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Male violence against women. Call it what it is.

20 Nov

This piece in Daily Life yesterday by Jane Gilmore raises some important questions about how we talk about male violence against women.

One of the most startling revelations is the difficulty and the expense of discovering, in Victoria at least, the gender of the majority of perpetrators of violence. While information about the victims of such violence is publicly released, information about the offenders is not, and Gilmore had to pay $700 and wait nine weeks to obtain this information. What Gilmore eventually discovered about the Victorian statistics is this:

In 2013/14

* 87% of homicides were committed by men.
* 98% of sexual assaults were committed by men.
* 83% of non-sexual assaults were committed by men.
* 90% of robberies were committed by men.
* 92% of abductions were committed by men.

I strongly recommend you read the article for a more comprehensive view of these figures.

I don’t want to start a gender war. But these statistics are irrefutable. I can understand that many men, especially those who are not violent towards women and don’t engage in criminal acts, might feel unfairly attacked and defensive when women raise our voices in protest against male violence. However, I would urge you not to waste your energy feeling unfairly attacked (you aren’t nearly as unfairly attacked as we are) and defensive. Most women don’t think all men are violent. But there’s no escaping the reality that most of the violence in our society that comes to the attention of the authorities is perpetrated by men.

If you can get outraged by the king hit and rush in laws overnight to increase penalties for the very few instances of that particular type of male violence, how do you explain the ongoing refusal to be equally and more outraged by the fact that sixty-eight women have been killed in Australia this year, by men? (from Destroy the Joint’s Counting Dead Women project.)

We have a Minister for Women, though you’d never know it. He’s about as useful as the non-existent Science Minister. His name is Tony Abbott. Tell him you want to hear what he intends to do about all the women dead this year and those yet to die, at the hands of violent men.

DV1

Pyne. Turnbull. Hubris.

20 Nov

christopher-pyne-1200-vertical

When the goddess of language came up with the word hubris meaning overconfident pride or arrogance that incurs the wrath of the gods who then punish the offender, mightily humiliating him, she had Christopher Pyne in mind. Look:

Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence, accomplishments or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power.

Yes, that could apply to most of the government. Sad, isn’t it?

Pyne’s latest caper is setting up an online petition to protest ABC production cuts  leading to the loss of jobs in his own electorate, as a consequence of budget restrictions imposed by his own government. His move has been described as hypocritical, but I think of it more as calculatedly provocative, designed to arouse precisely the reaction it has. Pyne loves above all things to cause outrage. It makes him feel powerful. He needs it like he needs the air he breathes. This is not a good characteristic for a politician in government.

Pyne’s move is also an example of conservatives adopting left-wing methods of protest in a “look, we can do this too” attempt to undermine those methods with ridicule, and it is a co-option that is intended to render them puny and ineffective.  However, as the tactic is blatant, hypocritical and just plain stupid, all it succeeds in achieving is a few laughs for the in-group and in this case, Pyne momentarily in the spotlight where he most loves to be.

Like his leader and many of his colleagues, Pyne has all the substance of a stick of fairy floss, or cotton candy as our friends in the US like to call it. I am struggling to find any sign of vision, or genuine concern for anything other than their own power in the government, no matter at what cost to the country and its citizens. This consuming self-interest  is destroying them, individually and collectively, as consuming self-interest always will eventually. Hubris.

Malcolm Turnbull for example used to have some authority in the world, a short term in the Abbott government has transformed him into the most hollow of hollow men, as if the virus of ambition has worked on him like psychic Ebola, leaching out of him all his vital fluids and leaving him dry as a bone in the Western Desert. The man is pathetic and utterly dismissible. He was not always thus.

A good leader inspires and embiggens her or his followers. Abbott is slowly but surely destroying every decent thing there might once have been in the members of his government. The man is satanic in his talent for destruction. In opposition he was very noisy about it. As Prime Minister he is far more stealthy, and even more lethal.

The pointlessness of Tony Abbott

18 Nov

tony-abbott-1

 

Tony Abbott’s most outstanding feature is, for me, his pointlessness. I look at him and I think, why? Why?

He reminds me of nothing as much as an unreconstructed Catholic priest. Old-fashioned paternalism. Meaningless clichés and stultifying slogans that won’t withstand a moment of even the mildest interrogation. Delivered with a most eerie absence of affect, indicating that even he doesn’t believe what he’s parroting. Speech designed to repress thought, smother questioning with a patronising blanket of faux fatherly authority that in truth means, don’t you question, we know best for no reason other than we are in possession of the power.

All designed to sap the public political life force, to grind it into submission the better to impose the kind of authoritative, unquestioned governance that is every conservative’s wet dream.

And what of his own life force? Think of him in opposition. Daily fired with destructive energy, unstoppable in his attacks, alive in every cell, thriving on abuse, insult, deceit, manipulation and spin. As the country’s leader he is a mere shade of his opposition self, far from what any country needs in today’s dangerous world, unremarkable except for his staggeringly stupid public utterances, thought of in  Europe as “the blunder from down under,” our very own suppository of wisdom, though whatever is in that suppository is very far from wise.

