Privilege and imagination

17 May

Yesterday the word “privilege” was used a great deal in social media, mostly with regard to this post by Mia Freedman, in which she defends Delta Goodrem against charges of racism following an incident involving a white man dressing up as Seal by painting himself black.

I used the word myself in my last blog, though it isn’t one of my favourites. It has a good deal of currency at the moment, with people requesting other people to first consider their privilege before expressing opinions, making judgements, behaving in certain ways, prescribing and proscribing. It’s not a bad idea, but many of those amongst us who are most privileged find it tedious, silly, and that crowning insult, it’s political correctness, usually “gone mad.”

So if I were to say, as did Mia Freedman, that using blackface in this instance is not racist, not intended to be racist, and people who are offended need to get a sense of humour, I’d do well to consider the privileged position from which I am speaking before I open my mouth. As a middle class white woman who has never experienced racism, I am the least equipped to judge whether or not blackface is a racial insult. If I then tell brown people to get a sense of humour about it, I’m skating on very thin ice indeed.

It seems to me that the easiest way to avoid offence is to first exercise the imagination.  How would I feel…

If, as Clementine Ford acknowledged in her article on violence and sexual violence against women, the situation one is about to discuss is beyond one’s imagining, then one might do well to refrain from expressing opinions about it. I haven’t yet understood how it is possible to hold an informed opinion about something one cannot begin to imagine, or refuses to imagine, beyond the initial opinion that one finds it unimaginable.

Of course it’s possible to observe how awful a situation is, but that is not particularly insightful or helpful. With imagination the complexities and nuances become evident, and in situations as complex as racism, and domestic violence, the devil is in the detail.

For example, as I’ve noted many times, the simplistic gendering of domestic violence by some feminists and governments has done nothing to prevent any of it, and obfuscates the complexities of intimate relationships that turn very bad. I don’t know how it’s in the least helpful to frame this violence and our attempts at management in terms of gender, and until someone writes policy with a bit more imagination and a lot less ideology, nothing is going to improve.

I think that our primary responsibility to others is to use our imaginations about their circumstances. If we (and I mean anyone) are unwilling or unable to do this, the problem is ours, not theirs.

“Examining your privilege” might be better thought of as “using your imagination.” This latter opens up the possibility of stepping into the other’s shoes for a while, and seeing how it feels.  This is probably one of the most powerful expressions of respect one human being can offer to another. It acknowledges our common humanity, and the vulnerability we all share in our embodiment. It is impossible to perform this respectful act without engaging the imagination.

When individuals and groups fail to use their imagination about the circumstances of those who are in some way different from themselves, bad things start to happen, such as excising the entire country from the Migration Act and incarcerating others for indefinite periods in far from acceptable circumstances. If we (and by we I mean everybody) don’t imagine others as human beings with whom we have much in common, and perhaps add, there but for the grace of the gods we might be, then we can’t feel as badly as we should about how we treat them.

If we don’t use our imaginations about another’s suffering, we end up feeling little more than pity, although we might call it compassion and empathy. Without imagination, it is only pity. Pity allows us to distance ourselves from the other, while compassion and empathy demand we walk with her or him, figuratively speaking.

The most compassionate people I’ve known have not suffered in ways I have, yet have never made me feel different, less than them, or pitied. I doubt any one of them ever “examined their privilege.” They are all, however, possessed of powerful imaginations. They have no difficulty putting themselves in another’s place. They may not understand some things, but they accept and respect another’s right to her or his subjective experience. They don’t “take your voice and leave you howling at the moon.”

Imagination. That is all.

111 Responses to “Privilege and imagination”

  1. samjandwich May 17, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    My goodness you’re spectacularly brilliant!

    That is all.


    • Jennifer Wilson May 17, 2013 at 10:13 am #

      Also exhausted, and going away this arvo for a weekend with the beloved babies in Mt Tamborine. 🙂


    • Toni Blackmore May 17, 2013 at 11:29 am #

      What she/he said! Thanks for putting that into words samjandwich.


