My tiny hands are bleeding: Vanstone on protest

6 Dec
The Exceptional Amanda Vanstone

The Exceptional Amanda Vanstone

 

In yet another piece of bellicose dross on the thoughtlessness of protesters, former Howard immigration minister turned ABC broadcaster and Fairfax columnist (via ambassador to Rome) Amanda Vanstone, yesterday unleashed her inner curmudgeon in this indignant rant titled “The ‘look at me’ narcissistic politics of the left.”

On reflection, her curmudgeon aspect is not that inner, but let’s not digress into personalities.

Briefly, Vanstone suffered trauma when as a young woman, indentured to the Myer group, she was forced to walk the streets of Melbourne bearing a load of something or other tied up with string that cut into her hands so badly she was obliged to make occasional stops in order to lay down her burden on the pavements and give her tiny hands a break.

One day, she was prevented from enjoying even this small relief by a crowd of “well-fed” protesters, upset about Australia’s involvement in the US war on Vietnam in general, and in particular, the napalming of Vietnamese children.

The utter selfishness of them, whines Amanda, in anarchically denying her respite from pain, and quite possibly preventing other people from going to the doctor or shopping in Myers. Yes, there’s no question. Napalm Vietnam to kingdom come, but what is really wrong here is that some Australians are inconvenienced.

This has been the aggrieved tone of almost every comment I’ve read and heard since some WACA activists glued themselves to the gallery in the House of Representatives last week in protest against our torture of and other criminal actions against those who legally sought asylum in our country.

Of course, those asylum seekers, now refugees, also inconvenienced Australians didn’t they, in the manner of their arrival and then sewing up their lips and dying and suffering the worst mental health outcomes per capita of any group in the western world. Now we have to bear global chastisement, and we still haven’t managed to get rid of them to a third country.

We speak often on the topic of American exceptionalism, but rarely do we mention Australian exceptionalism. It’s time to start.

Australian exceptionalism believes we ought not to be put upon by any of the world’s estimated 60 million refugees fleeing conflict and violence, for our sovereignty is of far more consequence than any human life, even those lives we have ourselves contributed towards endangering.  This is the meta level of Australian exceptionalism.

Australians who don’t care about refugees must not, under any circumstances, be inconvenienced by those who do and take to the street or parliament house to express their concerns at the actions of our recalcitrant governments.

This actually applies to public protest in general: there is a class amongst us who abhor protest, it makes their tummies tingle and all they want is to make it stop because they can’t stand a discomfort worse even than having parcel string leave weals on your palms.

This class puts their comfort ahead of every other human concern, and so we have Vanstone and her ilk believing they are deserving of greater consideration than napalmed Vietnamese children and tortured refugees.

It isn’t “lefty” concern and protest that’s the problem here. It’s entitlement, and an unfounded belief in exceptionalism, both national and individual, that is corroding public discourse and daily life. Nobody is entitled to a life free of all obstacles, be they large or small.

Being delayed or otherwise temporarily inconvenienced by protesters who are legitimately expressing their freedom to speak  on behalf of those who are silenced is a very small obstacle and for mine, those who cannot tolerate even this much without complaint are psychologically and emotionally dysfunctional, and they urgently need to get themselves seen to.

 

 

 

 

 

How to “dissolve the fog of lies” Try truth?

4 Dec

 

 

 

Fog

Low-lying fog

 

There’s a piece by ABC journalist Julia Baird in The Age yesterday lamenting the demise of “objective facts” in public discourse.

While politicians, lobbyists and supporters initiate fact-less commentary, the media is largely responsible for propagating a narrative based unquestioningly on emotion and personal belief, rather than fact.

Baird cites the ABC’s managing director Michelle Guthrie as an aficionada of “true diversity.” Diversity in newsrooms is one method of dispersing the fog of lies, Baird argues, on the grounds that most are staffed by middle class white men and a few middle class white women. There is apparently a correlation between middle class white men and women, and fact-less reporting.

It seems to me that one must be middle class in order to score a gig in mainstream media: perhaps it is the class, rather than the colour that is the dominant factor here. Perhaps we need to get rid of the middle class if we want to disperse the fog of lies.

This would be an interesting piece of research.

While I heartily agree with the need for diverse voices, calling up Guthrie as a proponent of objective fact and diversity is astounding, given that one of her first acts was to terminate the ABC’s fact checking unit, closely followed by the axing of the world-renowned Catalyst science program, resulting in the loss of a rare team of scientists talented enough to master the delicate art of conveying complex information in a half hour segment. Science broadcaster Robin Williams described this carnage as “morally and spiritually bankrupt.”

Baird concludes that: There is no simple solution for how to dissolve the fog of lies and fake news that has blurred our political landscape.

Well, actually, it’s not that difficult.  Try telling the truth. Try prefacing reports such as the ludicrous segment on Pauline Hanson’s big day out on the Great Barrier Reef with a caution that “what follows has no factual content.” This simple statement shouldn’t get anyone into trouble. It’s the truth.

The fog of lies and fake news that has blurred our political landscape hasn’t done it all by itself. Note the passive voice. Media hasn’t had a hand in this. The fog has done all the blurring. Damn that low-lying fog. Let’s make people of colour responsible for lifting it.

Baird and the rest of the media can angst about this post fact reality all they like, but it’s a circle jerk. The answer is in their hands, so to speak. In the US, trust in media is at its lowest since 1972, and I’m betting there’s a similar lack of trust in Australia. The longest journey begins with the first step. Try truth. We might eventually get to like you again.

Dear politicians. Parliament is not your safe space

2 Dec

peaceful_protest

 

The reaction of the political class and some journalists to the protest in parliament house on Tuesday is an example of the kind of arrogance and entitlement that has alienated many in the US from their major political parties, and voting patterns would indicate a similar disaffection is well under way here.

Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek advised citizens that if we wish to engage in the democratic process, we need to get ourselves elected. This remark seems to indicate that the democratic process belongs to politicians: citizens, once we’ve elected them, are excluded.

On reflection, this is pretty much what democracy has become in Australia. We elect a government based on many factors, among them promises made by candidates. Government then disregards the very undertakings that enabled their ascendance, and voters are thus excised from the “democratic” process. Plibersek isn’t that far off the mark. Citizens participate only insofar as we vote. After that, we do as we’re told.

Protesters are invariably described in pejorative terms, as if protest in itself is regarded as contemptible by politicians. One Nation’s Pauline Hanson, for example, claimed that she and her staff could “smell the protesters, they hadn’t even bothered to shower.” This is in keeping with the long association of legal protest with “the great unwashed.” During an Occupy Melbourne demonstration, former Human Rights Commissioner for Freedom turned Liberal politician Tim Wilson, tweeted that peaceful protesters should have the water cannons turned on them. Insults such as grubs, vermin, losers are hurled at peaceful protesters: a metaphorical association with “dirtiness” the political class assumes it is entitled to protection from.

The arrogance of the political class, their belief that they are superior to the citizens who elect them and pay their wages, nowhere reveals itself as starkly as in their attitudes to legal protest.When protest occurs in the House at Question Time they are confronted on their own turf, turf they believe to be sacred and protected from the citizens who put them there, citizens who are now irrelevant until the next election.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten claimed Tuesday’s protest was “the exact opposite of democracy.” Really? I thought protest was democracy in action, and  protest in the House of the people the fulfilment of democracy’s promise.

Journalist Malcolm Farr also stated on Twitter that if we want to speak in parliament we should get elected. Or perhaps we should all become journalists with press gallery credentials.

The “us and them” narrative has shown itself in all its ugliness, in these reactions. Perhaps parliament ought to be sacred ground, perhaps the HoR ought to be regarded with the reverence ideally due to democracy’s engine. But a House and a parliament is only as good as the people in it, and it’s been a long, long time since we’ve had good people driving our democracy train.

The only power we have, in between elections, is the power of peaceful protest. Take it right up to them. Protest in the House politicians have so thoroughly defiled.

Peaceful protest is not terrorism, nor is it the threat of terrorism, though they will attempt to frame it as such in an effort to suppress. Politicians want to be protected from the sight and sound of dissent. They want Parliament House to be their safe space. It isn’t. It belongs to everyone. This is still a democracy, Ms Plibersek, Mr Shorten. Shame on you.

No politician can occupy the moral high ground on QT protests

1 Dec

moral-high-ground

 

I have very little time and a whole lot of fury, so here goes.

Driving home from Lismore this afternoon I heard Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Leader of the Labor Party and the Opposition, deliver a lecture on how the protesters at Parliament House yesterday threatened our democracy and prevented debate by interrupting  question time for some forty minutes.

I’ve read the same drivel from Tim Watts MP, and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

To describe question time as either *democratic* or a *debate* is as fanciful as just about anything I’ve heard lately.

Politicians in the HoR were prevented from engaging in the abuse, vilification, insult, lies, duplicity, theatrics, dissemination of misinformation and the hypocrisy that constitutes question time in the Australian parliament. As far as I know, such behaviour is neither democratic nor can it be dignified with the title *debate.*

It’s more than a bit rich when politicians who are responsible for the imprisonment, suffering and deaths of refugees who legally sought sanctuary in this country, attempt to claim the high moral ground on the alleged disruption of democracy by people protesting those same politicians’ inhumanity, and callous courting of xenophobic votes.

The only people who have denigrated our federal parliament are the politicians who work in it. The only people who have denigrated our democracy are the very people to whom it is entrusted.

Both the ALP and the LNP have broken international law, domestic law, and committed and continue to commit atrocities against people who legally sought asylum in this country. They belong in The Hague, every last one of them.

Not one of them gets to lecture the citizens of this country about alleged threats to democracy caused by us protesting their perfidy.

There is no difference between the stand taken by Plibersek, Watts and Shorten, and that taken by any perpetrator who points the finger of guilt at the whistle-blower rather than him or herself. It is a more serious crime to protest in the HoR than it is to torture refugees?

And please note, *torture* is the word used by the UNHCR and Amnesty International to describe successive Australian governments’ treatment of refugees.

The situation on Manus and Nauru is acknowledged throughout the world to be intolerable. If you’ve got those crimes  against humanity on your conscience, you have no moral ground left on which to stand.

 

 

 

Elites, the ABC, & hyena vomit.

30 Nov

 

hyena

 

It was with some disbelief that I watched ABC TV coverage of One Nation leader Pauline Hanson’s quick trip to the Great Barrier Reef last week.

Accompanied by that renowned and reasoning mind, Malcolm Roberts, Hanson’s trip was designed to *prove* that claims of coral bleaching are highly exaggerated, stupid. Look: it’s perfectly fine.

The two senators’ (yes, they are senators in our government and we laugh at the US for Trump) claims are based on Hanson ripping out a few stems of healthy coral and waving them triumphantly at the slavering cameras. That she was diving some thousand kilometres south of where the most serious bleaching occurs hardly seemed to matter.

However, the point of this post is not to argue against gross stupidity, always a thankless task. Gross stupidity should be ignored, in my opinion, as it will not respond to anything that does not wholly support its position. You cannot change grossly stupid people. You may well interpret this as an elitist comment, and I don’t fucking care. By my definition intelligence requires a capacity to listen, weigh evidence, and if necessary be capable of change. It is enabled and enhanced by education, but has nothing at all to do with higher degrees. One of the most grossly stupid people I’ve ever met sailed through university at the age of sixteen.

In our current zeitgeist anyone possessed of a modicum of smarts is verbally abused, even by our millionaire Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (see, money doesn’t make you elite either, apparently) as being elite. Unless of course you’re a sportsperson, when being elite is a good thing. For the rest of us, the PM, following Donald Trump, has redefined the meaning of *elite* to describe anyone who doesn’t agree with him.

Be that as it may, what I want to know is, what were the ABC’s motives in giving this pathetic piece of theatrical trash a whole swag of time on the 7.30 Report? Reason tells me the show is watched largely by *elites* who will become enraged and complain, turn off the telly, bang their heads on the coffee table in frustrated despair before turning off the telly, or, if they have a gun, shoot out their screens which would have been my preferred method of dealing with yet another inundation of grossly stupid, unchallenged, bereft of facts and reason hyena vomit. Except I don’t have a gun.

I think I have a partial answer to my own question. The master plan is to make the ABC intolerable for anyone who does not agree with the government and other lunatics. Then it will be entirely co-opted as an arm of government propaganda, which it very nearly is. I am convinced of this after the recent removal of absolutely ace broadcaster Jonathan Green from Sunday mornings, along with the most original voice in media, First Dog on the Moon. To be replaced by the utterly colourless, utterly boring, utterly talentless but CONSERVATIVE, Tom Switzer.

How is it that conservatives, neo liberals and fascists are so astoundingly humourless and bereft of creativity? Rhetorical question.

Obviously, what is required here is a moneyed elite or elites who are prepared to fund alternative media that will contest the mind destroying drivel now served up nightly by the ABC. A home for the talent the LNP government is, like all good fascists, doing its best to silence. I do not believe in gods, but I am praying for this outcome.

In the meantime, we should all unceasingly point out to whoever will listen  that fact-less hyena vomit is not *balance*, or anything like *balance.* It is fact-less hyena vomit. It is making this country exceedingly dumb. And there is nothing fascists like more than a dumbed down population over whom they have absolute control.

By the way, here’s the latest on the coral bleaching. Not from hyenas.

 

 

March of the white men children.

21 Nov

white-pride

 

“We are proud that there’s absolutely no balance whatsoever. No gender balance. We’re all white. We don’t believe in things like gender balance.”

Thus spake the white man Mark Latham at the announcement of the new panel show on Sky,  featuring former Howard front bencher and proud white male Ross Cameron, and Rowan Dean, white as editor of The Spectator magazine. The show will be called “Outsiders” (owing to them all being white and male, a disadvantaged and marginalised demographic in this country) and broadcast on Sunday mornings, immediately after Barrie Cassidy’s “Insiders” on ABC TV.

The trio also like to be known as “Trump’s Aussie Mates,” and fervently hope for a Trump landslide victory in 2020.

Latham breathlessly expressed the trio’s vision: “We want Trump to abuse the media and for them to abuse him back and we want more lectures from actors…”

I don’t know that anyone has yet characterised Donald Trump as a man-child, however, he seems to me the perfect poster boy for the breed, and it comes as no surprise that Latham, Cameron and Dean have at last found the pack leader they’ve so long been looking for, the man who endorses their regression.

Normalising television shows based on the spectacle of abuse, delivered to us by white men children who are opposed to gender balance (no emotionally mature male would oppose gender balance, let’s face it) may well be our future since Trump let white men children everywhere know that from now on shoving your white dick right in everyone’s face is more than ok, it’s what real men do.

It will end in tears, these things always do, the question is, how long will it take?

Pray for premature ejaculation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You want it darker? We kill the flame

20 Nov

Georgia O'Keeffe

 

Stephen Bannon, chairman of the fascist platform Breitbart News, has been appointed chief strategist in President-Elect Donald Trump’s new administration.

In apparent response to fears that a darkness has fallen on the US since Trump’s election, Bannon countered: “Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power.”

(Here’s a useful glimpse into the men Trump is considering as his most senior staff.)

The binaries dark and light, good and evil, have long dominated western political discourse. George W.Bush and his axis of evil; Tony Blair and his messianic conviction that the invasion of Iraq and the destruction of Saddam Hussein was a just and holy intervention: the bright light of democracy beamed into the abyss of despotic darkness by the forces of good.

There’s no nuance in the narrative, no shades of grey, and the lack of hue hasn’t changed with the ascension of Trump, it has merely been reversed. Trump doesn’t pretend the light and the good are superior ideals to which we should aspire. Darkness is good. Evil is power. There’s no longer any need to mask the dark with false light, as did Blair, Bush and sycophant John Howard. Trump has dragged us from those layered duplicities into his unmitigated and unmediated darkness. A million candles burning for the help that never came. You want it darker? We kill the flame.

I’m quoting from Leonard Cohen’s final album, released just weeks before he died. As with all great work, it’s both intensely personal and universal. I’ve been listening to it for days, not just because he’s dead and I mourn his loss, but because the album seems to speak with uncanny prescience of our current transition into a Trumpian world.

At first blush the work is about Cohen’s approaching death, but it is also about the dying of our irresponsible innocence, our smug carelessness, our neglect, our wilful blindness to how the Blairs, the Bushes and the Howards led us inevitably to Trump and Bannon, leaders of the killers of the flame, leaders of those who want it darker.

Trump’s vision for the US (and necessarily the world) Fox News, 2014

You know what solves it? When the economy crashes, when the country goes to total hell and everything is a disaster. Then you’ll have a [chuckles], you know, you’ll have riots to go back to where we used to be when we were great.

Bannon, 2016 interview with the Daily Beast:

I’m a Leninist, Bannon proudly proclaimed.

Shocked, I asked him what he meant.

Lenin, he answered, wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.

Meanwhile, at home, the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia found it necessary to release a press statement expressing concern over inflammatory remarks made by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on the subject of various “cohorts” and “nationalities” welcomed to Australia by former PM Malcolm Fraser. These refugees, Dutton asserts, may well be responsible for producing “terrorist” children and grandchildren. Fraser should have been more careful, Dutton (no doubt emboldened by Trump’s success) claims.

