Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Duty Calls

They stand in the terminal as I wave them goodbye
Trying to hide the tear in my eye
Looking forlorn with my son in her arms
She certainly doesn’t seem quite so shy

For my part I know the risks I will face
For her part that certainly isn’t the case
All on her own with my son in her arms
It’s the challenge at home for which she must brace

It is domestic routine and daily grind
On her own the fortitude she must find
Facing the world with my son in her arms
The wife that soldier has left behind

There are dangers and hardships and perils ahead
Enough to fill ordinary people with dread
But at home on her own with my son in her arms
Is where all my thoughts and my fears will be led

Alone in the crowd as we said our goodbyes
The fear and the dread were clear in her eyes
An island of us with our son in our arms
With grief and great purpose I took to the skies

Completely unrelated to the previous post. Postings will be light, or in fact non-existent, for some time. It will depend on internet connection where I’ll be. Sharpe out.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Brisbane's storm

After spending a long time living in the Top End, and dealing with big storms as a part of life, the storm last night in Brisbane was a bit of an eye opener. Not so much because of the ferocity of the storm, it was not any worse than scores we went through in Darwin, but because of the damage it caused. The North-West of Brisbane was flattened. Trees litter the roadways, and power lines are draped in tangled piles where they fell. Roads are closed. Power has been cut to tens of thousands. Roofs and whole houses are destroyed, and cars sit flattened under the shattered trunks of gum trees. I’ve seen cyclones in the Top End do less damage. I guess all the trees that were going to blow over in Darwin in a storm, already have.

To whom does a city in need turn when things are grim? Initially to the stalwart volunteers of the SES and other groups who battled through the night to clear major thoroughfares and provide aid the most urgent cases. They did a fantastic job. The extent of the damage and the amount they had achieved overnight was impressive. When the cold light of day revealed the trail of destruction wrought by the storm, it was to the “gunhedz” as described by Bryla at Blair’s, the Brisbane City Council turned to for help. The North-West is an area that Defence Housing Australia has heavily invested in, which means that the area hardest hit was an area that many of the soldiers who were tasked with responding to the request live. They have families at home dealing with the damage from the storm, but they were, and still are, out in the rain conducting clean-up and repair. Their families are still at home, without power and now without clean water. The argument could be made that because they live in the area, they are acting in their own self-interest. This would be a very shallow analysis. They are tasked according to priorities set by the SES and Brisbane City Council. Whilst other families were stocking up on the provisions required to carry on without electricity for an unknown period, and cleaning up and setting their own homes in order, the soldiers were out clearing trees and debris, and conducting repairs to the most badly damaged homes. I, like most people, would have put family as a higher priority than community in the initial post-disaster effort.

Power to the Sharpe residence has only now been restored, some 28 hours after it went out. Many still don’t have electricity. Energex, the successor to SEQEB, warns that some homes may be without power for up to three days. We were fully anticipating that would be the case. All preparations for a protracted period of Third-worldliness made, it was almost with a sense of anti-climax that the lights flickered on and the fans began to rotate again. The eskies were full (of food and er...other essentials). A stockpile of candles had been procured and some lit. We were enjoying a game of Trivial Pursuit in the dim silence, when we were suddenly thrust back into the 21st Century. Despite some wistfulness, the next time Mrs Sharpe can boil a kettle for young Sharpe Jr’s breakfast instead of boiling a pot of water on the BBQ, she’ll be grateful for the modern wonder of electricity.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I am an abused husband

I must be. I’ve just this evening been diagnosed with “Burnt Chop Syndrome”.
Apparently, Burnt Chop Syndrome is a rallying cry for Feminazis that holds that should an oppressed wife manage to burn one or two of the chops whilst cooking, she will serve them to herself to avoid patriarchal criticism. This is a behaviour is passed from mother to daughter, reinforcing gender stereotypes of a woman’s subservient role to her husband.

Whilst fulfilling my role as oppressed husband this evening, I was relegated to preparing the evening meal. I was cooking some delicious lamb on the BBQ, when some of the fat dripped onto the little bricks under the grill that are quite deliberately designed to catch such dripping. The fat then caught fire, adding to the smoky BBQ goodness. Unfortunately, the two chops directly above my sizzling fat fire became what my father sometimes referred to as “carbon enhanced”. Rather than admit I’d ducked inside to tend to the vegies when I should have been maintaining my vigil at the BBQ, I served myself the offending chops. Mrs Sharpe noticed that some of my meat was a little darker than hers, and then filled me in on the whole “Burnt Chop Syndrome” thing.

