By John Stapleton. The Long Read.
This is Chapter Two, How It All Ends, of the upcoming book Australia Breaks Apart, the sequel to Unfolding Catastrophe Australia.
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
A freezing winter, diabolically bad weather, lockdowns, and the unparalleled brutality of Australia’s malfunctioning political system.
All of it combined; in those days before it all went feral.
“It’s surprising people aren’t more angry,” was a common enough comment; particularly by those who had been screwed over by the authoritarian derangement in the country, when every little fascist in the country had been unleashed, as they held their temporary power and their temporary moral ground; before reality defied and denied them all. In this little edifice, or place, Oak Flats, this little ledge on a diminishing authority. In this place which, unlike much of the country, would, if his waking dreams were correct, see great prosperity in the years, the decades, the centuries to come; it was as if nothing had happened. While much about this period of Australian history was incredibly confused, those visions of a prosperous future, of a highly developed culture, of soaring buildings giving all the appearance of floating in the sky, those visions never contradicted themselves.
In the Australia of that day, that time in between, evil got rewarded.
Cognitive dissonance reigned.
And the feeling that frequently besieged him, of being from the future, cast back into a primitive time and place, of being utterly intrigued by what he saw, as if an anthropologist fascinated by a stone age tribe, or a biologist fascinated by another lifeform, never left him.
For years the biggest story in the country had been the slow motion collapse of the Australia of old.
Now, with the country imprisoned by the world’s most extreme lockdowns and insane levels of social restrictions, introduced without debate or parliamentary approval in what was tantamount to martial law, introduced under the cover of Covid-19, it had all come to pass, seemingly in an instant.
The previous four books he had written on this pivotal point in Australian history, Terror in Australia: Workers’ Paradise Lost, Hideout in the Apocalypse, Dark Dark Policing and Unfolding Catastrophe: Australia, all warned of a darkening time.
He had felt compelled to write them, he was never quite sure why.
Now, when he looked back, it was as if someone else had actually written them; that all he did was act as a transmission point.
Let me be an instrument of your peace; except this had nothing to do with peace. This was all about conflict. The Imperial Warship had landed. For some it was the Second Coming. View it as you like.
These were darkening times, and these books, switching from street scenes to fantastical flights of the imagination to reportage, all had a certain prophetic tone to them.
Shocking even to him, who had written them, mostly in the early hours of the morning, was how quickly it had all come to pass.
The books were all written in the third person. Alex, a dishevelled retired newspaper reporter who bears a passing resemblance to the author, was the vehicle through which the nation’s story was told.
All four books ended with a warning of a totalitarian future.
This is the ending for Terror in Australia: Workers’ Paradise Lost.
“It’s terrible what’s happened to this city,” Old Alex said to the Vietnamese woman making his coffee at the late night cafe in Kings Cross, once a vibrant entertainment district in the heart of Sydney.“You not only one say terrible,” she said. “Many people say same. The government, so many rules.”
Alex was sad, he explained, because he had been born here; had some identity with the country. The city he once treated as his own backyard was lost.
“Maybe it get better in the future,” the Vietnamese woman said, handing him his coffee and his change.
“I don’t think so,” he replied. “I doubt it very much.”
Walking back to the office where he commonly worked from midnight to dawn, a time when the buzz of humans all around him was less intense, he passed, again and again, derelict scenes in the street; and wanted to be long gone.
A group of Middle Eastern men drove past in a spanking new Bentley. They barely noticed the societal collapse they were driving through; more than comfortable inside their own world. You didn’t drive around this town in a brand new Bentley because you worked nine to five. This was a city where crime had always paid.
Walking once again past the promotional “Building the Future” signs erected by the Sydney City Council, he knew for certain: this was Paradise Lost, and it was never coming back.
Whatever form the society would take in the future, and there would be considerable chaos and bloodshed before the final outcome, it was not the world he had grown up in, and it was not the world the social engineers had hoodwinked the people into believing it was.
Screwed by the left and screwed by the right. Jihad within and jihad without. Terror within and terror without. The freedoms of thought, expression, conduct, enterprise, character which had once been so much a part of Australia had vanished.
In those weeks and months that held breath, it felt as if the battle between those trying to trigger an enlightenment and those trying to trigger an apocalypse could go either way.
Signs and portents were everywhere.
For some reason an expression by a rough sleeper he had become friendly with in the Nepalese lakeside city of Pokhara kept popping into his head:
“You think you the only tiger in the jungle. Not possible.”
