4 July - Independence from the USA Day.
No more Australian blood for US wars!
Being an account of the Peacebus action at Robertson Barracks 4 July 2012
and the flightiness of the Darwin Press Club,
with reflections on prophetic voice, the SAS as a cult of assassins,
the efficacy of flag making and a dog's life.
4th of July and Independence from the USA Day is being celebrated with a Speak Out at the gates of Robertson Barracks, Darwin, home to 1st Brigade and (temporarily) to some 250 US Marines.
I am at the Peacebus mike: "Soldiers of Robertson Barracks, this Peacebus.com on Marine Base watch!".
The boom of the PA catches the friends standing beside me by surprise. They are awed and impressed by its power. The boom is carries through the cyclone wire fence and to the streets of the barrack town within.
Positioned, after some uneasy negotiation, at the main gate, Peacebus' mural is facing the base traffic coming south along Thorngate Road. Facing that direction, I am speaking to an audience of parked cars, maybe 15 of them have assembled for the event.
At least three of them belong to the three supporters who are standing beside, one is a marked NT police car, one brought a photographer from the The Hankyoreh, a South Korean daily newspaper, another brought a callow radio journalist from the ABC, and the rest, i guessing from the cameras i see being pointed at me from within, are various elements of the surveillance industry, national and foreign.
Here to be noticed, here to be heard, that's okay with me.
The voice on the PA has a life of its own. I too am a listener. No notes or dot points, it is unrehearsed, coming through me but not of me.
Every morning i pray to the vast continuum of wisdom masters and mentor beings who have gone before to bless me with usefulness in the cause of peace, to bless my deeds with auspiciousness and my words with the power to persuade.
And here it is, here the fruit of those prayers: prophetic voice, voice of the ancestors.
All about vividness. My body filled with light and also a lightness of being. For all my practice of earthing asana, i find myself swaying light-footed as if in a dance.
"Go home to your wives and families," says the Voice addressing the Marines. "Go home to your fire sides bright." Woody Guthrie is with us!
"We don't want you here preparing for war with China."
"No more US bases. No more US wars!"
My mate and former action organiser for Greenpeace, James Courtney described it as "a great spit!"
He recorded it and posted it here. Decide for yourself.
When i came away from the microphone a young woman came tottering towards me. Her tentative walk, her tender indoor skin and tender years spoke of callowness. She introduced herself as Clare from ABC Radio.
Seems Clare was expecting a mass protest and she kept drawing me back to how few we dissenters were. Just two, she said. In fact four and a dog!
"But it's not as if we go unnoticed," i countered and gestured to the surveillance fleet. But she didn't get it. For Clare, legitimacy meant many boots on the ground.
Many boots on the ground make the Marines present and those following, ipso facto, legitimate. "Facts on the ground" is how the Zionists like to describe their illegal West Bank settlements. For sure the Government has not be able to produce a mass assembly of free citizens to endorse their invitation to the US military to occupy Australia; they rely on deceit and apathy.
The issue is a none the less a sensitive one for the Government as it gears up to face voters next year. This makes Peacebus a hot potato. Hence the uneasiness in negotiating the SpeakOut and the intensity of the surveillance.
After me Clare went on to interview Justin Tutty, a coordinator of Darwin's newly formed Base Watch and pressed him with the same invalidating inquiry.
Now Base Watch has been through an extensive public consultation amongst concerned citizens and what Justin describes as 'stakeholders' in the social impacts of hosting a US base - sexual assault workers and the like.
Justin was frank. "We are about 25 concerned citizens of whom about 12 would attend regular meetings."
But you are so few, said Clare.
"But we are activists," replied Justin.
And there is the nub of it. A handful of activists speaking the truth has more potential to define public opinion than battalions of PR flaks pumping out government lies to passive Tv consumers.
Here a recording of the ABC Radio Darwin 4 July broadcast.
All praise to the organising talents of the persevering Justin Tutty. He combines a sharp mind with a gentle, humble and reflective manner.
Wherever he might choose to serve, there he would be loved and valued. If he was in the ranks of 1st Brigade he would be a trusted sergeant; if he was an officer he would be a brilliant colonel.
But he chooses no career path. He is happy to be an attentive father, to help out at the NT Conservation Council, sometimes getting paid work, but mostly living poor and offering organising services on the dole.
It was with Justin's endorsement that i proceeded with the organising of the Independence from the USA Day event. In theory Base Watch was a co-sponsor along with Stand Fast.
But my local Stand Fast mate, Owen Gale, long time reservist with NorForce went off to Melbourne, leaving his dog with me. More of this dog later.
And the pre-publicity media statement from Base Watch never eventuated. When i got not one call of interest from the media statement which i put out in my own name on 28 June, I rang Justin to urge him to give the event another plug.
"I am having trouble pinning down some of the Base Watch people," he explained.
"But don't worry, we will see all the local media folk at the Darwin Press Club meeting at the Railway Club on the evening of 3 July."
Beauty! i thought.
The Railway Club is a funky "old Darwin" workers club and friendly beer garden in the inner suburb of Parap. Murals on the walls recall the fettlers and engine drivers on The Ghan and posters recall band gigs past and coming.