I was just being polite. I cooked the meal. I left the meat untended. It was my fault it was a little black. Why would I then pass on my mistake onto her? Is “Burnt Chop Syndrome” really a symptom of an oppressive patriarchal society, or just good old fashioned manners?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remembrance Day hijacked by narcissistic Vietnam Vet

Being a proud former member of the Royal Australian Regiment, I went to the Remembrance Day ceremony today at the RAR Memorial Walk. The ceremony went along the normal sort of lines, there was a Catafalque Party from the 8th/9th Battalion, the 6th Battalion were all there, there were some speeches, some wreaths were laid, The Last Post was played, a minute of silence, and then Reveille. It was pretty standard, except for the speech from a member of the RAR Association who is a Vietnam Veteran. In the interest of brevity and coherence, both attributes the speaker sorely lacked, I’ll paraphrase in point form the speech that was made.

• Despite knowing about this speaking engagement for some weeks, I just penned a couple of ideas last night on the back of a beer coaster.

• War is bad m’kay. War will always happen while there are men with testosterone in charge of things (I shit you not, he actually said that)

• I was too poorly educated to know what I was getting myself in for when I went to Vietnam. I couldn’t even point it out on a map until it was pointed out for me on the ship on the way over. Even then I wasn’t really that interested.

• I am now a big fan of learning about history. I hate reading though, so I watch documentaries. I don’t have Pay TV, so I don’t get the History Channel, or National Geographic or Discovery, but I still watch whatever is on free-to-air, usually the ABC.

• I saw a good documentary the other night. It was about WWI (finally, are we approaching a point?). When Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith was in Germany (WTF?!) flying against the Germans, he didn’t know what he was fighting for.

• Then there was a British family and there were three boys and…….(A long story that had nothing to do with Australia at all followed. He rambled on for some time with no real discernable point, except that he tried to make out that “this is where we come from”.)

• I saw some of the current generation of soldiers once. They were from 2 RAR. They were smoking! One of them looked like my old Platoon Commander.

• I don’t agree with where you are serving or what you are doing, but you are doing a good job at it.

This bloke stood in front of a battalion of serving Australian infantrymen, with a collective operational resume that includes Somalia, Rwanda, Bougainville, East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Iraq and Afghanistan, and made a weak political point about their service, At the same time, he managed to make a Remembrance Day speech that rambled vaguely about WWI, but generally talked about himself and his own experiences.

This is what really annoys me about certain elements of the Vietnam Veteran Community. Somehow, it all comes back to them. Whatever the topic, the conversation will inevitably come back to Vietnam. Not all Vietnam Vets suffer from the same blinkered view, but those that do spoil the reputation of the rest.

I can understand that if a soldier has only ever served on one operation, or in only one theatre, that their whole military experience is shaped by that particular set of circumstances. Every operation and every theatre is different. You can’t template every war from now until the end of time on Vietnam. I spent the first half of my military career exposed to that mindset. Things changed very quickly when it became apparent that the world had changed since the early seventies, and we needed to evolve - very quickly. A narrow breadth of experience does not excuse a closed minded view. It certainly does not excuse the tendency to anchor a whole personality to a single experience forty years ago, as terrible as that may have been.

Just after the first rotation had returned from East Timor, I went to an RSL for ANZAC Day with a bloke from 5/7 RAR who had only just come home. He had only been in Australia for such a short time that he hadn’t even been issued his medals for East Timor. All he had was an Infantry Combat Badge (ICB) that he proudly wore to his first ANZAC Day as a returned serviceman. As the afternoon wore on, and he had been heartily congratulated by a number of WWII Vets who had certainly learned their lesson about how to treat younger generations of soldiers, he was approached by a Vietnam Veteran. “What do you think you’re doing wearing that?” he was asked by a bloke tapping his ICB. “It’s all I’ve got at the moment” he replied, “we haven’t been issued our medals yet”. Then followed a long tirade about how East Timor wasn’t a real war, and that he’d assaulted bunker systems with no tank support and my mate had only been giving rice to villagers (not the actual term used to describe Asian people, but I don’t need to go into that). How dare this little upstart turn up on ANZAC Day wearing an ICB when he didn’t know what a real war was?

