Back to the Future

“Back to the Future”, everyone knows that title from the film trilogy  by Robert Zemeckis with Micheal J. Fox in the starring role. It is with a rather quiet satisfaction that I can say, I thought of the title already in 1977  before anybody thought of the film.

 

The title came to my mind for a diary I was going to write about my first trip back  from Australia to West-Berlin.

Germany, and with it West-Berlin, had experienced an economic miracle (Wirtschaftswunder) and I wanted to see those changes.

 

 

I bought a big, fat copy book. Its title is still  the only written evidence  of that trip. Actually, it is no evidence at all, just a thought bubble.

 

Now, thirty-eight years later, it came to my mind again, as my wife and I, plus a large number of my family are preparing for another trip to that beloved city of my personal history.

 

Berlin has undergone another tremendous change from the time the Wall came down. That event changed the whole world by accelerating globalisation.

 

In the meantime, the youth of the world has discovered Berlin and they are  moving in great numbers  to the city at the river Spree. Berlin is a modern city but not a mega-city per se. It has still a human scale  to it.  It is a far cry from “Metropolis” the famous film by Fritz Lang. It is a much more laid-back, creative city now than was envisaged during the Twenties.

 

For me, the journey back will be my tenth one. I always have to catch up  with what has happened. Only in this way can I keep up with its latest development. So, it is  really a trip to the future as I have not experienced the developing city. I’m playing catch-up with the immediate past. Every time I go there a new future is awaiting me.

 

Last time, four years ago, were there,  we had a good time. This time, we go there with our three surviving children and some grand- and great-grandchildren.

 

Will they notice the unique Berlin sidewalks? Will they see the bullet holes in the masonry of many buildings? Will they fall over the “Stolpersteine (stepping stones)” let into footpaths to remember the Jewish citizens who have been taken to the extermination camps during the black days of Nazi regime?

 

Berlin, like no other city, has shaped the 20th century and we are still living in the aftermath of it. I’m a child of the 20th century and all that happened to that city is ingrained into me.  What I know now  made we wary of politicians. When I see or hear  one,  I smell a rat. The next disaster is just around the corner because of them.

 

When I’m there, I’m fully there and Australia  seems to be a memory only.  This time, it will be summer in all its glory when we get there. Berlin is a green city and most of the streets are tree-lined and the city is surrounded by forests, rivers, and lakes in a landscape shaped by the receding Ice Age twelve thousand years ago.  There will be plenty of opportunities for long walks, outings, river cruises, and to refresh memories.

 

Some of those memories are three-quarters of a century old. Like we, as children, being banned from the main air raid shelter for being too noisy. Grown-ups, who were afraid of the falling bombs,  could not stand the singing and playing of innocent children. Who would have thought then of the year 2016? That would have been the  far-off future, yet  I’m living in that future now.

 

People are being made to feel afraid again; this time by politicians who would like to stay in power. If I could speak to the people of the nineteen-forties, I would tell them of the future and how good everything would be. But for us, the people living now, we have new fears. Fears of others and fears of a future of unimaginable heat and rising sea levels. Our present fears  were not even dreamt of  then.

 

Then we were told, by the politicians of the day, to be afraid of the Bolsheviks and the hordes from the East. Now we are being told to be afraid of asylum seekers, and refugee who come by boats. We are being told that they are illiterate, take our jobs, and they live on welfare. We are being told that the ravages of climate change  are just a load of crap. Climate change does not fit into the electoral cycle.

 

What would  the people, living then,  have thought of a description of the second decade of the 21st century?  Then we lived at the edge of death from the bombs and starvation. Death was a constant companion. Today we ignore the real problems and indulge in imaginary ones.

