Thinking Allowed - Including musings by Daan Spijer.

From the Kitchen

June 16, 2010

From the Kitchen #56

Reading is not always a pleasurable pursuit.  Recently I have been working through a number of books which are not entertaining but certainly worth the effort.  In fact, they are important books and the reading of them can lead to positive changes in our society.

Ken Crispin’s The Pursuit of Justice (reviewed) is stimulating and thought-provoking.  It reminded me of what I enjoyed about being in legal practice in the 1970s and why I have continued to care about how we live our lives and why we need to avoid going to sleep as successive governments pass ever more laws in response to the outrage expressed through the media about the ever-increasing lawlessness in our communities.  That lawlessness may not in fact be increasing seems irrelevant to the media and to most politicians.

More recently, I read Sarah’s Last Wish by Eve Hillary (reviewed).  Its subtitle (‘A chilling glimpse into forced medicine’) is a warning to the reader.  As CEO of the Australasian College of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine (ACNEM) I was peripherally involved in the closing events of this narrative in 2004.  Knowing much of what happened around the last 1½ years of Sarah’s life, I knew I was in for bouts of anger and feelings of frustration and grief.  The book is wonderfully written and is a tribute to Sarah’s courage and that of her family, in the face of overwhelming odds – standing up to the full might of a bureaucracy gone mad.  I also feel good about any contribution I may have made to the postgraduate training of doctors who are able to offer people more than the restricted orthodox ‘treatments’ available for many degenerative and life-threatening diseases.

It angers and saddens me that those things we take for granted – our privacy, our freedom to choose our medical care or to refuse medical care, and the honesty and openness of healthcare professionals – have still to be fought for, because governments and bureaucracies continue to want to curtail these and from time to time doctors, social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists choose to gang up on a hapless citizen.  Unfortunately, we cannot always rely on the Courts to protect us or to correct the wrongs which have been perpetrated.  As a lawyer, it also angers me that there are other lawyers who see their clients’ interests as being secondary to their own interests or who are too timid to stand up for their clients.

Set against this, it was a pleasure to recently watch a documentary about a government doing something right in a difficult area.  The Queensland government has been able to cut through a spaghetti bowl full of red tape in dealing with the problems of the largely Aboriginal community of Lockhart River in the far north of Cape York [map].  To see the positive results of an intelligent and compassionate approach to issues which are often labelled as intractable, helps to dispel my negative feelings after reading the books mentioned above.  Not that I regret reading the books.

There is some positive news to be found of the not-sickly-sweet variety, but one has to make an effort to find it or be lucky to stumble upon it (as I was with the Lockhart River story).  By the way, it is well worth watching it on-line at

While there is an overwhelming number of things that are wrong about our society and all of them need to be addressed and all of us should do something to help address them, no one person can take on all of them.  Thus, each of us must choose one or a small number of issues to work on and do so in such a manner as is appropriate for us.  Each of us has different strengths, different expertise and experience, our own level of tolerance, energy and courage.

Right now, I feel that my most powerful tool is my ability to write clearly and my most useful option is to put that writing to work to promote necessary change.  When I was in my twenties, my most useful and powerful tools were related to my legal training and I used these effectively for some years.  And I know what it is like to be threatened, including receiving serious death threats from a multinational company because I was helping people to resist its demands for unconscionably high (and illegal) rates of interest.

I have met other people who have taken action to right wrongs or alleviate suffering, often at great personal cost.  Yet they would do it again, despite the costs, because the reward is the feeling that comes with doing it – the sense of achievement in doing something that benefits many others.

What is it that you see needs changing and what are you going to do to make change possible?

© 2010 Daan Spijer

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  1. Hello Daan,
    I have no ill feelings towards the boat people as human beings and I am to assume that most of them are good citizens in their country, but we have many, many Australians destitute, homeless, needing to rely on charity, etc. Meanwhile, the boat people come here to Australia and they receive the Royal treatment. As I stated above, I have no discrimination against the boat people but, for Heaven’s sake, let our people be given first priority in their own country!
    Being a pensioner,I live it tough (and I know I am not Robinson Crusoe) and I have to pay rates, feed and clothe myself and, although the price for scripts for my medications (I am a diabetic) are helpful, I can’t always buy all of my medication.
    So why can’t the boat people understand that by coming here to Australia, they are depriving Australians?
    Also, why doesn’t the government have a law to stop the Council from telling us land owners what we can and what we can’t do on our own properties. For an example, I wanted to divide a small piece of my land and the council said that I would have to put in a pumping station for the sewerage. I would like to inform that the land in question has (at least for 100 years and beyond) never had sewerage connected. First there was the pan and then the septic. So you tell me why a pensioner should be footing the bill of a pumping station plus connection to her land. Connection I understand, but a pumping station (cost about $30 000+).

    Comment by Shirley Hassen — June 18, 2010 @ 12:16 pm
  2. Shirley, I can understand your frustration but cannot agree with you about the asylum seekers, for that is what most of the ‘boat people’ are.
    Apart from the fact that we have a humanitarian responsibility to accept asylum seekers onto our shores (apart form our obligations under international law), experience of more than sixty years has shown that people from other countries who settle here (under whatever guise they come) make huge contributions to our society and our economy. I know that there is a perception that they take valuable resources from current citizens, but this is not supported by the facts.
    As for your comments about council interference in your dealing with your land — councils need to lay down rules to ensure that one person’s use of their land does not adversely affect the wider community, but I agree that sometimes this can go too far and makes no sense.

    Comment by Daan Spijer — June 18, 2010 @ 4:04 pm

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