Archive | August, 2011

After the High Court decision it’s time for co-operation on asylum seekers

31 Aug

If the government and the opposition have any sense and decency, they’ll give up their vile battle to find some way of forcing off-shore processing, and take advantage of today’s High Court decision to co-operatively work towards processing all asylum seeker claims on-shore, and resettling those found to be refugees.

Nobody has to lose face. The Court has made the decision for them with a resounding 6-1 majority. Both government and opposition have no choice but to accept this.  The Malaysian solution is illegal. The decision could also affect plans to send asylum seekers to either  Nauru or Manus Island.

Time to end this shameful decade. We do indeed live in a wonderful country when our judiciary can hold our government accountable and prevent profoundly unethical, immoral and cruel action against those who have done nothing more than request the help we are legally obliged to offer.

Gillard blames the Tea Party for rude signage, Albrechtsen says get real on rough s*x. Just another day in paradise

31 Aug

It is but a few short months since Julia Gillard made a fawning, obsequious speech to the US Congress declaring, among other things, that the US must be at the centre of a new world order, and “I firmly believe you are the same people who amazed me when I was a small girl by landing on the moon.”

“I firmly believe you are the same people??” Oh, never mind.

In a bit of a turn around, Ms Gillard this morning expressed regret at what she perceives to be the “Americanization” of Australian politics after placards plastered with slogans such as “Ditch the Witch”  and “Bob Brown’s Bitch” were held aloft at recent anti carbon tax rallies by ageing demonstrators.

An aside: if we were ever in doubt, these rallies ought to convince us that demonstrating is definitely for the young. I don’t want to be thought ageist, but if you’re going to distort your features with rage and flying spittle, it looks a whole lot better if the facial features are fresh and young to start with. Howl me down if you will, but for every thing, turn, turn, turn, there is a season, turn, turn, turn and if you’re smart, you just suck that sad fact up and go for dignity.

Back to the placards. We do not want to follow the Tea Party’s downward spiral into personal abuse and extremist comments, says the PM, and public expressions of displeasure such as those displayed at the anti carbon tax rallies are not faithful to the robust Australian tradition of political debate that is the envy of other nations.

Have a look at these and tell me the PM isn’t being a girl.

I haven’t even put up the rude ones with language a whole lot more racy than witch and bitch.

The placards that offended Ms Gillard are obviously nothing to do with the influence of the Tea Party, which wasn’t in existence when these representations of the Howard/Bush alliance appeared around 2003, expressing public opinion on the invasion of Iraq.

If anything, the public has been comparatively restrained in its depictions of Gillard.

In Oaxaca, Mexico in 2006, I watched furious demonstrations against the then governor of the state, in which he was depicted life-size in papier-mache entwined with a busty blonde mistress and escaping the city in a helicopter. The slogans that draped the tableau read (in Spanish of course): This man is a murderer of children and he f**cks his mother, and other spectacular insults, leading me to contemplate the remarkable contradiction between the power of the church in Mexico and the freedom of the people to foully abuse their politicians.

I am willing to bet every peso I have that the Tea Party had nothing to do with the Oaxaca signage either. The PM might as well have suggested we are being Mexicanized.

What I do wonder is why Ms Gillard chose to comment at all on the placards, because there’s really no way of doing it that doesn’t make her look a bit precious, especially the attempt to tie it in with the Tea Party. Someone really needs to tell her that silence can be golden, and that knowing when to talk and when to shut up is the beginning of wisdom.

Janet Albrechtsen. Well. Ms Albrechtsen has today written a column in the Australian in which she encourages women to take sex instruction from that rapidly tattifying TV series Sex and the City. The one in which everyone wears Manolo Blahniks to the corner store, and, oh god I can’t be bothered talking about it. It held my attention for a nanosecond and then I thought I must be waiting at the dentist’s flicking through Cosmopolitan magazines to distract me from fear, and not at home on the lounge at all.

Albrechtsen titles the column Let’s not be tethered by simple sexual stereotypes. That’s got to be an ironic reference, I thought, right? Wrong.

The “tethered” in the title refers not to sexual bondage, or at least I don’t think it does, her piece has done my head in, but to an anonymous male ‘fessing up in a British tabloid newspaper about what he calls his inner goat. This fantasy animal apparently carries the burden of the young man’s less attractive sexual urges, the ones that make him want to bang a woman brainless, without first shaving, washing, putting on cologne or even asking her name.

