Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Founding of “Free State of Australia” in New South Wales Stems from Zoning Dispute

[The following article is from November 2011.  See my more recent, July 2012 article on the F.S.A., covering new developments.]

News has just reached us of a new micronation in Australia.  The new country is known as the Free State of Australia and was apparently (though media reports differ) founded within the past week by a resident of the shire of Kyogle, in northeastern New South Wales, on the rural property of a commune leader named simply “Jonathan,” with, by his insistence, a lower-case j.  (News reports do not tell us what his name was before a recent name change.  In accordance with this blog’s house style, attempts to adopt initial-lower-case names are not indulged.  (Sorry, Bell Hooks.))

Jonathan, a 65-year-old minister in the Uniting Church (which in Australia means Methodists, Congregationalists, and Presbyterians), had long threatened to secede—in a blog entry of his dated November 4, 2011, he seemed on the brink of taking the step—and now it seems he has done it, though the F.S.A. is also reported to have been founded in August.  (This probably refers to his secession from the Shire of Kyogle, not the later total secession from Australia.)  The whole chain of events goes back to Jonathan’s anger at a local shire council, which, citing “old-growth forest and fire management issues,” refused him a building permit for a 22-home intentional community on his plot of land in rural Eden Creek in Kyogle Shire.  He appealed the decision to the state level but then halted the appeal proceedings in favor of secession.

Jonathan’s commune is apparently part of the Zeitgeist Movement, a new communalist movement which seems to mix elements of anarchism, libertarianism, and technocracy.  The movement, which has made appearances at Occupy Wall Street and related events, seeks an end to the money system but not to private property, as well as a society based on reason, consensus, and something called “social cybernation,” in which work and decision-making are eventually delegated to artificial intelligence.  The Zeitgeist Movement, in alliance with something called the Venus Project, has been energized in recent months by the OWS protests and the European currency crisis, which they see as vindicating their vision of a utopian moneyless future.  The New York Times, reporting on a Zeitgeist event in 2009, called it “a wholesale reimagination of civilization, as if Karl Marx and Carl Sagan had hired John Lennon from his ‘Imagine’ days to do no less than redesign the underlying structure of planetary life.

For the time being, the Kyogle Shire Council refuses to recognize the secession and claims its permit regulations apply fully to Jonathan’s property.  Jonathan says the Free State of Australia will be run by a council of elders and that it will continue to use Australian currency and stamps, though its 100 or so citizens will be issued new F.S.A. drivers’ licenses.  We will keep you posted.

Oh, and since I promised at least one map and at least one flag in each blog post—and since there is as yet no Free State of Australia flag that I know of—here is the flag of New South Wales, which in my opinion is rather nice.  Still, I’m still looking forward to seeing what Jonathan or his council of elders comes up with in the flag department.

[For those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with my forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas.  The book, which contains dozens of maps and over 500 flags, is now in the layout phase and should be on shelves, and available on Amazon, by early fall 2014.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even though you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook.]

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