice of the mind was somehow perceived as a “god” speaking from outside themselves. It didn’t take too long before people started sussing out that there were a lot of “gods” running around in the temples and in the marketplaces saying contradictory things about how things were, that they saw the untruth of their “godhood”. Gradually this voice of the “gods” became established in the sense of self we call “ego”. What was there before the voice? Who and what was Ulysses’s “sense of self” on his Odyssey?

Have we in the dying years of the Industrial Age, come to a cultural cul-de-sac? Somehow, we have alienated ourselves from not only each other but also the common ground of experience – nature, the Earth. Is it time for another definition and sense of self, another way of knowing, one that acknowledges something other than the sovereign rights of the mechanistic, rational, technocratic and anti – spiritual mindset of the “Western” sense of self?

Edward de Bono in his “I Am Right, You Are Wrong”, thinks that this is the case. He suggests that a renaissance of thought and language patterns is needed so that humanity doesn’t self destruct. He proposes turning away from the “table top logic” of the traditional “Western” mindset in favour of developing a way of knowing that is based on perception. De Bono explains that recent developments in the understanding of self-organising systems and ideas from information theory, have given indications as to how the neural processes of the brain perform the activity of perception. Perception operates in nerve networks like a feature of a self-organising biological system, a living entity. Let’s call information that comes through our senses impressions. These impressions fall on the inner landscape of our mind like rain. The rain on the mind organises itself into tributaries, rivulets and streams of temporarily stable patterns. These patterns can subsequently flow into new sequences and patterns. According to de Bono, the perceptual mode of thinking encourages the mind to form multiple branching flow patterns; the sensory information is not boxed in by fixed linguistic concepts, generalities, and logic. Perceptual thought patterns follow the natural behaviour of neural networks; our present mode only plays back a recording of words and concepts provided by a preestablished cultural mindset.

Courtney Cazden during her paper on Ganma Space spoke of the necessity of getting rid of the margin and centre metaphor. This metaphor was based on the myth of terra nullius of students’ minds and being. Courtney told us that while she and Mary Kalantzis were flying to some school in the Northern Territory they noticed water holes that had fresh and salt water tributaries and other smaller rivulets all feeding the main space of the water hole. This, they found out was known as a ganma. The ganma looks like localised swirling spirals from the air. Courtney said that the mingling of brown, fresh and salt water in this space was analogous to the culturally diverse classroom. And in light of the process of perception is an apt image of the inner subjective world, our mind, our being.

The multicultural classroom as a Ganma Space, this metaphor rather than create separate marginalised groups besides the mainstream, recognises the primacy of all the diverse groups’ backgrounds and experiences. There is no one central dominant culture enforcing a mainstream reality. There is an influx of different cultures, different literacies, different world views, a swirling waterhole, a turning of bracken water whose salt has not lost its savour.

A living Ganma Space.


Let’s go one step further and consider that in the industrially developed world there is the primacy of the head, (some localise it to the left hemisphere of the brain) and all the other ways of being and cognition – feelings, sensations and intuition have been marginalised. What do we have if we apply the ganma metaphor to our own inner world? In this ganma, head, heart, body and spirit all contribute equally, but differently, to our sense of the real. These parts of ourselves may all be cognitive in nature, they may be different tributaries of knowing, different source data. Ganma Space taken as psychological space, the internal world of our experience, would allow for the possibility to connect our known and unknown parts of ourselves. This opens the opportunity to connect with others by being able to include more of the “other” in one’s awareness.
Could the perceptual mode of thinking be a ganma way of knowing?

The taste I seek is a taste of being – not in the philosophical sense – a point of view to be debated, but rather an experience, an immersion through the background/underground of one’s chattering monkey mind – into the moment. We’ve seen that working from only a part of ourselves doesn’t work. The problems confronting all of us in this time of planetary transition are whole systems oriented. Now we see through Chaos theory, that a butterfly fluttering her wings in South Africa has global consequences. And when it comes to the ecological state of the Earth and the widening gap between the rich and poor across the planet, it is obvious that whole, global issues require an effort and a response that is from the whole of ourselves, the ganma of ourselves.

From “A Ganma Odyssey” published in Education Australia, 1998.

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Flotillas True Beginnings ……from the Holy Mountain

February 28, 2009

Mount Athos, Greece

Mount Athos is in north eastern Greece, east of Salonika and only accessible by boat from Ouranopolis  (ouranos means sky so Ouranopolis means Sky Town).

Mount Athos is in north eastern Greece, east of Salonika and only accessible by boat from Ouranopolis (ouranos means sky so Ouranopolis means Sky Town). The Holy Mountain is located on the red peninsular of Halchidi.

  When are true beginnings of events, births and resurrections? I ask this question because I’ve been asked when did the “Flotillas of Hope” begin? Common sense answers that it was the day and time the boats set off for Nauru. “Eureka” left Sydney on 15 May and “One Off” and “Eureka” left Brisbane for Nauru on 23 May, 2004. However, before the boats even existed, “Flotillas of Hope” was an email sent at a particular date and time from somewhere. Was this email “Call to Action” the real beginning of the project? A feeling anchored in my heart for a few months before the “Call to Action” email was sent over the internet.  Was this feeling the real beginning that only needed my fear of ridicule to disappear to express itself? Where did this feeling arise from?

I believe the real beginning happened four years before we set sail for Nauru. My father died in December, 1999 and being the eldest son of a Greek family it was my duty to go to Greece and check out some property stuff. I hadn’t been back to Greece since I left when I was four years old. I couldn’t afford to return to my birthplace, my roots, until I was 48. Over the years I dreamt about returning and all the special places I would visit. One was Dodona which is about 5 kilometres from Anatoli, the village where I was born. It is the oldest oracle in Greece, older than the Delphic Oracle. Legend has it that Jason, before he sailed off with the Argonauts searching for the Golden Fleece, visited the oracle of Dodona. The miraculous priam that spoke in prophecies from the front of the Argonauts’ boat, was carved from wood of Dodona’s  sacred grove.

Dodona, oldest oracle in Greece. I sat on one of the rocks and listened to Zeus speak through the rustling leaves before I left for the Holy Mountain.

Dodona, oldest oracle in Greece. I sat on one of the rocks and listened to Zeus speak through the rustling leaves before I left for the Holy Mountain.

This is near the spot where Mary, Mother of God (Theotokos) shipwrecked on Holy Mountain's beach.

This is near the spot where Mary, Mother of God (Theotokos) shipwrecked on Holy Mountain’s beach.

One other place I dreamt of visiting was Mount Athos, the Holy Mountain as Greeks call it. The monks who live there consider themselves gardeners for the Mother of God’s Garden on Earth.  When Mary and Saint John set sail from Cyprus their tiny boat was blown by strong winds off course to the north east coast of Greece where it shipwrecked. When Mary saw the beauty of this place she asked her son Jesus if she could have it as her garden. Soon after, seekers of truth arrived, some remained to become gardeners and others left after some respite. This is why it is called the Holy Mountain.
 
 I was baptised as Greek Orthodox when I was a baby. In my late teens and early twenties I searched far and wide, behind book covers and the open roads of Australia and New Zealand looking for something. As part of that search I found that the Holy Mountain may have something of what I was looking for. I had sought answers in religions and philosophies alien to my heritage. Now was the chance to look into my own indigenous faith.
 
Ouranopolis - this is where you leave by boat to go to the Holy Mountain.

Ouranopolis – this is where you leave by boat to go to the Holy Mountain.

It was Easter, 2000, there I was sitting opposite Geronta Pavlo at the table with the wood oven heating some water behind me. I was inside a time bubble hugged by mud, stone and timber walls. Byzantium breathed in this small kitchen that has cooked meals and boiled water for over a millenium.

The tiny church next door to the room I stayed in at the old Byzantine house.

The tiny church next door to the room I stayed in at the old Byzantine house.

Of all the cats scampering for fish heads in the saucer near the door, two – the twins, Alpha and Omega ran towards Geronta, finding their way onto the table top. Geronta was quietly reading a newspaper. His hair, like small waterfalls of grey, fell over his shoulders and behind his back. Strands of his long white beard fell on the table. Gerontas, 90 years old, looked like a middle aged biker, with the full round belly of body armour and broad shoulders. Alpha and Omega tugged at his beard, he said, “Off with you,” and then smiled. I went to lift the boiling water off the stove and when I returned I saw Geronta folding a page of the newspaper. Over and over he folded. I wondered if this was some kind of Holy Mountain origami. When he finished folding he held it up.

He said, “Here Stavros, this is for you.”

I said, “What is it Gerontas?”

“It’s a boat. I don’t know why but my heart told my hands to make this for you.”

As I received the gift he said, shrugging his shoulders, “Who knows, it may mean that you return to the Holy Mountain sooner than you think. Or maybe something else. It is for you.”

The paper boat folded by Gerontas and given to Stavros.

The paper boat folded by Gerontas and given to Stavros.

What was interesting in retrospect is that he gave me the boat a day after we had a discussion about what is needed to alleviate suffering and injustice on Earth. I was thinking about the dispossessed, the homeless, the weak, the persecuted, the refugees of the world. I told Gerontas that the needs of the world are such that people who can do something should not hide on Holy Mountains but be in the world and try to change it for the better, Smiling, he said, “Our Christianity is esoteric, it is hidden. Here on the Holy Mountain you are no longer in the exoteric world. Our concerns are spiritual.”

“Gerontas, you appear not to care for the very ones Jesus tells us we should care for.”

“Stavros, from where you are it appears that way. You know, the Holy Mountain needs at least five monks to survive in caves and feed on light. Without these monks connecting Heaven and Earth through their sacrifice, the Mother of God’s Garden will wither and die. How do you know that this house, this monastery, this Holy Mountain does not play a similar role for the whole Earth? How much more pain and injustice would be on Earth now if the Holy Mountain did not exist? We, each of us has our calling, our vocation. My work is here while yours is in the exoteric.”

“Gerontas, do I need to become a monk to fulfil what is needed or is there another way?” I asked him.

Alpha or was it Omega, crawled softly towards his hand. He reached for the cat’s head and stroked it gently. He said, “This is what is needed from all…..the practice to bring the spiritual into the material, Heaven on Earth. You don’t need to be a monk or a nun to do this. All you need is pure intention. If your intent is pure, the way is open. Do what you have to do, follow your conscience and allow this particle of God,” he pointed to my heart,” your conscience, guide you.” He looked at me with soft eyes and added, “You must die before you die and then be reborn, this is what Easter is all about.”

A few days after I was on my way to Istanbul or Constantinople as Greeks call it with the paper boat and lots of material for thought. My journey over the next two months was along the ancient trade route from Istanbul to Cairo.  

I took the paper boat with me on Eureka. I now believe that the beginning of the journey to Nauru was the moment when Gerontas gave me the paper boat. He, as a gardener, planted a seed. 

St Paul at the base with Mount Athos in the background.

St Paul at the base with Mount Athos in the background.

Entrance path to the house I stayed in with the two monks.

Entrance path to the house I stayed in with the two monks.

View from a balcony near my room.

View from a balcony near my room.

 

 

 

 


Cultural Stomp 1997 – 2007

February 21, 2009

Below are a series of articles, photos and graphics of the Cultural Stomp. Rather than me writing about it here, just read the articles – one from the NSW Government Hansard, one I wrote for “Education Australia” and there is the editorial I wrote for the 2007 Tenth Anniversary of the Cultural Stomp. I was one of the original founders of this amazing Festival, being part of the organising group we called Cultures in Action ( CIA ).

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Cultural Stomp, 1998

 

Newcastle Celebrates it’s Cultural Diversity

 

Around Easter, 1997, there was a feeling in the City of Newcastle’s air that was brittle, if not fragile. BHP had just announced the closure of its steelworks and 2500 workers were to be on the scrap heap by 2000. Many of these workers had literacy and numeracy learning needs. The “downsizing” of BHP also would have a painful effect on ethnic communities of the Hunter, with about 600 non English speaking background workers needing extra English language skills.

