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Don Aitkin

The Young and the Old

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I’ll leave my summary of the Handout Election campaign until next week. In this essay I want to say something about the differences between the attributes of the old and the young, which have blossomed for me in the past few weeks, to some degree because of what could be well described as the children’s crusade against climate change. So, to age. In 1953 our Latin class was devoted, in a manner of speaking, to two great texts, Virgil’s AeneidBook II and Cicero’s De Senectute (about old age). Cicero had some great advice about how to prepare for old age, and how to…

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Anzac Day and ‘nationalism’

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Some 37,000 people attended the dawn service at the Australian War Memorial on Anzac Day. That’s a bit less than ten per cent of Canberra’s population. We were not part of that crowd, but our nursing home put on an Anzac Day service that was sensitive and well thought-out. We did go to that one, and as usual, I kept thinking about what ‘Anzac’ means now, and what the young people think about it. Last year 17,000 Australians and New Zealanders went to the service at Gallipoli; this year, given the recent strife in the Middle East, and the warnings…

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Living in a nursing home

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For the last five months I have been living in a nursing home, and because there is a Royal Commission inquiring into what happens in such dwellings I thought it might be useful to set out what it is like, at least in our place, whose name I shan’t mention, because this is not an advertorial. My wife and I are here because we have the highest ACAT ratings, she because of dementia (I am her carer) and me because I have an incurable cancer that has robbed me of a lot of strength. I need looking after, too.  And we…

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Some real climate changes

By | Other | 151 Comments

Website essay 78:  17 April 2019 Every now and then I read something that changes my thinking, or fascinates me, so that I go on to more and more reading in the area. One of my sons gave me a book to read, saying that I might find it interesting. The book, Fingerprints of the Gods, is by Graham Hancock, not a scientist or an historian, and plainly almost an obsessive. More about the book shortly. Thirty or more years ago I became interested in the myth of the lost city of Atlantis, of which Plato is the early historian, and read…

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How close will the election result be?

By | Other | 145 Comments

The last opinion poll I saw had Labor at 52 and the Coalition at 48, both figures in the two-party-preferred style. There have been three opinion poll results since the Budget, two of which have a 2 per cent gain or thereabouts for the Coalition, the other a gain to Labor. Given that the conventional error margin in such polling is around 3 per cent, those outcomes would be within the error margin. Conventional’ means just that — it is a convention, not greatly to be relied upon. Oh, having watched Clive Palmer’s expensive television campaign for the new United…

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What sort of climate change policy does Australia need?

By | Other | 111 Comments

I had to search for the actual Labor climate change policy, after Mr Shorten had announced it the other day. Too many of the media sources stayed with the leaks about what would be in it, but I finally found the official Labor source. It is long and full of assertions that have little basis in evidence. ‘Labor accepts the science of climate change’, it begins, and that is a bad start, for there is a great deal of science about climate, and it by no means points in the one direction. And the Policy tells us that various experts…

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An unexpected result?

By | Other | 155 Comments

WA A few days ago I was at a regular monthly lunch, and the conversation moved to the likely result in the NSW elections. Most of the company thought that Gladys would get back, and the common use of ‘Gladys’ tells you something. She may not be a great Premier (I have no inside knowledge), but she is widely seen as straightforward. She is no beauty (cf Kristina Keneally, a former Labor woman Premier) but that doesn’t matter. She qualifies in terms of the impression she gives of being on top of her job, fearless, and confident. I remember Julia…

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Growing older, and planning for the future

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This is a personal story, and it does have a moral, that we all may need a Plan B. When I was born, in 1937, my male age-cohort had an average life expectancy of 65 years, the girls 68. I retired at 65, and that was in 2002, seventeen years ago. In my head, so to speak, I am ageless, but if you press me, I will say that I feel about 37 — old enough to know how not to repeat past mistakes, and young enough to be able to do most things that I did when I was…

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Christchurch, Anning and the Egg-boy

By | Other | 70 Comments

When I learned of the massacre at Christchurch, a city of which I am fond, I had an immediate sick feeling. Somehow I had expected something like this for a long time — a sort of retaliation for the senseless ISIS bombings in Europe and Bali. Sooner or later it was going to happen. Then came a second even sicker feeling when I learned that the perpetrator was an Australian. That’s all we need. There will be a response before long, and probably in our country. I’m not sure that I can be usefully alert; I am certainly alarmed. I…

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A new Children’s Crusade

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In 1212 another Crusade to the Holy Land took place, and this one now has the popular name ‘the Children’s Crusade’, because it is thought to have been prompted by visions that came to children in France and Germany, and because many children apparently took part in it. Some were sold into slavery. The name was also given to a civil rights movement in the USA in 1963. What we saw last week could be given the same appellation, though this time the focus was on ‘climate change’, not civil rights (unless you draw a long bow) or the Holy…

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