Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Inconvenient Truth

I heard it was a great documentary, and will definately catch it soon, meanwhile I read this too in today's Independent.

Fact or fiction - you decide!


"Gore faces up to inconvenient truth over his electricity bill"
By Rupert Cornwell in Washington
Published:28 February 2007

Al Gore - Oscar winner and the world's best-known anti-global warming warrior - has been accused of not living up to his lofty standards when it comes to his own opulent mansion in his home state, Tennessee.

According to the right-wing Tennessee Centre for Policy Research, the former vice-president "deserves a gold statue for hypocrisy". Mr Gore's 20-room mansion in Nashville, it says, consumes more electricity in a month than the average American household in a whole year

The attack comes amid fevered speculation about a possible Gore run for the White House next year, with even former President Jimmy Carter urging him to enter the race. As his supporters argue, Mr Gore has been emphatically "on the right side" of the two biggest issues of the day in the US, the war in Iraq and the climate change crisis. But his personal domestic environmental record leaves much to be desired, TCPR claims.

In his award-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, the Mr Gore calls on Americans to conserve energy by reducing electricity consumption at home, it notes. But while the average US household consumes 10,656 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, according to the Department of Energy, the Gore home used nearly 221,000 kWh, more than 20 times the national average.
Since the film's release, his home's energy consumption has increased from about 16,200 kWh per month in 2005 to 18,400 kWh per month last year.

"As the spokesman of choice for the global warming movement, Al Gore has to be willing to walk the walk, not just talk the talk," Drew Johnson, the Centre's president, declared. Mr Gore paid almost $30,000 (£15,300) for gas and electricity at his Nashville home last year.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Affluenza, again

Received a great email from a mate of mine this week as reply to my recent talk of Affluenza.
I couldn't have expressed it any better! Thanks D.


"I think the key is to begin not worshipping all this stuff too early. We're still young in our careers- having a more philospophical outlook on life is important.
I don't want to be obsessed with status. At times I am, and I'm ashamed of this. It's totally meaningless. When it comes to the time when your on your deathbed, I don't want to look back on a life spent pursuing things which don't have any meaning.

People, friendships, families- these are far more important. I know it's become trite to say such things, but well... you know what I mean! I'd rather have these than a flashy car or impressive wrist watch or huge yacht or whatever. I'm materialistic... for sure... but I try not to stake my worth on what I own- it's a grave mistake to make."

A Little about me...

I quite love these things - the 20 people I sent them them to don't.... :(

1. What time did you get up this morning? 7.10am
2. Diamonds or pearls? diamonds baby
3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? The Last Kiss
4. What is your favorite TV show? Grey's Anatomy
5. What do you usually have for breakfast? Jordons Musili

6. Favorite cuisine? Chinese
7. What is your middle name? Chun
8. What food do you dislike? Vegan

9. What is your favorite CD at the moment? Hot Fuss , The Killers
10. What kind of car do you drive? The Tube

11. Favorite sandwich? All Day Breakfast (pret)
12. What characteristic do you despise? Hypocrisy

13. Favorite item of clothing? Brown Moleskins from RMWilliams
14. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go? Swiss Alps
15. What color is your bathroom? White with lots of limescale
16. Favorite brand of clothing? Arc'teryx
17. Where would you retire to? Thredbo

18. What was your most recent memorable birthday? the last one, i guess.
19. Favorite sport to watch? Soccer
20. Furthest place you are sending this? NZ
21. Who do you least expect to send this back to you? Everyone - cos they didn't!
22. Person you expect to send it back first? The House-Negro did!

23. Favorite saying? Yeah, right...
24. When is your birthday? 20 Oct

25. Are you a morning person or a night person? Night
26. What is your shoe size? 6
27. Pets? None right now
28. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share? I am leaving London

29. What did you want to be when you were little? Fighter Pilot
30. How are you today? 4/5
31. What is your favorite candy bar? Fudge
32. What is your favorite flower? ummm...
33. What is a day on the calendar you are looking forward to? 1 June, last day of work, first day of 2 months holidays
34. What are you listening to right now? TV Ads
35. What was the last thing you ate? Chicken wings, chips and coleslaw

36. Do you wish on stars? Yes, when i get to see them, its been 2 months...
37. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? red
38. How is the weather right now? Typical London...crappy, lame and grey.
39. Who was the last person you spoke to on the phone? Collegue at work.