 

The Hunter region was in a state of shock, because those 2500 workers retrenched would by the multiplier effect mean another 12 to 20,000 jobs would also disappear in the region. Newcastle was hurting, and hurting bad. So when, only a couple of weeks later, the announcement that the One Nation Party was to be launched for the first time in NSW on 30 May, 1997 at the Civic Theatre in Newcastle it was important that an alternate forum for people with opposing views should be organised.

 

Drawn by a common need and a common objective, a diverse group of citizens met at Wollatuka, Newcastle University to see what would be done. A young Aboriginal student stood up and said to the circle of people who had gathered, “Hi, my name is Belinda and I’m glad that so many people have shown up today. I want to do something about Pauline coming to visit us, but I don’t want to yell at her… I want to do something positive… I want to celebrate what we already have in our city. Who also wants to?” Instantly people called out “Yes” in their diverse ways. We divided up into work groups and we all knew that whatever we come up with we only had three weeks to organise it. We decided that on the same night that Pauline Hanson was speaking we would hold a celebration of our cultural diversity in Civic Park which is only about 200 metres from Civic Theatre. Some us met later at the Pod, and we called the event, The Cultural Stomp and our group, Cultures In Action (CIA).

 

On the night, over five thousand people turned up at Civic Park to let One Nation know that we have something to celebrate in our local community ; we were celebrating our diversity and the unity of that diversity as Australians. With dancing, singing, music, poetry, fire twirling and a Ceremony scheduled at the same time Pauline Hanson was due to speak, The Cultural Stomp made its debut. Outside the Theatre, where 1000 people paid $10 to listen to Hanson, there was a large crowd of people letting her know that her views weren’t necessarily felt by a large percentage of people living in Newcastle. In many ways, the Cultural Stomp was a reconciling force to the active and the resistant forces of One Nation and confronting each other outside the theatre. The Lord Mayor was quoted in the Newcastle Herald as saying, “If it wasn’t for The Cultural Stomp last night, there may well have been violence.”

 

This year, Cultures in Action (CIA) met once again to see if we would organise another Cultural Stomp. In a fundamental way the purpose was the same as last year; to hold a peaceful celebration of Newcastle’s cultural diversity and unity in Civic Park. The only difference this year was that we didn’t have the visual presence of the One Nation Party to contend with, which meant that we probably wouldn’t get the media exposure and build up of hype. The process of organising the event, the networking and the seeking of support and sponsorship revealed that Newcastle loved the concept of The Cultural Stomp. Its sponsors and supporters included Newcastle City Council; The Pod; Newcastle City Centre; Newcastle Trades Hall Council; Ethnic Affairs Commission; Awabakal Co-Op; New South Wales Ministry of the Arts; Hunter Area Health; Newcastle University Student Association; Purrimaibahn Unit; Migrant Resource Centre; Multicultural Neighbourhood Centre; Ethnic Communities Council; Hunter Institute of Technology Association; Newcastle University Union; Newcastle Workers Club;Wollatuka; Fast Events; Ron Hartree Art School; Alan Morris M.P; Bryce Gaudry M.P., Brian Birkefeld and many more.

 

Three nights before the event, at the end of the Sorry Service for the Stolen Generation at the Anglican Cathedral, the bishop said, “Don’t forget to come to The Cultural Stomp at Civic Park on Saturday.” The night before the event I had returned home late after working with fellow CIA members making lanterns and the bamboo and paper Globe of Reconciliation for the Cultural Stomp Ceremony. As I walked through the door my kids called out, “Dad, come quickly, The Cultural Stomp is on TV!” I rushed over and saw our logo of the nine petalled flower and heard our event announced in the middle of a football game between the Newcastle Knights and Western Suburbs Roosters. From an utterance in the Cathedral to the middle of a televised footy game, The Cultural Stomp was announced.

 

On the day we had crowds coming and going in the thousands. This year’s Stomp included Hunter Institute of Technology’s Purrimaibahn Unit displaying art and writings from TAFE students and kids at infant, primary and high schools of our region. It was a wonderful gesture of reconciliation where Aboriginal people shared their work, their hopes and dreams of living in harmony with other members of our culturally diverse community. Throughout the day, performances and speeches from the local multicultural community kept people entertained and informed. We had started the day at 2 o’clock in the afternoon with an Aboriginal Smoking Ceremony; at dusk we were united in the Globe of Reconciliation Fire Ceremony; and the night ‘finished’ at 10 o’clock with dancing irt the park.

 

Two weeks later, after the news of the One Nation win in Queensland, I was talking to a few students and teachers in the sun outside the classrooms. Someone raised the spectre of Hansonism and an Aboriginal student said, “Newcastle is OK, we had the Stomp and people here are OK.” Someone else said, “You know, I walked through Civic Park the other day, and it was different. I could still remember all the people and the kids painting the didgeridoos, the South Pacific Islanders dancing and just the whole thing. The Cultural Stomp has changed the way I see Civic Park.”

Cultures in Action is planning another Cultural Stomp for next year and it promises to be bigger and better; regardless of the political landscape.

 

Stavros

Education Australia, 1998

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Legislative Assembly Hansard (Extract)

Hansard extract, NSW Legislative Assembly, 7 June 2000 (article 36).

Speakers: Gaudry Mr Bryce; Markham Mr Colin  |   Speech Type: PRIV; Private Members Statements

CULTURAL STOMP

Page: 6794

 

 

Mr GAUDRY (Newcastle—Parliamentary Secretary) [5.52 p.m.]: Last Saturday, together with several thousands of Newcastle and Hunter people, I participated in the fourth Cultural Stomp in Newcastle, an event the aim of which is to bring people together. The Cultures In Action Committee organised the event to nurture the spirit of the culturally diverse Australian society, to give people the opportunity to work together and celebrate reconciliation while simultaneously respecting differences and commonality in our cultures. That cultural event occurred approximately a week after one of the greatest, if not the greatest, demonstrations of solidarity that one could ever wish to see, when hundreds of thousands of people came together in Sydney to celebrate Corroboree 2000 and reconciliation with Australia’s indigenous people.

The Cultural Stomp was first staged in Newcastle in May 1997 as a strong but peaceful statement opposing the strong and divisive politics that were being espoused at that time by One Nation. The whole approach was to bring people together into social action and in peace to demonstrate all the values that can be combined in a community rather than focusing on the divisiveness that was occurring at that time. Since that time, the Cultures in Action Committee in Newcastle has built a really successful cultural event which takes place in Civic Park, opposite Newcastle City Hall. The events bring together a whole range of young people and community groups such as the ethnic communities in Newcastle, the arts communities and visitors from areas outside Newcastle.

 

The Cultural Stomp day of celebration includes demonstrations of a whole range of dancing and singing. Very importantly, this year’s celebration involved people who have disabilities. The Life Without Barriers group. Life Without Barriers, a special group in Newcastle that works towards providing access and opportunities to people who have disabilities, participated in performances in Civic Park. One of the really significant events was the participation of Mrs Benita Mabo. Tuesday 6 June was the anniversary of the handing down of the Mabo decision, a decision that has brought about tremendous change. It ended the theory of terra nullius and began the continuing struggle by many indigenous people for reconciliation and recognition of their rights as the original occupants of this land. Mrs Mabo spoke of the personal struggle of Eddie Mabo and the struggles of her own people, the South Pacific Islanders, who came to Australia during the labour trade, which featured blackbirding. She referred to the struggle that continues for her people to obtain recognition in this country.
One of the outstanding features of the day was a performance by the Mulloobinba Newcastle high school dance group, which previewed the dances that they will be performing at the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games. I congratulate Mrs Barbara Greentree and the dance group on the selection they will perform at the opening Olympic ceremony and also on the performance that was given on the Cultural Stomp day. One of the organisers of the Cultural Stomp, Mrs Lorraine Norton, has adopted a comment from David Suzuki’s book The Sacred Balance, which states that local communities are actually the mainstay during change. It states further: 

 

“The social unit that will have the greatest stability and resilience into the future is the local community which provides individuals and families with a sense of place and belonging, fellowship and support, purpose and meaning.”

That is the whole idea underlying the celebration that takes place annually in Newcastle. Its aim is to bring people together, to celebrate their diversity and the linking of all cultures in Australian society.

Mr MARKHAM (Wollongong—Parliamentary Secretary) [5.57 p.m.]: The honourable member for Newcastle is to be congratulated for bringing to the attention of this House the Cultural Stomp, which takes place annually in Newcastle. The event is a real demonstration of reconciliation in action—and as I have often said, actions speak louder than words. I congratulate all those involved with the Cultural Stomp. Similar events, as often as possible, should be held in all parts of Australia.
 

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Cultural Stomp 1998

Cultural Stomp 1998

Scanned article from the 10th Anniversary Cultural Stomp Programme

Scanned Editorial from the 10th Anniversary Cultural Stomp Programme, 2007.

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Horoscope: Cultural Stomp 4 PM 30 May, 1997, Civic Park, Newcastle, Australia.

Horoscope: Cultural Stomp 4 PM 30 May, 1997, Civic Park, Newcastle, Australia.

Original 1997 Poster with phone numbers erased.

 

2007 Cultural Stomp Poster - note the 9 petalled flower from the first Cultural Stomp in 1997.

2007 Cultural Stomp Poster – note the 9 petalled flower from the first Cultural Stomp in 1997.

 

Combined Churches' Statement on the visit of Pauline Hanson on 23 May, 1997.

Cultural Stomp, 1998

First Press Release for Cultural Stomp, 1997

First Press Release for Cultural Stomp, 1997

Letter to people, May 1997.

Letter to people, May 1997.

Cultural Stomp, 1998

Cultural Stomp, Newcastle

Cultural Stomp Update May, 1997.

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Flyer for Community Meeting to Organise Cultural Stomp in 1998.

Flyer for Community Meeting to Organise Cultural Stomp in 1998.

From 2007 Cultural Stomp Programme

From 2007 Cultural Stomp Programme

From 2007 Cultural Stomp Programme

From 2007 Cultural Stomp Programme

From 2007 Cultural Stomp Programme

From 2007 Cultural Stomp Programme

Cultural Stomp 1998

Cultural Stomp, Newcastle


From the Archives >> Baxter @ Easter, 2003

February 19, 2009

 

 

After Easter at Woomera in 2002 the Government decided to move people to Baxter. The detention centre in Baxter had an extra deterrent for those seeking to break out – electric shock razor wire. So now we had an electric barrier as well as razor wire to keep innocent women and children and men incarcerated. At Woomera, in 2002, human rights activists could get close to the wire, at Baxter the protests were just symbolic as the Darth Varder clothed police with their shields and batons, their horses and their helicopters overhead kept us far away from the detention centre.

 

Darth Vader from the Star Wars movie saga. Look at the pictures at the end of the post. Can you see similarities?

Darth Vader from the Star Wars movie saga. Look at the pictures at the end of the post. Can you see similarities?

The Baxter protest also witnessed for the first time, police in riot gear pointing machine guns at Australian citizens’ heads. This wasn’t reported in the corporate media. However, we have photos and videos to prove it. The freaky thing was that some of us had helium filled balloons. One accidental bursting of a balloon and we would have seen Sharpeville on Australian soil. Where was the outrage by the media? No where. Quiet as a mouse.

 

The Baxter @ Easter 2003 also witnessed for the first time a close connection with the local indigenous people who supported our Action. Closer connections were made by the various affinity groups which made it more possible for the Flotillas of Hope Action to Nauru happen the following year.

 

Anyway, read the following account as it appeared on the Baxter Watch  website and in the ImaginePeace Update.

 

stavros

 

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A Story from Baxter Detention Centre, Easter, 2003

 

 

The corporate media told people that we had broken through the first barrier, about 3 kilometres from the Concentration Camp after some confrontation with police. Then, according to the corporate media we raced down to the second barrier about 2 kms away from the Concentration Camp where the police had formed a line with mounted police ready to lend a hand in stopping us getting through. Even though we could see the massive presence of the riot squad we, in our enthusiasm for a battle with the police decided to breach the police line. This time our brave riot squad with all their gear stopped us. They stopped us by riding their horses into us and dismantling our tents. So, the heroes of the State warded off a few hundred of us refugee activists determined to fight the Empire. That’s their version and if you don’t believe me check out The Australian’s story. 500 refugee activists vs the 357 police and riot squad and a helicopter surveillance. One cop per protestor along with their weapons of mass intimidation.

