Dr Peter White's Blog

Thoughts and comments from Dr Peter White -- political, philosophical, spiritual, musical and more

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Location: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

I am retired from the Uni. of Queensland, and have numerous interests inside and outside of the uni. I play classical, bluegrass, country and folk guitar (hows that for a mix?) I am a member of the Australian Labor Party and am currently branch secretary of the Mt Coot-tha branch. I'm also involved in developing virtual reality builds and websites. Never bored!

Thursday, September 23, 2004

A cancer in our midst

I recently saw a brilliant documentary called "The Corporation", which discussed the growing power and pervasiveness of the business corporation throughout the world. It was very, very scary.

We seem to be moving from democracy to neo-feudalism. (Watch also the Australian movie "The Bank"). Corporations are only answerable to their shareholders, and IF the directors have some sort of social conscience, to their local communities.

I was awake last night thinking about this, and I think I've coined a word that sums up this growing and dangerous phenomenon -- corporanoma, that is, a cancer of corporations on the body politic.

Since corporations are legal people, they can do a great deal of good or damage to whomever they serve (term used advisedly), or wherever they are. Remember Bhopal, for example? Exxon Valdez?

We run the risk of losing our democracy and our power as peoples when the corporanoma metastisizes throughout the globe. At the moment, I'm not sure if there is a cure.

Let us hope there is.

The concept of a corporation is fine -- but couple this with overweening greed and hubris and what is concocted is a recipe for disaster, both politically and environmentally.

'nuff for now.

PB White

Sunday, September 19, 2004

You're due...

A number of years ago, there was a Wizard of Id cartoon strip that went:
Peasant goes to his wagon insurance office to pay his premium. The clerk behind the counter said: "we will have to raise your premium 15% this year". "But why?" Asked the peasant, "I've never had an accident." "You're due", said the clerk.

It sometimes feels now, that one of the services we invented -- insurance -- has become a master. We are now forced to live by actuarial tables. In Australia, the soaring costs of public liability insurance means that junior football teams can no longer play ball; community groups can't organise fetes, schools can't have open days, and so on ad nauseum because of the costs of insurance premiums.

The machine has become the master. We have set up insurance to help people in difficulty survive through hard times. The insurance companies have now created the hard times.

But -- can be just blame the insurance companies? I don't think so.

I think that the recipe of human greed, litigation based on it, through the use of the law, has forced insurance companies to charge these premiums to survive. And of course, the pathological greed of some of the insurance high flyers has exacerbated the problem by bankrupting their own companies.

This combination has brought the sense of community to its knees. To misquote the motto of the Three Musketeers:

"All for one, and all for one!"

If we want to throw stones, we may be hitting ourselves.

It will be valuable for us to raise a bit of hell over this issue with our elected reps, and, looking further ahead, to think about how the theology of corporatism is strangling that which created it: personal initiative and a solid community base.

'nuff for now.

PB White

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Why I won’t vote Liberal

In Australia, the conservative party is called the Liberals. The progressive party is called Labor. These are hangovers from the great right-left contortions of the 20th Century. While both these parties are now pretty close to one another in many of their policies, there is one fundamental difference, I believe, that explains why I will not vote Liberal. That difference is one of attitude.

The Liberals appear to have the attitude of meanness. Their belief is that everyone is out to rip off government services, and hence policies have to reflect this – to misquote the Bard: The quality of mercy is strained. Labor, on the other hand, along with a number of the lesser political parties, have a more positive attitude; more than utilitarianism, more than ‘bleeding heart’, more in keeping with the expressed needs of people.

A corollary to this issue may also be framed as Liberal = the individual first; the others = community first. This is a fundamental philosophical difference from my perception. I cannot vote for a party which puts the individual first and in so doing, jeopardizes the overall community.

I also cannot vote for a party which has, in 8 years:
* Converted the small business community into a vast army of tax collectors via the GST - which, incidentally we were never, ever going to get - and made the tax system so complex as to defy belief.
* Has worked on the Josef Goebbels approach to propaganda with the Big Lie, e.g. the ‘children overboard’ event; the Tampa event, the continual threat of terrorism blown large as an excuse for draconian moves against the most helpless of people – the refugees.
* Stolen the soul of the nation – warping the ‘fair play’ concept into 'first nose in the trough – best fed'.
* Offering no overall vision for the country, but instead doling out a drab, gray pragmatism of greasing squeaky wheels.

To wrap up, the Liberals appear now to be a combination of the Australian squatocracy combined with the sharks of the business world, supported by the “me, me, me” population ganging up on the rest of the community. While it is proving to be a rather uncomfortable and unholy alliance, to the discomfiture of many, it is the country’s dominant paradigm.

Egad; would you vote for that?

‘nuff for now

PB White

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

With God on our side

When I was 12 and living in Madison, Wisconsin (That's right dear readers -- I'm a natural born Yankee) I got as a present a WWI gasmask and a German army uniform belt. I was fascinated by the buckle on that belt: It had the German eagle in the centre surrounded by the words "Gott Mit Uns". In English: God is with us.

That made me wonder -- the Germans were the enemy, but they said God is with us. No doubt the French, Italians, English, Americans, Russians, and Australians have similar sayings, or beliefs. How can we lose? God is on our side.

Well, someone had to lose. In this case it was the Germans. So where was God?

And now, 90 years later or so, we have fundamentalists of the Christian and Islamic traditions saying God is with us. The other side is evil and clearly God is not with them.

If I were God I would be very confused.

Everyone says that God is on their side, but none of them appears to be listening to the rules that God laid down through prophets ranging from Moses to Mohammed.

Guys, let's leave God out of this. It's really all our own work and we have to fix it. Or we will all be meeting God sooner than we think.

'nuff for now...

PB White

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


This is a loaded word. Thanks to our Western and puritan/Catholic forbears, morality now appears to mean anything to do with sex. Who does what, and with which, to whom. And that's all it appears to mean.

But what about -- lying, stealing, and cheating? What about greed and overweening pride?

I guess these are all OK now, because we see ample evidence everyday from our leaders, big business moguls, and many folks in the public eye through our mass media [which in itself perpetuates these moral myths].

It is OK to pay a CEO of a corporation an obscene amount of money while refusing to support a minimum wage for the workers of said corporation; and this is just one example.

It is OK to arbitrarily move industries off shore leaving tens of thousands unemployed because it's cheaper over there, and shareholders get a better dividend (and CEOs reap a greater reward).

It is OK to lie about going to war, or killing people if they are not on our self-defined 'good guy' list.

It is OK to despoil the environment for short term gains; the quarterly balance sheet must show a profit or heads will roll...

It is OK to destroy the social service infrastructure of a country or a state and farm it out to private enterprise because they do it better, at least ideologically. I won't climb on this bandwagon just yet, but wait for it!

But don't get caught having sex! Hoo boy, that will squash your chances of success much faster than ripping off the customers.

I guess as long as we follow the great adage of Gordon Gecko: "Greed is good" our concepts of morality will remain as is. Everyone wants growth. It's good.

But then again, cancer is a rapid growth...

'nuff for now.

PB White