Sunday, August 28, 2016

Nights of the Moon - 5 day free Kindle promotion

In a series of nightly letters written over the Muslim holy month of Ramadan (the 'Nights of the Moon'), Leila reflects on her time on Irwin Island: the long hours, the isolation and loneliness, and the arrival of the charismatic, if distant and troubled, Edin.

As her account unfolds, it reveals the deeply complex web of relationships on the island - and the surprising role Edin plays in them.

Against a background of storms, looming violence and growing mental instability, Leila's letters show how, despite her introversion and social awkwardness, she is drawn into the world of her co-workers in a way that will change their lives forever.

Nights of the Moon is a drama and mystery, set in a tiny dystopian community that serves as a microcosm for modern Western society.

Download your Kindle here. Free from 28 August to 1 September 2016.

"A compelling tale about the oftentimes scary intricacies of human behaviour... Guaranteed to keep you reading all night." - Amazon customer

Friday, July 1, 2016

"We can't take them all": defending our refugee policy

The world's refugee crisis has resulted in some 60 million displaced people mostly due to conflict - in particular in Syria but also in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Albania, Sub-Saharan Africa, Iran and Ukraine.  The Western world has become the destination for many of these refugees, fuelling a sense of panic, resistance and hostility towards them in many of its countries.

We in Australia are experiencing a small fraction of this crisis, as some of the refugees make their way around the world, enduring perilous voyages across rough seas in rickety boats to reach our shores.  We have responded either by turning back the boats or imprisoning the refugees (in deplorable conditions) in offshore detention camps on Manus Island and Nauru, and promising never to allow them the right to settle in Australia (or New Zealand, for that matter!).

We have a government that is campaigning at the very moment on its proud achievement of having "stopped the boats".  At the same time, the government boasts that it has reduced to zero the number of deaths by drowning in those rickety boats.

The bipartisan adoption of this policy should tell you that it has broad appeal among our voters. Indeed, both major parties are adopting the same hard line in tomorrow's federal election, although only one side - the Coalition - can claim to have succeeded in "stopping" the boats completely (a short-term "softer" approach by Labor in the late 2000s is widely seen as having "encouraged" a resurgence of boat arrivals).  Certainly both sides now have a more or less identical policy platform as regards refugees, with the Coalition having adopted Labor's "offshore detention" programme (the so-called "Pacific Solution").

So how did we stop the boats"?  Very simply.  We made an example of those who dared seek asylum here.  We then sent advertisements back to their home countries warning further asylum seekers not to bother trying to come to Australia.

We have treated those who arrived here with great cruelty in order to deter others from seeking our help.  It hasn't mattered whether they have been men, women or children.  All have gone to indefinite imprisonment without charge, never mind trial or conviction.

The cruelty has been so great it has led some to self-immolate (ie. burn themselves alive).  We haven't even cared enough to provide appropriate, timely medical care (it's their own fault after all).  Others have gone on hunger strikes, sewn their lips together or doubtlessly tried to self-harm in myriad other ways.

In truth, we may never know much about what has happened to refugees attempting to seek asylum in Australia.  Because boat turn-backs have become confidential military operations while the conditions in the detention centres are shrouded in secrecy.  We get a few reports of the critical state of asylum seeker mental health on both Nauru and Manus.  And we know that Australian workers in those centres are suffering their own post-traumatic stress based simply on what they are seeing on a daily basis.  But otherwise we, the Australian public, are not permitted to know anything - presumably lest we get "misty-eyed about this".

Because hey, it's all justified isn't it?  When it comes to refugees "we can't take them all".  If we relaxed our policy (as the foolish Labor government did in the late 2000s) we'd be "swamped".  Our infrastructure wouldn't cope.  Our culture would be overwhelmed.  Punishing a few innocent people (and everyone is entitled to a presumption of innocence) is a necessary means to stop these "illegal economic migrants".  Besides, we've stopped so many drownings at sea.

But something is wrong with this whole analysis.  And this should be obvious from a single fact:

Our nearest neighbours - Indonesia, East Timor and Papua New Guinea, have a combined population exceeding 260 million people.  The bulk of this population is desperately poor.  They are only a relatively short boat ride away from us.  Why aren't they streaming across the sea in their millions as illegal economic migrants?