  2. paul walter May 17, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    Well, Mia Friedman is right, the only question is, is it a ( inc paid for media space?) publicity stunt or an inadvertant storm in a tea cup.
    I call for media and press to be indicted for avoiding their responsibilities to report news by running diversionary fluff.
    The other point raised by Jennifer is the relationship between judgementalism and lived experience.
    I think any sort of lived life ought to ground the subject in sufficient experience to understand that snap judgements are usually to be shunned and that firing off at the lip invites disaster.
    I observed a couple of days ago that it be sparing in future comment as to domestic abuse on the last thread here.
    I said I sensed pain.
    Now, I was never sexually abused as a child but did grow up in a problematic family, with my father’s drinking, sullenness, the rows and and sporadic violence ratchetted up tensions for long periods. Like most other kids I also had experiences of being thugged and bullied in the playground and at school. Nor does violence have to be physical to be traumatic. When I was a tot about five, some slightly older kids gave me a treasure trove- a jar full of handsome tadpoles- wealth beyond my wildest dreams!
    This meant Iwas a few minutes late home for lunch. My father had come out to drag me in and contemptuously and triumphantly emptied the tadpoles onto the ground when I showed him them. Even writing this now I quake with misery and anger and not a blow was laid.
    Can you sense another’s distress?
    I beleive so and if so it is righteous to add sympathy, abjection is the loneliness state of all.


    • Jennifer Wilson May 17, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

      Oh, that tadpole story is so poignant, PW. You are right, sensing another’s distress isn’t difficult unless we sociopathically can’t/don’t want to.


      • paul walter May 17, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

        May as well such a person be alive?
        What can be of real value to such a soul?


    • Elisabeth May 20, 2013 at 8:18 pm #

      As Jennifer says so much empathy lies in our capacity to put ourselves into another’s shoes and this story from the perspective of your five year old self, Paul, is devastating. So crushing. My heart goes out to you and your five year old self.


      • paul walter May 21, 2013 at 9:00 am #

        My old man had problems, from his own boyhood and from other causes. Also (I beleive) he and mum should never got married.
        He also did good things later and I came to realise that he also was trashed early, was walking wounded before he ever knew it, if he ever did realise it.
        Just the same, lucky was mum was strong willed, we all would have gone down otherwise.
        Life is hard on humans?


      • paul walter May 22, 2013 at 12:00 pm #

        Thanks.It was devastating at the time and has remained so over the years. It poisoned the well as to a good relation ship with dad.
        Sadly, I regret I may have alienated my own kid brother acting the stuff out, the same way, a little later- chip on the shoulder thing.


  3. Ray (novelactivist) May 17, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    That’s all well and good, but in this particular case Delta has a right to speak because the photo included someone dressed as her – it was a photo of all four judges, not just of Seal.


    • Ray (novelactivist) May 17, 2013 at 11:08 am #

      That is – a man dressed as her.


      • Jennifer Wilson May 17, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

        I think Delta expressed surprise & distress at being accused of racism, them Freedman took it up on her behalf.


    • Toni Blackmore May 17, 2013 at 11:40 am #

      Ray nothing in this post is bloody well and good! How dare you compare any potential umbridge Goodrem may feel with the feelings of a frightened, abused and unprotected child, or the effect of the very same blackface that villified and humiliated people who are still alive, being recast as a harmless gag. Grow a heart!


      • Ray (novelactivist) May 17, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

        What has this got to do with a “frightened, abused and unprotected child”?

        Was Seal offended?

        If not, then why be offended on his behalf?


        • Toni Blackmore May 17, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

          For example…simplistic gendering of domestic violence…has done nothing to prevent any of it, and obfuscates the complexities of intimate relationships that turn very bad. I don’t know how it’s in the least helpful to frame this violence and our attempts at management in terms of gender, and until someone writes policy with a bit more imagination and a lot less ideology, nothing is going to improve.
          This Ray. Man as head of household can’t be blamed for keeping a willfully disobedient/stupid woman and (often) her bloody children in line. When we, and I really mean we, seek to reframe someone else’s painful experience, be it of racism, homophobia, sexual assault or fear of mulitcoloured bloody envelopes for that matter, we dishonour their fortitude and resilience, and that’s the very last thing they deserve.
          No idea who this Seal person is, but have a look at Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov if your question was serious, especially chapter 4, Rebellion.


