Uluru

On Friday, 25 October 2019 Uluru was closed to climbers permanently. Tourists, both international and Australian have always considered the climb a bucket list item but the local Anangu people consider it a sacred place and have always asked that visitors do not climb.

In 1985 the lands surrounding Uluru, then more commonly known as Ayers Rock, were handed back to the Anangu people to administer. Climbing the rock was not immediately banned but over the past thirty-four years, they have tried to steer tourists into other activities. As time passed fewer tourists did make the ascent and it was agreed that when the number of tourists who were climbing dropped to less than 20% of visitors the climb would be closed permanently. The decision was made in 2017 and the date of closure was announced some months ago. Over the last few months, a lot of people have rushed to have a last chance to do the climb. Many people on social media have made scathing comments about it being disrespectful but it is what always happens when people realise they will only have a limited time to do something or see something. They want to be there, the last sailing of a ship, a last train journey, the last time in a favourite hotel. It’s human nature I guess. I can understand it.

Uluru in the distance
Our first glimpse. Photo David Jensen

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post or two David and I visited Uluru in the 1980s with a penfriend of mine from the USA. I think this was just before or around the time that the land was handed back to the Anangu community.

At that time tourists were requested not to climb the rock out of respect for the beliefs of the owners but it was not outright forbidden. My friend and I did climb it.

In hindsight, I don’t know why we did it except to say that we had done it because it was “a thing”. Perhaps it was to conquer our fears because both of us were afraid of falling. I didn’t intend disrespect to the indigenous owners but I knew very little about their culture and beliefs.

Uluru NT
Christie near Uluru

I suppose that I should say that I’m sorry I climbed but I’m afraid I can’t do that. It was a special experience to be there. I remember how I felt the age of my surroundings and how it felt calm and peaceful at the summit.

In recent years when the subject of closing the climb has come up, I’ve felt relieved that my ageing body would no longer allow me to climb safely even if I wanted to. I wouldn’t have to make the decision. But if I were suddenly granted the body of a twenty-something would I go? Probably not, I may not understand the reasons any better than I did then but ultimately I think I would respect the culture in the same way that I’d accept the rules of any religious structure I visited, covering my head, removing my shoes or whatever is asked.

37 people have died whilst climbing Uluru, many more have collapsed due to heat, dehydration or the exertion of climbing. As I said, I was in my twenties when we went and moderately fit. We saw much older people struggling to get up there. We also saw people who ran up. I believe people have taken bicycles up as well. It’s really not the safest place to be. On Friday morning it was very windy at Uluru and the rangers were obliged to delay opening the track for safety reasons causing a lot of consternation amongst the line of waiting visitors.

I have added some links to news articles about the closure below if anyone would like to read more about the subject.

Uluru photo was taken on holiday around the early-mid 1980s. I have cleaned the picture up a bit as there were a few dust spots but the colours are what I saw.

Further Reading:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-10-24/uluru-climb-closure-gives-voice-to-other-groups/11634498

https://www.news.com.au/travel/travel-updates/hundreds-queue-for-last-chance-to-climb-uluru-before-ban-is-enforced/news-story/0344f36da37867416d8685857bfc35d3

https://www.9news.com.au/national/surge-in-visitors-to-uluru-for-last-chance-to-climb-landmark-rock/59dc749c-7a1c-4dd4-a997-6e0dc225dfe0

Dumbed Down

I would not say I was an exceptionally well-educated person. I left school voluntarily at age fifteen. I wasn’t happy at school and I wanted to go to work and earn money so that I could save up to travel.

However, I did leave school being able to read well, write a letter or story with good spelling and reasonably correct grammar, do maths problems and with some understanding of historical events and current affairs.

I know that even in back in the sixties and seventies when I was going to school there were kids who struggled to achieve that. Classes were bigger and teachers didn’t have the time to spend with every kid so the very bright and very slow to learn sometimes missed out. However, when  I look around these days it seems to me that many young people are still struggling with basic literacy and maths and I wonder why.

I am not sure if things that we were expected to learn when I was at school are still taught.  When I was in Primary School we learned the basics. Every day we spent a couple of hours on spelling, dictation, and arithmetic, this was in the days before “New Maths”.  We spent a lot of time on English learning grammar, Reading Comprehension and writing compositions. We also had class novels which we read either out loud or to ourselves and were expected to answer questions about. There was “Reading Laboratory” which was a big box full of cards with a story to read and a set of questions to answer. They were colour coded for difficulty and I was proud to get right to the top colour every year that I did them.