In a presentation entitled Northern exposure: troops in the tropics, the Darwin Press Club advertised an opportunity for Lt Colonel Matt Pugisi, the man in charge of the Marine force occupying Robertson, to say "just what the new arrivals think of life in the remote north? How are the Aussies and the Yanks cooperating as they train among crocs and mozzies? And how will that translate to the battlefield?".
For just $5 at the door (free to Darwin Press Club Members) i would be able, "on the eve of American Independence Day", to "embrace (my) chance to share a drink and ask (the Colonel) these and many other questions."
Sounded to me like PR pap from Central Command of US Disinformation Services but none the less it was an opportunity not to be missed. I was eager to hear what the Lt Col had to say and observe at first hand how cringing or otherwise, the local media folk would be.
Besides which it would be the perfect opportunity to announce in person the Independence from the USA Speak Out the next day.
So on the evening of 3 July, all spruced up in a clean and pressed shirt, i turned up at the Railway Club clutching a handful of flyers ... and found it deserted.
Just me and a bar maid. "Cancelled today because protesters had got wind of it," she explained.
What a flighty bunch the Darwin media folk are! Just whisper "security risk" and they scatter like pigeons.
Did any of those Press Club members question the source of this rumour? i wondered. Did anyone ask about Murdoch media phone intercepts?
I SMSed Justin and learned we wouldn't be coming either. He was fighting a bush fire and had been all day. And the fire went on into the night. He wore orange fluoro work clothes to the SpeakOut next day because he had come from extinguishing the last of the spot fires that morning.
"You are talking about me," i cried out to the startled barmaid.
When she started backing away i had to elaborate. "I'm the only protester who planned to attend."
Plaintive, harmless, old man me. Now bane of the Darwin Press Club and of US Marine Colonels.
I asked for a ginger beer and ice and sat down in the cool of the beer garden to reflect on this amazing turn of events. What was it it about my behaviour that created such fear and panic?
It comes down to this: whereas the likes of ABC Clare hears a voice of dissent and discounts it as solitary, the Marine PR Corps hears that same voice as a something bigger and more potent, and seeks to avoid it. This the power of prophet voice.
That day it had been announced that another Australian soldier killed in Afghanistan, the 33rd Australian solder dead and the 12th SAS man.
My guess is that Lt Col Matt Pugisi was told to pull his head in. Not a good time to be spruiking for the US / Australian military alliance.
When I asked the barmaid what she thought of US Marines being based in Darwin, with certain ruefulness she revealed that she had once been married to one.
Five years ago. I hastened to apologise for raising painful memories.
"No worries," she said. "I got smart and just walked away."
Would that citizens of Darwin and its press corps would get smart and ask the Marines to walk away.
If the timing of the death of the SAS man in Afghanistan was bad for Lt Col Pugisi, it was wonderfully apt for me and the celebration of Independence from the USA Day in this land. Auspicious, indeed, an answer to my media prayers.
So i downed my ginger beer, let the barmaid knock off, returned to my camp and, by the full moon, googled up the day's media on the digger death.
There was PM Julia Gillard, Defence Minister Stephen Smith and ADF Commander, Mayor General Michael Hurley, facing the cameras doing damage control in Darwin of all places.
Though the Gillard government is unrepenting and unrelenting in its lies about the Afghan War, it also knows that a big majority of Australians (67% plus) disbelieve and want out.
So it is that every soldier death becomes a PR catastrophe, another nail in the coffin of the Gillard government. Yes!!
Widow maker PM Gillard was dressed for a funeral in a sombre black dress with a wide raised collar of black tulle. With all the fake empathy she could muster, she spoke condolences to the dead soldier's family, declared the killing a noble sacrifice and the nation to be in mourning. She wound up giving sad dutiful notice of more deaths to come.
It was a crocodile tears performance which irked me to my core. With a passion I took to the keyboard, rattled off a media statement and sent it Australia wide next morning.
"A professional SAS killer of too many seasons gets killed in Afghanistan and PM Gillard goes on Tv dressed in widow weeds to claim the nation is mourning for his death.
"More Gillard lies!" is the response of Graeme Dunstan, organiser of the Independence from the USA Day Speak Out at the gates of Robertson Barracks, home of 1st Brigade and also (temporarily) Fox company of the US Marine Corps.
"It would be closer to the truth to say that the nation is appalled and angry by the ongoing waste of life and treasure being spent on this disastrous war into which we have been driven by the US/Australia military alliance," says Mr Dunstan.
Three responses came of it. One was an email cheer from a Sydney peace activist friend. Another was a call from a Darwin ABC producer confirming the time and the place - hence young Clare the interviewer.
The third was a complaint on the Stand Fast elist from spokesperson Hamish Chitt disappointed that i had short circuited media protocol and offended as "counter productive to what we are trying to do" by referring to the latest Australian victim of this war as a "professional killer". Ooophs!
In truth i was careful NOT to attribute those words to Stand Fast, but rather to me as organiser of the SpeakOut offering a sample grab of more provocative words to come. Still it was a bad move to create dissension amongst my Stand Fast allies.