As one of the Sex and the City women expresses a desire to be banged brainless, this all ties in, somehow. You’ll have to read it, it’s beyond my powers of explanation.

Albrechtsen also takes the opportunity to be supportive of Bettina Arndt who apparently encourages all men to love their inner goat, in spite of the vile reactionary  howling of the feminist furies who, as one would expect, have no sympathy for inner goats and want them strung up by their little goaty beards.

All this seems pretty harmless and daft,  but where it gets icky is when Albrechtsen uses as an example the Strauss Kahn case, in which the alleged victim suffered vaginal bruising, to argue that injuries such as that do not necessarily indicate rape. “The stubborn puritanism that says if a woman is bruised during sex it must be rape needs to be challenged,” she writes. This is in response to a comment by Richard Ackland, in which he muses about how sex can possibly be consensual and cause vaginal bruising.

This is an example of how our media is rapidly going down the toilet. Janet Albrechtsen in the Australian critiques Richard Ackland in the SMH who discusses the DSK evidence using information gathered from a postmodern media pastiche, then Albrechtsen analyses something written by Bettina Arndt in an un-named British tabloid. Albrechtsen then recommends that her readers watch hour after hour of the TV series Sex and the City, and everybody winds up in a piece on No Place for Sheep about tethered goats. I ask you.

Vaginal bruising can of course occur during consensual sex and it doesn’t have to be rough sex. Rough sex can also be consensual. Perhaps Mr Ackland needs to watch Sex and the City. Or one of those late night French films on SBS. It is amazing how throwaway comments can reveal so much about a person, often far more than we ever needed to know or indeed that the person ever intended to tell us.

In a porn movie, a hotel maid might well enter the room of the Head of the International Monetary Fund, a room she believed was empty, and on encountering the great man’s inner goat emerging naked from the dunny, find herself overcome with desire and mysteriously compelled to spontaneously offer her body to the horny stranger for consensual rough sex that leaves her bruised and injured.

Yep, as a porn movie that would work. But in real life, it stretches all credibility. I think Albrechtsen is arguing that men ought to be allowed to say they want to bang women silly sometimes, and women ought to be allowed to say they sometimes want to be banged silly and they don’t mind incurring some vaginal bruising in the process. These are deeply personal matters about which, unlike Richard Ackland,  I have no opinion I’m willing to share.

Quite what any of that has to do with the events that occurred in Strauss Kahn’s hotel room, I don’t know.Perhaps it will all become clear in the future when we’ll all know the difference between the sheep and the goats.

Update: My curiosity piqued by a commenter’s reference to Ms Albrechtsen’s intimate life, I spent a little time researching this and discovered that the lady appeared on the arm of Mr Michael Kroger, Victorian Liberal Party heavyweight, business man and political commentator at union boss Paul Howes’ 30th birthday bash on Saturday night.

The two are apparently a new couple. I do not know if this goes any way to explaining Ms Albrechtsen’s strong identification with the women of Sex and the City, the inner goats of men, and bruising sex.

Mr Rabbit vows: I’ll sell my arse!

29 Aug

Independent member for New England Tony Windsor, otherwise known as Mr McGregor, revealed yesterday in an interview from his farm that Tony Rabbit had confessed to him that he’d do anything other than sell his arse to be Prime Minister of Hill Top Farm, but if absolutely necessary, he’d likely do that as well.

When confronted Mr Rabbit, looking pale and drawn, declared that he did not use that kind of language, and people in the farmyard should check with Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail if they wanted to know the real truth about him.

Precariously balanced on his hind legs, and too weary to hold up his ears, Mr Rabbit claimed that he’d been over-medicated when he had the alleged conversation with Mr McGregor. He’s since weaned himself off his daily intake of three hundred cups of camomile tea, and says he’s left the addiction in the past. As is well-known in complimentary medicine circles, excessive and sustained intake of the tea can cause hyper-sexuality and an overblown sense of worth, making an offer to sell one’s arse and to anybody, entirely plausible.

Meanwhile the real farm boss, Jemima Puddleduck, continues to search for a suitable nest in which to safely lay her eggs. This has proved to be an ongoing challenge moving forward, as one after another they’ve been broken the minute she’s introduced them to the light of day.