40. Do you like the person who sent this to you? Yup she's a good mate
41. Favorite soft drink? Irn Bru, Apple Isle, L&P, Guarana, can't choose
42. Favorite restaurant? Samurai Sushi, Neutral Bay, Sydney
43. Hair color? Jet Black

44. Siblings? 1 little sis
45. Favorite day of the year? Christmas
46. What was your favorite toy as a child? Connetex, like mechano.

47. Summer or winter? Summer
48. Hugs or kisses? Kisses
49. Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolat
50. Do you want your friends to email you back? But of course
51. When was the last time you cried? Watching Joy Luck Club on DVD
52. What is under your bed? Packing Boxes
53. Who is the friend you have had the longest? Keith

54. What did you do last night? Sat at home watching DVDs ie nothing
55. Favorite smell? Mum's cooking
56. What are you afraid of? Chav Hoodies and Pretty women.
57. Plain, buttered, or salted Popcorn? Butter Popcorn
58. How many keys on your key ring? 4
59. How many years at your current job? 1 and a bit
60. Favorite day of the week? Saturday

61. How many towns have you lived in? 3
62. Do you make friends easily? Yes

Sunday, February 25, 2007

London by Night

In keeping with my recent night photos of London, here are some more!

Regent Street and Piccadilly Circus.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Restless again...

Rory said to me, the moment I make that decision to leave a place, it can't happen fast enough. True enough!

That's me and London! Get me outta here...NOW!

Suddenly the things that annoy me about the place come to the fore again...


Finished work at 7.30pm (early) tonight, (that in itself sucks for normal folk on a Friday night, but luckily no plans to be late for this friday).

Got to the Canary Wharf Tube Station only to find that yet another "signalling problem" at Waterloo has stopped all Jubilee Line westbound services. Luckily for me I have the option to go to the DLR, Docklands Light nearly everyone else...

Next I'm standing on the crowded platform waiting for train after train after packed train. I finally board one, I find myself pushing a middle aged guy in the back....(feel a bad person for that one) and am squashed up with my face touching two male armpits, their arms outstretched holding onto high poles. My body pressed on three sides by humanity...ah it doesnt get better than this does it? I close my eyes to escape the reality of it.

It doesnt work, two stops later the driver announces "I'm afraid the train is no longer working, please leave the train"... There is an audible groan from all, I mutter a "f#cking useless London sh#t".

20 mins later and 4 packed trains later I am on my way again...

Home at 9pm, just another night on the London Underground, yee haa.

One side note though, a woman was on the last leg of my journey, scrambled onto the train after she asked me if the train went to Kings Cross, which it did. Sat down, and after a moment began crying.

Then it happened...the man next to her reached into his jacket and gave her a hankerchief, with some kind words...she smiled gracefully at the human kindness.

Sometimes this place can surprise me by its random acts of kindness, would this have happened anywhere else? I hope so.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Happy Chinese New Year!

Centre of crowded Chinatown, London.

Crazy crowds for nothing much, Trafalgar Square


Regent Street, London

Gong Hei Fat Choi!

China town and Regent Street are lit up with lanterns, the tubes are crazy with crushed people and the streets are full.

2 hours wait for Dinner, who does not love London?!

Saturday, February 17, 2007


Most of you will notice I don't tend to take many pictures of random people, urban scenes are usually devoid of people(except for friends and family). I tend to concentrate more on compostion and architecture. This is not because I don't want to, but mainly more because I am uncomfortable with and feel like I am invading privacy of others.

There was an interesting Blog in SMH this weekend by an SMH photographer lamenting the current state of street photography in Sydney, particularly for people and children photography. Abusive and agressive reaction from public and especially parents make the amateur photographer very wary.

Photography is no longer allowed on beaches. Because some cheeky bloke was taking mobile phone pics of topless sunbathers. Many seemingly public places in UK seem to enforce no photography policies. I have been constantly told not to use my camera. Part of this is obviously the size of my Camera, which does look professional, when using the large lens and lens hood.

Its a sad thing that the world is coming to this, where people fear the motives of others. And frustrating to me, just a guy enjoying a harmless hobby.

