Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein trav­els across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea, the United States, Britain, Greece, and Australia to witness the reality of disaster capitalism. He discovers how companies such as G4S, Serco, and Halliburton cash in on or­ganized misery in a hidden world of privatized detention centers, militarized private security, aid profiteering, and destructive mining.

Disaster has become big business. Talking to immigrants stuck in limbo in Britain or visiting immigration centers in America, Loewenstein maps the secret networks formed to help cor­porations bleed what profits they can from economic crisis. He debates with Western contractors in Afghanistan, meets the locals in post-earthquake Haiti, and in Greece finds a country at the mercy of vulture profiteers. In Papua New Guinea, he sees a local commu­nity forced to rebel against predatory resource companies and NGOs.

What emerges through Loewenstein’s re­porting is a dark history of multinational corpo­rations that, with the aid of media and political elites, have grown more powerful than national governments. In the twenty-first century, the vulnerable have become the world’s most valu­able commodity. Disaster Capitalism is published by Verso in 2015 and in paperback in January 2017.

Profits_of_doom_cover_350Vulture capitalism has seen the corporation become more powerful than the state, and yet its work is often done by stealth, supported by political and media elites. The result is privatised wars and outsourced detention centres, mining companies pillaging precious land in developing countries and struggling nations invaded by NGOs and the corporate dollar. Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein travels to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea and across Australia to witness the reality of this largely hidden world of privatised detention centres, outsourced aid, destructive resource wars and militarized private security. Who is involved and why? Can it be stopped? What are the alternatives in a globalised world? Profits of Doom, published in 2013 and released in an updated edition in 2014, challenges the fundamentals of our unsustainable way of life and the money-making imperatives driving it. It is released in an updated edition in 2014.
forgodssakecover Four Australian thinkers come together to ask and answer the big questions, such as: What is the nature of the universe? Doesn't religion cause most of the conflict in the world? And Where do we find hope?   We are introduced to different belief systems – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – and to the argument that atheism, like organised religion, has its own compelling logic. And we gain insight into the life events that led each author to their current position.   Jane Caro flirted briefly with spiritual belief, inspired by 19th century literary heroines such as Elizabeth Gaskell and the Bronte sisters. Antony Loewenstein is proudly culturally, yet unconventionally, Jewish. Simon Smart is firmly and resolutely a Christian, but one who has had some of his most profound spiritual moments while surfing. Rachel Woodlock grew up in the alternative embrace of Baha'i belief but became entranced by its older parent religion, Islam.   Provocative, informative and passionately argued, For God's Sakepublished in 2013, encourages us to accept religious differences, but to also challenge more vigorously the beliefs that create discord.  
After Zionism, published in 2012 and 2013 with co-editor Ahmed Moor, brings together some of the world s leading thinkers on the Middle East question to dissect the century-long conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians, and to explore possible forms of a one-state solution. Time has run out for the two-state solution because of the unending and permanent Jewish colonization of Palestinian land. Although deep mistrust exists on both sides of the conflict, growing numbers of Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs are working together to forge a different, unified future. Progressive and realist ideas are at last gaining a foothold in the discourse, while those influenced by the colonial era have been discredited or abandoned. Whatever the political solution may be, Palestinian and Israeli lives are intertwined, enmeshed, irrevocably. This daring and timely collection includes essays by Omar Barghouti, Jonathan Cook, Joseph Dana, Jeremiah Haber, Jeff Halper, Ghada Karmi, Antony Loewenstein, Saree Makdisi, John Mearsheimer, Ahmed Moor, Ilan Pappe, Sara Roy and Phil Weiss.
The 2008 financial crisis opened the door for a bold, progressive social movement. But despite widespread revulsion at economic inequity and political opportunism, after the crash very little has changed. Has the Left failed? What agenda should progressives pursue? And what alternatives do they dare to imagine? Left Turn, published by Melbourne University Press in 2012 and co-edited with Jeff Sparrow, is aimed at the many Australians disillusioned with the political process. It includes passionate and challenging contributions by a diverse range of writers, thinkers and politicians, from Larissa Berendht and Christos Tsiolkas to Guy Rundle and Lee Rhiannon. These essays offer perspectives largely excluded from the mainstream. They offer possibilities for resistance and for a renewed struggle for change.
The Blogging Revolution, released by Melbourne University Press in 2008, is a colourful and revelatory account of bloggers around the globe why live and write under repressive regimes - many of them risking their lives in doing so. Antony Loewenstein's travels take him to private parties in Iran and Egypt, internet cafes in Saudi Arabia and Damascus, to the homes of Cuban dissidents and into newspaper offices in Beijing, where he discovers the ways in which the internet is threatening the ruld of governments. Through first-hand investigations, he reveals the complicity of Western multinationals in assisting the restriction of information in these countries and how bloggers are leading the charge for change. The blogging revolution is a superb examination about the nature of repression in the twenty-first century and the power of brave individuals to overcome it. It was released in an updated edition in 2011, post the Arab revolutions, and an updated Indian print version in 2011.
The best-selling book on the Israel/Palestine conflict, My Israel Question - on Jewish identity, the Zionist lobby, reporting from Palestine and future Middle East directions - was released by Melbourne University Press in 2006. A new, updated edition was released in 2007 (and reprinted again in 2008). The book was short-listed for the 2007 NSW Premier's Literary Award. Another fully updated, third edition was published in 2009. It was released in all e-book formats in 2011. An updated and translated edition was published in Arabic in 2012.

