Dr Helen McGrath is currently an adjunct professor at both Deakin and RMIT Universities.
Cheryl Critchley is a prolific investigative journalist.
The fifteen crimes analyzed in this book, all carried out in Australia, involve three women and twelve men. The criminals were generally not diagnosed with a severe mental illness, however, they were all diagnosed as having a mental disorder, such as a personality disorder, and they were well aware that what they were doing was wrong. The difference between mental illness and a personality disorder is explained in detail at the beginning of the book.
The various personality disorders are delved into at length by the authors. MIND BEHIND THE CRIME is well set out, divided into chapters and parts e.g. each chapter is devoted to one specific crime with the offender and victim/s involved in that particular crime listed at the beginning of the relevant chapter. Parts of the book are divided up into the specific, diagnosed disorders as they relate to each perpetrator’s behaviour and decision-making in the lead up to their horrendous crime.
PART 1: Filicide and familicide – Killing Your Own Family
‘Men commit nearly all familicides and filicides (92-97 %) and there is evidence that such mass murders are increasing in Australia.’
Filicide is the term used to describe a situation in which a parent intentionally kills one or more of their children …the parent may or may not then kill themselves. The motive and case history of each of these crimes is explored thoroughly. Familicide and familicide-suicide are the two terms most commonly used to describe a situation in which one family member kills or attempts to kill all members of their direct family and then often suicides. Classification schemes are used to aid the reader in identifying the behaviours and mental disorders that motivated these murderers.
Family annihilation is described as a subcategory of mass murder, defined as the killing of four or more members of the one family in one location and during one event. Family annihilators are mostly men.
‘Associate professor Carolyn Harris Johnson, a leading expert in filicide and familicide…points out that the media frequently romanticises (saying they acted out of love) and sanitises this type of crime, to soothe the anxieties of the audience because the subject matter of child murder is taboo, or too confronting for most people. But this approach distorts the public’s understanding of why these events occur and the extent of the perpetrator’s responsibility. This makes it much more difficult to identify actions that can be taken as early warning signs and prevent such child murders in the future.’ [my emphasis]
A summary of each of four categories are:
The self-righteous killer-seeks to blame their partner for damage to family, breakdown of relationship, etc. Has been controlling and possessive in the past, engages in over- dramatic behaviour and comments, may attempt suicide to avoid facing the criminal justice system.
The disappointed killer – concludes their family has let them down, their family is an extension of their own needs and aspirations, self-obsession prevents them from seeing their children as separate entities.
The anomic killer – perceives they have damaged their family’s income or lifestyle, have lost their economic status, lost their job.
The paranoid killer – perceives there is an external threat (real or imagined) that will destroy their family e.g. social services may take their children.
PART 2: Narcissistic personality disorder and malignant narcissism – arrogant, dangerous and sometimes vulnerable.
PART 3: Dependent personality disorder – desperately needy.
PART 4: Paranoid personality disorder – you can’t trust anyone
PART 5: Antisocial personality disorder – Life outside the rules. People with ASPD can be dangerous and difficult to detect. They lurk in homes and workplaces, playing the role of the perfect partner or colleague until they decide to use and abuse those around them for their own ends.
PART 6: Criminal autistic psychopathy and sexual sadism disorder –
a dangerous combination:
1. autistic spectrum disorder.
2. Asperger’s syndrome.
3. pervasive developmental disorder.
A diagnosis of this disorder can be made when there is evidence of behaviours such as those listed in the following two categories:
1. behaviours that indicate deficits in social communication and interaction. (Deficits in social communication and interaction are listed in more detail in this section).
2. restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests or activities.
Every one of the above disorders is explained at length in each section to help the reader understand the mind and behaviours of the perpetrator at the time the crime was committed.
All of the cases chosen for this book are recent high-profile Australian murders most readers will already know about. MIND BEHIND THE CRIME refers to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual and other classification schemes to help explain each disorder and the subsequent motives of the perpetrators involved.
The authors argue that no amount of mild to moderate depression excuses killing those closest to you. It is never justified and the perpetrators should be called what they are – murderers. They go on to say:
“A common myth about these crimes is that parents who kill their children do so out of love and that the extreme love they feel for their child/children means they can’t bear to be separated from them…loving fathers and husbands don’t kill their kids. And unless the public’s perception of these murderers changes, other men will continue to feel that if life gets too tough they, too, can take this option and be eulogized by their loved ones in the media rather than condemned as they should be.’ Most children were killed in a brutal and violent way; in their last moments knowing that it was their father who killed them.