Sacred Fire lit by the local indigenous Bungalla People.

Sacred Fire lit by the local indigenous Bungalla People.

Where to begin? In many ways for me the real beginning of the story is on Good Friday night, when we gathered around the Sacred Fire lit by the Elders of the Bungalla people – Harry and Noelene. This is a beginning the corporate media won’t tell you about and I believe that what happened around the Sacred Fire at the Baxter Protest Camp marks a new synergy with refugee and Aboriginal rights movements. The Baxter Convergence when seen in this light shows the deeper convergence that occurred at Easter. Hopecaravan yahoo group’s website logo says: “The denial of rights to anyone is the denial of humanity to all.” We were welcomed to the land that Baxter Concentration Camp is built on by the Aboriginal Elders – Noelene and Harry. As far as I was concerned my presence was legal within Aboriginal Law no matter what Howard and Ruddock say. But before I begin the story with this bigger beginning I will tell you what happened when we arrived at the Western road block.

 

 

Protectors of the Electric Fence

Protectors of the Electric Fence

What really happened? The police allowed us to pass through the first barrier with all of our camping gear and to walk about a kilometre down the hill. As we walked down towards the Concentration Camp we saw police in riot gear making a line. We put down our gear and proceeded to set up camp. No one tried to stop us, so we thought that this was going to be our camp site. The commander of police, with headphone radio contact then made an announcement. He told us all to pack up our gear and return to the top of the hill in 10 minutes or we will be arrested. Many went and pleaded with him to be reasonable, including myself. He wouldn’t budge. The troops were ready to arrest us. Meanwhile from behind us in the hills, like a B grade western movie, there was the calvary of mounted police charging towards our camp site. When the ten minutes were up the riot squad charged into our site and along with the mounted police they took away tents and trampled on peoples’ property. Lucky no one was trampled. There some chafed shins and someone got arrested for carrying a kite. The cops then made us go back up to the hill. Meanwhile, above us, a helicopter choppered away. By the way, I have video footage of all this.day01_28

We walked back up to the hill and here we set up camp. That night (Good Friday) we had a spokes council meeting around the Sacred Fire which the Aboriginal Elders had lit especially for our protest. It was the only fire allowed on our camp and whenever we gathered for meetings we gathered around the Sacred Fire. Harry, Elder of the Bungalla people, the people of the local land we camped on, welcomed us as did Noelene. In silence we stood and sat around the Sacred Fire while Noelene and Harry told us their stories and why they supported refugees incarcerated in the Concentration Camps. “Simply because,” Harry said, “Our people experience the same incarceration as the refugees.” They not only felt for the refugees but also totally empathised with their plight because their own people have also suffered the same injustices.

Harry and Noelene told us, as we felt the warmth of the Sacred Fire, that the only way to affect change and help those inside the Concentration Camp was through peaceful and compassionate ways. They told us that to keep in the spirit of the land we had to manifest peacefully. They gave us the blessings of the Bungalla people and its land. I asked permission to record an image of the Sacred Fire, which they gave. HOPE Caravan told the spokes council of the FREEDOM banner, signed by Newcastle people and invited all of the Baxter Convergence people to sign it as well. Noelene and Harry offered to take the FREEDOM banner with all the signatures and well wishes of our protest camp and Newcastle to the refugees in Baxter. This banner was made from a queen sized sheet with the word FREEDOM sewn on in black material in the Farsi language – AZADI. The next day people in the camp signed it at the Sacred Fire and around the Caravan’s camp. On Sunday morning HOPE Caravan gave the banner to Noelene and Harry. I have footage of their words to all of us. They will take our gift of FREEDOM and HOPE to those behind the electric razor wire.

AZADI - Freedom in Farsi with signatures by well wishers from Newcastle and from the Baxter Action people. This was given to the detainees at Baxter by Noelene, a Bungalla Elder from the country on which the Baxter Detention Centre was built.

AZADI - Freedom in Farsi with signatures by well wishers from Newcastle and from the Baxter Action people. This was given to the detainees at Baxter by Noelene, a Bungalla Elder from the country on which the Baxter Detention Centre was built.

We decided at that night’s spokes council meeting around the Sacred Fire that some of us would go down later that night. We didn’t know how far the cops would let us get to the Concentration Camp but we were determined to get as close as possible so that we could make contact. To make sure that they could hear us some of us brought bongos and maracas, saxophones, drums along with kites and whistles and pots and pans. At around 9PM we met up on top of the hill and began our walk down to the centre. The moon was full and the desert night cool, silhouettes of hills contrasted with the glare of the Concentration Camp lights a couple of kilometres down the gas pipeline.

Throughout the day we noticed the helicopter that flew overhead in circles watching over us. At night the same thing became a one eyed alien creature scouring the night earth with a column of light descending on our tents, our shadows and the Sacred Fire. Like Apocalypse Now, this time in the desert, the chopper chopped the air as we walked down to the centre its cone of light going over and around us. To my right I noticed a young brother flying a kite while walking on the gas pipeline. The landscape and the images of the Darth Vader STAR cops we had already faced brought to mind Star Wars and here was Luke Skywalker flying his kite under the moonlight. He balanced his sprightly steps on the huge pipe line. The orange kite fluttered above him and occasionally I saw the kite’s bird profile against the round moon. This was one of 26 kites we brought with us from Newcastle. The kites were made from DIMIA plastic sheeting that promotes Harmony Day. Newcastle made the kites to fly at Baxter. We transformed DIMIA advertising into Kites of Peace. As Luke flew his kite, one hand holding the string and the other held out to his side for balance the helicopter made another swoop, its searchlight swept over us and the kite glistened in the air. When our moon shadows returned I looked at the hills around me – I could have been on another planet. The detainees at Baxter will never see these hills because they cannot look out. They are only allowed to look up at the sky. They see the same Southern Cross we do but their horizon ends with electric razor wired walls.

One of the Kites we made in Newcastle from Dept of Immigration's orange plastic Harmony Day promotional banner.

One of the Kites we made in Newcastle from Dept of Immigration's orange plastic Harmony Day promotional banner.

As we got closer to the Concentration Camp we started to chant and play our musical instruments. Our rhythmic chants together with the beats of the drums and the sounds of whistles and sax resonated through the night air – AZADI – FREEDOM – AZADI – FREEDOM – AZADI – FREEDOM and on it went. When we got to the main gates to the Concentration Camp many sat down on the ground and others shoulder to shoulder swayed to the songs we sang. The police stood still in their Darth Vader STAR wars get ups. A couple of us were arrested, one a young woman. Does it take a million dollar Star Wars riot squad to protect an electric razor fence? It seems it does in Australia today when people carrying musical instruments, kites and balloons, banners and flags, their passionate compassion in action voice a dissenting message.- FREE THE REFUGEES! END MANDATORY DETENTION! AZADI !

We went silent for a while to hear a response from those behind the electric wire. The first couple of silent moments between our songs and chants did not reveal anything. Then in one break between AZADI and FREEDOM we heard the faint reply AZADI from behind their walls. It was muffled by the barriers of ACM BUT we had made contact – they heard us and we heard them!

Heart Kite flying high.

Heart Kite flying high.

On the way back we were pushed by a line of visar STAR war cops – on the road they drove a car with full beam lights in our direction slowly. This meant that your peripheral vision was stuffed and this way couldn’t see if a cop in dark is going to nab you. One of us got arrested with his back to the police. All he was doing was sitting on the gas pipe – away from others. On either side of the car the STAR cops were lined up moving in short robotic movements. About a third of the way back to our camp another group ran towards us through the desert from our left. They went to the other side of the Concentration Camp because they had information from inside the camp that the detainees had been moved there. Two fronts, two determined efforts to make contact with the refugees. The robocops chased them and they finally merged with our group uncaught. About half way up the hill we could just hear the Rock On Against Racism (ROAR) Concert. As we got closer the beats and the music got louder.

The next day we met back at the Sacred Fire where HOPE Caravan brought the FREEDOM / AZADI Gift for people to write their messages on. A decision was made to march back down to the Concentration Camp in the morning. Some members of the Caravan remained behind at the camp site. We came to Baxter to fly our kites and to fly our FREEDOM banner.

But that story’s for another time as are the many other stories that are going to be told by all of us who were at Baxter this Easter.

On Sunday we left about 10AM. There were many buses also leaving about 12PM so there would have been very few of the 500 left when the STAR cops raided the camp with their machine guns. I wasn’t there when that happened AND what I know is that we could have all been there. When they pointed their machine guns at the people left at our camp, they pointed it at my head as well. In fact the machine guns were pointed at every Australian’s head.

Kites against Uzi machine guns!

Kites against Uzi machine guns!

The act of dissent in Australia can now bring machine guns bearing at peoples’ heads for carrying camera tripods, arrest for placing yellow stars on rotting wooden fences and for flying a kite. Australia – where are we going? There were helium balloons at the camp when the STAR War cops raided it carrying machine guns. One tiny little mishap, like a balloon bursting at the most inopportune time, who knows how many of our children would have been massacred by machine gun fire. Would the government then argue “collateral damage done by friendly fire” on its own people! The lack of outrage at such an intemperate use of force speaks volumes about the Culture we are swimming in. It is crystallizing into a Police State and our right to dissent will be associated with terrorist activities. What else can explain the overkill at Baxter?

day03_02

I want to say how proud I am to be associated with everyone of you who were at Baxter and those who supported us. Our passionate compassion carried musical instruments, kites, balloons, songs and chants of freedom as our messages of hope to the detainees. There were 500 of us with 357 of the STAR cops and when you include their helicopter and other weapons of mass intimidation you can see that the equation is not equal. Our protest was a complete success in that we made contact with the refugees imprisoned in the Concentration Camp and we have highlighted the draconian methods that are in place to stop frredom of speech and dissent in Australia. Think about it – a machinegun against a kite.

Then think about the message of peace given to us around the Sacred Fire by the Elders of the Land.

stavros

Stavros with Hope (in Farsi language) flag at the Baxter Camp.

Stavros with Hope (in Farsi language) flag at the Baxter Camp.


From the Archives >> Good Friday @ Woomera, 2002

February 6, 2009

This comes from an email newsletter I published between 2001 and 2004 called Imaginepeace Update. The newsletter was born due to the frustration and anger I felt towards the conservative Howard Government of Australia which was demonising asylum seekers and refugees. The climax came for me when John Howard, the Prime Minister, told the Australian people that the asylum seekers were throwing children overboard and the whole shameful  Tampa boat  incident. Just click on the links to get the historical picture.

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 Just after I started sending out the Imaginepeace Updates I heard from a friend that some people were organising to go to Woomera to support those behind the razor wire. I then organised a group of people in the Hunter region of NSW to go at Easter, 2002.

 

  

This was a social experiment as well because it was one of the first Actions in the world which was organised by using the Internet.

 The Woomera Action to support the innocent refugees caged behind the razor wire in the desert was one of the world’s first social action protest to use the incredible organising facility of the Internet. Way back in 2002 when we were preparing the desert action the authorities did not think it was possible to organise a national protest action in the inhospitable Australian desert. The concept of a flat, non hierarchical matrix with networks which had no “leader”, no Central Control Commission (CCC) was a foreign concept to them. Ideas like  “clusters” and “affinity groups” born in action by anarchists in the Spanish Civil War, yes the one that George Orwell went to fight in, were also foreign and did not compute in their strategic mindset. These early 20th Century ideas translated into the 21st Century Internet have proved incredibly powerful in the struggle by grass roots groups against authoritarianism.

The government thought the whole idea was crazy and doomed to failure. It is because they didn’t know the possibilities of organising using this new technology that the Woomera Action was so successful. Successful? Apart from the breakout of the refugees, the Woomera Detention Camp was closed down soon after the Action.

