The Murder of Hannah Baxter

hannah and her childrenAustralia is reeling from the incomprehensibly violent murder of Hannah Baxter and her three children,  Aaliyah, Lainah and Trey, by incineration this week.

To provide a bit of context, Hannah Baxter took her three children, and moved in with her parents before Christmas. This is an excerpt from Frank Chung’s coverage in https://www.news.com.au/

 

‘A friend of murdered Brisbane mum Hannah Clarke says the fitness trainer confided in her about the decade of abuse she suffered at the hands of her controlling husband.

Chillingly, Rowan Baxter allegedly warned Ms Clarke at the start of their relationship that he had told his previous partner — with whom he had a child — that if she left him, he would kill their child and himself.

On Wednesday morning, the controlling 42-year-old ambushed Ms Clarke near her parents’ house in Camp Hill, dousing his estranged wife and three kids with petrol and burning them to death in the family SUV.

A witness reported Ms Clarke jumped from the burning car and screamed, “He poured petrol on me.”

Six-year-old Aaliyah, four-year-old Laianah and three-year-old Trey died in their car seats. Baxter fatally stabbed himself at the scene, while the 31-year-old mum succumbed to her injuries in hospital later that night.’

 

How does it get to this?

How could anyone fail to see this coming?

I have said this before and I will say it again: Misogyny in this country and many others, America for example, is so deeply ingrained in our psyches that we tolerate low-grade abuse of women constantly and fail to check galloping hatred that can tragically errupt with devestating consequences. Rowan Baxter needed anger management, psychiatric help, a good kick up the arse years ago but because he was a ‘Rugby player’ his galloping uxurious hatred was excused as ‘boys will be boys’ ranting.

Whether we like to admit it or not Australia is a patriarchal society. Believing women are inferior and/or less deserving of rights or entitled to opinions is tragically part of our culture here and also in America where I lived for six years. Misogyny manifests in small barely noticed patronising remarks and behaviours that pass as flirtation, dismissal or exemption. The abuse of women starts in the home with preferential treatment of boys and higher expectations. Boys will one day be the breadwinners, the supporters of families, the protectors. There is pressure put on boys to succeed where girls are allowed to fail.

Let that sink in. GIRLS ARE ALLOWED TO FAIL.

Not only are we allowed to fail, in many cases we are expected to fail. The girl who dares outshine her brother or worse, her father or husband, is subversively attacked for showing them up. It’s a rare man who seeks out an intellectually superior woman as a partner. It’s a rare father who acknowledges the intellectual stamina and industry of a brilliant daughter and worse still, it’s a rare mother who doesn’t advise her daughter to ‘manage’ her husband, father, brothers, boyfriends, male bosses etc by pandering to his ego i.e. making him ‘feel good about himself.’

If like me, you recognise any or all of these behaviours then you, too, have experienced latent misogyny masked as ‘boys being boys.’ Don’t embarass your brother by telling him you just signed a publishing deal. He doesn’t feel good about himself right now.

When men ‘don’t feel good about themselves’ like Rowan Baxter, whose level of playing Rugby was apparently, second-rate at best, they have licence to behave with surliness and low-grade anger that manifests as misogyny and dominance over less powerful people like their wives, children or pets. These types of men take verbal swipes, deny fiscal support or demand obedience in the one domain over which they have control – the home. And if bullying the family fails to assuage their bruised egos they take their complaints to their mates who no doubt feel as inadequate as they do and in the hallowed precincts of the local they get drunk, rant and maybe hook up with a stranger who will sympathise with their ‘my wife doesn’t understand me’ bullshit.

Hannah Baxter had endured a decade of bullying and abuse.

‘Chillingly, Rowan Baxter allegedly warned Ms Clarke at the start of their relationship that he had told his previous partner — with whom he had a child — that if she left him, he would kill their child and himself.’ Frank Chung https://www.news.com.au/

So, why did Hannah marry him? It’s a reasonable question and one that can only be understood in the context of a nation that venerates sport and understands ‘real’ men as the rude, patronising, aggressive descendants of Ned Kelly. You would have to be Australian to understand how misogynists like Bob Hawke, John Singleton, Clive Palmer and the fictitious Sir Les Patterson have risen to the ranks of leadership. There is a culture of misogyny extant in Australia and Hannah Baxter could be forgiven for failing to recognise the danger lurking in the psyche of a man who felt comfortable sharing such a confidence, a statement his Rugby mates were no doubt aware of.

So, what does this acceptance of misogyny reveal? It tells us that the definition of a ‘real’ man in Australia is someone who is heavy-fisted, obsessive, perniciously entitled and emotionally immature. It also tells us that a woman has only one function: to support the man in her life and give him her undivided and enduring attention.