‘The positive way many of those who kill their children are described in the media has the potential to influence others to commit the same crimes. Such coverage also detracts from the victims’ suffering and makes the crimes seem less horrifying. It implies that nothing can be done about these killings because they are neither predictable nor preventable. This would not be the case if, as a society, we accepted the hard reality about these crimes and focused more on identifying potential warning signs.’
It is clear at the outset that the authors care deeply about the victims involved in these crimes. They warn of the dangers that men with these disorders pose to their wives/partners and children. There is an appendix at the rear of the book: ‘Where to go for help and support’.
This is a book for our times, and I recommend it to readers who may know of someone in their family who is at risk, or for anyone interested in trying to make sense of why these murders are occurring across Australia. There is also widespread concern that Australia’s Family Court system requires reform to ensure that justice is done and that families and children are better protected.
-Anne Frandi-Coory 14 December 2018
A Tale Of Three Cities ISTANBUL
A Book Review – 5 stars *****
Byzantion of Greece’s ancient past, the capital of the Christian Byzantine Empire, famed Constantinople of New Rome and Muslim Ottoman Empire that today goes by the name of Istanbul, Turkish republic.
‘Istanbul is the city of many names’, writes Bettany Hughes: Byzantion, Byzantium, New Rome, Stambol, Islam-bol are just a few of them. And Istanbul today ‘is lapped by the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus, and the Sea of Marmara; to the north is the Black Sea and to the south, through the Hellespont or Dardanelles, the Mediterranean.’
A diamond mounted between two sapphires and two emeralds…the precious stone in the ring of a vast dominion which embraced the entire world as described in ‘The Dream of Osman’ c. AD 1280.
Hughes guides the reader around the city that I wish I had visited. It is obvious from reading this book that the author has walked Istanbul’s streets and knows the city well, and she has meticulously researched its 8000 years of history. I can assure you that this is no dreary history book the likes of which bored us to tears at school. The ancient town of Byzantion’s King Byzas (legend has it that his father was Poseidon, his grandfather, Zeus) was well located at the intersection of trade routes. Eventually the Roman emperor Constantine decided that ‘Old Rome’ was too far away from all the action and over time the City of Constantine became Constantinople, the New Rome, capital of the Roman Empire itself. The gateway between East and West. Constantinople’s Christian name was changed to Istanbul around 1923 after the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
The book has short chapters with clear and helpful titles, dated in both Western and Islamic calendar formats where appropriate. It enables readers to navigate this vast book in piecemeal fashion, but I found it difficult to put this book aside; it is so well researched and written, with personal written accounts from people who were present during many of the historical events, which made the book all the more fascinating. I particularly enjoyed the frequent references to current and recent archaeological digs the findings of which verify historical accounts. Hughes includes several maps and colour plates, which I constantly referred to as I was reading. It is evident that the West owes far more to Eastern cultures than we have been ready to believe in the past. The Roman Empire pillaged much wealth from Egypt and the East and in turn the Ottomans pillaged from Roman territories. It is arguable that the rabble that made up early Western civilisation reached a turning point when it invaded and colonised Egypt.
Muslim and Christian lived in relatively peaceful harmony during the Ottoman era but both sides could be extremely brutal whenever their territories or power were threatened. The Ottomans, however, were far more than their harams and baths, which titillated and attracted travellers; they were skilled diplomats and traders. Christian slave boys ‘harvested’ from the West were trained as interpreters. Called Dragomans, one of their critical attributes was their facility with languages, and some of them could speak up to seven languages which enabled the empire to spread its culture and bargain with valuable commodities to negotiate peace. When the Ottoman Empire began to crumble at the beginning of the twentieth century, Germany, France and Britain ‘fought over the spoils’ and it is apparent that the after-effects of this breaking up of once cohesive territories helped to turn Christianity and Islam against each other which we are still witnessing in modern times. Millions of refugees were displaced during the carve up of territories, and millions died.
This book, as well as being a great read, informs readers on how the current geo-political era came into being, and it does not always put the West in a good light. We owe so much of the great advances and wealth in our Western civilisation to the East, and let us not forget, to Islam
-Anne Frandi-Coory 27 October 2017
Also here on Anne Frandi-Coory’s Facebook page:
THE VATICAN DIARIES A Behind-The-Scenes Look At The Power, Personalities and Politics At The Heart Of The Catholic Church
A Book Review by Anne Frandi-Coory
It really is a joke that the Vatican considers itself a city state in its own right! More like a private boarding institution full of petulant school boys with eccentric masters in control of such departments as Congregation For Catholic Education, Congregation For The Causes of Saints, Congregation For The Clergy, Congregation For Institutes of Consecrated Life And Societies Of Apostolic Life etc. and where the competition for supremacy over doctrinal matters is fierce.