This is a problem of prophetic voice: it doesn't fit with consensus decision making even if it's as thin as that which occurs on Stand Fast elist discussions. Prophetic voice is too urgent and too passionate for the blanding that the consensus process brings.
But media reports the next day showed that my irksome outburst had resonated in what was being described as the "battle of the narrative". And for the first time ever, i read overseas reports of a digger death which noted how unpopular the Afghan war was with Australians.
Something had shifted. But were my words a cause?
Maybe but this inherent uncertainty seems to be part of the nature of prophetic voice. It's influence can be far reaching but the source is nameless and to claim it as "mine" is to grasp at smoke and mirrors, a sure and short route to madness.
I bow to the mystery and keep right on praying and right on spruiking for peace in the Pacific for this and future generations.
SAS Sergeant Blaine Diddams, a 40 year old, husband and father of two, was shot in the chest while on a capture and kill mission in the Oruzgan Province, Chowa Valley Afghanistan. It was his 7th tour of "duty" and tour record gave rise to doubts about his sanity.
Was the Special Air Service Regiment being over used? Neil James of the Australian Defence Association, the lobby group and think tank for generals, was quick to say yes.
Mr James said the elite SAS regiment had suffered a disproportionate number of casualties compared to the rest of the Defence Force, because there were no alternatives.
''One of the reasons people are having to do, in our opinion, too many tours, is there aren't enough of them and the reason there aren't enough of them is the defence budget is too small,'' Mr James told AAP.
What a twist in logic! The death of this professional killer does not lead to questioning the efficacy of these lethal SAS missions, nor to considering the madness and anguish it brings to the soldiers who get addicted to doing them.
Rather to it leads to demands for more military spending on more SAS and the creation of more SAS units to share the load.
Contrary to what Mr James says, there are alternatives to violence and for those of us who want peace and an Afghanistan left to the Afghans to sort out, this self interested lobbying by the military must be resisted.
More SAS means more deaths, for victims and perpetrators, with no end to the killing in sight. Spending on the SAS is no path to peace anywhere, ever.
Let's consider the nature of the SAS beast. Australian taxes, and this includes everyone who pays GST, pay for their training, salaries, pensions and other benefits. Yet the SAS Regiments swear allegiance to the British Queen and take their orders from US Joint Special Operations Command.
Over and beyond that SAS troopers have a deeper and more binding loyalty: that's the loyalty to other SAS mates and to their Regiment. And by association it is a loyalty to similar regiments of similar cultures: British, New Zealand, Canadian, US and so on. And also loyalty to the band of brothers who have retired from the regiments but maintain links as freelance security service providers.
Amongst other Defence service people the SAS troopers are known snidely as "chicken stranglers" and "snake eaters"; this being a very Australian way of bringing their elitism down a notch or two. But it is also reflects a deep distrust, because the SASR are about as far as a military force can get from the citizen solidiers of Anzac and Kokoda legend.
The SAS are the cream of professionism in soldiery. They exist as an army within an army in a time of the corporatisation of armies and the corporatisation of war. The difference between a big buck mercenary doing security for a resource grabbing corporation and a soldier of the Queen, is a letter of resignation.
SAS identities and operations are declared to be state secrets which in effect puts them beyond Australian law and beyond international law. In March 2012, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that troopers of 4 Squadron had been operating in Africa, specifically Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Kenya. No doubt following US special forces there.
The source seemed to be an ASIS leak which signals how serious the concern was in spook land. Defence Minister Smith denied that SAS troopers were operating "at the outer reaches of Australian and international law" but did not confirm or deny the operations in Africa.
So there it is writ plain: the SASR has gone feral.
Though few in number compared to regular army (4 Squadrons each of about 100 soldiers plus a signals unit), the SAS Regiment yields of enormous influence in Defence. The former Governor of Australia, Major General Michael Jefferies AC CVO MC as was a former SAS commander and so too is the present Secretary of Defence, the shadowy Major General Duncan Edward Lewis AO, DSC, CSC who was also PM Howard's War on Terror adviser.
When PM Gillard announced at the G20 Nato meeting in Chicago, the drawdown of Australian troops from Afghanistan next year, she excluded the SAS. These she promised will stay on at least another 10 years to continue capture and kill operations.
How can peace, democracy and poltical stability be established when foreign murderers occupy the land exercising a divine right to kill?
Since the costly disaster of the Iraq invasion, 'Shock and Awe' deployment of masses of conventional troops has fallen from favour. Instead covert special forces operations have become central to the new way of the new wars of the US empire.
The big success story for the new warfare is the forced regime change in Libya and the destruction of it as an independent, welfare state funded by state owned oil revenues. For its speed of victory and economy of force, this style of war is now considered exemplary.
Here is how it goes: special forces (including Australian SAS say rumours neither denied nor confirmed) act covertly to train and support local mercenaries as shock troopers - 50mm machine guns mounted on new pick-up trucks as in Libya. These move fast and create civil mayhem by murdering police officers and all who oppose them. With the support of drones and missiles from the air, these lightly equipped forces are able to smash the national army where ever it tries to hold ground.
