The Credlin thing.

29 Jan

Credlin & Abbott Two

 

I don’t get all this Murdoch-inspired hoo haa about Peta Credlin, the Prime Minister’s embattled Chief of Staff.

Ms Credlin has been in the spotlight ever since her boss was Opposition Leader.

Remember how her IVF journey was so thoroughly manipulated as to become “evidence” for Abbott’s “compassion” for women?  Ms Credlin gave generous media interviews about this most personal of experiences, and never once mentioned her partner in the journey, her husband, Brian Loughnane. Instead, it was entirely about how her boss was helping her by keeping her eggs in his fridge. I can’t think of any other situation that compares, in which a Chief of Staff so publicly reveals her or his private life for the sole purpose of  helping her or his boss win an election.

It was Abbott’s apparent unpopularity with women voters that provoked the Credlin IVF pieces. It was intended to portray him as a softie with the ladies, as was hauling out his three daughters who giggled on cue about their lovely churchy dad.

I may have a limited imagination, but I find it hard to visualise a male chief of staff being so forthcoming as was Credlin  about his personal life, in order to make his boss more popular with the voters.

It therefore makes a kind of bizarre sense that when things go as badly wrong as they have for Abbott, ridding himself of Credlin is seen as the first move that might lead to some kind of improvement. It won’t, of course, because the man is beyond all help, but they have to try something as they aren’t ready to replace him. Yet. May they continue not to be. He is the ALP’s best asset.

As far as Ms Credlin is concerned, the situation sucks. She obviously isn’t responsible for the numerous outstandingly appalling decisions the Abbott government has attempted to inflict on an electorate that trusted them to behave in entirely different ways. It is, of course, impossible to know what her input has been into these decisions, nevertheless, Abbott has taken them, and being above Ms Credlin in the chain of command, is entirely responsible for them. With great power cometh great responsibility.

There was a period in which Ms Credlin and Mr Abbott were photographed so frequently together on occasions when one would have expected Mrs Abbott to be at her husband’s side rather than his Chief of Staff, that prurient speculation as to the nature of their relationship was rife. It has today been suggested that Mr Abbott is “psychologically dependent” on Ms Credlin. (That link may be paywalled, but it may not. I did my best). Psychological dependency on another person can be a problem, especially for a political leader. It can cloud his or her judgement, and lead him or her to become deafened to other points of view.

We cannot, of course, escape the gender issue in this latest government drama. Is Ms Credlin easier to scapegoat because she’s a woman? It was her gender that was exploited in Abbott’s election campaign, and nobody much complained about it then, least of all Ms Credlin. Female gender was exploited to gain Abbott votes. Female gender will be exploited again if it is considered to be a factor in losing Abbott votes.

When a man is an idiot, blaming the woman behind and beside him is a common default position. There is in our culture a pervasive belief that women are responsible for controlling men in almost every situation one can think of, and this belief could well be at work in the Credlin situation. Of course, we women aren’t and can’t be responsible for what men do, and the sooner we all divest ourselves of that mythology the better.

I have suddenly remembered footage of Wendi Deng hurling herself in front of her then husband Rupert Murdoch at the News of the World hacking hearings, when somebody attempted to assault him with a cream pie. Sometimes we ladies are our own worst enemies.

 

 

 

 

 

Missing you.

28 Jan

Today, for the first time since you died, I sat with someone in a room and wept and wept for the loss of you.

I know you will understand why it has taken me these whole six months to find the strength to grieve for you. You well know the strength that grieving demands. You thought Freud was firstly a poet, with his “labour of mourning.”

I am trying to imagine which quote you would find for me now, because you always found a quote for me in all my situations and at times, I was less than grateful.

Perhaps it would be Auden: “In the deserts of the heart, let the healing fountain start.”

Perhaps it would be Dylan: “He not busy being born is busy dying.”

Perhaps it would be Blake: “For all eternity I forgive you and you forgive me.”

I am lost without you.  I have no idea how to proceed in a world that no longer has you in it.

He asked me, the man  in whose room I sat today, a quiet man who well knows the uses of silence, he asked me, what did he do, your husband?

I told him your doctorate was on Shakespeare’s comedies. I told him you loved Bob Dylan, and Leonard Cohen, and Lenny Bruce, and Seinfeld, and Larry David, and William Blake, and Tony Soprano, and John Donne, and Bach’s concertos, and Mahler, and the list of what you loved was way too long,  you were interested in everything, and I told him how sometimes I would tell you that your mind was so open, everything just fell out.

I told him  that you fought with me about Foucault, and feminism, and I fought with you about F.R. Leavis and fucking white male privilege and the damn canon. I told him how you were the only man I’d ever known who was confident enough in himself to tell me I was smarter than he was. I told him how you used to look at me and say, “I could die happy right now, just being with you.”

But mostly I just cried, love.

Buccholz

Abbott admits he’s wasting 4.3 million taxpayer dollars.

26 Jan

 

 

Abbott on frugality

 

This, today from a Prime Minister who spends 4.3 million of taxpayer dollars monitoring social media, and employing spin doctors to “offer strategic communications advice” from the information gleaned:

I’ll leave social media to its own devices [said Abbott today]. Social media is kind of like electronic graffiti and I think that in the media, you make a big mistake to pay too much attention to social media,” Mr Abbott said. You wouldn’t report what’s sprayed up on the walls of buildings…

In spite of that 4.3 million taxpayer dollars’ worth of strategic communication advice, in spite of the iron control reportedly exerted over the PM by Chief of Staff Peta Credlin, Abbott continues to make the most astounding, cringe-worthy gaffes that stretch all credulity, and nobody wants him anywhere near them.

So it would seem the spin doctors and Ms Credlin are catastrophically useless at their jobs, because just when you think Abbott can’t get anymore bizarre, he goes and smashes all his previous records of stupid.

If Credlin and the strategic communications advisors were employed by anyone other than the LNP government they’d be sacked. I wonder how any of them will ever find alternative employment, given their unbroken record of spectacular failure with the Prime Minister.

Please do leave social media to its own devices, Mr Abbott, and stop wasting our money on monitoring it to see what it’s saying about you. It’s never anything good, you can be sure of that. How many millions of our dollars do you need to spend to find out what an absolute fool we think you are?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear. No matter how many dollars and spin doctors  you throw at it, you just can’t. A pig’s ear is a pig’s ear and right now, on Australia Day 2015, we have a pig’s ear in charge.

(I suppose I should say sorry to pigs, who are really pretty smart animals.)

(Which Tony Abbott is not. A smart animal, that is.)

Pigs can fly

Family Violence. Where’s THE MINISTER FOR WOMEN?

26 Jan

I can’t help wondering what Prime Minister Tony Abbott, also known as THE MINISTER FOR WOMEN, thought and felt when he announced as Australian of the Year the most outstanding advocate for women and children I’ve heard in a very long time, Rosie Batty.

Ms Batty’s son Luke was brutally murdered by his father, a man with history of serious violence towards his family. Their story is at the worst end of the family violence continuum, as are many others.

That we even have the phrase “family violence” in our lexicon, with the most appalling statistics to justify its existence, ought to be a matter of serious concern for THE MINISTER FOR WOMEN, whose responsibility it surely is to give political backup and practical support to people like Rosie Batty, who shouldn’t have to work as she has without a word of encouragement from the LEADER OF THIS GREAT NATION AND MINISTER FOR WOMEN, TONY ABBOTT.

Somehow, in the brief time since Luke was murdered by his father, Ms Batty has garnered the strength and courage to campaign with vigour and a resounding authenticity, against family violence. No voice could be more convincing than hers on this topic at this point in time.

While the “king hitting” of  a handful of young men brings out Abbott’s anger and righteous indignation, as does the threat of terrorism and the horrible, unspeakable, spine chilling crime of asylum seekers breaching the sovereignty of our borders; as the thrilling notion of going to war, some war, somewhere, anywhere, for whatever reason causes the bedraggled budgie in the Prime Minister’s rapidly fraying smugglers to sluggishly stir, the slaughter and suffering of women and children in our own backyard goes unaddressed  by THE MINISTER FOR WOMEN, in fact he NEVER EVEN MENTIONS IT! 