What bothered me the most about the goings on in the Vatican as revealed in this book, was the total shutdown of any discussion about the thousands of cases of sexual abuse of children in USA, Australia and Ireland; the total lack of any consideration of the harm done to children by paedophile priests. The Vatican is a well-oiled machine that protects the Church at all costs, and I mean ‘all costs’!
The only noteworthy global/political stance the Vatican has taken in recent times, in my view, was when Pope John Paul ll warned the USA of the terrible consequences if it invaded Iraq: ‘Four years earlier [George W ] Bush had dismissed Pope John Paul’s cautionary warnings about war during the build-up to the invasion of Iraq, leaving deep resentment at the Vatican. In the aftermath of Saddam Hussein’s demise, as terrorism, factional fighting and anti-Christian attacks increased, the Vatican said, essentially, “We told you so.”‘
It is truly incredulous how petty and ridiculous are the secrecy, the bitchiness, and to think this is the headquarters that directs the Catholic Faith for followers around the world! What a waste of time and money!! All the money the Catholic Church rakes in globally would surely feed the world’s poor? Instead it allows the clergy and the pope, to live in palaces, eat like kings, and be waited on day and night!
Just like Mother Teresa was a ‘cash cow’ for the Catholic Church, so too was the Legion of Christ whose Mexican founder, Marcial Maciel Degollado, fathered several children to several different women but who the Vatican sponsored and feted because of the huge numbers of new priests flocking to his seminaries and the vast amounts of money his order collected in donations. He also embezzled millions for his own private use, and was accused of sexual abuse, but the Vatican protected him until he died.
And heresy isn’t a problem for the Catholic Church either these days, not if it brings in billions of dollars worldwide like the Lefebvrists do. This schism within the Holy Church, for which several bishops and priests were excommunicated, strongly advocates for the pre-Vatican Council ll Tridentine Rites, including the use of Latin for Mass. For this faction of Catholicism, strict Tradition is everything. It does show how little the sexual abuse of children by paedophile priests concerns the Vatican hierarchy when compared to apostasy.
The chapter in the book titled SEX lays open the arguments within the Church about the problem of homosexuality of priests and it’s very interesting indeed. There is little doubt that homosexual relationships between priests are condoned within the Vatican, and within parishes. In one case, a priest was caught on a hidden camera, attempting to seduce a young man on a white couch in his office! It was a set up, and the whole affair was broadcast on Italian TV. A few years ago, an investigation carried out by the Church, employing expert psychiatrists, confirmed what the Church has always denied; that the Catholic priesthood is a haven for homosexuals and that teenage seminarians are the attraction. Also, research has revealed that by far the largest numbers of child abuse victims are pre-pubescent boys. One particular psychiatrist believes that celibacy is the prime cause of the fact that so many paedophiles join the priesthood. Many followers are dismayed that the Church will not soften its stance on celibacy, even though it allows its Eastern Orthodox priests to marry. One psychiatrist went so far as to advise the Vatican that allowing priests to marry would encourage more ‘socially mature’ men to become priests. The following is a significant expert opinion quoted by the author: ‘Dr Martin P Kafka, a psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School, said he thought homosexuality, while not a cause of sexual abuse, was a “likely risk factor” that deserved further study. He stated that in comparison with the general population, abuse cases in the Church disproportionately involved homosexual male adults who’d molested adolescent males. The no-gay-priests faction did its best to ignore the fact that Dr Kafka had also wondered whether celibacy could also be a ‘risk factor’ in sexual abuse. [My emphasis]
Is there a secret document emanating from the Congregation for Catholic Education, which oversees seminaries around the world, stating the Vatican’s new position on admitting homosexuals into the priesthood? Nothing has been confirmed, but… “The document’s position is negative based in part on what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says in its revised edition, that the homosexual orientation is ‘objectively disordered.’ Therefore independently of any judgment on the homosexual person, a person of this orientation should not be admitted to the seminary and, if it is discovered later, should not be ordained.” One can’t help wondering whether the Catholic Church is no longer attracting enough priests into its fold because of the dwindling faith of its congregations or perhaps because of its restriction on the ordination of homosexuals?