And to top off an increasingly dark fortnight, the UN Human Rights Council has appointed the Saudi ambassador to oversee women’s rights world-wide. The Ambassador will have the right to vote on, participate in and influence the following:

Elimination of discrimination against women
Equal participation [of women] in political and public affairs
Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice
Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences
Accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women
The right to a nationality: women’s equal nationality rights in law and in practice
Addressing the impact of multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and violence in the context of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance on the full enjoyment of all human rights by women and girls
Annual full day debate on women’s rights
Annual half-day panel on the integration of a gender perspective

Saudi Arabia has among the worst, if not the worst, record on women’s rights in the world.

What I’m seeing in our new picture is even less nuance than we had before, which wasn’t all that much, we could have done with a bit more. Like an individual who decides to thoroughly trash his or her life as a means of effecting change, so Trump and Bannon see disaster and destruction on what could well be a global scale, as a legitimate method to correct perceived wrongs. We’re post fact, post truth, and post nuance.

You want it darker?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Losing privilege is now a crime against humanity.

18 Nov

 

rights

 

It’s becoming rather tiring, listening to privileged people with large platforms complain that their freedom of speech is being denied, and we have to get rid of anti discrimination laws that allegedly silence them.

As far as I can tell such people are incapable of dealing with criticism of their speech, and are unable to distinguish between that criticism, and the oppression of silencing. Criticism is not denial of free speech. It’s criticism. I don’t think they know this, which is surprising.

Neither are you being “silenced” if you don’t have the guts to speak. That’s not denial of free speech, it’s lack of courage. The “I can’t say anything because of political correctness” whine is an admission of cowardice.

“Stop political correctness” actually means, “make the world absolutely safe for me to say whatever I like without fear of criticism” which is in itself interesting, because the “stop political correctness” cohort also seems to oppose the idea of safe spaces for people who might actually need them.

The complaint of denial of freedom of speech currently emanates overwhelmingly from those incapable of tolerating a challenge: they wish to engage in bigotry without anyone calling them on it. Somewhere, in one of their developmental stages, somebody hurt them by giving them critical feedback for bad work and they never got over it.

Apart from all that, it is rather ludicrous when someone with a platform regularly provided and paid for by Newscorpse et al (not to mention those privileged by their presence in parliament) complains they have no freedom to speak. Cowards, every one.

There were mixed reactions when the Human Rights Commission dropped its inquiry into the Australian’s cartoonist, Bill Leak, after complaints were lodged against him under the now infamous Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act

I found the cartoon under scrutiny (you can see it in the first link) obnoxious, an expression of white paternalism, privilege and assumed supremacy. I also believed the complaint would fail under the exemptions permitted by Section 18D, and I can’t see how that potential failure could do anything to further the cause of those racially humiliated by Leak in his cartoon, not for the first time or the last, I might add.

Freedom of speech is a fundamental human right, without which many other rights collapse. We also live in a country in which it is regrettably necessary to have a Racial Discrimination Act, because we are racist, and because the concept of freedom of speech is frequently abused to justify racially motivated attacks.

The two are not always compatible. Section 18C is perceived by some as a threat to free speech or, as Attorney-General George Brandis so memorably put it, the freedom to be a bigot. However, nobody is prevented or can be prevented from being a bigot: they just need to be aware that there may be consequences,  just as there are consequences, positive and negative, for every other choice we make.

I’d prefer to see the words “offend and insult” in 18C changed to “vilify.” I think it’s extremely difficult to make laws about offending and insulting: vilification is far more specific and contains within it the notions of offence and insult. Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs is not opposed to rewording the Section.

The concept of freedom of speech is in danger of becoming grotesquely distorted by those who have no need at all to be protected from the loss of it. But this is the neo liberal way: co-opt the safeguards put in place to protect people from vilification and exploitation, and frame yourself as the victim. Losing privilege is now a crime against humanity in the new world order. Oh, yeah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t give Trump a chance

15 Nov

noam-chomsky-neoliberalism

 

There are situations that arise from time to time in which to act with civility may cost you your life, metaphorically or literally. If you haven’t encountered such a situation may your good fortune continue, however, I’d argue that the world has collectively come up against just this challenge with the endorsement of Donald Trump as President-Elect of the United States.

Over the last few days I’ve read what to me are profoundly stupid calls from the US, from Australia and from other countries, to “give Trump a chance.” He may “settle down” once ensconced in the Oval Office. Actually being president may “tame” him. He “only campaigned as he did to win,” not because he really believes all that stuff about punishing women who have abortions, deporting “illegals,” building a wall, banning Muslim immigration, dismantling the health care system, and men’s freedom to sexually assault women.

The wall is interesting. It exists only as a metaphor, claimed more than a few commentators, it is the wall in our minds. How baffled they must feel to hear that Trump is already discussing materials.  Yes, a wall is a clichéd metaphor (we don’t need no education on that) and, what a surprise, it also has a concrete reality. Ask any number of nations about literal walls. Donald is no innovator in this field. Yet many in the US media did not see this, as well as much else including Trump’s victory, coming.

Here in Australia we have a “ring of steel” to protect our borders, and I feel fairly confident this is a metaphor but who can say for sure anymore?

Australians need to proceed with caution when pointing our shocked fingers at what people who wish to be civil now describe as “only” Trump’s means to his end. Decades of torturing asylum seekers and refugees who arrived here perfectly legally by boat, because an influential number of voters believe it is acceptable to do that. Supporting both major parties in their transgression of every human decency and the UNHCR Convention as well. We are disqualified from planting our flag on the means to an end high moral ground. As was pointed out by Naomi Klein, Trump is at this point still talking about a wall. We already have one.

Trump was “only campaigning as he did to win” has to be a justification given life and voice by those who value winning above all else. Have they forgotten already the vileness of Trump’s campaign, or do they minimise the horror, given that it brought him victory? Is everything secondary to winning? Trump thinks so. When questioned on his campaign tactics he shrugged off all criticism. “I won,” he said.

This piece by George Monbiot describes Trump as the product of a neoliberalism that found its political expression through Margaret Thatcher’s enchantment with the theories of Nobel Prize winning economist Frederick Hayek. Competition and winning the competition is the neoliberal credo: democracy comes a very poor second.

He (Hayek) justifies this position by creating a heroic narrative of extreme wealth. He conflates the economic elite, spending their money in new ways, with philosophical and scientific pioneers. Just as the political philosopher should be free to think the unthinkable, so the very rich should be free to do the undoable, without constraint by public interest or public opinion.

Trump certainly seems set upon doing the undoable (in the sense of the morally and ethically undoable) without constraint of any kind.

Women well know the limits of civility. Asking a man set on harming us to please don’t rarely works, for example. Civility doesn’t work with despots and tyrants and psychopaths, and people who care only about winning. They will sneer at your civility, indeed, they will crap upon it.

Donald Trump is a man entirely willing to cause harm in order to achieve his goals. How any one can doubt this for a nano second is beyond me, given the nature of his campaign and the vile forces of hatred he has unleashed already against anyone who isn’t white and male.  So if Oprah Winfrey advises us to have hope, as she has, I say, WTAF is wrong with your head, lady?

Giving Trump a chance means overlooking or accepting his manner of campaigning, which in itself should disqualify him from high office. Giving Trump a chance means normalising the most base of human instincts. Giving Trump a chance means endorsing a savagery towards our fellow humans that will eventually deaden every communal and societal instinct we possess. Giving Trump a chance means surrendering to the dehumanisation of ourselves and others, a path with which we in Australia are already overly familiar through our treatment of refugees and Indigenous peoples.

This is not the time for civility. This is the time to call a spade a fucking shovel, and refuse to allow Trump’s narrative to be normalised, as it will be in this country unless we fight back, by politicians and media, many of whom perceive great gains in assisting the elevation of Trump’s narrative.

As Monbiot concludes, those who tell the story run the world. Let it not be Trump’s story, and the story told by those in this country who share his beliefs.

Let’s not give him, or them, a chance.

 

On Hanson’s claims that women lie about sexual assault

14 Nov
Michaelia Cash, Minister for Women, hugs Senator Pauline Hanson

Michaelia Cash, Minister for Women, hugs Senator Pauline Hanson

 

My default attitude to Pauline Hanson is that my life is too short to spend much time contemplating her, however, an interview on Sunrise (no, I’m not linking) in which she gloated about the Trump victory and sputteringly claimed that women who accuse him of sexual assault are liars and women in general should toughen up when a man, uninvited, strokes our breasts and grabs our pudendas enraged me to the extent that I have to address it.

Aside: Sunrise enrages me as well, as does all breakfast television: who the hell wants to start the day with overly-cosmeticised women in tube frocks, and self-congratulatory men in nifty suits cackling & exclaiming, not me, I’d rather listen to the parrots & wattle birds brawling outside my window, they make more sense. Somebody thoughtfully sent me a clip of the Hanson debacle. It’s the only thing that’s consistently distracted me from Leonard Cohen up and dying.

Hanson articulates (?) a distressingly common attitude by some women towards claims of sexual assault, an attitude I confess confounds me. Their sympathies default to the accused man, innocent until found guilty as of course he is, but here’s the thing: so is his accuser. It’s quite something to accuse a woman of lying about sexual assault when you weren’t present, have limited knowledge of the circumstances, and are basing your judgment entirely on your feelings for/impressions of the accused, and/or dislike of the woman.

In the event that you are wrong, you’ve further harmed an already seriously harmed woman and added to the entrenched narrative that women lie about being sexually assaulted. That narrative is challenged in the link, and it’s well worth a read.

I recently watched the BBC Channel Four series National Treasure, inspired by the ghastly revelations that celebrities such as Rolf Harris and Jimmy Saville sexually assaulted and molested women and children during their highly successful careers. Paul Finchley, played by Robbie Coltrane, is a celebrity comedian charged with the historical rape of a minor, and sexual assault of another woman. Marie, played by Julie Walters, is his blindly devoted (and controlling) wife, who has long since come to terms with his many infidelities on the condition that he tells her about them.

Finchley’s two accusers are torn to shreds by the defence counsel, demonstrating why so many women do not pursue action against their attackers. However, what for me is most riveting in a series whose every moment is absolutely riveting, is the gradual admission by Marie to herself that her husband has “many layers,” his most obvious being that in which he plays the role of a harmless, loving husband and father, as well as a much-loved public figure.

With great and admirable courage, Marie slowly allows herself to see what has always been present in Paul, but brilliantly disguised: the sexually predatory, self-obsessed, emotionally immature man who believes, if he even bothers to think about it, in his entitlement to gratify his needs and desires whenever and however he sees fit.

(This acting in this series is beyond superb, btw. I haven’t recounted much of the story, in case you haven’t seen it. If you have any doubts about the complexities of sexual assault, this series will go a long way towards unpacking the life-shattering effects those complexities have on everyone involved.)

The point is that even wives and girlfriends of sexual predators can live in ignorance and denial of their partners’ “hidden layers,” so how does Pauline Hanson or anyone else know if a woman is lying about a man sexually assaulting her?   Of course she doesn’t, and what’s so deeply troubling is the need by some women to deny the experiences of other women, when it comes to the actions of men.

Hanson is the current poster girl for this attitude, in her ludicrous defence of Trump, and her vicious attacks on women who’ve made claims against him. Hanson is a member of the Australian parliament. She has a platform and she is inspired by Trump’s victory.  So, much as I resent spending even part of my morning writing about her, I can’t ignore her poisonous views. They have to be challenged. She has to be called.

It is never, ever acceptable to accuse a woman of lying about sexual assault until one knows, beyond a reasonable doubt, if she is.  It is never, ever acceptable to base one’s judgement on dislike of her, or affection for the man she’s accused. Until we as a society get past defaulting to the assumption of false claims there will be no justice for women, and perpetrators will remain free and unaccountable.

 

 

 

 

Leonard Cohen. Donald Trump.

12 Nov

leonard-cohen

 

I will not forget the day Donald Trump became President Elect of the USA, because it’s the same day Leonard Cohen died, and that is almost too much of a coincidence to bear.

It seems excessive, that one should have to deal with the arrival of Trump and the leaving of Cohen in the same twenty-four hours. As the poet departs the soulless prepare to take over: it’s a bad succession and I can’t help wondering if there are too many of us who took the poetry for granted and lost our focus, and while we weren’t paying attention the hollow men moved in.

The two men, Cohen and Trump, represent extreme points on a continuum of human possibility. The former mined the infinite richness of love, sex, loss, grief, joy: the mysteries of feeling, experience and meaning. The latter reduces human experience to its most crude and its most base: not for him the mystical transports of a thousand kisses deep, his desires are far more readily satiated.

It’s the poet’s task to find words that express the inexpressible. The poet/musician Cohen found the chords as well and while he didn’t think of himself as possessing a voice of any great interest, like Bob Dylan his voice, its timbre and rhythms, its hesitations and its forcefulness, its yearning, its anger and its joy, struggled to describe what it is to be here, to be human and divine, to love and to hate, to fully live this inexplicable life on earth.

While Trump knows the power of words as well as Cohen did, he uses them to conceal truths rather than unveil them, and there is no music to be found in him that makes any sense. Trump is discordant, senseless, unconnected, deadly. Cohen knows this darkness:

Give me back my broken night
my mirrored room, my secret life
it’s lonely here,
there’s no one left to torture
Give me absolute control
over every living soul
And lie beside me, baby,
that’s an order!
Give me crack and anal sex
Take the only tree that’s left
and stuff it up the hole
in your culture
Give me back the Berlin wall
give me Stalin and St Paul
I’ve seen the future, brother:
it is murder.

I’m mourning Cohen and I understand that this mourning is complex. That he should die at this precise moment in the history of the world is significant. It’s as if his death is an alert to examine what might have died unnoticed in us, leaving an absence of feeling that permitted the ascension of Trump and those like him. They represent a world without poetry, and I use the word in its broadest sense, that of a sensibility that permits the recognition of another’s humanity, vulnerability and frailty as being common to all of us rather than the characteristics of an alien other, to be despised and denied. A sensibility that recognises tenderness towards others and our earth as strength, and not as weakness ripe for exploitation. Cohen died, but what Cohen represents has been slowing dying in many of us, and perhaps a poet had to die before we could understand what we’ve been losing.

There’s a more personal sorrow: Arnie, my  husband, loved Leonard and bore a remarkable physical resemblance to him, especially, I realised today looking closely at images of Cohen, their hands and fingers. They shared a similar sensibility and they were both Jews, with a certain ambivalence towards their traditional culture and religion. Cohen spent five years living as a monk in a Buddhist monastery, Arnie cherry-picked his religious observances and like Cohen, never quite turned his back on his heritage. I think most days Cohen sang in our house.

So for me, Cohen is inextricably bound up with our love and our life. Losing Cohen is like losing another part of us, and I am staggered, still, to find that there are yet more aspects of us I must lose and grieve over.

Cohen left behind a body of work from which can be constructed a soundtrack for a revolution. This is the man’s miraculous gift: he created a soundtrack for the most intimate of relationships, and a soundtrack for a world that must, if it is to survive, find poetry again. In that poetry must be found the means to overcome the hollow men who today, the day after the poet’s death, the day after the most hollow of hollow men was appointed leader of the most significant country in the world, seem disastrously, unassailably powerful.

Come healing of the reason, come healing of the heart: 

 

 

Leonard Cohen. Democracy.

11 Nov

Leonard Cohen died yesterday, our time. 

He died on the day the USA elected Donald Trump as its next President.

Cohen wrote this song called Democracy.

Listen, & weep.

 

Women in a Trumpian world

11 Nov

trump-women

 

World markets took a frightful tumble when the US President-Elect turned out to be Donald Trump, something I found temporarily mystifying as you’d think they’d be elated at the prospect of a billionaire business man in the White House, what could possibly go wrong?

However, after months of repulsive orations President-Elect Trump managed a nano second of “statesmanlike” rhetoric, made possible, I believe, by the euphoric release of claiming victory after the mounting excitement of witnessing his electoral college votes accrue to the point of certainty.

Buoyed by this split second of Trumpian civility, the markets rallied. I’m guessing we can expect these wild fluctuations to become a regular thing over the years of Donald’s incumbency, given the man’s well-documented volatility.

All well and good for the markets, but what about the ladies?

Only moments after it became apparent Trump was on the road to victory, a marauding mob of young males in a Sydney University bar began chanting “Grab them by the pussy that’s how we do it.” There have since been many reports on social media of women in the US being intimidated by white males, inspired by Trump’s advice to treat women like shit.

There are hundreds of Trump quotes on women, including lengthy extracts from his interviews with Howard Stern, and they all demonstrate ways in which to treat women like shit.

Trump’s elevation to leader of the western world gives license to men who want to treat women like shit. This attitude was no barrier to him achieving his goal, and it confirms what we’ve long suspected: women are not believed to be as fully human as are white men. We are allowed to do more than we used to be allowed to do but how we are regarded and treated is not an issue important enough for many (including women) to consider when electing a president.

And whatever gains we’ve made, we’ve made because they allowed us to. Let’s not forget that.

(Trump also thought Muslims should be treated like shit, an opinion shared by enough Americans to be of little consequence in the electoral contest. However, I understand his master plan to ban all Muslim immigration has vanished from his website which must feel like a betrayal to Pauline Hanson and George Christensen, but there you go.)

