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Australia’s First Muslim Minister and the challenges he will face.

July 4, 2013

It is a historic milestone that Australia now has its first Muslim Minister, Ed Husic, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Broadband. Although this was hailed quite properly as ‘a wonderful day for multiculturalism and everything it stands for in our country’ by the Governor General Quentin Bryce the blow-back has already begun. Mr Husic’s Facebook page received some positive comments and congratulations although this soon turned negative over the fact he chose to be sworn in on the Koran.

Mr Husic has described himself as a moderate Muslim who does not engage fully or heavily in Muslim practices. Australia’s first Islamic front bencher has categorized these clearly uncalled for Facebook comments about swearing in on the Koran such as ‘disgusting’ and ‘un-Australian’ as extremist but Democratic and many of his labour and opposition colleagues have quite rightly leapt to his defence.

It will be interesting to see how his role in the Ministry plays out over time. No doubt the Islamic community will be universally supportive and this is a good thing. That said it should also be remembered that the Islamic diaspora is not united, far from it. The sometimes violent ructions between the Muslims sects such as Sunni, Shi’ite and Sufis, especially in places like the UK, is very real and won’t go away anytime soon. I am speaking of how things are not as they should be.

My novel London’s Falling has covered this in detail and later events have mirrored what I depicted in it. The London riots of 2011 and the recent outrage where a soldier was brutally butchered by Islamic terrorists who then ranted a justification for this over the Afghanistan and Iraqi wars that went instantly viral show how radical Islam can so quickly get out of control. I’m not suggesting these kinds of horrific events would occur here, at least not anytime soon.

Fortunately Australia have been spared the worst of what can and does happen overseas, even if several serious terrorist attacks have been thwarted, including some that never became public. The closest we have come here were disturbances in Sydney last year where hundreds of Muslims violently protested over an anti-Islamic film. Were this level of violence or worse to happen again I’m sure Mr Husic would be able to assist through negotiations with relevant parties in the Islamic community and his very presence in the cabinet could well prevent conflict from getting out of hand. Image

Under the Dome Australian style

July 2, 2013

It seems Domes are everywhere, or in the media at least. The new TV series Under the Dome by Stephen King is a techno thriller that had me transfixed when it premiered recently. The premise of the story is credible in the usual way that King makes the incredible seem credible through believable characters in entirely believable settings. Here a small American town is turned upside down, so to speak, when a massive dome lands on it from places unknown. Cars, a barn and even a cow are cut in half while unsuspecting road traffic runs right into it. Alone, the trapped town’s folk have to think of a way out.  I won’t go through the story too much because it is still playing here in Australia and I really wanted to make a point about Domes themselves.

Domes have been around for a while in reality and in fiction. Scientists working in Antarctica live in them or under the surface for obvious reasons. In my novel, Gaia Redux, the land, sea and air are all toxic through the after effects of war and ecological neglect on a huge scale. The world is so toxic that people are forced to live underground or under huge Domes not unlike those in Under the Dome.   Will we all in fact be forced to live in such places in the future? I wouldn’t be too pleasant, depending on your point of view, yet humans have a remarkable capacity for survival and in the event there was no alternative I’m sure most could get used to it. We can survive in space and deep underwater so people would no doubt endure and even thrive in that environment as well.

Domes have been a part of the science fiction playbook for some time and even the Simpsons got into the act with an episode featuring a large dome that traps the citizens of Springfield. Perhaps they’re more of a cautionary tale for what we might expect if we allow too much environmental degradation to occur. I can’t imagine people would really want to live under them if there was any reasonable alternative.

The recent drought and abnormally high temperatures that have caused historic fires in the US is a reminder that global warming is not a myth. It has been warmer than at any time since record-keeping began with some temperatures reaching up to an incredible 57 degrees Celsius following the worst drought in over half a century. The recent loss of life there in the bush-fires as a consequence of the drought and crushing heat has been tragic and will not soon be forgotten.

The use of Domes in an environmentally hazardous world may well happen yet those who chose not to, or are not in a position to use them, would be endangered. The hope of course is that it won’t come to that. Acting now to halt and even reverse climate change is urgently called for. That we can make this world better here and now is a truism that needs to be constantly applied on a number of levels. Carbon emissions need to be contained through an international effort and here Australia is leading the way. Science fiction can give a view of possible futures and it is arguable that nuclear annihilation has not happened, in part, due to the dark visions that writers and directors in that genre created over the decades. So too can we see what may come to pass with post-apocalyptic speculative fiction of the toxic world flavour. Forewarned is forearmed, and influential nations like China and the US as well as individuals both vastly influential or not can play their part. As for me, I intend to walk more and use my car less.    Image

How will the world end or end up?

June 28, 2013

Well that depends on your point of view of course and many say the world will keep going but we may not exactly have the life we are accustomed to. Many point to a kind of techno-topia where everyone will be connected and empowered. So is it the end of the world as we know it or is there a brighter future ahead? I would say that if you are the chief executive of a large corporation like Apple then you are well ahead although a simpler lifestyle can also bring a happy life. I for one don’t think the world will end anytime soon and eventually the majority of Earthlings could wind up relatively healthy and prosperous with enough concentrated effort.