          • Toni Blackmore May 17, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

            Sorry Jennifer, forgot to use quotation marks, and also hope you’re not annoyed at me for derailing.


          • Ray (novelactivist) May 17, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

            Again, I wasn’t talking about women, children or gender.

            And ‘this Seal person’ is the subject of the controversy.


      • hudsongodfrey May 17, 2013 at 7:09 pm #

        Toni, the article isn’t really about racism, it’s about imagination and perspectives. If you as a woman aren’t offended by the bloke in drag (dressed in the role of Delta), then who’s to say any black people are particularly incapable of recognising that the bloke in the boot polish is dressed in the role of Seal, because they’re parodying the show for fun.

        Sure a line could be overstepped here. Going with the gollywog look would do that. They didn’t and we don’t know that their little show featured a bunch of King Billy Coke Bottle jokes either. So maybe we lack the perspective we need to be able to judge properly, and that can be a good test of our character that shows whether we’re inclined to assume the worst or express a little provisional optimism about others’ motives from time to time.


        • paul walter May 18, 2013 at 3:11 am #

          Its also about dumbing down, a form of commodification.


  4. doug quixote May 17, 2013 at 11:35 am #

    We live in an age where people’s sensitivities are heightened. I have no idea whether Goodrem is racist, and I care even less, but Mia’s defence is suspect, and as Jennifer points out it skates on thin ice.

    Goodrem posted a reply to fans (?) who sent her a photo; no big deal if she says have a fun time at the fancy dress party. The man in black face however could and should and be confronted by fellow party-goers. Many people have little tolerance for racist slurs, and dress-ups can be a minefield – just ask Prince Harry (or even MTR).

    Most people should have enough brain-power, it seems to me, to put themselves in the position of others; I think cognitive tests show that 6 year-olds can manage it. But many are just lazy and unthinking; at least I hope so.

    Deliberate racists should be a dying breed. They deserve to be.


    • paul walter May 17, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

      My sense is that it is a typical attention-grabbing tabloid media stunt, after Sandilands, Jones, et al.
      Blame the bosses and publicity department, for perversity at worst, ignorance at best.
      There has been zip policing of media since Cash for Comments, they realised that stunts were open slather after that, regardless of who got hurt- that is the modern capitalist ethic. TDT and ACA are no better.


  5. Toni Blackmore May 17, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

    Probably too pissed off after responding to a comment to make much sense, but here goes…as a kid my fascination with words made me very confused, how could my dad be charged with assault when he attacked a fellow shopkeeper, and not when he attacked my mum or sisters? Police were involved numerous times in the latter, far more violent attacks yet there were no arrests or charges because it was just a domestic dispute. I now object strenuously to terms like domestic or intimate partner violence. Violence is violence, and assault is criminal. So you see, privilege is irrelevant to me here, I don’t give a toss about whether some looky-loo, pity junkie is capable of developing imagination, I want no margin for dispute about the criminality of an act because there’s an existing relationship. Safe distance terminology like incest and domestic violence have protected consciences from acting against physical assault and child rape for too long.


    • gerard oosterman May 17, 2013 at 12:31 pm #

      Neither is domestic violence always taken serious in Family Courts. The one escaping the violence is sometimes portrayed as a cunning partner by Court appointed ‘experts’ claiming the violated partner is using P.A.S (parental alienation syndrome) to get more out of the separation.
      The use of PAS is dodgy and banned in more enlightened countries.


    • helvityni May 17, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

      Family court let a child molesting father to have the kids as the main carer as he had promised to undertake counselling; so much for justice from the FAMILY court.


      • paul walter May 17, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

        That is as despicable as it it is laughable.


    • Jennifer Wilson May 17, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

      I agree. Assault is assault & criminal acts are criminal acts. As you say, the terminology and gendering of the argument confuse this.


      • conor May 22, 2013 at 6:17 pm #

        I am sick of this habit of only talking about male violence towards women whilst willfully ignoring female to male. It’s become accepted in media for women to punish “bad” men by a slap, or destruction of his property, and it has got to stop.