The fanatical, the fantastical and the theological, all had far too much to do with the present circumstance. Alex scanned the news and despaired. He read easily accessible advice to jihadists on the best smartphones and encryption programs, while the Australian government pounded on about terror.
Increasingly appalled, he read account after account of massacres, tortures, murders, looked at pictures, as millions of people in the West had done, of those about to die.
Imagine a world where it was impossible to lie?
In those days before, Alex sincerely hoped, an ultimate grace settled upon mankind, a grace that would not be at the behest of any faith, that would not be held within the frame of any belief, there were too many deaths, too much butchery. In that microcosm of Australia where he had been born, a depressed population, muttering in its own frustrations, abandoned all hope that the wider world would ever make sense; and watched football instead.
“There are more things in heaven and on earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” went the Shakespeare line, while the words “Apocryphal” and “Apocalypse” shimmered in the middle distance.
The world he had known was gone.
“Be happy that you knew it,” an old friend advised when he expressed his anger at the empty streets, the impoverished state of the country, the hapless state of the media, the gathering strength of the Sharia, the contempt for native spiritualities, the barbarians inside the gate, the horror that had enveloped the world. “Be grateful that you knew it when it was good.”
Alex, he would sometimes mutter to himself, was dyslexic across time and space. Tell him to do one thing and he would do another, turn left and he would turn right. He didn’t like being told what to think, on spiritual matters or anything else. Nor had most of the people he had ever known.
“Be happy,” he thought, “that many of your friends died before they could be stoned to death. Be happy that they weren’t faced with the choice, convert or die. Be happy that as apostates they weren’t crucified or beheaded. Because they would never have converted. It wasn’t in their nature.”
Over his lifespan he had seen the wheel turn several times: everything he and that initial little band he had partied with so hard back in the sixties and seventies had believed in, all of it had been dumped from the buckets of the Ferris wheel into a vacant allotment. The rise of the wowsers. The rise of middle class probity. The rise of the politically correct. The rise of the Christians. The rise of Islamic State.
This time around it wasn’t just melancholy at the loss of a few souls, or the loss of a scene or demimonde. This time around he grieved for the loss of everything, his home, Australia, a place, the spirits of old, the landscapes that had breathed a timeless spirituality and the inner-city demimondaines which had breathed a licentious thrill, a place where all delinquent, time-sliding souls met before departure; in the once crowded streets which had been so much a part of his youth.
A place where they had laughed, genuinely and freely, in delight at each other’s physical forms. A place where they could love; and be loved. A place where they had been, for however a brief a time in the firmament, free.
“The world’s gone mad,” the old newspaper reporter said as he passed people on his morning walk.
“Didn’t make any sense anyway,” comes the response.
Australia was shutting down. Extreme measures introduced purportedly to stop the spread of Covid-19 required extreme policing measures and mass indoctrination to force a sceptical population, accustomed to being lied to by their government, to comply.
Empowered by tough new laws and public pressure, police forces were testing how far they could go in punishing behaviour that was ordinarily routine, keeping their political masters happy while increasing their own power.
In Australia, the authorities had threatened people sitting alone drinking coffee with six months in jail, or for sitting in their cars, for not having a good reason to have left their house, for eating a kebab on a park bench.
Under those conditions, where basic humanity was lost, the perpetrators act like predators and the targets like prey.
Hideout in the Apocalypse was about surveillance and the crushing of Australia’s larrikin spirit. The government knew when it introduced the panopticon, universal surveillance, that it would have a devastating impact on the culture.
If people know they are being watched they behave differently. Dissent is stifled, conformity becomes the norm, the population easier to manage.
At the same time the Australian government had prosecuted the greatest assault on freedom of speech in the nation’s history. The media was highly manipulated, and journalists closely monitored. They were now classified as Persons of Interest for the nation’s security agencies, an outlandish assault on the Fourth Estate.
A democracy in name only, in Australia the war on terror had become a war on the people’s right to know, justifying an unprecedented expansion of state power. Now we had Covid-19.
Below is the closing sequence for Hideout.
At the Tables of Knowledge scattered across the country there was nothing but contempt for their political leaders from a stubborn, resentful, disillusioned and increasingly embittered population.
The once staunch left leaning Labor voters who populated the beer garden at the Lakeview Hotel, builders labourers, concreters, plasterers, truckies, electricians, carpenters, mixed with subsiding alcoholics in poor health, switched their vote.
A year or two before, few of them would have ever admitted publicly their politically incorrect support for ultra-nationalist anti-mass immigration advocate Senator Pauline Hanson, leader of One Nation.