I believe that because the Festival of Freedoms was organised by the net, we took the authorities by surprise and this is why they weren’t prepared for us. The government did not think it was possible to organise a protest action out in the inhospitable desert. It had not factored in the logistical and organising matrix of the world wide web. Indeed, the concept of affinity groups and decentralised organic action with no centralised leaders also derailed their expectations. Another term for the organising principle we used is Segmented Polycentric Integrated Networks (SPINs). It was this experience which made the Flotillas of Hope Action to Nauru possible.

 

The Woomera2002 "logo". The circles represent affinity groups, joined to the Spokes Council.

The Woomera2002 “logo”. The circles represent affinity groups, joined to the Spokes Council.

I remember talking with journalists, who just didn’t get it. They kept saying, “Take us to your Leader”. They didn’t comprehend a leaderless organising principle using a non – hierarchical web to facilitate Action. I kept humming to myself the song by Bob Dylan, “Ballad of a Thin Man” with its chorus “Something is going on and you don’t know what it is, do you Mr Jones?” whenever a journalist would try to work out who was the leader. We obviously had the “Megaphones” who were trying to take away the anarchic spirit manifesting in the moment and to channel it into a “Socialist” box, but the Action and the Freedom energy was too big for the “Megaphones” to control.

The events at Woomera Concentration Camp, Easter, 2002 where refugees escaped and we looked after the escapees in our tents meant that those present had to look deep into their conscience and act from their hearts. The Howard government threatened to put us all in gaol for 25 years and labelled us “terrorists”. Woomera was closed down soon after the Woomera Festival of Freedoms Action. I am proud of being there.

 Anyway, go back in time and read an email I wrote in 2002.

 stavros 

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Hard copy flyer for the Festival of Freedoms. Very few of these were made because the Action was web based.

Hard copy flyer for the Festival of Freedoms. Very few of these were made because the Action was web based. Flyer displayed in sections here and below.

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This is the original Woomera 2002 "logo" for the website which helped create the Festival of Freedoms Action. The Flotillas of Hope, 2004 can be seen as a child of Woomera 2002.

This is the original Woomera 2002 “logo” for the website which helped create the Festival of Freedoms Action. The Flotillas of Hope, 2004 can be seen as a child of Woomera 2002.

woomera2002-call-to-action

Good Friday at Woomera, 2002

Only now do I feel that I can write my account of what happened on Good Friday at Woomera. The last couple of weeks I’ve been in another mental and emotional state. It is only now that I can see it was due to the life transforming events at the razor wire of the Woomera Concentration Camp.

I and ten others from Newcastle and Sydney travelled together on the HOPE Caravan. The HOPE Caravaners – Jane, Ruth, Norman, Sabrina, Dave, Ross, Melanie, Margaret, Paul, Elizabeth and myself  set off from Newcastle to go to Woomera at Easter. Woomera is a desert town in South Australia about 500 kms north west from Adelaide. It is a town in a huge, what the Times Atlas calls, Military Prohibited Area which covers about 200,000 square kilometers. Woomera is also near Maralinga, the only place in Australia which has had a nuclear bomb drop on it, wounding our country and releasing radiation which has killed many Aboriginal people and others.

 

Free the refugees!

Free the refugees!

Woomera is the place where Australia houses one of six concentration camps for innocent asylum seekers. Woomera,Curtin and Port Hedland because of their isolation can also be seen as gulags. So, the smiling hospitable face of Australia, with its beautiful fireworks and eternity on the Sydney Harbour Bridge during the Olympic Games, 2000 now in 2002, has razor wire braces with tear gas and capsicum spray replacing the fireworks. Eternity is now a leaking boat carrying desperate people seeking asylum…which we, as a country deter and deny. The open harbour is now a gulag in some inhospitable desert. Is this Australia? Which face is ours? Was the smiling, welcoming face shown to over 2 billion people across the globe during the Olympics just a public relations act? Whatever it was, our Prime Minister ensured that his smiling face would like wall paper blend into the Big Olympic Welcome Smile. In two years the self image of Australia and the image seen across the globe have undergone a transformation, like watching a movie – Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Dorian Gray and Time, where the prince is now a toad – transformation in reverse.

 

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A local Broken Hill newspaper article about us “spreading the word” as to why we were going to Woomera. The night at the pub was an amzing experience of open discussion and almost fist fighting then concluding with hugs. Talking beats fighting ALWAYS!

Funny thing happened along the way with our name. Hunter Organisation for Peace and Equity took on  new skin and became Hunter Organism for Peace and Equity. The transformation from an organisation to an organism became complete when we arrived at Woomera on Good Friday. There we saw and felt what it was like to be part of a living Organism. An organisation is too structured, it smells of committees and hierarchy, in fact, in the context of HOPE it can be nuanced as  corporate. 
The cry of FREEDOM from the detainees at Woomera Concentration Camp, resonated with our empathic and sympathetic cry of FREEDOM on the other side of the razor wire. We cried with them as they cried with us – real tears, wet ones.  The detainees freed themselves – we have footage to show this and will be available on the new hopecaravan website. We freed ourselves by our presence, actions and awareness. Whether it was a balls up by ACM and the State to allow the detainees to escape or whether it was a miracle, the fact is detainees now know that there are people, Australians, that care and don’t want innocent asylum seekers caged like animals. 

Sign on our bus, on the way to Woomera.

Sign on our bus, on the way to Woomera.

The living reality of travelling together for days to participate in a festival of freedoms precluded an “organisation” but allowed the living practice of inclusion and a trust that whatever a member did or said as part of HOPE Caravan was speaking and acting on all of our behalfs. One for all and all for one!  HOPE has many tongues, arms, legs, hearts and minds. I saw that we, ordinary people, together with a common intent can achieve wonders without hierarchy, without leaders. Working from a matrix of networks whose diversity reflects the diversity within each affinity group  achieved more than we dreamed was possible.


Broken Hill supporters made kites to fly when we passed through their town.

Broken Hill supporters made kites to fly when we passed through their town.

The combined presence by all woomera2002 activists gave hope to those without papers behind the razor wire.    

 

 

The first razor wire fence to fall on the way to supporting the refugees.

The first razor wire fence to fall on the way to supporting the refugees.

Two members of HOPE Caravan,  are maintaining a presence at Woomera having established the Woomera Refugee Embassy. By their presence the detainees have some hope and a clearing house for their voices. Other members of HOPE will be visiting the Refugee Embassy at Woomera. If you are interested in visiting and supporting HOPE’s efforts in Woomera become a member of the hopecaravan email group  hopecaravan-subscribe@yahoogroups.com  and visit  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/hopecaravan/

A hand painted message by local Newcastle people to the refugees.

A hand painted message by local Newcastle people to the refugees.

Perhaps Woomera2002 at Easter will only be a short footnote in some Australian history text book in the years to come. Perhaps it won’t be recorded at all in any official version of history. As we all know, footnotes don’t tell the whole story. And, “History” as catalogued in the State’s book shelf has great need of revision to include  herstory and ourstory to reflect the diversity of time bodies and experiences of all Australians….better still as Earthlings. One Earth under One Sky.

 Stavros

 

imaginepeace update April 2, 2002

 hi everyone,

 some desert dust must have gone into my laptop so the shift key don’t work. spoke to dave last night just after returning to morpeth. He told me everything he said on the email. so, yes dave and ross obviously have all
our support. we must now consider ongoing support for both re money etc.
julian burnside qc will be defending the arrested ones in may along with dave…this is great news.

 yesterday i had an interview with sbs world news and this morning i’m waiting on a call from darwin abc. sbs was particularly interested in the stories about the viloent protest. i made it very clear that the whole event
was peaceful and that none of us expected the detainees to escape. they wanted info on our weapons….weapons indeed…all we had were our sympathetic hearts, open arms to receive the freed ones. the only rock thrown was one by our fellow hope memebr, paul, who wrapped a 50 dollar note around it and a detainee caught it like a good cricketer.

 

———————————

i just finished the interview with darwin abc and the reporter said that it will more than likely be broadcast nationally on abc radio, probably lunch time today. all journos are interested in the so called violence and planned
actions to free the detainees. i have made it clear to everyone who has spoken with me that there were no weapons, that we did not plan to liberate the detainees ..that we were thrilled with the outcome, that the freed
detainees came to the woomera2002 camp where we gave support and hid them from the authorities, that as far as i knew thru telephone contact that the detainees freed  had in some way been spirited away from woomera were safe and being looked after by fellow protesters, that i don’t know where they are, that yes, we realise that to support escaped detainees carries a jail sentence, that as far as i am concerned the detainees should be free because they are innocent asylum seekers who should never be incarcerated in a concentration camp, that the concentration camps are illegal from a global human rights perspective, that as far as i know, no escapees went wandering into the desert.

we have now entered the propaganda war phase. i told both sbs and abc that the whole thing could have been a set up to allow us to enter the area, to pull down the first fence with no resistance from police, that sand bags
were left on the ground which we used to keep the razor wire covered so that our brothers and sisters could walk on the fallen fence without any fear of being cut. when the detainees wriggled and squeezed through the iron bars of the cage, no police tried to stop tyhem. i believe that the authorities who knew about the woomera2002 event beforehand moved a whole bunch of 
detainees before we arrived and had kept only 300 there, the detainees that could not be processed, “the ones who more than likely were criminals etc”, funny about that because there many children still in detention…criminal kids! So, I think that the authorities made it easy for us and the detainees whoescaped so that they could then orchestrate stories using one off pictures to “prove” their point that we are a bunch of “soccer hooligans”. In other words, the demonisation of asylum seekers is now being perpetrated on australian citizens, peaceful protesters. But, they will not get away with this…we have our own footage, we have our own voices, we have our own support and we are articulate – we speak english and we have our own
alternative media thru the internet.

The propaganda wars have begun. Truth will prevail! thanks to all of you who have shown support  in every conceivable way.  We now have to write letters to newspapers, write articles, talk with the media. I will work on the HOPE Website today and see if i can upload images etc . i have hundreds and Paul has great video footage which I will pick up on saturday which I will transform into didgital images to be uploaded.

See you all soon.
peace, love and joy
steve g AKA stavros

 

spiritual-kitbag-041

 

“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who remain neutral in times of moral crisis” – Dante

 

 

 

 

 

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This picture as adapted from an original pencil drawing done by an inmate of Woomera. He gave us permission to use this image on our Hope Caravan Group Homepage.

This picture was adapted from an original pencil drawing done by an inmate of Woomera. He gave us permission to use this image on our Hope Caravan Group Homepage.

We brought along a giant kite which flew the FREEDOM banner in the sky! Refugees who escaped told us in our tent that they could see it flying high in the sky above their razor wired prison.

We brought along a giant kite which flew the FREEDOM banner in the sky! Refugees who escaped told us in our tent that they could see it flying high in the sky above their razor wired prison.

At the camp.

The Guards in their Darth Vader get ups during the Blockade. No journalist was allowed in and no one was allowed out.

We met, as affinity groups, to discuss and strategise during the Spokescouncils. Democracy - in - Action!

We met, as affinity groups, to discuss and strategise during the Spokescouncils. Democracy – in – Action!

We had to bring our own water because we were in the desert. This is our water tank draped over by HOPE Caravan's FREEDOM Banner.

We had to bring our own water because we were in the desert.                   The  water  tank was organised by Melbourne groups and is here draped over by HOPE Caravan’s FREEDOM Banner.

Flyer distributed by No One Is Illegal group in Melbourne.

Flyer distributed by No One Is Illegal group in Melbourne.

=========================================================================================

Woomera – Saturday Night is the loneliest night
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There is a buzz around the camp after a successfull 48 hours of direct
action. People believe that we are now able to permantly close down
the concentration camp. 2000 people at Easter, 10,000 at Christmas.
Live gigs have started and the party is begining to rock.
http://melbourne.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=24300&group=webca
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
A protester’s account of being arrested for being ‘suspected of being
a detainee’
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It’s
not easy being brown. But it can be a lot of fun. Late last night
we found
our campsite completely surrounded by cops and APS officers
waiting to nab
the friends that we had rescued from Woomera. I thought
it would be both
amusing and a good waste of their time and resources
if they did catch a
detainee — if that `detainee’ was me.

So I headed for the police
roadblock where I was surrounded by seven
or eight cops who grabbed me
sneering “You’re one of those escaped
detainees, aren’tcha?”

