Strength, compassion, dignity.
These three words are written on a little whiteboard, pinned to a set of metal shelves just inside the entrance to Charlie Eagles’ bedroom. It may as well serve as an office: the door is usually open, and his friends enter readily. Boxes of Warhammer gear sit at the front of shelves packed with classic novels and an aging collection of CDs. A Guy Fawkes mask hangs above a wall of reminders: personal to-dos, money lent, favours to be returned.
‘Is that a quote?’ I ask.
‘It’s basically a distilled version of my outlook on life. Strength, compassion, and dignity are the traits I try to embody. Inner strength, compassion for others.. I always try to help people if I can, and I remind myself to be a decent and respectful human being.’
Below the three words are written two dot points:
- Life; if you’re not having fun there’s no point!
- If the world is not better for you being in it, then you’re just being a burden!
Charlie stands at 6’2″. At 41, his shoulder-length hair carries a streak of grey, but despite the age, he lives with the spirit of a teenager: anything is possible, ideas can and do change the world. He carries an effortless confidence behind a gentle, friendly, and open demeanour. If Charlie had a catch-phrase, it would be: ‘I’ll do what I can to help you.”
When I mentioned that I was looking to move away from shooting landscapes to explore portraits, Charlie was the first to volunteer as a subject.
‘So I was thinking,’ I began, ‘that [as part of my portraits project] in order to capture the essence of people, to help them reveal who they really are, or how they would like to be perceived… it might be best to start by building a basic profile of whoever I’m looking to work with. Spend time with them on a regular basis so that I can capture them in their element.’
‘I’m not sure if you’ll really get to the essence of a person if you look to describing them by their habits, or what they do on a daily basis, though’, Charlie suggests. ‘For example, you might see me most days sitting in my bedroom, playing computer games, or reading a book. But that’s far from defining who I am or what I’ve achieved.’
When I first asked Charlie how he envisioned himself i.e. if he could fully express himself in physical form, what would he look like? All he could specify was a ball of fiery, white, clarifying light. Knowing Charlie and his motives, this wouldn’t be a misleading depiction.
The ideology he presents argues for the growth of human society into something organic and integral, where humans might work together voluntarily, not as pawns of an all-encompassing system, but preferably in mutual understanding and interest in a greater good. There is no room in his vision for the disconnected Randian hero, but neither is there room for the corrupt politician, lawman, or CEO. He sees the world as possessing ceaseless boundary for growth yet holding the maintenance of our humanity as of crucial importance.
A dynamic man, and a thought leader, Eagles is a dreamer who has experienced the world as few do: from prosperity to poverty, by choice.
‘My father always wanted to make his first million by the time he was 40,’ Charlie relates. ‘He reached it at 41. By the time my parents divorced, they were worth several.’
‘He is almost the complete opposite of me. He’s greedy, self-centred, obsessed with money and financial success. He’s short, squat, a dwarf-shape, blonde and blue-eyed. But he and I, we do share the same fear, of getting to be an old man, where you can’t do anything and realising that you haven’t. For him, life was about “those with the most toys wins”, “greed is good”, etc. Whereas I want to leave a legacy and make the world a better place. If people don’t appreciate me, then I had no effect, no value.’
Charlie unearths a stack of books from within the mass of shelving.
‘I was raised on Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Machiavelli’s Prince, How to Win Friends and Influence People, all of that kind of stuff…’
He tosses me a copy of Ricardo Semler’s ‘Maverick!’
‘That, is probably the best management book that I’ve ever read.’
He also offers a copy of No Logo, and Nineteen Eighty-Four.
‘I’ve read Maverick,’ I offered, ‘and Nineteen Eighty-Four I read as a teenager. I’ve read most of Orwell. It’s a good depiction of the dynamics of different groups in society, and ironically [the events in the novel] are so close to where we are now. People with a keen eye who can see the greater movements within society can recognise these poignant warnings but it doesn’t…’
‘People take it as simply naysaying…’
‘..Or they dismiss things as if it were conspiracy theory.’
Charlie’s voice piques with an idea.
