Then the news came on – Jonathan K Benton

angel despairIt’s hard to blog deep every week. I have to mix it up because most of my creative energy is spent on my new manuscript. Sometimes an idea germinates and I’m driven into a flurry of blogging activity, like what happened here.

I’m sitting in front of the television after a day on the computer. It’s late Saturday night and I’m trying to scrape together something interesting to blog about. I can relate to Oscar Wilde when he said: ‘I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again’.

Then the news came on. It’s the 21st Century and there are wars popping up everywhere. Governments (not countries) are still behaving like playground bullies. Good people are suffering because we cannot sort out our shit. It makes me physically sick. Our children deserve to inherit a safer world. I’ve decided to leave you with three questions. If there are a whole lot more good people than bad in this world (and I believe there are), why does it sometimes feel like there are not? Is it just a case of a few power-drunk bad apples spoiling the bunch? How do we stop them?

My heart goes out to the good citizens of Ukraine and everyone else forced to live in fear.

Jonathan K Benton

A piece on laughter and my two ‘all-time’ favourite jokes – Jonathan K Benton

laughterCatch 22 is one of my favourite books. It’s also one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. Colours and shades, tears and laughter. The saddest stories have the funniest scenes, as the author takes you on an emotional roller coaster.

Laughter saves lives – just ask the Clown Doctors. It pierces bubbles of sadness. It can also lift you up after hard times. Trust me, I know. I love getting the giggles, especially with my brother and sister. We think alike, you see. A simple look can summon uncontrollable laughter.

Laughter brings a sense of perspective to this crazy world. War might not exist if everybody could laugh just a little bit more. This Monty Python skit sums it up perfectly.

Sometimes laughing will be the last thing on your mind, but never forget how to, and try not to take yourself too seriously.

My two favourite jokes.

My cousin told me this ‘knock knock’ joke when I was five years old:

– Knock knock

– Who’s there?

– Bumblebee

– Bumblebee who?

– Bumblebee cold if you don’t pull your pants up.

The next joke was voted the second funniest of all time by a panel of experts. It’s my favourite:

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson were going camping. They pitched their tent under the stars and went to sleep. Sometime in the middle of the night Holmes woke Watson up and said: “Watson, look up at the stars, and tell me what you see.”

Watson replied: “I see millions and millions of stars.”

Holmes said: “and what do you deduce from that?”

Watson replied: “Well, if there are millions of stars, and if even a few of those have planets, it’s quite likely there are some planets like earth out there. And if there are a few planets like earth out there, there might also be life.”

And Holmes said: “Watson, you idiot, it means that somebody stole our tent.”

***

Let me know your favourite jokes, and please keep them clean.

Jonathan K Benton

Politics – it's a touchy subject. Jonathan K Benton

campbell newmanThe recent pay rises given to Queensland MPs is disgraceful. This is not an article about left/right politics. All sides of the political spectrum in Australia have, at one time or another, proven themselves inept. It’s easy for the opposition to declare that they’ll donate the increased portion of their salaries – until I see evidence that this is consistently happening then, to me, it’s just a political stunt.

Politicians are meant to serve the people. They are supposed to have strong wholesome ideals and an unwavering ability to do what’s right. Whatever way I look at it, and whatever side of the political spectrum my leanings might be, the pay rise ‘handed down by the independent commission’ (the pollies keep repeating this, as though it’s some sort of defence) is wrong. Cost of living is sky rocketing – good people who work long hours might not even receive a rise this year. The Queensland Government have made a bunch of people redundant in the name of saving money, and those public servants who managed to keep their jobs will be lucky to receive a 2 per cent pay rise.

Premier Newman’s 22 per cent pay rise (or 68k) is enough to put one more police officer on the street or another teacher in an overcrowded school. Surely he can live on his previous salary of 311k plus perks. Some might argue that we need to pay our politicians top dollar to attract the best. Politicians are already paid well, and I would like to believe most of them enter politics to make a difference. Or is money their only true motivator? If it is, we’re lost.

Writing tip – Show don’t tell.

Politicians need to learn this one too – in a different way. ‘Show don’t tell’ is writing 101. I found this link because I’m strapped for time. Read it and be reminded. Telling is okay, by the way. Sometimes it’s necessary to maintain pace. Just don’t ‘tell’ the important parts.