I can’t imagine any other minister NEVER EVEN MENTIONING the topic of his portfolio. Can you?

Rosie Batty. Woman of calibre. Salute.

Rosie and Luke

Rosie and Luke

Australia: a country of vengeful malcontents

24 Jan

 

wall-of-hate

In this piece titled “Manus Island: what will it take to shock us?” Julian Burnside, barrister and refugee advocate, gives a powerful synopsis of the cruelty the Australian public is prepared to tolerate its governments inflicting on asylum seekers, in the crazed collective desire to “stop the boats” and protect the country’s “sovereign borders.”

The answer to Mr Burnside’s question is, of course, that the only thing that will shock anyone at this point is a government that is prepared to cease and desist from using asylum seekers as human fodder in election campaigns. We have reached the stage in this matter where the only possibility for provoking shock is decent behaviour.

The contempt in which the Australian public holds asylum seekers who arrive here by boat is sickening. As has been noted on other occasions, we treat people who are far more threatening to us individually and collectively much better than we treat unarmed people seeking sanctuary who travel here by boat. The unexamined hatred, prejudice, loathing and contempt directed towards asylum seekers, chillingly orchestrated by political leaders of both major parties, is mind numbing, and it has numbed the minds of the Australian public in general to the degree that many believe we aren’t harsh enough. 60% of Australians, according to a poll conducted in September 2014, (see link) believe we are not treating waterborne asylum seekers badly enough.

From a psychological perspective, this leads me to believe that we are a nation of desperately unhappy, dissatisfied people who for many reasons, some of them undeniably sound, live with a sense of profound grievance that has to negatively express itself towards somebody and something. I draw this conclusion because people who are living lives in which they find satisfaction and enjoyment at least some of the time, are not inclined to desire the persecution of others, let alone bay for blood like rabid wolves because a few thousand stateless persons have turned up looking for sanctuary.

Regrettably, it would seem that these miserably vengeful Australians are in the majority, and one has to ask, why is this so? What has gone so awry in this lucky country that so many of us need to take out our apparently endemic discontent on the helpless and the vulnerable? Because it is not only asylum seekers towards whom this loathing is directed, although they are the extreme example of its concrete manifestation at this moment in time. In reality, any individual and group that can be defined as less than what the miserable majority  consider the “norm” are targeted for persecution in some way, and our politicians lead the ranting, bloodthirsty, vengeful pack.

“Fair go” is a principle inherent in the Australian “character?” My arse it is. My arse it ever has been. If it was, we would not have politicians who seek election and re-election on the backs of the most vulnerable in the first place, because it wouldn’t win them votes.

What will it take for us to be shocked? Common sense and decency in our political leaders. That’s what it will take to shock us. Don’t hold your breath. Neither of those things is coming to a marketplace near you anytime soon.

This blog on The Monthly on conditions on Manus as reported by workers there is well worth a read. Thanks to Robyn here for the link.

 

 

Two must read links.

23 Jan

These two links are a MUST READ

The first is what happened when a brave and determined woman attempted to take action on behalf of asylum seekers detained on Manus Island. LaLegale tells the story here.

Should you wish to take similar action, you can lodge a High Court Application in the registry in your state.

The second is a Guardian investigative report on how journalists who attempt to uncover and report information about asylum seekers arriving by boat since the Abbott government’s sovereign borders policy was implemented are being referred to the AFP for investigation.

resist_the_state_poster-r5d34520b15ed41fa9dac40553b6ab110_wvz_8byvr_324

 

Tony Abbott, horses mid stream and musical chairs

23 Jan

Changing horses mid stream

 

I’m most interested to see what the LNP do with Prime Minister Tony Abbott come the next federal election. He’s been conspicuously absent in recent state election campaigns, presumably because nobody thinks he can do them any kind of good with his presence. So what on earth will his party do with its leader when we troop off to vote for our country’s next government?

Abbott subjected himself to some self-harm yesterday as he argued his case for the dangers involved in changing leaders during a government’s first term. Citing the epic game of musical chairs played by the ALP government during the Julia Gillard – Kevin Rudd leadership saga, Abbott expressed the opinion that it’s certain death to switch horses mid-stream. His party has the sense to know this, he believes, and so his leadership is secure. The country can go to the dogs and the less well-off can struggle and starve, but hey, I’m secure in my job, folks.

I know I’ve mixed metaphors, but I sort of like the image of chairs, music, dogs, streams and horses in the middle of them. It makes as much sense as anything else in our politics.

It’s hard to imagine that changing leaders could do the LNP government any more harm than staying with the one they’ve got. I suspect many people would be hugely relieved and congratulate them on their common sense if they took that step.

The dangers of succumbing to the idée fixe that because it was so damaging for the ALP to change leaders it will be equally damaging for the LNP, are many. They include an ignorance of the significance of context: the two situations are quite different in the broad perspective, the  perspective that is most apparent to voters. Rudd was an extremely popular leader who was to all appearances ousted unjustly and in a manner that outraged much of the electorate. Practically everyone has some grievance against Abbott, and many just hate him because he is.

There may be similarities in the in-house view, the view apparent to political tragics rather than more broadly, of party discontent with a leader who is perceived as out of touch and chaotic, and perhaps even a tad despotic, if leaks of discontent are anything to go by. There’s an enlightening piece on these matters by Paula Matthewson here.

What we see at the moment is a leader who appears increasingly weakened by strife, both endogenous and exogenous. Tony Abbott never seems less than strained. As we used to say when we lived on Bougainville Island, we have two seasons, wet and wetter and so it is with Abbott, he is strained and more strained, but I don’t believe I’ve seen the man comfortable with himself since his days in opposition when he raged across the table at the Labor government.

For mine, they should let him keep his job. The ALP needs all the help it can get, and Tony Abbott has to be one of the opposition’s best helpers.

If Abbott gave a stuff about anyone other than himself, he’d step down, citing ill -health or some other face-saving gibberish, and give his party a better chance at a second term. Otherwise, come the next election campaign they’re going to have to lock him in a cellar till it’s over, because the man mostly nauseates everyone, as far as I can tell.

 

 

Revisiting the Streisand Effect

22 Jan

Silencing

 

During the Melinda Tankard Reist defamation threats against this blog (see category Defamation Threats if you’re interested) Legal Eagle wrote this excellent piece on what is known as The Streisand Effect, which she defines thus: The Streisand effect covers those situations where the threat of legal action has brought publicity to the information sought to be suppressed.

It’s arguable that much legal action intended to silence and suppress has the potential to blossom into the Streisand Effect, depending on the defendant’s attitude towards legal threats, and how much risk she or he is willing to take to protect their freedom of speech. Exactly this situation is currently unfolding once again on No Place for Sheep, where a complaint of harassment has been lodged against me, citing as an example the posts I’ve written on Infidelity and Adultery. I have, I’m informed, “Written intimate things all across the Internet” and this is harassment.

Well, I have written intimate things all over the Internet, erotic writing is a long-established genre and if it offends your sensibilities, don’t read it, has always been my position.

I use no names or any identifiers in any of these posts, neither are the people involved in the stories compelled in any way to read them, so it’s an interesting allegation. What is most interesting, however, is that in defending myself I’ve been obliged to supply my statement of events accompanied by umpteen extremely personal and intimate emails and messages sent to me, that obviously have to identify everyone involved, and will soon be on the public record. At the very least, they’re doing the rounds of various legal agencies, so already a whole swag of people know names they would never otherwise have known or probably even cared about.

On the blog, I tell the stories and it isn’t necessary to identify the actors in order to tell the stories. I actually can’t imagine me ever identifying the actors other than myself, because that would be done only out of malice. Identifying the actors in no way enriches the stories, and enrichment of the story would be the only reason to take that course.

In attempting to shut me up they’ve outed themselves, and didn’t this ever occur to anyone?

It’s also interesting from the point of view of the writer, and who owns story, and what we may and may not write about and how.

It’s also interesting from the perspective of what is defined as harassment. If it is indeed writing about events in one’s own life without naming any other participants, that’s going to silence a veritable multitude of voices.

