What Are Our Differences? Well, It Depends On How Much You Like Tomato Sauce

I love social experiments. Especially when they involve children. Kids are so smart. They’re insightful, philosophical and profound. They see things the way things should be seen. Unadorned. They have no agenda. And they give it to you straight as an arrow.

Some years ago I was doing a corporate video for a client. Part of the brief involved interviewing a bunch of primary school children aged between 5 and 7. One of the questions they were asked was to describe your ideal house. The answers were amazing of course. There were five star tree houses and houses under the sea. They were imaginative and creative and fun. Children also have no sense of value. They have no concept of any number bigger than a thousand. So when they were asked how much their family home was worth, it varied between 500 and a thousand dollars. The answers were hilarious and the video was a great success.

The BBC also conducted its own social experiment with young children. Their intent was way more serious than mine. They wanted to film children aged between 5 and 7 answering the question: What is it that makes you different? The BBC approach was very specific and scientific. They selected a group of children, with different skin color, different ethnic background, able- bodied children and children with a disability. They were divided into groups of two but to ensure that the answers were not random, the featured groups of two were long standing friends. So the children knew each other well enough to answer the question honestly and easily. And consequently they were also less likely to be intimidated by a camera filming their answers.

The first group to feature was two boys dressed in school uniform. Both went to the same school, and were in the same class. One was black the other white. They were both asked the question: What is it that makes you different? They took a long time thinking about the question. But every time they tried to answer, and they tried many times, both of them would stop mid sentence. Try as they might they could not come up with a single difference. In other words, the friendship they enjoyed and the commonality they shared vastly out weighed any difference they might have, perceived or real.

But my favorite pair was Emma and Lucy. Emma, wearing pigtails, and seated on a chair. Lucy seated in a wheelchair. Lucy never said a word. Emma answered for both of them. And like the two boys,  she pondered the question for some time before finally giving her answer. And it was this: “ Lucy loves tomato sauce. I love tomato sauce but not as much as Lucy.”

 

And that was it. Emma and Lucy. Their only difference?  How much each of them loved tomato sauce, See, I told you, we could learn a great deal from children.

 

But instead of learning from them, we laugh at their innocence and we laugh at their naïve view of the world. Of course as adults we could not possibly see the world this way because we have age and experience and we know about concepts like hatred and bigotry and discrimination. A child will naturally never contemplate any of those thoughts. And that got me thinking. Why can’t we, as adults, see the world the same way as a child does? What is to stop us? A world where our only difference might be that some of us like white wine and some of us like red. Where what binds us together is much stronger than what pulls us apart. Can we see the world that way? The answer is of course we can. We can see the world this way if we want to.

 

You see, the only thing that changes as we get older is choice. Experience and knowledge only increase the options of choice. The only obstacle stopping us thinking one way and not the other is, you guessed it, us. A woman, irrespective of age, never stops being a young girl, acting like a young girl, thinking like a young girl, unless she chooses to. And the same applies to a man. We can see the world as a child sees it, if we choose to. And if we do, it will almost certainly make us better people and our world a better place to live. Worth contemplating don’t you think?

 

 

 

Another Letter To America

Dear United States of America.

Here I am writing to you again.

You’ll be pleased to know it’s not about guns this time. The truth is I can’t take my eyes away from you and your politics. Suddenly you’re a catastrophe waiting to happen. And if the news over the last 24 hours is any guide, the catastrophe’s already happening. It’s in slow motion, of course, but nonetheless moving inevitably towards a massive fallout and collateral damage. Your White House is in daily disarray, in case you haven’t noticed. It lurches from one crisis to another. It’s disastrous, it’s damaging, it’s chaotic. It’s also fascinating. Apologies if I seem to be basking in the warmth of someone else’s misfortune. But the chaos won’t last forever. It can’t. Something has to give.

As a spectator in the relatively safe backwater known as Australia, and a very long way away from you, I can only look on with shock and awe. I could write pages and pages and pages about your President Donald Trump. Whoever writes his biography will have endless sources of amusement and negativity to wade through. No point in me joining the chorus. It is stating the obvious.