Now, she garnered the protest vote, and they supported her to a man, or woman.
Fueled by resentment, some of the often vacuous chatter was now vicious: “I can’t wait to watch Pauline string up the first rope.”
But the vast majority of it was simply the voices of people who had had enough; sick of a country where nothing worked, where everything was expensive, where government mangled into every part of their lives, where fat cats and politicians stole their taxes, where their own opinions and hard work were regarded as of no account.
The identity politics of the day, refugees, lesbian mothers, aboriginals in
custody, ignored the muddling middle.
Not one politician stood up and declared to ordinary workers: “I am going to make your life better.”
The social engineers, their tertiary acquired groupthink theories failing to take in the real world, reaped what they had sowed: contempt.
One of the Australia’s most esteemed writers, Richard Flanagan, delivered
a heartfelt condemnation of the country in which he dwelled: “Every day we hear grim and grimmer news that suggests we are passing through the winter of the world. Everywhere man is tormented, the globe reels from multitudes of suffering and horror, and, worst, we no longer know with confidence what our answer might be. And yet we understand that the time approaches when an answer must be made or a terrible reckoning will be ours.”
Resentment curdled everywhere.
A petition went up online for returned soldiers, sent to war by the very government which now ignored them: “When you slip into your warm bed tonight, over 100 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan wars will sleep rough in parks around Australia. Cold, hungry and suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of service to their country, these brave veterans deserve better. They need a place to shower, to eat, to sleep and to talk to other veterans who understand what they are going through. But where do they go? How can the government justify spending millions and millions on refugees yet forget those who were prepared to lay down their lives for the country they love???
The horsemen wheeled out onto the plains of Dabiq.
And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
The drones flew overhead. Western bombs rained down on crying children.
The massacres grew worse. Talk of a World War was everywhere in the wind.
So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and gathered the grapes of the earth, and he threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and the blood that flowed from it rose as high as the bridles of the horses…
In those waking dreams which continued to haunt the old news reporter, the attempts by those who had sent him and hundreds of others like him to rescue a race from an apocalypse, to avoid the gifting of billions of souls to the Dark Lords, stood on the precipice of failure.
The world had ignored the warnings of the town criers. The Enlightenment had failed. Time was running out.
The books he had loved as a youth began to recycle rapidly through his
brain. Ask not For Whom the Bell Tolls, it tolls for thee.
The policies and procedures were in place, the rules and regulations drafted. The place had been prepared. The plane was on the tarmac. There was a gap in the air, that intake of breath prior to calamity.
We will meet in the place where there is no darkness, in the middle of the torture chamber.
But it would all avail the torturers nought; their feeble souls the flashes of light at the edge of a firestorm, barely existing before they were gone, destroyed in the maelstrom they themselves had helped create.
Above, as it had done all year, the sky burned.
All of the books warn of a darkening time; and unimaginable as it once was, the implausible was now becoming the reality. Below is the closing sequence for Dark Dark Policing.
“Swampie”, as he was so appropriately called, a former bikie and a member of Oak Flats royalty, was back for a brief stint from his FIFO, Fly In Fly Out work in the Northern Territory.
“Plunder the poor, give to the rich.” The retired news reporter repeated the old line when the conversation drifted to the government of the day.
“Why haven’t they risen up?” Swampie asked, gesturing towards the lines of suburban houses surrounding them. “Why hasn’t there been a revolution already?”
Alex shrugged: “There will be. Millions more unemployed in a chronically mismanaged economy, that will do it. You can only treat people like dirt for so long. You can only lie to the public for so long.”
All around where he was staying the once bucolic hills and pastures of a dairy farm were being scraped for a $700 million freeway. Wind whipped the topsoil into mini dust storms while thousands of houses sprung up in the surrounding suburbs, seemingly overnight.
“Where are these people going to find work?” Alex asked, only to be met with a shrug.
The democratic contract was broken; Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his predecessors had perpetrated the crime.
The media hunts in packs. And every journalist in the country now had Morrison in their sights. Shameless as he was, politics would prove just as big a public humiliation for the current Prime Minister as it had for his predecessor and mate, Malcolm Turnbull. And his predecessor in turn, Tony Abbott. The worst Australia’s political class had to offer. The worst of the worst.
The public and the media were “woke”, as the expression of the moment went, and no amount of “nothing to see here” shuffle could save this hapless brand of conservatism.