 

What does the future hold for me? The short-term future looks good, as I’m preparing for my trip to Berlin.  The long-term future is promising me a cool grave and a peaceful eternity. For mankind, as a whole, I can’t predict anything. But, I would like to hear from a time traveller how the future is panning out in seventy-five years from now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ron Bates

Two weeks ago would have been the 102nd birthday of our late friend Ronald (Ron) Hamilton Bates. We got to know him during the sixties when he gave speech lessons to our daughter Gaby while she was in the Prince Henry Hospital, Sydney, Little Bay. after contracting poliomyelitis.

Ron became a dear friend of our family and stayed many a weekend with us. We even got to know his mother and his sister Jean,  a well-known piano player, in Sydney.

I don’t want to write his biography  here but would like to mention, that he was the grandson Australia’s icon, Daisy Bates. He grew up in Goulburn and was able to tell us a lot about early Australia.

Why I’m writing about him. Well, today I looked at some photos from 1986 when he and his sister came to the airport in Sydney to see us off  for one off our trips to Germany.

You see the late Ron Bates in the centre besides my wife Uta. on the left is sitting me and behind us my son Martin with his son Tristan.

You see the late Ron Bates in the centre besides my wife Uta.I’m sitting on the left and behind us is our son Martin with his baby son Tristan.

He gave us a self-made bon-voyage card and six post-card-sized drawings. I think they are all worth showing to the world.

This drawing is not bigger than a postage stamp. The is a little cottage he always dreamt about once owning.

This drawing is not bigger than a postage stamp. There  is a little cottage he was always dreaming about he could be owning one day.

The next drawing shows a minimalistic  landscape. It shows how with a few strokes he was able to create  a landscape in which the observer finds a lot to interpret.

IMG_20151026_0002

The next drawing shows a jumble of items and I have the feeling he wanted to show the creation and life on Earth, culminating in the Dollar. It is not very optimistic but then, he was not very optimistic about mankind. But he understood people well and had a good attitude towards them.

Creation?

Creation?

If people were the pinnacle of creation he shows us on his next drawing that he had his doubts. There is a pair of lovers, but they are outweighed by others arguing.

People being people, loving, arguing and discussing

People being people, loving, arguing and discussing

In the next picture, we see an  elderly woman contemplating the world. She is not in the centre but at periphery looking at a white canvas, so to speak. She tries to understand but can’t see head or tail.

Elderly woman can not see much

An elderly woman cannot see much!

In the next picture, I think, Ron gives us his own interpretation what he thought of the Dollar: he waves it ‘Good Bye’. I don’t think the person in the drawing wants to grab the Dollar, even so it is hovering like a Fata Morgana in the distance.

Good Bye, Dollar!

Good Bye, Dollar!

The last drawing is similar to the first one. It shows the cottage again, but this time surrounded by some trees. Perhaps he meant it for us to come back to, after  our trip.

The dream cottage in the bush

The dream cottage in the bush

Ron became a good friend over the years. Growing up after WW 1 and during the great Depression he missed out on a good education, as so many of his generation did. We had many discussions on a wide range  of subjects with him. Australia needed people like him but could not care less. Australia was the real loser.

The next generation of intellectuals left Australia in droves for the home country, Mother England.  During  the Menzies years, Australia became a white canvas for people to stare at or seek other outlets for their imagination.

Why Australia?

Today, in a conversation, the question arose, why did we come to Australia? When was the seed planted in my mind?

Ostensibly we came to Australia to have a better future  for us and the children. We could have chosen Canada or the United States instead and could have tried our luck there.  But why Australia? It is the furthest away from Germany and the chances of ever coming back seemed remote at the time.

I have no idea when, in my childhood, I became aware of the continent  called Australia. But it struck me, that the whole continent was one country, that is, one nation where the people are having all this landmass to themselves. . It was almost as big as Europe which contained so many countries. Throughout history, Europe suffered  numerous wars among its nations.

Probably Australia entered my consciousness when I heard that our two pet budgerigars’ homeland was Australia. Then Christmas 1948 or 49 my mother gave me a book for a present. The story of the book was set in Australia at the  birthplace of  European settlement, Botany Bay. The events of the story happened in about 1946 when a group of boys living at  Ramsgate Beach tried to steal an old  cargo ship that was anchored in the middle of Botany Bay with only an old Polish migrant living on it.  He was supposed to keep it in good nick in case the owner wanted to use it again. It was always under steam.