I do want to try and understand him. And the only way I can do that, is to liken your President to a famous historic figure of tragedy. A figure, that could only be created by the master of dramatic tragedy, Mr William Shakespeare. Donald Trump really is Shakespeare’s modern day Julius Caesar. So many parallels. A man who thinks that rules and governance and the law don’t apply to him. So did Julius Caesar. A man who flies above it all in his private jet. And he is the only passenger. Ok. Not Julius Caesar, but you get my point.

Like Julius Caesar, Trump’s biggest flaw is vanity. He wants to bask in public adulation. To be adored and admired. To be recognised as a man, who is way bigger than the sum of many or even any parts. He stands alone. A colossus. But like Caesar his fate is foretold. He too, will be dispatched, ruthlessly. By that I mean metaphorically speaking and not literally. He will be dispatched to a political gulag. It won’t be at the hands of obvious enemies. No sir. Trump’s biggest enemies are his friends, his Republican friends in the Congress.

This tornado is getting ready to touch ground. It’s been gathering strength for some time but really the catalyst for what is about to happen began with the reasons behind his arbitrary sacking of the Director of the FBI, James Comey. Your President Trump can’t help himself. He has his press lackeys give one version while he gives another that is completely contradictory. He blindsides his own people. He hasn’t told them of his plans. Why should he? He’s Donald Trump. He can say and do whatever he likes. Well actually no he can’t. He’s not Donald Trump the businessman anymore nor is he Donald Trump the TV host who can simply say your fired. He is Donald Trump, President of the United States and different rules apply. If you don’t believe me, look at Richard Nixon. In fact the word Watergate is getting used a lot lately.

Why Watergate? Because Trump is said to be trying to do what Nixon wanted to do and couldn’t. Stop an official investigation. You see, Trump’s security advisor, General Michael Flynn was sacked after it emerged that he had lied about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

Now, the news has broken that the former Director of the FBI is said to have written a memo, accusing Trump of trying to stop the Flynn investigation. If it’s true, this is political interference of the worst kind. Using your office and power to try and thwart an independent and lawful investigation. That is intolerable. It will not be tolerated by Republican or Democrat. No one has seen the memo. No one knows, for sure, that it even exists. But plenty of people are now saying they desperately want to follow the paper trail. And the bad news for Donald Trump, one of those people most notably, is a Republican. And not just any old Republican. He’s Jason Chaffetz, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee. It is the one Congressional committee that has the power to follow that paper trail.

“On the surface that seems like an extraordinary use of influence to try to shut down an investigation being done by the FBI,” Mr Chaffetz said.

“(We are) going to get the Comey memo, if it exists. I need to see it sooner rather than later. I have my subpoena pen ready.”

The committee Mr Chaffetz heads has since sent a letter to the FBI requesting that it provide the memo – and any other relevant materials from Mr Comey.

Another senior Republican figure, former presidential nominee John McCain, openly compared the current situation to the Watergate scandal.

“I think we’ve seen this movie before. I think it appears at a point where it’s of Watergate size and scale,” Mr McCain said to former TV anchor Bob Schieffer at a dinner.

“The shoes continue to drop, and every couple of days there’s a new aspect,” he said. “Get it all out. It’s not going to be over until every aspect of it is thoroughly examined and the American people make a judgment. The longer you delay, the longer it is going to last.”

As you might expect, other Republicans are ducking for cover. It prompted CNNs political reporter Chris Cilliza to say: “ If you are a Republican in Congress, now is the time to panic.”

The story, about the former FBI Director’s alleged memo, was broken by the New York Times newspaper. The Times has not seen the memo, but says one of the former FBI Director’s associates, allegedly read excerpts from it, to one of its reporters.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go, Mr Trump allegedly told Mr Comey according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

Now, I’m probably telling you something that you already knew. Please forgive me in the re telling, I know it’s boring and repetitive but I like to re tell the story because it helps me to understand what’s going on.

I also know it’s going to be hard to predict what will happen next. But in my experience these things tend to have a mind and a life of their own. I wouldn’t put money on betting that your President will still be in office by Christmas.