Well here's the obvious answer: maybe it's because no one is trying to "bomb them back to the stone age".  Maybe, just maybe, people who aren't facing war or famine just tend to stay where they are, regardless of less than ideal economic circumstances - even grinding third world poverty.

But why would that be?

The answer is to be found in one word: inertia. Most people in the world still die in the city in which they were born. The bulk of humanity is afraid of change and will prefer their own backyards, however problematic, to an unknown. My father and his brother were the only ones on both sides of my parents' families to leave the former Yugoslavia when it was possible to do so. Why? Because they were a particular type of personality.

Unlike my parents, I have lived in Perth for 31 years and will almost certainly remain here until I die - despite many offers to work in exotic places ranging from the UK, Bermuda and Norfolk Island (not to mention other States and Territories in Australia). Why? Because I am not like my parents. I am more typically subject to the usual human inertia. Were people to start bombing Perth however...

So the belief held by refugee-fearing folk (both here in Australia and elsewhere in the Western world) that people from poor countries are determined to come to our countries at all costs, is overblown - if not entirely incorrect.

Most refugees from Syria and Iraq moved into UN refugee camps just over one of their countries' borders. Of the 60 million people who have been displaced by recent wars, less than 2 million are banging on Europe's door. I imagine there would be even fewer if the UN camps weren't over-crowded desert hell-holes with ever-diminishing resources and facilities and increasing security risks. At the peak of boat arrivals, Australia was receiving less than 20,000 people by boat annually.

There is, of course, also the very deep irony that those who make it all the way to Australia by boat without lengthy periods in UN camps are very likely the personality type that is most determined to survive by their own means.  It is no surprise then that the Australian Bureau of Statistics has found such humanitarian migrants to be the most entrepreneurial among new Australians.  By comparison, refugees taken from UN camps have been noted as (understandably) developing a high welfare dependency. So natural selection gives us boat people with the kind of "pioneer work ethic" that built Australia, and people who have not spent years getting used to living off aid. Yet we reject these people as "queue jumpers". We reject them precisely because of their initiative, dogged determination and higher likelihood of economic self-sufficiency.  Go figure.

For these reasons, we Australians need to stop punishing innocent refugees in order to deter the arrival of others. It is appalling in both morality and logic. We may have "stopped the boats" coming into our waters, and "stopped drownings" in our waters, but we haven't reduced the misery of the refugees: we've simply moved that misery out of sight and mind.

After all, who knows what happens to the people in the boats that have been "turned back"?  Who knows what happens to the people who decide not to try to seek asylum in Australia after seeing advertisements warning them of the futility of this action?

If we really want to stop the refugee crisis, we should start by examining its causes - including endless wars, particularly in the Middle East - and our indifference or contribution to those causes. We won't stop it by punishing some of its innocent victims.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Brexit and "demonisation"

Well the Brexit fallout is now upon the UK and prominent "Leavers" like Nigel Farage are attracting their fair share of criticism, indeed
"demonisation", both by "Remainers" and those suffering "Regrexit".

Is this fair?  Given how the Leave campaign was conducted and the possible (indeed likely) consequences, I say yes.

In the video below, Professor Michael Dougan outlines (precisely and accurately) not only the inherent dishonesty of the Leave campaign, but also the effects of the referendum result.  In particular he discusses the issues that confront lawmakers in deciding how, if at all, to implement the Leave decision, and the constitutional crisis now facing the UK as a consequence.

In these circumstances I think it is entirely fair to focus ire on those leading a campaign that was fundamentally misleading and dangerously divisive and irresponsible.

Consider Farage in particular. I see him as a figure who deserves "demonisation" precisely because he is somewhat "demonic" - albeit in the rather banal guise that bigoted nationalism and jingoistic patriotism generally wears.

The worrying thing for me is that people like him hijack real issues, like immigration and globalisation, for their own purposes, obfuscating them so they cannot be discussed in the absence of an agenda (in Farage's case, an "independent UK", whatever that means).  This is a process some have labelled "Trumpism" (see below):

I believe that's what has happened in Brexit. Farage set a lure, David Cameron fell for it, and millions were swept up in a proposal that had no plan and was never intended to have a plan.