Now the talk was not of Recession but a Depression, a belated acceptance of a reality already gripping many parts of Australia.
The headlines told it all: “Chinese company approved to run water-mining operation in drought-stricken Queensland”, “Australia’s vast household debt a giant economic millstone”, “The economic outlook for Australia has tanked”, “International Monetary Fund has sharply downgraded forecasts for the Australian economy”, “Australian economy to limp along as consumers struggle”.
“Our plunging economy”, “How the Government protects its donors and tax dodgers”, “Government caves to a few ‘big interests’.”
“Morrison government paid empathy consultant $190,000.”
“Mining giant given millions in grant by Coalition from fund for Indigenous disadvantage.”
As for Alex’s own story, trapped as he sometimes felt in one mortal frame after another, it was about to take a giant, joyful leap.
But for those both brief and interminable months, caught in the suburbs where he had never wanted to be, unable to tell friend from foe, depressed by the state of the country and damaged by the harassment of the so-called “national security” agencies, he was forced to summon help from that far-off place, from those who had conquered quantum entanglement long ago.
Old Alex kept asking for that idol of his youth Bertrand Russell, for high intellect and compassionate insight, and instead got the curmudgeonly Eric Blair, aka George Orwell, a man who wrote beautifully about the downtrodden and the working poor but who in truth was not of them.
A prophet who did not live to see his most famous book, Nineteen Eighty-Four, have the profound impact that it did. And who in this era, almost seventy years after his death from tuberculosis, was quoted more than any living writer.
Old Alex kept asking for an ability to see the flows of history, and instead got drunken poets — Dylan Thomas, Malcolm Lowry, Henry Lawson — so many thousands of others who had died their own remote, unkind deaths; alcoholics, street junkies, the most isolated and denigrated of mankind. And especially here, in this cold, windy place, the spirits whose names he could not decipher, the ancestors of this place, the wise and courageous, noble and poor, those who had loved and been loved, warriors who had seen their own tribes conquered and who grieved to this very day.
Old Alex left that jinn-soaked place, with its harsh winters and the sad whispering of its ancients, the trees fringing the lake, the working man’s cottages, all the stories of the sometimes funny-as, inevitably drunken exploits of its denizens. He left the uber-surveillance perpetrated by the most patently corrupt and appallingly mismanaged government in the nation’s history. And flew free.
“Take it as a badge of honour they even noticed you,” he was advised. “Do what I told you to do a long time ago: laugh at them. You are one. They are thousands. And you know what you’ve got on your side that they do not? Truth.”
Prophecies are warnings; frightening moments of clairvoyance. The vision-soaked dreams of the strange and the restless, the food riots of the future, desert gulags, soldiers in black riot gear manning every street corner, sad, derelict cities, the gleaming edifices which rose and fell far out to sea, they were already twisting into the present.
His prophecies were unlikely to be heeded; for greed is blind. Even as those borne-aloft intelligences he was gifted to see circled in otherworldly anger, attempting to change the course of nations and the course of history, they knew that humans were fatally flawed. Most particularly in this place, so far from the centre of things; where the worst of the worst prayed for a righteous nation in flights of delusion as they rigged a government replete with malevolent spirits and staffed with those of unparalleled greed and self-aggrandisement, characterised from top to bottom by malfeasance and incompetence, by a grand ignorance of the people they purported to represent and who, instead, they robbed.
Historians would look back and wonder how it was that a country’s ruling elites could so savagely betray, so audaciously rob, their fellow countrymen. How integrity and decency were so easily abandoned. How they could with such blundering idiocy and staggering incompetence destroy the very place which had made them rich.
Why the population did not rise up even quicker than they did.
How a once optimistic country lost its way.
The evil that men do lives after them.
You did not need the gift of prophecy to know that future historians would view the Abbott–Turnbull–Morrison era as the worst period of governance in Australia’s history, a time when a terrible brutality was born.
And then Covid hit, the brutality, indeed the insanity of Australia’s response making headlines around the world. Here are the closing sequences for Unfolding Catastrophe: Australia.
The national derangement was complete.
A Melbourne hospital prevented a mother from seeing her son, who was suffering from a severe brain injury after a motor crash.
“We haven’t been able to see our son since he woke up from a coma.. We just want to hug our son.”
Police were filmed arresting and pepper‐spraying a bunch of ratbag kids, average age perhaps twelve, after one of them refused to wear a mask into a shop and the rest gave them “a bit of lip”.
The largely deserted working‐class shopping mall saw yet another conflagration between police and the citizenry; every last one of the tweens involved under age.