It’s a real pity, Bill Shakespeare isn’t around. I’m sure he’d love to write about your President Trump. What am I saying? He already did. Just called him by a different name. And the setting was Rome, not Washington DC. Smart bloke that William Shakespeare.

Anyhow, let me know if there’s anything I can do to help. I remain your friend as always.

Take care and kind regards.

Do I Feel Sorry For The Australian Woman In A Colombian Jail?

I’ve thought long and hard about this. What I am about to say will seem harsh. Maybe even a bit cruel. Certainly it’s heartless. But I have absolutely no sympathy, whatsoever, for the plight of a young Australian woman, languishing in a Colombian jail, facing drug trafficking charges. Sorry. None.

For those who might not know about this, let me tell a little of the back story as I know it to be.

Twenty-two-year-old Adelaide woman Cassandra Sainsbury was arrested, while trying to board a flight for London, at Bogata airport in Colombia. Five point eight kilos of cocaine was later discovered, concealed inside headphones carried in her suitcase.

As you might expect, Sainsbury denied any knowledge of the drugs and claims the headphones were presents for family and friends. According to the Sainsbury version of events, she allegedly bought the headphones, for a ‘cheap’ price, from a man called Angelo or Tom. The problem for Sainsbury, one among many, is that no one has been able to identify or find this man.

According to her Colombian lawyer, Orlando Herran, Angelo or Tom is a ‘ghost’. The lawyer certainly got that right. A ghost as in Angelo or Tom doesn’t exist and never did. In fact Herran went on to say: “ there’s no evidence of his true identity.”

Herran says while he believes his client’s version of events (of course he has to say that being her lawyer) “ it is here that we have a very grave problem. …at this point we do not have any proof that she really was tricked or that this other person that she refers to exists or is guilty.”

Since her arrest, Sainsbury’s Colombian lawyer says the Australian does a lot of crying and is not coping very well with her surroundings. That is perfectly understandable. Colombian prisons are by definition hell-holes. They’re overcrowded, filthy, lacking even the basics of life. Corruption is said to be widespread in the prison system. If she is convicted, Sainsbury faces the possibility of up to 20 years imprisonment.

So is she innocent as she claims? Or is she knowingly guilty? Unfortunately, everything points to the latter. And this is where the story gets very murky. It has now been revealed that Sainsbury’s arrest resulted from a tip off to Colombian authorities by the American Drug Enforcement Agency, the DEA. What alerted the DEA was the last minute purchase of a plane ticket on Sainsbury’s behalf in Hong Kong with the destination Colombia via London. An unknown person, bought the ticket to travel to South America. Sainsbury was travelling alone and for a short period of time. In the drug enforcement business, that is known as a red flag for a potential drug mule. In other words, a person prepared to act as a drug courier. Then there were other potential clues like the cryptic social media comments she posted in the days and weeks and months leading up to her trip. In the posts she appeared to be counting down the days to a life-changing event. The now deleted January 10 post read: “ 50 days until I make the biggest move I’ve yet to do…….50 days until everything changes.”

She added the following hashtags: #newbeginnings #newyearnewme #2k17#dreamjob #bondiliving #life #change #love #50daysleft #goodthingsarecoming.

On April 8, she posted a photograph from Bogota along with the comment: “Can’t complain about an all expenses paid work trip, in which (sic) is mainly holiday very little work. It’s the simple things that are the true beauty in the world. Mother Nature has been putting on quite the show for me over here.”

It would appear Cassandra Sainsbury anticipated a windfall of sorts.

Sainsbury’s family claim she was on a working holiday to promote her personal training business — a claim which appears to be supported by Sainsbury’s Instagram posts which are riddled with fitness-related hashtags.

But her fiance Scotty Broadbridge tells a completely different story, claiming she hasn’t done any personal training work for months and her most recent job involved “helping to manage” a cleaning company.

“Although Cassie is a PT, she is not currently personal training and hasn’t been for six months. I don’t know why that was mentioned at all,”  Broadbridge says.

Her fiance might not know but I am perfectly happy to speculate on why her personal training work was mentioned. It might have something to do with concocting a cover story to disguise the real reason for travelling to Colombia.