I
denied this (in a very bad, stereotypically Middle-Eastern accent),
and then
started yelling that I wanted a lawyer, that I was a citizen,
I had rights,
etc. etc. These morons actually fell for what was
becoming the most pathetic
impersonation of a detainee ever performed
and decided to search me, removing
lethal weapons such as tic tacs,
extra shoelaces and my
toothbrush.

I was freaking out that such a ridiculous plan was
actually working,
so I dropped my silly accent and told the cops that I was
in fact an
Australian citizen with identification back at camp. Not good
enough –
this little darkie got arrested. They forced me into the back of
their
van, locked me in and drove me to the station.

When I was
removed from the van I was photographed and then had all my
stuff — beanie,
shoes, necklaces — confiscated. A religious necklace
that I couldn’t remove
was cut from my neck. I colourfully told the
cops how badly they had screwed
up their arrest and about my rights,
to which one of them responded that I
was suspected of being a
detainee AND HAD NO RIGHTS. Well, that’s just
fucking dandy, isn’t it?
If you happen to be brown and near a detention
centre, some pigs in a
van can rock up and do whatever they like to you
because you happen to
be the right colour. Never mind that I was a
Bangladeshi immigrant
speaking fluent English — I could just as easily have
been one of
those damn Afghani terrorists who escaped and are a threat to
society
at large.

So I was handcuffed and put in a cell with 12
detainees who told me
about how they had been beaten when they were captured.
Among them was
a 12 year-old boy who we had seen bashed earlier as well as a
14
year-old and a man who had been savaged by APS pigs.

All the
detainees had scars and bruising either from beatings or
suicide attempts.
They told me about how they would rather fight to
stay in the jail cell — a
bare concrete floor with an open ceiling —
than be taken back to Woomera.
The men told me about the `jobs’ they
have (toilet cleaning, dishwashing and
maintenance) which pay around a
dollar an hour. The money they earn goes
towards buying things like
shoes and thongs from a `shop’ in the
camp.

Finally, an APS official called `Mr Dan’ came in. I can’t think
of
anything about Woomera that made it seem like a concentration camp
more
than watching a group of men call out serial numbers instead of
their own
names.

When the police realised their mistake, I was driven back to
camp. I
don’t know what will happen to my friends who were in the cell
with
me. But being arrested for being brown reflects what is driving
the
entire refugee debate: ignorance. People too culturally ignorant
to
tell one kind of person from another, people too stupid to
recognise
diversity and people too stubborn to accept others. It scares me
that
we live in a country where you can be arrested for the colour of
your
skin. But it scares me more that you can be locked away
indefinitely
for it while a nation turns its back on you.

Aamer
Rahman

http://melbourne.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=24322&group=webca
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Desert
Spectacle – there’s neither violence or
non-violence out here — it’s pure
spectacle
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Amid
all the talk and text, and among all the hype and hyperbole
surrounding the
actions of the last two days, the poles of “violent”
and “non-violent” have,
as is typical, been the ends we are supposed
to have swung between. But I beg
to differ.

Pure SPECTACLE has been the master of our desert
existence.

We all came here spurred by the image of spectacle, and
from the
moment we arrived we assumed lead roles in its temporary
show.

It was neither violence or non-violence that saw us march
across the
dusty span between us and them. Nor did the circus music we
marched
to, or the pink PVC clad activo-expressionists have anything to
do
with violence or non-violence — it was pure spectacle.

It was
the spectacle of the absurd — absurd tactics countering absurd
politics and
policy. We were all moving pictures, media sluts once
removed. The whole
action was captured on film at every angle —
spectacular fodder for the
spectacle machine. I saw a guy asked to
start drumming again — by a channel
7 cameraman! — of course he
obliged.

So if we think of the
intensity and degree of spectacle involved here
I think it’s clear that we’re
not trapped in the dichotomy of violence
or non-violence, but willing actors
in the spectacle of the desert —
and, may I say, it’s working.

http://melbourne.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=24320&group=webca
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Solidarity
at Woomera Jail
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A small, peaceful
support group spent today in front of Woomera police
station, offering our
support (and bail sureties) to the people inside
as best we could. Protestors
from inside and outside the detention
centre fences were held there, and
could often be heard singing
between negotiations with the police. The police
were friendly,
letting us pass in cigarettes, food and legal contact numbers
and
treating those inside the jail with respect as negotiations
around
bail conditions went on.

In the afternoon, our crew walked
closer to the fence and yelled
‘We’re still here’ to make sure they knew they
had support. We
realised we could see some of the people inside if we angled
our heads
around a few tarps, and waved and exchanged hellos with the
people
inside. After a few minutes an officer politely asked us to move
away,
and we did, happy to have seen our friends and comrades smiling
back
at us.

The town was quiet, but a few locals walked by, some
offering words of
support. One offered to get us some fresh water from his
house if we
needed it, and joked that the locals understood it had all been
an
accident and that the wind had knocked down the fence. His
friends
offered elaborate advice on how we could fold newspapers to
channel
that wind power at future protests. It was very encouraging to
be
reminded that some people in town are supportive of our presence
and
our actions. We are proud of the fact that we’ve maintained
a
nonviolent presence outside the prison all day, and we hope for
the
speedy release of all the incarcerated.

http://melbourne.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=24299&group=webca
st

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
comments
to a post: “Summing up the
Damage”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What has
happened at Woomera is a huge morale boost for the refugees,
who now know
that there ARE many Australians who care about them. The
secrecy around
detention of refugees has finally been broken down in
the last few months,
and the refugees have finally been given a human
face and voice and more
truth is coming out.

Ruddock/Howard and co. will have a lot of
brainstorming to do for
their public image.

If anything…
consider this. The detainees have consistently been
told that no-one in
australia cares about them, even been told they
are there for their own
protection from an australia that hates
them…  their plight. Well now they
at least can sleep at night with
hope. Hope knowing that they aren’t alone.
Aren’t totally isolated.
That there ARE people on the outside who care …
and maybe just maybe
those of us on the outside can see what a group of
determined people
can achieve. Shut em all down!!! Lets finish the job at
Woomera and
move on to the next one.

http://melbourne.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=24190&group=webca
st

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Another
red-dust dawn
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was strange spending a
night in a camp surrounded on all sides by a
police line. Even at midnight,
when the shifts changed and there were
very few cops on the ground, it was an
eerie feeling. It must have
been worse for the detainees that were with us,
surrounded by
unfamiliar faces, by a line of cops that wanted to put them
back in a
cage, and finally by the desert. But this is not some
white-urban
activist grief session — they knew that any chance was better
than no
chance. And we had worked together to make the escapes
happen
(spontaneous as it was). They told us during the night of the
beatings
and the suffering inside the camp. They told us of the endless wait

24 months, 26 months,… – just to know whether they could stay
in
Australia on a temporary visa or whether they would be deported back
to
face persecution, imprisonment or death.

All wanted to get out of the
camp and to Adelaide or some major city.
Some struck out on their own, others
went with drivers from the camp
to see how far they could get. We knew of the
road block down at Pt
Augusta, but some figured that there would be back ways
around the
town. The police say they have over 20 in custody, and 17 people
who
were helping them, but we also know that the detainees within the
camp
have been protesting all night so they couldn’t do a head
count.
Inside and out, we were doing what we could.

Dawn was
quiet. The police sweep we expected didn’t happen. The police
presence around
the camp was light. The rumored truckloads of federal
police didn’t appear.
And we had all heard the talk of a fall out
between the SA police and the
APS. But the morning turned into
afternoon, set-up continued, and (yet more)
meetings happened. The
direct action planned for the afternoon turned into a
peaceful ‘colour
and movement’ march through the prohibited area check point.
And we
are taking it slowly through the rest of the weekend, trying to
keep
clear and focused on why we are here.

http://melbourne.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=24331&group=webca
st

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
A
Personal Account
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I don’t know were to start
except that I am still left with this
strong feeling of responsibility out of
my depth. Having people in my
care, having no idea how to deal with
it.

I never expected this to happen. Suddenly we have these people
half
way out, and what seems like a hopeless situation, theres only so
much
you can disguise someone, we’re trapped in the desert, everywhere
to
run, but no were to go.

We were so tired, the campsite
surrounded by riot police, road blocks.

All you want to do with this
big secret is divulge, tell everyone and
share the burden, but you can’t.
There were people more involved than
me, people willing to drive
out.

One of my friends was arrested with detainees, – today he’s on
bail,
apparently there is some tension between the south australian
police
who want to press charges, and the Federals who want to press
on.
It’s a serious offence, aiding and abetting, my friend faces 4
years
in jail. It seems so unfair.

What would you do, if a refuge
arrived on your doorstep? Suddenly we
had people in our tents, and amongst
the crowd. People with bruises
and scars, with pleading eyes, and their own
long stories. There is no
choice, like the guys who helped the Jews in
Germany said, – it was
not a question of whether to help but
how.

This guy was from Afghanistan; he has a sister my age and 3
brothers,
he is hardly older than me, and hasn’t seen or heard from his
family
for a year and a half. He’s been in Woomera for a year. We wanted
him
to decide what he wanted to do.

His quiet unreadable face is
suddenly tense, `Please, I don’t want to
go back, I can’t go back inside.’ I
asked what it is like – `it is
like prison, we are not allowed to sleep at
night, all we do is walk
around [the room,] there is nothing to do, no work
to fill up the
time, all we do is eat and sleep, eat and
sleep.’

He was there, sitting, expecting me to help, to know what to
do, I
have no idea, I try to be honest that his chances aren’t good, to
find
out what all the best options are, I want to go to bed and pretend
it
will all go away.

It seemed that for him this was just more of
the same, the hiding,
fleeing, the persecution and the fear…. I asked if he
had to fight
in Afghanistan, he said no, asked if I knew there had been 24
years of
fighting in Afghanistan, that the Taliban were persecuting people.
He
said that there were many people who did not want to fight, but
that
they had ways of taking people and making them fight.

This
morning he is gone, It is not clear that he’s been caught I don’t
know what
happened, perhaps he might get away.

No one expected this to happen,
I don’t have very much in the way of
analysis right now, all I have is a very
strong sense of the real and
human side of what is happening. But that there
are some people
amongst my friends and the people here who were much braver
and
selfless than I was, that there is a lot of suffering in the
world,
and when it landed on my doorstep, I didn’t know how to deal with
it.

———————————-
And someone posted this
comment in response:

we all share the same anguish – the story of
those who were asked to
help the refugees escape is a mirror to the question
each australian
must ask themselves shall i allow others to suffer when i can
prevent
it. all the protesters did a great job fought for something a lot
of
australians strongly believe in ‘free the refugees’

http://melbourne.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=24333&group=webca
st

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
STATEMENT
BY 16 ARRESTED WOOMERA REFUGEES
FROM FRIDAY 29th MARCH’S
BREAKOUT.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“We
have made the world hell with racism, colours, religionism,
ethnics and so
on. Businesses and wrong diplomacy. ACM is bad,
Australian Government is bad,
Australian people are good. Detention
centre still continues day by day. You
will see what is going on.”

This statement was given to my friend
from the refugees on a piece of
paper. They have told my friend who was
locked up in the same cell
today that “ACM are evil” and that they called
them “the Mafia”. They
all said that they are beaten every day and never get
let outside.
They also said that they are not fed properly. They say that if
they
escape 3 times they get deported, and they said that some of them
will
commit suicide before they get deported.

My friend talked to
the police and saw the police books and said that
47 refugees escaped the
compound of which 37 have been arrested. 10
refugees are still unaccounted
for. 9 protesters have been charged
with harbouring.

In jail my
friends said the refugees danced and sang for them. In
return my friend
rapped a rhyme about refugees to them which they all
danced to.
They thank
us for all our support.

http://melbourne.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=24337&group=webca
st

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
WOOMERA
LEGAL SUPPORT GROUP PRESS RELEASE
by Mick Lumsden & Sarah Nicholson
8:22pm Sat Mar 30
’02
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Woomera
Legal support group expresses its concern over the
statements and actions of
the Australian Protective Services and the
South Australian Police over the
last two days.

