Election Fever

We just had an election and we ended up with the same mediocre government we had before. They are not a government to guide us through the perils of our present times.

 

The so-called democratic system allowed us to elect a mediocre government, by mediocre people for mediocre people. The best we can say is, we live in a country administered by bookkeepers who always enjoy a beautiful set of figures.

 

There are always mediocre voters in a country but it doesn’t follow that we have to cast a vote for a mediocre government.

We had this government for the last six years and can say with certainty that they did nothing right or advanced our country only one iota. They did not advance the cause of our indigenous people, the Aboriginals who look back at a continued culture and possession of this continent for more than sixty thousand years. We asked them for advice and they gave the glorious “Uluru Statement from the Heart”. They were asking for a treaty or Makarrata ( a complex Yolngu word describing a process of conflict resolution, peacemaking). Their ideas and suggestions were rejected during a press conference given by the then PM Malcolm Turnbull in a thoughtless flash.

 

Another subject of contention is the locking-up of refugees.  The East German government had the dubious distinction locking up people who tried to leave their country. Here in Australia, we are locking up people who were escaping tyranny and arrived on our shores by boat.

 

Unemployment in a capitalist country is encouraged by the government as a tool of keeping the wages of the working class low (it is the desired effect). The unemployed are paid an allowance called Newstart which is so low that nobody can live off it.

 

Then there is Climate Change, a challenge for the survival of all mankind. Something has to be done by our government in concert and cooperation with the global community. Oh no, they say we are only causing 1% of the global CO2 and whatever we do won’t make any difference. They are forgetting that we are only 1/3 of 1% of the world’s population. We are the highest per capita producers of greenhouse gases.

 

I’m touching here only on a fraction of issues where urgent action is required. But what can you expect from a mediocre government that thinks tax cuts for the wealthy is the way to go. Surely, as the sun follows rain money will trickle down to the underclasses? It is like it was during the times of the Romans when the poor walked every day across ancient Rome to sit under the tables of the rich patrons and waiting for the crumbs to fall off the tables. Sometimes, they would drop some food to their hungry clientele.

 

How can one combat a mediocre government? When one lives under a dictatorship revolution becomes one’s duty. If one lives under a rotten, mediocre government rigorous, intellectual thinking becomes the duty. We have seen, by yesterday’s example, the elections don’t always solve the problem. The electorate has to become aware of what is wrong within the country to permit the necessary change.

Leaders, elected or otherwise, have the duty to lay the framework for policies that are understood by a majority of people. Surely, the media has its part to play. But what good is a media platform that works actively to falsify reality and supports the status quo of keeping the clientele under the table and make the middle classes even richer?

 

The desired framework of policies will give the people and the country the tools to cope with the changes in the future. And we need leadership which can combine principle and pragmatism. A tall order but we had it once under the late Bob Hawke who passed away only two days before the election. I was sorry for him that he would have missed the triumph of his party but now, I think he was lucky to be spared the disappointment of the loss of the election for his party.

 

Personally, I’m at a loss and feel like fever has befallen me. I’m confused about what will happen next. Perhaps we should rest our minds for a while and await the final result and then plan for the future. At my age, I just turned eighty-four, and not much future lays ahead of me.

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The Federal Election 2019 in Australia

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Our beautiful Parliament in Canberra

Today our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, announced that Australia will have an election on the 18th of May.

When he announced the date, he said, that the election will be about whom we trust. He got that one right. I and many Australians don’t trust him. Not one bit.

When he made the announcement, he was talking only about money and that his government is balancing the budget. As if this is the aim of a government. The government must also give directions to the future of the country and act on the wishes of the people and on the advice of the scientific community.

What can you expect from a government that thinks climate change is crap and the development of new coal mines is essential for our development and new jobs?

This bloke is unable to think beyond a set of numbers. He thinks when the budget is a beautiful set of figures that the country is right on track. It would be a book keeper’s dream come true.

But the people of Australia expect a government to do more. Planning for the future, for instance. If you have a plan then you adjust your figures accordingly and not bent the future to fit the figures. The future will happen and no set of imaginary figures will be of any help.

When the PM is talking about “hard-working” Australians he is not talking about the working people who actually produce the wealth but he is talking about the people who skim off the profits and are the rent seekers of this country.  Wages have not risen for six years but profits have risen by 25%. The beautiful set of figures he is dealing with in his budget have no relations to the shrinking amount of money in our wallets.