All in the context of civil society of course. No remote battle fields these. They happen in the suburbs and the slaughter of civilians in massive.
"Blurring" of the responsibility for the attack is an essential part of the tactic. This keeps the peace makers off balance and confused. Who are these mercenaries who appeared from nowhere? We will never know because it is a state secret. And all the while the Murdoch media blitzes with propaganda of Empire.
In Syria since March we have been witnessing this style of war again. In the name of regime change the Israel-US alliance is leading the assault by supplying arms and training mercenaries. We know British SAS are engaged there and likely Australian SAS are too.
We need to understand that this is what these rotational Marines are preparing for in Darwin. In one sense this is an extension of "interoperability" training which has been the theme of the Talisman Sabre war games in Shoalwater Bay over the past 9 years.
Come time for a regime change or some other regional war goal, the assault force will be a relatively small number of Marines mixed with special forces units from a variety of strategic allies. Although this will be a war of the US empire, there will be a blurring of responsibility and also a distribution of the costs.
Yes, you got it. This way we Australian tax payers will get to pay for US wars. The War in Afghanistan has cost Australians over $7.6 billion and it aint over yet.
So back to the SAS cult of secrecy: why are its operations secret? Why is the knowledge of the aggression of SAS operations in foreign lands, where the Australian government has no declared war, considered a threat to national security?
The answer is that knowledge - as in truth - is no threat to national security but public shaming is a threat to the SASR and its institutional image as men (and women) of honor.
The SAS is a glorified cult of assassins. Nothing new about this - such assassin cults come and go through out history. But there is nothing honorable about them.
Hear the bitter truth here: the SASR is operating without accountability in a Boys' Own blood frenzy. As with the case of a savage dog off its leash, it is the duty of every peace aspiring citizens to rein it in.
Like the invincible Achilles, SAS troopers are taught to believe that they are favoured of the gods and can live beyond the moral law of mere mortals.
"But infallible is karmic law, ever impartial, just and sure ..."
In other words, what goes around comes around, in this lifetime and in future lifetimes. This might be sudden death as with Sgt Diddams or a life-long of wretched suffering from PTSD symptoms - such as depression, substance abuse, suicide, insomnia, night terrors and so on - maimings of spirit.
Whatever, it is a burden that must be carried by the families and communities striving to live in peace at home. For the broken no refuge in the Regiment.
No time for that! After the solemn parades, the muffled drums and the contrived grief of Regimental funerals, it's off chasing the next kill. Death, not welfare, is its raison d'etre.
PM Gillard was in Darwin when she recorded her irksome 'the nation is mourning' speech because the Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was in town for a state visit. Peter "Pro-war" Hartcher of the Sydney Morning Herald speculated that Darwin had been chosen by SBY to signal his support for the US Marine base.
But it was not the US Marines that motivated me to go fly flags for SBY on his arrival in Darwin on 2 July. Rather it was an SMS inviting me to show support for the West Papuan independence movement.
I was pleased to do so having met independence leader, Jacob Rumbiac at the Canberra Tent Embassy and at the Eureka Memorial in Ballarat. The man is a saint.
Furthermore Peacebus was carrying a couple of West Papuan independence flags which i had painted up in January for just such an occasion. Fourteen years jail for flying the independence flag in West Papua.
An hour later i was on the ground with the flags. Some six adults and seven children (ages 5 - 13 yrs) showed up, all but two strangers to me.There had been no notification of the assembly to police.
The only signage the others had was a roughly painted West Papuan flag about 2.4 m x 1.5 m hand-held on thin bamboo sticks on either side. They were pleased to be supported by my West Papuan flags (50 cm x 2 m) on 4.2 m bamboo poles.
We assembled outside the NT Parliament for a photo and, while we were there, saw the SBY motorcade and escort pass in Bennett Street. We moved to follow it and assemble outside the Crown Plaza Hotel in Mitchell St where we soon learned the Indonesian President and Australia Prime Minister were meeting.
Our object was to get the West Papuan flags noticed by the Indonesian President, his entourage and the associated media.
On the corner of Bennett and Mitchell we were intercepted by a NT Police Sergeant who contested our right to walk down Mitchell Street with flags.
It was clear that the NT Police were ill prepared for protest and in some confusion. The sergeant ordered us to stop, we remonstrated about our rights to assemble and he got on his radio
While waiting at the corner I was greeted by a couple of AFP agents: "You're a mate of (Federal Agent) Steve Uhe?"
I am! When organising actions in Canberra, Team Leader Steve of the AFP Protective Intelligence has always been a courteous and helpful cop to me. And like him these two, Federal Agents Raymond Beshara and Mike McNolas, were good guys and it was soon sorted out that we were no security threat.
Meanwhile the good sergeant had got clearance to let us proceed on the condition that we did not cause obstruction, did not break any laws and did not use the bamboo poles as offensive weapons.
We assembled about 50 metres away from the Crown Plaza entrance of the opposite side of the street and did a bit of chanting. "Ja mendekka!" "Yes! Freedom!" We knew our flags were being seen. Everyone was happy, police and protesters.