The legal support group is supporting the 16
protestors that have been
charged with Harbouring Escapees under the Criminal
Law Consolidation
Act.

The Woomera Legal support group understands
that the only violence
perpetrated has been initiated by the police. The
police have a lawful
right to use reasonable force to arrest people, but they
have to
accept the moral responsibility for violence they initiate —
they
cannot shift that blame onto non-violent protestors. Again we
are
witnessing breaches of the fundamental right to protest.

We
strongly dispute the police’s assertion that the behaviour of the
protestors
has caused injury to the Asylum Seekers and to themselves.
Reports of what is
occurring inside the detention centre describe
gross injustices. The
detainees themselves have stated that there are
reprisal beatings for those
taken back to the detention centre after
escape. Not only is their detention
a breach of international refugee
and human rights law, but the conditions in
which they are being
detained are inhumane.

We are extremely
concerned about the lack of legal and other support
for the detainees,
particularly those in police custody. The Woomera
Lawyers have already been
refused access to those inside the detention
centre over the long weekend.
The detainees being held by the South
Australian Police have none of the
usual rights accorded to Australian
citizens on arrest.

The Legal
Support Group believes that the actions of the nonviolent
protestors during
this demonstration at Woomera contribute to
destroying the veil of secrecy
and silence that surrounds the
detention centre by publicising and making
transparent the conditions
inside the centre.

We believe the
existence of the detention centre is a disruption to
the peace and security
of the community of Woomera and the rest of
Australia and until it is closed
this situation will continue.

Contact:
Mick Lumsden: 0409 626
669


Caught up in a Duality – Within or Without Me?

January 3, 2009

 

 Below is something I wrote a few years ago after bumping into a friend I hadn’t seen for a long time. The feelings expressed, I think, are just as relevant today as they were then, when I, along with others, was preparing for the Woomera Action in Easter, 2002 with Hope Caravan. Check out the Hope Caravan yahoo group by clicking here. 

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

When I saw him yesterday, he seemed so at peace with himself. He was sitting in a half lotus with his bare feet crossing over each other on his sofa. The mandala tattoo just above his ankle balanced with the diamond shaped crystal dangling from his neck. We shared some green tea and he smiled gently as he closed the book before him.

 

He was an old friend, someone I hadn’t seen for a long while and in that time our paths had diverged. He found spiritual bliss and I found more reasons to struggle for peace. He found inner peace, so he told me, whereas I found inner warfare, so I told him. His holy war had been won, mine had just started as it had done so continuously for a long time.

 

“You are caught up in a duality,” he said smiling with a humility that seemed calculated, “You think that you can change the world but all that you can change is yourself.” 

 

He was referring to the fact that I had asked him to join me in action, an action to support those who cannot speak or act for themselves because of their current circumstances. I asked him to join me and others to act in support of the refugees imprisoned in the concentration camps of Australia. In particular, to join others in the Festival of Freedoms at Woomera in Easter, 2002.

 

I replied, “But what if my self is larger than that circumscribed by my skin? What if my self includes the whole planet? In that case when I see suffering and injustice outside of my body, then it is still within me.”

 

He laughed, “Well, in that case your ego is bigger than mine!”

 

He adjusted his posture by letting go of his half lotus and allowing his leg to fall straight down over the side of the sofa. He leant forward placing his elbows on his knees and his dangling crystal now swayed like a pendulum between us.  Incense smoke spiralled upwards from the joss stick burning on the coffee table before us.

 

I could see his point but somehow it still didn’t feel right. I said, “Ego, big or small is always going to be here. Tell me what do you do if you see your neighbour’s house burning down? Do you say that your house is OK so why worry about your neighbour’s?”

 

“I would immediately help extinguish the fire. For me the plight of refugees and wars on the other side of the planet are things I can’t do anything about. I aim for inner peace through my meditation and this in itself will do far more for the refugees and war than anything your protests and actions will ever do. Why? Because I am changing myself, I recognise that all true change must start with my self. Your protests and actions add more ‘noise’ to the whole situation. Create an oasis of silence and peace within yourself. This will have far more impact than going out on the street or facing the razor wire of the camps. Change yourself – that’s all you need to do!”

 

He took another sip of his tea and stared me in the eyes…. or was he staring at the point between my eyes in my forehead, the so called third eye? I couldn’t tell except that I felt a certain intensity of effort from his gaze, that he was trying to change my perspective by using subliminal energies directed at me. Of course, he was kidding himself if he was trying to do this.

 

Yes, our paths had diverged. While I saw that it is important to work on one self and to recognise that what goes on inside, behind your eyes, affects what goes on outside oneself, I also felt that one could not just rest in one’s relaxed navel and allow others to suffer. Can one carry the “oasis of silence” found within to external places of sorrow and injustice, to share the peace? I asked myself.

 

 

 

 

Ouraboros resting on a relaxed navel.

Ouraboros resting on a relaxed navel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I met his gaze and then wondered if it was within or without me as I walked away.

 

stavros

 

 

“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who remain neutral in times of moral crisis.” – Dante

 

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

 

 


Lance Gowland, 1935 – 2008, Skipper of Eureka

January 1, 2009

Lance Gowland, Skipper of Eureka on the way to Nauru with the Flotillas of Hope.

Lance Gowland, Skipper of Eureka on the way to Nauru with the Flotillas of Hope.

On Saturday, November 22, a celebration of Lance Gowland’s life was held in Sydney. He was a proud 78’er for Gay Liberation risking life and limb for the rights of LGBTQI people. I couldn’t go because of my broken leg but I did send some photos and and some words to be recited as the photos appeared in the appropriate space of Lance’s life in the slide show.

I first met Lance when he answered the Call to Action, for the Flotillas of Hope, to bring hope to the refugees imprisoned on Nauru. He wrote me an email saying he had a boat and he was willing to sail it to Nauru. For him very simple words to utter, but for me, they were miraculous sounds that further crystallized the dream of going to Nauru. Now we had at least 2 boats – Eureka and One Off in Brisbane. When the Call to Action was sent on its email trajectory, there were no boats, no money, no technology, no crew. All there was, was a dream quickening into life any time someone offered some support for the dream to manifest.

Lance also asked me later on the phone if there was another experienced sailor that was going on the trip to Nauru. He wanted to know because he had a terminal illness and he didn’t want the people like me who had never sailed, to be stranded out in the deep blue ocean with no way of returning to Australia. He also asked me to not say anything to anyone about his condition until we returned safely.

Luckily I could answer with a resounding YES!

Ruth Boydell on Eureka.

Ruth Boydell on Eureka.

Ruth Boydell, a Maritime Teacher at Newcastle TAFE, was not only an experienced sailor who had sailed solo from India to Australia but was also a TAFE teacher of sailing and other maritime esoterica. Ruth and I both work in TAFE at Newcastle. I work in Multicultural Education.

The words below were recited on 22 November, 2008 at the Celebration of Lance’s Life.

It was a windy night, the Southern Cross flag flapped behind us, we the crew of Eureka, sat listening to Lance telling us the story of the Eureka Stockade. We were about 400 miles away from Nauru out in the deep blue without any certainty that we would arrive safely and even if we did whether the Nauruan people would greet us peacefully or with the Australian Federal Police armed with their guns.

The Souther Cross flag on Eureka. Photo taken on the night that Lance told us the Eureka Stockade story.

The Southern Cross flag on Eureka. Photo taken on the night that Lance told us the story.

After a short spell of silence, with the wind blowing, Lance with great feeling quoted these words from the Eureka Stockade:

“We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and defend our rights and liberties”.

For most of us, it was the first time we heard these words and on Eureka out in the deep blue, sailing to Nauru to bring hope to imprisoned refugees, hearing our Skipper, Lance say them, made it an unforgettable moment.

Lance, our Skipper, thank you for standing by me and the crew.  Thank you for your courage and generosity of spirit standing by the impoverished refugees who sought hope on Nauru.

You, Lance,  are a man who will live on in any action done by any person for the cause of social justice.

Here’s an obituary from Sydney Morning Herald

https://www.smh.com.au/national/gay-rebel-won-fights-against-injustice-20081021-gdszmi.html

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Since writing the above Australia has legalised Same Sex Marriage in 2017 and in 2018 the 40th Anniversary of the Mardi Gras was celebrated. Just before this ABC TV broadcast a documentary about the struggle for equal rights for gay people.

Mardi Gras named Lance Gowland the Father of the Revolution.

Lance Father of the Revolution

stavros


Flotillas of Hope – another aspect

December 30, 2008

Mandala flag flown on Eureka's mast was designed and painted by Lynda Smith (Ground Crew) and Karen Connors (a student of Buddhism).

The Flotillas of Hope was a voyage by two yachts carried out in 2004 by protesters critical of the Australian government’s asylum policy. The boats sailed to Nauru, a Pacific island nation which was host to Australia’s offshore immigrant detention center until the new Labor government came to power in 2007. They intended to deliver goods to those interned (most detainees are families who fled conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq), but not surprisingly were not allowed to land by the Nauruan government. Under an agreement put into effect earlier that year, Australia had taken responsibility for the island’s finances and civilian police force. John Howard, the Australian Prime Minister at the time, forced the Nauru government to take armed Australian Police Force to “protect” the island nation from the Flotillas of Hope flying Teddy Bear flags. The Flotillas of Hope project had two intentions 1) to give the refugees caged on the Island of Shame – Nauru, hope – that they have not been forgotten by people, that the Pacific Solution – out of sight, out of mind, did not work and 2) to bring the world media spotlight on Nauru on World Refugee Day, 20 June 2004. This the project achieved and it saw the granting of asylum to over half the refugees on Nauru and the release of Aladdin Sisalem who was in solitary confinement on Manus Island, New Guinea while we were sailing to Nauru.

Hand made flags with messages of hope and love made by the people of Australia flew on Eureka and One Off.

Hand made flags with messages of hope and love made by the people of Australia flew on Eureka and One Off.

The way the Flotillas grew from an idea, a dream that manifested at first as an email Call to Action using the internet as a nervous system which then as an organsim, gathered into the Flotillas intention – satellite mobile phones, life rafts, high frequency radios, laptops, generators, sun power inverters, flags painted by community hands, dolls and teddy bears in handmade clothes, knitted sweaters, a large canvas sail painted by local Sydney artists along with other paintings expressly made and auctioned to raise money for the safe passage of the Flotillas of Hope, all of this and more occurred during the event.. From the finer embedded world of qualities, the realm of hope, love, justice, freedom – the realm of the spirits, the realm of creation, the Flotillas sparked into the internet. It was Art – in – Action using the world wide web to manifest. Hope was generated in not only the refugees caged on Nauru, but also in all people of good will who felt despondent that nothing will change the government’s heartless policy.

Trade Union Choir singing at the launch of the Flotilla of Hope in Sydney 15 May, 2004.

Trade Union Choir singing at the launch of the Flotillas of Hope in Sydney, 15 May, 2004.

Along the way, to the launch of the Flotillas, musicians performed live gigs to raise money for the project. There was a theme song written, performed and recorded along with poems about the Action. Check out Ernesto Presente’s poem on Poetry for Change website here. The lyrics of the Flotillas of Hope Theme Song is below. You can download the song here. You can also check out Joanna Leigh’s myspace profile here.

hope-theme-song-lyrics

University students made videos. At the send – offs from Sydney, Newcastle, Coffs Harbour, Byron Bay and Brisbane, the Flotillas of Hope gathered the communities wishes and intentions to bring Hope to the refugees in the concentration camp of Nauru. The Flotillas did this by accepting hand made toys, hand made clothes for the dolls and teddy bears, the drawings and paintings of love and hope by Australian children, hand made flags with hand written words of love and hope from the people of Australia and overseas who sent gifts by post. Communities made beautiful flags – one with a Mandala made under the direction of a Buddhist priest, another of a Teddy Bear made by people who cared.

Poster promoting the departure of the flotilla from Brisbane.

Poster promoting the departure of the flotillas from Brisbane.