Our government has adopted the neo-liberal thinking and they hope the profits will one day trickle down to the workers of this country. My foot, they will. There is no evidence, nowhere, those trickle-down economics have brought prosperity to the masses. Tax cuts for the rich go straight into profit or are diverted into speculative property or shareholdings.

The other line of thinking of this government is to scare us. Hordes of refugees are just waiting to come to our country to take our jobs AND go on welfare at the same time. So, we need strong border protection. We ordered submarines from France and fighter planes from the USA. They say the large cities of our country are so congested because of the migrants and refugees that we have to reduce our intake of them. Last year we had a net migration of 190 000 and next year we are being told it will be reduced to 160 000. And here comes the lie in the budget; they plan to have 284 000 next year. This number is necessary to have a certain growth forecast which in turn creates a budget surplus.

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The entrance hall of our parliament

Knowing who you are against is not enough to mark your ballot paper on election day. The other mob looks a bit more promising. At least they looked at the future and recognised the bleak outlook in regard to climate change we are facing if we do nothing about it. Alternative energy, a better education for new industries to produce electric cars and a new wages policy that puts more money into the pockets of the working class. All those measurements will create jobs and help the economy which at the moment is heading for a downturn.  The people of the first nation will be recognised and a new referendum for a Republic will be initiated.

So, if you do not want a country run by bookkeepers for bookkeepers the choice is not that hard: kick the incumbent government out.

 

Time Capsule

One of today’s news items was that the WHO finds global warming is causing more extreme weather. The target to keep the rise in global temperatures below the critical level of 2% seems now remote. Eleven years ago I wrote a letter for a time capsule. Here is the updated version of it:

My dear descendants,

I’m leaving you this message to describe to you a world that will have disappeared forever and about which you have little or no knowledge.

I am living now in the year 2019. Once, when I was young, I thought that the year two thousand was the future and us humans would live in it forever. But then one of those smart professors proclaimed the end of history. When I observe the crazy world around me today, I am sure, we are still living in the Middle Ages. A lot of history is still to come and I’m waiting desperately for the real Enlightenment finally to arrive. 

 If you know your history, you know how WW I started. Our time is very similar to it. Crackpot warlords needle the big nations and do a lot of sabre rattling. Big nations looking for strategic advantages. We don’t know where it will end. But you will know. It is in your history books. Read them, if you still have books.

What about us, you ask? Once upon a time, people used to live in small groups called family. That is, there was a father, a mother and the children. I know you want to know now what a father was, don’t you?

A father was a male human person who protected his family from other males and he worked very hard. You spot, of course, straight away that if there aren’t any other males, nobody needed protection. But they had another function, they helped produce other human beings by making babies in cooperation with the females.

We have now begun to do away with this old fashioned method. What method, I hear you ask? Well, I don’t want to embarrass you. Unless you have some old books to look it up, it would be difficult to describe. Our scientists are now able to take a cell from any human being and clone a new one. Was there any other way you ask? Yes, there was, the old method, I was talking about. Look around you. Your mother looks like you, doesn’t she? You can’t imagine any other way? We were looking different from our parents, some resemblance, but seldom more than that. Maybe you wonder how you would recognise your mother as your mother if she would look somehow different. You wouldn’t know it is your mother. But we got used to it.

I don’t imagine anybody works in your times. In case you wonder, we have started this process. For instance, I don’t work any more and robots doing more and more of the work. In America, they plan to replace three million motor lorry drivers in the near future. The world will be full of robióts one day. But you know that already.

My government gives me money and I can go to a shop and buy goods that have been produced by some workers in distant China. Perhaps you have read ‘The Time Machine’? It is very similar now. The people that don’t work have no idea where all the stuff comes from and who produces it. Very similar.

I could go on, but you get the picture. We are all crazy psychopaths and will leave you a world that has been partly destroyed by us. I don’t want to get started on the climate, because you would find out that it was us that created all the heat you suffer from. I’m so sorry.

Your male ancestor,

Peter 

Coffee and Cake

When a German family invites you on a Sunday it is most likely for coffee and cake. It is a time-honoured tradition and as far as I can remember my mother always made a cake for Sunday afternoon. A couple of times, during the dark days after World War 2, we missed out.