The western world just became a much more dark and difficult habitat for women. It would be my hope that our own government will stand up for us against the new president’s misogyny. And then I look at our government and I see there is absolutely no hope of that.

We have a very long way to go before women are recognised as equal in western culture. We are blocked by the men who are threatened by equality, and who will take the opportunities legitimised for them by Trump to express their fear and hatred in university bars, on the street, in the privacy of their homes, in workplaces, in the world. Such men are unrelievedly ignorant and stupid; overtly and covertly brutal. They’ll be celebrating right now, as their leader prepares to move into the White House.

Trump’s ascension will have a ripple effect in every western country. We have already seen Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull shamefully search for similarities between himself and Donald. We are both business men, he said, and the new president will be pragmatic, as business men always are.

However, a true pragmatist would work to establish equality, because a true pragmatist would instinctively grasp the immense gains awaiting us in equality, rather than the abject losses of discrimination that are currently our established norms.

A true pragmatist would refuse to countenance the incomprehensible loss to society of treating women like shit. But we don’t have true pragmatists in charge. We have the men who treat women like shit.

Fasten your seat belts, ladies, & up your flaps. We’re in for a bumpy ride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living with Trump

10 Nov

 

president-trump

 

The single most important asset Australia must have to adjust to the new world order we face from next January is a government capable of dealing with the considerable challenges a Trump presidency will bring to us and to our region.

We don’t have such a government. What we have is a gaggle of at best mediocre, self-interested, belligerent geese, irreconcilably divided amongst themselves. None of them have grasped that they are no long in opposition, and none of them have shown the slightest talent for governance.

Their most observable attribute is an aptitude for wedging: this attribute has its place but when it’s the lone core strategy it’s an alarming signal that the government doesn’t actually know how to do anything else. It is also an adolescent triumph that achieves nothing of worth, but does make them feel temporarily clever. The Turnbull government’s need to feel individually and collectively clever by discovering new ways to wedge its opposition reveals a profound emptiness where vision, policies and governance should be.

It’s like being governed by teenagers whose brains have not yet fully formed.

As things stand nobody, including our man in Washington Ambassador Hockey, has the slightest idea of what is going to hit them, and how to deal with it when it does.

The lunatics in parliament such as Abbott, Bernardi, Christensen, Hanson, Roberts and the closet Trumpites (of whom there are more than a few, I hazard to guess) have not yet grasped that Trump is not of their faith. The man is not an ideologue, he will have no more interest in their brand of ideological claptrap than he does in that of his own party. Trump is an opportunist who sees himself as the leader of a movement, not an ideology, and he will cherry pick whatever he needs to maintain that movement’s momentum and his own pride of place at its head.

Indeed, it’s my opinion that he’s done this throughout the lengthy campaign: telling every group he’s addressed whatever he believes they need to hear in order to persuade them to support him. What he will actually focus on when he becomes president is anybody’s guess.

I’m not getting into hand wringing, although I was temporarily disturbed by the Trump family’s collective reluctance to genuinely embrace their patriarch when they all gathered onstage to claim victory. Nobody seemed to want their body close to his. This tells us much about the man.

There’s nothing to be done except pay serious attention as to how we’re going to negotiate this brave new world without going under. Kim Beazley, who preceded Hockey in Washington and how I wish he was still there, made the alarming judgement that our region is likely to be the most severely affected by a Trump presidency. We are ill-equipped to face our future, given the inadequate government we’ve got.

For a start, we desperately need a real foreign minister. As I heard Richard Bronowski remark last evening, Ms Bishop was very well made up and spoke calmly and collectedly, the only problem was she said absolutely nothing. I’ve been observing precisely this for years now.

Will they grow up in time? Are they capable of maturing? Because if ever we needed the adults in charge, it’s now.

As for the woman thing, I’ll leave that for another post.

 

Humour and class

5 Nov
Only a bird in a gilded cage...

Only a bird in a gilded cage…

 

My grandfather, who along with my grandmother raised me until I was seven, started work in a North Yorkshire coal mine when he was thirteen.

He was exceptionally smart and exceptionally funny, and it was from him I learnt a profound disdain for the preenings of wealth and power, and the sense of entitlement generally apparent in the political and ruling class. He also shared with me his contempt for the bourgeoisie who tirelessly aspire to the privileges of their betters, and act as their agents in the control of lower middle and working class rabble.

For my grandfather, these contempts were instinctive and visceral, rather than acquired from education. He loathed pretension of any kind, and his mockery was ribald and witty.

So it came naturally to me when I saw these two of images of mining magnate Gina Rinehart (First Lady of the Birdcage, as some media put it) to guffaw from the gut:

Pride

Pride

 

Before the fall

Before the fall

 

I shared my mirth on Twitter and it wasn’t long before I was set upon by people telling me I wasn’t nice, and it isn’t nice to laugh at another’s misfortune.

Well, I’ve never pretended to be nice (I would rather be described as satanic than “nice,” that insipid word that damns with faint praise) and my contempt for Rinehart is such that I felt not the slightest twinge of conscience laughing at the image of her misfortune.

Had I been present, though I cannot imagine any circumstances in which I would be in the “Birdcage” (what the actual fuck is that, by the way, I loathe aviaries, what kind of twisted individual enjoys looking at imprisoned creatures with heinously stunted lives, the metaphorical implications of the term are entirely negative what is wrong with the ruling elite entirely rhetorical question don’t feel you have to answer) had I been present at Gina’s Fall, I would have called an ambulance and waited with her till it arrived because no one should be left alone in pain and shock, but as I wasn’t, as I was only looking at a photo and I knew she’d suffered no ill-effects, I laughed my fucking head off.

One anonymous man told me it was “undignified” for anyone to laugh, and I told him I couldn’t comment because I’m not the dignity police and he said I was “gaslighting” him and he totally has absolutely no fucking clue about what that term actually means.

There can be little more bourgeois than rushing to defend the ruling and political class against the humour of those they exploit. It’s the Stockholm syndrome: the defenders can’t believe in their own exploitation.

I finally lost my temper with the Twitter twats, and reminded them that Ms Rinehart would metaphorically cut all their throats in a nano second if she believed that act might bring her even a smidgen of gain. You don’t have to lower yourself to her standards, somebody replied.

I am hard put to understand this equivalence. Laughing at an image is in any way comparable to the economic and political manipulation of entire classes of people in the service of personal wealth and power? Get a grip.

The ribald mockery of the political and ruling elite is an act of subversion, as my grandfather instinctively knew though he was unlikely to use that word. It was left to his granddaughter to go to university and acquire the discourse that gave language and context to what her grandfather had taught her to know in her gut.

There is also the matter of gender, in this instance mine. Being a woman, I endure expectations of niceness generally not imposed upon those who bear their genitals on the outside of their bodies. I had an answer for that: You can stick your fucking expectations of fucking niceness up your fucking clackers, I wrote. That touched a nerve, and got a lot of retweets and favourites.

The political and ruling class are, in general, ludicrous as well as dangerous. The bourgeoisie who protect and support them in the hope of favours and privilege are no less ludicrous, and no less dangerous. One of the few ways available for the exploited and controlled to express dissatisfaction is taking the piss. There’s also violent revolution and the tumbrels, but I don’t think that time has arrived yet.

 

 

How can Turnbull make refugees second-class citizens in another sovereign state?

31 Oct

second_class

The Turnbull government, no doubt believing it hasn’t yet done enough to convince the Hansonites they should vote for it, has now decided to create a secondary class of citizens by restricting the movements of refugees from Manus and Nauru, should they be settled in third countries. While everyone else in those third countries is free to apply for a visa to visit Australia, refugees are not.

The reason for this discrimination is that they arrived in Australia seeking asylum on a boat.

I can barely get my head around this much insanity.

This creation of second-class citizens does not, both Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull assure us, contravene any domestic or international law, and it does not breach our responsibilities to the Refugee Convention.

I confess myself at a complete loss. I do not understand how this can possibly be the case. The refugees have committed no crime. Their status has been awarded to them by the UNHCR. Yet Australia can, apparently with no legal ramifications whatsoever, cast them as second class citizens of another sovereign nation by refusing them the same freedom of movement other citizens of that nation enjoy.

The New Zealand Prime Minister has already declined to collude with this plan, declaring that his government will not co-operate in creating a secondary class of New Zealand citizens whose movements are restricted by Australia. Surely what Australia is proposing is contrary to every democratic principle?

And how can any country that is a signatory to the Refugee Convention co-operate with the Australian government’s restriction on the free movement of potential citizens who have committed no crime?

Any ideas?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Mr Turnbull. With regard to respect.

29 Oct
Counting Dead Women. Destroy the Joint

Counting Dead Women. Destroy the Joint

 

For quite some time now, you’ve been speaking in mellifluous tone on how lack of respect for women is at the root of violence towards us, with particular reference to domestic and family violence.

There are times when listening to your respect defence I imagine I’m in a courtroom. Your political rhetoric is in the nature of a legal argument, designed to convince, persuade and coax a jury into accepting your narrative, and so extend leniency to your client.

Perhaps I might stretch the analogy and describe your client in this instance as The Perpetrator of Domestic Violence. Your Honour, he is not a bad man, he merely needs to be taught how to respect women, at least sufficiently not to kill them.

I assume you believe that you are respectful of women. I don’t believe you are. I believe that to be respectful of anyone requires not only rhetoric but action, that is, doing everything you can for them when you see they are being mistreated by others. Failure to do this is, in your terms, disrespectful. In mine, it is criminally neglectful.

Action has a two-fold effect, Mr Turnbull. It assists the woman under attack, and it demonstrates to the perpetrator how respect is  a practice as well as a theory.

You are in a unique position to walk your talk in the matter of respect, yet you seem to be running on the spot.

If you truly respected us you would make funding available for the frontline services we so desperately need to save our lives, our health, our well-being and our children’s well-being when we are faced with a violent man who will harm us, and/or kill us. That would be respectful of you, Mr Turnbull.

That you continue to refuse to make this money available is an act of extreme disrespect for our well-being, and for our very lives.

If you truly believe that lack of respect for women is the root cause of the domestic violence perpetrated upon us, then as leader of this country you must demonstrate active respect for us, if you sincerely want to bring about change. Otherwise you are on the side of the perpetrator.

In depriving us of refuges, community legal centres and ongoing specialist services to assist us and our children to recover from unspeakable trauma, you are signalling to the perpetrators that they are free to continue their savagery, and not only are they  likely to get away with it, they are enabled by you to continue, as we have no avenues of escape.

If our government cannot respect us enough to provide the assistance we so desperately need, why should a perpetrator?

I think it was Leo Tolstoy who wrote that respect was invented to fill the place where love should be. His heroine, Anna Karenina, died at his authorial hand, like so many of us die at the hands of the men who control the narrative. You are the man who controls our narrative. You have the power to change our stories. All that is required of you is that you respect us enough to provide resources for our shelter, protection and assistance.

Until you can do that, Mr Turnbull, your rhetoric of respect is a lie, and you, sir, are a liar.

Sincerely, Survivor.

 

 

 

 

 

Government v Triggs

24 Oct

 

messenger-season

It’s hardly President of the Human Rights Commission Gillian Triggs’ fault when the Australian government is the worst human rights offender that Commission has to deal with.

When a government acts criminally, one hope for recourse is that statutory bodies will refuse to collude with or enable that government’s criminal behaviour, and indeed, that such bodies will name and shame the errant government.

The Turnbull government’s accusation that Professor Triggs is “politicising” her role is, like much of this government’s spin, farcical. For a start human rights are inherently political, and secondly all actions by governments are also inherently political. If the Turnbull government is determined to transgress the human rights of refugees currently abandoned to a highly uncertain future on Manus Island and Nauru, Professor Triggs has no option but to hold it accountable, otherwise she isn’t doing her job.

Of course any commentary Triggs runs on the government of the day is necessarily political, favourable or otherwise. There are instances in which even the silence of someone in her position is political.

Is it the government’s expectation that Triggs will ignore human rights abuses because they are perpetrated by the government? In what country are we living?

Triggs isn’t acting in isolation. Amnesty, the UNHCR, professionals who’ve worked on Manus and Nauru, refugee advocates, some thirty nation states, and this editorial in the New York Times speak with one voice to Australia’s refugee detention policies, and that one voice is damning.

There’s no doubt that in some instances, including the New York Times editorial, there’s blatant examples of the pot/kettle affliction, however, that does not invalidate the truth of the protests against Australia’s policies.

In a classic abuser pattern of behaviour, the Turnbull government continues its efforts to destroy the messenger, in this case Professor Triggs, though the government isn’t fussy, the tactic is transferable. The first concern of abusers is to silence accusers, and the government has displayed this pathology innumerable times, not only in relation to the secrecy with which it surrounds Manus and Nauru and threats of retribution, including imprisonment, against anyone who might transgress those secrecy demands.

Last week, the Border Force Act was amended to remove a comprehensive list of health professionals from the threat of two years jail for speaking publicly about conditions they encountered whilst working in the detention camps. The Turnbull government was forced to make this particular backflip because health professionals have spoken out regardless of the intimidation, and even this collection of political grotesques can see the folly of prosecuting them. However, they can still go after Gillian Triggs and deprived of other targets, they’ll no doubt double their efforts.

(Note to Turnbull government: never wise to make threats you can’t carry out. Makes you look wussy.)

Obviously, the solution for the government is to cease persecuting refugees. The pursuit of Professor Triggs is a distraction: don’t look at the refugees, look at this woman who is (allegedly) overstepping her role. It’s a greater offence to (allegedly) overstep a role than it is to torture refugees. Again, we see the classic abuser spin: it is a far worse crime to speak out about abuse than it is to perpetrate it.

It’s been messenger season as long as I can remember, in private and in public life. The paradigm is deeply entrenched in our society. It starts at the top and it doesn’t trickle down, it roars like a river in flood. It’s time to turn it around and put the focus where it belongs: on the perpetrator. In this case, the Turnbull government.

Stand with the messengers. Stand with Gillian Triggs.

 

 

 

Letting loose the inner Trump

21 Oct

trumps-promise-to-women

 

The footage of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s bus ride with Billy Bush in which he owns sexual assault as his preferred method of engaging with women he finds desirable, led to a tsunami of accounts by women who’ve been similarly treated when men let loose their inner Trump.

Journalist Karen Middleton published her account of sexual harassment and assault by MPs and male colleagues in The Saturday Paper.

Leah McElrath broke down Trump’s non-apology for his actions into a series of astoundingly succinct tweets every woman should print out and stick on the fridge as a guide to common manipulative tactics used by abusers.

In fact, Trump has done all of us a great favour. His global performance of alpha male entitlement has given us a textbook example of predatory male behaviour, without us having to bother reading the textbook. He’s created an atmosphere in which women in our millions can comment on our experiences of such behaviour and, in many instances for the first time, give it a name. He’s outed both himself and the toxic masculinity from which predation springs in a way nothing and nobody else could. For this we can be relieved. There can no longer be any doubt that to adherents of that toxic masculinity, women are prey.

Trump also sorted something that has deeply troubled me for the last couple of years. I’ve written on this blog and elsewhere about my childhood sexual abuse and the PTSD that is its consequence. So when I met online friend David in person for the first time I knew he knew my history. When he asked me about it in the cafe I was discomfited: it seemed neither the place nor the time, however, part of my psychological damage from that time is that in certain circumstances I’m unable to make an assessment of my own best interests, so I briefly answered his questions and also told him of my lifelong struggle with PTSD.

When we left the cafe David grabbed me, pulled me to him, kissed me and put his tongue in my mouth. It was one of those moments in which you can’t get a handle on what is actually happening because what is happening is so unlikely. Then it’s over.

I’ve never been able to make sense of why, only moments after listening to an account of prolonged childhood sexual abuse and subsequent lifelong PTSD, a man would grab a woman he’d just met and put his tongue in her mouth.

Until I read a discussion between Donald Trump and Howard Stern. Troubled women, Trump asserts, deeply, deeply troubled women, give the best sex:

She’s probably deeply troubled and therefore great in bed. How come the deeply troubled women, you know, deeply, deeply troubled, they’re always the best in bed?”

Stern said damaged women are “looking for love, they’re looking for positive affirmation, they’re looking for a father figure who will love them and tell them they’re wonderful and they’ll never be enough.”

Well I have a friend, Howard, who’s actually like a great playboy, I mean, I don’t say this about men, this guy does very well, Trump said. He runs silent, runs deep as they say, like a submarine. He will only look for a crazy women. He says, ‘Donald, Donald, please, please, I only want the crazy women.’”

“They’re desperate,” Stern said.

Reading this exchange was like an epiphany. I understood why David had been so overwhelmed by desire he’d felt compelled to grab me and stick his tongue in my mouth, even though you’d hope a man might think twice about violating a woman who’d just spoken about childhood sexual abuse and lifelong PTSD.

But hey, a deeply troubled woman can turn loose a man’s inner Trump, and he can’t help himself  he has to grab her and stick his tongue in her mouth.

Vulnerability turns him on. Damage turns him on. It’s deeply, deeply sexy.