As I did with Tankard Reist, I’ve made multiple offers to negotiate this situation with the complainants, to no avail. It has been and continues to be an emotionally charged situation for all involved, but one that could be resolved with some good will on everybody’s part, and a couple of admittedly difficult, but private conversations. What has been done cannot be undone, and the best must be made of the consequences of actions.

It seems the complainants want their very own Streisand moment. But you really do have to question the integrity of people who claim they are being harassed by being exposed, and attempt to redress this alleged offence by naming and outing themselves as a default position.

There is no way I could possibly bring them as much public attention as they will bring to themselves by this action, so one can only conclude it’s what they must want in some dark, and to my mind, twisted way.

 

herself.com, the image and the battle to contain desire

21 Jan

Herself.com

 

Female nudity continues to exercise the minds of media feminists, with the latest source of controversy being actor Caitlin Stasey’s new website herself.com The site features nude portraits of women of diverse shape, colour and size, along with interviews with the subjects. Caitlin’s aim is to reclaim the female body from the objectification of the male gaze, and the demands of the film and beauty industries for a particular female look that is unrealistic, and excludes the majority of us.

Reaction has been swift, analytical, condemnatory, celebratory.

What is most interesting in these responses is the ongoing battle to define, own, and control human desire through the analysis, condemnation and celebration of images of the female body.

There are feminists who experience female nudity as unnecessary and distracting, it’s our brains we should be flaunting, not our breasts, they maintain. There are feminists who defiantly expose their bodies with a big “fuck you” to the patriarchy. There are feminists who rightly point out that the problem is perhaps not the exposure of the female form, but the industries that exploit and commodify us. There is ample food for thought in all these perspectives, however, nobody seems to be tackling the tricky question of desire.

There is arguably no stronger force than desire, be it for sex, intimacy, power, money, control, freedom, equality.  There is no human activity that is not driven by desire. As feminists have argued since the seventies our desires are constructed, that is, we are taught what we should desire and how we should desire it. While the energy we know as desire is inherent in us, how we experience and express it, or indeed deny it, is learned from birth, and the learning is gendered.

So much of the public turmoil centred on images of the female body is driven by an unexamined  need to contain desire that simply will not be contained. Whether this need to control takes the form of a puritanism that is based on notions of immodesty and the ‘wrongness’ of nudity, or whether it takes the form of pole dancers paying their way through their PhD (look! I have brains as well as tits and a shapely arse!) the basic struggle is to own and control desire, and its expression.

Whether herself.com will do anything to reclaim our bodies from the desiring and objectifying gaze of males who want us, females who want us, and industries who want us, I can’t predict. It is fairly obvious that the one-dimensional photographic image of a desirable body is hardly going to encourage anyone to focus attention on any other aspect of that human being, and why should it? “I can’t stop looking at her tits,” moaned one woman when asked if she was interested in the narrative accompanying the image.

Perhaps the struggle to make an image of a human body anything more than an image is a waste of time. The whole project of making women “real” through images of us seems contradictory. An image might not make me a sexual object, but it will inevitably objectify me, because that is what images do, and it is all images can do. Perhaps what is needed is a more realistic understanding of the limitations of the image, rather than the likely pointless attempt to make the image “real.”

Apart from those quibbles, I quite like Caitlin’s herself.com I like the challenge it presents to repressed bourgeois prudes. If I met any of those women, I’d be very interested to talk to them about their participation in the project. I like the “fuck you” attitude to patriarchal objectification, though I concede there will still be patriarchal objectifiers who get on the website and ogle and wank. They will always be among us, no matter what we do.

Desire takes a billion forms. The battle to own and control desire will likely be unending, because it is the battle to control human beings. In the meantime, herself.com and like-minded women continue to give the finger to those who would own and control desire, and for taking this small step, they are to be commended.

Cruelty is the worst policy

20 Jan

 

Amnesty Poster

 

In general, it’s always seemed to me that when governments or individuals take an increasingly hard, harsh and inhumane stand on an issue it’s a clear signal that they’ve actually lost the battle, and are on their way to losing the war.

In a political sense, I’m thinking of the current situation in detention facilities on Manus Island. New Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is promising to maintain Scott Morrison’s “hard-line” against asylum seekers who have resorted to self-harm and protest, methods which are, in reality, their only means of expression, as the Australian government has virtually denied them access to legal process and natural justice.

This hard-line against asylum seekers protesting their fate began in Woomera and Baxter detention centres in 1999, at the instigation of the Howard LNP government. It was maintained by the ALP governments led by Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd. Sixteen years of both major parties taking a hard-line against waterborne asylum seekers has achieved absolutely nothing any of us can be proud of, and it won’t.

Similarly, the hard-line threatened by the Abbott government against the young unemployed that will see them starving and homeless as they are denied benefits for six months will achieve nothing any of us can be proud of, and will ruin lives for a very long time and likely permanently.

Taking a hard-line is very rarely necessary, and very rarely useful. A hard-line shouldn’t be the default position. Instead negotiation, mediation, conversation, and communication are civilised and humane methods of approaching difficulties. When all else fails, by all means try the hard-line, but to do this first is cruel and inhumane, and shows a lack of intelligence, imagination and skill.

Human beings have a tremendous capacity for good will and understanding. It’s a great shame our leaders don’t value this capacity, and instead believe our strength lies in brutality. It doesn’t. It never has and it never will. All cruelty springs from weakness, as the philosopher Seneca noted.

If governments and individuals are too weak and cowardly to sit across a table from other human beings in an effort to resolve difference and difficulty, they will inevitably resort to cruelty of one kind or another. Ignoring another human being in need is just as cruel as taking direct and punitive action against him or her. There are countless stories of asylum seekers achieving success and making considerable contributions to Australian society when they are given the opportunity. Instead we destroy them because our governments believe the destruction of human lives and human potential demonstrates political strength and determination.

Peter Dutton may well congratulate himself for emulating Scott Morrison’s abhorrent tactics against those legally seeking asylum in Australia. But emulating a bully is no great achievement. Australian governments have for sixteen years now proved themselves to be capable only of bullying behaviour towards human beings in the greatest distress and need, be they asylum seekers or their own citizens. Cruelty is not a strength. It is the most appalling, base and destructive weakness.

OMFG, here we go again

15 Jan

This post is about my personal life, not politics, just warning you so you can skip it.

 

lying-husbandDear you,

I am a centimetre, a centimetre off naming you and your miserable, sorry-arsed husband, lady.

I learned this morning that it now appears you intend to attempt to prevent me writing about my own life on my own blog.

It is regrettable that your life partner started cheating on you in the seventies, which couldn’t have been that long after you married him, and has continued cheating on you in the decades since up until the last two years with me. That I am, as you told me, “the only one you thought he’d ever leave you for” is no justification for you to take your decades of misery out on me, and threaten me with legal action for writing about my own bloody life.  Your problem is with your husband, not me. Nothing you try to do to me will change your sad history with your faithless mate.

There is nothing in my writing (yet) that gives any indication of your identities. And even if there was I’m speaking the truth, with a shitload of evidence to back me up, so bite me.

Here’s a little story for you. My late husband was unfaithful. When he ended it his lover rang up at every hour of the day and night for months, she wrote, she sent texts, she emailed, she was in such awful distress about how he’d treated her she really wasn’t of sound mind. It never occurred to me to take out my distress on her, or on anyone other than my husband.

It was also one of those ghastly situations where everyone knew about it but me, and I had to learn to cope with that public humiliation.

Men like our husbands who form relationships outside of our marriages are using the women they take as their lovers. Wives like us have to realise that and not blame those women for what our husbands have done to us. Our problem is with our husbands, especially when he’s like yours, and chronically adulterous. You chose to live with him for all those years knowing all the time what he was doing. So suck it up, and don’t threaten me. Threaten him.

If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s being threatened with legal action to make me shut up. I have every right to reflect on my life and my experiences on my blog, and so far I’ve been extremely careful to keep his identity well-hidden, entirely for your sake, by the way, not his.