The Wire interview on failed US-backed Middle East talks

The media is once again filled with Middle East “experts” pontificating about the prospects of Obama-led “peace talks” in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine. There’s zero chance of a just outcome. The occupation deepens by the day.

I was interviewed by the current affairs show The Wire to discuss the reality on the ground:

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Seymour Hersh; journalism isn’t propaganda

Far too many reporters see themselves as extensions of power instead of checks on it. One of the finest journalists in the world, Seymour Hersh, unloads on this trend. I couldn’t have put it better myself (via Guardian):

Seymour Hersh has got some extreme ideas on how to fix journalism – close down the news bureaus of NBC and ABC, sack 90% of editors in publishing and get back to the fundamental job of journalists which, he says, is to be an outsider.

It doesn’t take much to fire up Hersh, the investigative journalist who has been the nemesis of US presidents since the 1960s and who was once described by the Republican party as “the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist”.

He is angry about the timidity of journalists in America, their failure to challenge the White House and be an unpopular messenger of truth.

Don’t even get him started on the New York Times which, he says, spends “so much more time carrying water for Obama than I ever thought they would” – or the death of Osama bin Laden. “Nothing’s been done about that story, it’s one big lie, not one word of it is true,” he says of the dramatic US Navy Seals raid in 2011.

Hersh is writing a book about national security and has devoted a chapter to the bin Laden killing. He says a recent report put out by an “independent” Pakistani commission about life in the Abottabad compound in which Bin Laden was holed up would not stand up to scrutiny. “The Pakistanis put out a report, don’t get me going on it. Let’s put it this way, it was done with considerable American input. It’s a bullshit report,” he says hinting of revelations to come in his book.

The Obama administration lies systematically, he claims, yet none of the leviathans of American media, the TV networks or big print titles, challenge him.

“It’s pathetic, they are more than obsequious, they are afraid to pick on this guy [Obama],” he declares in an interview with the Guardian.

“It used to be when you were in a situation when something very dramatic happened, the president and the minions around the president had control of the narrative, you would pretty much know they would do the best they could to tell the story straight. Now that doesn’t happen any more. Now they take advantage of something like that and they work out how to re-elect the president.

He isn’t even sure if the recent revelations about the depth and breadth of surveillance by the National Security Agency will have a lasting effect.

He is certain that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden “changed the whole nature of the debate” about surveillance. Hersh says he and other journalists had written about surveillance, but Snowden was significant because he provided documentary evidence – although he is sceptical about whether the revelations will change the US government’s policy.