The few bad apples, have brought this about of course, paranoia and fear as well...its a huge shame.

Maybe I need a smaller camera? I notice people with small compacts dont seem to have the same issues... :D


Photography Is Not A Crime

In January, while on leave, I started photographing people who were climbing up the rocks at Wattamolla Beach, in the Royal National Park, and jumping off. I got four frames away over ten minutes or so, as I was keeping an eye on my son swimming nearby, and then I copped an earful. "Take a picture of my daughter and I'll rip ya f___ing head off." Here we go again I thought... I explained that I was just shooting people jumping off the cliff and that my lens included everything from that tree to that rock. "Yeah, and if you take a picture of my daughter I'll I'll rip ya f___ing head off."

Obviously she thought I was up to no good. I couldn't be bothered arguing. I muttered something under my breath and walked off. I was there with my wife and son, and friends from the UK. I wasn't in the mood for a fight. I didn't want to be part of a public scene at that time.
Later though, I started feeling angry about the assumptions she made and sad about the impact that they had on an activity that I enjoy and see as being valuable, both for myself, and culturally. I'm a photographer, both professionally and otherwise, and I didn't appreciate the uninformed opinion she had made of me nor the fact that she had so publically aired that opinion. The anger on her face was intense.

LEGAL: In Australia, in public, photography is legal (for now) and consent does not need to be obtained for those people being photographed. Even taking a picture over someone's fence is OK. Go on, try it... Do it every day though and it will become stalking...
Councils have tried to ban photography (unsuccessfully) and the Commonwealth government reviewed all aspects of 'unauthorised' photography in 2005 (discussion paper - 296Kb PDF). The Coffs Harbour Eisteddfod Society was so afraid of breaching child protection laws it banned parents from photographing the performances featuring their children. Whether it had the right to do so was never tested.

Basically though, if you are on public property, you can shoot it*. Public property and publicly accessible places are two different things. Train stations and beaches are public property, the QVB and Westfields aren't.

PRIVACY: "A person, in our society, does not have a right not to be photographed." So stated Justice John Dowd in a 2001 case (R v Sotheren) in the NSW Supreme Court. In Australia there is no right to privacy. If you don't want to be photographed sun-baking topless on a beach then don't sun-bake topless on a beach. Oops! You did it again? You got out of a car after forgetting to don some undies and now your genitals are all over the internet? That's your problem, or one of them at least.

Indeed, if you don't want to be photographed then you should think twice about leaving your home. If you go to a shopping centre, service station, train station, carpark, office block (your office block) then you are probably being photographed. Stuck in traffic? Your on RTA-cam. Have you ever asked yourself who controls the footage? What policies are in place regarding its use? Are the people who have access to it screened? How secure are the systems? It's easy to whip up fear around photography, but the worst is perpetrated by a very small minority.
The community-at-large's attitude to candid photography seems to have changed dramatically since I entered the industry some 14 years ago, and especially over the last few years. Our government would have you believe that cameras are dangerous as they feature heavily in the anti-terror "if you see something, say something" posters. Most of the fear and paranoia comes from the use of 'unauthorised' pics on dodgy kiddie-porn websites. This post isn't about how or why attitudes have changed. Suffice to say that this is a rallying cry. My camera can't undress you more than you already are, nor does it blow stuff up. It takes pictures. It keeps light.

GENDER:The situation is also undoubtedly more difficult for male photographers. SMH photographer Narelle Autio travelled for over a year around Australia recently with her partner Trent Parke and photographed extensively on and around beaches, documenting Australia's love-affair with the coast. She told me that she has never had a problem when photographing people, including kids, on beaches. The late Ingeborg Tyssen's advantage as a female might be the only thing that would make it possible for her to produce this series called Swimmers, shot in the early eighties, today.

SYDNEY: On my travels I've not had any problems photographing people in public areas. From India and Nepal to the UK, Greece and the US, it seems that Sydney-siders are the most paranoid about what a photographer may be doing. Sydney is a very aggressive city, with what seems a lot of un-vented anger that comes out occasionally, most often on the roads, but also in other ways at times (see Cronulla, Redfern, Mac Fields etc). Several of my colleagues at the SMH, including an American, share this view.