I’m not proud of having an affair but I’m not so ashamed of it I’ll buckle to your demands. The circumstances in which I agreed to do it were complex, and you know damn well I can’t talk about them without revealing who he is.

Shit happens, for all kinds of reasons, and we all have to find a way to live with it. Grown ups sort things out. Immature, incompetent people run whining to the state to do their sorting out for them. When you have to ask the state to intervene in a personal situation such as this one, you’ve lost all control over your life.

You want to shut me up? So sue me.

 

 

 

The arbiters of taste: who will control society?

14 Jan

security-vs-liberty

 

In his blog for The Monthly on the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Mungo McCallum concludes his Readers’ Digest argument that laughter is the best medicine by observing that even those wielding automatic weapons can’t fire them if they’re doubled over with mirth.  “After all,” he writes, “even the most rabid fanatic would find it hard to aim a Kalashnikov while guffawing.”

McCallum’s piece is about the lines that are or should be drawn between satire, humour, and offence, but what he fails to address is who exactly is to determine those limits, and what criteria they are to employ in order to arrive at their judgement.

This is another aspect of the battle for societal control so relentlessly fought by groups such as Collective Shout and individuals such as Melinda Tankard Reist, with whom I have locked horns on more than one occasion. See the Category Defamation Threats on this blog if you want to know just how hard these people will go after you in an effort to shut you up and impose their views.

I know people who find Seinfeld cruel and unfunny. I know others who find The Simpsons offensive to their sacred notions of family. I’ve heard arguments that the HBO series Breaking Bad, in which a regular high school chemistry teacher morphs into a drug lord after learning he has terminal cancer, has led to an epidemic in the manufacturing of methamphetamines. I find McCallum’s line quoted above offensive in its casual dismissal of the profound seriousness of rabid fanaticism. I don’t find it satirical or humorous, and I suspect it could only have been written by someone who has little first-hand knowledge of any kind of terror.

The point is, something will always offend someone. There are those who are outraged because every cliff top in the country is not fenced off to protect us from falling over it and sustaining injury, or death. There are those who want to kill every shark in the ocean because now and then one of them eats someone. There are those who believe being hurt and offended is so great an injury laws can and should be passed to prevent their emotional distress.

There are those who take out their Kalashnikovs because they believe being insulted and offended are justifications for murder. There’s very little that can be done about someone with that particular mindset, and if all other provocations are denied them through censorship of potentially provocative commentary they will still kill, on the spurious grounds that an entire mode of existence is offensive to them and it’s their right to eradicate it.

The fight for the power to wield societal control is constant, and it takes a myriad of forms. In general, our liberal democracy is controlled by the values of the bourgeoisie who are, also in general, obsessed with issues of law and order, affronted by graffiti, entirely precious about their right not to be offended, insulted or otherwise emotionally ruffled, and consumed by notions of decency and what they determine to be appropriate. Look at our politicians if you don’t believe me.

There is no doubt that words can damage. Vilification of any kind causes hurt and damage and destruction. Rather than impose legislation that seeks to prevent and punish the utterance of damaging and destructive words, satirical commentary, unfair criticism, racial and religious abuse, I would prefer that we instead focus our attention and resources on education and remediation. I think this because largely legislation has no effect at all in everyday situations, and in many instances can make resentment against the other, whoever the other happens to be at any particular time, even worse.

In my opinion, legalisation that seeks to control who can say what, when and where is driven by bourgeois desires to exercise social control and create a perceived utopian culture in which proponents of bourgeois ideology feel most “comfortable.” While the bourgeoisie have not yet resorted to firearms with which to impose their vision of the world, they have instead demanded a level of surveillance and state control over language and how it may and may not be used that is astounding.

While I do not agree with Attorney-General George Brandis that everyone has the “right” (whatever “right” means in his context) to be a bigot, it seems to me that legislation attempting to prevent the expression of bigotry is doomed to fail, except in very rare high-profile situations.

The battle for societal control will not be won by silencing. It is a wrong-headed and prejudicial battle in the first place. We cannot, for example, silence the Murdoch press and even if Andrew Bolt came a cropper with his racist views what was gained in the larger sense by his stumble? He hasn’t shut up, he’s just as offensive, if not more so, and he gained an inordinate amount of support and sympathy. In general, his name is remembered as a consequence of those events, and not the names of those vilified and insulted, or the nature of the vilification and insult.

I know from my own experience of being threatened with legal action if I didn’t retract and shut up that it only made me more determined to express views I believed to be worthy of expression and that I had the right to express, because why shouldn’t I? My views were extremely offensive and insulting to some. So what? Theirs were equally offensive and insulting to me. Neither of us should have been silenced, and only one party (not me) had the financial wherewithal to threaten the other with silence or ruin.

What we need to do is think about is what can be done that will actually achieve fundamental change, instead of focusing on window dressing and  band aids that at best do nothing and at worst incite those who are silenced by legislation to even more devious expressions and behaviours.

McCallum is wrong, laughter is certainly not the best medicine when faced with a Kalashnikov, or being otherwise silenced by punitive measures employed by the state at the behest of the hegemonic bourgeoisie.

The best medicine is to resist and refuse efforts to silence, to be subversive, to transgress, to contest, to challenge, to protest, to be civilly disobedient, to refuse to be shut up by those who are “uncomfortable” with certain forms of expression. Your discomfort is not my problem, tell them. It’s yours. I’m sorry you feel it, but there are ways you can deal with it if you have the courage, and silencing me is not one of them.

I laughed my head off, said someone taken hostage by murderous ideologues never.

 

 

The point of love…

13 Jan

 

solitude

 

“The point of marriage  is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good  marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his [sic] solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

My husband often used to tell me that as well as looking into each other’s eyes, he liked us to stand side by side and look out together at the world, while experiencing it individually.

Where Rilke uses the term “marriage,” I would use the term love.

 

Freedom to speak. Section 18C and terrorism

13 Jan

 

voltaire-quote1

 

I find myself in a familiar turmoil over the issue of free speech, raised again most recently by the Charlie Hebdo massacres. Those lives were not lost because of the exercise of freedom of speech. They were lost because violent, brutal ideologues murdered them. The lives lost in the 9/11 attacks had nothing to do with the exercise of free speech. Thousands upon thousands upon thousands  of civilian lives lost in wars waged by western powers were not lost because the victims were exercising freedom of speech.

While I abhor the dehumanising stereotyping that is at the heart of hate speech and racial vilification, murderers are responsible for murdering and those ideologues determined to murder will do so, and they will find any reason to justify their thirst for destruction. It is ludicrous to claim that offence and insult are provocation enough to incite them, and that attempting to restrict offence and insult will do anything at all to restrain their murderous impulses.

Race is a construct, used to justify ill-treatment and dehumanisation of those not in the dominant tribe. Religion is a construct, also used to justify ill-treatment and dehumanisation of those not of the dominant belief system. Race and religion are equally illusionary, that is, they are human constructs that have come to be reified as monolithic truths for which people are willing to kill and to die. Section 18c of The Racial Discrimination Act will not affect these monolithic truths, and the willingness of their adherents to murder and die for them.

The human species has not yet evolved out of its need to gather in tribes of one kind or another, and take arms against those they define as not of them. Restricting free speech does nothing to address these fundamental problems.  In many situations it serves to exacerbate division, for example in defamation legislation that inevitably favours those with wealth and power over those with none.

There have always been and will always be extremists and radicals. We can no more expect to live free of the threat of terrorism than we can expect to live without the air that we breathe.

In the end, nothing will be as effective against terrorism as the freedom to speak, even if that speech is offensive and insulting. Those of us who aren’t murderous extremists must learn to deal with speech that insults and offends us because the option, a mass silencing,a mass surveillance of thought, word and deed is far too horrific to contemplate. There is no human right not to be offended. A life without insult is a sheltered life indeed. It is a serious loss to Australian society that a magazine such as Charlie Hebdo could not be published in this country. If you don’t like it, don’t read it, but to make it illegal is unacceptable.

What is wrong with us is that we do not regularly mobilise as did the French in Paris yesterday, visibly united against terrorist attacks. What is wrong with us is that we have become too precious, too willing to allow governments to take responsibility for us in legislation that is and can be little more than a band-aid. Over-protection weakens and infantilises us, and causes us to give up our power to those who would control us, whether they are elected governments or murderous extremists.