Botany Bay 1788, Charles Gore. The image is from the collections of the State Library of NSW.

Botany Bay 1788, Charles Gore. The image is from the collections of the State Library of NSW.

The boys were roughly my age and I liked their freedom with which they pursued their adventure.

I don’t know the title of the book anymore,  nor do I know who the author was. I’m in contact with the library of the Municipality of Rockdale, but so far nobody knows anything about the book.

Around the same  time, two Australien films were shown in German cinemas. They were “The Overlanders” and “Bush Chrismas“. Both films were very popular in Germany and both were starring Chips Rafferty in the main roles. He was an iconic Australian actor. The big, wide country promised a freedom undreamed of for me living in a big city.

Chips Rafferty, picture from Wikipedia

Chips Rafferty, picture from Wikipedia

A few years later I decided to inquire about migrating to Australia. In Berlin, there was no embassy and all inquiries and applications were handled by a Military Comission at the Olympic stadium. When I arrived there with a friend, we found the Commission was closed due to a public holiday. It must have been their Labour Holiday in October. It was a Monday and I learned, that Australians like to have their public holidays on a Monday. This  gives them a long weekend every time. It was just another reason to migrate to this dream country.

A couple of months later I tried again and got as far as applying for an assisted passage. I could not have paid for the full passage at the time. I needed the permission of the government employment agency, and they knocked me back as I had a trade that was highly in demand after the war. I was a bricklayer and they wanted me to rebuild Berlin.

What that knockback did, was for me to change careers. Bricklaying was not for me. A few career changes later and living in Düsseldorf with a wife and a toddler, I saw by then an ad in the local paper. We thought it was directly speaking to us since it said  “Australia needs You!”. There was no need to convince Uta. We both wanted to go, especially since we still had no apartment of our own and a second child was on its way. We applied and  after going through all the procedures we were accepted and the Germans were happy for us to leave: It meant one family less on the waiting list for an apartment.

Today, when we drive along Grand Parade, on the Western side of Botany Bay, I look across Lady Robinsons Beach and think of the book and the story I read as a twelve-year-old and wonder whether my mother planted the seed of migrating to Australia in my mind.

"Montereybch" by J Bar - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Montereybch.jpg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Montereybch.jpg#/media/File:Montereybch.jpg

“Monterey Beach” by J Bar – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Montereybch.jpg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia

QUO VADIS, AUSTRALIA ?

“Obviously we’re going through the cases where we do feel that there is a threat to our national security or our national interest, so we are doing that work,” Mr Dutton said on Thursday.
“Potentially hundreds of Australians could be stripped of their citizenship and then deported, without recourse to the courts as to the merits of their defence, once the Australian Parliament passes tough new counter-terrorism laws with the support of the opposition.”

Those two quotes are from an article in the “Sydney Morning Herald”

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/hundreds-could-face-deportation-under-proposed-terror-laws-peter-dutton-20150604-ghgyik.html

The news that come out of Canberra is frightening in its implications. Apparently, a Fascist government has quietly taken over. Nobody is safe from those Abbott followers. The brave cabinet ministers who opened their mouths have been blackened by a possible leak by Abbott and his acolytes.

And where is the Opposition, you may ask? Bill Shorten tells Abbott Labor  will do anything he wants for national security. Every day in parliament Abbott is wedging Shorten. The ALP is full of “shit”! You remember the good ship “Tampa”? The moment it appeared on our horizon it changed us forever. It gave the “Right Wingers” the excuse they always wanted.

Now ASIO is investigating 400 people. Soon they will widen their investigation to thousands and then tens of thousands. More and more resources will be put into the so-called “national security”. This will become paramount. One group after the other will come first under suspicion, then under investigation and then they will be deported.

