FOUR thousand people demonstrated in Murwillumbah yesterday (October 13) against coal seam gas extraction – the biggest protest we’ve seen here yet. So many of our friends were there: a real show of strength from the local community. Lock the Gate president Drew Hutton was joined on a panel fronting the media by local canegrowers’ representative Robert Quirk as well as by GetUp leader Sam McLean and musicians performing at Rock the Gate, the concert that followed the demo. Featuring Pete Murray, Natalie Pa’apa’a, Kerrianne Cox and a great line-up of bands, the show was a brilliant initiative, bringing in young people from across the Northern Rivers.
Virtually every village in the Tweed Valley has now declared itself a no-go area for CSG, and the recently re-elected mayor, independent Barry Longland, fully supports them. Arrow Energy already holds an exploration licence for parts of the shire including pristine caldera territory around Tyalgum, Byrrill Creek and Kunghur.
The O’Farrell State government, which recently gave CSG companies unrestricted access to underground exploration, has country people up in arms across the political spectrum, National-voting farmers along with environmentalists, Greens and other concerned citizens. Energy Minister Chris Hartcher says relaxing restrictions on exploration and fracking are necessary because of a “gas supply crisis”. But as every schoolchild in Saturday’s protest knows, if governments, state and federal, would put the slightest effort into developing solar and wind power, there wouldn’t be a supply crisis, and Australia could be leading the world in alternative energy.
THE OTHER SIDE OF HISTORY
I’ve been reading the latest book by Indian writer Pankaj Mishra, published in the UK in August. From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia is a tour de force: an account of the work of Eastern intellectuals who developed critiques of the Western view of world history.
Time and again he brings out the significance of events that the Oxford and Harvard schools of history regard as mere footnotes to the march of “civilisation”. He begins with the revelation that in 1905 Japan’s naval victory over Russia reverberated across Asia and the Middle East, inspiring leaders as diverse as Kemal Ataturk, Nehru and Sun Yat-sen – a reminder of the interconnectedness of the movements towards national liberation.
In writing about thinkers such as Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, Rabindranath Tagore and Liang Qichao, Mishra traces the complexity of their relationship with the Western cultural tradition: their fascination with its achievements as well as their refusal to accept its hegemony.
His conclusion is concerned with “the pain of the emerging world’s transition to modernity” and he issues a warning against “the pursuit of endless economic growth” that can only lead to environmental disaster. It’s a stimulating read.
Mishra has emerged as the foremost critic of Niall Ferguson, the British-born historian who is now the darling of the American academic establishment. Ferguson is to historical studies what Christopher Hitchens was to journalism – a clever wordsmith who started out as a British radical, was seduced by America and ended up as an apologist for US policies and a propagator of the view that modern history is about “the rise of the West”.
When Mishra polemicised against him in the London Review of Books some months ago, Ferguson lashed out in reply. The exchange between them is worth reading: it’s at http://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n21/pankaj-mishra/watch-this-man
COVERAGE OF GREECE
Most reporting on Greece here in Australia is dismal: last week’s demonstration when German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Athens is a case in point. Pictures of people in Nazi uniforms and placards of Merkel with a Hitler moustache make a convenient, lazy 10-second grab for television. In fact the ultra-nationalists form only a small if worrying minority of the protestors. Most of those who take to the streets are simply against the pauperisation of the Greek people at the hands of the banks and the Athens coalition government.
The real issue over fascism is not between Greeks and Germans: it concerns the toxic neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party and its collaborators in the police force. The police have turned a blind eye to Golden Dawn’s attacks on immigrants; but when anti-fascist protestors clashed with Golden Dawn a fortnight ago following an attack on a Tanzanian community centre, they were arrested and in the case of at least 15 people subjected to torture and humiliation in the Attica police station. The Guardian’s Helena Smith reported that some of the protestors said they were burned with cigarettes, had torches shone in their eyes all night, were denied drinking water and were threatened that their pictures would be given to the neo-Nazis. “It was a day out of the past,” said one, “out of the colonels’ junta.”
THE PM SEEN FROM ABROAD
We’re still getting emails from friends overseas who’ve watched the video of Prime Minister Gillard lambasting Tony Abbott over misogyny. They all agree that it was a brilliant speech.
Not so the Canberra press gallery, who couldn’t wait to get stuck into the PM, and only started hedging their bets a couple of days later when it was clear that she had popular support for her stand. Most commentators on social media were way ahead of them on this one. See Alex’s page for more.