Terrorism, and political and governmental reaction to it is spectacle, and it is the same, shared spectacle. It is bad theatre. It is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing and it will not save us from death and destruction, metaphorical and literal, by those who would silence us.

 

Update: This is the piece on Charlie Hebdo being published in Australia, to which I attempted to link in The Australian and was initially foiled. Suck it up, Rupert.

 

Being Charlie — with 18c in place, Australia says ‘non’

 

Charlie Hebdo from October 2014.

SATIRICAL French publication Charlie Hebdo could not be printed in Australia under existing restrictions on free speech, despite its cartoons being embraced across the world as a symbol of Western liberties after the massacre at its offices.

Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson told The Australian the restrictions contained in section 18c of the Racial Discrimin­ation Act would “ensure it would be shut down”; he was supported in this position by media law ­experts.

The carnage in Paris has also encouraged two Liberal MPs to publicly call for the debate about changes to section 18c to be re-opened after the government last year unceremoniously dropped its planned reforms following a fierce public backlash.

Mr Wilson, dubbed the “freedom commissioner”, has taken aim at opponents of the 18c changes who are now rhetorically embracing free speech, warning that words needed to be backed up with concrete action.

Failure to do so would be seen as hypocritical, he said.

“The Charlie Hebdo attack is a wake-up call for a lot of people who rhetorically support free speech but when it comes to the nub would choose political ­advantage over sensible reform,” he said.

“This is where they have an opportunity to rise to the challenge, like the leaders of Europe are now doing, rather than being held out as hypocrites.”

In The Australian today, the chairman of the parliamentary joint committee on human rights, West Australian senator Dean Smith, challenges Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten to support a private senator’s bill proposing a middle pathway forward on an 18c overhaul.

The Opposition Leader yesterday indicated he remained unmoved on 18c.

“You don’t give the green light to hate speech when in fact it’s hate which is what we’re all ­united against,” he said.

Mr Shorten said it was distasteful to turn the events in Paris into a domestic political issue. “It is an inappropriate stretch … to see government MPs trying to use what happened in Paris to justify divisive debates.”

The government has formally ruled out any changes to 18c, saying they are “off the table”.

While Mr Wilson argued that many of the religiously themed cartoons in Charlie Hebdo would not fall foul of the discrimination act, he said that racial stereo­typing of Jews and other ethnic groups would create too many legal issues for such a publication to continue in an Australian context.

“18c only covers issues of race and ethnic origin, which would cover some of the material but not all of it,” he said. “It would cover Jews and ethnic representations, but it wouldn’t cover Muslims and other bits. In the end, the legal problems would essentially ensure it would be shut down.

“I think there are lots of different avenues for reform, but I think there are more issues than just 18c that need to be considered.”

Senator Smith threw his support behind Mr Wilson, but urged for a renewed focus on 18c. He is urging both sides of politics to back a private senator’s bill he has co-sponsored with Family First senator Bob Day, Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm and Liberal colleague Cory Bernardi.

Senator Smith says the bill could form a “legislative monument to the human price paid by France” and would simply remove the words “offend” and “insult” in a finetuning of 18c.

“By agreeing (to the bill) … Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten will have kept the protections against ­‘humiliate’ and ‘intimidate’,” he writes. “Our leaders have read the mood with precision and Tony Abbott is right to remind us to be prepared to ‘speak up for our ­beliefs’ and ‘call things as we see them’. It is now time to crown our words of vigilance with a deed.”

Senator Bernardi said he absolutely supported the passage of the bill.

Simon Breheny, the director of the legal rights project at the Institute of Public Affairs, told The Australian that Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons certainly “would have been caught in Australia by section 18c of the Racial Discrimin­ation Act”.

“Even if it wasn’t caught by section 18c, there is no doubt they would have fallen foul of restrictive state racial and religious vilification laws. This is one of the possible explanations as to why we don’t have any kind of publi­cations in Australia quite like it, because our laws restricting freedom of speech are so severe.”

Legal experts also united to suggest that Charlie Hebdo would be unlikely to meet the existing tests enshrined in current Australian law, pointing out that satirical cartoons do not occupy the same status in Australian culture.

“You would have a complaint if those sorts of cartoons were to run here,” said Minter Ellison Partner and Fairfax media lawyer in Victoria Peter Bartlett.

“I think they would certainly, run up against 18c and we would receive complaints and we would then need to deal with those ­complaints.”

Mr Bartlett also warned that there was already “some evidence of self-censoring”, given the ­caution around the existing racial discrimination laws.

Justin Quill, a media lawyer used by The Australian, said the publication would have “serious difficulties” and would constantly need to justify its actions. “If someone took action against them — probably more than once — it ultimately would mean that it would be difficult to survive and it could mean it had to be shut down,” he said.

“I can easily say I think there would be occasions where it would lose an 18c argument.

“It’s easy for those who support 18c to say ‘I think they wouldn’t’. What is clear is that the publication would have to successfully bear the onus of proof in proving their defence.”

Charlie Hebdo cover depicting Jesus on the cross.

 

Dear you. Cat fight. Whatever.

12 Jan

This post belongs in the page Infidelity, and the category Adultery.

Gustave Klimt Girlfriends

Gustave Klimt. Girlfriends

 

In the first conversation we ever had you said to me, “Perhaps (insert name) is not the right man for you.”

I had, at that point, absolutely no idea what you meant. (Insert name) is your husband. Why would you suggest to me that your husband isn’t the “right man” for me?

I echoed: “(Insert name) isn’t the right man for me? I don’t know what you mean. I had a relationship with him. I don’t want another. I only want to talk to him.”

I had no desire to continue my relationship with (insert name) after you’d caught him at it, and the only thing that interested me was having a civil conversation with him during the course of which we would bid each other a civil farewell. I have this tedious and apparently unrealisable thing. I think it’s important that people who love each other take civil leave of one another when circumstances make the ongoing expression of their love untenable. I’d prefer whenever possible to leave with good will, rather than disordered and excruciating emotional anguish. Admittedly I have absolutely no experience of this kind of leaving, so I could well be an idiot for imagining a decent farewell possible under such circumstances.

I suppose it’s something like people talking about having a good death. Sadly, a having a good death seems to have become a test of moral character.  I don’t know what a good death can possibly be, unless it’s like a good farewell, done with gratitude for the life lived, sorrowful acceptance of its ending, and the courage to face the pain of farewell.

Whatever. You and I appear to have reached a painful impasse. (Insert name) could be dead for all I know, the energy of the drama has shifted entirely to you and me, fulfilling the what now appear to be prophetic dreams I had at the beginning of the relationship between (insert name) and myself. In this oft-repeated dream you and I were intensely engaged, a good deal more amicably than we are at present, while (insert name) remained a shadowy figure huddled under blankets, entirely disengaged from both of us. I could make no sense of this dream at the time, though I recognised it as significant, as are all repeated dreams.

I marvel, I absolutely marvel, at the inaccessible knowledge contained in the unconscious, and again I claim that we are as icebergs,  one tenth of us above the surface while the other nine-tenths lies below, determining our lives in a manner entirely unknown and inaccessible to us until it’s far too late.

We have a great deal in common, as you’ve pointed out. We both play the piano. We have both had to deal with adulterous husbands. We both lost our beloved dogs in the same damn week. We both love the same man. We have both been horrendously damaged by the duplicity of this man, you more than me, I admit.  And yet, in spite of these commonalities, I would like to shout at you until I can shout no more, and I strongly suspect you are of a similar mind.

I am interested in what happens between two women when they both form attachments to the same man, and he to them. In this instance the man has turned out to be something of an emotional clod, and entirely undeserving of both of us. So why, when our rage and distress ought to be squarely aimed at him, are we firing our most serious bullets at one another?

I think we are conditioned from birth to behave in these ways, to see one another as rivals even for the attentions of a clod, as long as the clod is male. I hate this. I had no idea it existed within me. If anyone had told me I would one day be entrapped in a cat fight such as this has turned out to be, I would never have believed them. You have aggravated me beyond reason, and I, apparently, you. Women torn asunder by a man. We are living in a cliché. Somebody help us.