Sometimes she improvised and made a cake from layers slices of white bread filled with custard made from Canadian wheat flour enhanced with artificial flavours and colours. Sometimes she made a potatoes cake, half boiled potatoes and some flour or semolina. I liked this cake very much. in the middle of making a cake. Just when the shoved the cake in the oven the siren started it terrible sound, telling us an air raid was going to begin. We had to go to the shelter. But my mum decided not now. We had to look after the cake. 

We put our budgerigar in his cage under the kitchen table. Every time the bombs fell nearby and the whole building was shaking it started to screech. My mother dived, from time to time, from the hallway, where we were sitting it out, into the kitchen to peek at the cake. The Sunday cake was that important.

The tradition lives on and today a baked a cake.

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In case you wonder what that is, it is an Almond Plum Tart. My own creation, I may add.

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Last year Easter, I made this nice looking cake.

And there is more.

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Last week I made a Ricotta Cheese Cake, but I forgot to take a picture. I think all three cakes shown here are made from Almond meal,

I’m able to do other cakes I’m sure next Sunday another one will be on our table.

Queen of Sheba

I love going to the “Art Gallery of Sydney”. And when there, I head straight to where the huge painting by Sir Edward Poynter is displayed.

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It takes one’s breath away. Lucky there is a bench in front of it and I can sit there and admire the painting. The Queen of Sheba is a mystical figure who wanted to get to know King Solomon, a mystical figure himself.  Legend has it, she stayed for seven years and they become lovers.

The above painting depicts her arrival at the court of King Solomon. there are exquisite details in the picture, a real masterpiece.

The whole story might be steeped in history or exists only in the imagination of the people of Ethiopia. For them, it is real today as it was then. The story is still told and retold today is if it was true.

Friedrich Handel set her arrival into music and you can enjoy it here too.

 

My Grandmother Hannemann

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This is how I remember my Grandmother

Today is the sixties anniversary of the day my paternal grandmother passed away.

She was born on the 24th of February 1871 and passed away suddenly on the 20th November 1958.

She was born in the small town of Luckenwalde, not far south of Berlin. Her parents were Gustav and Wilhelmina (nee Kuckuck) Emmermacher. Grandma herself had three children, two girls and one boy (my Dad). Up to her end, she always called him “der Junge” (the boy).

When she was born the new, recently under Bismark united Germany, was just about one month old. Reasons enough to be happy and to look forward to a great future. I don’t know anything about her childhood in particular and not much about her life generally. What I know about her is based mainly on my personal experience of her.

She was a humble, warmhearted woman. Her husband, my grandfather, had been killed in the First World War on the Western Front.

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Here she is with her three children in 1905/06

Before he went to war there was time to get their photo taken. I think they are in their Sunday’s best.

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Otto and Hedwig Hannemann with daughter Henriette, probably in the yeat 1915

When I, as a little boy, became aware of her she lived in Karlshorst, a suburb in the eastern part of Berlin. Every second Sunday my mother took us three children to visit her. Our “Oma”, that’s what we called my grandmother,  was an excellent cook.

She lived in Karlshorst to run the household for her son-in-law, Alexander Roux, who was divorced from her daughter Henriette ( called “Henny”). There we also met her two grandchildren Horst and Margot.

We had many happy family gatherings there. Christmas was always a great occasion.

Towards the end of the war, when the Battle for Berlin was looming, Grandma, Henny and Margot moved to Glowe, a village on the Baltic Island of Ruegen, where her other daughter, Friedel lived.

In July 1945 they returned to Berlin. At that time my mother was ill in bed. She could not walk and even could not get up. The terrible experiences of the war had caught up with my mother. While she was lying in bed she suddenly saw through the window my grandmother approaching. That gave my mother such a shock, that she jumped up and walked again. She was cured.

But Grandma and Aunty Henny could not return to Karlshorst. The whole suburb had become a Russian occupied enclave. They found an apartment in Siegfriedstrasse, Lichtenberg.

But the division of Berlin into East and West created further problems for them and they decided to move to Bad Schwartau, near Luebeck, in the then English occupied Zone of Germany.

After a few years there they moved to Horrem, near Cologne. That is where Oma Hannemann stayed till she passed away in November 1958. I used to live at that time, with my wife Uta and daughter Gaby,  in Duesseldorf and was able to visit her a few times.