They might have been too young to legally have sex, but they weren’t too young to be pepper‐sprayed and arrested in what the authorities had been assuring us was the new COVID normal.
This was the unravelling. This was one of the cascading moments in time, in that kaleidoscope of incidents, when the authorities lost control of their own behaviour, the public lost all faith in the authorities, and the official narrative lost all credibility.
A man was fined $5000 for drinking a cup of takeaway coffee in the street, in the remote central Australian town of Alice Springs. Surrounded by some of the world’s most beautiful desert country, there was not, and had never been, a single solitary case of Covid in the town. Footage showed the man being wrestled to the ground and his coffee spilling onto the street.
This was the hell you created..
There is an old Jesuit saying, “Set the world alight!”
Well, so you did. But how can anyone bow down to these false, lunatic gods?
The prime minister was spending a lot of time “on his prayer knees”, as he told a slavish media. The result: the rest of the country was enduring an End Time delusion.
Twelve million in lockdown for the panicked fear of a disease few had any chance of catching, and those who did, an even remoter chance of dying from.. How is that not the Angel of Death? How is that not a national derangement? How is this not The Origins of Totalitarianism?
Where the darkest of Lords reap the souls of men.
The actions of the Australian authorities impugned through our every sense of self; of the familiarity and comfort of routines which humans establish by their very nature.
As many other writers had commented; there was a strange spirituality to the season, a dangerous dementia of the occult; or so it often felt.
And in all of this, this utterly lunatic time, there was the absolute immediate consequence; of lives and futures destroyed.
Close to home, Old Alex’s local cafe, The Village Fix, was shut after the owner was arrested for not wearing a mask; the dozen or so police coordinating, apparently, with the local daily newspaper, The Illawarra Mercury, to make sure the dramatic scenes were splashed all over their front page.
The paper breathlessly reported that some people were frightened to come into town because someone wasn’t wearing a mask. There might have been little or no scientific evidence that masks were effective in stopping the spread of COVID, but they were very good at instilling fear and a heightened sense of danger into a population; in manufacturing a psychic derangement.
Officers fined owner Anthony Reale, 41, $1000 for not wearing a face mask or ensuring that three of his employees wore masks..
His wife, Natalie, mother of their three young children, was also arrested. “We have been put through the wringer,” she told him. “Now we have to deal
with all the expense of courts and lawyers. We have done nothing wrong. It was a setup. Putting us on the front page has meant we have had threats; as have other organic stores who have adopted the same stance.
A world upside down.
“What sort of police involve themselves in activities against ordinary citizens which can lead to them being threatened, to endangering my family like this? None of the stories mention the struggles of small business, or that have some mask exemptions, which are very bad for some people’s health.
“We have quite a bit of support across the world. Cafes from across Australia and America have messaged us; and we have also had threats; but the support outweighs the threats.. We have been dragged through hell; I was treated like a dog.”
NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Gary Worboys said the cafe was flagrantly disregarding Covid‐19 protocols..
“There was an absolute clear resistance from the cafe owner and those people at front-of-house to actually wear a mask,” Mr Worboys said. “It is clearly irresponsible.”
What was clearly irresponsible policing in this derangement spreading through the entire society was the destruction of perfectly decent people’s lives and livelihoods; their public shaming, exposing a family with young children to public threat.
Wherever Old Alex happened to be, he frequented the earliest opening cafe, which is how he got to know the family which ran Village Fix. You couldn’t find more decent, harder‐working people.. And just like him, they didn’t believe the government narrative either.
What was truly irresponsible was the amount of stress government functionaries were placing on ordinary citizens; a derangement of the era causing scenes of conflict between citizens and police right across the country.
The veneer of civilisation proved virus‐thin. The consequences of lock-downs and the remaking of Australian society would spill down the generations. The derangement that took over the political class and the absolute mismanagement of the Covid crisis, beginning in early 2020, would seriously damage the welfare of hundreds of thousands of families; and mark the nation’s descent into a totalitarian hell. For out of the humus of that destructive time, new kinds of leaders and forms of government would arise. A new kind of apartheid; a new kind of mass psychosis would reshape a subjugated population, the towns, the communities, families, the isolated and the much loved, transforming the way Australians interacted and cared for each other. The era would birth a new kind of cruelty..
And those who inherited this future would wonder, above all else, how anyone of conscience could have let this happen?
Feature Image: Post-apocalyptic Sydney, Australia, by Tsunehisa Kimura, 1984.
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