Lies

10 Jan

This was your heart
This swarm of flies
This was once your mouth
This bowl of lies… Leonard Cohen, “Nevermind”

For weeks now, months even, I’ve been thinking about lies.

My childhood was steeped in the lies of the adults closest to me, and I think this has left me with a visceral horror, even terror, of being lied to and/or about.

The worst lies are the ones intended to eradicate  your history, to rewrite events as you’ve known them, the lies that deny your experience and leave you shaken, uncertain of the trustworthiness of your own perceptions. These lies can be personal, and they can be political. They can be lies of omission and commission, they can be half-truths, or they can contain just enough of the truth to be almost incontestable. Perhaps these last lies are the worst of all.

I don’t know if lies, lying, and being lied to and about is as important in our culture as it once was, or if it has always been as unremarkable as it seems to be now. Was there ever really a time when a person’s word was all that was required, and if that word was broken the offender was ostracised? Or did such an idealised moral code of an individual’s responsibility to speak the truth exist only in romantic novels?

And when someone lies about you or about events you have shared, the sense of helplessness and rage at the injustice of such lying can mess with your head for quite a long time. Personally and politically, individually and collectively, lies are at the root of all injustice.

I would rather know the worst truth than be told a lie. Fighting my way out of a childhood that consisted almost entirely of lies has left me with a hunger for truth that is quite likely excessive. It’s made me forensic. But I do believe lies have the power to destroy the liar and the lied to, whether the lies are personal or political. Lies erode trust, and without trust we are nothing to one another, we live as empty shells, bereft of intimacy, lonely and alone.

I always thought the Rolling Stones song was about the loneliness and lovelessness of lies:

And you can send me dead flowers every morning
Send me dead flowers by the mail
Send me dead flowers to my wedding
And I won’t forget to put roses on your grave

 

 

dead flowers

Nous sommes tous Charlie

9 Jan

 

I'd rather die standing

 

Helen Razer has an interesting piece here today on why we are not all Charlie, in which she argues quite rightly, that ridiculing terrorists and murderers does absolutely nothing to stop their hideous activities. Jokes, she observes, do not prevent wars, and personally I can find nothing in the least amusing about the actions of murderous ideologues of any persuasion. The recommendation that I laugh at terrorists seems to have its origins in a thousand sentimental Disney movies in which evil doers crumble into dust in the face of hearty laughter from their potential doe-eyed victims. This crackpot notion has always irritated the shit out of me.

Satire, though, has its place and god forbid we should ever be without it, but in and of itself it cannot and does not prevent anything, though it obviously can cause terrible, unthinkable consequences for its purveyors.

If the slaughter of the French cartoonists tells us anything, it is that we are at war with those who would silence us. This war is waged on a continuum. At its extreme, as in Paris yesterday, it robs those who would speak of their lives. No matter how objectionable or unaesthetic their cartoons may have seemed to some people, they did not deserve to die for expressing their opinions.

At another place on the continuum legal threats are employed by those who can afford it, to silence those whose speech is in some way perceived as a threat. Governments use their power to refuse to allow the accurate recording of our history. The voices of Australia’s Indigenous first peoples have been scandalously omitted from the narratives of our country. The voices of women have frequently suffered a similar fate. Silencing is a tool as powerful for the orthodoxy as it is for extremists.

In my experience, if you have a public voice there is always some fucker who wants to shut you up. When they don’t murder you, they threaten you with ruin. There are people in this world who cannot bear to hear,and cannot bear to listen, and cannot bear to sit across a table from you and sort it out. These people are cowards and liars, and sometimes they are literally murderers.

In this sense, Je suis Charlie. Nous sommes tous Charlie, or potentially Charlie.

“I’d rather die standing than live on my knees,” said Stéphane Charbonnier, editor of Charlie Hebdo, quoting the Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata. He did die standing. Whether you admired their work or not, Charbonnier and his colleagues died standing and this matters, this counts, this is why they must be honoured, and this is why we are all Charlie, because any one of us at any time could find ourselves at risk for speaking our truth, and sometimes, some of us who refuse to live on our knees will, one way or another, die for it.

 

And now Morrison (yes him again) denies us our history

5 Jan

Woomera Detention Centre Riot SMH

 

Author Peter FitzSimons recently completed a documentary on the history of race riots in Australia. The first episode of “The Great Australian Race Riot” aired on SBS on January 4th.

FitzSimons wanted to include the 2001 riot at the Woomera Detention Centre. However, then Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Scott Morrison (yes, him again) refused FitzSimons access to the long-closed facility, and demanded the crew not film within 150 metres of the site.

“That furiously annoyed me,” says FitzSimons. “We couldn’t shoot in Woomera itself, which staggered us. We were attempting to take a serious look at a sometimes difficult multicultural society.”

This is a deliberate attempt by the Abbott government to control a historical record of racial unrest in Australia.

The 2001 Woomera riot took place on the Howard LNP government watch. It is a period steeped in turmoil over asylum seekers arriving here by boat. It was at this time the notorious Tampa stand-off took place,causing an international incident between Australia and Norway as well as profound domestic political unrest as then Prime Minister John Howard made his infamous declaration: “We will decide who comes to this country and the manner in which they come.”

Howard exploited populist xenophobic fears incited by Pauline Hanson, then leader of right-wing One Nation, a conservative, anti multicultural political party. Co-opting Hanson’s xenophobic policies, Howard attracted her voter base and went on to win the 2001 federal election.

Woomera Detention Centre was central to the combination of circumstances that elevated the exploitation and incitement of xenophobia and racism to the central platform they remain for both the LNP and the ALP to this day. That period began what has become an increasingly isolationist and inhumane Australian response to the global problem of stateless persons.

The treatment of asylum seekers imprisoned in the Woomera and Baxter detention centres marked the beginning of increasing public acceptance of the state’s dehumanisation of those fleeing persecution, and laid the ground for popular acceptance of Morrison’s narrative of border protection. Morrison’s alleged “war” against waterborne asylum seekers has been used to justify the ludicrous and sinister secrecy in which the Department of Immigration and Border Protection is now irrevocably steeped.

It is astounding that the Abbott government has in this instance successfully engineered the recording of Australian history to exclude any reference to the Woomera riot. Fortunately many records of these events exist. Morrison and Abbott are fighting a losing battle if they believe the voices of this period of our history can be silenced. Indeed, their attempts to control information appear increasingly desperate and naive, as they consistently fail to recognise that what one attempts to omit from the narrative eventually becomes the narrative, and all they are left with are increasingly sullied reputations drenched to the bone in lies, secrets and guilty silence. History eventually will judge Morrison and Abbott, and the Australian Labor Party, and find them all excruciatingly wanting.

 

Woomera Riots Two

 

 

It’s MY prerogative: Morrison’s last despotic act as Immigration Minister.

4 Jan

One of the last despotic acts of former Immigration Minister Scott Morrison was to threaten to revoke the power of Moreland City Council Mayor, Meghan Hopper, to perform citizenship ceremonies unless she agreed to read out his ministerial message during the ceremonies.

Moreland Council has a policy of welcoming refugees into the shire.

Ms Hopper stated: “I do not feel comfortable acting as a spokesperson when it comes to personal messages from the minister. I feel that the reading of a message from the minister in fact politicises what should be an apolitical occasion, as does threatening to remove Moreland’s ability to confer citizenship.”

The Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection Australian Citizenship Ceremonies Code:  Citizenship ceremonies are non-commercial, apolitical, bipartisan and secular.They must not be used as forums for political, partisan or religious expression or for the distribution of material which could be perceived to be of a commercial, political or religious nature.

More from the SMH article: According to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, the reading of the minister’s message is not compulsory under legislation.

Despite that, Mr Morrison said in his letter to Ms Hopper that it was his “prerogative” that the message be read aloud, as it is an “integral part of the ceremony”.

As part of his response, Mr Morrison included a one-page “letter of agreement” for Ms Hopper to sign, stating that she will include the message as part of Moreland’s ceremony.