WOMEN WHO ENABLE MISOGYNY

Now I want to talk about the women who enable misogyny. These are the women who pride themselves on having tamed a wild animal. These are the women who keep a savage dog of a husband and feel smug that he bites everyone but her. These are the women who look down on other women who can’t ‘hold onto’ their man. These are the women who say NOTHING when their man bullies other women. These are the women who feel superior because even though their husband reduces female relatives and co-workers to tears regularly he never attacks her. She manages him. She is a ‘real’ woman who has managed to snare a ‘real’ man. She is a bullying toady who loads the bullets for him to fire and he fires them knowing she will always justify his behaviour. These are the mothers who insist that the girl their son raped ‘seduced him’ by wearing revealing clothes.

These are the women who say their violent husband didn’t mean it when he hit them.

Hannah Baxter said Rowan never hit her.

‘Ms Whaley, a domestic violence worker for 10 years, said the announcement was made just before Christmas that the gym was shutting down.

When she reached out to Ms Clarke, she told her she had left Baxter on December 5.

“You confided in me about the family violence you had experienced for the past 10 years,” she wrote, adding that at first Ms Clarke was “confused and told me that you had never thought of being in a domestic violent relationship as you explained ‘he never hit me’”. Frank Chung https://www.news.com.au/

So many women fail to understand that abuse doesn’t have one face or one manifestation. Any form of power transference is ABUSE including managing a person with a fragile ego, obeying rules that curb your expression, toadying to control freaks to glean affection, agreeing with a narcissist for the sake of peace and covering yourself up because your religion or your nation demands it.

Shaming and disempowering women has been a patriarchal practice for centuries. Women were only given the vote last century. Women have only been allowed to earn money in the workforce since the mid-twentieth century. Women are still fighting for fiscal, political, social and domestic equality and some men DON’T LIKE SHARING THE PLATFORM.

Put simply, the introduction of women into the workforce doubles the competition and some men don’t like it.

But back to Hannah Baxter and her fatal error of judgement. If Hannah had not grown up in a country that venerates men and teaches inequity she might have recognised the signs of Rowan Baxter’s exaggerated insecurity and self-righteous control. When Baxter told her he threatened his former partner: ‘if she left him, he would kill their child and himself’ Hannah may have found it disturbing but my guess is she’d heard men talk like this before. I have.

I grew up in a home dominated by men and when I developed a work ethic that shamed my brothers and my father I was the butt of their jealousy, masked to a degree, but none-the-less present in small acts of bitter rivalry.

Women like me experience daily slights and underhanded sabotage in ways that only someone who has walked a mile in our ‘heels’ can understand.

This tragedy occurred because a footballer used to getting his own way and addicted to the spotlight cracked when his wife stood up to him. Buoyed up by a misogynistic society that favours men, sympathises with the male ‘underdog’ and needs women to pander to fragile male egos this arsehole who was undeniably unhinged, was able to justify his megawatt hatred because no-one checked him at any stage. IF they did, his team and his sports-mad adopted nation told him he was a hero and therefore vaguely immune to reprimand.

Much as idiots dismiss Trump’s misogyny as ‘boys will be boys’ fun in America so Baxter’s hatred of his wife would have been supported by his mates in rants at the pub.

MISOGYNY is tragically ingrained in our cultural psyche and when incidents like this occur ALL THE WARNING SIGNS HAVE BEEN EXCUSED by like-minded sympathetic others whose hatred lies just under the surface of otherwise contained social interaction.

Until men and women become friends this will continue.

Where to find help:

 

If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual abuse or family violence contact 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732

Don’t go it alone. Please reach out for help by contacting Lifeline on 13 11 14

Men who have anger, relationship or parenting issues, should contact the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491

In Memory of Hannah, Aaliyah, Lainah and Trey.

hannah clarke and her kids

Review of the DIVIDE by Jason Hickel

The Divide Jason Hickell

NEW BOOK: THE DIVIDE

London: Penguin Random House, 2017
New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 2018

Order your copy here:  [UK version ]   [US version]   [German version]   [Audio CD]   [Audible]   

Everybody should read this book.

Only by gaining the intelligence and hope Hickel offers can we as a people hope to address the overwhelming issue of galloping consumerism that chimes with Climate Change and the widening division between the world’s poorest and the world’s wealthiest. Hickel is a professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics and his courage in this tell-all book is only tempered by the fact that he is not, as he says, the leader of a “developing” country.

The network of corruption webbing Western governments is nothing short of sticky evil and the various attempts at disentanglement by a few brave leaders over the past seven decades have led to their untimely deaths. After reading this book I am more than ever convinced that galloping consumerism is the greatest threat to our survival. As Hickel points out if we continue to consume and produce on this scale we will run out of resources long before the end of the century. And consider the waste. Already our planet is groaning under mountains of landfill and toxic waste. Chiming with this is the ticking timebomb of Climate Change.