This chapter also reveals the Vatican’s rules on the use of condoms and other forms of contraception, and once again I am amazed at the ridiculous pettiness of the detail of what is and isn’t allowed! For instance: “condoms are acceptable for prostitutes, because the sex they engage in is already sinful”…but some in the Vatican are concerned because that “would lead the Church to support the use of condoms for all ‘fornicators’ including sexually active teenagers.” I won’t go into the detail of the Vatican’s rules about the use of condoms for the prevention of the spread of HIV/AIDS, but they border on the utterly ludicrous!
The Vatican Diaries is a must read, especially for the faithful, because you really should know the truth of what is happening within your own Church! It is not just a salacious exposé…John Thavis has written an engaging and at times, very funny book. He obviously has friends within the Vatican whom he trusts and admires, and he has been working as a journalist in this field for over thirty years. I did enjoy the chapters about the Vatican Museum, and the character of an irreverent priest who translated documents into Latin, and who constantly embarrassed tourists and the Vatican hierarchy who would have dearly loved to have fired him, if he hadn’t been such a brilliant Latinist!
The comings and goings, the antiquated white and black smoke used to inform an anxiously waiting public about progress in the election of a new pope, are enlightening, humourous, and left me wondering why an extremely wealthy city state still used smoke signals, emitted from a belching, cough inducing stove. Oh that’s right, Tradition.
-Anne Frandi-Coory 31 August 2016
The Atheist Manifesto
by Michel Onfray
Born to a family of Norman farmers, Michel Onfray was abandoned by his parents to a Catholic institution from age 10 to 14. Overcoming these early hardships, Onfray graduated with a PhD in philosophy. He has written over 80 books and teaches philosophy at a French university.
A friend gave me The Atheist Manifesto not long after he had finished reading Whatever Happened To Ishtar? which I had written in 2010, a book spawned of seventeen years of an indoctrinated childhood spent in various Catholic institutions. ‘I know you will enjoy this book’, he told me, ‘but it’s a little too intellectual for me.’ He was right; I have since read it twice.
Was Monotheism born of the sand? Two paragraphs in Manifesto’s preface attempt to partly answer this question:
Desert Memory: After a few hours on the trail in the Mauritanian desert, I saw an old herdsman traveling with his family. His young wife and his mother-in-law rode camels; his sons and daughters were on donkeys. The group carried with them everything essential to survival-and therefore to life. The sight of them gave me the impression that I had encountered a contemporary of Muhammad. Burning white sky, scattered, scorched trees, uprooted thorn bushes blown by the desert wind across unending vistas of orange sand…the spectacle evoked the geographical and psychological background of the Koran, in the turbulent period of camel caravans, nomad encampments, and clashing desert tribes.
I thought of the lands of Israel, Judaea, and Samaria, of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, of Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee. Places where the sun bakes men’s heads, desiccates their bodies, afflicts their souls with thirst. Places that generate a yearning for oases where water flows cool, clear and free, where the air is balmy and fragrant, where the food and drink are abundant. The afterlife suddenly struck me as a counter world invented by men exhausted and parched by their ceaseless wanderings across the dunes or up and down rocky trails baked to white heat. Monotheism was born of the sand.
Michel Onfray analyses the fanatical belief in the afterlife by followers of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The lives of these early followers of one God were, every single day, a struggle for survival in a harsh and unforgiving climate, where death inflicted different kinds of terror in the living. Was the promise of an afterlife meant to alleviate that terror? For instance the Koran’s fantastic description of paradise: rivers of milk and wine, beautiful virgins, beds of luxurious cloth, celestial music and magnificent gardens? Why wouldn’t a man want to die and leave this endless struggle?
What better way to avoid looking at reality and inevitable death in the face, than to construct fantastical tales that the three religions are built on. And I love this from Onfray, so relevant to our 21st Century concerns over human-made Climate Change: The invention of an afterlife would not matter so much were it not purchased at so high a price: disregard of the real, hence wilful neglect of the only world there is. While religion is often at variance with immanence, with man’s inherent nature, atheism is in harmony with the earth – life’s other name. For those of us who have given up on believing in the existence of God, saving planet earth is our passion, science our saviour.
The author tells us about the first tentative atheists, who weren’t really fully fledged atheists for one reason or another, which he outlines with some humour and sarcasm. And then along came Nietzsche! Onfray uses the sub-heading Philosophical Earthquake to describe this period which is a perfect description of the upheaval this one man caused. But so much made sense to intelligent, thinking people!