That he is dangerous in his pointlessness is incontestable. Abbott believes he is wise. He believes he is a statesman. He believes he has a god-given authority that imbues all his decisions with rightness and righteousness. He believes himself to be appointed and guided by his god. He is, to the very core of him, a devoutly religious man, and from that central belief system, all things Abbott flow. For Abbott, the point of him is him, and god endorses that point.

You can take the man out of the priesthood. But you can’t take the priesthood out of the man.

 

CardinalwithhisAbbottWin

 

 

 

Domestic violence is torture and the UN Convention must be changed

12 Nov

On Monday night, representatives from the Australian government appeared before the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) as part of a current review into Australia’s obligations under its treaty. In their submission, our government argued, “As a matter of international law, domestic violence does not fall within the scope of the Convention … as it is not conduct that is committed by or at the instigation of, or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”

In other words, violence against women does not constitute ‘torture’. Clementine Ford, Daily Life

Unfortunately, the Convention against Torture reads as follows:

1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

Domestic violence does not constitute torture according to the UN Convention, so the Australian government representatives are correct.

What is tragic is that the Australian government is not arguing for an amendment to the Convention that will include domestic violence in the definition of torture.

Given that the Minister for Women, Tony Abbott, has shown no interest at all in the horrific abuses against women in this country, I doubt there will be any initiatives from Australia along the lines of amending the Convention.

 

Asylum Seekers: what it costs Australian governments to persecute stateless persons

12 Nov

 Asylum Seeker Three

 

The foreigner is the political precondition of the nation state… Costas Douzinas.

Australia, while remaining a signatory to the United Nations Convention relating to the status of refugees, long since gave up any pretence of observance of international human rights in favour of a nationalistic observance of state sovereign rights. State sovereignty permits governments the right to exclude persons the state deems unworthy of inclusion.

The power of the state to exclude is perhaps the fundamental state power.

Ideological, racial, economic and political factors are the criteria for deciding who is and is not included in the nation-state. As Hannah Arendt noted, statelessness is not a problem of geographical space, but of political space.

The stateless person has as their only descriptor the fact that they are human. Ironically, this strips them of their right to human rights, rights which are only available to them if they are citizens of a state. It is not enough to be human. One must also belong to a state in order to claim human rights. Arendt suggest that the only fundamental human right is the right to have rights. Asylum seekers who have a legitimate right to arrive by boat in Australia are stripped of the right to have rights once their vessel is intercepted by Australian authorities.

 

Stateless Persons UNHCR

Persons seeking asylum from persecution who attempt to access Australia by boat are singled out for exclusion, and though their method of arrival is perfectly legitimate under the Convention, they are criminalised and detained in off-shore camps. Detention camps on Nauru and Manus Island are all that is offered to de facto stateless persons, that is, refugees unable to claim the human rights afforded by citizenship. Persons detained in these camps are exempted from “normal” laws. The methods of addressing their plight are containment and repatriation, or resettlement in another country, rather than granting asylum and legal integration into the Australian nation.

This action against asylum seekers is justified as being in the “national interest,” an abstract concept in which the mystical “nation”  is prioritised over the interests of singular human beings who are dispossessed non-nationals, and therefore considered rightless.  The state is committed to protecting only legitimate members of the nation, the rights of asylum being in conflict with the rights of the state. There is in Australia no concept of offering sanctuary and refuge to those fleeing persecution who arrive by sea. Their loss of place in the world, their loss of belonging, has the effect of reducing them to physical objects, bereft of human dignity, because without rights one is not a person, one is not an agent in the public realm.

In reaction to this deliberate and systematic dehumanisation, asylum seekers held in detention camps on Manus and Nauru behave as did those held in mainland camps such Woomera and Baxter. They sew up their lips in a symbolic protest against the silencing of their voices. They harm their own bodies. They suffer depression and anxiety, and hopelessness. Their suffer the abjection of those who have ceased to belong to any state.

Asylum Seekers Two SMH photo

 

Sovereignty, like religion, is a constructed knowledge imbued with faux mysticism. The Abbott government’s “Operation Sovereign Borders” appeals to this pseudo-mysticism, offering citizens the opportunity to come together in unity, led by a concerned, fatherly government to protect our nation against the breaching of its borders by the unwanted, stateless foreigner. As Douzinas points out, there can be no nation state without the foreigner; one must have someone to protect oneself from in order to maintain the perceived power of sovereignty.

The asylum seeker is equally imbued with mysticism, of the most negative kind as the assumption is peddled that merely due to the fact of her search for asylum she is morally corrupt and corrupting. Her crime is breaching sovereign borders. She is used as a scapegoat to unite citizens and strengthen boundaries, ultimately supporting the ideology of sovereignty.