Broadbridge went on to say: “She helped manage a commercial cleaning business that had both national and international clients. Unfortunately it’s very easy for tourists to get targeted, especially in Colombia.”

So why would Sainsbury be so insanely stupid as to act as a drug mule? The answer is money. It usually is the answer, in these cases. In Adelaide, at one time, Cassandra Sainsbury ran her own gym but it collapsed with Sainsbury allegedly owing tens of thousands of dollars. In 2015, she opened Yorke’s Fitness charging an $800 a year membership but it went broke within six months. When the gym closed, Sainsbury disappeared.

“When she left town, there was rent owing on the premises,” Yorke florist Lyn Gates told a local television station. “It was a shock to me, plus the community … All of a sudden, she just took off and not paid – nicked – the rent and the equipment just disappeared.”

There does not appear to be much public sympathy for Casandra Sainsbury. Her family launched a crowdfunding campaign to help pay her legal costs. But it was shut down well short of its funding target because it was attracting a lot of negative comments.

Cassandra Sainsbury finds herself in an awful predicament whatever way you look at it. If she decides to fight the charges it will be two months for her case to be heard. It’s also unlikely she’d be given bail. If she decides to plead guilty, as her lawyer has already recommended, her potential prison sentence could be reduced substantially but it will still be many years inside a Colombian jail.

Colombian lawyer, Orlando Herrán says Sainsbury’s best chance of a reduced sentence is for her to negotiate with Colombian prosecutors in the two-month window before the start of her trial, but his immediate priority is to find a way to get her out of prison.

“She’s young and it is important that she gets out as soon as possible,” the lawyer says. “There are many examples of Colombians and foreigners who have been able to reach an agreement with prosecutors.

“If we can show she hasn’t had problems with police in Australia and no history of contact with drug traffickers, we can make a deal.”

But the Colombian authorities will be pressing Sainsbury to name names before they agree to any plea deal. And that potentially opens her up to even more danger in a prison system that doesn’t like snitches.

While I have no sympathy for her position, I take no comfort at all in seeing her suffering. But at the end of the day Cassandra Sainsbury only has herself to blame for her situation. And whatever lesson she learns from this  it is going to be very, very hard and very, very long.

Welcome To The World Of Donald Trump

A man walks into a bar in Kansas City. Many of the patrons are from a country other than the United States. Their physical appearance is a dead give away. The man asks them, as if he had some God given right, What visa did they hold? Were they in the United States illegally? There was method in his madness. He leaves and returns to the bar with a gun and opens fire killing one person, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian born engineer working for Garmin in the United States. Two other people are wounded, one of them seriously. The seriously wounded man, is incredibly lucky to be alive and still walking because the bullet that struck him narrowly missed his carotid artery and spinal column. This was a racially motivated hate crime. Welcome to the world of Donald Trump.

A celebrated Australian author of children’s books, Mem Fox, goes to the United States on business. She has a valid visa and Fox has travelled to the US many times before. Make that 116 times before without incident. But this time is different. This time she is travelling directly in the wake of Donald Trump’s anti immigration rantings, by that I mean his executive order on immigration. On her arrival, Fox is detained and questioned for two hours by US Customs officials. “I have never in my life been spoken to with such insolence, treated with such disdain, with so many insults and with so much gratuitous impoliteness,” she would later say. “I felt like I had been physically assaulted which is why, when I got to my hotel room, I completely collapsed and sobbed like a baby. And I’m 70 years old.”

Fox tells Australian reporters that the Customs officials seem to be turbocharged with the power granted to them by Trump’s order. Fox complains. She receives an apology, but says she will never again travel to the United States. Welcome to the world of Donald Trump.