  6. Ray (novelactivist) May 17, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    Talking about words – ‘blackface’ actually refers to a very specific type of make-up that ridicules and exaggerates specific features, especially the lips.

    Simply imitating the skin tone of someone with darker skin is not actually ‘blackface’ and does not carry the same implications as the traditional vaudeville negative stereotype.


    • Jennifer Wilson May 17, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

      Yes, I did actually wonder about that, Ray.


      • doug quixote May 17, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

        Sacha Baron Cohen would have a difficult time if that were not the case.

        (PS Are you still upset with me over Cixous?)


        • paul walter May 17, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

          Do penance. Read Kristeva.


    • Toni Blackmore May 17, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

      Look I agree, and I think it was more thoughtless than aggressively racist, but white faces painted black have a nasty provenance. Who are we to say “but this is different because it isn’t intended to demean you, so stop feeling what you might be feeling?”


      • Ray (novelactivist) May 17, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

        Sure Toni, except that no black person, least of all Seal, has actually made a complaint (that I’m aware of). Seems to me to be a lot of white people agonising over what is or isn’t racist.

        Criticism of actual blackface is legitimate because of the stereotype and the way black Americans were denied a place in the entertainment industry, despite black music having a very important and central role in the history of music.

        None of this really applies to Seal; an international star adored by many, dare I say it, white people.

        This is not white people putting on exaggerated make-up and taking jobs from the real musicians.


  7. hudsongodfrey May 17, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

    So glad that you posted this Jennifer. I was just thinking this morning that without that sense of empathy that imagination implies there’d be precious few relevant viewpoints in the conversation at all.

    After all there’s nothing wrong with non victims empathising inasmuch as they’re able as long as poor assumptions may be avoided. But then likewise it would probably be dangerous to say that being a victim provides one with a much clearer insight of the mind of a psychopath than anyone else has, with the possible exception of a trained clinical psychologist.

    So it’s a matter I think of getting the question right sometimes, because Clementine’s question in the article you wrote about yesterday may not have been how can the victims stop this from happening. Indeed that’s often a fairly unhelpful question if it verges on blaming the victims. Instead in might be how do all of us recognise abuse even at far lower levels and say or do something better than what we’ve been saying in and around bad situations before they’re allowed deteriorate.

    I still don’t like the language, but I think it may be as good as question as any.

    Having said that I think that the way we judge humour is often, as it should be, totally different from the way that we judge opinion and commentary. It may be as simple as recognising that on the face of it the guy in black-face doesn’t necessarily convey any opinion about ethnicity or skin colour any more than the bloke in drag is assumed to be demeaning women. The minute he opens his mouth and makes a racist remark I’ll have him for it, but based on the picture alone I think we’re assuming offence that isn’t proved. Any attempt to parody a TV show that features a black singer kind of insults our intelligence if the role can’t be filled in the same way that the guy in drag is filling Delta’s.


  8. Christine Says Hi May 17, 2013 at 5:45 pm #

    It’s interesting hearing comedian Lenny Henry’s talk about his role on the Black & White Minstrel Show. Earlier in his career he seemed to play down the racism a bit (at least in public) because of the support he had in his career from colleagues on the show. As time has gone by his views have changed or maybe mellowed. It’s something this famously funny and intelligent black English comedian regrets now, which is a nice illustration (if any is needed) about the reach of racism’s harm in people’s lives.

    Celebrities get a bit of extra flack for this kind of stuff, and that’s to be expected. When you become a public figure, and make a nice living from it, you also get lots of public attention, often for things which wouldn’t raise a eyebrow if anyone else said or did them.

    I get what people are saying about white guilt etc, but if white people don’t pull each other up then who will? Why should black and brown and ‘other’ people have to be the police of, and therefore even indirectly accept responsibility for controlling or preventing, white racism.

    Personally I doubt Goodrem “meant” to offend anyone. She’s famous for, among other things, being “nice”.

    But, there’s that fame thing again ~ and that thing Jennifer alludes to here ~ the thing about *thinking* before you casually toss back a comment in a public space. If you do it deliberately (a la Catherine Deveny) and expect the shit storm which follows (and stick with your guns), fair enough. If you do it unthinkingly, well, you are bound to get an education.