“Duncan Campbell [the British investigative journalist who broke the Zircon cover-up story], James Bamford [US journalist] and Julian Assange and me and the New Yorker, we’ve all written the notion there’s constant surveillance, but he [Snowden] produced a document and that changed the whole nature of the debate, it’s real now,” Hersh says.

“Editors love documents. Chicken-shit editors who wouldn’t touch stories like that, they love documents, so he changed the whole ball game,” he adds, before qualifying his remarks.

“But I don’t know if it’s going to mean anything in the long [run] because the polls I see in America – the president can still say to voters ‘al-Qaida, al-Qaida’ and the public will vote two to one for this kind of surveillance, which is so idiotic,” he says.

Holding court to a packed audience at City University in London’s summer school on investigative journalism, 76-year-old Hersh is on full throttle, a whirlwind of amazing stories of how journalism used to be; how he exposed the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, how he got the Abu Ghraib pictures of American soldiers brutalising Iraqi prisoners, and what he thinks of Edward Snowden.

Despite his concern about the timidity of journalism he believes the trade still offers hope of redemption.

“I have this sort of heuristic view that journalism, we possibly offer hope because the world is clearly run by total nincompoops more than ever … Not that journalism is always wonderful, it’s not, but at least we offer some way out, some integrity.”

His story of how he uncovered the My Lai atrocity is one of old-fashioned shoe-leather journalism and doggedness. Back in 1969, he got a tip about a 26-year-old platoon leader, William Calley, who had been charged by the army with alleged mass murder.

Instead of picking up the phone to a press officer, he got into his car and started looking for him in the army camp of Fort Benning in Georgia, where he heard he had been detained. From door to door he searched the vast compound, sometimes blagging his way, marching up to the reception, slamming his fist on the table and shouting: “Sergeant, I want Calley out now.”

Eventually his efforts paid off with his first story appearing in the St Louis Post-Despatch, which was then syndicated across America and eventually earned him the Pulitzer Prize. “I did five stories. I charged $100 for the first, by the end the [New York] Times were paying $5,000.”

He was hired by the New York Times to follow up the Watergate scandal and ended up hounding Nixon over Cambodia. Almost 30 years later, Hersh made global headlines all over again with his exposure of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

For students of journalism his message is put the miles and the hours in. He knew about Abu Ghraib five months before he could write about it, having been tipped off by a senior Iraqi army officer who risked his own life by coming out of Baghdad to Damascus to tell him how prisoners had been writing to their families asking them to come and kill them because they had been “despoiled”.

“I went five months looking for a document, because without a document, there’s nothing there, it doesn’t go anywhere.”

Hersh returns to US president Barack Obama. He has said before that the confidence of the US press to challenge the US government collapsed post 9/11, but he is adamant that Obama is worse than Bush.

“Do you think Obama’s been judged by any rational standards? Has Guantanamo closed? Is a war over? Is anyone paying any attention to Iraq? Is he seriously talking about going into Syria? We are not doing so well in the 80 wars we are in right now, what the hell does he want to go into another one for. What’s going on [with journalists]?” he asks.

He says investigative journalism in the US is being killed by the crisis of confidence, lack of resources and a misguided notion of what the job entails.

“Too much of it seems to me is looking for prizes. It’s journalism looking for the Pulitzer Prize,” he adds. “It’s a packaged journalism, so you pick a target like – I don’t mean to diminish because anyone who does it works hard – but are railway crossings safe and stuff like that, that’s a serious issue but there are other issues too.

“Like killing people, how does [Obama] get away with the drone programme, why aren’t we doing more? How does he justify it? What’s the intelligence? Why don’t we find out how good or bad this policy is? Why do newspapers constantly cite the two or three groups that monitor drone killings. Why don’t we do our own work?

“Our job is to find out ourselves, our job is not just to say – here’s a debate’ our job is to go beyond the debate and find out who’s right and who’s wrong about issues. That doesn’t happen enough. It costs money, it costs time, it jeopardises, it raises risks. There are some people – the New York Times still has investigative journalists but they do much more of carrying water for the president than I ever thought they would … it’s like you don’t dare be an outsider any more.”