Our lifestyles and our insane focus on increasing GDP with no end in sight is killing us.

To quote Hickel Page 265, “If Ancient Egypt had started with one cubic metre of possessions and grew them by 4.5% per year, by the end of its 3,000-year civilisation it would have needed 2.5 billion solar systems to store all its stuff. It doesn’t take a scientist to realise that endless exponential growth is absurd, in the true sense of the word. To imagine that we can continue on this trajectory indefinitely is to disavow the most obvious truths about our planet’s material limits. As Sir David Attenborough once so eloquently put it, “Anyone who thinks you can have infinite growth on a finite planet is either a madman or an economist.”‘

Hickel also says on Page 264, “Today, nearly every government in the world, rich or poor alike, is focused obsessively on the single objective of increasing GDP growth.”

It’s a grim picture. Our world is built on an unsupportable model of greed. Only a fool would believe that nations toppling other nations in the name of industry is sane and yet we have been trained to believe that war is justifiable and accruing more money than we can spend in a lifetime is commendable and patenting healing drugs is not a crime against humanity and allowing our neighbours to starve while we glut and waste resources is fine as long as we donate our spare change to charity.

It’s madness.

Fortunately Hickel offers viable solutions: Debt Resistance, Global Democracy, Fair Trade, Just Wages and Reclaiming the Commons. All of which are doable if the will is there. And I would posit that as the climate deteriorates the will to heal our planet will strengthen.

I implore you to read this book and face the confronting truth about our current crop of leaders and the rotten-to-the-core banking system that keeps poverty firmly in place and also take heart as Hickel leaves us with the hope that awareness is approaching critical mass thinking faster than we realise, due in no small part to the efforts of Sir David Attenborough and the unique Greta Thunberg.

My own thoughts.

Imagination is a powerful ameliorative force. Let us imagine a way of life more sympathetic to the environment and healthier spiritually. The first step I believe is to SLOW DOWN. Learn to delay gratification. This means resist sating the hungers a fast-track life imposes – stop impulse buying, stop hoarding, gorging and looking for constant exogenous stimulation to allay boredom. Start finding pleasure in delayed gratification. Do things like: plant a garden, DIY renovate your home, grow your own vegetables, read a book, walk, swim, learn something new, have a real-time conversation, refuse fashion fads by developing your own style and making your own clothes or swapping clothes with friends and above all else, challenge yourself to pursue excellence. You’ll be amazed at how good achieving excellence makes you feel. It takes time to become highly proficient and its pursuit will cure you of boredom and the need for constant distraction.

Make your life meaningful. Make a difference to people. Help where you can. Get to know your neighbours and find out what they need. Challenge your mind and your spirit with meaningful relationships – with others, with yourself, with your work and with the planet.

And support the Arts.

The Arts are the soul and lifeblood of a nation, a community and a family. Artists are always in pursuit of excellence if they are true artists. If you want to understand discipline watch a dancer training, a singer doing her scales, an artist painting his canvas, a writer reworking her novel. It’s a rare artist who doesn’t care about his/her art. In fact, I wouldn’t call such a person an artist. I would call them a hack. True artists exemplify the blueprint for a new world – a world tuned to aspiration rather than gratification. A world in which excellence is the highest pursuit and I can assure you that mass production is anathema to excellence. Encourage and support producers of quality goods in your own community and eschew the cynical corporations that mass produce cookie-cutter products with built-in obsolescence.

Much of the economic dictatorship crippling the world today can be disempowered if people support each other in community solidarity. In times of strife and disasters this happens but we need to make this the norm rather than the exception. We have been taught to compete with each other and serve gluttonous corporations that operate on a principle of serfdom. If we pull together we will not be so dependent on faceless oligarchs.

To find solutions it’s imperative to think outside the square because nothing within the current paradigm is offering a solution. If we continue on this current trajectory of ever-increasing GDP and rampant consumerism we will destroy our planet and ourselves. We have been taught to value the wrong things and as Hickel points out so brilliantly much of this brainwashing is due to ADVERTISING. And I would add, celebrity-worship. Magazines feature the rich and famous and incidentally beautiful are, as Alain de Bouton says, bannering the WRONG ROLE MODELS.

These people are for the most part achieving little and earning too much and failing to show the average person what spiritual resolve and meaningful work looks like. There are people in this world whose jobs reward them with self-worth and exponential positive influence. Sir David Attenborough is one. Jason Hickel is another.

I will leave you with a final thought and I am aware that it may seem too simplistic but please consider it: If you strive to make a positive difference, all these problems – climate change, galloping consumerism, global indifference and the seemingly insuperable divisions between rich and poor – will be solved.

The New World starts with you.