Expert opinion suggests that Jemima seems unwilling to allow the eggs their full gestation period (see PM’s Premature Enunciation at No Place For Sheep, an exclusive barnyard publication with no ties to the Murdoch Weasel Press). This practice inevitably results in brittle shells that are excessively vulnerable to critical and destructive predators.

Finally, and sadly, we heard today that Mr Jeremy Fisher aka Christopher Pyne, Manager of Opposition Business in the House of Representatives, was yesterday taken by a trout. Mr Fisher was casting his flies into a lily pond close to his home, in the hope of getting a few good bites. According to preliminary reports Mr Fisher first caught a nasty stickleback, upon which he pricked several of his fingers. Distracted by pain and licking his wounds, he was caught off guard by the unprovoked attack of the hostile fish.

Mr Fisher was wearing a plastic raincoat, the flavour of which did not, in the end, appeal to the predatory trout, which spat him out onto the muddy bank where he lay fighting for his life, his nose and mouth dangerously clogged with fish spittle.

Fortunately Mr Rabbit, having failed in his efforts to sell his arse, staggered by on his way to the refuge of his family home. Upon seeing his colleague’s dire condition Mr Rabbit called paramedics, one of whom was later identified as his second-in-command, Benjamina Bishop Bunny. Ms Bunny, readers may recall, was immortalised in the popular ABC television satire The Chaser, when she employed her infamous death stare to smash an innocent garden dwarf to smithereens.

As we go to press Mr Fisher is still in intensive care. In a freak side effect of the trauma, he has lost his voice and is expected to never again say anything other than “Ribbet.”

Mr Rabbit has since reminded the entire Hill Top Farm electorate that he’s already made it clear that unless he writes something down, it has no substance whatsoever. As no one can produce any written evidence that he ever proposed the sale of his arse, this casts doubt on Mr McGregor’s colourful account of events.

Rainy day woman on marriage

27 Aug

It’s raining cats and dogs and all my plans for Saturday centred around the outdoors. Thwarted, I turned to my computer and read this piece on the Watermelon Blog in which David reckons it’s time to make the billionaires pay the rent; and this piece on the Political Sword, in which Ad astra alleges that Tony Abbott is the worst opposition leader in our political history, and gives resoundingly convincing arguments to support the allegation.

Rainy days are good for musing and as I ventured out to give the dog an airing, I thought about marriage, and gay marriage in particular. I fully understand why people want to get married. Heck, I did it myself twice. I did it once in a church and once with a celebrant. It was nothing to do with the state, or religion, or societal expectations. It was everything to do with my heart. In retrospect the heart alone isn’t  the smartest organ from which to make such major decisions, but I didn’t know that until I’d done it twice.

In another of the triumphs of hope over experience with which my life is littered, I’d probably do it again if the circumstances ever arose.

People usually enter into a formal commitment to one another full of good will, desire and hope. It doesn’t always work out, and we pick ourselves up from the wreckage and start our lives over, often to do it all again. It’s a public expression of mutual love, and it’s valued by many as the ultimate such expression.

It seems to me there’s two arguments going on in the gay marriage debate. The first is that gays and lesbians ought to be entitled to the same public expressions of their love and commitment as are heterosexuals. This is a no brainer, IMO. Love is no respecter of genital arrangements. In a world that needs love as much as this one does, we should be celebrating it everywhere we find it. It seems extraordinarily mealy-mouthed and mean-spirited, not to mention ignorant, for any heterosexual to insist that it can’t count as marriageable love when it blossoms between same-sex couples.

The second is the interrogation of marriage itself. Like, marriage? What is it good for? Well, I could get cynical here and say not much. But in my experience that’s a conclusion everyone has to come to, or not, in their own good time and their own good way. The idea of marriage continues to exert a powerful emotional hold. No amount of rationalizing is going to change that in the near future. I know many couples who after years of living together decide to do the marriage thing, even though de facto arrangements are as legitimate. We are encultured to view marriage as the strongest commitment couples can make. This may change, but currently, it’s what we’ve got.

It seems unfair to expect that same-sex couples, rather than demanding inclusion in the culture ought to contest it, although there are voices in the gay and lesbian community raised against the institution, as there are in the heterosexual community. Nevertheless, I doubt that marriage is going to go away anytime soon. So it matters a great deal that same-sex couples have the right to celebrate their commitment just as heterosexuals do, if they so choose.