When a mini bus parked along side and blocked our view of the Crown Plaza entrance we sought to move another 10 metres closer.
Into this negotiation came an agitated plain clothes officer named Sgt Scott Rose. He was accompanied by another grim plain clothes officer who had a wire in his ear.
Sgt Rose said by way of introduction: "I am declaring you all a security threat and ordering you to move on."
"Who are you?" i asked. Which is how i got to learn his name; he showed me his badge. I had to ask him to be patient while i found my reading specs. By way of introduction, i read out his name to my friends.
"I am commander of this security operation and those bamboo poles are a possible offensive weapon," he replied.
That was risible and i said so. That's how i got to be frog marched back up the street to the corner from which we had come by the officer with the wire.
With a grip of iron, he held my shirt at mid back and propelled me along. Martial arts trained, i surmised. The hold was directly above a cervical injury from football days and, as i was driven along keeping my flag upright, i leaned back a little to make the most of the massage.
Speaking to me like an errant child, he indicated a line on the footpath and ordered me not to cross it. Released and somewhat shaken by the aggression, i answered a call on my phone.
Wonder of wonders, it was another police officer who introduced himself as Senior Constable Matt Faith from Emergency Operations Division of NT Police. He was responding to my request for police liaison for the 4 July Independence from the USA Day Speak Out.
Matt Faith regaled me with his progressive and cooperative attitude to peaceful assemblies. I thought it admirable but in stark contrast to what i had just experienced. To wit: the suppression of our assembly by orders from on high - possibly as high as the penthouse of the Crown Plaza!.
When tyrants come to Darwin town, fine ideals about civil rights to peaceful assembly get swept away, it seems, and tyrannical policing holds sway.
But maybe with a clearer channel of police liaison the over-wrought Sgt Rose might not have reacted so aggressively. I was eager to meet Matt.
Matt and i exchanged emails and met at the gates of Robertson Barracks at 11 am on 4 July. As promised Matt had parleyed with the Base Commander for there had been a bit of a stand off between she and i.
It is the way of Peacebus to cultivate the cops when occupy public place; to give 'em plenty of notice and to talk the action through, preferably walking the ground together before the day. In search of police liaison for the 4 July Speak Out i had rung the NT Police switchboard and been advised to speak to Robertson Barracks direct.
Maybe Darwin was by nature low key about political assemblies but i knew there had to be someone with special interest in the subject, so i emailed my ever helpful Queensland police liaison contact A/Snr Sgt Kerrie Duffy. In turn she had promptly emailed back to say she had passed my email on and to expect a call.
When no call came swiftly, i set about the job of penetrating the mysteries of the Robertson Barracks switch. Finding a number for it was not easy and then finding the appropriate person to speak was even less so. But persevering through confusion, misdirections, and un-answering phones, i finally got the mobile number for the Base Commander, the senior public servant there. Bingo!
Sarah-Jayne McBride by name and, when i called, she was in a meeting in Canberra. Maybe negotiating funding for the building of barracks for the 250 US Marines presently under canvass on a playing field, i thought.
She said right off that "Defence would not object to me organising a public assembly outside Robertson Barracks" and gave me her email address to send more information. I suggested we meet when she got back from Canberra; walk the ground together.
Maybe she thought it a come on. She had a lovely voice. Maybe it was. Whatever Sarah-Jayne cold shouldered me and replied saying that while there was no in principal objection to the assembly "to ensure the safety of Barracks traffic and the safety of your public assembly, it is recommended that you utilise the area on the opposite side of Thorngate Road, opposite to the Robertson Barracks entry point. Please see attached map."
Now i had checked out the site and i knew that to be dusty and degraded land. Furthermore it was beside a T intersection of a dirt road into which turned at regular intervals 4-bogey road trains similar to those i had seen carry Yellow Cake on the road from Jabiluka. Noisy, dusty and maybe toxic!
So on 3 July I replied thus: "Thank you for responding, Sarah-Jayne.
I am disappointed that my request to meet with you face to face and walk the ground has been ignored.
I am of the view that we are setting precedents here for future assemblies of citizens concerned about the occupation of Robertson Barracks by US Marines. You are expecting more Marines; i am expecting more protests.
The Assembly Area for the Independence from the USA Day Speak Out of 4 July which you recommend, i have checked out and know it to be dusty and degraded land. Degrading of you to suggest it. And too far from the gate.
From experience of barrack gate Speak Outs past i know they create negligible traffic hazard. I suspect this is fake fuss and hiding an intent to diminish the visual impact and dignity of our assembly.
So i reject your recommendation.
It is my intent to set up on the grassed area as indicated on the amended map which is attached.
In yellow i have marked the preferred assembly area should you find the grace and generosity to allow us to encroach a few metres onto Defence Department lands.
After all you are allowing elements of a foreign army to do much more than that at Robertson Barracks.
No more US wars!
Graeme Dunstan etc"
Matt was tall and handsome. He shook my hand with a firm grip, looked at me in the eye with respect and i gave ear to his wonderful-to-hear patter about respecting our right to freedom of assembly and the value of cooperative and respectful negotiations.