Doctors and nurses are facing two years in jail for disclosing the  deplorable state of affairs in the concentration camps of Nauru and Manus Island.

The decent Australia we came to love disappears before our eyes.

Our society will be split between Team Australia and people who will have nothing to do with this doubtful label. And like the Nazis in Germany, the Liberals will invent a system of identification for non-team members.

Australia be warned this Liberal government is neither liberal nor will it want a society where different groups live peacefully side by side.  The terror threat is a red herring to control the population. Sure, there were some incidents by some criminal, delusional people, but they  can be handled by normal police investigations. No additional powers are necessary.

The Prime Minister is worried

The PM was standing at the window overlooking the lake. He was worried as storm clouds were drifting in from the West.

“Bad omen, bad omen,” he mumbled to himself. The winter could be really bad in Canberra. Perhaps the capital should be up north. It would be more fun on his bike and he could visit the Aborigines more often and camp with them as he planned to do. He had promised it at the last election and the media were asking silly questions now.

A tall woman, his secretary, entered the office. She has been worried lately about her boss. After his near death experience a few months ago he had become softer, kinder – sort of.

The PM has heard her coming and, without turning away from the window, he said,
“Peta, I’m worried. Yesterday, in the cabinet room, I had a revolt on my hand. I’m really worried, Peta. Six of my most trusted colleagues told me, ‘Nope, we won’t stand for that”. Old Brandis even insisted he is the Attorney General and only he can look after the laws of the country. Doesn’t he know, I could replace him with Scott?”

“Boss,” his secretary said, “we have just discovered another group of ‘double dippers’.”
“Who, Peta? Peta, who?” He said with panic in his voice.

“ASIO has delivered the names and addresses of people holding dual citizenship and receiving pensions from foreign governments on top of our more than generous ‘old-age pension’. They have observed them for years and now they think it is time, in the present climate, that we should know about this potential ‘Fifth column’.”

“Didn’t we force them to apply for this money? It was always good for the bottom line.”

“Yes, Boss! But this was then. Today they are a liability for ‘Team Australia’. Especially as ASIO has cross-referenced them with people who had small arms training in those countries.”

“Peta, aren’t they old and senile now?”

“Yes, Boss, but they influence their offshoots and still love their home countries.”

“I could send them all back, but Julie (the Minister for Foreign Affairs) told me we can’t do that. If we declare someone a terrorist, nobody else will take him.”

“There are some legal issues with that, but we could always send them to another island.”

“Yes, Peta, Tasmania comes to mind. We could declare Tasmania an off-shore territory and solve two problems at one. Tasmania reverts to a penal colony and we get rid of that feisty Senator Jacqui Lambie. You are brilliant, Peta!”

“I’ll get right to work, Boss. The department can work out the legislation and we make Scotty the ‘Minister for the Off-Shore Territory of the New Van Diemen’s Land’. He would be the only person tough enough to control a can of worms.”

“Peta, I love your enthusiasm,” the PM smiled at her, “and the way you pick up on my wavelengths. I would make you a Dame. Really I would make you a Dame, but the bastards stopped me. ‘No more captain’s pick! No more captain’s pick!’ they said.”

When his secretary had left the office the PM turned on the TV. On the news channel, he saw a group of people at the Federation Square in Melbourne unfolding a large banner which said, “Send Tony back to Pommy-land. We don’t want foreigners in Team Australia!” He was disgusted and switched the TV off. He walked back to the window. The clouds looked even darker now.

The PM was enraged and his head started shaking. He was wondering why his parents ever migrated to this country at the ass-end of the world, where half the population are potentially deniers of our freedom to choose our protector.

After a few minutes, he went to the intercom and said, “Get my bike ready. I’ll go for a spin around the lake or this job will eat me alive!”

The Train Is Running On Time

Monday morning, the train had just departed with its cargo of listless passengers, who were still tired from their weekend activities. The Station Master returned from the platform into his office, did his entry in the train register book and looked towards the ticket window as he heard the sound of running feet in the waiting room.