What we are doing in this country is wrong. The idea that we must treat people horrifically in order to discourage others from attempting sea journeys is morally corrupt. Action the state is legitimised to take against one group can be and will be extrapolated to other groups, when the state deems it in the national interest. When the fate of human lives is secondary to the rights of the state, we are all at risk.

Is it really in the interests of the citizens of this country that so many billions of taxpayer dollars are eaten up in the pursuit and detention of a relatively few people who arrive here by boat, in the pursuit of the maintenance of our sovereign borders? No, it isn’t. It is, however, in the political interests of both major parties. The cost to the taxpayer of pursuing these political interests is obscene, and it is rising, as this graph from The Conversation shows:

 

The Conversation

 

The major parties continue to persecute stateless persons seeking asylum and refuge, solely because of their method of arrival. Australia moves further and further away from the undertakings we made when we signed and later ratified the Refugee Convention. Human beings suffer appallingly in concentration camps, out of sight and out of mind. The matter of the future of stateless persons is a massive global problem, and one that will continue to increase. Australian governments have long thought it is a problem that they can continue to outsource to countries far less capable than are we of providing the possibility of a decent life to those who by no fault of their own, are dispossessed of the lives they once had. This cannot go on. In all conscience, it cannot go on.

Julie Bishop and the prism of gender

30 Oct

Gender Inequality

Look. Julie Bishop doesn’t have to call herself a feminist if she doesn’t want to. Her public disavowal of the very political movement that made her success possible says far more about her than it does about feminism. But her refusal to “look at the world through the prism of gender” is insane.

There is nothing in this capitalist world that should not be viewed through the prism of gender, especially if you are  a member of the bloody government. Bishop is one woman who has achieved success at the highest level because of a constellation of fortunate circumstances, including, I’m sure, hard slog. However, there are millions of women who slog just as hard in circumstances far less conducive than those experienced by Ms Bishop. “I’ve had a very privileged upbringing as many women in Australia have,” she says. “We don’t fear violence, we don’t fear hunger. We don’t have the degraded life that many women around the world suffer.”

Um, what? There are millions of women and girls in Australia who fear violence. There are thousands of women and girls  in Australia who go hungry, and are dependent on charity for food and somewhere for themselves and their children to sleep. They don’t count as women? The “we” Bishop speaks of excludes anyone whose life experience does not coincide with her own, a lack of imagination that is a given in conservatives circles.

I don’t give a toss if Bishop doesn’t call herself a feminist. I’m a bit challenged by that myself these days, when feminism seems to have become about the right to sculpt our labia, and binge drink till we vomit in the gutter just like the blokes do. But the ignorant refusal to consider the world through the prism of gender is a symptom of a self-absorbed, smug woman entirely out of touch with reality.

Apart from that, I’m wracking my brains to think of one thing, one single thing Bishop has ever said publicly that is interesting, original or enlightening. She’s like a bloody Stepford wife in the Abbott government.

Christ.

Everything is politics. Discuss.

20 Oct

In this piece on The Drum today titled “Labor misreads the politics of Ebola,” Paula Matthewson argues that the Opposition has misjudged its stance on the Abbott government’s response to the current Ebola health crisis. There was a momentary lament on Twitter about the term “the politics of Ebola” to which Matthewson responded “Everything is politics.” To which I responded “And that is the biggest problem we will ever have to face.”

Everything has a “politics” to be sure, but not everything is solely politics. Good governance, of the kind we have yet to see from the Abbott government, doesn’t reduce every situation to its politics, unless that governance is entirely dedicated to self-interest in which case it isn’t good, or even adequate. Yes, there is a political dimension to the Ebola crisis, and there is a humanitarian dimension, and an economic dimension as well. Privileging the political is of benefit to politicians and their extended entourage, but rarely does it benefit the broader community to have any issue reduced to only one of its dimensions.

This isn’t to criticise Matthewson’s piece, she’s clear about the dimension she’s focusing on. However, some of us nursed a secret hope that the Opposition’s critique of Abbott’s hardline position in refusing to supply boots on the ground in West Africa indicated its humanitarian leanings, rather than being merely the assumption of a conveniently contrary political position, but so bereft are we of trust in politicians we can’t be sure of any of their motives. Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten delivers his set lines with all the conviction of a wombat brought down by a tranquilliser dart, and while the Prime Minister performed superbly in opposition as the world’s best bovver boy, his affectless promises to shirtfront Putin at the G20 are a bad fit with his current manifestation as our country’s leading statesman. As my grandmother liked to say, you can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear, more’s the pity as the political landscape is currently littered with pigs’ ears, with barely a silk purse in sight.

It’s probably sadly true that every issue has become distilled to its politics, to the exclusion of any other consideration. So we treat asylum seekers abominably, break our necks in our urgency to become involved in distant wars, refuse to send medical personnel to assist with globally threatening diseases, and the rest, all because of political expediency. It has got to the point where to even raise humanitarian concerns will likely lead to a tsunami of mockery. Matthewson may well be right: everything is politics, and if that’s the case, that is indeed the biggest problem we’ll ever have to face.

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