The site he had negotiated with the absent Sarah was Option A of my email. The grace and generosity of Option B had not been offered. I grumbled, blustered and complied.
Matt and his uniformed mate guided me into position and while i leveled Peacebus and prepared the banner rigs, we chatted. I find that cops whom i meet are impressed with my banner art and bamboo rigging technology.
Snr Const. Matt explained he was relatively new to the Territory; that he had come from Queensland and was enjoying the wonders of Darwin climate and life style. One got the sense that he was a torch bearer for police liaison in the NT Police. Good on him.
Of my rough handling by Sgt Rose on 2 July, he had taken time to view the surveillance footage and apologised personally, regretting that he had not called me earlier and that he had no authority to apologise on behalf of NT Police generally.
Sgt. Rose, he explained, had been a bit stressed and overworked. Seems he had been engaged in a major manhunt for a former army corporal "with serious mental health issues" who was wanted for the alleged decapitation of his neighbour in Broadwater, Qld.
With Matt, and in uniform, was Sgt. Robert James of Palmerston police station. When Matt departed and the conversation continued. Bob was born and bred in the Territory; he loved it and wished it could remain a paradise undiscovered by "southerners". Indeed like many Territorians i meet, he carried a resentment towards southerners coming to Darwin with new ideas and trying to fix things which weren't broken.
"Even the NT Police uniform (distinctively khaki) was soon to become blue like other states," he told me. But he conceded this might be a good idea given the rising presence of the military.
Bob was a fair-go man, a natural negotiator and too soon departed, saying that he was not going to post any police on guard but that he would return personally attend the SpeakOut.
He did. No troubles. No worries. Hear respect and gratitude from me that fundamental liberties of freedom of assembly and speech are held dear by NT police officers.
Back to an earlier question: how to live with prophetic voice and stay sane? Too easy to become a ranter, embittered by being ignored.
For me two practices are the answer: the first is the Buddhist way of mediating on emptiness of self and, included in this, the dedication all merit of ones actions to the benefit of other beings.
Hence the centrality of my morning rituals of meditation, prayer, yoga and ablutions; the peace action path as a holy path.
The other practice is to make art that serves community. There is something grounding and real about suspending the ethereal work of wordsmithing and working with one's hands to make something in the world of matter. It is also a great way to meet people and build trust.
Which is how i became a volunteer flag maker to Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation. The project began in a conversation between Larrakia artist Peter Browne during our camp together.
I suggested the flag shape and Peter proposed the flag design: a yellow crocodile on the red and black of the Aboriginal flag. The saltwater croc is his family's totem and in his mind's eye Peter could see his extended family proudly carrying the flags in the Naidoc parade in Darwin on 6 July.
Big project and short lead time. Good news was that Larrakia Nation's arts officer, Anna Weekes, committed to the project along with all the other jobs and projects she had for Naidoc Week.
Peter was laid low with painful gout but that didn't stop me from i pestering him till i had a sketch. I made him draw it from his bed. This i enlarged and printed at OfficeWorks so that Anna and her friends could cut a stencil. I also made a frame for a large silk screen (240 m x 70 cm) and a table to do the printing upon.
Together Anna and i stapled on the silk and together we printed. Anna Weekes is the best - energetic, smart and artful. I discovered we had common ground, both of us with backgrounds in street theatre and stilt walking. She is a joy to work with.
I had doubts about using a stencil rather than coating the screen with emulsion. But Anna was right. Less mucking around and, though a few bleeds, the printing was good enough for flags.
For her part Anna had her doubts about registration when printing both sides of the flags. She was impressed by my demonstration of how to do it by inking a pad under the fabric and printing both sides at once. The joys of collaboration!
Peter had described yellow on red and black, but i also printed the design navy blue on sky blue fabric and glow red on gold fabric. Four of each. Peter loved that too. Different clans, different colours.
There was about 12 hours of sewing in it too which i was happy to do alone in Larrakia arts studio, though with more time, the sewing might have also been a means for community engagement.
The Larrakia Croc flags first got their first airing at the opening ceremony of Naidoc Week in Darwin on Monday 2 July at the old Larrakia Nation offices (soon to be renovated). Peter so pleased and proud to see his work arrayed along the fence.
They made their second appearance with Peter's blessings, at the gates of Robertson barracks on 4 July.
The third appearance was as at the Naidoc parade on morning of 6 July. I rigged them and Peter called around for family members to carry them.
The parade attracted maybe 500 people and was a low key affair; no speeches at the beginning, a walk around the block to Civic Square for some dances, a few speeches and a sausage sizzle. Some rage against the NT Intervention was expressed but there was no rage in the crowd.
The flags, seen from afar, gave height and dignity to the parade. Many compliments came and Peter was a smile beaming ear to ear.
On reaching the Civic Square the flag bearers piled the flags on top of each other against a giant Rain Tree there. If i had been better prepared i would have used them to dress the park. Next year maybe.
The fourth appearance was at the Countryman's Concert in Frog Hollow Park that evening. This was a new event in Naidoc Week, Darwin, and a bold piece of cultural entrepreneuring by Larrakia Nation; the first ever concert they had produced to host indigenous music from around the Territory.