“If you fail to comply with this request by January 10 2015, I will withdraw your authority, and that of the deputy mayor and general manager, to preside at Australian citizenship ceremonies,” he said in the letter.

It is difficult to see this behaviour by Morrison as anything more than petty revenge against a Mayor and council who oppose the Abbott government’s refugee policies.

No one should be surprised at Morrison’s efforts at petty revenge. Such efforts are the hallmark of a government that has spent the majority of its time so far in office deliberately trashing previous ALP policies for no reason other than that they were ALP policies.

There is no legislation that requires any official performing citizenship ceremonies to read out a ministerial message. Regardless of the law, Morrison employed intimidatory bullying tactics to demand his speech be read in the future. This is, he claims, his “prerogative.” Note that legislation is irrelevant to this minister of the crown. What counts here is his personal “prerogative.”

As Morrison is now Minister for Social Services we can expect an ongoing disregard for legislation, and a lot more bullying on the grounds of his personal prerogatives.

A minister of the crown must uphold legislation or seek to change it. Deliberately ignoring legislation and instead attempting to impose one’s personal prerogative over and above it, is not acceptable ministerial behaviour. Ministers of the crown have a particular responsibility to respect our laws.

Morrison’s former department, when seeking extended powers for him, argued thus: The DIBA submission to a Senate committee argues that an elected member of parliament and minister of the Crown has gained a particular insight into the community’s standards and values. 

The rest of us are expected to observe the laws that govern community standards and values. If an elected member of parliament and minister of the crown so conspicuously fails to do this, and instead threatens and bullies others on the sole grounds of his personal prerogative, we do not have a democratic government, we have a burgeoning dictatorship.

And this comment from @ForrestGumpp:

Forrest Gumpp (@ForrestGumpp)
January 4, 2015 at 8:32 am Edit #
By what authority does a Federal government Minister get to directly require anything of a Local Government Authority? The question as to the recognition of local government within the Constitution was rejected at referendum in September 1988 resoundingly with one of the lowest ‘Yes’ votes since federation. Surely the federal Immigration Minister would have to work through the appropriate State Minister and legislation to make such demands?

 

despotism-aristotle

Gavin King, LNP MP, blames women for being raped.

3 Jan

Just look what this clod Gavin King, Queensland Liberal member for Cairns and Assistant Tourism Minister thinks:

 

 

The unexamined and ignorant assumptions of some male LNP MPs, state and federal, on the matter of violence against women is beyond belief. They are led by the example set by our Minister for Women and Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who believes the best thing he’s done for us all year is scrap the carbon tax without uttering a word that addresses or even acknowledges  the epidemic proportions of domestic violence perpetrated against us. The LNP at all levels of government continues to excel itself in its arrogant, entitled, privileged and Neanderthal assumptions about who is responsible for violence against women. Without fail, without fail, they consistently manage to come up with some way of blaming us for violent acts perpetrated upon us.

I am absolutely fucking fed up with women being held responsible for violence we suffer, whether its because we’re “irresistible” or drunk, or whatever excuse some arsehat comes up with to justify his own lack of human decency and perverted thought processes.

There is no excuse, there is no fucking excuse for any man to hold onto the belief that in some way, any way, a woman is partly to blame for violent acts inflicted upon her by a man.

Holy feckin mother of god when will it bloody end?

 

CONTACT GAVIN KING HERE

Abbott on inequality

 

 

 

Missing Big Dog.

2 Jan

Big Dog

This is the first time we’ve been in the Snowy Mountains without our Big Dog, who died a few weeks ago after fourteen years with us.

On the drive down we reminisced and cried a bit at all the places we drove through where we used to stop to let him run and pee and drink, before loading him back in the car and continuing further south. Here, in the house where we always stay, there’s an empty space where his bed used to be and his absence is so strong it’s a presence.

Big Dog loved the mountain air, especially as he got older and his lungs packed up. The only thing I miss about home just now is looking out the kitchen window at his grave under the mango tree. Home is hot, wet, humid, and there are mosquitos so there’s not a lot to miss compared to this:

Cascades Track

Whenever I came home Big Dog would take my forearm gently in his mouth between his great big teeth and softly gnaw me. That was him saying hello! I’m so glad you’re back! It’s wonderful to see you! I’ve missed you so much!

I can honestly say I’ve never known a human who’d do that for me.

The mountains are for me a place of reflection, self-accounting and deep contemplation. Each time I come here I never want to leave. I think it was Seneca who recommended that we take time every night to recall the events of the day and fall asleep at peace with them. This, he claimed, is our preparation for death, so that we leave the world as we’ve left each day, as settled as possible with the events of our lives.

In a small way I understood this with Big Dog’s death. We had a few days to prepare ourselves, to make it the best death possible for him after a long, honourable life filled with love and affection. We know he did his best with his life and that we did our best with his life and death as well. I don’t know if this counts for much in the scheme of things, but it seems significant.

We don’t have anything of value other than our lives. The rest is dross. Know thyself, says Plato through Socrates, and what that means, I think, is that the more knowledge I have of myself, the less likely I am to do harm to others, and the more willing and able  I am to make amends for the harm I inevitably do.

But anyway. Look at this and lift your eyes unto the hills, and good wishes for this brand new year.

Cascades Track Two

On being irresistible

31 Dec

Perhaps I’m contrary and ungrateful but I never felt good about being told by a lover  “You are irresistible.” I’d much rather he or she said something like  “I can’t resist you” and in that utterance, joyfully assumed the burden of supernatural compulsion instead of burdening me with it.

It would also be much more honest if things went wrong and my lover said “I now can/must resist you because my wife caught me, or I found someone else, or I’ve changed my mind” or whatever event provoked a change in his or her assessment of the situation. Instead of undermining my sense of myself with their change of heart, the responsibility then properly rests with the one whose desires, for whatever reason, have shifted.

I’ve never in my life found anyone to be irresistible. I’ve been overwhelmed by desire, overwhelmed by love, overwhelmed by seriously significant stupidity, but overwhelmed by my own sensations, the agent of my own downfall, not a victim subjected to another’s supernatural powers. In the end this matters, this sense that if I am drowning in love and desire, however recklessly, I am doing my own drowning the other isn’t bewitching me into it.

This may seem like unimportant hair-splitting carping, but it’s actually about taking responsibility, and empowerment. The statement “You are irresistible” gives the other all the power, and denies me the opportunity to take responsibility for my own actions. “I can’t resist you” takes all responsibility, and taking honest responsibility always empowers. The inability to resist is not in itself a negative thing. Denying it as part of one’s character might well be.

And there is something endearing about a human being who can admit an inability to resist as an aspect of his or her own self, rather than it being the fault of an irresistible other.

For women, being thought irresistible has caused and continues to cause us no end of grief, abuse, and in some instances, death. If we are credited with supernatural powers, we will also be made to pay for them. Excessive restrictions are placed on our freedoms in an effort to contain and control our perceived potentially uncontrollable natures. Those who abuse us may be leniently viewed in the light of our magically seductive powers. At its crudest, the irresistibility narrative says wearing short skirts will make men rape us, and there is a continuum from there. Telling a woman she’s irresistible is always an abdication of responsibility. You can’t resist her. It’s your thing, not hers. Own it.

End of rant.

Happy New Year.

 

irresistible

 

 

 

Akerman turns on Abbott again, and where is the quirk?

29 Dec
Trouble in Paradise?

Trouble in Paradise?

 

Well, the Daily Tele is just the gift that keeps on giving.

Sitting in a cafe in Jindabyne yesterday Mrs Chook was leafing through the rag when she came across this gem by Piers Akerman titled “PM Tony Abbott’s obstinance is protecting chief of staff Peta Credlin”

I’m unable to contain my delight at the ongoing Murdoch press displeasure with its chosen Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, and this piece by the odious Piers had me cackling like a Shakespearean witch. It’s not a good look for the Prime Minister to refer to Chief of Staff Credlin as “the boss” in public, thunders Piers, and if he can’t control his own office how can he control the country? “It is clear that Abbott has developed an almost unhealthy reliance on Credlin’s advice,” roars Piers, and even though that may please feminists it doesn’t please anybody else, he adds. He also takes a swipe at perceived ABC bias, there’s no doubt about Piers, he gets his all favourite prejudices into his copy seamlessly.