It’s a relief, really, to have my experience explained by Trump and Stern. It’s a relief to know it’s a predator’s thing and how else would we know so publicly, so accessibly, unless men like Trump and Stern shared their opinions?

We’ve known for a long time that women who experience childhood abuse are highly vulnerable to re-traumatisation. But I doubt it’s ever been so clear that this is because there are men who seek us out, specifically because we’ve been damaged.

Think on that, if you can bear to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image

Charlotte Pass today

20 Oct

img_3484 img_3502 img_3504 img_3514 img_3530 img_3544 img_3551 img_3564 img_3565

You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go

14 Oct

bob-dylan

 

We’re having dinner at the Molong pub on our way to Canberra, and then to the Snowy Mountains for a month.

We’ve been driving for nine hours on the back roads, avoiding motorways and highways and listening to Bob Dylan because today he won the Nobel Prize for Literature and we’re stoked, and we need to revisit everything he’s ever sung, which you can’t actually do in nine hours but we’ve given it our best shot.

There’s an entertainer at the pub, he’s a little stout and red-faced with silver chains round his neck and he’s singing stuff like The Proclaimers I’m on My Way, and Elvis’s Suspicious Minds, and Joan Jett’s I love Rock n’ Roll, and there’s a woman wrapped around the verandah post, leaning over the singer and going “uh huh” every now and then in relation to pretty much nothing. She’s a little pissed and pretty happy and the singer’s trying to pretend she isn’t there. The sun’s gone down, it’s getting chilly in the beer garden and I wrap myself in a woollen shawl, drink another glass of wine, and consider asking the act if he’ll sing some Dylan.

As stoked as I am by Bob’s win, I’m also sad because if there’s one thing my beloved husband would have wanted to live long enough to hear, it’s that Dylan won the Nobel prize. Babe, if you can hear me, you were right.

Dylan was part of the soundtrack of our decades-long love affair, and Arnie’s knowledge of the man was encyclopaedic. He did a radio show on Sunday afternoons on 2SER just about Dylan. We went to every concert we could, and we only ever walked out of one, at the State Theatre in Sydney when Bob’s performance was so excruciatingly late and then so excruciatingly bad, even we couldn’t hack it. Something to do with drugs in the dunny, I don’t know.

I don’t ask the performer at the Molong pub to sing some Dylan, instead we walk back to our motel and eat chocolate and drink green tea in bed. I’m trying to think of which song was ours, Arnie’s and mine, but that’s the thing about Dylan: there was a song for every shifting phase, even the dark ones, maybe especially the dark ones.

Arnie always came back to You’re going to make me lonesome when you go as his song to me. Which is ironic, because in the end he went and I’m still here and still singing:

I’ll look for you in old Honolul-a
San Francisco, Ashtabula
You’re gonna have to leave me now, I know
But I’ll see you in the sky above
In the tall grass, in the ones I love
You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go

I know there’s all kinds of arguments against the Nobel prize for Bob Dylan. Some of them I probably even agree with. But I don’t care. What he wrote decades ago, personal and political, is as applicable today as it was then, his body of work is vast and varied, and I’ve never anywhere come across images of the kind Dylan comes up with.

As Mick Jagger said, Thank you Bob.

 

 

The debate that told us all about about sexism. In case we weren’t sure.

11 Oct

trump_debate_stalk_rtr_img

 

It’s difficult to imagine a man finding himself in the same position as did Hillary Clinton in the second debate yesterday.

When did you last hear of a man being held responsible for his wife’s alleged sexual crimes?

When did you last hear of a man centre stage in a political  forum, with his wife’s alleged sexual victims as invited audience members?

Aside from Bill Clinton’s alleged sexual crimes, and aside from Donald Trump’s lascivious objectification of women including his own daughter, yesterday’s debate in itself could not have more clearly enacted the sexism endemic in western culture.

When challenged about his attitudes to women Trump reacted by arguing that Bill Clinton is worse, and then went on to list all the things he believes are more important than sexually assaulting women, managing  to further demean us in that tacky investigation into the relativity of suffering.

What Trump unsurprisingly fails to appreciate (and many others male and female share his lack of perception) is that the objectification and sexual assault of women and girls originates in a collective mindset that is so accustomed to dehumanisation it can justify any destructive action against anyone, should it be judged necessary.  If you are part of a dominant group that treats some 50% of your country’s population as lesser beings because they have vaginas, it’s not going to be difficult for you to do the same to anyone else who threatens your fragile sense of who you are, such as people of religions and ethnicities that vary from your own.

Yes, I know Trump seems far from fragile in his sense of self, however, there’s a psychological theory of over-compensation for fears of inadequacy that might be applicable here.

There was a point in the debate when Trump appeared to stalk Clinton, moving in very close behind her as she answered a question, looming, as if to remind her of his hostile presence. It was nasty, almost as nasty as the video tape of Trump leaving his bus ten years ago to meet a young woman he’d only just finished crudely sexually assessing. He asked her for a hug. In those few seconds we saw sexism, intimidation and violation played out: the young woman couldn’t refuse Trump if she valued her career, and so obliged him in his effort to vindicate his boastful claims of sexual irresistibility. She did this in complete ignorance of the crass conversation about her that had just taken place.

If you’ve ever been groped that vision would have caused you to shudder.

I don’t think HRC did very well in the second debate. How much of this is down to Trump’s psychological tactic of ensuring women linked in the worst possible way with her and her husband were present, and his focus on both Bill and Hillary Clinton’s alleged treatment of them and other women, I don’t know. I’m inclined to think quite a bit, as there is simply no other area in which Trump can outdo HRC. It seems she’s got the presidency in the bag, unless something inconceivably catastrophic occurs.

A woman who stands by her philandering man isn’t necessarily admired for that: some see it as more a demonstration of strength if she kicks the cheater out. Whatever your position on this, it’s a fraught topic for women. Hillary is entrapped in Bill’s mess, as women are so frequently trapped in the messes made by men in their lives. Trump is making the most of it, because at this point there’s really little else he can use to cause HRC public discomfort.

How interesting, then, that both candidates have to deal with sexual scandals. And what a comment on women’s place in the world that Trump’s scandals are his own, while HRC’s are those allegedly perpetrated by her husband.

Says it all, really.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Controlling women’s bodies. Trump & Pence.

9 Oct

trump-on-women

 

It neither shocked nor surprised me to yesterday hear a recording of US presidential candidate Donald Trump, made some ten years ago, boasting that his wealth and fame entitle him to grab women by the genitals, and kiss them without consent, because he finds female beauty irresistible:

I’ve gotta use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.

Men using their power to gain sexual access to women is nothing new. Bill Clinton has been accused of rape, sexual harassment, exposing himself to a woman who didn’t want to see the presidential penis, and of numerous affairs, the most famous of which involved White House intern Monica Lewinsky, and the most lengthy of which was, it’s said, conducted over some twenty-two years.

These matters are relevant a) because Trump repeatedly points to Clinton as being just as bad: Well, look over there, I’m not the only one who does it and b) because Trump has threatened several times to raise Clinton’s sexual history during debates with Democrat opponent Hillary Clinton, on the somewhat bizarre grounds that any woman married to an unfaithful man isn’t fit to be president of the United States.

HRC, goes Trump’s argument, has enabled her husband to sexually exploit women, therefore is as responsible for harm as is Clinton. This harmful enabling disqualifies HRC from challenging Trump on his attitudes to women because hers aren’t much better, particularly, Trump argues, as Secretary Clinton has allegedly pursued and intimidated some of the women with whom her husband enjoyed intimacy in an effort to ensure their silence.

There is some substance to the theory that tolerating deceptive behaviour is enabling that deceptive behaviour: the unfaithful spouse learns faithfulness is not a requirement for the relationship to continue, and there will be no catastrophic repercussions. I can only guess at HRC’s motives for choosing to remain in a marriage with Clinton, but I’m pretty certain that had they divorced she wouldn’t be running for President today, and she likely wouldn’t have been Secretary of State in the Obama administration either.

HRC is a pragmatist. Anyone running for presidential or other high office, male or female, must have that goal as their primary ambition and be willing to tailor his or her life to the demands of the race. Divorce and the failure it signifies in a country where religious beliefs about marriage and family hold great political sway, together with financial settlements that may reveal far too much about one’s circumstances are situations to be avoided, particularly if you are a politically ambitious woman.

It may well be that HRC long ago came to an understanding with herself that the anguish of betrayal was the price she’d have to pay for achieving her goals. She isn’t the first woman to come to this conclusion, and she won’t be the last.

There are women who find sharing life with a treacherous partner is more than they can bear and that they deserve better, as they do. The cycle of betrayal is a cycle of abuse. Married life with a man such as Clinton would be intolerable for me, but I’m not interested in political office and my priorities are living a life free from abuse and humiliation with a partner I can trust. HRC doesn’t appear to have been in a position (within the confines of the system she inhabits) to both achieve her political ambitions and live free from emotional and mental spousal abuse. She’s had to make choices.

HRC’s pragmatism does not in any way indicate an unsuitability for high office, quite the opposite I would have thought.

Trump’s attitude to women is vile, and it’s on the higher end of a vile continuum. He’s been caught on tape voicing his sordid desires and intentions: we know we’re dealing with a poster boy for sexism and exploitation. But think on this. Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, believes abortion to be “monstrous” and vows to do everything possible to prevent women accessing the procedure, including attempting to overturn Roe v Wade.  Should Trump win, Pence is next in line for the presidency in the event of some kind of Trump collapse.

Everywhere we turn, we find a man attempting to control women’s bodies, either through sexual exploitation and abuse, and/or control of our reproductive processes. Trump, Clinton, Pence are high-profile performers of a dominant culture that is still, despite its sophistication  and its claims to western superiority, profoundly contemptuous of women, and committed to denying our autonomy and our humanity.

I’m no fan of Hillary Rodham Clinton. There are, in my opinion, many concerns about her becoming the next president of the US. However, Bill Clinton’s sexual predation and the manner in which she’s chosen to deal with it are not among them. But hey, she’s a woman. On that fact alone she’s blameworthy, and Trump knows it.

 

 

 

Truth to Power. Part Two

30 Sep

So, let’s go through this tweet, phrase by anguished phrase.

“MSM truthers.” A truther is “a person who doubts the generally accepted account of an event, believing that an official conspiracy exists to conceal the true explanation; a conspiracy theorist.”

There are 9/11 truthers who believe the terrorist attacks were perpetrated by the US government;  Sandy Hook Elementary School truthers who believe the massacre was a “false flag” government conspiracy, Holocaust deniers, Obama birthers and so on.

Di Stefano attempts to delegitimise any inquiry into the narrative choices made by MSM, describing those who question perceived bias as “truthers,” and implying that merely questioning media choices is the act of a conspiracy theorist. Whether you find MSM biased towards the right or the left of politics, in either case you are participating in a conspiracy and you wear a tin foil hat. Therefore your concerns are invalid, and deserving only of mockery.

When any institution takes this as its default position towards questioners and critics, it has lost sight of its purpose and its parameters. MSM is not now, never has been and should never aspire to be above critique. The tactic of reacting to criticism by denigrating the critic is inadequate and defensive, and only serves to confirm the suspicion that there is indeed something rotten in the fourth estate.

When your mainstream media tell you you’re unhinged (or biased) for questioning them, they’re presuming a privilege to stifle rather than evaluate criticism. This is the antithesis of the values of a liberal democracy. Fortunately we have blogs and social media through which we can contest mainstream efforts to quash disagreement. That the mainstream media has no business quashing criticism in the first place is a fact that must never be forgotten.

Aged-out tribal boomers.

“Aged out” usually refers to a young person who passes an age where he or she is eligible for certain youth benefits, or must leave foster care. Obviously the term wasn’t used in this sense when linked to “tribal boomers” and I took it to be a disparaging comment on people over fifty who are perceived by Di Stefano to be “aged-out” of well, life, really and of participating in or contributing to anything considered by him to be relevant or important.

(I’m not sure about fifty, maybe it’s sixty, but I don’t think that much matters.)

It’s a thing, to blame boomers for a swathe of social difficulties, and to perceive that group as particularly privileged: the hippies who grew up to be successful capitalists and bought up all the houses as investment properties (taking advantage of negative gearing) leaving younger generations struggling to put a roof over their heads.

There are no doubt many boomers who fit that stereotype, however there are many who don’t. For example, hundreds of thousands of older women are expected to become homeless in the near future, and many of these are, in Di Stefano’s terms, aged out tribal boomers.

This is the danger of isolating human groups who have in common only their age, and then pitting them against one another: the real culprits, rampant capitalism enabled by corrupt government supported by complicit media, remain unacknowledged and unchallenged. Responsibility is deflected and as long as the populace is busily engaged in wars against a particular group: boomers, asylum seekers, bikies, feminists, irresponsible whining generation whatever who just need to stop buying coffee if they want a home, those who are actually responsible for society’s ills and have the power to address them, are not held to account.

It’s surely the job of MSM to bring us back to first principles, not to divide and set us upon one another for their amusement and the amusement of their masters.

While Di Stefano didn’t gender his aged-out comment, it is particularly dismissive of women. When did you last hear a man over fifty described as aged-out?

He also used a tweet from a  woman as an example, and it was me who started him off on his tantrum.

I suspect that when a man describes a woman as aged out, this is code for “no longer sexually interesting to me and therefore irrelevant.”

When challenged, Di Stefano responded:

Stinking up Australian politics

As I replied to Di Stefano when he posted his tweet: crap politicians stink up Australian politics, and I’d add to that, crap media who do a crap job are enabling the ongoing production of stink.

I think Di Stefano’s one tweet validates much criticism  of MSM: biased, inaccurate, pushing a bizarre and very personal agenda, defensive, arrogant, ill-informed, divisive click bait crap. I rest my case.

 

"sticks thumb under front teeth"

“sticks thumb under front teeth”

 

 

Truth to power. Part One.

29 Sep

 

truth-to-pwoer

The other evening I was musing on the mainstream media reporting and pursuit of Labor Senator Sam Dastyari over  the Senator asking a Chinese benefactor to cover his travel costs, and then making a supportive statement, contrary to both government and opposition positions, on China’s activities in the South China Sea.

I was comparing this to the relative lack of interest in pursuing Steve Irons, the WA Turnbull government MP who stole taxpayer money to pay travel expenses for himself and his new wife to their wedding in Melbourne and back to Perth. I tweeted this:

The first response was from a Fairfax journalist taking me to task for using the blanket term “MSM.” After hooting a little at the notion of a journalist complaining about the use of “blanket terms” I acknowledge that the term, like all blanket terms, is less than perfect, although most of us use it to signify traditional media as opposed to new media.

There are some very good journalists working in mainstream media, without whom we’d be even more in the dark than we already are. Fairfax, the ABC and the Guardian are home to most of them. Yes, the ABC. There are still some exceptional people there and one can only imagine how they survive.

However, I wasn’t about to list in my tweet every media outlet not pursuing Irons to the same extent it pursued Dastyari, and I stand by my initial impression that the two incidents were handled very differently.

I then received this tweet from Mark Di Stefano of Buzzfeed. I’ve never considered Buzzfeed to be mainstream media so I wasn’t referring to them, however…

 

It is true that Irons didn’t reward the taxpayer for footing his wedding travel bill, as Dastyari rewarded the Chinese. It’s also true that both major parties are significant beneficiaries of Chinese money, for which they are presumably expected to provide favours in return. So why single out and hunt down Dastyari when the Turnbull government Foreign Minister, for example, received an iPad, airfares and accommodation, and a bunch of government MPs scored Rolex watches? All of these people are far better placed to further their benefactor’s interests than was Dastyari (who after all said something nobody much bothered to listen to) and to do it far more covertly.

It’s also true that politicians thieving from taxpayers has become normalised, and without the added spice of potentially treasonous remarks, Irons’ theft was of comparatively little consequence.

This, for mine, is the heart of the problem. “Ordinary” thieving from taxpayers is par for the course in politics, meaning politicians are held to a much lower standard of honesty and punishment than the rest of us. I’d like to know why.

For example, if you are caught thieving items from a supermarket you are very likely to be charged by police, even if you put the items back on the shelf and say you’re sorry. Not so much when politicians rip-off taxpayers. If they are caught, they pay it back and that is the only consequence they face.  They’re still thieves, but they are protected thieves.

No answer to any questions from Buzzfeed, and I’d terminated my conversation with the Fairfax journalist who’d lost his head and started telling me I was “wrong and you can’t face facts because of your bias.”

Interesting, I thought. I’m perceived as biased because I’m questioning the difference in how two matters are handled, and he’s obviously assuming I’m a Labor fanatic because why would anybody who wasn’t politically aligned bother to ask such a question? This is what I mean about the normalisation of crime in politics. You can’t even ask about it without journalists assuming you are only doing so to create trouble for a party other than your own.

At this point several of my Twitter pals joined in to assure the traditional media representatives that I’m equally disagreeable to all politicians.

On Di Stefano’s subsequent points, 1) It’s cheering to see the MSM doing its job by breaking stories, but actually I was querying the subsequent pursuit, and 2) what???

Do you mean MSM don’t pursue unless a political party pursues first? I asked Buzzfeed.

