Who is the Queen of Australia?

What?

You didn’t know that Australia has a queen?

Well, the Queen of Australia is not Australian.

The Queen of Australia is…..

The Queen of England…

Yes, indeed folks.

So if and when you become a naturalized citizen of Australia you are supposed to pledge allegiance to the Queen (of England). This is irksome, if you don’t believe in royalty and you do believe in social equality. Very irksome.

Australians have been trying to do something about this anomaly for some time now.

According to the book This Time by Benjamin T. Jones, “Republican voices have been heard since the early colonial days (in Australia) but they were never mainstream.” Jones documents the first Republican Campaign in Australia in 1850.

As an Australian citizen born in the USA, the fact that Australia still is NOT a republic and that the head of state is the Queen of England is almost unbelievable.   In terms of everyday life, it would seem that the Queen does not play that significant a role.

But look again, as Jones does in This Time, an easy-to-read, well-documented book about Australia’s Republican Past and Future. http://benjaminthomasjones.com/new-book-this-time-australias-republican-past-and-future/

Look again at the symbols that surround us in our everyday life in Australia.

The flag: the Union Jack is in the upper corner of the Australian flag. So what is Australian about this flag? We need a new flag. Ausflag is a non-profit organization working towards a new flag. Many beautiful and appropriate designs have been submitted to their website. Check it out at www.ausflag.com.au

Just two of many beautiful designs submitted to http://www.ausflag.com.au

Jones noted, “For many Australians, the relics of empire and monarchy are so ubiquitous that they become invisible. ” For those of us NOT born  in Australia of British background, it is quite noticeable. I already mentioned the flag, which is British rather than Australian. The coins all have the Queen of England on them, as does the five-dollar bill.

Three of the five states have British names: New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. As noted by Jones, “Every major city, and indeed most regional towns, have a central business district marked with George, Edward, Victoria and Elizabeth streets, in honour of royals past and present”. Jones asks, “What constitutional model and national symbols best represent modern Australia?”

All Australians and people interested in Australia are encouraged to read this book and think about “What does it mean to be an Australian?”

Your comments are always most welcome.  Thank you.

Shell Shock

A shell is something beautiful, signifying containment, the protective hard outer layer, yet now empty.

Thus is the novel Shell by Kristina Olsson… beautiful, containing history, events, the 1960s in Australia (1960-1966), the building of the Sydney Opera House, conscription of young men sent to Vietnam, protest, sabotage and families torn apart. P1300633 Shell Front

Shell has flashing moments of insight, of great beauty that resonates, and brings the reader closer to the main character, Pearl Keogh. Her pain at separation from her brothers, who ran away from an orphanage where they were sent after the death of their mother, goes on and on. She’s lost track of her brothers and searches for them, fearful they’ll be conscripted and sent to Vietnam.

When she eventually finds her two younger brothers,  her pain somehow dissipates. They’ve changed. Their values are far apart and irreconcilable from her own. How does Pearl keep going having achieved the goal of finding her brothers, yet realizing that they are farther apart from her than ever? Her calm acceptance of the profound chasm that has opened up between them seems  implausible.

Pearl has an on and off relationship with Axel Lindquist, a Swedish artist working on glass sculpture for the Sydney Opera House. Their time together, their lovemaking, seems random and unfulfilled. Some of the most powerful writing in Shell is of soliloquys when each of them is delving into the loss, pain, guilt and shame of their individual lives.

Each character seems to live inside her or his own shell. They don’t quite make contact with others, P1300635 Shell back .jpgincluding family members. Letters between Axel and his mother, who is in Sweden, does portray some warmth in their relationship, but it is at a distance.

Considerable time is taken up in the book regarding the process of glassmaking, which could be a metaphor for their lives and the interrupted process of the construction of the Sydney Opera House.

Shell is a book to admire, to turn over in your mind as you would a beautiful shell in your hand and yet wonder what is missing.

A beautifully written book that somehow disappoints.

 

 

 

Least Liveable City in the World?* **

Have you ever been to Lagos, Nigeria? Would you like to go?

If so, then get a copy of Welcome to Lagos. Reading this book rewards you with an engaging and complex experience, just like the city itself.

P1300631 Lagos front

I visited Lagos many many years ago. I found the city  to be fascinating, frustrating and overwhelming.

Chibundu Onuzo, the author of Welcome to Lagos is a Lagosian currently resident in the UK. In a recent interview Chibundu noted, There are so many stories in Lagos. Leaving Nigeria made me appreciate what I left behind.

Lagos has an incredible pull on Nigerians throughout the country. It sends a powerful signal of a range of possibilities that draws people into its vortex of human energy, swirling round and round.

Welcome to Lagos starts in the Delta when two soldiers desert. They pick up other people, including a guerrilla fighter, a young girl, and a battered wife, forming their own informal family, brought together by misfortune and the magnetic pull of Lagos.

The five manage to make it to Lagos and stick together, despite internal and external challenges. They survive a series of adventures that brings the reader into the heart of the contradictions within Nigeria.

Enjoy your visit to Lagos!P1300638 Lagos back

* The Economist Intelligence Unit report recently ranked Nigeria’s megacity of Lagos, with its 20 million population, as the second-worst city in the world to live in.

https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2016/08/18/the-worlds-most-liveable-cities

** Chibundo Onuzo, the author of Welcome to Lagos, disagrees, Who says the most liveable city is in the West? Culture doesn’t just live in museums.

 https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/19/vienna-lagos-economist-intelligence-unit-liveability-index

How do you define “culture”?

• Where do you find “culture”?

• What do you think makes a city “liveable”?

• If you currently live in a city, is it “liveable”?                                               Is it ranked by The Economist?

 

 

 

The Hate Race

The Hate Race

By Maxine Beneba Clarke

The Hate Race

 

Contrary to the title of the book,

a story full of love

for family

for friends

for acceptance in the face of hate.

 

Does hate exist permanently?

Is it cast in stone for ever more?

Even a stone can be worn down

over time

with the right conditions.

 

Reading The Hate Race

the reader becomes more aware

more in tune

with people around them.

Aware that words do hurt

chip chip chipping away

at a person’s sense of self until

someone is left shattered

bits and pieces in a pile.

We must open up our hearts and minds

accept ourselves and others

and win

The Hate Race.

 

Have you read books that gave you insight into another person’s suffering?

 

Do you think books can help create empathy?