And that’s the real argument. It’s an argument about equal rights. Whether you think marriage is a necessary institution or not is largely irrelevant at this point. Currently there are couples who are denied access to marriage solely because of their sexual orientation This is discriminatory and breaches their human rights.

None of the arguments put forward by opponents of same-sex marriage stand up to scrutiny, and most are mired in superstition and religion. We have a Prime Minister who is beholden to neither superstition nor religion. So let’s move forward, Ms Gillard, unless of course the Australian Christian Lobby, those vocal opponents of same-sex marriage, have got you under their thumb.

Finally, my apologies for spelling Craig Thomson’s name wrongly in a previous post – I gave him a p when he shouldn’t have a p. He does not have a p! There is no p!! How can anyone believe anything I say if I stick p’s in where they don’t belong! Respect the p, Jennifer! Respect the goddamn p!!

Craig Thompson’s credibility, and why we (and Tony Abbott) tell lies

25 Aug

Embattled member for Dobell, Craig Thompson, continues to steadfastly maintain that he did not authorise the use of his Health Services Union credit card to pay for the services of prostitutes.

The card was apparently used to obtain many other non-work related services, and there’s $100,000 in cash withdrawals unaccounted for. Thompson continues to insist that his signature was forged.

The Union has now, somewhat belatedly some might consider as problems were first detected in 2008, referred the matter to the police. Fair Work Australia have also been investigating for this period, at a glacial pace it would seem.

As the inimitable Barnaby Joyce put it, if Thompson is the victim of a fraud this would have entailed someone breaking into Thompson’s house, stealing his wallet and credit card, using it  for nefarious purposes, breaking into the house again and returning the wallet and card, all of which must have gone undetected by Thompson. Or he’s lying. Take your pick, said Barnaby.

Around the age of two we usually begin to understand that other people and their minds are separate from us. This is the precursor to lying because in order to deceive someone, we need first have some understanding of what they might be thinking.

The tendency to lie is a natural one: as soon as we learn we have language with which to defend ourselves, we use it in order to avoid trouble and punishment. Part of the process of maturation is that we hopefully learn more useful and rewarding ways to deal with difficulties, rather than resorting to lies.

Lying can also be a sign of intelligence and cognitive skill. An accomplished liar convincingly  creates an alternative version of reality, and maintains it. This is most effective when the liar convinces him or herself that this version is truth. This isn’t difficult: if we tell the same lies often enough they gain authority within our own minds and lying becomes easier.

The motives for lying are usually tied up with self-esteem and self-preservation. We want to create the best version of ourselves, we don’t want to face the consequences of our actions,we want respect. We lie about mistakes to avoid punishment, we lie because it often works, at least for a time, and brings benefits.

However. Lies can be self-perpetuating: more lies have to be told in order to maintain the original deceit. The more serious the lie, the more it erodes trust in all social relations. Truthfulness and straightforwardness are the glues that hold society together and allow us to function: not everything can be governed by written contracts.

For example, Tony Abbott‘s declaration that his word means nothing unless it is recorded and signed is a profound breach of public trust. Whether or not he maintains this same position in his intimate life, I don’t know. One would hope not, and it isn’t unusual for a practiced liar to engage in the kind of cognitive dissonance that allows him or her to be highly principled in one area of their lives, and a complete scoundrel in another.

Clearly not everything a politician says can be formalized, and Abbott’s admission is a warning that he cannot be held accountable as he is a self-professed liar. In this he differs from Thompson, who insists that he is truthful against mounting evidence that this is either not the case, or he is part of a bizarre conspiracy that requires him to protect a guilty party by stoically shouldering the blame and humiliation of serious accusations. Somebody used the credit card. Somebody made large cash withdrawals. If not Craig, who?

Either way, Thompson is involved in a serious deception.

Lying isn’t always a bad thing and sometimes it’s necessary. The wise lie with awareness and care, and they know when to come clean. In general, it’s less complicated to tell the truth, and some research indicates that while people can forgive a lie when it’s confessed, they find it very difficult to forgive  serious and repeated deception that involves extended violation of trust. Nobody enjoys the shock of discovering they’ve been lied to. It can change a relationship permanently.