I would have thought that after the fairly atrocious treatment that soldiers returning from Vietnam received not only from the usual suspects on the left, but also from the WWII Veterans in organisations like the RSL, that Vietnam Veterans would be more accepting of the fact that all wars are different. All have their own challenges, dangers, restrictions, and indeed rewards. Judging someone else’s service against their own is exactly what the WWII Vets did to them. Using someone else’s service to make a political point is also what the left did to them when they got home.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wise words

I had need today for a quote from that marvelous orator, Sir Winston Churchill. Whilst perusing a number of online resources, I was reminded of the great wealth of astute observations made by that man. I have included some below that may be pertinent to the world as it stands today in regard to our fight against Islamic terrorism, and to the decision of the American voters last week.

There is no such thing as a good tax.

We contend that for a nation to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.

Some see private enterprise as a predatory target to be shot, others as a cow to be milked, but few are those who see it as a sturdy horse pulling the wagon.

The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.

Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy.

A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.

If you have ten thousand regulations, you destroy all respect for the law.

A sheep in sheep’s clothing. (On Clement Atlee)

A modest man, who has much to be modest about. (Also on Clement Atlee)

The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is.

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.

An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile—hoping it will eat him last.

The problems of victory are more agreeable than the problems of defeat, but they are no less difficult.

If you are going to go through hell, keep going.

If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.

Those who can win a war well can rarely make a good peace and those who could make a good peace would never have won the war.

Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all the others.

If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.

You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.

I always think of that when I hear those who would have the crocodile eat them last complain that the War on Terror only makes us more of a target for attacks. To them I would say, read the next quote.

You ask, What is our policy? I will say; “It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy.” You ask, What is our aim? I can answer with one word: Victory—victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival.

We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and the oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

It has been noted that the words used in the last part of that speech, from “We shall fight on the beaches” to “we shall never surrender” are exclusively drawn from the Saxon (Old English) with the exception of surrender, which is from the Norman (Old French). Read into that what you will.

Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fall, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.

Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth lasts for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour!”

Bessie Braddock: “Sir, you are drunk.”
Churchill: “Madam, you are ugly. In the morning, I shall be sober.”

Nancy Astor: “Sir, if you were my husband, I would give you poison.”
Churchill: “If I were your husband I would take it.”

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The way forward

So ends eight years of a Republican Presidency. Despite some threats to the contrary, democracy has prevailed, the people have spoken, and Barack Obama is to be the 44th President of the United States of America. He didn’t even need to commit voter fraud or have thugs standing outside polling booths to achieve it. Congratulations to Obama and to the Democrats.

Where does that leave conservatives? We now find ourselves looking to Canada as the last of the Anglosphere to retain a conservative government. That is a scary thought. There is much to look forward to though. If we were to ape the immature antics of our leftist opponents, it would be time to break out the papier-mâché and begin construction of Barack Obama’s head in effigy to march in the streets, block traffic and protest against an election stolen by ACORN and a biased media. That is not the way ahead though. The conservative movement in the west is in dire need of some self-reflection and a new approach. In Australia particularly, the ALP sold themselves as economically conservative. They are working very hard to disprove that platform, but the voters were presented with a choice between a stale incumbent and an alternative that promised not to spook the horses. There wasn’t a lot of difference between the two parties, so people went with the shiny new option. In the US it was a little different, but both campaigns sold an idea of change. Obama did it better, largely because he wasn’t in the same party as the incumbent. Conservative parties throughout the west need to reevaluate their tendency to avoid taking a responsible stand on the issues and pandering to a populist approach dictated to them by the media cycle. We are currently seeing the results of a decision making process driven by polls and sound bytes here in Australia. It is creating more problems than it solves. The opportunity now exists for the respective conservative parties to rethink the policy outcomes that they stand for, as well as the platforms they need to run on to achieve them. A little time on the bench for a breather and a chance for the incumbents to demonstrate the folly of their ideas might be a good thing in the longer term.

In the meantime, we are now the opposition; an important role in any democracy. We are the voice of dissent. It is our responsibility to highlight the flaws in any new legislation or policy direction. I am going to enjoy the ride. I am already pointing out that I voted for the other guy in the domestic political farce that has developed over the last 12 months. Republicans should enjoy doing the same.

The video below is from the BBC series “Coupling”. It illustrates that point very well. I apologise for the watermark and the aspect ratio, but this clip is not on the net and I had to use some freeware to convert it to a usable file type. Watch it all the way through and enjoy a lefty head explosion.