You don’t have to be a billionaire space entrepreneur to achieve the things you want in life and yes there will be a lucky few who will get into space as private passengers. I would like to think I could make one of the flights even if that may be wishful thinking. Looking down on the whole earth would be quite an experience and going to Mars or the Moon in the future even better. Perhaps remote sensing like VR will enable us all to do this vicariously. I do think our destiny, at least partly, is eventually in that realm, at least for the hardy few willing and able to go.

That said we can make changes of our own here on Earth without going to the trouble of hurtling off into hyperspace, although I give full credit to those who are planning to go. Others want to do what they can to improve the quality of life right here right now through affirmative action on a local and global scale. While these goals are not mutually exclusive, adequate funding will always be an issue. The sun has a few billion years of life in it yet so there is time to improve the quality of life for all and everyone can work on this on an individual basis. And yes, billionaires have done their bit here too. Bill Gate, with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has put his vast deposits money into many worthy projects without a word about leaving the planet.

In my Speculative fiction novel Gaia Redux there are two groups in a post-apocalyptic world that are in a reasoned conflict over these twin aspirations. What I mean by reasoned is that there is no violence or crime to speak of in this perfected society and this is easier than it sounds because there aren’t too many people left. Humankind has been decimated yet it has survived. One set of organic centred souls work to making a ruined world whole and well again, while the others working in Gaia’s global government think this is hopeless and plan to journey to another solar system and inhabit an Earth-like planet.Picture of Earth 2When you think about it this scenario is credible considering the vast sums going into both environmental issues like clean air and water, renewal energy, and the preservation of endangered species as well as space based capitalism along the lines of the various Mars, Moon and asteroid projects  now going full steam ahead. I wish them all well and I try to do what I can here, such as involvement in the recently passed Green week on the Gold Coast. As in my novel this is not a matter of either or, but both. We can make Earth the kind of place it can be and should be minus the destructive elements like whale fishing and cutting down the rain forests. Technology will continue to develop at a rapid rate and this too shall be put into smarter electric cars and many other Earth friendly products and processes. Here’s to a smarter present and future.

Will we have a Global Government or Earth Inc.?

June 17, 2013

The idea of a global government has been around for a long time and especially so after the 20th century’s two world wars. The League of Nations and the United Nations were supposed to unite warring or overly competitive countries and succeeded to a greater or lesser extent with the latter. After all we still have a United Nations and it plays an important peace keeping role and helps to sort out many problems (with other orgs like the World Bank) including conquering world hunger and virulent disease.

In the past totalitarian regimes dreamed of taking over the world and even today we can see this kind of misguided approach to global unity. For example, some fanatical fundamentalist Islamic clerics call for a worldwide Caliphate or global theocracy irrespective of the wishes of anyone who gets in the way. I’m sure none of this will happen considering the remarkable strength of the human spirit.

It could be said that world capitalism has almost come close at linking people and their goals and desires a certain level at least. Yet even with everyone using Google or Facebook and talking on an I-Phone, this doesn’t mean corporate giants like Apple have taken over the world. Yes information has been shared with the US government according to recent reports although this is hardly surprising, it is disappointing.

In my novel Gaia Redux we have a world which has been destroyed by global war and environmental catastrophe. Barring complete extinction of all life there is nowhere to go but up for these post-apocalyptic Earthlings. With only a few million left to carry on a world government emerges, although unlike the Dark Ages for instance, this society retains all of the science and technology from the previous civilization and even manages to build on this. In a sense earth is given another chance to reinvent itself and this it does with a number of dynamic characters working with world leaders. These characters are blessed with almost eternal life and this gives them an added evolutionary advantage in facing such mind numbing challenges as a toxic biosphere and an unstable geology with numerous earthquakes and volcano eruptions.

In Gaia Redux (published by Hot Digital Books), even though earth has been subjected to multiple insults it is still there and it is the human species that has to adapt to the new environment. Perhaps the solution to present problems will only come when people are challenged on an individual basis and have to make their way without everything being provided for them. Perhaps the answer lies in colonising other planets like Mars and beyond. In the novel there are two camps; those that want to revive the planet and those that want to seek another Earth-like planet in another solar system. Whether or not humankind chooses or has to choose between these alternatives remains to be seen. Image

What will the future be like?

June 12, 2013

That depends on who you are talking to. One person who has spoken and written of the future at length about the future is Al Gore and his book ‘The Future’ is riveting to say the least. He speaks of his hopes and dreams regarding the ever expansive information age and also sounds a warning about unsustainable growth. His famous tipping point, citing global degradation like global warming and acidification of the oceans and much more, has now become part of the language.

