Friday, March 30, 2012

former expert now our favourite expat

Well, if no publicity is bad publicity, Germaine Greer is looking after herself. Now she has accused Julia Gillard of being a member of the Jass family; a daughter of Hugh himself.
Further, it seems Julia’s jackets are not flattering.

Naturally, Mr Rabbitt has leapt on the band wagon – a bit rich coming from a bloke who likes parading around in budgie smugglers. This is probably the first time he has ever agreed with anybody, and it took a big arse to bring it on. [Hmmmm… Don’t know how this fits with his Church’s insistence that the potential for procreation, and procreation alone, can justify marriage.]

If the cover of Germs’ widely influential book of feminist theories is anything to go by, she has not simply been more obnoxious than usual, she is guilty of the basest hypocrisy imaginable.

I dislike Julia’s power-at-any-cost policies intensely, but I would be horrified if this country was led [for want of a better word] by a vacuous bimbo. Her jackets show more respect for the parliament than the behaviour of she and her fellow politicians ever could.

in the name of god

The Catholic church is going to urge the one million Catholics in this state to campaign against gay marriage.
This is rather rich from an institution that has, with something bordering on religious fervour, harboured paedophiles for decades. The Church’s treatment of its student victims has been unchristian to say the least.

They have also run screaming from the findings of enquiries around the world which time and again revealed nearly all of its “homes” had a culture condoning physical, psychological and sexual abuse of their under-age charges.
Ten years after Australia’s enquiry, the Church’s leaders still have their backs turned on graduates of these homes in desperate need of counselling.
They now have the gall to insist “children are best nurtured by a mother and a father”. Given what they accept as heterosexual nurturing; as the best they expect from human beings; it’s difficult to imagine homosexual parents doing anything worse to children.

There must be a straw man to support every unsupportable argument, in this case we are warned “At this stage [the debate] is about same sex marriage, but next it might be polygamy”.

Ironic, really, that so many of the Catholic people I know [myself included] are gay themselves. More importantly, lapsed Catholics are all too often more likely to live up to those ideals the church’s leaders only pretend to value.

The Church may insist all it likes that marriage is all about the potential for reproduction, but even its own self-identifying members today have largely set that rotting apple to one side.  

Historically, the Church has always been as guilty of promoting evil as any other powerful organisation, if not more so. The past might be in the past, but it’s ludicrous of them to think tradition lends authority to any sort of argument.

The Catholic Church might not be the largest business in the world, but it is nonetheless a large franchise, with a branch in every capital city, and a bizarre reverence for wealth. If we look hard enough, this is just another desperate attempt for it to protect its market share. They may believe there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but the average consumer does not buy poison. As for their claim they have one million members in Victoria – I simply don’t buy it. Many who self-identify as Catholic are not necessarily “practising” – some of us don’t need to.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

putting the boot in

Although this post starts on the topic of football, it’s really about Australia’s ongoing failure of imagination with respect to indigenous peoples.

Some readers may not have seen this video clip I’ve posted before.

Most Australians take it for granted that Australian Aboriginals love Australian Rules Football and have a natural aptitude – if not a passion – for playing it well.
One school of thought is the rules were developed by white Australians after seeing the local people using an inflated possum bladder as a ball – another story is that it is a bastardised form of Irish Football. [It’s not impossible Irish and Aboriginal football were developed independently of each other and both stories are true.]

[BTW, if you’ve never kicked an Aussie rules football with bare feet, I wouldn’t recommend you try.]

The Australian Football League [AFL] has had an ongoing program of developing the game in Aboriginal communities, and quite a few Aboriginals have been recruited to the major teams. One presumed benefit of this is that it is provides one more plank for the bridge yet to be built between Australia’s indigenous and whitefella worlds.

In the past few days a great deal has been said about Liam Jurrah’s involvement in an ongoing feud at his home community of Yuendumu, which is 300 km north west of Alice Springs. Liam and another man have been charged over a machete attack which took place at a Town Camp.
Andrew Rule, writing in the Herald Sun, wrote a blistering attack on leftie goodie-goodies who might say it’s okay for anyone to carry a machete let alone attack someone with it.
[I might be misrepresenting Andrew, but it’s hard to confirm – our hard copy of the paper is in the recycle bin and the online version is now hidden from luddites like myself who have no idea how to “download” the article.]

Anyways, the word Andrew Rule used even more than he used the word machete was “payback” – a word which he equated with the Anglo Australian idea of revenge. Boy, has he got it wrong.

While I don’t for a minute agree that carrying a machete or using it on a person is a good idea, Andrew’s simplistic interpretation of events highlights one of the reasons that we are struggling to close the gap in standards of living between remote indigenous communities, and the white community at large, and that reason is igrigance – that special blend of arrogance and ignorance displayed by people who have no idea why they should be embarrassed by what they say.

The latest story is that Adelaide’s white recruiting manager has resigned after it was leaked he said he’d never recruit an Aboriginal unless who didn't have one white parent.

If you are still with me, here are the issues about this issue:

1. Our Constitution

This saga provides another example of how the proposed amendments to the constitution, to recognise indigenous people and protect their culture, are dangerously stupid.

2. Australian Law does not do justice to Aboriginals

The Northern Territory [NT] government has decided judges should no longer take traditional punishments into account when handing down sentences.
Forget that they would not be able to do this under the proposed constitutional changes – it seems the NT government attitude is something like “you can retain all aspects of your own culture except those that clash with our laws”.
In principle I agree with placing some sort of limit on multiculturalism, but being this rigid with Aboriginals is insane.