Oma Hannemann,Friedel,Henny in Glowe

Grandma Hedwig with her two daughters and a greatgrandchild at Horrem during the mid-fifties

 

The news of her passing and the funeral arrangement reached me late by postcard. I was able to leave work early and took the train to Horrem via Cologne. I arrived at the cemetery just when the mourners were leaving. My Aunt Friedel went back with me to the graveside where I was able to say quietly my “Good-by”.

Today I feel sorry that I did not learn more about her life. Twenty of her direct descendants live in Australia. Many more live in Great Brittain and Germany. Many of her descendants have completed academic studies which would have been unthinkable at her time. Her grandchildren and greatgrandchildren have married partners from many diverse countries and the family has become truly international.

Grandma survived two world wars, her husband did not come back from WW I and I never heard her complain about anything.

Just a few days after her funeral our second daughter, Monika, was born. We had already applied to migrate to Australia. As usual, life goes on, but Grandma Hannemann has not been forgotten.

 

 

Five Repeats

I had to see my GP yesterday to arrange for a urine test for an upcoming cystoscopy.

He is a kind, elderly gentleman of the old school. so to speak. He calls me Peter and I call him Robert. He is genuinely concerned about my health.  He has been my GP for about the last twenty years and when he moved away from the local surgery to another location, 20 km away, I followed him. As long as I can still drive a car I will see him at this brand new medical centre.

Medical centres are now built like huge airport lounges, spacious and full of light with comfortable lounges and chairs. Here, the sick and infirm can while their time away while they wait, sometimes for a couple of hours,  to see the medical practitioners of their choice. Many of the patients staring intensely at their smartphone. There is no more need for those boring, out of date magazines in the waiting room anymore.

Last year we had visitors from Germany and one day they came along when I had to visit my GP. They were surprised to see the medical centre in all its splendour.

Statistics show that patients incur most of their medical expenses in the last half year of their lives. With all the medical expenses Medicare had to fork out for me lately, I wonder whether I am in my last half year? I hope not, as I do want to experience more of life as long as possible. Indeed, we have to attend a wedding next month.

So, yesterday Robert was happy to see me again. I was in good spirits. He was the one who discovered the cancer of the bladder lurking inside me. My blood pressure was not high and my bladder does not cause me any undue inconvenience. Quickly he filled in the necessary forms for the urine test and supplied me with a small container to deposit a sample.

With that being out of the way I told him about some other concerns I’m having.

Years ago, I used to be a long-distance runner. I pounded the local roads and sports fields to train for marathons and other long-distance races. We live near Lake Illawarra and it provided me with a beautiful 40km opportunity to train for the marathons. I stopped racing in 2005 but not running. In November 2010 my right knee played up and has not come good again since. The good doctor wanted to replace the annoying knee.

“But your running days will be over,” he told me. I refused the offer.

After a break of several months,  I started jogging again but have never reached the same level of speed or distance. Every time I have a break from running it becomes worse. Lately, I noticed when walking for about two minutes, I felt uncomfortable in my chest and my shoulder and arms seem to be without blood or energy. I had to slow down if that was even possible because my walking pace is not that great.

When I told that to my doctor he looked at me with a puzzling face. Out came the stethoscope and he listened to my chest while I took deep breaths.

“You know what? I think it is your heart’, he said and tried to say something more. I stopped him there and told him that my skin specialist had ordered an ECG in December.  Why she did this, I have no idea.

With a couple of clicks, on his keyboard, Robert was able to retrieve a graph from a magical place.  He studied it and then turned to me. “Peter,” he said solemnly, “you had a heart attack!” My reaction to that news was a big fat “NO”. I should have known or noticed something was going on in my chest. But I had no idea. Suddenly it made sense to me when I saw her a week later and she told me, there was something wrong with the ECG.  She ordered a repeat test and said, everything is okay now. There was a glitch somewhere.

The doctor made a printout and showed me the irregularity. “Here it is”, he said and circled a few places, “this is a clear pattern. The computer tells me, you had a heart attack.” Actually, it said: “Probably old lateral myocardial infarction.”

He quickly ordered the “usual battery of tests” and wrote a script, with five repeats,  for a spray under my tongue, I had an x-ray (good old Doctor Röntgen) and was told to come back in a weeks time. All the results should be in by then and he would write a report to the hospital where I will have my cystoscopy done. They want to be updated about any change in my medical condition.

With my five repeat prescriptions in hand, I have to live for a long time to use them all up.