The Floods in Queensland: Jan 2011

Friday, 01 April 2011 07:33
In the first 38 years of my life when I lived in Australia there were floods and droughts but they came in a roughly regular pattern of about five years of floods, or at least a lot of rain, and five years of drought. Occasionally there was a serious flood like the Maitland floods of 1955, but there was nothing like the floods at present in Queensland that cover an enormous part of the state. Back then the words ‘El Niño’ and ‘La Niña’ were unknown to us. Now these words and ‘Southern Oscillation’ feature in our news almost every way. ‘Much of the variability in Australia’s climate is connected with the atmospheric phenomenon called the Southern Oscillation, a major see-saw of air pressure and rainfall patterns between the Australian/Indonesian region and the eastern Pacific.’ Something else we didn’t know was that the world’s climate is under the influence of the Jet Stream, a current of high altitude air. In 1945 American B-29 bombers were flying at such an altitude over Japan so that they could drop their napalm bombs on Japanese cities that were full of wooden buildings which burned very fiercely.  At that altitude the bomber pilots could…

Money: a Telling Lore

Friday, 01 April 2011 07:33
31st August 1997 Money: a Telling Lore Money isn't real. It may be a very important means whereby we maintain our sense of identity, but it isn't real. It's simply a set of ideas some of which we share with other people and some which are our own. We might both agree that this piece of metal is a pound coin, but is it a lot or a little to pay for a pint of milk? Value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. So too are risk and confidence, those ideas on which the market turns. I don't risk a pound on a lottery ticket because I think 1 in 14 million to be poor odds, but many people don't. Confidence is the opposite of fear, and the greatest fear we can know is that of a threat to our sense of identity. If we want to understand why the market does what it does we need to understand ourselves, that is, our own private logic. It we want to understand why the market does what it does we need to understand ourselves, that is, our own private logic. Nothing pleases me more than when I find…

Happiness

Friday, 01 April 2011 07:32
Life - colour supplement December 10, 2000 Happiness Am I happy? Why can’t I be happy? Shouldn’t I be happier than I am? These are the questions which nowadays plague us. In past centuries people worried about dying or whether they would go to heaven, but now being happy is all that most people want. Until the therapists came along and told us to talk about our feelings people rarely talked about being happy or unhappy. In most of the years I have been alive – I was born in 1930 – most people were unhappy and many depressed, but they kept their feelings to themselves. Nowadays we talk about happiness, and our lack of it, all the time. To me this is a particular feature of the baby boomers who are now reaching their fifties and those younger than them. Every generation reaches adulthood holding three ideas – They are the first generation to discover sex. They are more intelligent and more modern than previous generations. All previous generations had a much easier life than they do. These ideas are delusions. Sex has never been lost, so no one has to discover it. Despite universal education people are not…

Love in the Line of Fire

Friday, 01 April 2011 07:32
24th October 1997 Love in the Line of Fire If you're following the Sondra Locke story do not be distracted by the term "to floss". It is not, as I thought, a new form of sexual titillation but merely a form of dental hygiene. Her story of her life with Clint Eastwood is more important than that. It's the story of revenge, and every story of revenge tells us something about ourselves. Clint, a man of few words, used to indicate his state of sexual desire by asking Sondra as she prepared for bed, "Sweetie, did you floss?" How romantic! Sondra, like all women who fall in love with silent men, thought Clint's silences indicated that he was thinking profound thoughts. She was wrong. Silent men are silent because they have nothing to say. If they do think, it's not about the great love they have for the woman at their side nor is it about the meaning of life. They are merely thinking about themselves. A woman in love with such a man projects on to his wall of silence all her own hopes and wishes. She wants a warm, loving relationship and she hopes that he does too.…

Its the Rich Wot Get the Pressure

Friday, 01 April 2011 07:31
8th October 1997 It's the Rich Wot Get the Pressure The rich are selfish. Those who become philanthropists do so only when they feel the need to consider the future of their soul and their reputation. Will Hutton in his book The State We're In blamed the privileged elite for the parlous state of the British economy. He saw the cure for the country's ills as the privileged people giving up their privileges. The privileged have never done so without a gun pointing at their heads. If they are annihilated, another group soon takes their place. Russian royalty was quickly succeeded by the Communist elite. The rich have never seen it necessary to be concerned about the welfare of the non-rich because the rich could always keep themselves healthy and safe, no matter what was happening to the rest of the population. However, we now live in a world where not even the greatest wealth can ensure good health and safety. The list of the dangers from which wealth is no protection runs to three pages in my book The Real Meaning of Money. Here are just a few. First, the danger from the environment. There's the hole in the…