LIFE: Candid photography is one aspect of photography that has many advocates and followers around the world. Photographers interested in working this way see themselves as documenting life as it occurs, and by interfering as little as possible in the scene they help portray the state of affairs on planet earth in a particular place at a particular moment in time. There have been many wonderful candid photographers (street photographers - documentary photographers - call them what you will) and there are many working today.

Try and imagine the world of photography without Henri Cartier-Bresson's contribution. Or that of contemporaries like Alex Webb, Eugene Richards etc. Imagine not having Robert Frank's The Americans in your bookcase. When the 35mm camera freed them from their tripods, pioneering photographers realised the potential for capturing reality and for my mind we are all richer for it.

I don't have a one-size-fits-all solution for dealing with the harassment and interference that may be levelled at photographers. My colleagues employ a variety of methods . Brendan Esposito says he carries every bit of gear he can manage, to make himself look obviously like a professional or newspaper photographer. Peter Morris says he won't even try to take candid pictures on a beach anymore. He will always try to introduce himself to those who are prominent in the frame. I've introduced myself on occasions, though it almost certainly tends to ruin any candid spontaneity that might otherwise occur. On one occasion, even after introducing myself as from the SMH, I was still harassed by a non-related third party who took it upon himself to object to what I was doing (a story on the cleanliness of Sydney's harbour beaches.)
Just because photography is legal and there is no right to privacy doesn't provide carte blanch to photographers. There are defamation laws that apply to published images. The national classification system also applies to published works and any image used for commercial purposes requires a model consent for anyone recognisable in the image. Offensive behaviour laws may also apply, and this was what brought down Peter Mackenzie, 25 of Coogee, who was photographing topless women on the beach with a camera-phone.

RESOURCES: A good overview of the rights and restrictions has been written, in plain english, by Blue Mountains based photographer and programmer Andrew Nemeth and can be found here. Nemeth, in conjunction with Koyla Miller has produced a PDF of photographers rights in NSW. It's written from the perspective of someone being photographed. If you shoot on the street it would be a good idea to print it and carry it around. Also, the Australasian Legal Information Institute has this page on privacy in photographic images. Here's a response from the Arts Law Centre of Australia to the Attorney General's Discussion Paper, which looks at it from an arts perspective, and includes the wonderful quote from Diane Arbus that "I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn't photograph them."

So if you see someone photographing on the street, or in the park, or near a beach, why not watch them a while? Are they a tourist or a street photographer (is their camera silver or black? - a dead giveaway) See if you can determine what they seem to be interested in. Is it someone's bum? Or one of life's delightful little tableaus?

Is someone photographing your dog? It's probably just Marco Bok (or Elliot Erwitt). If you like to leap tall buildings in a single bound maybe James Brickwood has already got you. Are you coming down from Mardi Gras at an 'unofficial' laneway recovery party? Then you probably can't swing your handbag without hitting a photographer or three. I like to occasionally shoot bins, not because I want to put bombs in them but because I like the way they look.
Hmmm.. bins. A pre-September 11 scene from Drummoyne. Remember bins in public?

A relatively small group of people are out there using photography to amass collections of semi-clad kiddie-pix to be made available on the dark back-waters of the internet. They're not photographers, but they use cameras. They don't care about the image, only the subject. Thousands or millions more, real photographers, are out there around the world poking their lenses into life's goings-on, without asking the permission of everybody involved, and generally doing no harm.
Jon Reid

*There are some cavaets, though a thorough reading of the resources mentioned and linked-to here should have you well-enough informed.

Posted by Jon Reid
February 13, 2007 6:12 PM

London at Night

A week in the planning and we had a great night for photography. Felix, photo mates and I went out with our cameras and tripods to capture some of the tourist sights of London on the Thames.

Great fun!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Museum of Childhood, London

Keith's Miffy Puppet Show

Joe's Childrens' Book Reading Time (A small crowd did form!)

Celebrating Miffy's 50th Birthday!

Aussie Aussie Aussie!


Today we went to the Museum of Childhood to rediscover the toys of our childhood and indulge in our formative years. What better way to do it that with the people we grew up with!

Joe surprised us all by saying he owned a vast percentage of the toys we saw of our era. Though in his defence he has many siblings and they didnt have TV...