In general, human beings have positive expectations about another’s behaviour. We tend to take things at face value unless we have a reason not to, or have already been seriously damaged by a liar.We survive on the assumption that others are co-operative and trustworthy. If we didn’t we’d grind to a halt, because the energy required to stay constantly alert to the possibility of lies and to check everything, would detract from our ability to function. There’s a balance between being ludicrously naive and reasonable wary, and it pays to be co-operative.

Deception causes enduring and significant harm. This may be why politicians are frequently so despised. “Lying politicians” has become a tautology. Politician’s violations of public trust have long-lasting effects. They seem to have very little idea of their enormous responsibility for constructing and maintaining the kind of society in which we all live, and they apparently don’t care, with a few exceptions.

When the rot starts at the top, that sets the tone. If a country is governed overwhelmingly by liars and deceivers, nobody should be surprised if lies and deceit are the order of the day in all parts of its society.

Of course, in the Thompson matter there’s always the possibility of an evil twin.

The high cost of obstinacy

22 Aug

Guest post today by Gerard Oosterman, artist, farmer and blogger

The treasury informs us that 2.4 billion has been spent on detaining boat people since 2000. This has worked out at $100,000 per boat arrival. I wonder how long this stupid waste of money will be allowed to continue.

The tide in favour on off shore detention has been turning, and ever so slowly there now appears the realization that if not from a humanitarian but from a financial point of view, we might be better off to swallow our pride or blind obstinacy and simply do what the rest of the world has been doing for many years. That is, dealing with a difficult problem that presents itself directly on most of their doorsteps, on a never-ending and daily basis.

After all, not many countries have the luxury of submissive sovereign nations such as PNG and Nauru, or excised islands close by, where refugees can be sent and left to slowly languish while awaiting the assessment of their refugee status.

In the meantime, there are serious concerns expressed daily about the treatment of asylum seekers in detention. This treatment results in hundreds of cases of self harm, mental break-downs, riots and the involvement of the Australian Federal Police. These events ring alarm bells worldwide especially at the UNHCR.

No matter what we do to try to dissuade the boat people, they will continue to undertake dangerous voyages to escape their circumstances and find a better life for themselves and their children. They have little or nothing to lose.

So what is this deep fear that Australia has about boat people who, no matter what, will continue to arrive at our doorstep? Are they armed? Do they threaten Us? Do they come with murderous intent, do they come to rape and pillage? The general and not unreasonable assumption is that many more will arrive  if we let our guard down. That might well be true. So what?  Australia happily takes in more than a hundred thousand migrants in a year. If a thousand boat people a week arrive on our shores, what is the problem with that?

If we reduced our normal intake of migrants by fifty thousand we would still not increase the overall number. Consider that fifty thousand migrants from ‘normal’ channels are those that are in less urgent need than boat arrivals, then why not give priority to asylum seekers? Consider how our image would change overnight.

Currently, we are viewed with horror by many world-wide as images and have been since the Tampa. Then there are the terrible sights of refugees burning and self harming, and those terrible drownings at Christmas Island. Sometimes, the footage resembles Guantanamo Bay, where prisoners are also languishing after many years.

The advantage of age is the luxury of hindsight. I remember still a similar
fear of refugees and new-comers in the late fifties and sixties. The ‘reffos’ and Italians and Greeks were knife pullers and worse, garlic eaters. They would catch trains or buses while speaking strange languages. That fear for Southern Europeans later changed into a fear for the boat people from Vietnam. They would allegedly bring exotic diseases, and they wore funny hats.

All of those fears were unfounded. Can you imagine Australia without the huge benefits from all those brave enough to risk dangerous journeys to come here?
We would all still be slurping milk-shakes, eating meat pies with lamingtons for dessert, and thronging around the six o’clock swill pubs. Those killer Sundays, they were deadly quiet with just the stray dogs about,scratching their fleas at deserted suburban rail-stations. Instead, we have a lively and varied society.

We still seem to harbour similar fears against the Afghans, Burmese or Iraqis, again based on ignorance, prejudice and an unwillingness to change.

Why do we allow fear to compete so sadly with compassion?

Come on Aussies. Open your hearts. Take the risk and deal with those
unfortunate boat arrivals as best as we can. Deal with the problem with honesty and do it in Australia. Show the world we care and have compassion. We are the largest
and least densely population country in the world. Not just a country but a
complete continent with the smallest population.  Let’s also have the
largest hearts.