Onfray goes on to ‘teach’ the case for atheism. He writes: Talmud and Torah, Bible and New Testament, Koran and the Hadith offer insufficient grounds for the philosopher to choose between Jewish, Christian or Muslim misogyny. Or to opt against pork and alcohol but in favour of the veil or the burka, to attend the synagogue, the temple, the church, or the mosque, all places where intelligence is ailing and where, for centuries, the faithful have practiced obedience to dogma and submission to the Law-and therefore obedience and submission to those who claim to be the elect, the envoys and the word of God. He suggests that instead of teaching monotheistic religions in schools we should be teaching atheism. He prefers the teachings of The Genealogy of Morals (1887) rather than the epistles to the Corinthians. I happen to agree with him. Along with world conservation, less exploitation of this wonderful planet we live on!
In the chapter Towards an Atheology: Thirty centuries from the earliest texts of the Old Testament to the present day, teach us that the assertion of one God, violent , jealous, quarrelsome, intolerant and bellicose, has generated more hate, bloodshed, deaths, and brutality than it has peace…[for example] There is the Jewish fantasy of a chosen people, which vindicates colonialism, expropriation, hatred, animosity between peoples, and finally an authoritarian and armed theocracy.
The author pleads for the world to have an end to the linkage of the world’s woes to atheism: God’s existence it seems to me, has historically generated in his name more battles, massacres, conflicts and wars than peace, serenity, brotherly love, forgiveness of sins, and tolerance. To my knowledge, no popes, princes, kings, caliphs, or emirs have excelled in the practice of virtue, so outstandingly did Moses, Paul, and Muhammad excel in murder, torture, and orgies of plunder-I call the biographies to witness. So many variations on the theme of loving one’s neighbour.
Onfray suggests that the times we live in are no longer atheist. We instead are in the midst of the era of nihilism, which stems from the ‘turbulence of the transit zone between still very present Judeo-Christianity and timidly blooming post-Christianity…Jews, Christians and Muslims, construct for themselves, a made-to-measure morality. This implies selective borrowings (tailored to fit their needs) from their holy books in order to establish rules of play and participation by the community.’
Christians, particularly Catholics, know all too well, religious concepts of ‘purity’, and how it relates to sex, and we can mostly thank Paul of Tarsus/St Paul for that! The dichotomy of the female, whore/virgin, is still constantly preached as Canon Law by an ancient and all-male Vatican. The author delves into this topic with relish, and coming from a background of a childhood in Catholic institutions, I could relate to these chapters intimately.
Onfray explains that Muslims share many of their fixations on purity with Jews; all food must be ritually prepared. Why the absolute prohibition of the consumption of pork, but not camel meat? Even on that matter, there is much disagreement. Some suggest the pig was emblematic of certain unpleasant memories of Roman legions, others believe it was the pig’s omnivorous diet, its consummation of public refuse. I have also read of another theory: the squeals of the pig as it was led to slaughter, was too reminiscent of the darkest days of sacrificial slaughtering of children in attempts to appease more ancient gods. The rituals connected to the cleansing of the body are rational, especially for life in the desert. The author explains in detail the similar ritualistic rules for respect of one’s body and bodily hygiene.
I found the chapter entitled Bonfires of the Intelligence; producing the holy books, particularly interesting. Onfray: The three monotheisms are seen as the religions of the book-but their three books are far from mutually supportive… Naturally they all preach brotherly love. Thus from the very start it seems to appear beyond reproach to our brethren of the Abrahamic religions. None of these books is a work of revelation. Who would have done the revealing? Their pages no more descend from heaven than those of Persian fables or Icelandic sagas.
The Torah is not as old as tradition claims; Moses is improbable. Yahweh dictated nothing-and in any case, Moses could not have written what Yahweh said unless he wrote in hieroglyphics, since the Hebrew script did not exist in the time of Moses. None of the evangelists personally knew Jesus. The testamental canon arose from later political decisions, particularly those reached when Eusebius of Caesarea, mandated by the emperor Constantine, assembled a corpus stitched together from twenty-seven versions of the New Testament in the first half of the fourth century. The apocryphal writings are more numerous than those that constitute the New Testament proper.
Muhammad did not write the Koran. Indeed, that book did not exist until twenty-five years after his death. The second source for Muslim authority, the Hadith, saw the light of day in the ninth century, two centuries after the Prophet’s death. Hence we must infer the very active presence of men in the shadows of these three Gods.
Science does not sit well within the three monotheistic religions, and the author discusses this at length and in detail. If they do embrace science, it is usually to enhance their dogma and this instrumentalisation of science ‘subjects reason to domestic and theocratic uses’. For example, one Hadith indeed celebrates the quest for scientific knowledge as far afield as China, but always in the logic of its instrumentalisation via religion, never for the human ideal of social progress. The Catholic religion impeded the forward march of Western civilisation, inflicting on it, incalculable damage.