An Australian children’s classic.

In maths or arithmetic, as we still called it, we learned addition and subtraction, multiplication and long division. We had to master fractions decimals and learn about angles in geometry. We were supposed to “show the working out” on our page and we were not allowed to use calculators in tests. Actually, when I was in primary school there were no calculators. We did those sums where you calculated the cost of several items and even worked out the percentage of the total to subtract as a discount.  In Mental Arithmetic the teacher asked you a question and you had to quickly write the answer while doing the working out in your head.

My old primary school in the early 1960s http://www.elizgrps.sa.edu.au/about/
My old primary school in the early 1960s
http://www.elizgrps.sa.edu.au/about/

We had Social Studies which for Primary School students seemed to be a mixture of history, geography and current affairs. We learned a lot about things like stump jump ploughs, irrigation, gold mining, explorers, sheep and which states produced what products. Of course, we also learned a bit about Kings and Queens of England and even the Romans invading Britain. I am sure they don’t teach that to nine-year-olds any more.

In High School, we learned History and Geography, Algebra and how to use a slide rule. Don’t ask me, I’ve forgotten. We read novels and plays and our teachers were dismayed if any student did not know enough grammar to write properly.

As I never had children or grandchildren I really don’t know what they teach them now but I’m disturbed that young people in stores can’t make change without consulting the electronic cash register. When I was studying at TAFE a decade ago the younger people in the class had great difficulty in spelling and even more in writing a business letter. They just didn’t seem to have the vocabulary for it or know how to construct a sentence, possibly because they don’t write full words or full sentences in text messages. As for history, I’m sure that it is not taught which is a shame because I think you can learn a lot about the present from what happened in the past.

Another planter in the Geeveston Primary School Garden.

I’ll admit that I think that some things are better now. Classes are smaller, most of my classes right through school were 35 to 40 kids, sometimes more. Schools have better facilities, air conditioning and heating for instance and better equipment. Corporal punishment is a thing of the past. Honestly, I don’t think that hitting a child with a ruler will make them learn their tables faster. There were some really mean, sadistic teachers around in the sixties, I think for some Teacher’s College was where you went if you didn’t get into University. Some I met certainly did not like kids. On the other hand, I don’t think teachers get the respect that they once did from children or parents.

If so many young adults today can’t read, write, spell or do basic arithmetic how will the next generation cope? Although we have lots of technology we should not rely on that completely. If it all breaks down we need to be able to manage without it. I especially feel concerned that some young people are so unaware of historical events.  There is so much fantasy on social media that without knowledge of the facts there will be no way for them to know what is real and what isn’t anymore.

 

 

 

The 3 am Rant: The Look At Me Generation

I’ve never been a big fan of having my photo taken, even on holidays it is rare for me to be photographed unless I am with friends who want a picture. I don’t feel that the world is missing out because there are few photos of me especially now that I’m way past my best. However, it seems that I’m in the minority as the whole world seems intent on immortalising themselves on social media.

Now it seems to me that many people have become so obsessed with selfies that they travel the world photographing themselves without actually noticing the scenery. In Singapore  we went for a ride on a sampan in the shopping centre at Marina Bay Sands. Two young girls with a small child sat in front of us and honestly I think they wasted their money on the ride as they spent the entire trip taking photos of each other and the child. Not once did they look at where they were going.

Selfies on the sampan

Everywhere we went we encountered tourists being photographed or taking selfies in front of tourist attractions. Well of course at a popular attraction whether it be Gardens on the Bay in Singapore or the Sydney Opera House you are going to have to deal with crowds and it’s almost impossible to get a photo without some people in it. Even forty years ago when I first visited Sydney there were tourists who would ask us if we’d take a photo of them with their cameras. I don’t really mind that so much.  It’s a nice  holiday memory. Now people don’t just do a quick pose in front of the attraction though. They have to strike a pose, jump in the air, wave their arms around or pose like they are in that famous scene from “Titanic”.  And it’s not just one photo, they have to have dozens. Then there are the ones with the selfie sticks who march around getting into everyone elses’ picture without so much as an “I beg your pardon.”

Taking photos at Garden’s on the Bay.