I didn’t say that, came the reply. So what do you mean, I asked. Just trying to clarify because your tweet read as if you were saying that.

Silence.

The notion that matters are not pursued by the media unless first pursued by a political party is unnerving. This is not what one expects from the fourth estate. This is not speaking truth to power, it is waiting until one power gives you the signal to speak a bit of truth to another power, and obediently refraining from pursuit when no permission in the form of guidance is forthcoming. Is this how traditional media decide what issues and personalities to pursue? Taking their lead from politicians?

Well, as you’d expect the conversation by now involved more people than just me and Mark Di Stefano. Many references were made to the “MSM” and I don’t think any of them were particularly favourable, demonstrating the frustration and disillusionment felt by some consumers. Di Stefano maintained his silence until this:

Well.

As you can imagine, there is a great deal to unpack in Di Stefano’s communication. And so I’m dedicating an entire post to its deconstruction, which I hope to publish tomorrow.

Taskforce Integrity. Let’s start with politicians, shall we?

27 Sep

 

You may or may not be aware that in November 2015, the Turnbull government announced the formation of “Taskforce Integrity,” a unit set up specifically to address welfare fraud in the form of undeclared income and non-compliance.

WA Turnbull government MP Steve Irons tweeted his support of the innovation.

Yesterday we learned that Mr Irons charged taxpayers for flights from Perth to Melbourne for his wedding, and he also charged us for flights from Melbourne back to Perth for himself and his new wife, Cheryle.

Treasurer Scott Morrison also charged taxpayers for the cost of his flight to the Irons’ wedding. Both men have since repaid those monies.

Returning money you’ve stolen doesn’t mean you didn’t steal it in the first place. I am reasonably confident that neither thief would have repaid the money had their thieving activities not been exposed, or in danger of exposure.

Irons also charged the taxpayer for a trip he made to the Gold Coast to attend a golf tournament.

I have no problem with addressing welfare fraud. I do have a very big problem with politicians stealing taxpayer money to fund their personal lives, and can’t quite see why they are any different from those who seek to illegally and immorally benefit from the welfare system.

Even with my new glasses, I’m unable to see why those who defraud the welfare system should be charged and perhaps incarcerated, whilst those who defraud the taxpayer are given the opportunity to return the money, face no charges, and no jail time.

Integrity, much?

Yesterday I watched in weary disbelief as Attorney-General George Brandis claimed that his government is holding a plebiscite on marriage equality because the Australian people want a plebiscite, and we made this clear when we re-elected the Turnbull government, thus giving it a mandate.

The Turnbull government has a majority of one seat in the House of Representatives. This is hardly a mandate in anyone’s language.

Let’s quickly revisit the origins of this plebiscite. The notion was introduced by failed prime minister Tony Abbott to placate the rabid right-wing of his party who are incapable of rational thought on the topic of same-sex marriage, and appear to view it as a catastrophic threat to their own heterosexual identities and unions.

Abbott was also inspired by the Irish referendum. He disregarded the fact that Ireland was obliged to alter its constitution to accommodate marriage equality, while we are not. In Australia, it is a matter of a simple amendment to the Marriage Act, changed to discriminate against same-sex marriage in 2004 by the LNP prime minister who lost his seat after taking us into the Iraq invasion on entirely spurious grounds, and without any plebiscite, John Howard. But that’s another sickening story of lies, manipulation, immorality, death, despair and destruction.

Brandis concluded his litany of folded lies with the assertion that unless the opposition agree to a plebiscite, marriage equality will be delayed until the mid 2020’s, assuming the LNP wins the next election.

The Turnbull government is using the LGBTQI community for its own political purposes: delaying marriage equality as long as possible to placate the right-wing homophobes who permit Turnbull to play at being Prime Minister, and to wedge the ALP.

All that is required is an amendment to the Marriage Act, and Brandis made it clear yesterday that will never happen as long as the LNP are in power. This is not because we the people demand a plebiscite, and it is not because of any reasonable argument against marriage equality. It is because the likes of Cory Bernardi and George Christensen are terrified of the gays and lesbians and bisexuals and queers and transgender and intersex peoples. We are going through all this expense and all this angst because some seriously unhinged men, obsessed with the sexuality of others, cannot cope with the idea of difference.

Personally, I think the Marriage Act ought to be abolished. There’s no place for the state in intimate relationships. However, as long as it exists, and as long as it remains the powerful cultural marker that it is, nobody should be forbidden access to its legal and societal privileges.

And on the grounds that some ignorant, terrified, dysfunctional men don’t like what other people do in bed?

Integrity, much?

 

 

Turnbull welcomes nice refugees who wait to be invited.

26 Sep

nice-people-only

 

Just when you thought the Australian government’s treatment of refugees held on Manus Island and Nauru could not descend any deeper into the slough of moral repugnancy, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announces that he will accept for resettlement refugees from camps in Costa Rica.

At the same time, the PM gave fleeting mention to the 12,000 hand-picked Syrian refugees we were supposed to welcome months ago, but who seem to have become terminally enmeshed in security procedures more stringent than those of any other western democracy because, well, we’re precious like that.

The refugees we are accepting are the nice refugees, while those held captive in life-extinguishing misery are not nice refugees. That’s why they’re held in life-extinguishing misery: no punishment is too great for people who are not nice refugees, even death.

All those not nice people who wouldn’t queue.

Or people who are in general not nice, really. One should never underestimate the grip the white tribe’s middle-class value of niceness has on our juridico-political system.

We are now in the morally sickening position of torturing one set of displaced, stateless persons whilst offering sanctuary to another set of displaced, stateless persons, based entirely on the falsehood that we invited the latter and we did not invite the former. In fact, as signatories to the Refugee Convention we did invite the former, but that Convention is so last century I don’t know why I’m even mentioning it.

Australia, Turnbull assures us, is very generous in our acceptance of the world’s nice needy. This is undoubtedly true, however, it’s a bit like arguing that Hitler loved his dogs, or a serial killer was friendly to his neighbours. It’s the kind of cognitive dissonance seen in people who work hard to compensate for their dark side by convincing themselves and others that they’re really very caring. Turnbull strives on the world stage to talk up our humanitarian inclinations, even as human lives fester on his watch in steaming, fetid tropical dystopias.

This must be yet another blow for those on Manus and Nauru. If they needed further demonstration of their lack of worth in the eyes of their tormenters, which I’m certain they didn’t, they’ve got one, compliments of a prime minister with the principles of a bush pig.

The Turnbulls do not seem entirely at their ease, either hanging from straps on the New York subway or self-consciously posing for pics with the Obamas, Lucy clad in what appeared to be the shining black skin of a slain shark converted to a clinging sheath, more fitting in the wardrobe of the elegant Clare Underwood in the HBO production, House of Cards. Or perhaps she was wearing a wet suit. What do I know.

I realise I’m not being nice, but fuck it. It’s time to get the nasty on.

 

Shriver, Abdel-Magied, and writing fiction.

19 Sep

 

imagine

 

I’ve spent the last few days thinking about cultural appropriation and the writing of fiction, as a consequence of the controversial keynote speech given by author Lionel Shriver at the Brisbane Writers Festival, and the distress expressed by Yassmin Abdel-Magied that caused her to walk out of Shriver’s presentation.

Briefly, Shriver stated her hope that the concept of cultural appropriation will be a passing fad, whilst Abdel-Magied argued that the appropriation by white fiction writers of experiences they can only imagine and have not lived is a racist and silencing act of cultural theft, in a world in which the voices of oppressed people are far less likely to be published than are those of their oppressors.

As an example of cultural appropriation, British male author Chris Cleave’s novel Little Bee, in which his protagonist is a female Nigerian asylum seeker, written in the first person, is cited.

It’s the job of fiction writers to imagine and convincingly convey to the reader experiences the writer has not necessarily lived, just as it’s the job of actors to portray characters with lives very different from their own. The “authenticity” of the creative work of both writer and actor lies in her or his ability to first fully imagine, and then fully realise their characters.

I can’t interpret this creative work as an act of theft. I can imagine how it might be experienced as an act of theft, but I cannot conclude from my imagining that it is an act of theft. This seems to me a crucial distinction in an argument that has as one of its requirements that a fiction writer (or actor) seek permission from a particular group to construct and perform a story around events he or she has not directly experienced, in order to avoid committing identity theft and cultural appropriation.

From a writer’s perspective, the core of this debate is the freedom to exercise the imagination, and to realise on the page the stories and characters it produces. The writer’s imagination is nourished from all manner of sources, personal experience being but one.

That both the film and publishing industry are dominated by privilege and largely white, is beyond dispute, yet this is perhaps a separate argument, and a situation for which the imaginations and performances of writers and actors cannot be held responsible.

At the same time, a writer or actor has the option of refusing to portray the experiences of a minority to which she or he does not belong, and instead urge their industry to seek out the voice of experience rather than settle for the voice of imaginative empathy, or at worst, exploitation.

I think both Shriver and Abdel-Magied have crucial points to make, but I can’t agree that the solution is the regulation of the imagination, or perhaps more accurately, the regulation of the imagination’s output. If a fiction writer is forbidden through shaming and accusations of theft from writing stories that contain experiences not their own, we’ll have nothing left but memoir.

As I haven’t read Cleave’s novel, I don’t know how successfully or otherwise he created the character of a female Nigerian asylum seeker, but I do know that the silencing of any writing voice is the privilege of publishers, not writers.

As Roland Barthes observed, any text is a tissue of all texts that preceded it: writers are also readers and nothing we produce stands in isolation. The text exists in a political culture of material relations that continue to produce ideologies, actions and beliefs.  As he also observed, the text is incomplete without the reader, and the reader brings to any text personal experiences and previous readings that necessarily influence interpretation.

Shriver’s acerbic reaction to charges of cultural appropriation are unfortunate and defensive, yet she is right to aggressively fight for a fiction writer’s freedom to imagine and narrate experiences that are not her own. If we cease to imagine the experiences of other, we become indescribably diminished. The oppression suffered by those for whom Abdel-Magied speaks can only become less penetrable, while the possibility of redress retreats even further.

Story is one of the most powerful weapons with which to crack the frozen seas of apathy and hatred. Without the imagination, we are as nothing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Year that Made Me

15 Sep

malcolm-turnbull-leader

 

As I listened to Attorney-General George Brandis today unconvincingly bellow (shout loud: argument weak, as the father of my children used to say) that Malcolm Turnbull will be remembered by history as one of our great prime ministers, I reflected that while it’s sadly apparent Brandis is a fool, what is most unsettling is that he apparently believes the rest of us to be even bigger fools.

Malcolm Turnbull will be remembered by history as one of the weakest men ever to hold the nation’s highest office: I’m damned if I can think of many who’ve been more ineffective, more blustering, more incompetent and more so obviously at a total loss as to what to do next. No amount of Brandis’s maniacal talking up is going to change that situation, as we saw with failed and sacked prime minister Tony Abbott, also marketed as great and in the process of leaving a powerful legacy, as his popularity hurtled off a cliff like Sidney Nolan’s upside down horse, his death cult followers clinging to the saddle, three-word slogan at the ready: Nothing to see! Nothing to see!

There’s a pattern here. Talked up one day, compost the next.

No one can make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear, least of all the meta data-challenged Attorney-General who will himself be remembered largely for his technological ignorance, his ludicrously expensive bookshelves, and his elitist notion of what constitutes art.

Turnbull’s deplorable decision to carry on with predecessor Tony Abbott’s (the one who will be remembered for giving Prince Philip a knighthood, just one of a vast array of incomprehensible acts of wilfully destructive stupidity) ill-willed and non-binding plebiscite on marriage equality demonstrates yet again that the Prime Minister is haemorrhaging principles from every orifice, in a kind of spiritual Ebola that has afflicted him since he took office.

I am unable to think of one reason why the Australian public has a “right” to vote on the right of citizens to marry or not. This is not a question of protecting the Australian public’s rights: no member of the Australian public will suffer during the enactment of same-sex marriage. Marriage equality is a human rights issue, and it is an outstanding example of heterosexual arrogance to reframe it as an issue on which “the people” are entitled to have their say. Why are they entitled to have their say? Give me one good reason.

If “the people” are “entitled” to “have their say” in plebiscites on all matters regarded by politicians as “too important” for them to simply do their jobs, why bother having a parliament at all? We’ll use their salaries and perks to fund opinion polls instead, then all they’ll need to do is pass the legislation.

The High Court ruled that parliament already has the authority it needs to simply amend the Marriage Act to include same-sex marriage, without consulting anybody. Why are we paying the idle swine to hand the job back to us?

Trust me, said George Brandis when asked if his party would honour a *yes* vote, and that’s where I fell off my chair and rolled on the floor laughing my arse off.

It used to be that when Abbott said anything good about someone we knew they’d be in the dumpster fairly soon. It’s very hard to believe that Brandis is serious about Turnbull’s strength as a leader. I don’t think he is. He’s shouting loud because his argument is, like its subject, weak. His exaggerated praise of Turnbull is turning the corner into mockery. Brandis knows what’s coming.

Some of you may be familiar with the segment on ABC broadcaster Jonathan Green’s Sunday Extra, The Year that Made Me. A guest who has achieved chooses a year from her or his life which to them was highly formative. Malcolm Turnbull could do this gig.  He could call it The Year that Made Me lose every principle I’d ever held, and left me a dusty, creaking husk of a man, and taught mean the true meaning of the phrase, laughing-stock.

Excoriate! Excoriate!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pot, Kettle

9 Sep

 

pot-kettle

 

The Coalition’s current explosion of self-righteous outrage is something to behold.

Compared to the excesses of, say, Bronwyn Bishop, or the personal gifts bestowed on Foreign Minister Julie Bishop by Chinese companies, not to mention the hundreds of thousands donated to her branch of the WA Liberal party by Chinese who have business interests in that state, Labor Senator Sam Dastyari’s few thousand dollars seem fairly insignificant.

The argument that Dastyari’s gift was “personal” does not hold water: so are Julie Bishop’s iPad, airfares and accommodation, and so were the $250,000 of Rolexes given to former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and others by a Chinese business man. You don’t gift a Rolex to a party, you gift it to an individual. It’s personal.

Then there’s the South China Sea. This is what Dastyari actually said about the situation in the South China Sea, as quoted by Sydney-based Chinese media: “The South China Sea is China’s own affair. On this issue, Australia should remain neutral and respect China’s decision.”

This is not the position of either the government or the opposition, and left the Senator open to charges of “cash for comment.”

There’s no doubt Dastyari should have kept his trap shut on the South China Sea: nobody was likely to take notice of his views on this matter anyway. The chap can be a tad too ebullient, though I dare say he’s been cured of that characteristic for the foreseeable future.

Whatever benefits the Foreign Minister may bestow on those who’ve showered her with personal gifts and her party with money may not, at first blush, be as apparent as Dastyari’s allegedly paid support for China. That she will bestow benefits of some kind is certain: this is the way things work, interested parties donate and expect favours in return.

There’s no missing the government’s glaring hypocrisy. It’s now up to the media to hound the government as they have hounded Dastyari. Why is the Foreign Minister accepting personal gifts from the Chinese, or anyone else for that matter? In so doing, she is not meeting her PrimeMinister’s expectations, or at least the expectations he has of Sam Dastyari, and why should they be different?

Or is it one rule for the Coalition, and another, much harsher rule for everyone else? Because, you know, entitlement?

 

Sam I am. Aiding & Abetzing. Barnaby.

7 Sep

sam-i-am

 

Beleagured and pasty-faced, Labor Senator Sam Dastyari yesterday flung himself at the feet of  herds of rabid news hounds, and proceeded to deliver an almost incoherent mea culpa for his inexplicable acceptance of some $1670 plus change from the Chinese.

Yes, all right, he’s sorry, we get that, even though he’s probably only sorry he’s been caught. However, we don’t want his plate of green eggs and ham, we do not like them Sam I am. We want to know why Sam asked the Top Education organisation to pay his $1670 excess travel expenses, and Sam will not tell us.

He will not tell us in a boat, he will not tell us with a goat. He will not tell us here or there, he will not tell us anywhere.

While we wait until Sam’s motives are uncovered, as they most certainly will be eventually, acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce appeared on the ABC’s 7.30 Report last night looking as if he’d been mauled by a polar bear, or might have been if there were any left. Host Leigh Sales hastened to explain that he’s using cream to rid him of sun cancers, and then we got on with the process of distinguishing between I am Sam’s request for a personal handout from the Chinese, and the Chinese making large donations to political parties.

There is a huge difference, Barnaby argued. I don’t agree with his position. The Chinese aren’t giving money to Australian politicians, either singly or collectively, from a place of love and friendship. They, like any other gift giver and donor, hand money to politicians because they want and expect something in return. This is the case whether it’s a personal donation to Dastyari’s travel expenses, or a couple of million to a major party.

On the same theme, this bizarre tweet from Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz appeared in my  time line yesterday:

Eric AbetzVerified account
‏@SenatorAbetz
I have long agreed with banning foreign donations but does @billshortenmp support similar foreign money ban for marriage plebiscite?

Abetz has not “long agreed” with banning foreign donations. Abetz has voted “moderately against” restricting political donations, frequently absenting himself when votes were counted.

