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Teach kids to think for themselves

As a parent, I found your review by Michelle Williams, Going After Kids: How advertisers pester for profit (Freedom Socialist Bulletin # 42) really fascinating, but also scary.

Despite being unashamedly left, I go to great pains not to brainwash my son. I encourage him to think for himself. When he asks me who the good and bad guys are in a particular struggle, I attempt to explain all sides of the issue and encourage him to make up his own mind. Sharon Beder’s book This Little Kiddy Went to Market: The Corporate Capture of Childhood highlights that capitalism — particularly, the advertising and marketing industries — have no such scruples!

I still take my son to McDonald’s and buy him Lego. Why? I fear unfairly censoring his experience in the way that, in my view, the Amish do to their children. But I feel that one has to fight back, by publicising the little-known information about these brands. For example, IBM’s connection to the Holocaust; DuPont’s role in the business plot which nearly overthrew Roosevelt in a military coup; Coca Cola’s theft of water in India, Starbucks unfair trade with Third World farmers, and good ol’ Maccas and its infamous exploitation of people who are managers in name only.

Matthew Allen
Tokyo, Japan

Defiant Indonesians flout ban on Balibo

In response to our editorial in FS Bulletin # 42 condemning the Indonesian government’s ban on the film Balibo, we received the following account from participants in a rebel screening in Jakarta.

Only one day after the Indonesian government banned the showing of the Australian film, Balibo, a public showing of the film was organised by outraged journalists. The organisers from Komuntas Utan Kayu, a community of media activists with a long history of challenging repressive government policies and struggling for freedom of the press in Indonesia, hosted the screening. The tickets were quickly snapped up and a second showing had to be considered.

That night, three of us, Graeme, Cathy and I, Australian media types who work at Utan Kayu, followed a steady stream of young and older Indonesians into the old wooden theatre. You could feel the uneasiness in the air as we were seated on the tiered wooden floor. People nervously looked around trying to identify any secret police agents who, in the past, had infiltrated activities held at Utan Kayu.

A number of local news cameramen then entered and set up in readiness to record the expected police raid. A quick discussion was held about whether to lock the main doors in order to keep the police at bay while we could all exit through the warren of passages throughout the complex. These have been used as quick escape routes in the not-so-distant past. The theatre was packed and we three Australians were very noticeable as the only non-Indonesians there.

The atmosphere within the theatre only heightened the emotion of the movie. In one scene, depicting the East Timorese fighters singing the Fretlin anthem as they left town, tears welled up in my eyes as beside me two grey haired Ibus (Ibu is literally translated as “mother” – editor) started to sing along with the sound track.

As the film ended with the Indonesian invasion of Dili and the slaughter of the East Timorese, the air in the theatre was electric. And as the closing credits rolled and the audience started to file out we just sat wrapped in personal emotions.

Cathy looked shaken, Graeme had tears flowing downs his cheeks. He was a friend of the brother of Tony Stewart, one of the Balibo Five. My own emotions surged as an older man approached us and apologised to each of us in turn, for what his country had done in East Timor and to the Australians.

As we finally left the theatre, pushing through the incoming crowd eager for the next showing we were amazed at the number of people outside. Balibo was showing on a big screen erected in the car park and hundreds of people packed Utan Kayu. The defiance of the ban had a unifying effect on everyone.

As it turned out, the police never raided the event and no secret police were ever outed. The banning of the movie Balibo backfired big time. Initial interest among the young Indonesians was that it was just an Australian movie. But banning generated the unexpected mass interest that took everyone by surprise. Now Balibo is sold openly at all the market DVD stalls throughout Indonesia. The spirit to maintain the freedom of speech is alive and well.

Following the fall of Suharto the next president, Gusdur, promoted freedom of the press, freedom of religion and other wide sweeping reforms, a decision that subsequent governments regret.

Erik Lofting
Jakarta, Indonesia

In praise of idleness — a reader’s review

How to be Idle, a book by UK writer, Tom Hodgkinson, on display at my local library, caught my attention. Despite its seemingly whimsical title, this 2004 work is a serious treatise on ways to maintain your quality of life against the capitalist and religious imposed protestant work ethic and consumerist promises that rule us.

Hodgkinson draws upon historical sources to expose ruling class initiatives to control the lives of workers. He profiles voices of dissent against mindless toil. Byron and Nietzsche saw idleness as an essential ingredient to everyone’s life. Idleness engenders peace of mind, creativity, reflection, and enhances problem-solving ability.

The book has twenty-four chapters. For each hour of the day and night there is a different way of being idle. For example, sleeping in at 10am or partying at 3am.

Hodgkinson traces how people were turned into wage slaves by the Industrial Revolution. Workers traded their former independence for a chance to gain status and possessions. Nowadays this results in widespread debt and anxiety.

Take for example Benjamin Franklin’s oft quoted homily: “Early to bed, early to rise, makes one healthy, wealthy and wise.” Yet it is our most dispossessed who work the early shift for low pay, while those in power rise when they please!

Thomas Edison, the founder of General Electric, believed that the average person slept twice as long as they needed. Since the electric light bulb he invented early last century became widely available, the night shift has become common, and insidiously, the average number of hours of sleep per day enjoyed by people has declined from nine hours to seven and a half hours!

In the preface, Hodgkinson invites us to join the revolution by simply doing nothing instead of living to imposed strictures that keep us unnecessarily busy. He advocates lingering over lunch while nurturing the art of good conversation and not feeling guilty about not being busy in a time-stressed world.

I found the book a real eye-opener and potential instigator for a change in life values.

Paul Karp
Mordialloc, Victoria

Appreciation of poets

Thank you for the Freedom Socialist Bulletin. I thoroughly enjoyed the last two issues and am very glad I took out a subscription. I particularly loved the two articles about poetry and the article about Aboriginal hip-hop too. I loved reading the poems by Hidayet Ceylan, Pam Sidney, Steven Katsinernis, Marjorie Broadbent, Paul Karp and others. The poems were brave, relevant and timely. Kudos to the writers for having the guts to speak out on important issues! And kudos to both Radical Women and the Freedom Socialist Party too!

Amelia Walker
Firle, South Australia

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