I”ve noticed that people who actually enjoy photography are a bit more polite, they take their pictures and then move on so someone else can have a go but the selfie brigade notice nothing but their own faces. It does  make me mad that so many of these people are bad mannered and inconsiderate of others but it also makes me think that so many of them are missing the point of travel by focussing so much on themselves and not what’s going on around them.

 

The Three A.M Rant: The Selfish Generation

via Daily Prompt: Age

Today I read an article saying that many older people were in danger of outliving their savings because they chose an extravagant lifestyle buying luxury cars or going on cruises.

Celebrity Solstice_1024x768
Waiting to cruise

Apparently seniors should be saving that money to take care of end of life health issues and of course there should be money left over to leave to their children.

“There’s an element of spending the inheritance — kids in their 40s often might be doing it pretty tough with mortgages and school fees, when parents are living it up,”

states the article.

http://www.themercury.com.au/lifestyle/parenting/wealth-risks-amid-the-rise-of-big-spenders-aged-in-their-70s/news-story/6ae59a64cc823eee166c5885ba183922

This annoyed me quite a lot. Well, it made me hopping mad actually. I don’t have children myself but if I did of course I’d want to leave them something for themselves as well as enough to take care of funeral expenses. However, I would very much resent the idea that I was selfishly spending their inheritance every time I wanted to do something fun.

Of course it is silly to live beyond your income no matter what your age is but if retirees have a bit of money put by why shouldn’t they enjoy it? They had mortgages and school fees to pay once and probably went without holidays and other things they wanted for the sake of their families. There might be just a few years before health issues mean that they can no longer travel so whiny adult children complaining about mum and dad wasting their money on frivolities don’t sit well with me I’m afraid.

I think this annoyed me all the more because some time ago I read another piece about how older people in Australian cities should move out of their houses into smaller accomodation so that they could be demolished to make room for more townhouses and apartments. Apparently wanting to stay in the family home is also selfish. So called experts tell us we should “de clutter” our lives which really means “Get rid of all your old stuff because it’s a waste of space.” It doesn’t matter whether it means anything to you or not. “You can take a picture of it.”

Gray Tce., Rosewater.jpg

The elderly seem can’t take a trick these days. We are expected to work longer but jobs are harder to get. Pensions are barely enough and now even those who have managed to save enough for a comfortable retirement are being accused of selfishness. The only ones who don’t have to worry are elderly politicians. If they are voted out of office they will get some nice cushy job offered to them or they can retire with a nice big pension and lots of perks.

Do I sound like a grumpy old lady? Is it any wonder?

 

 

 

 

Daily Prompt: Lifestyle Choices

via Daily Prompt: Lifestyle

Lifestyle is a very modern day concept. We are all searching for the perfect way to live our lives. We envy the lifestyles of some and disapprove of others. Perhaps, after religion, lifestyle choices may be one of the most contentious issues on the planet.

The choices of whom to marry, whether to have children, where to live, what work you will do and what faith you choose to follow can all be lifestyle choices that may upset others.

Even in the relatively wealthy western world we may not be allowed to make those choices ourselves.

Nobody would choose to live in poverty. Who chooses hunger and homelessness as a lifestyle?

Tributes left for Wayne “Mouse” Perry who was murdered near this spot earlier this year.

Unemployment is not a lifestyle that most people would choose. The world is changing, jobs that existed fifty, even twenty years ago are gone forever.  Research suggests that in the next fifty years even more jobs will be lost because of changes in industry. That is going to change the lifestyles of many and we need to start thinking about how it is to be managed.

War is not a lifestyle that anyone would choose either. One day you are going about your business with a home, a family and a job and the next it is all gone and you are fleeing for your life possibly to end up spending your days in a camp denied the chance to start again. How I would love the politicians responsible to experience that lifestyle and see how they like it.

Lifestyle choices; sounds a bit of a joke now doesn’t it?

 

 

Food for Thought

 

While I was surfing the net this afternoon I came across this piece by Andrew Postman which grabbed my attention.

 

“My dad predicted Trump in 1985 – it’s not Orwell, he warned, it’s Brave New World”

The ascent of Donald Trump has proved Neil Postman’s argument in “Amusing Ourselves to Death” was right. Here’s what we can do about it

By Andrew Postman

Andrew Postman, author of more than a dozen books, wrote the introduction to Amusing Ourselves to Death (2005 edition).