A Tale of Two Presidents – Jonathan K Benton

presidents

A Tale of Two Presidents

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of life-saving medical advancement, it was the age of life-taking weapons of mass destruction; it was the spring of freedom of choice, it was the winter of poverty and oppression. It was the weekend when a group of kids got together to celebrate my boy’s fifth birthday, it was the weekend when Vladimir Putin called Barack Obama to discuss World War Three.

You, me, us. We need to stop the shit so that every child on this planet can enjoy every birthday to a ripe old age.

party

 

Jonathan K Benton

 

 

 

 

Please note: Charles Dickens’s brilliant first paragraph in A Tale of Two Cities (read it here) kicks all other opening paragraphs out of the literary ball park.  His words are as a relevant today as they were 200 hundred years ago.

The secret to being 'cool', for five minutes and ten seconds

grammy hatI was sitting at the computer thinking about the past – as long as I don’t dwell on it, the past is a great place from which to draw inspiration. I suddenly remembered a song a friend introduced me to a long time ago. I’ve never been cool (although I try my best to convince my boys otherwise). People would question my sanity if I wore Pharrell Williams’s Grammy hat.  Look at me, and I blush. Speak to me, and I jump. I possess very little fashion sense and own a mobile phone so old people often mistake it for a baby’s toy. But while I sat listening to this song, and no matter how uncool I am in reality, I felt damn cool.

Sit back, close your eyes, click on this link and enjoy five minutes and ten seconds of sleepy coolness.

Jonathan K Benton

2014 – the year we woke. Philosophy is inspiring!

2014I believe that most people are good. If the reverse is true then humanity is in a whole lot of trouble.

Being good doesn’t mean being perfect. We are all capable of behaving selfishly – perfection is mostly subjective anyway. An example of good is this: if we saw a child crying, and if it were obvious that child was lost, we would ensure the child’s safety by delivering him or her to the appropriate authorities or caregivers. I believe 95% of people would act this way, their sole motive to protect the child.

Anything can happen in the future and I’m sure it will. I think our concept of wealth will change: is changing. Various forms of evolution like technology will redefine our notion of what a reward actually is. In the distant future, money will not exist. Greed will be a thing of the past, assigned to the history books. Reward will be defined by the depth of the relationships we have with ourselves, with each other, with the Universe itself. These things are infinite – material possessions are not.

Left-Right debates in terms of politics are largely pointless. It’s a bell curve, anyway, and most people sit somewhere in the middle. There are extremes (I’m not referring to ‘extreme’ in terms of terrorism) on both sides. We must remember that the people sitting on the edges of the bell curve are just as likely to be ‘good’ people as those in the middle. Everybody is entitled to an opinion. Extremes propel us towards a balanced future; they are the narrow walls of the river canyon. Humanity is the river that will emerge from that canyon into a tranquil meandering waterway leaving the extremes behind. The river is always more powerful than the rock. There will be no such thing as left/right, liberal/labour, democratic/republican in a few hundred years as we move towards an economic system completely alien to anything we know today. The goods and services will be different, the resources foreign. Freedom of choice – and I fervently believe in an individual’s right to choose – is the way forward. It nourishes and moulds our future.

Bill Gates gave his opinion (click here) on how the world improved in 2013: the worldwide poverty rate went down and so did the rate of child mortality. These are positive developments. Little steps towards a bright new future.

Serious exponents of change don’t lecture us on getting from A to C without telling us how to deal with B. B is the roadmap, the transition period. It takes real brilliance to understand B. Most ideologues who loudly advocate change possess no realistic idea how to achieve it. They will use key words to obfuscate their lack of understanding. Search for that rare and brilliant individual who can transition.

I’m aiming to finish my next novel by September this year. It’s a heady mix of fantasy and adventure with a pinch of literary cleverness. I’m excited to be working with an entirely fresh set of characters. Australia is a great setting for any book and I love Minaea.

Have a great 2014

You’re beautiful – yes that’s you. Everybody.