The White House holds a press conference. The media, the fifth estate, exists to hold people like Donald Trump accountable. Now there’s a fine word with a multitude of meaning. Accountability. You see the media exists as a free and independent entity in a flourishing democracy. In fact it is one of the foundations that a democracy is built on. Politicians can be criticised, questioned and held to account. They can be caught out lying. Now there’s another good word. Mendacity. But when a number of media organisations, like CNN, the BBC and the New York Times, try to enter the briefing room, they are barred. Barred from entering? Are you serious? In contrast ‘friendly’ to Donald Trump news services like Fox News, One America News Networks and the hideous Breitbart news have no problem attending the White House briefing. In fact they are welcomed with open arms. Trump calls the media purveyors of fake news. They tell lies according to Trump. It’s a bit like that story of the pot, the kettle and the colour black. If Donald Trump really wants to see mendacity he should look in the mirror more often. Terrorist attack in Sweden anyone? Is this Stalinist Russia? Not it’s the good old USA, the greatest democracy in the world. Yeah right. Welcome to the world of Donald Trump.

This media ban is unprecedented. This is a disgrace. This has never happened before in the history of American democratic politics. By democratic, I mean democracy. Not the party. These are the actions of a dictator. A man who thinks he’s above the law and now that he is President of the United States can do whatever he likes, to who ever he likes. Welcome to the world of Donald Trump.

The son of the late and great Mohammed Ali, the greatest American heavyweight world champion boxer of all time, is detained at a Florida airport and questioned about being a Muslim. I guess the name was a dead giveaway. He has the same name as his Dad. But who cares in Trump America. He sounds like a muslim. And all Muslims are dangerous. Right? Welcome to the world of Donald Trump.

Ali junior and his mother, who was Mohammed Ali’ s second wife, were returning to the United States after a vacation in Jamaica. Ali junior’s lawyer, told a Louisville Kentucky newspaper, that his client was detained and questioned for two hours by Immigration officials, who repeatedly asked him: Where did you get your name from? Are you Muslim? Clearly they were not boxing fans. For the record, Ali junior was born in Philadelphia and holds a US passport. Welcome to the world of Donald Trump.

He’s besieged. He’s taking a beating in the polls. He’s loved and loathed and despised equally by many including members of his own Government, some of whom keep feeding the media with damaging leaks designed to embarrass and humiliate. So what does he do? He takes his message to the American people. Mass rallies of his supporters.Hang on. Didn’t we just have a Presidential election campaign? He tells them the mainstream media are all liars and the economy is going great. And guess what? He says I’m going to keep having rallies, keep talking to the people because I can’t trust anyone. Only a fool would believe him. This man is a bombast. A wrecker and a hater. He can’t be trusted and will trash alliances, relationships and all of the goodwill the United States has spent decades cultivating. Welcome to the world of darkness. Welcome to the world of Donald Trump.

What’s The Deal with the Australia US Immigration Deal?

There is something very tawdry going on. I’m sure of it.

Something grubby, shabby and very underhand. It isn’t nice. It might even be illegal or at the very least immoral.

It is the immigration deal that Australia has made with the United States to re settle refugees in America. In a sense it has everything and nothing to do with Donald Trump. Let me explain. I will do my best because quite frankly much of the deal is very unclear and crucial information missing from the narrative.

The deal relates to 1,250 refugees held in Australia’s offshore Pacific detention camps on Nauru and Manus Islands. Many of these refugees are from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran and Iraq. The refugees are stateless, having spent years languishing in these offshore detention camps, that I would call prisons, which the United Nations has repeatedly criticised as cruel and illegal. The refugees are in a no man’s land. They are unable to go home, but cannot come to Australia – even when their right to protection as refugees is confirmed – because they travelled to Australia by boat and that is a no go as far as the Australian Government is concerned. The vast majority of those in Australia’s offshore detention regime are confirmed to have a valid claim to refugee status, meaning they are legally owed Australia’s protection. On Nauru, 983 of the 1,200 refugee status determinations were positive, while 217 were negative. On Manus Island, 78% of 859 the people finally assessed were found to be refugees, while 190 were found not to have a claim for protection. The deal with the United States was also to include hundreds of refugees previously held on Manus or Nauru, or who were in Australia receiving medical care, provided they had been found to be refugees.

Here is where it starts to get very murky. In November the US Obama administration agreed to take an undisclosed number of refugees from Australia’s offshore detention centres. It was both extraordinarily generous and totally inexplicable. Why would the Americans do such a thing? Why indeed. It is a deal that made no sense when Obama was President and even less so now that we have the Donald.

