Monday, November 23, 2015

Facing Facebook

Early last week I dropped out of Facebook. It got to me. All the clutter, the self-indulgence, the arguments, the banality. It was building but Paris blew it.

To be fair, I only went to it three times a day, unless, of course, as often happened, someone sent me a direct message, then I had to respond, didn’t I?

Did I? No, but I did, because I had the habit. Only one way to break a habit – break it.

I know this because I am an addict. My drugs of choice were hard booze, marijuana, and, in earlier times, anything around, including opium, hashish and a range of pills. But one day, in fact May the 13th, 1986, I woke up, went to an AA meeting, and never, ever, again, drank, smoked, dropped, shoved, any mood altering, mind blowing, substance.

Was it easy? Stopping it was, but staying stopped was a lot harder.

Back to the F book thing.

It started nice and easy, just a few friends, people who lived down the road a bit, people I saw often. It was just an addition really, an extension of an ongoing relationship. This is manageable, I thought. 

Then it built and now it includes ex-girlfriends, people I haven’t seen since the 1960s, people I may never see again who I met while travelling, working, and dreaming.

And now it also includes important people, people I care for, love, think about most days, even dead people. Yes, the dead people are still there with their own page, forever, and I don’t mind that, because it helps me keep them alive in my memory.

But when you add it all up, it’s a universe and we are not designed to cope with so many people, so much news, so much information. And it's every day, relentless, pounding - Paris, Nigeria, Kenya, Lebanon, Burma, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Esperance .... on and on, all the places I've been, never been but dreamt of visiting and all the places I know people from or still in.

Overload. Too much of everything, including misery. Can only take so much. Thought I was managing it. Wasn’t. So I dropped out.

And while I was out I remembered it also brought joy, comedy and inspiration. There was, of course, more to it than I thought when I dropped.

That was last week. This is a new week. And in your modern world of the WWW, a week is not a long time in politics, or any other profession, or even the privacy of your own home.

I’ll go back now, slowly, ease in over the next couple of days. Need a bit more time to settle, refocus, remind myself what is important. Reflect.

You too. Remember to take time out, from everything.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015


In my town there had been a long running dispute between the city and a major local body. Nothing moved. In response, I wrote this piece and was about to offer it to a local newspaper when, wonderfully, something happened. (The only addition to the original is the last line.)
It is to be hoped that the something, the seeming breakthrough, lasts and that both parties keep to their commitments.

here it is:

Leadership has been a consuming interest of mine much of my adult life. Here are some of my favourite definitions.

"A leader is best when people barely know he exists and when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: We did it ourselves." Lao-Tzu

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on.” Walter Lippmann

“The essence of leadership is the acceptance of responsibility,” General Peter Cosgrove

“The best leaders know when to lead and when to follow,” Jon Doust

And now let’s take a look at a hypothetical example and imagine what an active leader might look like.

Let’s say, for example, in your local community there is a major dispute between an important group, like a major festival committee, and the local shire.

This dispute has gone on for years and the two central figures are men who don’t like each other and can often been seen and heard yelling as though the volume, or the consistency, will change the mind of their opponent.

It never works, just like it never works when you yell at your teenage son or in the face of someone who doesn’t speak your language.

In this situation, if one of them had a solid understanding of leadership he would approach the other and say: “You know what, Fred, we’re looking like a couple of boofs with no brains. What say we find a neutral space, go into a room, just the two of us, lock the door, and we sort this mess out. Time we took the bulldust by the horns, threw out the bath water, and came to grips with the meat and gristle. What do you say?”

And Fred, because his leadership gene has been challenged, responds positively. The two boofs go into a room and come out four hours later changed, transformed, with renewed vigour and the community celebrates and moves on to more pressing issues.

Yes, I know, it seems like a dream, but I have seen it happen.

OMG, I think it just happened again.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Promise

Besart Berisha is an Albanian footballer who recently helped Melbourne victory win the Australian A League final. I didn’t watch the final but the many stories of Barisha intrigued me.

The soccer mad youngster was born in Kosovo during tough times and when he was seven his family fled to Germany where his skill with the round ball was soon recognised. They spent some time a refugee camp and it was there that the boy developed a determined will to succeed.

So why the intrigue, the interest?

The Kosovo War was fought in the late 1990s between the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, made up of the republics of Serbia and Montenegro, both Christian countries and the Kosovo Liberation Army, essentially a Muslim force.

The Berisha’s fled for a better life, but there was another time in the history of Kosovo-Albania when others fled to Albania in particular seeking refuge from an even greater evil – the Nazi version of Fascism.

During WWII Albania was first occupied by Italian troops and, after the collapse of Mussolini, the German army.

And only in recent times, following another collapse, that of the Iron Curtain and Enver Hoxha’s Albanian communist dictatorship, is the world hearing the remarkable story of the Albanian Muslims who saved almost the entire population of Jews in the region.

During the Nazi occupation, Muslims managed to not only save Jews, but also the lives of deserters from both occupying armies, men who could no longer obey orders from their screaming and insane leaders.

In an introduction to Besa, Muslims who saved Jews in world War II Akbar Ahmed writes: “Norman [the author] has shed light on the true nature of Islam as both a compassionate and an Abrahamic religion. For these Albanian Muslims, saving Jews was a religious calling because of the close bond between Jews and Muslims in Islam. By saving Jews they were being good Muslims.”

Given what we read today, who would have thought such people existed, but they did and they still do.

Norman H Gershman spent many years tracking down these Albanian saints and he also took part in a documentary that follows the journey of one man as he tracks down a family in Jerusalem so he can return three precious Hebrew texts left behind during the war. 

Rexhep Hoxha, a Muslim-Albanian toy shop owner, said by returning the books he was following his father’s wishes: “He only wanted me to finish what was left undone.”

These Albanians were not alone. Turkish ambassadors during the war were ordered by the country’s president, Ismet Inonu, to issue visas to Jews escaping Nazi death camps. Over 100,000 were issued in France and Germany alone.

Jews in Albania were hidden in the mountains, in basements, clothed as peasants, adopted as long lost cousins from other cities, it didn’t matter, their lives had to be saved. It was all about Besa, the promse

During the communist dictatorship of Enver Hoxha these stories were never told, were hidden, banned and no contact was allowed between the saved and their saviours, but now the stories have been released the world can see another kind of Islam.