Musgrave Park and ‘the embassy in my own land’

Dr Jean-Paul is speaking tomorrow November 27 @ the University of Queensland arguing that indigenous peoples must have full legal rights to their subsurface minerals – this of course extends to full legal rights to surface territories.

I will attend and write a follow up to this post.

By Jean-Paul Gagnon, University of Queensland

This weekend, South Brisbane will play host to the Paniyiri Festival, one of Australia’s largest cultural events.

From May 19 to 20, thousands are expected to join the celebrations and delight themselves with beautiful presentations of Greek culture.

There is, however, a political battle of global significance interfering with one of the festival’s choice venues – Musgrave Park. Today there stands what certain commentators have come to call a “Tent Embassy”.

The Embassy is a political place where Aboriginal people (imaginably the Jagera and Turrbal nations who were in majority the first occupants of what is approximately the heart of contemporary Brisbane) are declaring their sovereignty. This is, at least to some democratic theorists, a moment where a citizenry (or in this case a group of citizens) are declaring their right to their native land.

But this is not the way this movement has been viewed by the media or other civil groups. Brisbane City Council Mayor Graham Quirk has stated that the citizens that have established their Embassy have been offered a different site to use so as to continue sharing their message with the public.

It appears that Lord Mayor Quirk may have missed the point and is treating Aboriginal people as they have been treated by others – with disregard. This is not an Embassy that should be moved. This is a declaration of sovereignty which should be respected and afforded its place in the processes of democratic governance.

International examples

Movements similar to this have happened in Canada and the USA for example – but usually through protests and blocking industrial access to sovereign territories (like forests and islands most often having no major non-indigenous human settlements within the territory seeking protection).

One good example comes from the Haida Gwaii and Nisga’a peoples found in contemporary British Columbia. Both of these nations had blocked industrial activities in what they self-recognised as their own sovereign territories which led to direct political engagement.

After having proven, to the best of their abilities, that this land was under the care of their respective nations before the arrival of Europeans, it was placed – at least for the Haida Gwaii – under indigenous stewardship by law.

Now, these nations have the choice of whether they would like to engage industry and are also in powerful positions should contractual discussions with industry begin.

Urban space versus wilderness

But the Jagera and Turrbal nations are dealing with a dense urban space and not, for example, mostly pristine forested lands. This is similar to the situation of the Iroquois in Toronto, or, of course, the Ottawa in Ottawa. It is much more difficult to gain sovereign territorial rights where such a move could affect millions of people.

An unidentified protestor at the Musgrave Park indigenous embassy. Patrick Hamilton/AAP

There is also no precedent for empowering the indigenous owners of contemporary urban lands. This is, in other words, virgin political territory. That is quite possibly all the more reason why the Aborigines in Brisbane that are positioning themselves for peaceful political contestation should be allowed to do so without eviction notices or threats of legitimated forceful removal.

Solidarity among communities

The organisers of the Paniyiri Festival, and too the residents of Brisbane and beyond, have here the opportunity to declare solidarity with this movement. They might even look to using a different park nearby so as to support the Embassy.

The Greek culture is after all not trying to exercise its right to sovereignty and, no matter how great the festival is and how much I enjoy it, it should stand by the Embassy – not otherwise. Perhaps the Embassy could be included as a partner in the Festival and officially sanctioned as a movement supported by the Greek community.

This point raises the broader issue of civil societies demonstrating solidarity with those battling for their political rights. The Musgrave Park situation is comparable to the plight for Polish sovereignty under the USSR. Solidarity to Poland came quickly from not only those in the undergrounds of then Czechoslovakia, Hungary and East Germany, but too from peoples outside of the USSR.

This situation in Brisbane is analytically no different: the Jagera and Turrbul, like the Polish or Slovakians, held a territory wherein they practiced their own distinct national cultures. These lands, and consequently the powers of these nations, were removed by invaders: British colonists and the USSR respectively.

Nations within nations

There is too the opportunity for Australia to be quite possibly the first in this world to break into innovative legal territory.

By establishing an official indigenous Embassy and recognising it within the boundaries of the Brisbane City Council, Queensland, and Australia, this would be a step beyond the legal actions of the USA which has only recently come to view Native Americans as “nations within a nation” thus affording them the right to increased self-governance and greater political engagement.

Indigenous leader Sam Watson addresses protestors at Musgrave Park as police look on. AAP/Patrick Hamilton

This would also make progress in Australia allowing, for the first time, “Tent Embassies” (such as the now famous Tent Embassy in Canberra) to transform into actual Embassies.