    Maybe part of that education needs to be around why we don’t want to offend certain groups. No-one wants to bring down the weight of societal disapprobation, but empathy is a bit more than that. To some extent it’s about how we operate in the world, relative to others, so caring for people at a less superficial level might be a good thing in which to gain some understanding.

    Perhaps publicly educating a celebrity may have the unintended consequence of providing some of the same to “the fans” …


  9. Marilyn May 17, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

    The MSM are conspiring with Gillard again though today with the pretence that we are actually not breaking our own law in cutting off the country from the law for just a few innocent people.

    They have been egged on by the media and Gillard is never confronted with facts and even today is in Hobart claiming that jailing refugee kids is not a breach of anything.

    Let me relate the day I met this woman in April 2002.

    It was a forum help by the SA united trades and labour council when now openly gay married Ian Hunter was secretary.
    On the panel was Jeremy Moore from the Woomera lawyers group, David Cox the MP for Kingston who lost his seat at the next election, an Iraqi refugee whose family of Sabean Mandaeans were still in Baghdad and being persecuted and tortured because after almost a year in Woomera he was on a TPV.

    Gillard waffled on and on about how refugees should and must by law stay home and wait to be selected to come here and if they died in the meantime who cared because she sure didn’t.

    Dr Amir was a brilliant doctor trained in Bristol who returned to Iraq to help his people. He was then brought to the attention of Saddam Hussein by our own idiotic Richard Butler who thought that a microbiologist would know how to make chemical weapons – presumably from blood, shit and wee so he fled. He could not afford to get back to England so he came here as the cheapest option.

    ONce here he reported the criminal behaviour of Abu Quessay but we know now that the AFP”s only response was to pay “Waleed Sultani $250,000 and citizenship to work with Quessay to overload and scuttle boats on the way here.

    When he appealed to Gillard for help she ignored his existence.

    When I lost my temper at her ignorance and asked her if she was aware of the refugee convention, the protocol, the rights of the child, the international covenant of civil and political rights, the convention against torture and cruel and unusual treatment she shrugged and didn’t answer.

    She has not improved or learnt one single thing since that day as she pretends to cry over a safe and happy child with Down’s syndrome while jailing over 1,000 kids, some of them quite disabled.


    • paul walter May 18, 2013 at 3:12 am #

      Are you certain you understand the thread topic?


      • Marilyn May 18, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

        Yes I understand the thread topic, it is about a privileged bitch and the racists in her party destroying the constitution, the rule of law and the country by pretending it no longer exists for refugees who dare to arrive the same way that privileged bitch got here.


        • hudsongodfrey May 18, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

          So I imaging is half of Shakespeare and all of Monty Python.


        • doug quixote May 18, 2013 at 6:42 pm #

          I think that qualifies as a “no fucking idea.”


        • paul walter May 18, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

          So, it would have been better put at a thread dealing specifically with the refugee issue, like the one on Manus Island, featured on the side bar here.


  10. Garpal Gumnut May 18, 2013 at 7:29 am #

    There is a difference between an individual being caught in the headlights over a chance remark sans conviction or relevance and a professional giving advice and guidance.
    It would appear this has occurred with Delta Goodrem, who I believe is a famous warbler, whose works I have never consciously experienced.
    Friedman seems self serving, running a blog/magazine for profit, and inserting trigger word to spruik her brand. And in this, she has been very successful.
    This whole debate has more of the Leunig about it than the Lorde.


    • paul walter May 19, 2013 at 11:33 am #

      Garpal Gumnut, you will be ecstatic to learn that Delta Goodrem has an even greater claim to fame: Delta is none other than the sister of Trent Goodrem, a Central District footy club footballer.
      Go you ‘Dogs, winners of nine SANFL premierships this century.


  11. doug quixote May 18, 2013 at 8:06 am #

    Sometimes we don’t appreciate just how far we have come. For many hundreds of years it was held and established that a man could not rape his wife, in that she owed him conjugal rights. Slowly that was watered down with exceptions by the judges, and only quite recently has it been a criminal offence :

    In 1976 – for the first time in the English-speaking world it became a crime.

