L. Neil Smith's
Number 279, July 11, 2004

We celebrate our Independence

What Happened While I Was Gone?
by Caleb Paul

Exclusive to TLE

I recently returned to Australia for six months after having spent two years living in various countries in Europe. In the story I am about to tell, I certainly stuck my neck out, but the whole experience left me wondering just what's happened to this place since I left.

These days, whenever and wherever possible, I try to afford bureaucracy as little seriousness as it affords me my individual libeerties. Partly, it's because I've always been a bit of a trouble maker, but partly it's because I'm going to let them know there's at least one person out there who isn't with them on all this. You're either with us or against us, remember. I try to turn the rhetoric back on them.

So, whenever I've had to fill out a landing/immigration card, or any other form to cross a border, which has been quite often of late, I've always filled in the section under profession/occupation as "porn star". It's a bad joke I know, but then, so is government (although one of my American friends considers the U.S. election campaign the "best sitcom on American TV" and he's probably right there).

Until just the other day, no one had said anything to me. The last place I expected to get flack for this was here in Australia. In the past week, I've crossed out of and into the following countries: Slovakia, Czech Republic, England, Austria, Singapore and Australia. At a guess, I would have picked Australia and England to be the least bureaucratic and petty, and probably Singapore and Slovakia as the worst.

Yet I had to stand there and try not to laugh when an immigration official at Tullamarine airport in Melbourne gave me a lecture about taking official forms seriously.

Seriously? Aside from my profession being no one's business but mine, what good is that question going to do? Fortunately, I seriously doubt they check it anyway, so Big Brother isn't quite here yet, although I'm sure that's mainly a lack of technology rather than intent. In that case though, it seems rather pointless. I could have put anything down on the form. I could have put something equally as false (yet not as personally amusing) as accountant or bus driver.

They want me to take this seriously? What terrorist is going to write bomb maker? Instead, they get all bent out of shape by some clown writing porn star. Frankly, if this is our frontline in the so-called War on Terror, then we're all screwed, which only goes to highlight what a nonsense this whole campaign is. Either some people out there have an even worse sense of humour than I do, or it's (government, not Al-whomever) pretty worrying, intrusive and pointless.

The thing that's quite ironic is that the spurious claim is often made that Australia and Australians are quite jocular, anti-authoritarian (although we've always been the first to be someone else's blind gunfodder) and laid back. It's meant to have something to do with our convict heritage. Well, I can't see it anymore. All I see is a bunch of drones on both sides of the counter just following orders. Like America, this nation is meant to be one of the so-called free nations fighting against rogue agents and the like. We're meant to be fighting for freedoms. Where? I can't see it anymore. All I see is a bunch of drones fighting against freedoms.

What happened to this place while I was gone? I don't know whether to laugh or cry.


Serenity, the FIREFLY movie
Serenity: The Official Movie Website

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