Over the last year, as the presidential campaign grew increasingly bizarre and Donald Trump took us places we had never been before, I saw a spike in media references to Amusing Ourselves to Death, a book written by my late father, Neil Postman, which anticipated back in 1985 so much about what has become of our current public discourse.

At Forbes, one contributor wrote that the book “may help explain the otherwise inexplicable”. CNN noted that Trump’s allegedly shocking “ascent would not have surprised Postman”. At ChristianPost.com, Richard D Land reflected on reading the book three decades ago and feeling “dumbfounded … by Postman’s prophetic insights into what was then America’s future and is now too often a painful description of America’s present”. Last month, a headline at Paste Magazine asked: “Did Neil Postman Predict the Rise of Trump and Fake News?”

Colleagues and former students of my father, who taught at New York University for more than 40 years and who died in 2003, would now and then email or Facebook message me, after the latest Trumpian theatrics, wondering, “What would Neil think?” or noting glumly, “Your dad nailed it.”

The central argument of Amusing Ourselves is simple: there were two landmark dystopian novels written by brilliant British cultural critics – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell – and we Americans had mistakenly feared and obsessed over the vision portrayed in the latter book (an information-censoring, movement-restricting, individuality-emaciating state) rather than the former (a technology-sedating, consumption-engorging, instant-gratifying bubble).

The misplaced focus on Orwell was understandable: after all, for decades the cold war had made communism – as embodied by Nineteen Eighty-Four’s Big Brother – the prime existential threat to America and to the greatest of American virtues, freedom. And, to put a bow on it, the actual year, 1984, was fast approaching when my father was writing his book, so we had Orwell’s powerful vision on the brain.

“Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd”.

Open Licence

 

BraveNewWorld FirstEdition.jpg
By Source, Fair use, Link
1984

I had not read Neil Postman’s book but I think that I will now if I can find it. I did read both “Brave New World” and “1984” for the first time as a teenager in the 1970s and later as an adult. I have to admit that the first time I read “1984” it was a Reader’s Digest edition and heavily edited. After I read the unabridged edition some years later parts of it upset me so much that I couldn’t touch it again for many years. I felt we had dodged a bullet with 1984 but thinking back to “Brave New World” our society does seem to have some parallels to that book. We do live in a society that seems to want instant gratification and we are obsessed with how things look. Certainly some politicians prefer to have the population happy and ignorant. They don’t have to justify their actions that way.

Anyway I have included a link to the full article and hope that some of you may find it interesting reading.

 

 

Read the full article

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/feb/02/amusing-ourselves-to-death-neil-postman-trump-orwell-huxley?CMP=share_btn_fb#

 

Protest Central – Hobart

The lawns in front of Parliament House in Hobart are Protest Central as they are a convenient place for people to gather to express their displeasure over anything from unfair taxes to destroying our environment. On a recent Saturday afternoon I wandered over there to get away from the crowds at Salamanca and my attention was grabbed by dolls and toys hanging from the trees and then by a sign that said “You are not welcome here.” I stopped to see what was going on and discovered that it was a protest about keeping asylum seekers in offshore detention centres. This is a very contentious subject here as there are children involved. Now I know that for developed countries this is perceived as a big problem whether it be Mexicans trying to enter the USA, middle eastern refugees in Europe or Iranians, Afghani’s or Sri Lankans trying to come to Australia . I’m not going to make a political post out of this but just say that if something terrible happened in Australia and we had to flee for our lives I hope that the countries that we arrived in would be kinder to us than we have been to these people on Nauru, Manus Island and Christmas Island.

The other protest was about clear felling at Lapoinya Forest in the northwest of Tasmania. A lot of the forestry issues here are about logging old growth forest. Lapoinya is regrowth but the issue is protecting wildlife in particular the freshwater crayfish,  endangered Tasmanian Devils and quolls. I am not opposed to all logging.  I don’t think that we should be cutting down old growth forests and I am concerned about the impact on wildlife. The Tasmanian Devils have had enough to contend with the past few years with the facial tumour disease that has killed so many of them. I do worry about logging because once the trees and animals are gone you can’t get them back and I would hate to think we were destroying the forests for the sake of woodchips, Furniture, building materials and even fuel but not woodchips. That’s just my opinion though and I am not pushing it onto anyone else.

Here is some film of a spotted quoll.