Political evolution

The Musgrave Park Embassy, like the Embassy in Canberra, has global significance for indigenous people. I for one have indigenous ancestors from the Huron-Wendat Nation in North America and identify as an aboriginal person. I can see the similarities between the Jagera and Turrbal stand with the idea of the Huron creating their own Embassy in their own native land in Georgian Bay, Canada. Almost 400 years ago most of this land was known as Wendakia (or Ouendakia) and was home to the Huron Confederacy before genocide and violent dispersal by a European and Iroquoian alliance led to the diaspora of my ancestors.

What the Jagera and Turrbul of Brisbane or those in Canberra are doing is innovation: they are leading the way for other indigenous peoples internationally with the tool of the Embassy. It’s a step forward politically and has the potential to offer new spaces for the growth of aboriginal peoples.

Recognising democratic rights

In Australia today, the sovereign rights of the original owners of this land are recognised, grand political apologies have been issued, and the wish to undo the wrongs of the past has been stated. But these, as many commentators have observed, are just words.

Indigenous peoples are asking for action and the Musgrave Park Embassy is such an action. I think that Musgrave Park should become a formal Embassy for the Aborigines that rightfully own the territory over which Brisbane now sits. It should be there to continue to engage how the Aborigines here wish to progress in an urban space and how those living in Brisbane today wish to exercise solidarity with them.

There is, of course, one final point that needs to be drawn upon. It is the very tragedy of a nation needing to have an Embassy on its own land. Aborigines have not only been dispossessed of their sovereign territories and have faced genocidal hardships, but they have also been excluded – at least in Brisbane – from local democratic politics.

Moving the Embassy, and forcefully evicting its staff, is an abrogation of both human rights and citizen rights under the expectations of democratic theory.

Jean-Paul Gagnon does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Pacifism as Pathology

I’ve had many arguments with Pacifists… or people who like to call themselves pacifist … this is a powerful speech really gets yr attention and provides a good analysis on the myths of pacifism.

Dr. Steve Best

This lecture was given at a former-slaughterhouse of Aprilia, Italy (now a cultural center) on September 6th, 2012. This talk was videotaped by the Veggie Channel and uploaded to their videopage and to You Tube.

Photos of the talk


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The Light Bulb Conspiracy

The light bulb in my study blew and then the light bulb in my bedroom which I guess means I’ll use slightly less electricity but also got me thinking about this documentary I watched recently called… The Lightbulb Conspiracy.

I remember hearing in primary school about how light bulbs could in fact be made so they didn’t blow and need replacing.

But it wasn’t til I watched this doco that I realised how much thought and planning went into exactly how long they lasted.

As is revealed  in the film during the 1920s a secret cartel was set up for the purposes of limiting the life spans of light bulbs.

This is called planned obsolescence and as the documentary reveals is in no way limited to light bulbs.

Things don’t seem to last these days because they’re built that way  – Ipods, printers, washing machines, toasters and even stockings.

And it’s not just dodgy manufacturing … according to the film it’s chips put into printers so they stop working after a certain number of hours and serious testing and planning of clothing to rip or otherwise fall apart.

The film also reveals the end point for electronic waste, developing countries where vast expanses of discarded and worthless consumer goods clutter the landscape – the film was originally called Pyramids of Waste.

Actually they are more than just a visual problem they contain heavy metals and other substances which pollute the environment and cause health problems.

The Light Bulb Conspiracy is free to view on ThoughtMaybe an independently hosted information portal.

Unwelcome Guests dedicated a show to Planned Obsolescence.

Life in Israel: Interview with an Israeli Against the War (IDF Refusenik)

With the current attack on Gaza by the Israeli Defense Force – Operation Pillar of Cloud – the hatred of Palestinians by some Israelis is emerging.

This reminded me of an interview I did with an Israeli Rotem Dan Moore in 2009.

At the time Israeli Defence Forces were attacking Palestine in an operation called Operation Cast Lead.

Rotem lives in Jerusalem and opposes the war on Gaza, he even spent time in jail because he refused to take part in the compulsory military service that young Israelis must do.

I produced an audio package in 2 parts which includes some actuality from within Gaza.

Part I begins with Rotem describing the location of the Gaza Strip and other communities of Palestinians :

Or download here:

Part II begins with a discussion about the anger Israelis seem to have towards Israel:

Or download here

Detailed  information on IDF Refuseniks can be found on Wikipedia.