As for the rest of the tweet, I can make no sense of it. Perhaps he’s suffering from irrelevance syndrome since Turnbull took away his portfolios.

Or perhaps, as Ben Pobjie suggested to me on Twitter, Chinese billionaires are surreptitiously supporting marriage equality in Australia.

If the alleged support was for the noes, I’m absolutely certain Abetz wouldn’t be complaining.

In conclusion they’re all, one way or another, trying to persuade us to eat green eggs and ham.

We will not eat it in a box, We will not eat it with a fox….We do not like it, Sam I am, we do not like green eggs and ham.

 

Opiates of the people

6 Sep

Mexican Cross

 

On Sunday September 4 2016, Catholic nun Mother Theresa was canonised by Pope Francis for her work amongst the poor and sick in Calcutta, and two miracles attributed to her involving the apparently inexplicable curing of cancers.

As part of the celebrations the poor of Rome were treated by the Pope to a lunch of pizza, which, as a few of us agreed on Twitter, can be deconstructed to loaves and fishes if it contains anchovies.

It was with some disbelief that I watched media reports of this event showing great crowds of people rejoicing. There are still so many enslaved by religious delusion? I had thought it largely replaced by reality TV.

My chain of association led me next to Karl Marx:

Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions.*

I don’t know that anyone has put it better: the demand to give up illusions about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions. How many situations are there to which that insight might be applied?

Mother Theresa did not always enjoy good press. The late Christopher Hitchens, for example, was scathing, claiming in a piece titled “Mommie Dearest” that it wasn’t the poor she was interested in but rather poverty itself, which she used as a vehicle for her extreme right-wing religious views. Her habit of ensuring the dying were baptised into her church, no matter what their religious beliefs or lack of them, did not endear her to many of the living.

For me, the term “canon” refers to a patriarchal hierarchy of literary works, or, with two “ns” the final crescendo of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. Associations here lead me back to the time when my sons were young and the 1812 was used by the defence forces in a recruitment drive. This didn’t fool those boys who sang in joyful unison whenever the advertisement interrupted their favourite shows: “Join the army get your balls blown off.”

I often think of this for comfort, when I torment myself about having been a bad mother. One way or another, I nurtured pacifists who from an early age could see through (some) illusions. I recall as well the time their father took them on an expedition to the public viewing of a warship and I refused to go. That ship was built to kill people, you know, I yelled as they went out the door, in an effort to counteract what I felt as an undermining.

The canonisation of humans as “saints” requires ” proof” of at least two “miracles” performed directly or indirectly by those “saints.” That the Catholic church persists in these delusions is hardly surprising, given its attitudes to priests who molest and sexually assault children in their care. Their entire system is delusional.

The emphasis on an after-life that validates suffering in real life, while not peculiar to Catholics, works in the service of the privileged who live off the efforts of those they exploit. Just as the glorification of war advantages arms dealers and politicians, who never set foot in its theatres of carnage.

In the same way that morphine lifts me above my pain so that I’m still aware of its presence but far less troubled by it, religion and other delusional beliefs lift people above the daily pain of an unfulfilled existence, without addressing the underlying condition.

There are many discouraging circumstances in the world, but I don’t know that I’ve felt quite the same sense of weariness about them that I felt at the spectacle of Theresa’s sanctification, which brought home to me the domination of opiates over human life, and I’m not referring to the chemicals.

Aside: As I wrote this a gaudy cross, part of my much-loved collection of Mexican kitsch, fell off the wall where it’s hung for years. However, a gaudy heart, part of the same collection and hung beside it, remains. Make of that what you will.

 

*Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

The government as sea lions

5 Sep

 

 

Pier 39 Sea Lions

 

I don’t know if you’ve ever watched the sea lions at Pier 39 in San Francisco. I’m reminded of that querulous and stinking marine rabble whenever I encounter the Turnbull government in my media. The sea lions are a nasty bunch, and they fight a lot.

I now can’t picture Malcolm Turnbull as anything other than a self-congratulatory pinniped in a top hat, barking and clapping his flippers at his own cleverness as Lucy throws him a fish.

While the PM hastened to reassure the country that he had “excoriated” his rogue MPs (including ministers) who left parliament early on Thursday afternoon, the real issue is not that the LNP have taken this event as  “wake-up” call for their one-seat majority government, but that such a call was needed in the first place.

Surely someone (a staffer, one of Dutton’s ninety, yes that’s ninety spin doctors) could have reminded the government that with a one-seat majority, everyone really needs to stay till the end.

That seasoned politicians holding powerful positions (and, apparently, their entire staff) need such a fundamental “wake-up” call is worrying indeed. What it confirms is what I’ve long suspected: the LNP perceive governing as a game weighted in their favour that they are entitled to win, without any particular merit, or even by actually playing it. Any challenges to these perceptions are dismissed as little more than the grumblings of opinionated upstarts.

Turnbull’s first sitting week after the election was woeful. First thirteen of his backbenchers defied him on the matter of Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Next, for the first time in some fifty years, the government lost three votes in the House of Representatives because of the Thursday bunk-off. Thankfully, they’ve now gone home for a few days.

On the matter of Section 18C, it’s interesting that the cohort advocating a “watering down” of the section are those who are the least likely to ever need the protections it offers. Read this piece by Jeff Sparrow on the co-option of speech laws for their own benefit by those who have no skin in the game.

Similarly, those most vehemently opposed to marriage equality are those who can in no way claim to be, in reality, affected by it.

(If such people are seriously concerned about a perceived debasing of the institution of marriage, they urgently need to make infidelity illegal. Imagine that).

I think it’s safe to say that politics has ceased to be much to do with good and fair governance, and is now almost entirely to do with the furtherance of the interests and ideologies of largely (and sometimes large) white men. In this they differ little from the sea lion colony in which the dominant males rule in their own interests, biting great chunks of flesh out of dissenters and shoving them, bleeding, back into the sea. It’s every pinniped for himself.

They even savage the young, and the ones with the loudest bark win.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why do 13 coalition backbenchers need to racially offend & insult?

30 Aug

 

EighteenC

 

Today, the first sitting day of a new parliament, thirteen, yes thirteen coalition backbenchers defied their Prime Minister and called for an amendment to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act that would see the words “insult” and “offend” removed.

Thirteen white Liberal backbenchers want to be legally permitted to racially offend and insult. So desperately do they want this that they have defied their Prime Minister and their Attorney-General, both of whom undertook to leave Section 18C as it is, and went to the election with this undertaking.

These thirteen backbenchers are fighting for the right to offend and insult specifically on the basis of race and ethnicity. They aren’t fighting for the right to offend and insult in general: that right isn’t under threat. They want to racially offend and insult. They are fighting to racially offend and insult. They are risking the cohesion of their party in order to be able to racially offend and insult.

Think about that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The profound nastiness of the Turnbull government

29 Aug

pyne box

 

It was inevitable that any opposition by the ALP or Greens to Abbott’s reeking legacy, the proposed plebiscite on marriage equality, would provide the Turnbull government with the ammunition to  claim (with confected indignation) that both parties are creating an obstacle that thwarts an opportunity for same-sex marriage.

There are bound to be those who accept this warped inversion, however they are likely to be the same groups and individuals that reject marriage equality anyway.

What this situation reveals yet again is the profound nastiness of the LNP. This nastiness (there really isn’t a better word for it, their attitude towards their fellow humans is as base as that) has been evidenced in Treasurer Scott Morrison’s decision to deprive the unemployed and pensioners in order to fix his budget, and the vengeful exercise of raw power as illustrated by Peter Dutton’s ongoing implacability over asylum seekers and refugees. It’s reflected in the image that heads this post: even the dead are perceived as new sources of revenue for the LNP.

I don’t need to go on, the evidence of their nastiness is everywhere we look, and it multiplies as we sleep.

Nastiness is the Turnbull government’s default position. From the apparent banality of nastiness all manner of evils flourish, and if you ever doubted that it is being enacted daily, for you to witness, in our parliament.

Though the Northern Territory can’t be ever be taken as typical, the carnage wrought on the CLP this weekend gives me small hope. Citizens can become sickened by nastiness, and they can wreak havoc on the party of nasty when they’ve had enough.

There is not one rational reason to deny marriage equality. We are a secular state: religious arguments ought not to influence our decisions. The unholy alliance of religion and nastiness currently hold sway.

It’s my hope that the ALP hold out against a plebiscite. No Liberal MP has any obligation to honour a yes result. Those who touchingly believe a plebiscite =marriage equality need to disabuse themselves of that belief, because it does not. We could well go through the torturous process and still have necessary amendments to the Marriage Act blocked by MPs who are not bound to accept a yes vote.

At the heart of the demand for a plebiscite is nastiness, and a poisonous hatred for anyone who doesn’t fit a narrow definition of “normal.” The influence of pure nastiness has been overlooked in our arguments yet it is a powerful driver of irrational behaviour and you’d have to go a long way to find behaviour more irrational than that of Turnbull’s government in just about any area you can name.

There are rumours again that Abbott is preparing himself to challenge Turnbull’s leadership. Not only are they nasty to citizens, they are exceptionally nasty to one another. I would take great pleasure in watching the LNP continue to cannibalise itself. I doubt it would affect our governance to any great degree: they aren’t doing much of that anyway.

It’s my hope that the fate of the NT CLP is the Turnbull government’s future. Barely enough seats left to form a party? I’d go for that.

 

 

 

Morrison’s ethics & the Taxed-Nots

26 Aug

 

Does God want you to be rich?

 

Treasurer Scott Morrison and I have very different understandings of what comprises a “Taxed-Not,” a term it was yesterday alleged on Twitter he plagiarised from a Fox News anchor who coined it some six years ago.

Leaving aside the curly questions of whether or not it is possible to plagiarise Fox News and the length of time it’s taken Morrison to allegedly do it, the term is an ugly characterisation of human beings. So I naturally assumed it refers to those who are ugly in their behaviours.

When I first heard Morrison use it (apart from an immediate association with Dr Seuss) I thought, oh, the treasurer is referring to the churches, the mining magnates, the media moguls, the corporations, and the many politicians who rort the public purse for their private and/or ideological gain.

Friends, I could not have been more wrong. It turns out the “Taxed-Nots” are welfare recipients, and Morrison seems to be labouring under the misapprehension that if he takes from them what little they have, he will restore the budget to surplus.

Now I am, outside of my own relatively simple budget, financially illiterate but even I can see that taking the price of a cup of coffee from people on Newstart and pensioners is unlikely to curtail the budget deficit. I tried to begin a conversation with Mr Morrison about this on Twitter, but he blocked me. There are none so deaf as those that will not hear.

Perhaps I unthinkingly insulted Morrison’s faith. He’s a Happy Clapper at Hillsong, a Pentecostal outfit that believes God wants everyone to be rich and if you aren’t it’s because God doesn’t love you and if God doesn’t love you, you deserve what you (don’t) get because you are morally deficient. Like a Taxed-Not.

The term encapsulates a powerful, deliberately false dichotomy of wealth with morality and poverty with immorality that appeals even to the non-religious.

There are surely many avenues available to the treasurer that would go some way towards addressing the country’s allegedly parlous financial state. It would, for example, cost us a couple of billion less to resettle refugees from Nauru and Manus Island  in Australia, rather than continue to bribe less developed nations to shoulder our responsibilities at the cost of some $55 million for two individuals.

Then there’s the $160 million plus marriage equality plebiscite: totally unnecessary if only the parliament would do its job.

Then there’s the $1.615 billion VET FEE-HELP loans rort. Yes, that’s $1.615 billion gone up in Joe Hockey’s cigar smoke.

Plus the ideologically driven and/or vengeful Royal Commissions, tax concessions to the wealthy, really, it can’t be that hard to grub up a bit more cash, can it, Mr Morrison? Try the almost 600 companies who pay little or no tax, such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft, for starters.

There obviously are people who rort the welfare system. But I suspect their numbers are inconsequential compared to the rorting  wealthy.

In the LNP universe the wealthy don’t rort: they are entitled. In the LNP universe poverty equals immorality and therefore lack of all entitlement, indeed, in the LNP universe if you’re out of a job you don’t actually deserve to eat & they’ll take another $4 off you to make that even more clear.

Morrison and his multi-millionaire boss Malcolm Turnbull bullying the disadvantaged into deeper disadvantage while the wealthy flourish. What would Jesus say?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dutton’s message: torture works

20 Aug

Torture Works

 

Yesterday I had a Twitter conversation about Kathryn Bigelow’s movie, Zero Dark Thirty, which was shown on SBS last night.

Many angry critics have  described the film as CIA propaganda advocating torture, and accused Bigelow of making an immoral argument that torture works. That wasn’t my reading as I argue here.

This revisiting of the film and the arguments surrounding it made it obvious to me that the message “torture works” is precisely the message the current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, Scott Morrison before him, and several former Prime Ministers including Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have sent to the world since the indefinite detention, off-shore and previously in the hell holes of Woomera and Baxter, of waterborne asylum seekers began.

They are not even particularly subtle about conveying this message: forcing women, children and men to live in circumstances in which they are tortured will deter others from attempting to seek asylum in Australia. It’s that stark.

To dissuade attacks from rusted on ALP supporters: Paul Keating built Woomera. I went there. It was one of Dante’s circles of hell. So please don’t come at me with the usual defence of your political party’s position on asylum seekers. There’s a bee’s dick of difference between the major parties.

Every time politicians insist that bringing refugees from Manus and Nauru to Australia will “start the drownings at sea again”, he or she is arguing, to the world, that “torture works.”

Frank Brennan, John Menadue, Tim Costello and Robert Manne have here proposed a solution to the current ghastly impasse. Their proposal retains the turn-back policy:

We believe there is no reason why the Turnbull government cannot do now what the Howard government previously did – maintain close intelligence co-operation with Indonesian authorities, and maintain the turn-back policy, while emptying the offshore processing centres and restoring the chance of a future to those we sent to Nauru or Manus Island three years ago or more by settling them either in Australia or, if any are willing, in other developed countries. Like Howard, Turnbull could maintain the offshore processing centres in case of an emergency.

Boats are to be turned back to their point of departure, usually Indonesia or in the case of Sri Lankan refugees,southern India where they continue to live as stateless people with few, if any rights.

The proposition put by Brennan et al would at least thwart the message that torture works, to which our politicians seem alarmingly attached. It’s by no means an ideal solution, but it could be our next step in addressing a situation that in its current manifestation is hideously wrong in every possible way.

Critiquing their proposition is a post in itself, and I won’t do that here.

As I argue Bigelow’s film demonstrated, the proposition that torture works is in itself a terrifying premise for debate.Who are we, that we would engage in such a debate in the first place?

It isn’t about whether or not torture works. It’s about torture even being considered, and then implemented as an option. You might argue that no politician foresaw or planned the circumstances that have evolved on Manus and Nauru, and you’d likely be correct. So we have come to torture by accident, rather than by design. Having arrived at that point, even accidentally, we are culpable and every day we reinforce the message that torture works, we add to our burden of culpability. What was initially accidental, thoughtless, ignorant, uncaring, politically self-seeking becomes, in the maintaining of it, deliberate.

Which puts us in the company of the CIA and its propaganda, does it not? Not to mention Donald Trump.

 

 

 

 

 

Australia, Vietnam & white male supremacy

18 Aug


Little-Pattie-Col-Joye-Nui-Dat-18-Aug-1966

 

I don’t know who came up with the macabre notion of recreating the concert at which Little Pattie was performing when the Battle of Lon Tân commenced fifty years ago.

I don’t know who came up with the even more macabre notion of ABC TV’s Australian Story filming the recreation.

I do know that it should be no surprise to anyone that the Vietnamese government, citing the sensitivities of the people in Lon Tân and its surrounds, have, at the last minute, baulked at the notion of Australia recreating the circumstances in which that battle took place and refused to allow planned commemorations to go ahead.

I find it difficult to imagine that Australians would permit similar commemorations being enacted in our country, had we suffered the large-scale destruction wrought upon the Vietnamese by the US and its allies in a filthy war from which we finally withdrew in so-called “honourable defeat,” leaving a napalmed, land-mined landscape behind us and the communist regime intact.

Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull and his ministers have expressed their deep disappointment in the Vietnamese government’s decision, and are particularly outraged at the last-minute nature of it. Perhaps the Little Pattie concert was too much of a stretch for the Vietnamese.

…the gala dinner, concert and the expectation of more than 1,000 Australians at the Long Tân memorial cross was seen as an insensitive celebration.

Yes. I get that. I would have expected Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to get that as well, and nip it in the bud.

However, Australia doesn’t care much for the feelings of brown people. There’s an example of this almost daily: indigenous youth in Don Dale. Asylum seekers and refugees in atrocious conditions on Manus and Nauru. The bribing of those countries and Cambodia to take refugees off our hands because they’re all brown aren’t they, so they should get on. The death of yet another indigenous woman in police custody. The conservative white male outrage over Section 18c.

The dominant Australian attitude as expressed by politicians and media would seem to be one of white entitlement: our sensitivities are paramount in the Lon Tân situation, not those of the brown people who cannot escape the repercussions of that war. We are apparently entitled to restage the entertainment of our troops, and if the Vietnamese want to stop us they are ill-willed spoil sports who will further destabilise our veterans.