The American resettlement option was accompanied by some strict caveats. It was only to be available for detainees found to be refugees (under the refugee convention). Others who were assessed and found to not have an entitlement to protection would be deemed ineligible. Applicants were to be interviewed twice by US officials before being resettled, in a process that would take between six and 12 months. If a refugee missed out on US resettlement, the existing options of re settlement in Papua New Guinea and Cambodia were still available.

This deal was seen as a significant political win for the Turnbull government. Australia has searched in vain for a sustainable plan for refugees. For more than three years Australia consistently maintained it will never settle asylum seekers on the Australian mainland that come here by boat, a position that has been popular with some voters and is still supported by both of Australia’s main political parties. But the policy has led to regular reports of human rights abuses, and is bitterly condemned by refugee advocates inside and outside of Australia.

At the time of the US agreement, only 24 refugees had resettled in PNG, and a handful in Cambodia. The Manus Island detention centre, was declared illegal by the Supreme Court of Papua and Australia is under international pressure over allegations of the sexual abuse of women and children, assaults of children, rape, widespread mental harm and epidemic rates of self-harm and suicide attempts in the Nauru detention centre.

You can see why Turnbull striking a deal to resettle these people in the United States was a godsend. Which again, leads me back to the question: Why would the United States agree to this deal?

Enter the new American President Donald Trump. There is no one on this planet more likely to torpedo a deal like this than President Trump. One of the very first orders he signed as President was to ban Muslims from seven countries from entering the United States. So Australian Prime Minister Turnbull had good reason to be worried. Bilateral arrangements like this refugee deal, are made by the President of the day. They can just as easily be altered or revoked, at the stroke of a pen, by a new President. But even with the possibility of a Trump Presidency on the horizon, Turnbull seemed relatively untroubled. “ We deal with one administration at the time,” he said. “ There can only be one President at the time.”

So you can just imagine what a priority it might have been for Australia to ensure that this deal was ratified by the new American President, come hell or high water or Donald Trump.

Last Sunday a phone call took place between Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and newly inaugurated President, Donald Trump. It would be fair to say the phone conversation didn’t go well. Trump told Turnbull it was “the worst deal ever” and accused Australia of trying to send the US the “next Boston Bombers” Then he abruptly ended the conversation by hanging up the phone on the Australian Prime Minister. We know all of this courtesy of a leak to a Washington Post journalist who duly reported it. Which brings me to my second intriguing question: Who leaked this information? Was it the White House? Or someone else? Whoever did leak the information has a nice sense of irony in choosing the Washington Post. A newspaper that has no love for the Donald. Watergate anyone? The Trump people denied they leaked the conversation. Why would they? They certainly have nothing to gain from the embarrassing spectacle of an American President treating one of his closest allies with incredible rudeness. Trump later added insult to injury by tweeting; “Do you believe it? The Obama administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!”

I think it more probable than not that Australia was the source of that Washington Post story. Of course, I can’t prove it but we had everything to gain and nothing to lose from making it all public. President Trump while maintaining the rage says the deal will most likely be honoured subject to a strict vetting of the refugees. I was not surprised at all by Trump’s reaction. What I am surprised about is his change of mind. If this deal goes through it will be because we have done or are about to do a huge favour to the United States. They clearly owe us. And because all of this is shrouded in such secrecy it only makes me more determined, and hopefully you as well, to know what it is.

I smell a rodent.

 

 

 

 

Princess Leia. More of a victim than an Icon

I’ve been thinking about Carrie Fisher. Thinking about her a lot, lately. But my thinking isn’t in a way that I might have expected.

Yes. I was shocked by her death. So were a lot of people. It made me sad. She was still comparatively young. It is always kind of sad to lose someone like Carrie Fisher, who was highly intelligent, very talented, possessing a great sense of humor and clever at mocking others as well as herself. Read one of her books if you get the chance.