Then there is the female problem that the religions of the book have in common. Only mothers and wives are venerated. Judeo-Christianity promotes the idea that Eve was an afterthought, made from Adam’s rib; ‘an inferior cut off the prime beef, a humble spare rib‘. She appears in the Koran as Adam’s wife but the fact that she is never named is revealing, because, as Onfray says, ‘the unnamed is unnameable.’
The ridiculous tenets of these three religions engender the worst kind of hypocrisy because we are all too human. The possibility of sex divorced from conception, and thus of sex alone, of pure sexuality-that is absolute evil. For the monotheist there can be no more hideous oxymoron than a barren, sterile woman! In the name of this same principle the three monotheisms condemn homosexuals to death…For his part, Paul of Tarsus saw in the solitary male the perils of lust, adultery and free sexuality. Hence given the impossibility of chastity, his endorsement of marriage –the least objectionable justification for the libido.
Onfray discusses at length the barbaric mutilation of female and male genitalia, practiced by monotheistic religions and their literature abounds in references to the extinction of libido and the destruction of desire. Onfray refers to them as ‘variations on the theme of castration’. From what I’ve read and seen on world news every day, none of these religions is achieving the total sexual control over their adherents that they initially set out to achieve. Catholic paedophile priests, Muslim child marriages, polygamy, Jewish paedophilia, to name a few.
All three religions have burnt books, whole libraries, whole towns, citizens, mosques, temples, churches, synagogues, slaughtered millions, and all for what or who? What God? There is no archaeological proof Jesus existed. The author covers this period in Christianity’s history in depth, with all of its subterfuges.
In the chapter headed Selective Exploitation of the Texts, Onfray writes:
Everyone knows of monotheism’s three books, but very few know their dates of origin, their authors, or the ups and downs attendant on establishing the three texts-the absolutely final, immutable texts. For the Torah, Old Testament, New Testament, and Koran took an unthinkably long time to emerge from history and claim that their texts issued from God alone, that they had no need to explain themselves to those who entered their prayer temples armed only with faith, unburdened of reason and intelligence. Considering Muhammad was illiterate it is ridiculous to believe that he wrote the Koran as God dictated it. And let’s be clear, there were several Korans from different periods which were merged into one, hundreds of years after Muhammad’s death!
We do not possess an official date of birth for the worship of one God…Jean Soler insists on the neighbourhood of the fourth and third century BCE-in other words very late…but the family line is very clear: the Jews invented it to ensure the coherence, cohesion and existence of their small, threatened people. The mythology they fashioned engendered belief in a warrior God, a fighter, blood thirsty, aggressive, a war leader highly effective at mobilising a people without a land. The myth of a chosen people thereafter blessed with a destiny.
Of that labour of invention, several thousand pages of canonical text survive-very few considering their worldwide influence over the course of more than twenty centuries. The Old Testament boasts a total of 3,500 pages, the New Testament 900 pages, the Koran 750, that is, little more than 5000 pages in which everything and its opposite is said once and for all. In each of these three founding texts, contradictions abound and Onfray gives us many examples of these.
Love of one’s neighbour as espoused by all three religions, was non-existent, and still does not exist in the 21st century! The Pauline texts, so useful in justifying submission to de facto authority, triggered results that went far beyond the legitimisation of wars and persecution. In the field of slavery, for example, which Christianity did no more than the other two monotheisms to deter. Indeed, in later centuries the small-scale slavery resulting from tribal raids evolved into the slave trade pure and simple, the sale and deportation of whole populations for use as chattels and beasts of burden.’
More than twenty centuries later has anything changed? Onfray: ‘The commandments do not advocate any particular respect for one’s neighbour if he looks different, if he is not branded in the flesh by the rabbi’s knife. The non-Jew did not enjoy the same rights as members of the covenant. So that outside the confines of the book, the Other may be called on to account for himself, to be treated like an object, a thing: the goy by the Jew, the polytheist or animist by the Christian, the Christian by the Muslim, and the atheist, needless to say, by everyone.’ [My emphasis]
Onfray likens the three monotheisms to death cults. He asks ‘How can we escape the domination of [the death instinct] after so effectively killing off the life urge both within and outside of ourselves?’ Are we so terrified by the horror and void of death, that we believe in the ‘consoling fables and fictions that incite us to deny the use of our full powers?’ He posits that this ‘false world’ forces us to live in the here and now ‘buttressed by the hopes of a tinsel afterlife.’ Finally, he suggests that we are in the flux of a ‘post-Christian’ era, but that we must beware ‘religious secularism’ in which ‘the essential remains Judeo-Christian.’ He believes that the 21st Century has opened on a merciless war. On one side is a Judeo-Christian West, on the other side, a Muslim world. Monotheist religions are waging this war, and Onfray asks: Must we choose a side? There is much more to read in these chapters, but I will leave you to buy the book.
