(A tribute to a great idea; ‘The Coalition Against US Foreign Military Bases’ @ University of Baltimore)
Immanuel Kunt…living in Ballarat, a provincial Australian city with a population of 100,000 plus… felt inspired when reading about the activities of a new organisation of concerned world-wide citizens called The Coalition Against U.S. Military Bases. From the hidden cryptographic depths of his mind, a valued item of stored wisdom crystallised; its’ got to be what Immanuel what’s-his-name believed, he thought … “Act that your principle of action might safely be made a law for the whole world”.
Immanuel was an experienced organizer of public events. The Ballarat Begonia Festival, which attracts more than 60,0000 spectators annually, owed much to his organisational skills. This three- day event—held on the Victorian (State) Labour Day long weekend in Ballarat had something for everyone. Flowers, celebrity gardener’s displaying their skills, markets, entertainment, kids’ activities and a community parade.
The more Immanuel thought about the issues ‘The Coalition Against U.S. Military Bases’ were fulminating against, the more he became convinced that he could do something in his own right that could support their cause. They believed, as he did, that “The United States cannot be a moral or ethical country until it faces up to the realities of the U.S. Empire and the destruction it causes around the world. The U.S. undermines governments…including democratic ones…kills millions of people, causes mass migrations of people fleeing their homes, communities and countries and produces vast environmental damage.”
Immanuel Kunt believed that nature was a spectrum of ideas, projecting forms amidst light and colour phenomena that required a certain balanced conditionality to achieve health wellbeing and sustain order. Begonias had been his path to enlightenment. He had come to associate the skills of the more talented gardeners he encountered, with those who possessed an understanding of the subject-object nexus that was normally associated with people of a scientific bent of mind. When he walked among the begonias in the Ballarat Conservatory, he perceived the role of science as one which could function as an auxiliary force, benevolently reaching out to assist all living things captive to nature’s survival of the fittest gambit, so a more equitable outcome could be achieved.
Only the day before…Immanuel Kunt, after reading what The Coalition Against Military Bases had to say about America’s exceptional hi-tech military creep across the globe, encountered a very different example of exceptionalism in a delicatessen in Ballarat. While standing in a queue waiting for a take-away roast chicken, he fell into conversation with the elderly man next to him: “They do a great chicken here, and most Sundays I buy one to take to Buninyong to have lunch with my sister”, he said to Immanuel. As Buninyong was 11km from Ballarat, Immanuel replied, “You’re managing to stay mobile then, and obviously doing something right?”. “I’m 93 and the doctors can’t find anything wrong with me…I’ve lead a free and natural life, avoiding the guns and god call-to-arms” he said, before adding somewhat wryly, “a civilized life confronts one’s instinctive urge to resort to force”.
Immanuel left the deli wondering if it was the philosopher Immanuel-what’s-his name who wrote “Science is organised knowledge, wisdom is organised life, and health is a randomly allocated affair in the hands of impersonal forces”. Stopping to reflect a moment, he wondered if time had played tricks upon his ability to retain information? The choice of the word ‘confront’, used by the old man, awakened something in him. Over the following week, his thoughts kept going back to the deli and his chance encounter with the 93-year old.
While observing the multifarious splendours of the begonias assembled for the upcoming Labour Day holiday weekend, Immanuel suddenly became profoundly aware that people were prone to be led astray by false doctrines. A call-to-arms, he mused, is a call to defend or make ready for confrontation and is understood as a call-to-arms to defend against a take-over. Instead it seems to act more as the fiery torch that keeps the impressionable…who only cheer for the ‘good’ guys…ready for the call-to-arms. The more Immanuel thought about the old man’s parting words, “a civilised life confronts one’s instinctive urge to resort to force”, the more his mind went back to The Coalition Against U.S. Military Bases and their questioning of the merits of a hyped-up military, recklessly investing the nation’s treasure in perpetual warfare.
Immanuel wondered how long it would take for the American public to free itself from the tendentious voices of the ruling elites…the military juggernaut…who sold them the proposition that their form of exceptionality confers righteousness upon their quest to straddle the globe with military bases, by the hundreds…800 maybe…where they then could resort to force, strangling anything and everything that resisted the American way of doing business…business validated by god and gun.
Early in the morning of the day the Begonia Festival was to commence, Immanuel was standing some distance apart from the entrance to the Conservatory admiring the flower arrangements when, to his utter amazement, he saw an old man in jogging apparel slowly move into view and recognized the figure to be that of the old man he had encountered in the deli. The force of his ‘good-morning’ greeting was loud enough to get the jogger’s attention, whereupon he immediately veered towards Immanuel. Stopping in front of Immanuel, he peered at the identity tag connecting the bearer to the events taking place within the Conservatory and exclaimed, “Ah! … so, you’re ‘that’ Kunt!
Over the course of the next half-hour, Immanuel learnt the old man’s name and the name of his older sister who lived in Buninyong. It transpired that Errol Flynn and his 95-year-old sister Peg were committed activists concerned about the corruption of language …especially the propagandistic tactics used to conceal the poisoning effect militarism has had on the health of entire communities.
They were part of a group known as the ‘Buninyong Salon’ who met Sundays to discuss the devious reasons behind the U.S. Empire’s reasons for having bases in Australia. By the end of the half-hour encounter with Errol…much of it covering the tawdry reasons the U.S. gave for being in Australia or elsewhere…Immanuel found himself in receipt of an invitation to attend the group’s bring-your-own style of Sunday luncheon, held from noon onwards every week at Buninyong Salon. Watching the figure of Errol fade from view and disappear behind distant foliage, he was astounded by the magnitude of recent chance encounters that seemed to sign-post a path toward something that required his attention.