‘One of the things I came to realise about myself is that I love finding patterns. Everybody’s brains work well, but in very different ways, even among geniuses. I’m good at perceiving patterns, particularly among society and groups of people.
The other part of me is that I like improving things, and making them more efficient. It’s like looking at a jigsaw puzzle and seeing a piece in the wrong spot. It may be very similar to what should be there, but not quite. I have this drive to achieve balance. Combine that with patterns and it becomes an obsession: Society is wrong. This piece of the jigsaw should be here.’
“With the right change, we could erase a whole mass of problems in an instant. We waste so much time putting Band-Aids on symptoms instead of fixing the over-arching problems.”
‘I can relate to that…’ I interjected. ‘Seeing the greater issues in society and knowing that there are ways in which they could be easily fixed, if only we had the right implementation.’
‘These problems could be so easily fixed,’ he agrees. ‘Take universal basic income. It’s an easy solution, to a big problem. A whole spectrum of problems in society could be fixed, but I can’t move the jigsaw piece.’
Charlie laughs and one can sense the familiar ring of one laughing in the face of futility. He’s lived with this frustration for so long, like a general at an impasse in a war, with no action left to take but to laugh in the face of an impossible situation.
We went on to conduct interviews over several sessions, and by my second visit, Charlie had drawn up a basic graphic illustrating the points to a plan for refurbishing Australian society:
Benefits of capitalism without the drawbacks
(These together will lead to a self-sustaining system.)
- Universal Basic Income
- New Constitution and Republic (based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
- Only 4 taxes.
- 10% GST
- 1% tax on electronic money transfers
- Import tax
- Smokes and booze tax
- Socialistic capitalism (All businesses are co-ops)
- Free telecommunications (encourages communication and business)
- Public bus services based on or sourced from Tesla
- “Energy quotient buildings”
(Because they would be superfluous!)
- Income tax
- Luxury tax
- Social security
- Minimum wage
‘This all fits within a mantra of mine,’ he explains. “Change the system, to change the symptoms.”
Eagles suggests that a lot of help in society is targeted to addressing the symptoms of problems, rather than the root cause. His aim is to identify and to solve those causes, resolving most issues, at once. ‘If you don’t believe me, just look at the patterns in society, and they’ll show you the truth.
My one concern with all this is that… people will take me as too idealistic. Not that I think anything in this article would surprise anyone, well maybe five people that I know on social media.
[As a child] for a long time I’d wondered why there were so many things wrong with the world. In a typical journalistic approach my mother asked, “How would you do it differently?” So I started writing down ideas, and those ideas started to merge and mesh. By the time I was in my early to mid-teens I started to collect these ideas together into a book, basically defining how to build a new country. Like Lenin began from Marx, and the founding ideology of America, I felt that we needed a new ideology with the fresh ideas we have today, thanks to the evolution of technology, science, social advances, and our global society.
I felt that we could live by something better than a code written some 200 or even 2000 years ago. But these were the ideas of a teenage boy. I’d do it very, very differently today.
“I could say that as a child I had a dream that I was friends with everyone in the world, and all my friends were friends, but it doesn’t say nearly as much as:
I was a teenager who wrote a book full of ideas to help save the world.”
I’ve participated in marches, rallies, and protests for just about every good cause you could think of, helped countless people.. strangers come up and thank me for the help I’ve given them. I’ve saved people I’ve never met, changed their lives, changed national law! I’ve driven illegally over half of Australia, been overseas and seen things you wouldn’t imagine. But then I meet someone on the street and they’ll suggest that I’m simply a bum because I don’t have a car, “get a job”.. for fuck’s sake, there’s far more to life than money!’
Despite his lofty origins, Charlie currently works as a roadie. He recently returned to study at University, and works with Amnesty Australia when he’s able. And of course, he makes extensive time available to assist friends with activities such as conducting interviews for a fledgling blog..
I offer my perception: ‘I think you’re a good example of someone easily misjudged by common standards of success. From the outside, people can assume so little by these shallow ideals of what a person should have, or be, but you’ve obviously accomplished so much in your life.’
Over this series we’ll explore the more interesting aspects to his history, alongside the ideas Charlie presents, and how and why he believes they would benefit society.