The insanity continues…

The insanity continues…

Probably everyone remembers the brutal murdering of Theo van Gogh the Dutch film maker and the Danish cartoons depicting Mohammed that led to riots, death threats and so on. Well, it’s happening again, this time with South Park! An extremist Muslim coalition from within the US has put out a death threat against the makers of South Park. Islam is not a threat to Western democracies? I think it very much is. In fact extreme Muslim organisations in Western countries are using free speech to attack free speech, which is both hypocritical and intolerable in a liberal democracy.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has warned us about Islam in her books The Infidel and The Caged Virgin (if we needed more warning). She’s done so in the most eloquent, well argued and convincing form possible. Then again, maybe we need the makers of South Park attacked before the underlying issues become obvious again.. and again. ‘Allah commands you to terrorise the infidel’. Hm, indeed, Islam is a very peaceful religion… not!

(Now to those of you who are also on the Left but happen to sheepishly avoid this topic and hide under the Left’s cultural relativism all I can say is that now is a good time to challenge some of your own ideas. These issues matter a great deal for the world right now. I’m not talking about terrorism, I’m talking about issues of inter-cultural dialogue, peaceful coexistence, our duty to defend women and children of minorities and not allowing them to be used and abused by their own men and hide behind the veil of cultural difference and ignorance, the essential right to free speech… if in any doubt I truly and deeply recommend reading any of Hirsi Ali’s books before you want to engage in an extended debate)

Will we start censoring ourselves? Many organisations, writers, film makers etc are already doing just that, the terrorising and shutting down of free speech is already under way and often working very well. This is tragic. I’m with Hirsi Ali, we must stand by freedom of expression and not allow our liberal values to be eroded and be bullied and terrorised into silencing ourselves. Important message for our times: not to be tolerant with intolerance.

I’m not a fan of CNN but this is a lucid explanation of this particular issue and the second half contains an interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali whom I consider to be the most eloquent and wonderful author on the topic…

A wonderful new development is the ‘Everybody Draw Mohammed Day’ which is a wonderful new subversive way of expressing your support for free expression, one that I hope one day will make fundamentalist blackmailing completely ridiculous and untenable.

*In the meantime I have also received a page of the most extreme cartoons depicting Mohammed and Allah. I think this page contains many unncessarily vulgar cartoons while others are apt, expressive and contain important points. However, regardless of whether they appear reprehensible for some or not, it is essential that we all defend our liberal democratic rights to free expression. Vulgarity and offensiveness in return can be criticized, ostrasized, mocked and attacked, but NOT with systematic intimidation, threats or killing. Many Muslims may never stop fighting against such cartoons but the more we all print them and disseminate them and talk about them, the more the tide will turn on this particularly weird chapter on free speech*

Ben & Anneke’s wedding!

Ben & Anneke’s wedding!

*LOTS OF LOVE TO YOU GUYS, HAVE A BLAST OVERSEAS!!!*

Ahhh after ConFest we headed to Canberra… back into the arms of civilisation! Albeit with lots and lots of roundabouts and cold weather.

It was such a joy to be able to attend Ben & Anneke’s wedding. If you know me personally you’d know that I’m really not into marriage as such, to say the least, but this does not prevent me from celebrating the gorgeous people I love and the choices they make. If there are two people whose wedding I can celebrate with feelings of overflowing love, it’s Ben and Anneke!

These two friends of mine live in Melbourne and have a wonderful little tribe of gorgeous people around them. They are the loving caring glue that holds this tribe together and I continue to deeply admire their loving spirit, care, respect, creativity, commitment, sanity, integrity and wondrous humanity. I love you guys with all my heart! ♥

The wedding was held in Ben’s parents’ house, entirely organised by B&A, their family and friends. This is what a real wedding is like! So much love and care went into everything, the opposite of a commercial wedding. The ceremony was really touching and beautiful, the food and entertainment was delightful, there was even food for celiacs, yay! :) Was so awesome to catch up with friends from Melbourne and to celebrate into the night. Chris got to play his violin, which was a special highlight for me.

B&A will be off to Vietnam soon then to Europe and I so hope to catch up with them in Budapest, show them around the sites of the city and maybe even venture to Berlin together! I just cannot wait!

I took lots and lots of photos as you can tell from these on the left… I guess this was my contribution, turning up with my new SLR and taking as many awesome happy snaps as I could :)

More of my wedding photos here (please don’t link back, thanks!).