On route  to Nauru, the Flotillas docked at Santa Cruz Island, a far flung island of the Solomon Islands. The local indigenous people were so touched by our intention and by how far we had sailed and were sailing that they carved a beautiful wooden oar and gave it us to symbolize that they were rowing all the way with us to Nauru. They gave us the gift on the day we departed Santa Cruz with a send off that included singing, dancing, eating and words of power and encouragement.

The Flotillas carried the cargo of hope through the 12 mile No Go Zone and got to within 500 metres of Nauru coast until they were chased out by 6 Nauruan boats. The boats, Eureka and One Off became living talismans of peaceful and compassionate energies from Australians.

On the way to Nauru, refugees were freed and the websites designed to be the communications hub of the project informed the world about what was happening. There were live interviews with ABC, SBS, BBC, NZBC, Houston Radio, USA along with commercial radio and TV in Australia. A filmmaker, Angela van Boxtel made a Lucid Launch Flotillas of Hope website where artists contributed their art on the website. The Flotillas of Hope was an idea that touched people from across the world and it was an effective art action in all its levels of manifestation.

Santa Cruz, Solomon Islands locals dancing at the departure ceremony for Nauru.

Santa Cruz, Solomon Islands locals dancing at the departure ceremony.

Santa Cruz, Solomon Island dancers at the departure ceremony wishing us luck and grace.

Santa Cruz, Solomon Island dancers at the departure ceremony wishing us luck and grace.

Various artists painted sections of this canvas sail which was auctioned off along with other original works of art in gallery 179, Darlinghurst to raise funds for the Flotilla of Hope..

Various artists painted sections of this canvas sail which was auctioned off along with other original works of art in Gallery 179, Darlinghurst to raise funds for the Flotillas of Hope..

It was also an expression of the newly coined word  “Noopolitics” which encompasses Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s concept of the noosphere of knowledge / information (Teilhard is often called the patron saint of the Internet) because we not only made the news, we also reported the news which was transmitted across the world wide web and TV, radio and text media through our logs and the live satellite phone hookups with global media. The narrative of the journey was transmitted live by the logs of the crew.

The crew received messages of hope – poems and passionate prose from people all over the world who sent text messages from the web directly to our sat – phone in the middle of the deep blue sea. People following the journey on the web were informed as to the exact location of the boats by maps updated by satellite phone to the communications cluster. The project has been archived at the Australian Maritime Museum.

 Artists that contributed the sections on the Sail are in order from the top to the bottom, left to right: Dale Dean, Euan Macleod, Mareia Brozky, Angelica Greening, Ingrid Skirkia, John Bell, Lorna Grear, Neil Mallard, Euan Macleod (one more section), Leo Robbia and Martin Sharp.

stavros

Most text retrieved from “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flotilla_of_Hope
Teddy Bear flag made by Newcastle community and flown as we entered the barred 12 mile zone.

Teddy Bear flag made by Newcastle community and flown as we entered the barred 12 mile zone.

Some of the Cargo of Hope - toys and gifts from the Australian people for the children and their parents imprisoned on Nauru.

Some of the Cargo of Hope – toys and gifts from the Australian people for the children and their parents imprisoned on Nauru.

Prayers in Newcastle launch with members of the crew.

Prayers in Newcastle launch with members of the crew.

hand-painted-words-2

Flotillas – the precedents.

 

Speaking in 1984, on the occasion to launch of an initiative to send a ship to escort people fleeing in boats in South East Asia, Michel Foucault said:

 

“We are just private individuals here, with no other grounds for speaking, or for speaking together, than a certain shared difficulty in enduring what is taking place. … there’s not much we can do about the reasons why some men and women would rather leave their country than live in it. The fact is beyond our reach.

 

Who appointed us, then? No one. And that is precisely what constitutes our right. […]

 

After all, we are all members of the community of the governed, and thereby obliged to show mutual solidarity.

 

We must reject the division of labour so often proposed to us: individuals can get indignant and talk; governments will reflect and act. […] Experience shows that one can and must refuse the theatrical role of pure and simple indignation that is proposed to us.”

 
 
 
 

 

Letter written to supporters about 6 weeks before departure.

Letter written to supporters about 6 weeks before departure. At the time of the launch, the Project had 2 satellite phones, raised over $20,000 to cover all costs and other technology – all donated by the people of Australia.

 

 
Lyrics to the song "Who Is That Refugee?'

Lyrics to the song “Who Is That Refugee?’

 
 
 Blog FOH Success Greens

 

A Fluxus Manifesto. Some have said that the Flotillas of Hope was a Fluxus Action.

A Fluxus Manifesto. Some have said that the Flotillas of Hope was a Fluxus Action.

 

The Flotilla of HOPE

A Journey of Compassion to Nauru

https://www.safecom.org.au/flotilla.htm


A Special Journey >>> Flotillas of Hope, World Refugee Day, 2004

December 28, 2008
Hope Flag flying on the mast.

Hope Flag flying on the mast.

The first poster to promote the Flotillas of Hope by Matt Hamon, who was also the computer wizkid for Hope Caravan and Ground Crew for the project.

The first poster to promote the Flotillas of Hope by Matt Hamon, who was also the computer wizkid for Hope Caravan and Ground Crew for the project.

The Flotillas of Hope was a Journey of Hope, to bring hope to the innocent people imprisoned on Nauru by John Howard’s Australian government. Please note that most of the time the plural “Flotillas” is used instead of Flotilla even though on the surface there was only one flotilla of two boats that sailed to Nauru. The reason that Flotillas is used is because all the actions, the ceremonies, the prayers, the chants, the letters, the songs, the rituals, every action,  are ALL flotillas of inner and outer vessels used to bring hope to the refugees imprisoned on Nauru.

The Woomera @ Easter 2002, Baxter @ Easter 2003 and the Flotillas of Hope Actions were not part of an organisation and in fact the websites which supported the Actions have virtually disappeared. The Actions were organic institutes – of – the – moment and like a Tibetan Buddhist sand painting, once the Actions were completed, the organisations like sand grains were blown by the wind to the four corners of the earth. They remain in peoples’  lives that have been transformed by the granting of freedom from the Australian gulags of shame.

When I sent the Call to Action for the human rights social action groups to unite to shame John Howard and highlight the plight of innocent refugees caged on the so called “Pacific Solution” – Nauru, it was deemed an incredibly audacious and unrealistic call. Why? Because Nauru is 4000 kms from Australia and when the call went out, we had no boats, no technology, no crew, no money, indeed, for me – no sailing experience. Well, within 2 weeks of the Call to Action over 250 people from around the planet had joined the new Internet group “Flotillas of Hope”. Within the first two weeks, the creators of the Woomera 2002 website contacted me and created the Flotilla2004 website. Another website was created for digital artists by a film maker and our own Hope Caravan website was the “hub”. A theme song for the project was recorded by Joanna Leigh, “HOPE”. You can download the mp3 version of the song here .. “HOPE…We Bring You Hope” .

Within a short time 2 boats appeared and in the weeks and months before we took off on our journey to Nauru we had received satellite telephones, solar energy inverters, radios, life rafts, money and the incredible creative output of artists and communities across Australia which gave our Cargo of Hope, toys and Teddy Bears for the kids in the gulag.

)

The Flotillas of Hope Mascot – Azadi Koala. The script on the koala’s shirt says “AZADI” which means Freedom in the Farsi language. The koala is steering Eureka to Nauru 🙂

 

Following the action, asylum was granted to over half the refugees on Nauru and Aladdin Salanin who was in solitary confinement on Manus Island, New Guinea was released.

Along the way to Nauru, the Flotillas docked at Santa Cruz, a far flung island of the Solomon Islands Where they were met by the local indigenous people. The Flotillas carried their cargo through the 12 mile No Go Zone

Below the map is an article written by a close friend who was a member of the Ground Crew. It gives you the background to the Journey. Lynda, along with some others, made sure that our messages sent by the satellite phone would get out to our website people and so to the world.  Lynda was based in Far North NSW. After this article you will find the links I mentioned earlier. After the links and photos of the boats, there is an article by another friend and member of the Ground Crew, Angela. She looked after one of the websites for the project and was based in Melbourne.

Route taken by Flotilla of Hope to Nauru to reach Nauru on 20 June, 2004 - World Refugee Day.

Route taken by Flotilla of Hope to Nauru to reach Nauru on 20 June, 2004 – World Refugee Day.

foh-webpage-logo

Flotilla of Hope (from Zmag)

Back in Easter 2002, a group of concerned people from the Hunter region of NSW, Australia, appalled by the Australian Government’s attitude and policy on asylum seekers, joined the actions of the Festival of Freedoms in the South Australian desert. This became Hope Caravan. Along the way, the ‘O’ in Hope transformed from an organisation to an organism.

In 2003, Hope Caravan went to the Baxter Detention Centre in South Australia. Many strong bonds and friendships were formed with some of those people initiating the Flotillas of Hope project, which in association with Hope Caravan, sails to Nauru this month to arrive on the tiny impoverished Pacific island of Nauru.

This diverse group of people include a research scientist, an award winning film maker, teachers of maritime studies and multicultural education, a shipwright as well as a soccer coach from the Brisbane based, Tigers Refugee team.

NAURU

Nauru is the smallest republic in the world with a population of only 12,000. It not only faces an environmental catastrophe but also economic bankruptcy.

The exploitation of Nauru’s rich source of phosphate began in the early 1900s. After World War l, the Australian, British and New Zealand governments took over the original mining company that had been previously German owned. It was called the British Phosphate Company. As demands grew for fertiliser, so did their profits. However, only 2% of the revenue went to the Nauru people. At the time of Nauru’s independence in 1968, mining had destroyed over one-third of the tiny island. In 1991, Nauru took the Australian Government to the International Court of Justice for the exploitation of its economy and environment. In 1993, Australia settled out-of-court for $57 million with an additional $2.5 million per annum for the next 20 years. By the late 1990’s, the money had all but dried up.

During the Australian federal election in 2001, the Howard government seized the opportunity to pressure Nauru into taking asylum seekers from the shores of Australia in return for many millions of dollars. These refugees were removed by the Australian military in violation of the International Refugee Convention. This was the beginning of “The Pacific Solution”. Many of these people were initially rescued by the now infamous Tampa, a Norwegian Freighter off the Western Australian coast. In denying the Tampa refugees access to the Australian mainland, and their rights under Australian law, Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, said, “whilst this is a humanitarian decent country, we are not a soft touch and we are not a nation whose sovereign rights in relation to who comes here are going to be trampled on”.

Nauru continues to deny entry to all lawyers, journalists and representatives of human rights groups as well as independent doctors and psychiatrists from assessing the health of the refugees.

Nauru has since been called Australia’s Guantanamo Bay.

These refugees merely sought to flee life-threatening persecution and repression, economic deprivation and poverty and to bring themselves and their families to a safe and secure environment. This must be surely the most basic right of any individual, yet in seeking to exercise it, they have come face to face with the Australian army.

In the last week, three Australian lawyers were ordered off Nauru before they had a chance to appear in a court case challenging the legality of the island’s detention centre for asylum seekers. Their visas were revoked by Nauru’s Minister for Justice, Russell Kun. On April 27, he appointed his uncle, former Finance Minister and paralegal “pleader”, Reuben Kun, to present the detainees’ case.

MANUS ISLAND

There are approximately 21 million refugees worldwide, yet there is only one who is on a remote island in solitary confinement. The Australian government pays $23,000 per day to detain Aladdin Sisalem, a 25 year old man who has suffered persecution most of his life. The son of a Palestinian refugee (his father) and an Egyptian mother, Aladdin was born in Kuwait. Persecuted in his home country, he began a perilous journey in search of a country that would accept him, travelling via West Papua, Papua New Guinea, finally arriving in the Torres Straight Islands, where he was seized by the Australian Police before being taken to Thursday Island. When he asked Australian authorities for asylum, he was removed and taken to a detention centre set up by the Australian Government on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. Even if he wanted to return, Kuwait will not take Aladdin back after his period of absence. Egypt does not want him. Israel does not consider his “right of return” as a Palestinian.

It is noted that the 1948 Universal Declaration Human Rights, Article 14, states “everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution”. Ongoing, indefinite suffering by asylum seekers both here and on the offshore detention centres is a clear indication that these basic human rights are being violated.