There was a young woman, still panting from running to the station, and demanded to know,

“Was this the 7:16?”

“Yes, it was,” the Stationmaster answered. 

“How come you let the train go early?” 

“I didn’t. The train was on time and it departed at 7:16 as per timetable.” 

“This is unbelievable. The train is always running late and I’ll be late for work now, because of you,” she said in an angry voice and added, “I wish, for once one could trust the trains. But no, it is running on time when one expects it to be late.” 

She bought a newspaper at the newsstand and sat down to wait for the next train. She opened the paper up and there it was, the headline screamed at her in big, fat letters:

STATE RAIL TIME TABLE IN SHAMBLES

“You can say that again,” she mumbled to herself.

Reflections of an old Man, living in a country at War

We Australians,  are at war. Our government, lead by a self-confessed liar (Don’t trust me, unless it is written down). He tells us, we are on a “humanitarian mission”. And he talks a lot.

We wouldn’t be there unless the US  tells us so. On our own we are not “humanitarian” enough to help those people in the Middle East who are in danger of being slaughtered.

When asked how long we’ll be there, they say, “For a long time,” or ,”when the Iraqi people can look after themselves”. I can tell you exactly how long we’ll be there. When the Americans have enough and cut and run, we will not stay one minute longer even for “humanitarian” reasons. President Obama said they want “to degrade and destroy” ISIS. I hope the US will “complete the mission”.

Our government is demonising  people of Islamic faith, so much so, that their women don’t dare going onto the street in fear of being harassed. They came up with the idea that women wearing a burqa are not allowed to sit in the public gallery of the parliament in Canberra. They will have to sit in a separate room with a glass window. Apparently the parliamentarians are afraid the ladies in question could do something  to endanger the lives of said parliamentarians. In this room normally  noisy children are kept so they cannot disturb the proceedings in the chamber. The Prime Minister calls the “burqa a “confronting  attire” ; but they want  to put children and those so clad ladies in one room. I hope the children are of sterner stuff than our PM is.

Never, ever has a burqa clad person been seen in  parliament. Any person that enters the public areas of the building is being checked out for any dangerous implements. But “No”,  more and more new laws and regulations are introduced to make daily life more inconvenient. The PM said, “We have to trade some freedoms, for more security.”

This new conflict in the Middle East will lead to realignments of old enemies and old friends. The Turks and the Kurds come to mind. The US has to re-evaluate its relationship with  Iran. Even the crisis in Ukraine is a bit on the  back burner, because Russia is needed to combat the ISIS menace.

Germany, who just celebrated its National Day, is still spooked by  WW II. Never again war, the slogan goes. But the world hasn’t stopped spinning and is spinning out of control fast. Germany has an army, but it is barely functioning. Their hardware is in disrepair and the defence minister is fighting for her own survival as a minister. When she asked for volunteers to fight Ebola in West-Africa she got 5000 ! In the Middle East they are sending weapons and equipment to the Kurds, but no “boots on the ground” as the saying goes. The Kurds are the only ones keeping up the fight and they are running out of ammunition.

Well, this war in Syria and Iraq, or “humanitarian” mission, will take its course. Young people from all over the world are flocking to join ISIS. And mothers can’t understand what has gone into their children. Why have they joined up? But soon they are  getting  a note from those people saying, “Congratulation! Your son is in Paradise now!”. This happened only recently to a German mother of an eighteen year old boy.

I went through WW II and have seen enough dead soldiers to last me a life time. Everyone was loved by a mother and they are still being dug up in the forest near Berlin, nearly seventy years after the event. Mankind has not learnt a thing. Today a right-wing journalist said, “Nobody is bombing Pakistan or Indonesia!” But he is wrong, because as we speak, American drones are killing people in Pakistan and making the population there more angry. No war has been declared. They are on a mission but it is not “humanitarian” either.