ConFest 2

ConFest 2

And then on Tuesday everyone started leaving and quickly the campsite became sparse and spacious. I was really enjoying the bushland around us, now able to breathe again. Days grew longer and quieter and more relaxed.

Then we were told that as the festival is over the ‘leave or help out’ policy is in place. In other words we either tear up our huge tent and go elsewhere, which is a pain in the arse, or we spend at least a few hours each day helping volunteer organisers do the heavy and dirty work of putting everything away and cleaning up the site. As we were about to head to Canberra for a wedding and neither wanted to re-position our tent nor wanted to spend days in Canberra, we decided to stay.

Fair enough, you have to put community effort into ConFest and so far we hadn’t helped out at all. One day I was trying to enjoy myself though, walking into bushland, naked and playing my violin… but this was short lived, two men came up to me and told me I was requested to help out again. So much for naked violin playing in the bush!

It was really nice though to take our sweet time, enjoy the campsite freely, walk into the sunset on the Edward River and spend lots of very beautiful time together… mmmmm

Overall ConFest was a bit of an eye opener: what hippies get up to in the middle of the bush and how it all comes together. Mostly though I relished the opportunity to catch up with friends, hang out with Chris, enjoy the bushland and truly chill out, and be the sociologist with the new digital SLR in her paws ;) Due to the discomforts of camping with disabilities I’m not sure I’ll be back, but I had a unique and wonderful experience that I wouldn’t give for anything :)

More of my ConFest photos here (please don’t link back, thanks!).

ConFest 1

ConFest 1

Ahh ConFest is now a memory as I’m back at work, but this is the first time I have the chance to actually write about it here :)

ConFest is a lovely alternative camping festival full of workshops and hippie fun, held at Xmas and Easter in a remote location in the middle of the bush near the NSW-Victorian border, about 12 hours from Sydney.

Let’s see what happened…

Chris and I packed up and drove down to Wagga where we slept for a night, then continued on to Deniliquin and then to the actual campsite. Neither of us had any idea just how remote this location was, about 95km from the nearest town with a supermarket. Yes, we actually did make this 200km round-trip once for food, my longest shopping trip for groceries!

On the way there we admired the bush, listened to lots of music and non-violent communication (more about this later!), patted the half-blind local dog at our Wagga hotel, listened to the shrieking sounds of cockatoos and admired the signs on the road that warned us of not taking any tomatoes with us in case we carry fruitflies. Hm.

We got there on the Sunday when the festival was in full swing. Having just scraped in through the gate before the sun went down (damn daylight saving, damn gates closing at dusk!) we quickly went on to find a spot in the already full camping grounds and set up our tent before the mosquitoes could completely devour us.

Took me a little while to give up my urban comforts and accept that I was going to be very dirty indeed. We had mostly lovely weather with just one day of full-on rain, Chris even got to bathe in the Edward river… me, I just took photos :)

Monday morning, ok, after a coffee and morning rituals it was actually afternoon by the time we found the information tent… we had a look at the dozens of workshops on offer. Anything from chanting and yoga, to sustainable living and tying up your testicles! What a wonderful way of using your freedoms with other like-minded human monkeys!

Sunday night we admired the fire twirlers and drumming circle and found some of our friends just by wondering around. 5000 people is big enough to lose your friends but small enough to find them without having to resort to messages at the info booth. Needless to say mobile phones don’t work here, you are back in the middle ages in terms of both technology and lifestyle… peaceful and stress-free, albeit dirty and inefficient too.

My favourite bits were hanging out in the hippie cafe, watching this big dusty group of alternative people doing their crazy stuff around us, hanging out with friends, and going around the site taking lots of photos.

Eventually we got the hang of camp cooking and duly downgrading my expectations for dinner and comforts. We cooked some wonderful meals with a random bunch of wonderful weirdos and created lots of simple edibles in front of our tent.

I certainly acquired a new found appreciation for basic comforts and also really enjoyed the relaxing, the kind you will never find in the city. The bush was amazing, part wet land, part normal Aussie bush, with goannas, possums making weird mating noises at night, frogs barking in the billabong, millions of bugs, moth, mozzies and critters of all sorts, gorgeous trees, wide open spaces, the cycles of bush life, and just seeing thousands of stars without the city lights at night is so wonderful. You get to appreciate the smallest things to the biggest: from the wonder of a frog to the wide open universe… or maybe that’s just the hippie spirit talking ;)

Some photos for you on the left… more when I get to part 2 :)