Was fun remembering the past and added to my growing sense of homesickness...

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Finally some snow

Reported as the largest snowfall in England for a decade, today came as a bit of a wet firecracker to me.

The news bulletins and websites all forecast huge snowfalls of 15cm overnight, followed by a day of constant snow. After 3 yrs here they seem to be spot on with the forecasts most of the time.

The amount of grit salt laid out the night before was unprecedented in my experience of London thus far.

And sure enough as promised, the snow came. Now that I live in town though, any snow does not stay for long and is soon slushy.

I awoke to radio reports of severe transport problems on 6 out of 12 lines, and long traffic jams. This country certainly has a joke of a transport network - the slightest hiccup and the thing falls over and dies.

Luckily for me - my trip was relatively unhindered. Most people had heeded the warnings and stayed at home - lucky them!

I was camera ready hoping for glorious shots of the city covered in snow, but alas, it was all melting before my eyes and what was falling was just freezing cold rain instead.

Oh can anyone tell me why - after so many warnings and reports, city women seemed hell bent on walking on pavements in high heels. This results in slipping and sliding all over the place? Is it me or are some people just that vain and stupid?

Here is what it was like at photo of slipping women though, sorry.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

RISK - Board Gaming

The Battlegrounds are set.

We need to roll six!

We shall fight like tigers.

Its Saturday night, Mus's lamb curry is excellent and prepares us for Battle!

Bring on the RISK board! From a quiet slow start, very soon everyone's competitive spirit comes to the fore and we all have a great time trying to conquer the World!

Jean & Helen's neighbours must love them now...sorry.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

some more

A similar article to that below.

I find their British agrument interesting. Having lived here for 3 yrs I disagree. In both London and Edinburgh I have found the same spread of consumerism as that which they describe in Sydney. Edinburgh less so due to its lower wages and more suburban / community / family environment. The availability and variety of consumer goods is higher here in the UK. Acceptability of spending here is higher here too.

An example is fashion. Fashion has a greater market here in UK, as evidenced by all the conversations I have with Aussie expats saying how they can finally have an excuse to have a lavishly accessorised wardrobe. A wardrobe they could never wear in Sydney, as it would be regarded as too dressy.

Though I am comparing the well to do middle class, and know nothing of the working class here or at home...maybe it is very different...


Vacuous, shallow city with no soul
Brigid Delaney in London (27 Jan 2007) from SMH.

COULD Sydney be the saddest of cities - intellectually bereft, spiritually empty? Are its residents T.S. Eliot's Hollow Men - heads together but whispering nothing except deadening conversations about the latest movement of the property market or fad diet?

Sydney's culture of the relentless pursuit of property, perfect bodies and status has the British psychologist and author Oliver James worried. For his recently released book Affluenza, he travelled to seven countries to research the effect that consumerism has on happiness.

He found that the obsessive pursuit of money and possessions was not buying happiness. But the affluenza virus was worst in Sydney, where he found interviewing locals a depressing experience. It was, he said, "the most vacuous of cities. The Dolly Parton of cities in Australia".

Adelaide and Melbourne had a "different vibe" and didn't strike James as being so materialistic.

James had not been to Sydney before and expected a "philistine nation" of "jolly, uncomplicated fun seekers". Instead he found a city in thrall to American values and a puritan work ethic that robbed life of joy and real meaning. Middle-class Sydney, he writes, is "packed with career-obsessed workaholics".

When they are not working the longest hours in the developed world, they pursue perfect bodies through joyless fitness regimes, or obsess about property prices. Always they are looking around anxiously, in the hope that others aren't doing better.

"[It was] full of people who place a high value on money, professional status and appearance," he said. The result? Sydneysiders have a greater risk of suffering from depression and anxiety.

"They were like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz. They had no idea of the point of their lives other than to get rich."

Sydney's already weak intellectual culture has been further eroded by the pursuit of money and possessions, he writes.

While Britain has "its Posh and Becks" cultural differences including a more entrenched class system has put the brakes on the spread of consumerism in Britain.

"The British compared to the US or Aussies are less easily convinced that money will get you further. The British elite have been around for an awfully long time and there is not the crassness of the Australian rich."