The thing is I had a mild epiphany when I saw a headline describing Fisher as an icon and a role model and a trailblazer for women. The story went on to say that the “ iconic actress paved the way for girls to take over their own galaxies, and she did so while battling her own personal demons. Her ‘Star Wars’ role, and her strength and humour in real life inspired a generation of women who are now deeply mourning her loss. She empowered them to be their own heroes!”

Normally I would totally agree with all of that. But In Carrie Fisher’s case I am not so sure. I think she was more of a victim than an icon. A victim of a Hollywood system, that continues to regard a woman as second class. Certainly treated as worth much less than any man.

In 2005, The American Film Institute awarded the Life Achievement Award to Star Wars creator George Lucas. But it was Fisher’s speech to roast him that stole the show. In just over four minutes, Fisher practices gender equality. She flagellates Lucas as equally as she honours him. She was fearless in sharing her story, while also taking pot shots at herself, and the franchise and the industry that made her famous.

“Hi, I’m Mrs. Han Solo and I’m an alcoholic,” Fisher begins. “I’m an alcoholic because George Lucas ruined my life.” She goes on to call Lucas a sadist, but adds that “like any abused child wearing a metal bikini, chained to a giant slug about to die, I keep coming back for more.”

Fisher praises Lucas while also reminding everyone of his shortcomings, and with it, the sexism of Hollywood. She points to “Queen Amadillo, or whatever her name is” in the prequel series, who changed hairstyles and outfits “practically every time she walks through a door.”

“I bet she even got to wear a bra, even though you (Lucas) told me I couldn’t, because there was no underwear in space!”

Fisher was especially aggrieved at how Hollywood and Lucas ‘stole’ her identity. How millions of dollars were made selling her Princess Leia likeness. Fisher did not receive a cent. This is what she had to say in an interview with Newsweek : ” The mistake was I signed away my likeness for free. In those days, there was no such thing as a “likeness,” which is a funny thing to say coming from the family that I came from. There was no merchandising tied to movies. No one could have known the extent of the franchise. Not that I don’t think I’m cute or anything, but when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t think I was signing away anything of value.

“Lately I feel like I’m Minnie Mouse—the identity of Princess Leia so eclipses any other identity that I’ve ever had. How much money could I have made from all this stuff? I don’t want to know. It’s too upsetting. Yet funny. For example, I found out recently that I am a type of marijuana. A friend of my daughter’s actually went to one of those medical places, and she told me there was a type of marijuana named Princess Leia. I never liked marijuana, so the fact that I’m a type of marijuana is ironic.

“I’ve teased George Lucas about this over the years, but he’s never been apologetic.

“When you’re 19 you don’t even think about these things. I don’t know what everyone else’s excuse was. Harrison Ford was 33! He should have known better! Here’s where I’m dumb. I assume if there’s an argument to be made, Harrison would have made it, and if he made it, I would have heard about it, because we had the same deal. But Harrison hasn’t fixed his deal. So this is an ongoing mistake.

“Mistakes are a drag, because you get in the area of regret and self-pity. I don’t like to linger in this zone.

“Me, having a tantrum in the corner for my cut of Star Wars toothpaste? I don’t want to get into it. Every so often, I wonder if Natalie Portman is getting more money than the none I’m getting. If she’s holding a check for Princess Amidala’s likeness in one hand and her Oscar in the other, that would piss me off. “

Ironically, Portman is a classic case in point at how everything and nothing has changed for women actors in Hollywood. In a very recent interview with the British magazine Marie Claire, Portman revealed that Ashton Kutcher was paid three times her salary when they both made the rom com movie No Strings Attached. Portman said that while the pay disparity was ‘crazy’ she was not complaining because her salary was still more than what it would take for the average person to earn in a lifetime of work.

“Compared to men, in most professions, women make 80 cents to the dollar, “ Portman said. “ In Hollywood, we are making 30 cents to the dollar.”

The gender pay gap is now a hot topic in Hollywood especially since Patricia Arquette made an impassioned speech about the issue when accepting the Oscar for best supporting actress for Boyhood in 2015.

Later that year, Jennifer Lawrence also bought into the issue after the Sony hacks revealed she had been paid far less for American Hustle than her male colleagues.