    The great strides have been made, and now we argue over the nuances.

    Get some perspective.


  12. paul walter May 18, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

    Agree with both of last two, esp “self serving” and agree its all been a bit contrived, by the TV station, then the press and media. Freedman was probably fair, per se, in suggesting Goodrum is not a racist- probably doesn’t care one way or the other- but could have qualified her comments by suggesting that media needs to show some occasional sensitivity and taste as to its usual increasingly vulgar and inane stunts.
    This was instead left to Wilson and others.
    DQ, its missing a lot, the sense of perspective.


    • paul walter May 18, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

      Proportion is another term that probably fits.


      • Garpal Gumnut May 18, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

        Agree paul, that was the word I was looking for in all of this.


      • doug quixote May 18, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

        The two go together well. Perspective gives us a sense of depth regarding the point of view, whilst proportion compares the relative size and merit of the objects in question. I used perspective because the relation between the issues is one of perception rather than of actual “size”.


        • hudsongodfrey May 18, 2013 at 6:49 pm #

          I think it’s interesting that a lot of us tend to gravitate to these very visual descriptions of our ideas.


          • doug quixote May 18, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

            Hmm. Unless one has been blind from birth, visual imagery is the vastly predominant meme.

            Taste, touch smell and hearing aren’t much chop in a written blog; nor is describing a cow as “a beast that bellows and gives us milk” terribly useful. 🙂


            • hudsongodfrey May 18, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

              Well that’s an amusing way to look at it, and I agree that using imagery does the trick sometimes.

              What I meant was that perspective and proportion could as easily be substituted for different language referring instead to attitudes, objectivity or subjectivity, relative balance or measure etc. And this would I think be preferable to some people. But not you, me or several others here and I find that interesting.


              • Marilyn May 19, 2013 at 3:46 am #


                Here we go, a visual of Doug’s racist cowards latest victim.


                • paul walter May 19, 2013 at 9:50 am #

                  Is someone with an irrational hatred of Australians a racist?
                  They are only human, too.
                  To err is human, but does not necessarily indicate conscious malice, just lack of access to information or the success of someone else’s manipulation.


                • doug quixote May 19, 2013 at 10:12 am #

                  Post where it is relevant. Unlike you, very few of us are obsessed 24/7 with asylum seeker issues. Go and annoy David Manne or his mates; someone must want to read your obsessive rants.


                  • paul walter May 19, 2013 at 11:28 am #

                    I think what you mean Doug is, that you DO care, being a compassionate person.
                    It is a fearful issue for its victims. but you are reacting to being force-fed on it, given there is not a lot you can do about it and sense other issues that probably actually show the underpinnings for it are being passed up for a narrow focus on it. others… e.g. symptom being confused for disease.
                    That is, things like piss-poor media, politicians selling out on habeas corpus, the criminal activities of myopic global financial elites, let alone even broader stuff to do with what forms and comprises human nature and life in general.


                  • Marilyn May 19, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

                    For fucks’ sake Doug, you just refuse to face the fact that Gillard is a fucking gutless coward jailing children, denying they toys for their birthdays and then calling it fucking border protection.

                    If you can’t face what she is have some bloody care for this tiny little boy.


                • hudsongodfrey May 19, 2013 at 11:46 am #


                  You take a very compassionate stance and nobody wants to question that. But you’re proselytising your cause out of place. It simply isn’t that case that every single topic or subject of conversation can be viewed through the prism of the problem we have with treatment of asylum seekers.

                  As Dylan put it “Fearing not that I’d become my enemy In the instant that I preach”…..

                  We agree but these constant inappropriate interjections are becoming about as welcome as the Westbro Baptists at a funeral.


                  • Marilyn May 19, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

                    Who fucking cares what you think. This is a blog about compassion and the excision of the country for refugees.

                    The story I posted was about a small boy denied a toy for his birthday and jailed for life.

                    Racist, you bet it is.


                    • doug quixote May 19, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

                      As I understand it, the toy in question contains a camera, which is not allowed in the detention centre. Give the poor little blighter some other toy.