This crassness was particularly virulent in the Sydney property market. He noted figures highlighting a rise in depression that coincided with a bullish property market which caused stress and anxiety, particularly among young Australians.

While he despaired about Sydney, he found the "affluenza virus" was not as prevalent outside the Western world.

His advice to Sydneysiders caught on the treadmill?

"Start reading."


Interesting article in the SMH today;

I identify with it totally, glad to know someone else who has ventured to discuss it.

If anything London is a much more mutated version of that found in Sydney. But the similarities apply easily, the two places are so similar in that way.

Look forward to reading the book!

Welcome to the Selfish CIty
Brigid Delaney

IMAGINE you are a modern explorer. But instead of discovering a country, you wish to journey into the inner lives of its inhabitants. What you wish to discover is how much that country is in thrall to consumer culture and to the virus of affluenza. How much do people measure their self-worth by what they own, how they look and where they live? Have they developed antidotes to the disease? How strong is their sense of self?

What would such an explorer make of modern Sydney?

Driving from Sydney Airport to the city, the 53-year-old British author and psychologist Oliver James noticed a few things. The first was "those biscuit box" warehouses lining the landscape: "Flat container warehouses all bursting full to the seams with consumer goods. Then I got the feeling of getting into a particularly confusing traffic system."

But on the streets of "this beautiful, spacious city" where the natives roamed, he started feeling more unsettled.

Oxford Street was like the "Tower of Babel, a confusing polyglot in its diversity". There were people from "all the ends of the Earth", creating a feeling of "identitylessness, so you feel like you could be anywhere".

Bondi "felt a bit more Australian". But there was also an aggressive vibe. "This kind of 'f--- you, we're rich' type thing." And then there was the beach culture of the body, which made James reflect that it must be hard to be a woman in Sydney.

But it was only when he was invited into homes that James got the full measure of the sickness. He found house-proud citizens who had million-dollar mortgages and renovated kitchens but an emptiness that ran to the marrow.

In a "pokey flat" in Paddington he interviewed "Sandra", 31, struggling to cope with her lack of status as a mother. She was mourning her 25-year-old self - and the perceived loss of her figure. She pulled out old photos and said: "In trendy areas like this one, the latest fashion involves really tight clothes; to wear them you have to lose weight."

James says: "The virus impedes them from enjoying motherhood in a number of ways." Getting stuck on the property ladder is one, as is "the feeling they have lost their physical allure to which they had become so addicted before marriage".

He met "Will", a psychiatrist-businessman who works 18 hours a day. Will, like many who have caught the affluenza virus, has commodified a range of values that used to exist outside the market place. As well as the home becoming a commodity, friendship is now increasingly being seen as "what's in it for me".

Will "mentioned no relationships in his life that are not in some sense professional … When asked what he hopes to achieve by working all his waking hours he seems to have no idea at all".

Perfect bodies and houses but a "lack of authenticity" characterised many of his Sydney subjects.

In almost all of James's case studies there is material wealth, but a terrible sadness at their core. This sadness, says James, is living in a society where you feel valued for your possessions, status, house and looks. The accumulation and maintenance of these things keeps you on a treadmill that leeches life of real meaning.

That meaning might involve reading a book, teaching a child how to thread a daisy chain or helping a friend move house. They are things that don't lead us to "achieve anything", and do not provide money or status.

James's book Affluenza, released in Australia this week, is a culmination of research, interviews and an eight-country "mind tour". The countries - the United States, Russia, New Zealand, Australia, Denmark, Singapore and China, as well as Britain - are all at various stages of contracting the affluenza virus. Some countries, such as China, have built up immunities to it - such as coming to capitalism late, having a strong family structure, and the teachings of Confucius which say "your best is good enough".

Likewise the Danes, with their progressive social policies and a relatively small gap between rich and poor, do not have a rapacious desire to keep up with their equivalent of the Joneses.

Cities struck by the virus, including New York and Sydney, have similar characteristics. Their residents are likely to feel insecure. "Constantly comparing your lot with others, especially those who have more than you, is not a prescription for feeling safe," Jones writes. This creates anxiety, "the proverbial bottomless pit" of never being quite happy enough with what you've got. "Modern capitalism then comes charging in on its white horse with a host of false panaceas: antidepressants, booze, drugs, plastic surgery and shopping."