He says in some ways President George Bush‘s administration was easier to write about. “The Bush era, I felt it was much easier to be critical than it is [of] Obama. Much more difficult in the Obama era,” he said.

Asked what the solution is Hersh warms to his theme that most editors are pusillanimous and should be fired.

“I’ll tell you the solution, get rid of 90% of the editors that now exist and start promoting editors that you can’t control,” he says. I saw it in the New York Times, I see people who get promoted are the ones on the desk who are more amenable to the publisher and what the senior editors want and the trouble makers don’t get promoted. Start promoting better people who look you in the eye and say ‘I don’t care what you say’.

Nor does he understand why the Washington Post held back on the Snowden files until it learned the Guardian was about to publish.

If Hersh was in charge of US Media Inc, his scorched earth policy wouldn’t stop with newspapers.

“I would close down the news bureaus of the networks and let’s start all over, tabula rasa. The majors, NBCs, ABCs, they won’t like this – just do something different, do something that gets people mad at you, that’s what we’re supposed to be doing,” he says.

Hersh is currently on a break from reporting, working on a book which undoubtedly will make for uncomfortable reading for both Bush and Obama.

“The republic’s in trouble, we lie about everything, lying has become the staple.” And he implores journalists to do something about it.

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Jeremy Scahill gives background to Somalia’s Al-Shabab

The horrific attack on the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi continues to generate headlines around the world. But what’s the background to the attacks, who are Somalia’s Al-Shabab terror group and what’s been the position of US and Kenyan intervention in the region?

Jeremy Scahill, author of the recent book Dirty Wars, tells Democracy Now! that Washington’s role in Somalia since 9/11 has been one of supporting some of the most brutal warlords, leading to Islamist resistance:

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Reality of water-starved Palestinians in occupied Palestine

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Why #Hashtag love is the worst way to run your online life

Sheer genius:

Jimmy Fallon & Justin Timberlake show you what a Twitter conversation sounds like in real life.

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Stanton Library in North Sydney about Profits of Doom

I’m currently on a seemingly never-ending book tour for Profits of Doom and this week I spoke at a packed event at Stanton Library in North Sydney (the audio is here for 24 September). It was a great opportunity to engage with people, many of whom were over 60, on issues that too rarely receive coverage in the mainstream media. We should never-estimate the passion, commitment and anger over human rights abuses in the wider community.

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The Wire interview on Profits of Doom and poor Serco care

A theme in my book Profits of Doom is the role of multinationals in running Australia’s detention centres for asylum seekers.

I was interviewed by The Wire radio program on these matters:

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Guardian editor on how Orwell would be turning in his grave over NSA spying

A sad state of affairs that a serious media (which most of the corporate press is not, too keen to wine and dine with the powerful) would vehemently oppose (via the Guardian):

The potential of the surveillance state goes way beyond anything in George Orwell‘s 1984, Alan Rusbridgerthe Guardian‘s editor-in-chief, told an audience in New York on Monday.

Speaking in the wake of a series of revelations in the Guardian about the extent of the National Security Agency’s surveillance operations, Rusbridger said: “Orwell could never have imagined anything as complete as this, this concept of scooping up everything all the time.

“This is something potentially astonishing about how life could be lived and the limitations on human freedom,” he said.

Rusbridger said the NSA stories were “clearly” not a story about totalitarianism, but that an infrastructure had been created that could be dangerous if it fell into the wrong hands.

“Obama is a nice guy. David Cameron is a nice social Democrat. About three hours from London in Greece there are some very nasty political parties. What there is is the infrastructure for total surveillance. In history, all the precedents are unhappy,” said Rusbridger, speaking at the Advertising Week conference.

He said that whistleblower Edward Snowden, who leaked the documents, had been saying: “Look, wake up. You are building something that is potentially quite alarming.”

Rusbridger said that people bring their own perspectives to the NSA revelations. People who have read Kafka or Orwell found the level of surveillance scary, he said, and that those who had lived or worked in the communist eastern bloc were also concerned.

“If you are Mark Zuckerberg and you are trying to build an international business, this is dismaying to you,” Rusbridger said.