“I didn’t want to seem ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled,'” Lawrence would later write in an essay for Lena Dunham’s Lenny newsletter. “At the time, that seemed like a fine idea, until I saw the payroll on the internet and realized every man I was working with, definitely didn’t worry about being ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled’.”

Most recently actor Felicity Jones who starred in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story told Glamour magazine: “I want to be paid fairly for the work that I’m doing. That’s what every single woman around the world wants. We want to be paid on parity with a man in a similar position. And I think it’s important to talk about it.”

Portman, who is widely tipped to score an Oscar nomination for her role in the Jackie Kennedy biopic, Jackie, also told Marie Claire that she intends to make sure that her next film is directed by a woman.

Will all of this make a difference? Maybe. In time. In the meantime, let’s keep having the conversation.

Good Men And Women Have To Stop Doing Nothing

Humanity isn’t a word used much these days. We should be ashamed at that.

It’s a word I love because it has so much meaning. It’s a way of describing all of us. It’s a way of describing the good in all of us. Our commonality. We all live on this planet earth. We may speak a different language, but we are all still human beings. We breathe air, we have DNA, we walk on two legs, we have intelligence and we know right from wrong. We are all in this together whether we like it or not.

Humanity also means compassion, understanding and respect for our fellow human beings. A moral compass that we use, or are supposed to use, to guide us to act in a way that will benefit others for no expectation or benefit in return. We do it because it is the right thing to do.

Humanity is not a word in use in Aleppo, Syria these days. It hasn’t been used in that place in quite some time. All of us, and I do mean all of us,have forgotten, or don’t want to remember, or be reminded of humanity and our obligation to it when it comes to Aleppo, especially when every day we see video of the systematic destruction of a city brick by bloody brick.

Each bomb dropped, each building destroyed has people inside. Yes people, as in men, women and children. Innocent people. We don’t want to know about that either. People whose only crime is to be the unfortunates to live in a city in the cross hairs of a pointless and destructive civil war.

Of course they are not the only ones suffering in Syria. But Aleppo has become the lightning rod, a metaphor for everything that has gone wrong in Syria and in us and everything that has gone wrong in the futile and insincere attempts to stop the violence. We should be ashamed. Everyone on this planet should be ashamed. People are being slaughtered and we do nothing. It reminds me of the words of Edmund Burke, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (and women) to do nothing. We have become particularly good at doing nothing.

But collective shame doesn’t begin and end with Aleppo. It isn’t enough that we do nothing to help them. We then turn around and try and take away their hope. The people of Syria still have the will to survive in the midst of madness. The ‘lucky’ ones are trying to do something to help themselves when confronted with inhumanity and no one prepared to help them. They are doing what anyone else would do in their terrible situation. They are running away. They are taking to unseaworthy boats and making perilous crossings of the ocean to try and find a place that isn’t being bombed 24/7. It’s hardly surprising yet we, as in the nations of the world, are continually surprised. What is surprising to me is that we do nothing to help them yet we do everything in our power to dissuade them from running away. Dissuade them from boarding boats unfit to go to sea and paying people smugglers for the privilege.

We don’t have that right and they have no choice. We have no right to tell them they can’t board a boat especially if we are not going to help them.

If they stay they die, if they take to the sea they may still die but at least they have a 50/50 chance of survival. Fifty percent is better than nothing.

And to add insult to injury, those that do manage to make that perilous crossing and survive, are rewarded for their efforts by being forced to live as non-citizens, or forced to walk hundreds of kilometres in the hope that someone, somewhere will take pity on them. Worse still if they come to the country that I live in they will be put in prison in some third world Pacific island hell hole with no hope and no prospect of leaving. And our Government congratulates itself on the fact that this final solution has stopped the boats. Humanity isn’t a word used much in Australia either.

I am tired of humanity being hijacked by politicians and other selfish, soulless people. It doesn’t belong to them, it belongs to all of us and it’s time for human beings to reclaim it. If we don’t, we have no future and we certainly don’t have a world worth living in. We have to start being good men and women. We have to stop evil from triumphing. We have to tell politicians, we have to show them they don’t speak for us when they say they won’t help people in need. Because that is what good people do.