Another symptom of the virus is alienation. A society, says James, that puts a low priority on connecting with family, friends and the community means that individuals will feel estranged from these bonds. Friendships become a matter of self-interest, while the high cost of child care sets up a pattern of "working to live" and places stress on relationships.

The virus has also warped how we love. "As people become more and more insecure and desperate for intimacy and someone they can trust, they place a higher value on intimacy. To that extent they invest heavily in the big relationship and of course relationships weren't built for that. We need to be less novelty-seeking and kicks-based on our perspective of partnerships. There's a big distinction between the illness of being in love - it's like drugs - and finding someone you're compatible with who you can make babies with and the very difficult task of raising children properly."

People susceptible to the virus also feel a lack of control over their lives - they are less likely to turn down work they hate if the money's good. They stay in relationships because they are uncomfortable being on their own, or they are serial monogamists, trading in partners in an elusive search for "the one".

They have mortgages they can't really afford because they don't want to be "left behind" in a property boom, and their voting patterns are also likely to reflect this "selfish capitalism". James sees a connection between John Howard's policies of border control and the Tampa issue, and elections swayed by questions of interest rates, as further symptoms of the virus run rampant.

The diagnosis for Sydney makes grim reading, with an increase in depression running parallel with an increase in prosperity. "Statistics suggest a shift in hopelessness and despair as a large part of the Australian population are trapped with mortgages [and] trapped with American values. It makes sitting on Bondi beach even harder," says James.

Yet still we sit on the beach, staring outward rather than inward, because escaping the virus requires "an exceptionally strong sense of self".

Get out of Sydney and the virus may not be as strong. James believes that people who gravitate towards capital cities and high-powered jobs are a "self-selecting group of people", many of whom "are made to feel worthless as children, who are now competing viciously with each other".

Of surprise to James on his "mind tour" was that "the people I met who had wellbeing had some kind of spiritual practice". For James, spiritual practice is yoga. Whatever your practice, having a sense of spirituality is better than having none, he says.

"Quite apart from the question of whether there's a God, if you pursue ethical practices - for example with Christianity - you're much less likely to sleep around or use drugs and come unstuck."

James says values instilled by parents in children also have a major effect on immunity to the affluenza virus.

But what of the bleak warning in W.B. Yeats's poem The Second Coming - "Turning and turning in the widening gyre/ The falcon cannot hear the falconer;/ Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold" - where a kind of atomisation is irreversible?

If we are now generations away from values of close kin and community, and religion, can such values be retrieved if they are not in our lived memory? Have parents instead passed the values of "selfish capitalism" on to the next generation?

James is optimistic: "I'm beginning to feel a bit spooky about it but if human beings are miserable for long enough, they will start casting around for something different; there will be a rediscovery. Trying to get back to basics; it's a very human thing."

Global warming may be the wake-up call that we need. "I have a conviction that we are going in the right direction because of climate change. This requires that even the most insane person has to rethink things," he says.

Selfish capitalism - the ethos that has has defined our age - could be something of a passing phase, akin to communism, says James. "Selfish capitalism gobbles everything in its way but it will lose like communism, where people felt 'we don't want this any more'."

He predicts that a decline of the United States' importance will lead to a decline of selfish capitalism. "The overthrow of the American empire is in sight because America is very vulnerable right now. China could fall apart and call in its debts."

With the end of America as the dominating world power, its cultural dominance too will wane, and that can only be a good thing for Australia, says James.

When we wake up from sleepwalking though these selfish times, he thinks we'll be angry - and we'll take our anger out on politicians.

"The great deception is that we are part of the prosperity. Australians may have more money but a lot of it is eaten up by property - all the increase in actual wealth has been by the very rich. How much longer can you go on pulling that stunt?

"There may be a point where the English-speaking middle classes and the working class wake up and realise they are not rich at all. The deception is the idea of meritocracy. It turns out it was a con - there is no trickle-down effect."

Look back in anger? That may not be a bad thing, says James, particularly if it's the glimpse of our reflections in the mirror that acts as a catalyst for change.

Affluenza is published by Vermillion, $39.95.


> Be authentic (not sincere)

> Vivacious (not hyperactive)

> Playful (not game playing)
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