Some people used to give Gore credit for inventing the Internet and even if that is fanciful he is still an avid promoter of what has been an unparalleled success. Yes people are becoming interconnected at an ever rapid rate and you only have to look at the popularity of the iPhone and other communications technology to see that. Social media and ‘digital ecosystems’ have also exploded and people of all ages and backgrounds are participating by sharing photos, information and much else. Just ask anyone on Facebook!

Gore roams over a large area in his big book including what he calls Earth Inc. and the Global Mind. He speaks of linear versus exponential change and the acceleration of change and many other relevant issues. Granted much of the technological change is a force for good yet this Noble Prize winner and former US Vice President sounds a warning about capitalism encroaching on Democracy. He points to the present political system in the US where elected officials do the bidding of big business interests, while ignoring the people and the electorate. This is not just a problem in America but it is especially acute there and the blow-back and cost inside and outside that country is enormous. The disparity between rich and poor is widening, so for example, the top one percent now receive almost 25 percent of all US income annually. That is a huge increase from 12 percent just 25 years ago. Gore also speaks of human beings as a force for evolutionary as well as geologic change. We change the environment in ways that was inconceivable in the past.

I would recommend The Future to anyone interested in our own near and far future. I have written about the future in a fictional sense with my recent novel Gaia Redux. With regards to science fiction Gore mentions that ‘The prophecies of Jules Verne were replaced by those of  Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, H.G. Wells and popular movie from the ancient past…and malevolent robots from the distant future or distant planets all seemingly future humanity’s future.’ Even though The Future only touches on that aspect of possible futures it is books like this, the result of years of research, and thought that have helped me gain a vision of what is to come. Here’s to a brighter future!Image

The Needless death of Drummer Lee Rigby

June 11, 2013

The murder of Drummer Lee Rigby outside the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich by two radical Islamic terrorists has sent shock waves through London that have spread across the world. The circumstances are quite unreal in that the soldier was run down then hacked to death with knives and a cleaver in broad daylight. With no intention of escaping the scene one of the men then launched into a tirade about avenging the deaths of Muslims by the British military. A passerby bravely stopped to speak with one of the men named Michael, and the entire event went instantly viral on YouTube and generally. Those bloody images will long be seared into our collective memory.

After the police arrived the men, both British of Nigerian descent raised as Christians then converted to Islam, ran towards the police and were shot. Many members of the public watched as the horrific events unfolded.

This latest radical Muslim atrocity was followed by widespread condemnation by Muslim leaders in the UK and by the global media. There were also reprisal attacks on Muslims that threatened to explode into riots although a strong police presence prevented a conflagration along the lines of 2011 in London and elsewhere in the UK. A radical Islamic hate preacher named Anjem Choudray claims to have known the suspects and was recently interviewed on the Australian 60 Minutes news program.

This closed loop pattern of hate spawning hate is a theme in my novel London’s Falling. In it a radical Imam fosters terrorist cells and terrorist acts which lead to a citywide riot. The point I’m making is that hate preachers can and do incite criminal acts and it is hard to further reduce that in as free society. I do feel that Muslim and Islamic Councils in the UK and here in Australia could do more to condemn such irreligious acts and it is encouraging to see the first faint signs of that.   

 

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Why are we afraid of aliens?

June 3, 2013

 

 

That’s a good question and I suppose the short answer is that there is always  a fear of the unknown. Before the advent of accurate science the forces of nature like lightening and earthquakes were given unearthly power s and origins. The unexplained could be explained as being from a higher being including God. Although this is not a discussion on matters religious the question was posed in the modern era was God an astronaut?

What would liens be like if they were to arrive tomorrow? Would they be humanoid, in keeping with the reports of UFO abductees, with large heads and dark round eyes? Or would a vastly superior intelligence manifest itself as a kind of energy or computer program as has been put forward by some reputable scientists? Considering the vast difference between life forms here on earth from simple single cell organisms to Elephants and Earthlings it’s anyone’s guess as to the appearance of as yet unseen extra-terrestrials.

 I suppose there is angst that E.T. will want to take over and would begin to issue demands on us not necessarily to our liking. This was the subject of the early sci-fi film ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ and I’m sure would be a factor in first contact. The 1998 movie ‘Contact’ also deals with this issue. Some worry that that human beings would find themselves superfluous at having to share earth with unwelcome guests who have outstayed that welcome.

There is an old saying we have nothing to fear but fear itself. This was parodied in the Jack Nicholson sci-fi movie Mars Attacks! The Martians do arrive but they proceed to destroy Las Vegas and all pretence of diplomatic relations are wrecked when the bubble headed Aliens vaporise the US President (Nicholson) himself and much else. I would prefer aliens to be more like those in the Spielberg films Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T.

That is the filmography of the subject and although it is hard to separate fact from fiction although  science and technology tells us   they are yet to arrive. What we do know is that Earth-like planets are relatively plentiful in the universe and several dozen have been found in the local (up to double digit light years away) area. With water and the right temperature life could well exist in other solar systems and many have already been detected with the building blocks in place. With extremely advanced technology it could be possible to detect and even view alien life in the not too distant future. I do hope first contact happens in my lifetime and there is every possibility it will.  

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