In the final chapter of MANIFESTO Onfray sums up where we are at in the fight for a genuine post-Christian secularism:
At this hour when the final battle –already lost-looms for the defence of the Enlightenment’s values against magical propositions, we must fight for a post-Christian secularism, that is to say, atheistic, militant and radically opposed to choosing between Western Judeo-Christianity and its Islamic adversary-neither Bible nor Koran. I persist in preferring philosophers to priests, imams, ayatollahs and mullahs. Rather than trust their theological hocus-pocus, I prefer to draw on alternatives to the dominant philosophical historiography: the laughers, materialists, radicals, cynics, hedonists, atheists, sensualists, voluptuaries. They know that there is only one world, and that promotion of an afterlife deprives us of the enjoyment and benefit of the only one there is. A genuinely mortal sin.
-Anne Frandi-Coory 18 August 2016
The NEAPOLITAN NOVEL quartet
by Elena Ferrante
I have recently been introduced to Elena Ferrante novels, beginning with the Neapolitan Novel quartet: My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child. There is such an unsettling and brutal honesty in Ferrante’s writing, firstly about growing up poor and female in Naples, and subsequently trying to escape that seemingly inevitable life. The novels’ narrator, Elena Greco, recalls her childhood and her brilliant friend Lila, whom she at once loves and hates, first sexual experiences, the brutal men in their lives, their dreams of escaping the ‘neighbourhood’ and the fervent hopes that they will never become their mothers. Ferrante’s exquisite writing thoroughly engages the reader through girlhood fears, first boyfriends, harsh family lives, the deep seated religious division of whore and virgin, constant threats from local bullies, men and boys, and tensions of repressed sexual desires.
The mysterious author [Ferrante’s true identity is unknown] lays bare the psychological trauma of growing up female in the south; the culture of being owned by your father and then your husband. The expectation that a girl must get married, and bear children, the resultant crushing of her intellect and her creativity. There are only two ways to escape the hardships: excel at school, and gain access to universities and a better life in Pisa, Milan or Florence, even though every move to escape the inevitable life of poverty and domestic grind is greeted with age old suspicions and hatreds by family and friends. Elena Greco is one of the lucky ones. She excels at school, goes to university in the north, eventually marries into a well known northern Italian family, but is her life really any better than that of her brilliant friend Lila, who refuses to leave Naples? Lila chose instead to marry a local boy from a powerful, wealthy family, and even though she has sold her soul for a beautiful new house and everything that money can buy, her life becomes unbearable and the inherent dangers seem to multiply.
These novels contain the story of modern Italy…about those who left and those who stayed.
I have never read four books so quickly! I read all of the books with a total enthrall…impatiently wanting to do nothing else but be involved in the lives of Elena and Lila, right to the very end.
-Anne Frandi-Coory 1 August 2016
The plot to destroy Australia’s Speaker
by Ross Jones
Tony Abbott took over the reins as Leader of the Opposition and of the Liberal National Coalition Party on 1 December 2009 and it is my personal opinion that from that day on Australian politics descended into ‘gutter politics’ in which no perceived enemy or opponent of Abbott was spared! Abbott went on to lead the Coalition to the 2010 general election which resulted in a hung parliament. Labor formed government with the help of the Greens and Independent MPs. Abbott appears to be a vindictive and spiteful man, who with the assistance of a large willing and supportive in-house ‘team’ set about to undermine the Gillard Government, and consequently destroyed the Speaker of the House, Peter Slipper. Abbott was re-elected as Liberal Leader unchallenged and eventually led the Coalition to victory in the 2013 election and was sworn in as the 28th Prime Minister of Australia on 18 September 2013. (Tony Abbott’s tenure as Prime Minister lasted for a year, when he was deposed by current PM Malcolm Turnbull.)
There is no doubt that a group of LNP politicians and others, deployed a series of tactics to undermine PM Gillard during her term of office, but this is beyond the scope of Jones’ book ASHBYGATE which deals solely with the destruction of Australia’s Speaker, the vital aspect of the plan to bring down Gillard’s Labor government.