Aboriginals are not immigrants seeking to become Australian and who might, therefore, be required to accept our values. They are a dispossessed people who are currently incarcerated in disproportionate numbers because:
  • We have not done them the courtesy of negotiating new laws with them;
  • We have not consistently required evidence of mens rea [criminal intent] before convicting them of crimes;
  • We continually abandon programs proven successful in reducing crime-rates and reducing recidivism. [Victoria has just decided to shut down the successful Koori Court at Shepparton].
I could go on here, but let me conclude by saying “they have never had a fair go in our courts”. Not ever.

3. Payback is not the same thing as revenge

Until we make the effort to understand the way indigenous Australians view the world, we will continue to let them down – magnanimous proposals to change the constitution notwithstanding. [Ironically enough, in several Aboriginal languages the word for talk is “wanggka”.]

Perhaps the idea of payback deserves a post of its own.

4. Those pointing the finger at Matt Rendell miss the point that he simply missed the point.

Matt Rendell was a fool for being honest about his policy of not recruiting players unless they have one white parent. What I believe he meant is not that he cares about race, but that he cares about the culture a player might bring to the team.

Of course, the way Rendell expressed his reservations about cultural differences shows it hasn’t occurred to him that an Aboriginal player might have a white parent and still be caught between two worlds… but at least he is aware that there is a huge cultural gulf between an uncorrupted Aboriginal worldview and a white one.

For example, Bruce McKinnon has written about his efforts to help Liam adjust to white culture, and tells of an occasion when other team members were getting annoyed because Liam never said Thank You when someone did him a favour. The concept of doing a favour is totally incompatible with a world where people do things for each other simply because doing things for others is what you do.

It’s also unfortunate that the white culture too many players bring to their team is a culture of boozing and brawling, but Rendell sees this as something that can be dealt with.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

not the six o'clock news

In a Quarterly Essay titled Trivial Pursuit, George Megalogenis wrote about how obsessed politicians have become with spin and the media cycle. Kevin Rudd was the master of the daily announcement, has a massive twitter following and, as we saw, called a press conference in the middle of the night in Washington to announce his resignation – just in time for the 6 o’clock news back home.

Lindsay Tanner, retired Labor Minister, published a book last year called Sideshow: dumbing down democracy. It’s the sort of book I would normally guts down in one sitting, but I could only take it in small doses – the media and politicians seem to work hand in hand not so much to dumb down democracy, as to diminish voters.

The media, it is said, will not give space to reasoned debate or mundane announcements, because readers want emotional reports. Politicians oblige with bullshit.

This would be amusing if it did not mean that the media are framing debate in this country [and in others]. The question might not be “do we get the government we deserve?” so much as “do we get the media we deserve?”

And who is left to “keep the bastards honest”?
Bloggers could have a role to play in re-framing debate, as could YouTube and other social media. Is this enough?

I find it interesting to reflect on the role of hard copy in history – before the printing press changed the west; European rebels were often imprisoned for distributing handwritten pamphlets. Printed pamphlets and newsletters have long been powerful, and played an important part in resistance movements during the last world war. Word of mouth, too, was important.

The days of a “local” member of parliament standing on a platform and delivering speeches or answering questions in person are long gone. The idea of a member representing a local community they knew, and which knew them, are long gone. [We only have to recall how Bob Hawke was parachuted into the once safe Labor seat of Wills to see what the word “local” means in this context.]

As Naomi Klein pointed out in No Logo, public space has been replaced by shopping malls and the more our world is privatised, the fewer spaces we have to congregate and talk about anything "serious". If we want to hand out brochures in Melbourne there are conditions and a permit is required. For gosh' sake, most councils will fine us if we put a for sale sign on a car.

Few of us live in “communities” where we know all of our neighbours, their families, and their family histories intimately. The bush telegraph has been replaced by a media that stands between us and our “representatives” leading to the distortion of messages passing to or fro.

The recent Finkelstein report into the media has recommended Australia give up on the idea of “self-regulation” and establish yet another taxpayer funded body complete with delegated authority, to keep everyone in the playground in line.
This body would do nothing to ensure anything in the media is worth knowing, or to ensure politicians made themselves accountable to their employers rather than the profit and loss statements of media moguls –ostensibly this body will make “the news media more accountable to those covered in the news, and to the public generally."
Naturally, its ambit will extend to things like blogs and facebook.
The government is free to pass a law to regulate the media because Australia has no guarantee of free speech in its constitution. [Dare I say, once again, that the constitution is rubbish?]

Last year saw the publication of a book called Planet Word by J.P. Davidson. The text of a documentary series fronted by Stephen Fry, it’s very readable and endlessly fascinating. Think of a situation where language is involved – hieroglyphics, sign languages used by those who can’t speak, even Klingon – and it’s covered. At the very end of this book is the following:

Propaganda can be blunt or subtle, blindingly obvious or relentlessly and cleverly suggestive, but its aim has always been to persuade and get everyone on message, whatever the method. It’s been used by regimes to lie, dissemble, exhort, convert and cover up. Totalitarian regimes have created huge ministries of propaganda, while democracies have given birth to their bastard offspring – the PR companies and spin doctors.

I’m sure one or two people will agree with me that the news media in this country is a pimp and – let me see if I can make a statement in need of regulation – politicians are its whores.
For all that, the idea of having a government regulate the media is appalling.