When hell descends and midday becomes night, we need to think clearly
(Above: As Johns River burned on November 8)
Bushfire crisis Part 1
“Take shelter. It is too late to leave.” How many have received that terrifying text over recent months?
By early October, when an elderly couple died near Drake, 34 fires were already burning in NSW, some for over a month.
Death claimed another in the horrific night of November 8, at tiny Johns River, just south of Port Macquarie.
But that was not the start of the region's fires. Residents have breathed toxic smoke since July 18, when a an underground peat fire began. Attempts to extinguish it have failed.
That month, the Federal government cut 35% from the budget of the NSW branch of Fire and Rescue.
Outside Laurieton Services Club evacuation centre, I watched the fire that engulfed Johns River. Emotions ran high, and three times that night I heard that "Greenies" were to blame.
This was just before politicians like Barnaby Joyce began dropping bombshells, blaming two other fire victims that night for their own deaths.
When others lay blame elsewhere, it was suddenly NOT okay to speak about causes until the fires were out... whenever that may be.
Meanwhile the business of climate science denial and blame continued.
Volunteer Fire Fighters Association?
Isolating and attacking the RFS and its leaders became urgent for corporations that cause climate change, after it became widely known that 22 former fire chiefs had warned government about the impact of climate change in the approaching season.
Neither the prime minister nor Minister Angus Taylor bothered to reply to their letters sent in April and September.
The NSW Volunteer Fire Fighters Association (VFFA) presents itself as “an independent volunteer organisation representing the views and issues that affect volunteer rural fire fighters in NSW.”
It began in 2004 with an attack on “the then State Government, RFS and National Parks and Wildlife Service,” which, it stated, “would not take an interest in our concerns into fire safety matters.”
It cleverly positions itself to divide and conquer. As a prominently displayed supporter comment on Facebook says, “Always best to hear both sides of a story. One side, total volunteers. The other, paid staff and then volunteers.”
But the association's real brief is climate change denial, plus constant complaints about lack of control burns. It’s no coincidence that it’s modelled on and has the same name as a group in the US.
Stepney Fire, which unites both volunteer and paid firefighters in Monro, Connecticut states, "The Volunteer Fire Fighters Association is actually a political action committee based in Milwaukee, WI and has nothing to do with local firefighters."
Here, the VFFA constantly reposts Murdoch empire venom, including a Daily Telegraph attack on RFS fundraising, revisiting the issue a number of times.
Multiply this propaganda by millions of groups, sites, posts, and conversations, it’s clear why previously rational and progressive people, who care for underdogs, can be convinced to demonise environmentalists.
When emotions run high
Amid the extraordinary collective heroism and generosity of everyday people, deliberately fostered divisions are deeper than this writer can remember. They cut through families, communities and workplaces.
Working class leaders of the past, who looked beyond trade union compromise and parliamentary politics, frequently used a strategy based on the united front theories of Georgi Dimitrov and Mao Zedong.
Its heart lay in this paraphrase, ‘unite all who can be united, win over the middle ground, neutralise those who can’t be won over and isolate the diehards.’
The ruling class is now using the formulation that once united the people against it. Unrelenting lies and half-truths are increasingly demonising environmentalists and socialists, demoralising and neutralising those who were once active alongside them, winning over those who don’t understand issues deeply.
It has vast technological power coupled with deep psychological analysis of individuals and groups. Its preparation is thorough. In Australia, the US is the dominant imperialist power. It controls decisive sectors of our economy, our military and various forms of media.
Disasters can be good battlegrounds for the ruling class, because when emotions run, high thinking is compromised. The Nazis showed the potential of huge lies, coupled with perceived enemies in a brew of devastating economic crisis and high emotion.
Thinking clearly, standing strong
Bertold Brecht escaped the Nazis and later outwitted the US anti-communist witch hunts. He was socialism’s Shakespeare, the most brilliant playwright and theatre practitioner of the modern era.
His plays are emotionally powerful, but he always cut short that emotion. He knew that to defeat the powerful ruling class people needed to think and analyse clearly.
We can’t win over everyone infected by ruling class lies and ideology, no matter how much we care for them. That’s idealism and a waste of precious energy.
But we can neutralise their political activity, by helping to build a movement that empowers those who are currently intimidated by ruling class strength. Emotion can move them to action.
The people can silence the deluded boasts of those under ruling class sway. United and strong, we must target, not our friends, nor our families, nor our neighbours, but the imperialist ruling class.
That class has exposed its raw power to increasing numbers, and people are already mobilising, led by the young. That is the way forward. Imperialism is destroying the world. It’s had its day.
The choice is simple, independence and socialism, or barbarism.