Signing off

Jonathan K Benton

I've had a gutful: by Jonathan K Benton

5.0.2I’ve had a gutful of dangerous criminals reoffending after serving pitiful sentences handed down at the discretion of sympathetic judges.

Some in the legal community argue the media is stoking these feelings of mine through sensationalist reporting that excludes the reasons why a judge hands down a particular sentence. Others in the legal community agree that the sentences are simply too light. These differences of opinion amongst legalese indicate that sentencing is, within reason, subjective: ultimately the severity of the punishment comes down to the sentencing judge’s individual values.

Judges who are more empathetic towards the victim will deliver a harsher sentence than judges who have convinced themselves that the law, itself, trumps life, and that they are the law. The root cause for light sentencing of serious crime comes down to a judge’s ego. The good magistrates do not let their appointed role numb their humanity; they don’t seek to impose their egos on society by handing down sentences that don’t reflect society’s expectations. The law is not medicine – it rarely save lives in the true sense of the meaning. Judges are not doctors. There is no room for egos. There is only the victim.

I firmly believe that sentencing for the worst crimes should only take into account the impact of the crime on the victim and their families. Murder should have a mandatory life sentence. There are more than enough examples of light sentences leading to further tragedy to warrant a complete review of the way our judiciary is run. Justice is not being served by the people responsible for delivering it.

As for the murderer: if they truly repent their crimes they would truly understand the impact of their actions, and have no desire to re-integrate with society. They would humbly accept life in prison. In fact, they would demand it. Rarely is this the case.

Jonathan K Benton

Nelson Mandela – The Power of One.

nelson mandelaFormer Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser summed it up perfectly when he said this: ‘If we had three or four Mandelas to scatter around the world in important countries, the world today would be a safer place, and more secure for all of us’.

Nelson Mandela was the living embodiment of everything beautiful about humanity: honour, generosity, modesty, forgiveness, honesty, brilliance, humour, passion and compassion. He possessed all of these qualities fuelled by his unconditional ability to love. He believed in a peaceful future for us all, seeded in equality. He laid the foundation. Let us honour this great man’s dream and strive for that future.

Thank you, Nelson Mandela. I have a four-year-old boy, and as soon as he is old enough to understand, I will tell him your magnificent story.

Jonathan K Benton

If it was your wand, would you wave it?

wandImagine a magic wand. It was yours alone to wave. One magnificent flourish would guarantee the same standard of shelter, education and health care to everyone on the planet – no exceptions. No more mansions, no more homeless. One size fits all. ‘Them’s the rules’.

Think carefully before you wave your wand. You’d be giving a drug-pedalling pimp a house and taking a castle from a philanthropist on the cusp of funding a cure for cancer. The reverse is equally true. Shelter would be provided to people living in third-world poverty, and mansions would be removed from greedy warlords who have profited on the misery of the innocent. There are billions of variables to this offer. Consider them all. You studied hard at school to buy a mansion with a pool. If you waved your wand, this dream could no longer be a reality. Houses would be the same, built for subsistence to accommodate a burgeoning population – lavish to the billions currently living in poverty, basic to the millions not.

For every argument there’s a counter argument. Surely the doctor working tirelessly to save lives is entitled to a bigger house than the lazy person unwilling to work at all. Surely a single parent working two jobs to make ends meet should go to bed knowing that their children have access to the same education and health care as the kids whose parents have inherited their wealth.

Waving your wand does not prevent tragedy, bullying, crime and bad choices. It does ensure every child has a chance to blossom inside the basics: shelter, education and health care.

Is the world beyond the wand even possible? Doctors, nurses, scientists, teachers and trades people – how would we show individuals like this that we value their contribution? Is our thanks enough? I don’t think so. Hard work and positive contributions to society have to be recognised and rewarded. If we don’t, their ranks would dwindle.

Waving the wand is a philosophical ideal. Economists would need to find a way to redistribute resources without society breaking down. Humanity would need to settle on a new form of reward that would keep people motivated. We are not yet capable of universal altruism. Perhaps we never will.

But I know this – the child you don’t know is just as precious as the child you do. If someone you loved was living on the street through no fault of their own; if this someone needed immediate health care; if you could not afford to help them … I bet you’d wave the wand.

I know I would.

Jonathan K Benton