And it is important to note that some serious economic, political and legislative analysis and planning were necessary to ensure any sort of safe, responsible exit from Europe. This should have been done well before any referendum. But nothing like this happened.  Cameron and the "Remainers" never expected a successful Leave vote, and so they didn't bother exposing the complete lack of any Brexit plan (or any other contingency plan).  Johnson, Gove et al didn't expect to win either - so they saw no need to create such a plan.  I don't think Farage was remotely interested in the specifics of a plan - whatever the outcome.

Compare the referendum on Scottish independence: debated over a two year period and accompanied by a 670 page white paper published ten months before the vote.  By contrast, the Brexit referendum was debated over a ten week period.  And the Leave campaign couldn't muster more than a 16 page pdf in large font - a total of 1293 words.

And so the UK is left with what is, frankly, a ludicrous, unworkable referendum result that, ironically, does not address any of the issues raised as motivators, but if implemented will cause a lot of pain. How long it might take to disentangle the UK from Europe - with all its current myriad complex regulatory and economic ties - is anyone's guess. But all the experts will tell you it's pie-in-the sky to imagine any result but a recession - likely on a global scale, never mind in the UK.

And that says nothing of the very real possibility of the total breakup of the UK.  Scotland is already talking of a second independence referendum.  Northern Ireland is in an uncertain (some might say untenable) position that does not really allow it to remain in the UK for any length of time.  Wales might have voted by majority to leave, but this seems more of a protest at being ignored by Westminster.  The heavily EU-funded country might hang on with England for a while, but I see it ultimately splitting off from England the way Montenegro split from Serbia.  Then the Balkanisation of the UK will be complete.  "Great Britain" will become "Little Britain" (see the video below).

But this is all predicated on Brexit going ahead. I hope it doesn't.

So forgive me, but I'm inclined to demonise populists like Farage who peddle non-solutions to social/political/economic/legislative problems - just as I am quite inclined to demonise those who peddle quackery instead of medical science. It is, after all, political science in which Farage is meddling - yet he is to this field what an anti-vaxxer is to medicine. And millions of decent people were taken in by his "solution" - with virtually no effective response from Cameron or the other "Remainers". All because the establishment (particularly the conservative side) were too arrogant to acknowledge this petty nationalist as a threat - and anticipate the rising tide of disenchantment with establishment politics (with which I can sympathise) resulting in an honest, but misguided, protest vote.

In my view, Farage and his ilk deserve all the trashing they can get. Not that it seems to bother them particularly (see below)...

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Shadow of Dusk - 5 day free download special

The Shadow of Dusk has now been published by Pikkeljig Press and is available for free download on Kindle for the next 5 days!

New cover for Nights of the Moon

Following the release of "The Shadow of Dusk", Pikkeljig Press has announced a corresponding new cover for "Nights of the Moon".  I love it!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

First review of "Nights of the Moon" - 5 stars!

I'm very happy to report the first Amazon review of Nights of the Moon - and that it's a 5 star one too!

If you're one of the many who downloaded the book recently (particularly during the free promotion) I'd very much appreciate your review as well!

For those who haven't read it yet, the novel has the following summary:

Leila is a dreamer. She dreams of a successful career, a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence, a "half-decent partner", a couple of kids and maybe even a dog thrown into the bargain. She dreams of writing poetry. But she lives on remote mining sites, working eleven hour days in the fierce desert heat - in a not-so-distant future where there are few, if any, other options on the table. Most recently, Leila finds herself dreaming of a brief halcyon time on Irwin Island in the far north of Western Australia - and Edin: a quietly charming but complex and often inscrutable man with a troubled past. "Nights of the Moon" is a bittersweet drama and mystery, exploring the challenges and realities facing modern relationships - and just what it takes to find fulfillment and meaning in life.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Five day free promotion of Nights of the Moon!

Nights of the Moon has proved so popular, particularly in Africa, that we've decided to run a 5 day free download promotion for Kindle!

Get your free download here!

Remember: you don't need a Kindle to read Kindle books - you can just use their online reading app.

The promotion lasts through 8 April 2016.

Happy reading!