Ross Jones’ book ASHBYGATE is an account of the results of his investigation into how the Speaker was hounded from the Chair. The Speakership is the most important office in the House of Representatives. The House cannot operate without a Speaker because he/she is the principal office holder in the House of Representatives. He/she is the House’s representative or spokesperson, the Chair of its meetings and its ‘Minister’ in respect of its support services. By all accounts, Peter Slipper was an efficient Speaker who valued his role dearly, but he also had enemies within…he had the temerity to resign from LNP to take on the role as Speaker in a Labor government. Peter Slipper and Tony Abbott were very close friends until Slipper’s ‘betrayal’ . There wasn’t much about each’s personal life that the other didn’t know about.
Jones allows primary documents, in chronological order, such as, emails and other correspondence, text messages, and Ashby vs Slipper court evidence, to inform readers of the machinations that drove the Ashbygate saga and this gives them the opportunity to form their own opinions about the politicians who were involved and implicated in this sordid saga. It also gives the book validity as a valuable record of Australia’s political history.
Readers will read in the pages of ASHBYGATE that Peter Slipper is no paragon of virtue, and has never claimed to be. Yes, at times he acted foolishly, but I don’t believe he deserved the total destruction of his career and his private life which was essentially brought about by former colleagues who have themselves much in their political histories and private lives to hide from scrutiny. In the end, Ashby withdrew all charges of sexual harassment against Slipper. Slipper was cleared of all dishonesty charges relating to the fraudulent use of Commonwealth Cabcharge dockets in 2010. Jones writes: This means the highly damaging cases Mr Slipper had piling up against him – including claims of sexual harassment from his former media adviser, James Ashby, have been either withdrawn or shown to have had no substance.
After reading ASHBYGATE I‘d like to pose a few questions:
- Was Tony Abbott, along with his close advisers, and political colleagues, the ‘brains’ behind Ashbygate? Is it conceivable that he would not have been involved given how and when the documented events took place?
- Was James Ashby so stressed during the short time he worked as press secretary for Peter Slipper, not because of two or three salacious texts and other real or imagined ‘overtures’ by Slipper, but because Ashby was unsuitable and unqualified for the position? Is there some evidence that his gay lifestyle may have been a factor in his precarious emotional state?
- Why did Peter Slipper employ Ashby, an ex DJ and strawberry farm advertising agent, for such an important role as press secretary in the first place, given Ashby’s lack of qualifications?
- If Peter Slipper had any case to answer, why did the Commonwealth cover the ‘shortfall between Slipper’s legal fees and the costs ultimately recovered as a result of the Rares judgement’?
- Why did James Ashby and Mal Brough approach Clive Palmer for funds for legal fees, which would amount to millions of dollars, in the pursuit of Slipper? In any event Palmer refused, so someone else must have assured Ashby of financial backing; was it Christopher Pyne, as Ashby claims?
- Did Justice Rares make a judgment that Ashby’s sexual harassment claims were vexatious in order to protect the judge’s friends in high political places? Would his finding in favour of Ashby have led to the exposure of Tony Abbott and other high profile politicians to a long drawn out trial, involving sworn testimony? [Vexatious litigation is legal action which is brought, regardless of its merits, solely to harass or subdue an adversary]
- What was the real reason Karen Doane sought to destroy her employer, Peter Slipper? According to her texts and emails, she was hardly ever in Slipper’s office, and spent much of the time leading up to Ashby’s public allegations, on ‘sick’ leave? Was Doane simply one of the most dishonest, disloyal, and laziest employees ever, or was there something more sinister in her behaviour? Whatever the reasons, she was on paid sick leave of over $1000.00 per week for years until she finally received a huge payout of taxpayer funds in settlement for what?
In places, ASHBYGATE was an intense read because of the many phone texts and emails to work through, even allowing for the different fonts used to differentiate between the various senders and writers. However, it is very much worth the effort. The comings and goings, the minutiae of political office, and the effect on family life, are intriguing . I fully realise now, how true is the time worn cliché that ‘a week in politics is a long time’.
There were a few minor spelling errors in the emails and texts, which may or may not have been senders’ errors, but there were also quite a number of spelling errors in the author’s prose. Let me assure readers, that while typos jumped out at me, they in no way detracted from what I consider to be a valuable book and a great read. Jones has obviously spent months accessing relevant documents and records, as well as undertaking several interviews, in his research for this book. I congratulate him for bringing to light the story behind Ashbygate.
I urge voters to read ASHBYGATE so they may gain insight into the actions of those politicians involved in the destruction of the Speaker of the House.
I am not an affiliate of any political party; I bought ASHBYGATE from one of my favourite bookstores, Readings in Carlton. I detest any form of injustice, and I believe that Peter Slipper has been served a great injustice.
-Anne Frandi-Coory 20 May 2016