                      And you are off topic, as usual. Maybe Jennifer will do an article exactly on your obsession, and we’ll all wait with ‘bated breath for your brilliant contributions.


                    • hudsongodfrey May 19, 2013 at 7:54 pm #

                      At what point are we going to say that all the rules we tried to put in place over commenting here mean anything when I have to repeatedly put up with this crap from you Marilyn.

                      I like your point. I like the passion with which you make it but not everything is about your one hobby horse of an issue here, and I want to know who the hell you think you are to abuse me time and time again like this!


                  • Maria May 19, 2013 at 6:27 pm #


                    I’d like to apologize to you for attacking you. Jennifer’s article & some of the comments that followed were v. provocative for me & I made the mistake of getting entangled in some nasty shit going on, & lashed out at you unfairly. You do come across as a genuinely caring & thoughtful bloke.



                    • doug quixote May 19, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

                      If he was a girl I’d fuck him. 🙂


                    • helvityni May 19, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

                      DQ, how do you know that he is not a girl, this is Internet, and some people change their identity almost daily.

                      ( sorry Huds, only kidding, we all KNOW you are not a girl.. 🙂


                    • hudsongodfrey May 19, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

                      Notwithstanding Doug’s comments below I think you for yours and appreciate the spirit in which they were offered.


                    • hudsongodfrey May 19, 2013 at 8:01 pm #

                      BTW, it was “thank” not “think” my fingers were overcome by embarrassment at your kindness.

                      Someone is unkind, someone else is kind. it balances nicely. 🙂


  13. paul walter May 19, 2013 at 11:29 am #

    Sorry, more typos. Go back to bed , Paul.


  14. helvityni May 19, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

    We really are privileged if we have imagination; not everyone does…

    “Imagination is more important than knowledge”, said Einstein and how lovely is this one by Michelangelo: “I saw an angel in the marble and carved until I set him free”.

    I always imagined that all angels were female… 🙂


    • paul walter May 19, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

      Should we gender the Angels of the Abyss?


      • helvityni May 19, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

        I just watched two good programs on ABC, the first one about the imagination of two French people, Diderot and Rousseau how the world could be a better place, leading to French Revolution and how it inspired English poets like Wordsworth.
        The other about the Kansai Airport in Japan, by the Italian architect Renzo Piano, his dream ,his imagination, his creativity…
        Almost forgot about another one about Gaudi’s architecture….

        Most enjoyable, I feel like saying: thank you ABC. 🙂


        • paul walter May 19, 2013 at 6:00 pm #

          Actually watched the earlier one on Yellowstone, then caught up with some Prof Susan George on utube, full lecture but very simple, on neoliberalism and globalism.
          Nasty thing, neoliberalism.


    • doug quixote May 19, 2013 at 6:49 pm #

      I always imagined that all angels were male. !

      Gabriel, Michael, Lucifer, Raphael, Uriel, Samael – all are masculine names.

      Find me a female angel!


      • helvityni May 19, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

        I always IMAGINED that angels were female, that was when I did not know their names, that was before I turned seven….afterwards I was not interested in angels, OK, only as decorations for Christmas trees in the Scandinavian style….I still have some, they all look like girls, no one wears pants, they have long dresses and wings, and long golden hair…..I’ll send you one for next Christmas… 🙂


      • paul walter May 19, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

        Add Abaddon and you’re in business. Then there are Miranda, Doutzen and the rest, if they ‘d only have a feed occasionally.
        But Helvi is an angel, so you’ll still be right.


      • hudsongodfrey May 19, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

        Farrah, Kate, Jaclyn, Cheryl, Shelley and Tanya

        Somebody will work it out….:)


  15. Marilyn May 19, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

    Yeah Doug, what a fucking heart you have. The kid should not be in prison but hey, give him a different toy because DIAC are cowards paranoid about a small camera in a donated toy.

    When I packed toys for Woomera the kids were not allowed to have teddy bears incase they used them as fire bombs.

    There is no excuse ever for torturing small children in prisons.

    Talk about privileged cowards.


    • doug quixote May 19, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

      Tortured, is he? Waterboarded ? Racked regularly? Made to watch episodes of Neighbours, perhaps?