Australians should never have been conscripted to fight in the Vietnam War. They were treated hideously when they returned. Successive governments have dark histories concerning their attitudes to and neglect of war veterans. Accusing the Vietnamese of destabilising them is hypocrisy.

In neighbouring Laos, the arms and legs of children and rice farmers are still blown off when they step on land mines, fifty years later. I’ve stood on the Russian airstrip in Phonsovan, Northern Laos where the CIA conducted its “secret war” and seen the napalmed jungles, and the bomb craters outside the caves to which the villagers fled when they no longer had anywhere to hide. I’ve walked the Plain of Jars on a narrow path marked by white-painted stones, on either side of which there remains uncounted numbers of active mines. This is the legacy the US and we, its allies, left in Vietnam and Laos.

So the Vietnamese government refuses to permit a gala dinner, concert and large numbers of Australians at the memorial cross? I’m OK with that. Theres nothing to prevent the veterans already in Lon Tân from holding their own ceremony of remembrance. They don’t need Australian Story to do that.

We have never been invaded.* It’s one of our deepest collective fears. The arrival of a few thousand boat people causes us to construct a fortress around ourselves, and a border force in black shirts to protect us. We spend billions on keeping invaders out. We torture them, children and all, to dissuade other potential invaders. Yet we believe are entitled to perform our ceremonies in another country where we slaughtered its people in the service of the US for seven years.

That’s privilege. That’s entitlement. That’s white male supremacy.

*Some objections have been raised to this sentence, on the grounds that it seems to imply a denial by me of European invasion of this country, and the ongoing trauma of that invasion for Indigenous people. Australia has two distinct overarching populations: Europeans who invaded and colonised and now call Australia home, and Indigenous peoples who were invaded, colonised and displaced. I’m speaking from the European position, one that has the privilege of never having experienced invasion in this country we call home.

There’s never been a better time for white men & Section 18C

16 Aug

Racist Google?

 

Oh, that David Leyonhjelm! What a scamp he is! 

As you probably know, he’s making a complaint to the Human Rights Commission under Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, after Fairfax journalist Mark Kenny called him an “angry white man,”

I don’t think Leyonhjelm, a staunch opponent of 18C, is being hypocritical: he’s perfectly open about this being an opportunity to “test” the law, rather than a genuine case of offence inflicted or taken.

And it will be most interesting to watch the arguments for and against unfold: will Kenny’s comment fall into one of the many exemptions provided by 18D? Did Kenny intend to racially insult Leyonhjelm, or was he making a contextual point by mentioning the man’s colour? How can Leyonhjelm make a complaint at all, ethically speaking, if he’s not insulted or offended?

I remain astounded that white people continue to fight for the right to offend and insult people of colour. I understand that these white people believe they are fighting for free speech and of course they are, if you are of the belief that free speech equals unrestrained speech.

It’s inarguable that Section 18C curbs free speech. Of course it does. So do the laws that make it an offence to use foul language in public places, or to call police officers cunts when they’re attempting to restrain you or move you on. Why isn’t anybody complaining about these restrictions on free speech?

Insult and offence are subjective concepts, as Leyonhjelm repeatedly points out. However, Section 18C specifies that the insult and offence must relate to race, ethnicity and religion before it is considered insulting and offensive. Its ambit doesn’t cover insults such as you’re an arsehat dickwad, and offensive statements such as all your family are loser thieving pisspots and always will be so fuck off you sad cunt. 

I’m still struggling to come up with a pejorative comment about someone’s race, religion and/or ethnicity that isn’t offensive or insulting. Can anyone help me? Please use asterisks.

There’s never been a better time to watch two white men duke it out in the racial discrimination ring. Popcorn.

Music (& politics)

13 Aug
Equus-Header-1038x500

Equus

 

I’m telling you, if you haven’t heard a Mongolian throat singer perform George Gershwin’s Summertime you haven’t lived.

Bukhu, who has just been granted a Distinguished Talent visa by the DIBP, performed this feat last night accompanied by John Robinson (oud, Turkish baglama) Peter Kennard (percussion) and Bertie McMahon (double bass). Together they comprise the group Equus and they make music, rather than just play it very well.

Aside: I was going to write a warning top of this post stating that it isn’t political, when I realised that in fact it is. The political and human point to be made is that as I sat in the audience last night freezing my bum off in the delightful but seriously cold Pelican Theatre in Grafton, I thought that we, (we being all of us who can go to concerts, all of us who can perform in them and all of us who can read about them) are amongst the world’s most privileged people. I don’t feel guilt about that, but I do think the least we can do is to acknowledge our good fortune, and send forth a passing gratitude into the cosmos in the hope of counteracting some small portion of the dark matter in which we are almost entirely engulfed. As well as using our voices and our votes.

Back to music. Equus conjures up images of vast Mongolian plains and wild horses, fused with Turkish melodies to which the western ear must accustom itself. Just when you’re lost in the world created by this fusion, up pops Gershwin, performed by Bukhu using all four of his throat voices plus one that comes entirely through his nose. You laugh, out loud, in joyous delight, because this extraordinary performer is making music with such intelligence and wit, and he’s teasing you as well.

You’re in an enriched world, one without borders, and it’s a deeply nourishing place to be.

The day before I’d had a tiresome drive  from Lismore, tiresome because the goat track that is the Pacific Highway is finally being fixed and it takes forever to get home but fortunately for me, the Australian Youth Orchestra was on ABC FM playing Mahler’s first symphony which is not my favourite, but as with Leonard Cohen, I’ll listen to anything Mahler wrote.

The orchestra recently returned from a tour of Europe and China. While away, the lead clarinet made a point of playing a cadenza adapted from a piece of music specific to the city in which they were performing. This broadcast was from Melbourne, it was their homecoming concert and towards the end of piece by Katchachurian, the clarinetist burst into a virtuoso rendition of I still call Australia Home. Stuck at the road works, I laughed out loud at the wit, the intelligence and the unexpectedness.

It was another moment of joyous delight, brought to me by music. It was another moment of experiencing the richness of a world without borders.

This is why conservatives loathe the arts, and withdraw funding from just about anything that holds a possibility of being innovative and interesting. The arts dissolve borders. The arts are not respecters of sovereignty. The arts threaten to render conservative politicians obsolete and make them objects of pity and scorn.

Conservative politicians are unmasked by the world of music, as the intrusive, sad and ignorant pests they have become.

They do have a place. They’ve forgotten what it is. They need to get back to it. It isn’t nearly as important as music or any of the arts, and they know it.

Next week I’m going to see the Bangarra dancers, and spend some hours studying paintings. So I probably won’t be posting much about politics. Or posting anything at all.  🎵 👀 🎨 👏 😀

 

 

 

No, we are not “better than this.” We are worse.

12 Aug

 

Elie Wiesel

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton seems to be of the opinion that because people fleeing their home countries pay “people smugglers” for passage to Australia, it is perfectly acceptable for them to be subjected to every imaginable kind of suffering. He includes children in this belief.

Dutton’s world view is mirrored by politicians such as Adam Giles in the Northern Territory, who share the narcissistic sense of entitlement that regards any perceived offence against them and their laws however mundane, however explicable, as a crime deserving of extreme punishment guaranteed to destroy the spirit.

In short, if you offend me I’ll destroy you. The crime here is offending these men, and both Giles and Dutton are profoundly offended by recalcitrant indigenous youth in the first, and waterborne asylum seekers in the second. You can see their indignation seeping out of every shining pore. They are incapable of seeing context: they can only perceive offence.

This overblown sense of offence and indignation, coupled with a sociopathic inability to imagine the conditions of lives other than their own, is the breeding ground for an extreme cruelty that ought never to be coupled with power, but unfortunately all too frequently is.

The manner in which successive immigration ministers, including those from the ALP, have treated waterborne asylum seekers beggars belief. They have been able to do this because enough Australians share the same narcissistic sense of entitlement and belief that being offended, personally, collectively and nationalistically, is a crime for which, unlike real crimes, punishment must be unrestrained and infinite. So kids in Don Dale don’t ever deserve a chance at life. So waterborne asylum seekers and refugees don’t ever deserve a chance at life. They’ve both offended white Australia in a variety of ways, and so they must die, metaphorically and sometimes literally.

It isn’t even so much what they’ve done. It’s the fact that they had the bloody gall to do it in the first place.

When outrages such as Don Dale and the Nauru files erupt, a lot of people get on social media to claim: “We’re better than this.”

Well, here’s the thing. We are not better than this. We’ve been torturing indigenous people since invasion day and we’re still doing it. We’ve been torturing waterborne asylum seekers for almost two decades, and we’re still doing it. We’re still voting in politicians who’ll continue the barbaric practices we don’t really want to know about as long as we feel we’re “being kept safe” from boats, or thieving black kids.

There are no innocent bystanders in these situations. We all know what’s happening. We’ve always known about our off-shore concentration camps. Keeping your mouth shut is enabling torture. These crimes are perpetrated by the powerful on the powerless because “good” people keep their mouths shut. Well, here’s another thing. You aren’t a “good”person if you keep your mouth shut. You’re an enabler of torment and torture.

As Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs pointed out yesterday, the only way anything will change in our treatment of asylum seekers is through public pressure. The government knows this as well, which is why they don’t allow anyone to see the camps and the suffering people in them. This is what every government intent on the torment and torture of a particular group do: they herd them into facilities where no one can hear their screams.

And when we do finally hear their screams, as we have since the Don Dale revelations, Adam Giles blames those who bring their screams to our ears, and Peter Dutton blames the victims for screaming.

Think about that. I mean, really, really think about the mind sets of Giles and Dutton and those who support them, who shoot the messengers, and blame the victims for the suffering they inflict upon them.

Then get on social media and say “we’re better than this.” We aren’t. We could be, but we aren’t.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So they want to change 18c

8 Aug

Be Polite

 

Returned Senator David Leyonhjelm and new One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts both want rid of section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Section 18c makes it illegal to carry out an act if: “(a) the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and (b) the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group”.

There are those in both houses who support the removal or amendment of 18c, on the grounds that it collides with concepts of freedom of speech, though it’s slightly alarming to imagine what any of them want to say that requires the removal of 18c in order for them to be able to legally say it.

The section is a little over-written: a reasonable person can assume that if someone is humiliated or intimidated they have also been offended and insulted, and my understanding is that it is the words offend and insult that most aggravate the two senators.

Both Leyonhjelm and Roberts put forward the argument that offence is always taken, never given, and that each one of us has a choice as to whether or not we feel offended and insulted by the word or actions of another.

I find this notion particularly quaint coming from Senator Leyonhjelm: if indeed we can choose not to be offended and insulted, why does he so frequently choose to be angry and aggressive in reaction to others he feels have offended him? Especially on Twitter. He can get quite foul in that medium.

Leyonhjelm was apoplectic when The Chaser parked a van outside his house, and he threatened them with the police. Why did he choose that stressful and incendiary reaction if he’s in control of his feelings like he says we all should be?

Increasingly, this argument sounds like the justification of bullies for a perceived right to bully. I am tormenting you because I can, and you can choose not to be tormented so it’s your fault if you are.

What kind of person wants the right to behave like that towards another?

Of course it’s true that in theory no one can make us feel anything: we react and respond to others and those reactions and responses are influenced by all manner of prior experiences, and our degree of understanding of our own psychology.

Everyone is moulded by their individual experiences as well as by the social and economic systems in which we develop.  For example, if you suffer from, say, PTSD, you are less likely to be able to freely respond to distressing circumstances you encounter in the present, as one of effects of the illness is that it can make a present event indistinguishable from an event in a traumatic past.  Humans need models in our childhoods. We need to be able to learn how to choose our responses, this is not knowledge we acquire at birth. Some are taught better than others, some are not taught at all. The emotional life is by no means a level playing field, and saying we can all “choose’ not to be insulted or offended is like saying obesity is a choice, or poverty, or that we can all be millionaires if we only choose to.

Roberts and Leyonhjelm can take no credit for having being born white with the advantages that whiteness can bring, equally, those of ethnicities, race, colour and nationality that are frequently subject to hate speech had no choice in the matter of their birth either.

We are not islands: we are affected by others and we affect others. Leyonhjelm and Roberts’ argument is the equivalent of Margaret Thatcher’s belief that there is no society, there’s only individuals.

The question is not whether people should learn to be immune to feeling hurt and insulted when kicked by a donkey, but why do we tolerate donkeys who feel compelled to kick in the first place? The indigenous men and woman who took Andrew Bolt to court won their case, but Andrew Bolt has yet to adequately explain why he felt compelled to question their validity as people of colour.

This latter question would seem to me to be far more serious, and far more in need of urgent address than the removal or amendment of 18c. Why do these people want to amend or remove 18c? What will be gained from its removal, and who will profit?

I can see nothing to be gained, and a great deal that could be lost, unless it is your life goal to abuse those who are different from you, and if it is, you are the problem, not Section 18c.

By the way, we don’t actually have any constitutional rights to free speech in this country:

The Australian Constitution does not explicitly protect freedom of expression. However, the High Court has held that an implied freedom of political communication exists as an indispensible part of the system of representative and responsible government created by the Constitution. It operates as a freedom from government restraint, rather than a right conferred directly on individuals. 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump & Clinton. Clinton & Trump

6 Aug

Clinton, Trump

 

I recently read a characterisation of the US presidential battle as a struggle between a neofascist catastrophe and a neoliberal disaster. This latter description of Hillary Clinton will not please those among us who believe, some ardently, that a US female president will be a triumph simply because of her sex.

It surely is worth noting here that there have been (and still are) female presidents and prime ministers in countries other than the US for some time, including our own Julia Gillard. The US is breaking its own glass ceiling, not the world’s. I don’t know that women have done much better than men at the task, and it is probably slightly delusional to expect or demand that we will: after all, female leaders have to work within the same long-established systems as do males, and no one person of either sex is going to smash those corrupt systems and make the world a better place.

This is not to say women shouldn’t be equally represented in politics: of course we must. However, I sometimes wonder if we wouldn’t be better served fighting dysfunctional political orders, rather than pouring our considerable energies into the task of moulding women into the value systems of a hegemonic masculinity when once there, we can do little if our ambition is to keep our jobs.

On the question of entrenched and deadly systems of government, John Pilger argues in his Pilgeresque way that Hillary Clinton is a far more dangerous presidential prospect than is Donald Trump, partially on the grounds that Clinton is deeply embedded in a warmongering system whilst Trump is a maverick who condemns the Iraq invasion as a crime, and doesn’t want any trouble with Russia or China. Pilger continues:

Among Clinton’s biggest backers are the Israel lobby and the arms companies that fuel the violence in the Middle East. She and her husband have received a fortune from Wall Street. And yet, she is about to be ordained the women’s candidate, to see off the evil Trump, the official demon. Her supporters include distinguished feminists: the likes of Gloria Steinem in the US and Anne Summers in Australia.

Then there is the analysis of Trump as a self-saboteur, an outstanding example of someone who sets high goals while simultaneously working to undermine himself. Nobody in this narrative, not even Trump, envisaged his campaign coming this far, and the candidate’s increasingly successful alienation of significant supporters can be interpreted as the behaviour of a man who wanted the attention and publicity of the competition, but never really believed he could win it and is now in the process of finding a way out. Trump’s way, the author argues, is to behave so badly everyone rejects him, then complain that the electoral system is rigged and he is its victim. On the other hand, the author admits, Trump could simply be unhinged.

I’m grateful I don’t have to vote in the US election: it’s bad enough coping with our own. What I take from both situations is a sense that the old political order is in its death throes, a new one not yet born or perhaps not even yet conceived. What we have to work with are the dregs of democracy.

In the western world we’re desperately casting about for something better or at the very least, different. I can’t see Hillary Clinton as the answer, even though she has a vagina. She is solidly of the old order. Trump, like some of our maverick politicians, is different and difference is his appeal, even though he, like our mavericks, may be no better and could be worse.

I confess myself astounded at feminist support for Clinton. I have no desire to live under hegemonic matriarchy, anymore than I enjoy living under the constraints of hegemonic patriarchy. Neither improve the lot of women nor many men, other than those of the ruling class. I can only conclude we are living with the dregs of feminism as well as the dregs of democracy, and nobody seems to have any idea what might possibly come next.

 

 

 

Sexualise this

5 Aug

leopard print cardigan

 

I’ve just read a piece in The Conversation titled: Sexualised girls are seen as less intelligent and less worthy of help than their peers.

Who defines what constitutes sexualisation, and using what criteria?

Examples from the article: Highly sexualised clothing (a short dress and a leopard print cardigan) or a girl in a black bikini.

To the authors of this article a short dress combined with a leopard print cardigan is a signifier of a sexually easy female, and thus highly inappropriate when worn by a young girl.

I would not view any young girl wearing these garments (or any other garments for that matter) as a sexualised object. Would you?

If your answer is yes I think there might be something slightly askew in your perceptions, and you might like to ask yourself not why the young girl is wearing those outfits, but why you see her as a sex object because of them.

If as a consequence of perceiving that young girl as “sexualised” you decide she is less morally worthy and of lesser intelligence, you probably should ask yourself why, in your moral universe, a “sexualised” female (young or mature) is less worthy of moral consideration and inevitably of lesser intelligence, than a female you perceive as free from sexualisation.