Zuckerberg recently criticised the Obama administration’s surveillance apparatus. “Frankly I think the government blew it,” he told TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco.

The Facebook founder was particularly damning of government claims that they were only spying on “foreigners”.

“Oh, wonderful: that’s really helpful to companies trying to serve people around the world, and that’s really going to inspire confidence in American internet companies,” said Zuckerberg.

Here’s Rusbridger speaking to Democracy Now! this week:

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How much $ are US prison profiteers making?

Profiting Off Prisoners
Image compliments of Top Criminal Justice Degrees

More here from Top Criminal Justice Degrees.

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Eagles Waves Radio interview on For God’s Sake

Issues of religious and cultural identity are endlessly discussed in society. My recent book, For God’s Sake, touches on these issues (as does my Guardian column this week).

I recently appeared on Eagle Waves Radio – a small outlet in the heart of Sydney – alongside my co-writers Jane Caro and Simon Smart. We were interviewed by Kerry Chikarovski, a former NSW Liberal leader, commentator and businesswoman.

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ABC Radio Triple J’s Sunday Night Safran interview on Profits of Doom

This was enjoyable. On Sunday an extended interview with John Safran and Father Bob, hosts of Triple J’s Sunday Night Safran, was aired and we discussed detention centres, Serco, Palestine, Haiti, Afghanistan, private war, BDS, democracy and human rights:

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How I became a German citizen (while maintaining the Australian passport)

My following article is published today by the Guardian (where I’m now a weekly columnist):

It was hard to forgive the Nazis. The “1,000 year Reich” lasted a mere 12 years, and the German state was crushed under the weight of bloody streets, genocidal concentration camps and despotism. For this to happen in the heart of apparently civilised Europe was unimaginable – especially for Jews who had often been fully included, and very often assimilated, members of society.

One of my relations fought on Germany’s side in the first world war. I’ve seen his grave in a Dresden cemetery, a city fire-bombed with spite by the allies in 1945. I was the first Loewenstein family member to visit the place after the fall of the Berlin Wall. I remember finding the street where my family had lived, unrecognisable in a sea of Soviet-inspired concrete. I used a pay phone and called my parents in Melbourne. We all cried, a silent recognition that our tragic Jewish story, sadly too common for words, began in a quiet and plain street in a deceptively normal German setting.

American writer Erik Larson’s stunning book In the Garden of Beasts, which profiles William E Dodd, the first US ambassador to Hitler’s Germany, gives a chilling taste of the seductive nature of German fascism. One of Dodd’s daughters, Martha, had her hand kissed by Hitler in 1933, and her father acknowledged “that Hitler was not an unattractive man personally.” This was the illusionary calm before the onslaught.

As a Jew born in Australia in 1974, I never imagined that Germany’s long shadow would envelop my adult life. In 2011, I became a German citizen while maintaining my Australian passport, due to a 1954 German law that allowed Jews to re-instate citizenship removed by the Nazis during their reign. I wanted citizenship for a few reasons, not least to honour my family that Germany once rejected, and to have the option of working freely across the European Union.

Article 116 par 2 of Germany’s Basic Law reads:

“Former German citizens who between January 30, 1933 and May 8, 1945 were deprived of their citizenship on political, racial, or religious grounds, and their descendants, shall on application have their citizenship restored. They shall be deemed never to have been deprived of their citizenship if they have established their domicile in Germany after May 8, 1945 and have not expressed a contrary intention.”

The vast bulk of my European family were murdered during the war, and those who escaped were made stateless before they fled. The vibrant global Jewish diaspora that exists today is largely due to the rupture of Jewish life in the 1930s across a world that was far from keen to accept them. My grandparents left Europe in 1939 and arrived in an Australia that viewed Jews with suspicion. They said that Perth, where the ship first docked, was “primitive and without rye bread”.