Gerard blogs at  Oosterman Treats Blog

“Art is dangerous. Art is not chaste” Robert Crumb and the anti child abuse campaigner

20 Aug

The recent Sunday Telegraph campaign against graphic artist Robert Crumb’s proposed participation in an exhibition at the Sydney Opera House, used the opinions of anti child abuse campaigner Hetty Johnson to infer that Crumb’s work is complicit in creating communities that are unsafe for children and should be banned.

The Tele apparently faxed Ms Johnson (who had previously never heard of the artist) a few copies of Crumb’s cartoons, leading her to decide that: ”the Sydney Opera House is endorsing the depraved thought processes of this very warped human being. These cartoons are not funny or artistic – they are just crude and perverted images emanating from what is clearly a sick mind.”

Crumb cancelled his trip, giving reasons in this open letter to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Anti child abuse campaigners like Ms Johnson have an important role to play in any community. Children must not be abused. We must do everything we can to address child abuse of every kind wherever we find it, because we are cruel and inhuman if we don’t.

But it’s a symptom of psychosis to mistake illusion for reality. Campaigners such as Ms Johnson are striving to impose a psychotic world view when they campaign against images such as those produced by Crumb, and closer to home, Bill Henson. Such campaigners necessarily view the world around them through the eyes of those who are sexually aroused by children. They seek in images of all kinds what they imagine paedophiles desire. They assume these images will provoke undesirable action in their viewers. They have no basis for these assumptions. They have no evidence. They simply object.

After working for many years with survivors of childhood sexual assault, I can attest that one can eventually see suspicious behaviour everywhere, in the most innocent of gestures, and on reaching that point a sensible practitioner knows it’s time to take a break. Yes, there are adults who abuse children. No, it’s not everybody. Yes there are images that paedophiles seek out and exchange. No, they are not every image in art or advertising that feature children.

These efforts by campaigners to colonise the public gaze have nothing whatsoever to do with preventing child abuse. Children are overwhelmingly sexually abused by people they know, frequently close family members. They are not necessarily abused by sexually crazed admirers of Robert Crumb and Bill Henson, or even by those sad human beings who earn their livelihood designing “sexy” underwear for little girls, and the even sadder mothers who buy it for them.

Here, I have to say that I don’t find the linked advertisements guilty of “sexualizing” the young models. I believe we need a conversation about what is and isn’t sexy and to whom, because it seems to me that campaigners are adopting a definition of “sexy” that is not necessarily shared by the whole community.

I find these images of the girls silly and sad. There’s not one thing that’s “sexy”about them. They are degrading not because they sexualize, but because they commodify. The young girls’ beauty is not sexualized, it is ruthlessly co-opted and exploited to sell product. The girls are dehumanized because of this, as are we all to varying degrees by the capitalist society in which we live.

It’s also worthy of note that these campaigners cannot, apparently, achieve their goals without perpetuating and trafficking in the “offensive” images. So on websites such as that belonging to Melinda Tankard Reist you will find links to purported “evidence” of the “sexualization” of young girls, sometimes tantalizingly prefaced by comments such as “if you can bear to look.” Unless you are willing to take Reist’s word for it, you have to open the links.

Without public outrage, these campaigners will cease to exist. They have everything invested in encouraging the viewing and sharing of the images they condemn. The question must be asked, are they too engaged in the process of commodification and exploitation of the child models? Is this the underlying reason why they are unable to address these matters as corporate and consumer issues?

What campaigners such as Hetty Johnson and Tankard Reist are actually engaged in are diversionary tactics. In blaming the art they do not understand for creating a climate in which the so-called “sexualization” of children is promoted and nurtured, they are distracting attention from the real culprits: corporations and consumers. Human beings have long been reduced to the status of a commodity in the interests of profit. Greed, not paedophilia underpins the increasing  sexualization of children. The personal worth of adults has long been measured by their exchange value: it was only a matter of time before this extended itself to the imposition on children of  impoverished and crude adult notions of what is “sexy,” designed purely to extend the profitability of human exploitation and commodification.

Back to Robert Crumb. Crumb’s work is a fine example of the power of catharsis. The artist owns himself as “weird,” highly anxious and neurotic, and possessing a vividly boisterous sexual imagination. These characteristics imbue his work with powerful feeling, and viewing Crumb’s images is often a disturbing experience.