Israelis continue to resist the war and refuse to serve in the military, today there is news of Nathan Blanc who is likely to have been imprisoned due to his refusal to serve in the IDF.

To military prison, instead of Gaza – Conscientious Objector Natan Blanc to be imprisoned this morning

Meanwhile the bombing continues. I’m compiling a list of sources for news on the attack on Gaza and will update as I come across more.

Founded in 2001 Electronic Intifada is an independent online news publication and educational resource focusing on Palestine, its people, politics, culture and place in the world.

Gaza: They Have Names by Felicity Arbuthnot + Death Toll Mounts In Gaza

Top 10 Myths About the Israeli Attack on Gaza (USA) – excellent in-depth reporting

Harry Fear, an independent journalist based in Gaza with a very good livestream


The word revolution is thrown around a bit lately, will it be televised, will it involve dancing, will it make my hair better, can it happen non-violently and so forth.

Cartoonist and author Stephine McMillian has been exploring revolution in her daily comic strip Minimum Security here’s her list of what a revolution is not:

A marketing slogan
A shift in consciousness
Automatic or inevitable
Smothering the enemy with love
Trading one dictator for another
Voting with our dollars
Electing a less obvious evil
A formula
Personal transformation
A change in attitude
Redefining success
A t-shirt slogan
Occupying a park
A symbolic act
The expansion of bourgeois democracy
Escaping the system
A single heroic act
A restructuring of the system
Internet activism
Radical reforms
A series of protests
The easing of misery
Being the change we wish to see

The ruling class cannot be taken out of power by refusing to participate, or starving it through better consumer choices.

Capitalism cannot be boycotted out of existence. It cannot be walked away from.

It cannot be defeated by any individual act.

It is the conscious overthrow of one class by another.

I’ve been thinking about this lately especially in regard to the Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy.

The End of Capitalism

This is one of the most striking and intelligent articles I’ve ever read, encouraging a total reconfiguring of how to view capitalism and revolution.  Russell Means was a leader in the American Indian Movement (AIM) of the 1960s and 70s, and remains one of the most outspoken Native Americans in the U.S.

I came across this essay while researching for my upcoming critique of Marxism, and was blown away by its clarity. This is Means’ most famous essay. It was published in Ward Churchill’s book “Marxism and Native Americans”, under the title “The Same Old Song”, and has appeared elsewhere under the names “Marxism is a European Tradition,” and “For America to Live, Europe Must Die.” Yet, it is actually not very available on the internet.  I hope by republishing it I will raise some much-needed debate on the nature of the revolutionary project today.

I want to point out…

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Branding Deception

Listen to the show featuring Branding Deception

These days it pays to look further into products to know exactly what you’re buying, often even the small print on the product itself won’t tell you.

Corporations spend big bucks to make it look as if they didn’t and have a penchant for ‘consumer credibility’ and ‘ethical products’.

Even easier still is to buy a small company which has authentic branding and use your multinational status to increase the influence of this brand while keeping most consumers unaware of the big company behind scenes.

And so is the situation with Ben and Jerry’s the icecream company who seem ubiquitous these days.

Ben and Jerry’s look like a small niche even boutique brand, they’re a bit different, not one of the big brands known for icecream like Pauls or Streets.

And Ben and Jerry’s did start out as a small enterprise started by two guys called Ben and Jerry who bonded  in the school gym in 1966 over a hatred for running and a love for food and years later started their company after doing a $5 correspondence course on ice-cream making.

However for more than 12 years the company has been owned by UNILEVER who are the world’s third largest consumer goods company.

While many of the companies so called ‘ethical’ or ‘green’ initiatives remain there’s no getting past the fact they’re owned by UNILEVER .

There is much written about the Ben and Jerry’s takeover for those interested, the Ben and Jerry’s journey from being a social enterprise to being owned by one of the largest multinationals in the world has sparked quite a debate.

One thing it does reinforce is the notion that we can’t green capitalism because in the end the bottom line of how much money is to be made rules the day.

What’s so Bad About Unilever ?

The fact that they’re the 3rd largest consumer goods company in the world rings alarms bells and means they got to where they are by stomping on lots of toes.

Specifically UNILEVER is known for testing its products on animals (even tea apparently),  operating with repressive governments, not treating workers or farmers fairly, using palm oil which threatens orangutangs and indigenous people in Indonesia  and polluting the planet with the chemicals they produce.

The list goes on so for more information visit the Ethical Shopping Guide.