Being Good isn't Good for the Family

Friday, 01 April 2011 07:30
2nd September 1997 Being Good isn't Good for the Family The news of Princess Diana's death shocked me, but what shocked me most was that on the day of their mother's death her sons had to show that they were good boys by putting on their formal suits, going to church and listening to a service where no mention was made of their mother even in the prayers. Sadly, this shows that the House of Windsor, like the Bourbons, the last of French royalty, has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. It hardly seems possible that, from the work of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in the seventies on the stages of grief to the present work of Susie Orbach on emotional literacy, anybody in the UK could not know how important it is to grieve and to be allowed to grieve. This visit to church illustrates not only how ignorant the Royal Family is of what it is to be human but also what little understanding they have of what non-royal people think. The Royals might have seen in Prince William a young man demonstrating the lack of emotion considered necessary for a future king, but what many people saw was an act…

Friends of the Family

Friday, 01 April 2011 07:30
4th January 1997 Friends of the Family My friend Lou has a talent for friendship. If you are her friend you are indeed blessed. Everything she says and does makes you feel valued and important. I tease her about how she is always taking bowls of hot soup to her ailing friends, but I know that if I became ill everything she did for me would not be motivated by guilt or the need to appear virtuous but by friendship. The Christmas before last I spent at Lou's home. Of those in our party only two were related, Lou and her niece to whom Lou is not an aunt or a surrogate mother but a best friend. For the rest of us no family Christmas was possible as our families were scattered across the globe. So our Christmas was a friendship Christmas. And very pleasant it was. No one was pointedly not talking to someone else. No one shouted insults. No one was sobbing in a darkened room. No one was martyring herself in the kitchen, and no one was sloping off to the pub to avoid his in-laws. We made paper hats, told stories, ate marvellous food, drank excellent…
31st August 1996 Liam Gallagher wants to smash his brother's head in with a guitar When Liam Gallagher stormed out of the passenger lounge at Heathrow 15 minutes before his flight to America he was doing what all brothers do - fight. And he was doing it in the way that families do - in the most public place, causing the most embarrassment and inconvenience to his nearest and dearest. Family fights usually erupt at wedding, christenings and funerals. Liam hadn't hidden his feelings towards brother Noel. He's reported as saying of his brother and guitars, "I ***ing hate that tw*t there, I ***ing hate him. And one day I hope I can smash **** out of him with a ****ing Rickenbacker right on his head." Liam is 23 and Noel? . In fifteen years time will they be giving interviews and talking about past misunderstandings but now they're older and wiser and the best of friends? Or will the hatred deepen and the rift widen? Liam and Noel will find that if they don't patch up their differences and at least appear to get along they'll be criticised by those people who believe that families should stick together. The…

A Brief History of Meal Time

Friday, 01 April 2011 07:24
1st September 1999 A BRIEF HISTORY OF MEAL TIME A great wave of sentimentality is spreading across Britain. In homes across the nation, in newspapers, radio and television, in pulpits and, no doubt in Thought for Today, people are bemoaning the loss not only of the country’s favourite television advertisement but also the loss of that great institution, family meal. Since 1983 the Oxo family, at the end of every domestic crisis, has gathered at the dining table and enjoyed Mum’s home cooking. This series of advertisements was the most popular in Britain, though it seems that the viewers did not rush out and buy Oxo gravy cubes. Instead, they bought packed pre-cooked dinners and gathered, not at the dining table, but around the television. Some research commissioned by Young’s, the frozen food company, showed that in families with teenagers one family in twenty in Britain eats together only on Christmas Day, and over a third of those questioned said that they preferred to watch television while eating rather than sitting around a table with their family. Talking to other family members over dinner was not considered relaxing. Advocates of the sacredness of the family and family values will be…