On 15th May, Flotillas of Hope departs Sydney Harbour, sailing up the east coast of Australia, converging in Brisbane, before departing for Nauru on 23rd May. The boats should arrive at Nauru on 20th June (World Refugee Day) with their “Cargo of Hope” which will include toys, educational, recreational items and a generator for the country’s hospital.

The voyage of this Flotilla recalls the old law of the sea – which obliges us to give assistance to anyone in peril, without regard for flags – and seeks to open a multitude of flows toward a new world for which maps are yet to be created.

Therefore, the Flotilla will use a diversity of tactics: boats converging to Australia’s north in mid-2004 crewed by autonomous affinity groups ; media streams and online protests; radio waves and OpenFlow events.

Lynda Smith

Ground Crew – Media, Flotillas of Hope.

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Blog FOH Success Greens

The view from Eureka's porthole, somewhere between Santa Cruz, Solomon Islands and Nauru.

The view from Eureka’s porthole, somewhere between Santa Cruz, Solomon Islands and Nauru.

 

Eureka on the high seas to Nauru.

One Off with crew.

One Off with crew.

 

azadi ~ eleftheria ~ freedom

stavros

“eleftheria”  is one of the most beautiful words in Greek – it means freedom..

foh-logoFlotillas of Hope

by Angela Mitropoulos
Melbourne, June 3, 2004.

There are currently boats travelling 4,000
kilometres to Australia’s internment camp on
Nauru. This is the most recent culmination of a
series of protests against successive Australian
governments’ policies of interning undocumented
migrants.  The boats are presently at the halfway
mark and, weather permitting, expected to reach
Nauru by June 20.  The crews have been threatened
with imprisonment for crossing borders without the
proper papers.  The importance of the internet to
the communication and character of noborder
protests
is here amplified by distance, threats of
violence and the risks of sea travel.

__/__/__/__/__/__/__/__/__/

Some background

It is well known that since 1989, successive
Australian Governments have administered a
notorious policy subsequently referred to the
‘mandatory and non-reviewable detention’ of all
those who arrive by boat and without papers.  This
was a response to the (by international
comparison) extremely small rise in undocumented
boat arrivals after 1989 – many from the Middle
East, Vietnam and Cambodia – whose internment was
often successfully challenged through legal
action.

The post-1989 regime of border policing
effectively and over time legislated that the
refugee determination process exist outside the
rule of law in the form of ministerial and
administrative dictate and be discharged through
concentration camps and military intervention.

It is also well known that in 2002, protesters on
both sides of the barbed wire scaled the fences at
the Woomera internment camp in South Australia and
a number of escapes occurred.
www.woomera2002.antimedia.net Woomera, which
closed shortly after this, was emblematic of the
Australian Government’s strategy of interning
undocumented migrants in remote, rural camps as a
means of containment and control.  Woomera was
located 1,000 kilometres from the nearest capital
city (Adelaide) and, for a time, held the largest
number of detainees.

2002 was the culmination of four years of protests
by detainees in Australia’s internment camps,
including hunger strikes, the destruction of
buildings, and mass escapes.  Many of those
protests were met with tear gas, riot police and
the use of chemical restraints.
www.antimedia.net/xborder

Following this, the Australian Government shifted
its strategy toward a combination of ‘dislocation’
and electrification in an attempt to decompose the
protests against the post-1989 regime of the
camps.  The so-called ‘Pacific Solution’ was
introduced which established camps on Nauru and
Papua New Guinea (Manus Island) funded by the
Australian Government and managed by the
International Organisation for Migration.
Australian military vessels would forcibly remove
undocumented boat arrivals from territorial waters
and Australian islands, and transport them to
those camps in the Pacific.

In Australia, a new technology of internment was
constructed (such as at Baxter) which replaced the
grim (but scalable) coils of barbed wire and steel
fences with hi-tech, refined systems of electronic
barriers, surveillance and a greater reliance on
technological and chemical restraint.  (The
Government has also budgeted for another of these
hi-tech camps in Broadmeadows, Melbourne to
replace the current, smaller one in Maribyrnong.)

The result of these changes to the architecture of
the camps were immediate: the protesters outside
Baxter in 2003 were unable to get close to or even
within sight of any of those imprisoned there,
many of whom had been relocated from Woomera.
www.baxter2003.com
Whereas Woomera2002 had managed to break with the
symbolic character of protests by those outside
the camps; Baxter2003 signalled the restoration of
such, and subsequently ushered in a decline in the
impetus of the movements against the camps.

__/__/__/__/__/__/

Flotilla 2004

Having circulated as an audacious, but regarded as
impractical, strategy after Woomera2002, the idea
of shifting the protests against the camps to the
northern waters of Australia became an imperative
with the inauguration of the ‘Pacific Solution.’
After Baxter, Hopecaravan
distributed a call for boats to travel to the
internment camp on Nauru.  That voyage is
currently underway, with boats presently located
at the halfway mark, and expecting to reach Nauru
by June 20.

The Nauru Government which – given its current
fiscal woes and recent economic bankruptcy –
relies on the continuing funding of the camp as a
source of revenue and employment, has threatened
to suspend maritime convention (the Law of the
Sea) and forcibly seize the boats.  They have also
threatened to imprison the Flotilla crews as
undocumented boat arrivals.  This has not deterred
the crews, who nevertheless require ongoing
support and communication.

Regular updates are available at flotilla2004.com,
as are crew b-logs, instructions on sending text
messages to the crews, and detailed background
reports.

The Australian Government, for its part, has
adopted the pose of detached benevolence – an echo
of its previous, farcical contention that it was
not legally liable for the treatment and
internment of those in the camps because they were
outside Australian jurisdiction.  Facing with an
upcoming election, and as the Flotilla boats were
cheered off from eastern coastal cities, the
Government announced that under half of those
detained on Nauru would be granted visas, and
recently granted a visa to the remaining detainee,
Aladdin Sisalem, on Manus Island.
www.freealaddin.com

These shifts follow a determined hunger strike
last year on Nauru, after which the Government
promised that it would review its rejection of the
applications for asylum by those imprisoned on
Nauru.  www.noborder.org/press/display.php?id=3
The Government has, nevertheless, insisted that
its camps in the Pacific will remain, at a cost of
around $300, 000 per month.

Previously, the Government had refused to grant
visas to those taken hostage from the MV Tampa and
forcibly transported to Nauru. At the time, the
Government insisted that ‘not one of those would
set foot on Australian soil.’   It is abundantly
clear that the definition of who is a refugee and
who is not (or: who is subject to the regime of
the camps in order to classify people along this
axis) is defined by what the Australian Government
imagines to be politically advantageous at any
given time.

Those released from Nauru and PNG have expressed
concern for the fate and safety of those who
remain interned there.  The voyage continues until
the camps are closed.

Angela Mitropoulos
Melbourne, June 3, 2004.

 

The Flotillas of Hope Sailing Crew

Keith Davies, Skipper of One Off, pointing to the sticker from Rainbow Power who donated a solar power inverter to the project.

Keith Davies, Skipper of One Off, pointing to the sticker from Rainbow Power who donated a solar power inverter to the project.

Joty, he came from Britain to join Eureka in Sydney for the journey to Nauru.

Elliot from Brisbane.

Nerida from Brisbane on One Off.

Stavros from Newcastle.

Ruth from Newcastle.

Lance Gowland, Skipper Eureka, from Sydney.

Lynda presented the gift of inverter for One Off from Rainbow Power in Nimbin.

Brisbane departure.

foh-boat

The Flotilla of HOPE

A Journey of Compassion to Nauru

https://www.safecom.org.au/flotilla.htm


Hello world!

December 19, 2008

Albrecht Durer

Journeys and Star Gazing

What do I mean by journeys? And what do I mean by Star Gazing?

Recently I started to walk again, with a limp, after having broken my leg and being immobile for a long time. The physiotherapist told me that a walk of about 1 kilometre per day would be good exercise for me, especially to get my foot, ankle and leg muscles flexible again. She said to treat my walk as a physiotherapy exercise. Since I walk very slowly now without a crutch, I’m starting to become aware of a whole new world which appears in the slow pace I take. I become aware of my breath and the sensation of each step on the ground. As I do this I become aware of a silence within me which makes space and allows the sounds of birds singing , the sensation of the breeze touching my skin, the smell of recently mowed grass to enter.

Of course my “monkey mind” is still climbing and jumping around in the space within my skull but somehow because of the slow walk and the effort to “be” in the moment of the walk makes the monkey appear like a distant shadow puppet. Yes, my walk is a  Zen like exercise and the fall I had which broke my leg was Life-as- Zen-Master, wacking me into a state of mind that may prioritise what is essential in my life.

My walk to the newsagent in the morning is a journey both on the road and its side gutters and beneathe my skin between breaths and sighs of wonder at what is around me.

A journey, for me is going from point A to point B via the whole alphabet of being. The Alpha and Omega. the beginning and the end of a journey is where the snake bites its own tail, a gentle ouraboros.

ouroboros-pergamino

 It all depends on one’s awareness. So, one can make a journey from one’s lounge room and go across the borders marked by a door into a kitchen. It is no different to travelling in time by simply dipping a biscuit in a cup of tea as Proust did in his “Remembrence of Things Past”. A journey can also be a trip across the planet on a boat or a plane, a train or a bus, on foot or a bicycle. It can also be a journey to the Moon or to Mars in a space ship, or a trip to Saturn and Jupiter or Andromeda in one’s mind.

Star Gazing is not only looking up at the night sky and seeing how small we genuinely are in the midst of all these galaxies and stars, pinpricks of Light escaping through Heaven’s cape. It is also seeing into the meaning of those star gazing moments, those moments that coincide with a particular configuration of planets, Sun, Moon and stars. Yes, Star Gazing for me exists in that space between Astronomy and Astrology. I look up into the night heavens and I see the stars above and I wonder why am I here looking and living. My wife got me a telescope for Christmas this year and I hope to be able to take some photos of what I gaze at.

cosmic-clock1

I look at a horoscope ( I also call it a Sky Map) and I see the symbolic language of these same stars.  When I say Stars I also mean the planets and the Sun and Moon. It is an easy shorthand. Star gazing becomes communing….communicating in star language. Astrology for me is a language, a way of communicating with the deeper parts of my and your nature for I believe that we all are ultimately made of star matter. While I look up at the Stars and gaze at the light that departed from its source billions of years ago, I recognise that I gaze at old, old light. The youngest light, including sunlight is only 8 minutes old when it touches my skin, Alpha Centauri light, the closest star to us, is only about 4 years old. Star light has journeyed a long time to arrive through my eyes into me and you.

earth-sun-and-moon

However, strange as it may sound, when I speak of astrology, I’m not really talking about the balls of rock and gas that orbit our Sun – Sol as planets or about the physical stars and galaxies that surround us. The stars and planets I speak of astrologically have nothing to do with those we know astronomically and through a telescope. The only connection astrology has with the astronomical stars is the coincident time of happening. Carl Jung coined a term to explain events that happen with no apparent physical causal connection – synchronicity. This word is made of two Greek words syn – same and chronos – time...synchronicity…things that happen at the same time.  The important addition that Jung makes with this is that the connection between events is subjectively meaningful for the person. I think of a person and I hear a song with the person’s name in it and then almost simultaneously, the person rings me on the phone. This is very meaningful for me because I haven’t seen or heard from this person in a long time. The song, the thinking of the person and the telephone call are not connected in any physical scientifc way, but they do connect in a very meaningful way in my mind and heart. This is synchronicity. Astrology for me is synchronicity written in Sky Script. The physical stars are connected to the stars within my inner universe, my deeper intuitions and feelings that struggle to find a way to speak. The star language of astrology gives these promptings a voice.

whirlpoolgalaxystarbirth

In Journeys and Star Gazing you may read posts that include both a journey and an astrological reading of the journey. Sometimes, you will come across a life’s moment navigated by the stars or a journey planned by the use of astrology.

It would be great to hear from you.

You can connect with me at Twitter. Here’s my handle @dodona777

stavros


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