But remember: “Art is dangerous,” Picasso claimed. “Art is never chaste. Where it is chaste, it is not art.”

The artist’s job is often to expose to the rest of us what we might not want to see or acknowledge as human. The best artists won’t flinch in their task of expressing what we would most like to deny about humanity. Those who are too afraid to rise to the artist’s challenge will demand censorship. They will clamour for the silencing of the artist’s imagination because, they claim, there is an inherent link between the imagination, and the acting out of imaginative visions. In other words, they take Picasso’s claim that art is dangerous far too literally.

Art is dangerous to the closed mind. Art can take us to emotional experiences and spiritual realisations that are not always easy and comfortable. But art will not turn us into paedophiles. The horrifying photographic images of sexually exploited and tormented children passed around a paedophile ring are not art.

While the artist may be expressing a personal vision, the fact that others can identify with and appreciate the artwork transforms the personal into the universal. Finding imaginative ways in which to safely express the darker and more dangerous emotions is the cathartic experience, and the cathartic experience is one that can enable a safe release of unconscious conflicts in the viewer as well as the artist. This is the power of art, and I include in the category of “art” all mediums of expression. Dark and dangerous emotions are human. They demand acknowledgement and safe expression. Art offers safe emotional release, both in its making and its appreciation.

This is the experience campaigners such as Johnson and Tankard-Reist wish to deny us. Trapped in a spiral of denial, they need to universalize their positions in order to feel validated. They need us all to agree with their critical judgements. They demand that we all adopt the paedophile’s gaze, and interpret the art that surrounds us, whatever its form, through that lens. They do not discriminate, their responses are formulaic and tiresome: if it is weird and sick to them, it has to be weird and sick to everyone, and the weird and sick must be silenced and denied.

What currently passes for “sexy” in our culture seems to me to be highly unsubtle, crude and largely uninteresting. Yet these campaigners have somehow managed to turn this one-dimensional representation of human sexuality into a cultural threat of nuclear proportions, especially for our children. Artists such as Crumb and Henson, of all people, have been caught up in this manufactured threat.

Campaigners themselves insist on reproducing many of the very images they decry, because, they claim, people must see them in order to be able to protest them. Outrage is their weapon of choice, and they must create enough of it to bring about their censorship goals.

Yet all they ever achieve is a band-aid solution. They do not address the underlying issues. They do not go deeply into the immorality of the increasing commodification of the human. They do not address a global economy that survives only as long as we all consume as much as is possible for as long as we are alive, making the construction of new markets an absolute necessity, even when that market is children and childhood. They do not address the complicity and collusion of mothers and caregivers in the sexualization and commodification of children and childhood. They do attack art, in all its forms, because that is easy.

The conflation of the “sexualization” of children and paedophilia with the perceived dangers of art needs to be challenged and resisted whenever it rears its hydra-head. The real role of anti child abuse campaigners is to work for educative and economic services that will help protect children, and that will offer accessible services for adults recovering from the frequently life long aftermath of childhood abuse.

There is no place for these campaigners as arbiters in the world of art. They have proved over and over again that their perspective is warped and one-dimensional, and that censorship is their only response to expressions of the human that they do not understand.

Sad news for the ABC

19 Aug

It’s a shocking and sorrowful morning today for the families and for ABC staff, with news of the loss of veteran journalist Paul Lockyer, cameraman John Bean, and pilot Gary Ticehurst in a helicopter crash in a remote part of South Australia last night.

As a long-time ABC audience, our household sends condolences, and our very best thoughts and wishes to everyone affected by the loss of three fine professionals and family members.



Who needs anger management classes? Credit Card Craig!

17 Aug

The federal member for Dobell, Craig Thompson, allegedly behaved very badly towards a female member of the Salvation Army at a rally on the Central Coast on Saturday night. The rally, organized to express displeasure with poker machine reform, was moderated by Louise Duff.

Apparently Thompson, also known as “Credit Card Craig”  for reasons I’ll go into in a minute, became excessively exercised when he felt that the moderator did not give him an equal opportunity to address a question. He confronted Ms Duff, threatened to finish her career, threatened to name her in the Parliament, and told her she was a “disgrace.”

So closely did he insert himself into her personal space, and so violently did he shout at her that her cheeks were covered in his spittle, and she had to wipe them clean with her handkerchief.