Notes and Queries

Friday, 01 April 2011 07:24
November 2, 2000 Notes & Queries At school in the 40s I cannot remember any fellow pupils being hyperactive, disruptive or showing symptoms similar to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ADHD). Is the recent growth of this due to a lack of firm discipline at home and in school, or to pollution radiation, junk food, etc? There are always fashions in mental illnesses. In Freud’s day conversion hysteria was popular. Now it is rarely found. In Sydney where in the 1960s I was working as an educational psychologist any child with a behavioural or learning difficulty was likely to be diagnosed as autistic. Since then, this diagnosis has come to be used much Discriminatingly. Nowadays the psychiatric profession, supported by the drug companies, readily creates fashions in diagnosis. The committee which decides upon the contents of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, increasingly used here, needs only to ascertain that a group of psychiatrists reliably agrees that a mental disorder exists in order to include this disorder in the manual. Another committee could reliably agree that the moon was made of green cheese, but such agreement does not prove the cheesiness of the moon. There have always…

Life or Death Decisions: Teenage Suicide

Friday, 01 April 2011 07:23
December 13, 2000 LIFE OR DEATH DECISIONS: TEENAGE SUICIDE The death of two teenage girls in a gas-filled car is shocking. Why would two young women, their lives ahead of them, choose to die in a suicide pact? Teenage suicide is not rare. After 1945 around the world the rate of teenage suicide began to rise significantly. Of more recent years the rate for young women has levelled out while that for young men has continued to rise, possibly because many young men, faced with a dearth of traditional jobs and roles for men, found that society had no place for them. The legal tradition has been to see suicide as an act committed when the balance of the mind is disturbed, that is, as a permanent or temporary madness. This formulation does not explain why a person commits suicide. Suicidal thoughts are considered to be a symptom of depression, but, while all depressed people contemplate suicide as a way of escaping from their misery, not all depressed people even attempt suicide, and it is by no means certain that everyone who commits suicide is depressed. However, it is possible to explain suicide in terms of what it is to…

For Goodness Sake

Friday, 01 April 2011 07:22
To see this story with its related links on the Guardian Unlimited site, go to www.guardian.co.uk For Goodness Sake Saturday 8, September 2001 How many of the people you call friends do you not really like? How many of them do you see as something of a burden, as relationships to be endured rather than enjoyed? You see them because you feel obliged, you resent the demands they make on you, and you don't feel good after seeing them. So why do you keep them in your life? Whatever we do always has, in part, the aim of making us feel good about ourselves. To achieve this, we have to think that what we are doing fits our image of ourselves. Suppose you like to think of yourself as a kind, tolerant, generous, helpful person. You don't want to think of yourself as hard and cruel. When you've got a friend who is hurtful, even destructive, you can't say, "I don't want to see you again", because that would be hard and cruel, and you're not a hard, cruel person. We want the people we know to see in us the qualities we most admire and which we hope we…

Look At Me

Friday, 01 April 2011 07:20
The Guardian Monday 9 September  2002 Would you be willing to humiliate yourself on national TV like the has-beens on the celebrity survivor show that reached its climax last night? Or queue for hours for the chance of being slated by a panel of Popstars judges? Or would you let your privacy be invaded, as in Big Brother, by millions of prying, critical eyes? "Never!" you'd probably reply, "I don't crave that kind of attention." But few of us realise that those who seek fame in these seemingly abhorrent ways are no different from the rest of us. We all need to be noticed, and this need is as important to us as is air, food and water. We each have our own way of getting noticed but, whatever ways we use, it is imperative that other people acknowledge our existence. Air, food and water keep us alive physically, but even more important than that is our survival as a person - what we call I, me, myself. Faced with a situation where there is a conflict between surviving physically and surviving as a person, most of us choose to let our body go. If we don't make this choice, if we…

Don McPhee Remembered

Friday, 01 April 2011 07:19
Letter to the Guardian March 29 2007 In 1985 Don McPhee and I spent a wonderful afternoon together, so he could photograph me in relation to my then latest book Living with the Bomb: Can We Live Without Enemies?  After a long search for a suitable location, we managed to get into Waddington air base and Don took a very stark photograph of me with a delta-wing bomber looming over me.  Don's photograph accompanied an article by Walter Swartz about my book.  The large spread and the photograph attracted the attention of HarperCollins editor Michael Fishwick, and this began for me a long and very fruitful relationship with Michael and the publisher. After our meeting, Don sent me a photograph that he had taken of me in my garden.  It is quite the loveliest photograph I've ever had taken and I treasure it.  Ever since that afternoon I've been hoping that I'd meet Don again.  Having to relinquish that hope is very, very sad. Dorothy Rowe London