A big event it engaged all Larrakia workers, including their rangers, and their volunteer friends. A major investment had been made in dressing the event in the form of a series of specially made, spectacular lantern sculptures which included a splendid crocodile designed by Peter.
No one to ask, I looked about the site for a place to rig the croc flags and chose the entrance gate in the temporary fence. Not only did the gate need some artful dressing, it was also to be flood lit and that light would, i knew, glorify the flags.
The concert drew about 500 punters @ $20. Some great music, it looked splendid and was beautifully produced. It lost money because of its high overheads paying accommodating and traveling musicians. But it did the Larrakia Nation proud and a long the way i won a lot of friends. People loved those flags.
There is another Darwin friend i want to talk about: Jessa the black Staffordshire Terrier / Dalmation cross. The Dalmation influence shows as longer legs and bigger body, but her main characteristic is ever loving Staffie.
She is the dog of Owen Gale, my Stand Fast connection in Darwin. Four years old but still a boisterous puppy, eager to please but un-biddable, i had not been impressed. Adoring of humans, she had some bad habits, including attacking other dogs, and so spent her life onthe end of a chain.
It was my vision that Owen, the newly selected Greens candidate for the seat of Nightcliff in the upcoming NT Elections, would front the 4 July Speak Out; ten years as a reservist in NorForce he had more military credibility than i.
But not to be. Owen was organising for a journey to Melbourne to collect furniture and effects from the breakdown of his marriage there.
Having done the journey from Melbourne to Darwin one way this year myself, it seemed like madness to rushing there and back again for stuff. "And you are going to take the dog?" i asked.
"Would you mind minding the dog?" asked Owen. How could i say no?
So it was that i got to fall in love with Jessa dog. Long time since i had a dog.
Figuring the yard of my Berry Place refuge was secure with a high cyclone wire fence, i let her off the chain. She stayed by me during the night but she found a way under the fence and wandered off while i was doing my morning yoga.
Jessa was chipped and i was not too concerned. Soon a call from Owen told me that Jessa was at the local vet, delivered there by a caring neighbour.
"Do you know your dog is in season?" asked the vet assistant. Oh no!
Terse words between Owen and I. Not as if i am well equipped to mind an un-biddable dog, let alone an un-biddable dog on heat.
I feared the worst but the worst turned out to be just two sires who came through fence from the neighbour behind: one a beautiful and circumspect Malamute who hid in the shadows like a wolf. The other was a happy go lucky, black, pure-bred Staffie who just barged in; a day visitor from out of town i later learned from the neighbour.
Love at first sight. On seeing the sire, Jessa turned and put her tail aside. He leapt on while i leapt about discouraging the union. Away i dragged Jessa and into an improvised bitch box she went; this a broken down Land Rover troopy parked in the street out front.
On the chain inside, i left the small side windows open for ventilation and watched Jessa's escape attempts fail. Fail while i was watching that is. For when i returned to my commuter screen i listened to her desperate yelping as she tried to reach her beau, then heard a sudden whimpering and then a long and suspicious silence.
A collarless Jessa and her Staffie sire were happily mixing it, the Malamute standing by watching. The collar hung from the chain which hung from the troopy window. Good fortune that Jessa was not hanging there too. Her collar had torn under her weight and slipped off.
Jessa had another seriously bad habit: barking at black skinned people. Out of fear more than aggression but whatever, she was an embarrassment while i was working at the Larrakia arts studio.
Furthermore she was no gun dog and when Darwin's fireworks night - Territory Day 1 July - began she became agitated. At dusk when the bangs began, I was sewing flags and she was chained up on the veranda outside. So i brought her into the studio.
When Peter Browne came by for a chat and when Jessa began barking, i shut her in Anna's office. When Peter departed i packed up and put Jessa aboard Peacebus without looking back. Next morning i was embarrassed to learn that Jessa had shat under Anna's desk.
The day before she had shat while chained to the rotary clothes hoist at the home of my friend, James Courtney. I didn't noticed because she was keeping her defecation habits invisible to me. But my hostess noticed when she went to the clothesline in the dark and stepped onto it bare footed. Squelch!
Darwin is one of the last of Australian cities to allow free-for-all fireworks and for non participants, dogs and other beings with sensitive ears, it is a horrible night. The bangs, shrieks and whistles start before sunset and officially finish at midnight. The smoke and the concussive cacophony gave me a headache.
Poor Jessa grew increasingly anxious, panting and needy. The pyro tumult lessened towards midnight but someone nearby went on launching sky rockets with military precision every thirty seconds. Jessa would see the sky burst and panic in anticipation of the bang. Again and again. Peacebus became her refuge and i, her solace.
The Staffie breed is distinguished by wide strong jaws that lock on; once locked on, no kicking or beating will induce them to let go.
Concerned about this and her propensity to attack other dogs, i had spoken about it with James. He told of how he had heard from an old farmer of a way to get them to let go: a firm grip on the scruff with one hand and as many fingers as one can manage of the other hand in the dog's anus. Thinking how disgusting, I filed the info away.