There were many witnesses. Thompson later rang Ms Duff and apologised.

It’s safe to assume that anyone who gets right in your face, threatens you, and covers you in spittle, is spinning out of control and should be carefully watched.

Thompson’s seat is very marginal. Should a by-election result in him losing the seat, the government will collapse and we’ll have a general election.

Prior to entering Parliament, Thompson was the head of the Health Services Union. In 2005 he allegedly authorized payment for prostitutes’ services with his union credit card. These services were not for him, but his “mates.” Thompson incurred heavy legal bills when he attempted to sue the Sydney Morning Herald for defamation after they published this story. When he dropped his defamation action, the ALP bailed him out to the tune of some $90,000, saving him from bankruptcy, presumably because MP’s can’t be bankrupts as well. Financially, that is. There’s no law says they can’t be morally bankrupt and keep their seats.

Thompson has since claimed that the signature on the credit card authorization is not his, but a forgery. This claim has been discredited by a forensic expert who says the signature is almost certainly Thompson’s. People are also asking why, if his signature has been forged, hasn’t Thompson complained to the fraud squad?

Craig Thompson is probably the biggest threat the Gillard government has to contend with at the moment. He’s the one factor that could bring them undone faster than you can say by-election. If I were the PM I’d be getting him to a psychologist pronto and paying the bills. A bit of cognitive behavioural therapy, intense anger management training, meditation, heck, even drugs. Send him on leave with depression. Have him diagnosed with a bi polar disorder. Anything to render him ineffectual and harmless, because a man who’s walking round covering the face of a Salvation Army moderator in spit, is a full-blown here and now menace.

Credit Card Craig is a bigger problem for the government than the Malaysian solution and the carbon tax rolled into one.

Senator George Brandis, senior opposition attack dog, asked serious questions in the Senate this afternoon, flagging big trouble in the immediate future for the government because the opposition is going at this full-bore, and why wouldn’t they?



It’s confirmed: Abbot and Gillard have got it wrong

16 Aug

Today’s Nielsen poll revealed some interesting information about Australian attitudes to asylum seekers, and the hard-line off-shore processing policies pushed by both major parties.

According to the poll, 53% of us believe that boat arrivals should be processed  in Australia, not off-shore. This puts Abbott and Gillard out of step with the majority of the electorate as they both pursue their expulsion plans, either to Malaysia or Nauru.

It could be speculated that the responsibility for this unexpected surge of public compassion towards boat arrivals lies with Gillard’s Malaysia solution. While many of us could apparently come at Nauru, Malaysia is a step too far, given the uncertainty asylum seekers will face there. The concept of expelling children to that country is also highly unpalatable, and likely to be contested by the UNHCR.

There’s a nice irony in imagining that Gillard might actually have done herself no favours with her Malaysia deal, when the government’s intention was to win support from an Australian public they perceived as demanding they demonstrate increasing toughness in their treatment of boat arrivals.

Perhaps instead they’ve managed to sicken enough of us with their conservative, bullying rhetoric, and the tide has begun to turn. One can only hope. The sight of federal police armed to the teeth, in training on Christmas Island to push boat arrivals onto planes bound for Malaysia, was not edifying. All this violence and threat against a handful of unarmed people asking for asylum?

Maybe we just didn’t need to see Julia chucking a Tampa. 

At this stage, there’s little the government can do, having committed to the Malaysia solution and facing a court battle next week. This poll, like so many others recently, can’t be encouraging.

60% of us also believe that those found to be refugees should be granted permanent protection in Australia.

With so many big issues facing us, one has to wonder yet again what the government stands to gain with its theatrics over boat arrivals, especially when asylum seekers arriving by plane are treated quite differently. There’s no legal justification for this difference, and there’s no rational necessity for it either. It’s politics.

This latest poll casts concrete doubt on the government’s judgement in this matter. They’ve outdone the Howard government in their ferocity towards boat arrivals, and it just might be starting to backfire, particularly as the boats aren’t stopping.

The answer is so simple. Initial detention for health and identity checks, release into the community while claims are assessed, re-settlement or return if the claims aren’t substantiated. It’s not rocket science. It’s humane, it’s responsible, it’s common sense, it’s legal. Why, then, do Abbott and Gillard have to make it so hard?

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