Unmasking Humourless Powers


I salute my colleagues who were detained and strip-searched yesterday. I salute their courage, their grace and humour. Especially their humour. At the end of the day it is not they who stand naked and humiliated. It is the system that allows children to be indefinitely locked up in third world conditions.

I am outraged, but not surprised. Jarrad and Lorna, I know, have read Pace e Bene non-violence training; they have read Walter Wink; they have read Martin Luther King Jr. They know to expect the full response of the law if they go down the path of civil disobedience: fines, jail and all the police procedures that may go with them. They were prepared to pay the full price.

And they also know from their training that their opposition to the status quo will make it unstable, and their disobedience will provoke unexpected reactions. For their friends, it is distressing to see police attempt to humiliate them, but they are asking us to see beyond this.

Because what Lorna and Jarrad and their colleagues have achieved is to unmask the powers. For a moment we have glimpsed what Australia has become. We can thank the protestors for their courage in bringing to our attention not just the plight of asylum seekers and their children in detention, but the community attitudes that permit such cruelty.

The South African activist theologian Walter Wink points out that that the system cannot bear a sense of humour. Those who promote violence are enraged that they might be made fun of. A laugh is what makes us human. Those who stop us laughing must be stopped. #lovemakesaway

Planks and Splinters


Wood shaving lodged in a man’s eye as he sawed.
It hurt, looked nasty, might be infected.
His mate drove him to the emergency ward
of the Royal Hospital to have it inspected.

The triage nurse made the doctor race.
He arrived – and obvious for all to spy –
A railway sleeper protruded from his face,
Embedded deeply in his left eye.

He stretched to help the patient – but in vain he tried.
The plank was longer than his reaching finger.
He had no binocular vision to guide
Tweezers and needles to the splinter.

The plank, buried deeply in his skull,
Had also caused massive brain haemorrhage.
The doctor was totally dull,
Not knowing his capacity to damage.

Grotesque metaphor, slapstick simile.
It rivals the Doug¯Anthony¯All¯Stars.
The Jewish clown claimed our refusal to see
Our plank in their splinters seriously mars.

Ted Witham 1996

Published in Studio: A Journal of Christians Writing

A Ditter


Changing topic altogether: learning to live with the new social networked internet.

A DITTER
IF you want to be up to date,
to fit in with the glitter,
then you’ll learn to communicate
with the new wondrous Twitter.

Darwin taught that those who survive
are environmentally fitter;
so talk and talk to stay alive
on organism Twitter.

For serious talkers only:
not to giggle or titter,
stop from being lonely –
Put your faith in Twitter.

If you cannot make a page,
then ask the baby-sitter,
who’ll say it’ll take you an age
to communicate with Twitter.

It will keep you up all night,
this new-born cyber-critter.
It’ll give you depth all right:
just you stick with Twitter.

Ted Witham