At the gates of Robertson Barracks supporter Emma from Socialist Alliance arrived with a lovely lanky spaniel just as i was moving Jessa's chain.
"She's very friendly," Emma assured me as Jessa leapt forward nose to nose, hackles rising.
"But, but, but ..." i spluttered. Too late! Jessa gave a fierce growl and locked on. The other dog rolled in submission and yelped in terror. Emma added to the pandemonium by screaming : "Get it off! Get it off!"
This was directly after my first spruik of the day. All those cameras were on it. Dissension in our ranks.
A man of action, no second thoughts, i grasped Jessa's collar with my left hand and rammed the fingers of my right up her arse. Up went Jessa's head. Instant release! No damage done to the luckless spaniel, thank goodness. Thanks James.
Jessa was yip-yip-yipping, excited and adrenalin charged as i dragged her away and chained her to the fence. Very carefully i washed my hands.
Learning to live together, i suppose. In bowel intimacy we bonded.
She was an ever watchful, patient, adoring companion. Sensing the mellowness of my mood after my morning prayers she would come for a hug while i knelt on my yoga mat.
She would press against me as i hugged tight her strong, solid body and whispered affirmations. "Beautiful dog. Beautiful loving dog. ... " Bliss, bliss, bliss.
Jessa also loved riding in Peacebus and, when bidden, into it with alacrity she would leap and up onto my bunk. Joyous to be riding behind me, her nose reaching for the dog scents in the breeze from my side window, she would give my ear a gentle lick, a kiss.
To give her time off the chain, I took her out to Peter Browne's camp at Corroboree Park for a few days while i worked at this blog. There she delighted in full speed chases of wallabies, coming back to flop at my side, panting, her tongue lolling. But come dark, the cries of night curlews caused fear and she went for refuge in Peacebus.
Me in the bunk, she asleep on the floor beside and below me, I found her gentle snoring a deep comfort. And now that Owen has returned and claimed her, i feel the absence of her doggy companionship.
This then the bliss path that peace making has taken me on in first two weeks or so of organising in Darwin. But it has taken another two weeks to write and post it. Meanwhile a lot of other events and impressions have come flooding in and surging by.
"Be certain that naturally originating pristine cognition is uninterrupted; like the coursing central torrent of a river that flows unceasingly. Look into your own mind and see whether this is true or not." (from the Introduction to Awareness teaching of Rinpoche Padmasambhava).
Let me summarise my pilgrim's progress thus:
Peacebus is now well recognised and respected in Darwin amongst the city's activists Larrakia, union and Green.
The presence of the US Marines in Darwin is a sleeper issue and the federal government is eager to keep it that way. Locals are uneasy (a survey by ADF consultants showed widespread community concern about the lack of democratic process) but they are not active against it. Yet!
Darwin people have a special love for their city, its pleasant climate, amenity and multicultural ways that city folk elsewhere come nowhere near. For sure they do not want their city to become a US barracks town. And the federal government has shown itself dead set against community consultation on the matter.
My work is to cultivate the soil of this community unease and distrust and prepare networks of association for united action in the big conflicts ahead.
To this end i am talking up a broadly supported conference for next year, tentatively called Children of the Pacific, which draws together in Darwin people from all around the Pacific who are impacted by US bases. Ideally hosted by the Larrakia Nation.
More about this in my next cycle of blogging.
Activism as a holy path, let me conclude by sharing my Mission's morning prayer.
Kneeling on my yoga mat with the morning sun warming my skin, i visualise what Dr Robert Thurman describes as the Jewel Tree of Tibet.
It is a huge and glorious tree of leaves multi-coloured and shining like gems. In its massive boughs and sitting at ease in lotus thrones is an assembly of "yiddam, dakini, wisdom masters and bodhisattvas". The Buddha is there and Lao Tsu, Jesus and the Apostles, Padmasambhava, Milarepa, Hildegarde of Bingen, Ghandi and all the saints who have ever inspired me with their wisdom and their work for peace.
The Jewel Tree is on an island in a huge and simmering crystal lake and i am sitting on a bluff on a far shore. Watching them i am filled with gratitude for the evolutionary continuum of wisdom and goodness i see represented there. I want to be one of them, to join the family of Buddhas and carry the wisdom on.
The gem-like leaves are reflecting and refracting light and the wisdom beings themselves are also radiant. Radiance is all about. The wisdom masters in their bliss states are chatting amongst themselves, happy that i want to become a Buddha.
As a blessing they focus some of that Jewel Tree light on me and i am filled with light. Other people can see that radiance in me but its source is invisible to them.
And this is how i pray:
"Bless me with usefulness!
Bless me that i might serve to make peace in this time of perpetual war.
Bless me that i may serve to preserve peace in the Pacific for this and future generations.
Bless my deeds with auspicious.
Bless my words with the power to persuade.
Bless me with many friends and companions on this path.
Bless me with good health, energy and creativity so that i may serve.
Bless me with opportunities to make art that builds community, that builds resistance, community resistance, sustainable resistance.
For the Earth.
To the dust!
May this blog amuse and inspire.
19 July 2012