The process of acquiring German citizenship has been a long journey that reveals the often tortuous relationships that continue to define Jewish identity in the 21st century. My father’s father, Fred, died before I recall having any serious conversations with him about becoming a German citizen. His attitude towards his birth country evolved to a point where I sensed he didn’t hate Germany, loved his adopted nation, Australia, but would not have even remotely considered re-acquiring his German citizenship.

My uncle, Herbert, also born in Dresden, is 93 and still alive in Toronto. For him too, re-acquiring his German citizenship was out of the question. He wasn’t even prepared to visit Germany until a few years ago – and then, it was because he was invited by the city of Dresden. After all, Germany had rejected our family, killed the youngest and oldest and changed the fate of our lives irrevocably.

My father, Jeffrey, was different. When I first mentioned the idea of obtaining a German passport many years ago, he dismissed the whole idea out of hand. It was not an unusual Jewish response, a visceral rejection of ever seeing Germany as a nation worth respecting and viewing us as Jews and equals. I protested his intransigence but it was futile (he had to obtain citizenship first before I was able to do so).

Over the years I would occasionally ask if his position had changed, and it took a long time for his opposition to relent. I continued reminding him that Germany had shifted, and was no longer a haven for Jew-hatred (though Neo-Nazis and the far-right remains a growing problem).

Finally, my father gave in and realised that becoming a German citizen was in no way endorsing the policies of former German governments, but a way to rightfully re-claim our birthright. My father had meticulously kept all the documents that the German consulate required. A process that officials said would take a few months took two years.

On 14 January 2011, I arrived at the German consulate in Sydney and waited until a senior official appeared. He congratulated me on becoming a German citizen and asked how I felt. I had tears in my eyes, unsure what to say, but I mumbled something about never imagining that Germany was again so keen to welcome me, as a Jew and atheist, into its heart. I also felt, but didn’t verbalise, that it was a personal victory against Nazism.

Today I feel neither German nor Australian. I hope my murdered ancestors would understand why I wanted to once again assume a German identity, or at least attachment to my pedigree as a fully-fledged member of German’s Jewish community. And yet I’m a non-practicing Jewish atheist currently based in Sydney.

Uncritical nationalism towards my birth country is impossible. I share human rights lawyer Julian Burnside’s despair at the Australian elite’s ability to unleash cruelty against asylum seekers and the dispossessed, and I question whether our settler-colonial state has ever really felt comfortable fully accepting the strange, the new, the remote, the other. Multiculturalism exists but its implementation can never be complete while politicians and media commentators divide a population by warning Australians that [insert minority group here] are a threat to our harmony.

My ostracism from mainstream Judaism is directly linked to Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinians. For too many Jews, Zionism has become their main religion, and a God of intolerance is praised on a regular basis. When then Israeli finance minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a conference in 2003 that Israeli Arabs were a threat to the Jewish nature of his country (he said “If there is a demographic problem, and there is, it is with the Israeli Arabs who will remain Israeli citizens”) it should have been condemned as outright racism.

Instead, such comments are routinely expressed by senior Israeli officials and the world shrugs though. As leading American human rights professor and United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories professor Richard Falk said last week in Sydney, the Jewish state will increasingly face boycotts, sanctions and divestment so long as it oppresses the Palestinians.

A former head of Israel’s internal security service, the Shin Bet, says in the Israeli film The Gatekeepers that “[We’ve become] a brutal occupation force similar to the Germans in World War II”.

This is what my people are known for around the globe.

According to new Israeli government released figures, Jews are now outnumbered by Arabs under Israeli sovereignty by over 50,000 people. That’s segregation by definition. Israel learns nothing from history except how to brutalise the marginalised. Germany struggles to understand how it allowed itself to be overcome by 12 years of madness. Australia is a free nation that locks up refugees in remote and privatised detention camps, making a mockery of our “fair go” claim.

My identity is a conflicted and messy mix that incorporates Judaism, atheism, anti-Zionism, Germanic traditions and Anglo-Saxon-Australian beliefs. And yet I both routinely reject and embrace them all. It sounds exhausting but it’s actually invigorating. I never feel I belong anywhere. I can’t be a Jew, atheist, German or Australian without a bundle of caveats.

Perhaps that just makes me human.

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