‘Byron Bay to Bradley’ was held last week at the Community Centre as part of the Global Days of Actions. It was in solidarity with US Army Private Bradley Manning, who is accused of leaking the WikiLeaks ‘Collateral Murder’ video.
It made international headlines in April – though it was filmed in 2007 – and depicts three airstrikes from a US Apache helicopter in New Baghdad. At least eleven people were killed in the airstrikes, including two journalists working for Reuters. The US army has kept Manning in isolation since his arrest on May 29, according to www.bradleymanning.org, and he needs at least $50,000 to defend himself. He is facing 52 years imprisonment and is under suicide watch.
Leaking footage of US soldiers wilfully killing unarmed civilians is more than a military PR nightmare – it highlights humanity’s futile endeavours with wars that are invariably over religion, sovereignty, resources and ideology. US national security was not threatened by this action, however The New York Times reported that Manning is also accused
of leaking over 240,000 classified intelligence reports and diplomatic cables involving the war in Afghanistan. That is a threat to US national security, and most likely the reason he will be jailed for most of his life. WikiLeaks defended disclosure of the material, saying transparency is essential to democracy.
‘The Taliban have already stated they are reading the documents, looking for names and will go and kill any Afghan listed as being an informant or connected to those who worked with/for NATO,’ a forum contributor to Manning’s site says. ‘With this security leak, informants now see that they are not safe and fewer – or perhaps none – will be willing to come out with information.’ So is Manning hero or villain?
Arguably one of the images that was instrumental in changing the American public’s views on the Vietnam War was of the execution of a Viet Cong guerrilla by South Vietnam’s national police chief. Mainstream media (NBC and AP) captured that moment in 1968, and the comparison with Manning’s helicopter footage is evident.
New technologies have the ability to spread over larger areas of population than ever before. It can be dangerous and is a powerful tool, and one that should always be used with extreme care so it doesn’t endanger lives.
Anything that ends wars, un-winnable or not, is in humankind’s ultimate interest. It’s probably the reason the mothership hasn’t arrived from outer space yet.
As George Carlin said, ‘we are but monkeys with baseball caps and machine guns.’
With so much talk on the streets about festivals and how much money they contribute or take away, perhaps it’s time to look at ways a festival could improve our social evolution and aware- ness, and make us a truly unique oddity compared to Australia’s straight-laced culture of boring normality.
A ‘Freedom From Fear’ rally could highlight the over-regulated and stifling nature of western society. Freedom from liability insurance, freedom from permits, regulations... essentially freedom from The Man.
It was nine years ago, just after the 2001 September 11 attacks, that over-regulation started to noticeably increase. Musicians and artists now pay third party liability insurance to perform in clubs where previously they didn’t. Community halls now have to pay large insurance fees where previously they didn’t.
These people and venues, it could be argued, contribute far more to society than insurance companies, yet they are being asked to pay the companies a percentage of their meagre income. Legislation that prohibits fun, laughter and enjoyment should never be considered.
Zombie Action Day
The next big thing that could put Byron on the map for con- science change is a ‘Zombie Consumer Action Day.’ It wouldn’t take much – just a motley crew of zombies roaming the streets of our towns buying Chinese made knick-knacks.
Recently In the US, where zombie consumer action days are a common occurrence, seven hapless zombie impersonators were imprisoned for two days because police thought they posed a terrorist threat. ‘Minneapolis will pay $165,000 to zombies’ is the August 23 headline from the Star Tribune, which describes the eventual court settlement.
Rusty Miller lobbed over an intriguing document from the UK this week. It’s called ‘Clone Town’ and makes recommendations for how communities and local authorities can take steps to create and maintain diversity in their towns.
The publication defines the difference between a ‘home’ and a ‘clone’. ‘A home town is a place that retains its individual character and is instantly recognisable,’ it says, ‘and distinctive to the people who live there, as well as those who visit.
‘A clone town is a place that has had the individuality of its high street shops replaced by a monochrome strip of global and national chains that means its retail heart could easily be mis- taken for dozens of other bland town centres across the country.’
Like the Transition Towns model, it highlights the urgency to address our identity and hopefully a united vision for the future.
Spank the architect
Can someone please spank the architect who designed the generic Mullum Woolworths? How will the proposed Dan Mur- phy mega booze store – again owned by Woolworths – fit in with Byron’s current shop frontage?
The newly branded Retravision building on Jonson Street is now a chemist, owned and operated by Chemist Outlet, a business based on the central coast. The shop signage says to the world it’s ‘proud to be cheap’ – and is an ugly corporate looking facade that belongs in Ballina or Tweed Heads, not Byron.
A large part of this community is employed by outside interests and that means we are anything but united. These international/ national companies employ locals, and support their families and friends, just as the farmer’s market or any other ‘home’ town does.
Rent correction needed
Regardless of ‘local’ or ‘foreign’, the success of a business in Byron, especially the CBD, is often dependent on factors outside the owner’s control. It’s mainly high rents demanded by a market that has not yet suffered the correction this area needs.
The Clone/Home Town report thankfully suggests action plans. These include the following:
Given a complete lack of political and public will – mostly from State level – this report is merely bureaucratic fantasy. Lack of vision and leadership appear as obstacles for Byron Shire’s social and economic long term propsperity, and it’s going to take more than tourism to address it.
At least it is clear from ‘Clone Town’ that people are thinking about these problems, and there are solutions