In a more general vein, why is it that we can no longer have politicians with any personality? Since when did it become de rigueur that anyone with ambition to political office must first be stripped of individual human characteristics? Why do our elected members have no quirk? Where has the quirk gone? Why can’t we have it anymore? Who said, no more quirk?

And why, when the occasional quirk slips through the quirk police, is the individual concerned pilloried for not knowing how to play the game?

Tony Abbott is the price we pay for eradicating quirk from our political character. Apart from all his other faults, and they are many, the man has absolutely no quirk. He is a bland mouther of hideously outdated sermonising platitudes. He is, like a dust bunny in a dark corner, entirely without substance. Every move he makes screams “Look at me making this move! Look at me being Prime Minister! Look at me threatening Putin! Look at me finding lost aeroplanes! Look at me Peta, look at me!”

And we all look, baffled, and afraid for our country.

Unless we’re in the hot tub

 

Hot Tub

Samantha the Maiden, Abbott, and the supernatural powers of marriage

27 Dec

Sitting in a cafe in Cooma the other day with nothing to read I flicked through the Sunday Telegraph of December 21. Always a mistake looking at the Tele, but my judgement about everything has been off for months, so what’s one more error.

There I came upon a piece by Samantha Maiden on Senator Jacqui Lambie titled “I’m addicted to my Botox.”

I didn’t have a great deal of interest in that revelation but what did catch my eye was Ms Maiden’s description of the Senator “admitting she’s been single for more than a decade” and later in the paragraph “Ms Lambie admits she’s been single since her thirties.”

Admit is a tricky little word. It’s usually understood to mean confess, as in the offender admits. I’m at a loss to understand why a woman has to admit she’s single, or why Ms Maiden poses the suggestion that Ms Lambie has committed an offence against society by using that word to describe the woman’s relationship status.

Then a few days later came this opinion piece in the Age, questioning Prime Minster Tony Abbott’s references for new Social Services Minister Scott Morrison.  He is a decent human being and is married with two little children, the PM declared, ergo the man has learned a depth of compassion the unmarried without children cannot possibly have achieved that more than qualifies him for his new portfolio.

There are echoes here of claims made by Morrison’s previous area of responsibility, the Department for Immigration and Border Protection that simply by being an elected member and Minister of the Crown, Morrison has a unique and profound insight into community standards and values that qualify him to exert unprecedented powers while remaining absolutely unaccountable to anyone.

I have to say here that I disagree with the author of the Age piece when he claims that not having children If anything … strengthens your sense of understanding and empathy for others. That’s just as silly as the claims he’s disputing.  Understanding and empathy aren’t dependent on one’s relationship status or parenthood, and it’s just as possible to argue that both situations can lead to all kinds of negative behaviours that aren’t in the least understanding and empathic.

Having spent Christmas time with seriously feral toddlers I can attest to that. The youngest, who has just learned to say “No” and “Mine” spent much of his time snatching his brother’s presents off him then trailing round the house, overwhelmed by the noisy stupidity of it all, alternately chanting and whining  “No No No” and “Mine mine mine” at nothing and no one while his brother yowled hideously at the injustice of it all. Tested beyond endurance by our little ones, the adults took to drink. That we all got through it and still love each other is no testament to our compassionate natures but rather to the quality of the champagne.

Anyways, what both Maiden and Abbott’s comments emphasise is the ideology subscribed to by public representatives of the orthodox political and social class whose beliefs continue to dominate Australian society. All one has to do is demonstrate one has a relationship and children to be accepted. How one actually behaves within the family unit is beside the point as long as one is seen to inhabit one.

And this brings me to Richard Flanagan’s Booker prize-winning novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Unfortunately I am far from home in the Snowy Mountains and don’t have my copy with me so can’t directly quote. At one point Flanagan lists the horrors of a long marriage in which neither partner has ever really known the other while one has been chronically unfaithful, and the stunting effects on the offspring of such a union. He ends this lengthy account of unexamined misery with two words: A family.

It’s chilling.

Here are some mountain wild flowers  to cheer you up.

Wildflowers

Abbott: Labor made me do it.

15 Dec

article-5898-hero Independent Australia

Prime Minister Tony Abbott promised this prior to gaining office :

…and the commitment that I’ve been giving to the Australian people is that there’ll be no surprises and no excuses under a Coalition government.

Source: May 21, 2013 – Joint Doorstop Interview, Bundamba, Queensland

It was, of course, a ludicrous promise to make. There is nothing as constant as change, and any credible adult government must deal with change that may at times cause decisions to be reviewed, and commitments to be re-assessed. The Abbott government has spectacularly failed to demonstrate this fundamental adult coping skill, not least in Abbott’s fantastical undertaking to protect us from the inevitable surprises of inevitable change in the first place.

No surprises

While on the one hand using that refuge of scoundrels the old “situations change” line to excuse broken promises and commitments he never intended to keep, Abbott continues to cling to his no surprises and no excuses mantra. He can’t have it both ways. If he wants unexpected situational change (surprise) to explain his backflips, he can’t have a commitment to no surprises as well. Hell, he needs surprises to explain his changes, because nothing else credibly achieves that.

Promising citizens there will be no surprises is elephant excrement, unless we’re all about to die, in which case we can reasonably expect there likely won’t be anymore surprises, not in this world anyway.

Annabel Crabb noted that in the first three months of Abbott taking office his party could well be renamed “The Surprise Party.” The broken promises and unexpected decisions just keep on keeping on.

No excuses

If he wants to continue to claim that his is a “no excuses” government, Abbott is going to have to stop blaming the ALP for every difficulty the LNP encounters. They’ve been in office for over twelve months now. No government can blame its predecessor indefinitely, otherwise political rhetoric will come to consist entirely of what they did made us do what we did, or some infantile variation on that tiresome theme. Anyone involved in the management of children knows the old he/she started it is a path to hellish infinity that endears the instigator to nobody.

“The ALP made me do it” is no way to run a country. If you are making changes because a situation has altered since you took office, how is that the responsibility of the previous government? If these changes are genuine, why not clearly explain them? Any other approach is an excuse that insults the intelligence of all thinking people.

LNP narrative consists almost entirely of unpleasant surprises and excuses for them, or really only one excuse: the ALP made us do it.  Did this government know nothing before it was elected? Was it so naive, so ill-informed, so out of touch that it took office as if newly born into political life? Doesn’t it know every government has to deal with the decisions of its predecessor and that we don’t actually care about that, it’s part of their job description and we expect them to stop whining and get on with it?

This government urgently needs to grow up and understand the serious responsibility they have towards the  citizens of this country. We need a government that has at least achieved tertiary standards of development, and not one that is still toilet training in day care.

Too little, too late, Prime Minister

12 Dec

Abbott on Women's Work

 

 

Prime Minister and Minister for Women Tony Abbott yesterday claimed that criticisms of his Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin, are “sexist.” His observation followed reports that relations between Ms Credlin and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop have soured, leading to them being described by one frontbencher as “two Siamese fighting fish in the same tank.”

The frontbencher didn’t mention the gender of the fighting fish.

It’s hilarious to hear Tony Abbott accuse his own party of sexism. It can’t even be taken seriously enough to be given the label hypocrisy. It’s a blatant attempt to adopt principles the man simply does not have and never will. Abbott has still to grasp that he has no credibility, and no amount of politically correct language co-option is going to give it to him.

There’s nothing he can say about finally contributing to the UN Green Climate Fund, “sweating blood” for constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians, or protecting women from sexism that will provoke anything in the community but scoffing guffaws.

Abbott has left his run for decency far too late. His dire unpopularity seems to be causing a spin-doctored rethink in his politics, however, it’s painfully evident that any rethink is not a change of heart, but a superficial shift of attitude designed to haul his sorry arse out of the sinkhole of public contempt in which it has become increasingly mired.

So he can try to sell it again, one presumes.

 

Abbott on women

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