Immanuel brought a home baked pizza and a vibrant begonia plant on his very first visit to Buninyong Salon. To his great surprise, the seventeen people who had come together, were all above 90 years of age. A second surprise was to follow when he discovered that none of the people there behaved like ‘old people’ in the least. They were the most lucid, alert, frisky and fun-loving people he had ever encountered. Realising that he had been conditioned to believe that old people belonged in retirement homes once they lost interest in worldly affairs, he took note of the fact that this latest chance encounter had opened a door for him, one enabling his entry into their brave new world. When he was introduced to Peg, he was challenged by her appetite for knowledge when she said without preamble, “interesting name you’ve got there Kunt…how’s it spelt?”
Immanuel was intrigued to discover that even in provincial Australia, in spite of the cant coming from the American propaganda machine and its’ supplicant media, the establishment view of things was now being questioned more openly. It was high time for a greater awareness of the danger of nuclear warheads to percolate through the collective consciousness, he reflected. The propaganda that projected the notion that the U.S. was motivated by good intentions, and was there to protect smaller states seeking freedom, was now perceived to be fallacious. The very myths that had launched America as the guardian of freedom, were now regarded by millions of people throughout the world as nothing more than hollow jingoism…the policies of the U.S. empire didn’t float all boats…instead, the world witnessed a gung-ho US sheriff repeatedly blow them out of the water.
The military narrative that promotes the U.S. empire as just, is finally beginning to evaporate. As a result, America’s abhorrent foreign policy is being subjected to ever greater critical attention across the globe. Under the weight of evidence showing the frequency of U.S. military power using its’ might to repeatedly inflict misery on so many parts of the world… especially in the Middle East…more people have discovered that truth tends to prevail over propaganda in the longer term.
As America’s reputation and stature in the world now rests at the bottom of a cesspool of its’ own making, the fundamentals of democracy are once more being revisited. Reprising the threat of the ‘other’ no longer works. The parasites that now occupy the so-called democratic system have American voices, and they know how to lie. But now, a new era may be approaching, where civilized means may prevail over the urge to use primal methodologies…sane thinking may finally be ready to call an evil bluff.
Immanuel was intrigued to be in a situation where the collective wisdom of 17 people, whose primary interest was eliminating U.S. Bases from Australian soil, confirmed what Immanuel what-was-his-name had said, “reason is the source of morality”.
Errol and Peg Flynn had inherited Buninyong Castle…now a heritage site…upon the passing of their parents. Neither could agree on how many rooms were in the castle, or the number of acres it stood upon. During the afternoon, Immanuel was left flabbergasted when he discovered that Buninyong Salon had a plan that would host an expected 300 guests. Some were arriving from as far afield as Hong Kong, California, Singapore and New Zealand. But flabbergast soon gave way to admiration when he realised that the Buninyong Salon was where the denizens of WWW awareness came to stand up and be counted. The festival would have its’ day in the sun and go by the name of ‘Confront’.
All throughout the Begonia Festival weekend, Immanuel Kunt’s mind remained apart from the flow of events at ground level. He dreamed of extending invitations to everybody across the world interested in curtailing the ravishes of U.S. Imperialism. That’s when he got the idea for Begonias Against Imperialism. He was convinced that if he could give Begonia Day the status of Poppy Day in Australia, the symbol of the begonia would, in time, come to represent the people’s concern for the future, as does the Poppy represent people’s concern for remembering the past. It would require people to focus on the dangers of nuclear war and the attendant weapons of mass destruction that throw so dark a shadow over everyone.
Addressing his friends at the Buninyong Salon the following Sunday, Immanuel pitched the following ideas to them;
“The red remembrance poppy has become a familiar emblem of Remembrance Day due to the poem “In Flanders Fields” written by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCray. After reading the poem, Moina Michael, a professor at The University of Georgia wrote the poem, “We Shall Keep the Fate”, and swore to wear a red poppy on the anniversary. The custom spread to Europe and the countries of the British Empire and Commonwealth within three years.”
Continuing his speech, he went on to say; “We need to use these actions as a template for our own purposes so that, with the right means, we can proceed to storm the barricades of apathy by marshalling support for all the groups militating against U.S. military bases throughout the world. We wish Ballarat to be the first region to celebrate the begonia as the emblem of resistance to nuclear-madness. Our hope is that our beloved flower will acquire, over time, an emblematic status equal to that of the red poppy. Our first project will involve producing some thousands of badges bearing the word ‘CONFRONT’ under an image of our beloved flower”.
Immanuel received the reaction to his pitch with a mixture of gratitude and astonishment. The consensus was that three years was a reasonable time in which to make the idea work, and the group also advanced the belief that time was on their side. Adeline Armani, a member of the ‘salon’ knew of someone capable of writing a poem dealing with the dangers of nuclear missiles…tarrying with the devil…were her words for describing the potency of The Pentagon and its’ ability to take us all to the edge of the precipice, and beyond. Joel Harris believed that Australians were now past the point where they would uncritically enter alliances that might open Pandora’s Box. Referring to the American base in Darwin he vouched “Aussies are no longer the gullible servants of empires they once believed to be true blue commodities”.
So, time passed, and the ‘oldies’ remained firmly on the perch to observe Immanuel Kunts’ efforts now steadily bearing fruit. From many quarters of the globe, hundreds, then thousands of enquiries arrived in Buninyong, attesting to the need for solidarity in the face of a military culture perceived be extremely toxic. Immanuel Kunt, given over to musing, believed that if all the people from around the world who empathised with the ‘Confront’ cause came to Ballarat, their number would exceed those attending the Begonia Festival by a magnitude of 00000’s.
Something has to be done and something has to start somewhere, he mused!
Denis A. Conroy,