In other words, why do you hold those views, and where do they come from? Are they any different from the views held by, say, racists? Are they even, perhaps, a tad misogynist?

The sexualisation debate as represented in The Conversation article is warped. Research criteria are based on the assumed authority of a male-centered gaze, introjected by women, that continues to define female sexuality in terms of how much flesh we display and the manner in which we choose to display it or clothe it. This bias remains unacknowledged and unquestioned, and ought itself to be the subject of investigation.

Somewhere in our history there developed the notion that women who are open about our sexual desire and the expression of our sexuality are correspondingly brain-dead, and undeserving of moral consideration. It’s from these notions the concepts of sexualisation and objectification evolve, not from anything women do or wear.

Obviously the signifiers of objectification and sexualisation vary with fashion and culture: a modest 2016 swimsuit would have caused its wearer to be objectified as less than morally human in 1816. The point surely must be that we have not evolved beyond our need to define ourselves as moral beings against women and girls identified as less worthy, because they are pejoratively perceived as overtly sexual, sexualised or objectified.

Concepts of sexualisation and objectification are constructed concepts and as such fluid, always open to interrogation and contestation. They are not a given, and they do not come from any transcendental exteriority. Because Collective Shout or anyone else declares a garment objectifying does not make it so.

Nothing can make a child a sexualised object other than the warped perception of an adult. As we know to our cost, warped adult perceptions of children as sex objects are rampant, and to be found in our most esteemed institutions.  If you choose to view children through that warped perception there is, in my opinion, something unexamined in your thinking.

The fact that some adults care less about the welfare of women and girls they consider sexualised and objectified seems to my mind a much more urgent topic for investigation than chain stores selling pole dancing kits and Playboy stationery. To draw an equivalence between female sexuality and worthiness is warped reasoning, and that so many people in our society do this is cause for serious alarm.

The problem lies not with the sexualisation or objectification of young girls and women. It lies with unexamined attitudes to female sexuality, fear of female sexuality, and the ongoing desire to control female sexuality. If you are seeing children as sexualised and objectified have a good look at your beliefs about female sexuality, because you are likely part of the problem, not of the solution.

 

 

 

 

A win for the citizens, a fail for the government

2 Aug

Turnbull zips it

 

There’s currently not much from which one might take heart in politics (is there ever?) however, the replacing of Brian Martin as the single commissioner in the Northern Territory Royal Commission into  atrocities against Aboriginal children, perpetrated at the Don Dale facility, is a flickering candle in the current dark night of the citizen soul.

What this development says to me is that there are individuals who will not bend to the will of the LNP federal government, individuals who will listen to discontent and outrage expressed in the community and respond to that, rather than lick the sticky fundaments of our liberal overlords.

Mr Martin had personal reasons as well, which is fair enough. It was clear from the announcement of his commission that he was the wrong man for the job, optically speaking, and Brian Martin is aware of the power of optics to bring a man entirely undone. No matter what, he was never going to come out of that gig unscathed.

I’m not going to do it, he informed Malcolm Turnbull and George Brandis (perhaps not using precisely that arrangement of words, I wasn’t there) leaving them egg-faced, their decisive agile nimble and innovative solution to the Don Dale outrage steaming and useless as a puddle of piss in a snow bank.

There have been rumblings from various elites that no “eminent” Australian will agree to perform public service if this capitulating to the will of the masses keeps up. Cry me a river.

Compare the actions of Brian Martin with those of Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon, who led then PM Tony Abbott’s witch hunt of Bill Shorten via the infamous Trade Union Royal Commission. Heydon became and remains a laughing-stock (all those vacuum cleaner jokes) an obedient slave of the right-wing of the LNP. His Royal Commission produced little of note, and didn’t unduly trouble Shorten. Perhaps Mr Martin noted Heydon’s fate.

The Royal Commission will now be headed by Mick Gooda and Margaret White, a far more satisfactory arrangement.

We probably don’t need too much more evidence of Turnbull’s incompetence, but true to his long-term policy of giving us what we don’t need, the PM keeps up supply.

Social media must be given some credit for the reconstitution of the Northern Territory Royal Commission. Complain about Twitter all you like: there’s no getting away from the fact that public opinion is conveyed so widely and so forcefully through its use, that politicians and elites who ignore the platform do so at their peril.

The resignation of Brian Martin, and the appointment of an Indigenous man and a former Queensland Supreme Court judge is a win for citizens over the disastrously inadequate decision of the LNP government. Take heart.

Pell: nothing to see here, look over there

29 Jul

Pell on sexual abuse

 

Cardinal George Pell has, in the face of fresh allegations of sexual abuse of children aired by ABC TV’s 7.30 Report this week, demanded a “probe” into what he perceives to be a conspiracy between the Victoria Police and the ABC to “pervert the course of justice” using a “trial by media” to establish his guilt before the matters are afforded due process.

I’m calling bollocks. Everything aired thus far by ABC TV has come directly from the complainants, Pell’s alleged victims. We have watched them give excruciating accounts of their experiences, and the effects those experiences have had on their lives. There are no police “leaks” in these first-hand accounts.

Anyone is at liberty to speak about his or her experiences at the hands of another, and we have defamation laws that deal with false claims.

There is no indication that Victoria Police have provided the ABC with information other than that they are pursuing their inquiries into the allegations, and that the matters have been referred to the Victorian Office of Public Prosecutions where it will be decided whether or not charges are to be brought against the cardinal.

There is no legal requirement to protect Pell from identification. There are no minors involved in the complaints: they are historical. The ABC has offered Pell every opportunity to respond, and have published his responses on their website.

As long as the law permits the identification of alleged perpetrators, media outlets are at liberty to name them. This may or may not be fair: it is legal.

Pell’s position is no different from that of any other alleged perpetrator of historical sexual crimes against children in this country. Such people are identified in the media, and their alleged victims are frequently interviewed by the media. Police announce that they are pursuing lines of inquiry, and charges may or may not be brought. The Cardinal isn’t being granted, and should not be granted, any special favours or protections, neither is he being unfairly pursued.

The fact is, people continue to make complaints about Pell, and these complaints have to be investigated. Our justice system does not require the complaints be kept secret until they are proven or dismissed.

Like any other alleged perpetrator, Pell has to endure public curiosity and judgement, not because of any conspiracy, but because that is how our society works.

There are no doubt many benefits that go with being a prince of the catholic church. There are also responsibilities and intense scrutiny. The Vatican has deep pockets and should Pell choose to bring a defamation action against his accusers, lack of money will be no barrier to that pursuit. The Cardinal has on more than one occasion threatened legal action of this nature. It is still an option open to him if he feels himself to be a victim.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Four Corners sickened but did not surprise

27 Jul

 

Punishment in the Don Dale facility, Northern Territory

Punishment in the Don Dale facility, Northern Territory

In his 2014 book, Dark Emu, Bunarong, Tasmanian and Yuin man Bruce Pascoe challenges white man’s history of Indigenous people as hunter gatherers, and instead puts forward an absorbing thesis, well researched and documented, of systems of agriculture, aquaculture and governance recorded by early white settlers, but somehow overlooked by those who have insisted upon an ongoing account of this country’s Indigenous peoples that denies them as anything other than primitive.

Every time we discuss this book in our household I express my disbelief that evidence such as that so compellingly presented by Pascoe could have gone unnoticed, ignored, concealed, disregarded, disrespected by the legions of white writers and commentators, to whom it has been available, if only they had cared to seek it, for the last two hundred plus years. Many white careers have been built on this wilful ignorance.

Why aren’t we teaching Australian children about the successes and achievements  of Aboriginal culture? asks Pascoe.

Why indeed.

Of course the evidence gathered by Pascoe does not fit what remains the dominant white narrative, even after Mabo. Hard to declare terra nullius if the country is occupied by people who’ve devised successful and sophisticated system of farming and governance. Far easier if you frame them as primitive savages, flora and fauna.

The consequences of this cover-up, this conspiracy one might go so far as to suggest, have dominated white attitudes to Aboriginal people ever since invasion, and it should have come as no surprise to anyone when ABC TV’s Four Corners revealed on Monday night that Indigenous children are being tortured in detention facilities in the Northern Territory, and quite likely elsewhere in the country.

The Don Dale facility, and the horrors enacted within it, have not developed in a vacuum. They are the logical outcome of  a brutal and expedient racism that has existed in Australia since 1788, and continues to thrive. It’s excruciatingly apparent that the torments perpetrated on Indigenous children in this hell hole have been known to Northern Territory governments for the last few years. Absolutely nothing has been done to alleviate this suffering, inflicted in the service of “law and order.”

I would like to point out here that none of the offences committed by the incarcerated children come anywhere near the criminal acts perpetrated upon them by those who guard them, those who oversee the guards, and those who turn their blinded eyes away from the sight of the children’s suffering. There is nothing either lawful or orderly about the behaviour of the men in charge of these children, or the men in charge of the men in charge.

There is a deeply ingrained culture, the face of which is for today the Don Dale facility, that has its origins in the denial of Aboriginal people as capable of agriculture, aquaculture and governance, and the framing of them instead as primitive savages upon whom it is permissible to wreak any kind of havoc deemed necessary for the protection and furtherance of white society.

Sick of your car being stolen? Get out the canisters and fucking gas the fucking cunt kids who took it because your car and your right to not have it nicked trumps a young black life.

Don Dale may be closed down, there will be a Royal Commission, right and left alike will continue to express bipartisan outrage but unless Australia’s fundamental attitude towards Indigenous peoples is changed, the suffering will continue.

I leave you with the words of Nigel Scullion, federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs. He’d never taken any notice of complaints that reached him about the mistreatment of Aboriginal children in the Don Dale centre, he said. The reports had never sufficiently  “piqued his interest.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#pray for the bigots?

22 Jul

free-speech-conditions-apply-graffiti

 

Psychologically speaking, it’s self-evident that bigots are frightened of the group or groups they single out for attention. 

This is one of the characteristics of bigots: they fear a challenge is being mounted to their way of life, their  ideology, their religion, their freedom to be who they feel entitled to be. The bigot’s reaction is to annihilate (metaphorically, but increasingly literally) that challenge, banish it from their landscapes, imprison it if it is already present, and in so doing, make themselves and their identities safe.

Waleed Aly, a thinker, writer and broadcaster for whom I have a great deal of time, argued on The Project that Sonia Kruger, a “celebrity” mother for whom I have no time at all, should not be pilloried for her opinion that Muslim immigration should be entirely banned in this country, a conclusion she arrived at on the basis that she’d seen a child’s body bag with a doll beside it after the Nice massacre and very little else, from what I can glean, other than because Muslims. Aly claimed that Ms Kruger is “afraid.”

Ms Kruger has also fallen foul of several employers such as Swisse, Porsche and Target, for whom she performs as “the face” of their companies. None of them wish to be associated with her anti Muslim comments and are reviewing her contracts. Capitalists have never liked mouthy women and Ms Kruger has apparently gone “off brand,” having been hired for her non-controversial personality as well as the stereotypical  appearance that I think of as the White Barbie look. Honestly, so many of those women all look the same you’re flat-out distinguishing one from the other.

(That companies seek out “non controversial women” is a story in itself, is it not?)

Aly made an impassioned argument for “forgiveness” of such bigotry, rather than the outrage that greeted Ms Kruger’s observations. I confess Waleed has me baffled. Kruger’s comments were outrageously ignorant, and it doesn’t seem unreasonable that those offended by them express that outrage. What better way is there to inform bigots about the unacceptable nature of their bigotry? Forgive them if you want, but tell them what they’ve done first, though I doubt the true bigot will give a damn about either forgiveness or being called, outside of how it affects their income and status.

I’d also like to know what Waleed means by “forgiveness.” It’s unlike him to use such a loaded word without first defining his terms. When does “forgiveness” become enabling? If the offence is serial and without consequence or accountability, why should the offender change his or her behaviour?

I don’t think we can afford to be silent in the face of bigotry. Silence is all too easily interpreted as acquiescence. Forgive the bigots if you want. Pray for them if it’s your thing. Recognise that their bigotry springs from fear. But never cease to loudly challenge it, confront it and contest it. Contestation is not incompatible with “forgiveness.” Forgiveness doesn’t mean being silent about the offences.

Confronting bigots isn’t silencing them, as they’d have us believe. It isn’t taking away their right to free speech. Ms Kruger can continue to espouse her bigoted views from whatever platform will host her: if none are offered she may have to contemplate why that might be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why rights and bigots do not belong in the same sentence.

20 Jul

 

talking arse

 

When Attorney-General George Brandis declared that everyone has the right to be a bigot, he was, strangely for him, speaking out of his arse.

A bigot is irrationally prejudiced against and intolerant towards individuals and/or groups, without requiring any factual evidence to support her or his bigotry. This excellent Guardian piece by Susan Carland spells out the proposition. My only quibble with Dr Carland is that she writes “facts no longer matter” whereas I would argue that for bigots, facts have never mattered, and never will.

Brandis’s declaration conflates human rights with ignorance, intolerance and irrational prejudice, surely the very characteristics those rights are designed to contest, how odd he doesn’t know that.

When the country’s Attorney-General invites the indulgence and expression of bigotry it’s hardly surprising that we find ourselves entering a period of deep prejudice, expressed by the likes of convicted racist Andrew Bolt, echoed by the likes of television celebrity mother Sonia Kruger (#all mothers are celebrities, I can see that hash tag coming) and Pauline Hanson is enabled to replatform herself in government.

This time around, the bigots are singling out Muslims. It has in the past been the turn of Aborigines, Jews, Chinese, Vietnamese, Indians, single mothers of all nationalities, dole bludgers, those of Middle Eastern appearance, boat people, women… must I go on? Bigots aren’t choosy: they need to hate somebody, it doesn’t much matter who. You have the “right” to do this, says the most senior legal figure in the land. It’s freedom of speech. So knock yourselves out.

Unfortunately, the exercise of free speech does not have as a prerequisite informed and intelligent utterance. If it did there would be a strangled silence from the government benches and all early morning television shows would cease to be.

As this happy fantasy is not likely to eventuate, what are we to do in the face of the ignorant, prejudiced drivel increasingly issuing forth from public microphones? Fight back?  March in protest? Invite consultation? Sit down with the haters over  tea and scones? Ignore them?

I’d argue that there’s no single solution to contesting bigotry, and that all of the above suggestions might be useful in specific situations. When the citizens of a democracy vote bigots into government it’s a tough challenge fighting them from the top down, and we have to get creative. Psychologically speaking, bigots are generally insecure personalities with low self-esteem: they make themselves feel better by denigrating somebody else: I am not that, therefore I am OK. Those of us opposing bigotry may risk falling into the same trap…it’s complicated.

Ignorance is in ascendence, globally. It’s going to be turbulent. As I think the Dalai Llama [sic] once said, you don’t get peace by hating war. Fasten your seat belts.

 

 

 

 

#As a mother

19 Jul

motherknowsbest_web

 

Look. If I see/hear one more woman claim privileged insight because she’s a mother I will puke, spectacularly, in technicolour, over everything because WTAF?

On the proviso that you and your partner’s parts are in working order, all you need to become a mother is a root at the right time. It doesn’t even have to be a good one. In the matter of becoming mothers we are animals. It’s biological. It doesn’t qualify women for anything: it doesn’t make us better prime ministers, and it doesn’t give us exceptional insight into race relations. It can bring out the best and the worst in us, as can very many other situations encountered by the human female during the course of her life on earth.

Motherhood teaches us above all how to survive drudgery. Unless you’ve got nannies who do that for you, of course. There’s nappies and reeking shit; there’s three-year-olds whose every sentence begins with why, twelve hours a day. There’s broken nights, oh my god the broken nights. There’s kids creeping into your bed at 2am only to wake you up at three to inform you they just dreamed they were on the toilet and have accidentally peed. There’s days of exhaustion, running into one another till you don’t know what you did and when, let alone why. None of this makes a woman any better equipped to run a country than does, say, Malcolm Turnbull’s ability to turn a modest dot-com investment into millions, or Sonia Kruger’s ability to host Dancing with the Stars equips her to comment intelligently on immigration policy.

I’m a mother. I’ll never underestimate the importance of my influence on my children, for better and for worse. But #as a woman, I believe we need to recognise that attempting to privilege our motherhood works against us far more than it ever works for us. Motherhood isn’t a sacred calling. It isn’t the pinnacle of female achievement. Personally, I don’t feel greatly improved as a human being because I spent years of my life wrangling the obstinate young, and didn’t sell them to the circus.

Women who aren’t mothers can care just as much about the future as women who are, and it’s disgraceful to imply otherwise. Women who aren’t mothers can weep for the slaughtered children of others just as keenly as women who are.

The worst aspect of this motherhood rot is its divisiveness. There’s an entirely unwarranted moral acclaim blindly attributed to motherhood that divides those of us who are from those of us who aren’t. It’s lovely if you want children and have them. It’s just as lovely if you don’t want children and don’t have them. It’s another situation if you want them and can’t realise that desire.  None of us should be valued according to whether or not we reproduce ourselves. Indeed, there may well be an argument for refraining from reproduction, given the future we face.

 

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