      He’s there because he is with his parents.

      If he was taken away from them into the community, then you’d have room for complaint.


      • Marilyn May 20, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

        He is a 6 year old in fucking jail, that you continue to support it by claiming he is not waterboarded shows your small racist mind up for what it is.

        He is taken to school with two guards, he is searched before he goes and on return and is waken at night to see if he is there.

        Imagine it for your children fuck brain.


        • hudsongodfrey May 20, 2013 at 4:36 pm #



          • paul walter May 20, 2013 at 6:17 pm #

            Why is it that female posters seem so much more foul mouthed than males?


            • hudsongodfrey May 20, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

              If you come from a generation that believed, or still believes that it’s not okay for ladies to swear then that may affect your judgement, but I’m not offended by harsh language in the least. I’m just over the abuse because I’m told that it really impacts others’ enjoyment of blogging and because some of it is directed unfairly at me.


        • gerard oosterman May 21, 2013 at 10:52 am #

          You all had your chance though on a comment on the previous post of Clementine. It was an effort to focus on why things are the way they are. Research showed that Dutch children are the happiest followed by Swedish and Finnish kids. (England was Nr 30.)
          The world of abuse against children is thought to be much more prevalent of the English speaking world, even though children are abused everywhere as well.
          No one took up my question and the suggestion if you want to stop abuse of children and adults, make sure your children grow up happy and that family life is inclusive of both parents, neighbours and most importantly a thriving and bustling community.
          Bullying is also mainly the domain of the Anglo world. How could it not be with the culture of banging kids in Boarding school, even at primary school level, when they need loving adults precisely at that time. It’s so part of the world of abuse, no one even challenges it, not even here on the Sheep blog.


          • paul walter May 21, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

            I doubt whether violence is an exclusively Anglo Saxon thing. Twenty millions Africans killed in genocidal civil wars along the Congo basin over the last couple of generations points to a different reality.
            Humans are a species, not a race.


            • gerard oosterman May 21, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

              Of course violence is not just exclusively owned by Anglo world. I was pointing out the acceptance of cruelty and abuse against children. Were does the saying come from ‘children should be seen but not heard?’
              The belt and cane was used when we came here. It was ‘normal’.There are still those that miss that form of punishment.


              • doug quixote May 21, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

                Even more to enrage the feminists, gerard, it appears it was originally

                “a maid (girl child) should be seen, but not heard”



  16. Elisabeth May 20, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

    I went to the Freud conference in Melbourne on Saturday and Julian Burnside told us about the individual experience of a few asylum seekers. In doing so he ‘traumatised’ his audience but to good effect.

    We paid attention even as I for one was aware that I did not want to hear more about the horrors perpetrated on asylum seekers, presumably not all, but many if not most.

    Burnside suggested a solution that made sense to me. Given that it costs somewhere in the order of $17,500.00 per year to house one asylum seeker at Villawood – the least expensive option – it costs more elsewhere – why not keep asylum seekers in detention for maybe thirty days until their requests for asylum have been sorted and then let them out into the community with medicare and centre link, provided they go to regional or rural locations where communities are desperate for more people. Process the asylum seekers’ claims from there.

    This arrangement would cost in the order of $20,000.00 per year per refugee. It’s an economically viable solution – win win. The difficulty seems to be related to the effects of neo-liberalism, and the degree to which governments everywhere seek to privatise, so that asylum seekers become a money making enterprise, among other things.

    Privatisation of detention means that those who guard the asylum seekers are not so different from prison guards and asylum seekers are treated like prisoners when they have committed no crime. In the process many asylum seekers who have already been significantly traumatised go mad.

    I’m paraphrasing Julian Burnside. It makes sense to me.

    What can we do beyond writing these comments?

    Julian Burnside suggests writing letters to our local member and his/her counterparts and not just one letter. Ask questions. After the standard letter returns, write another and ask more questions.

    Mine follows: why not take the more humane approach to our response to asylum seekers given it’s cheaper if not simply more humane, and given that at least 90 percent of claims are found to be genuine?

    Ask and ask again.

    The problem to some extent tests with the media’s choice of presenting certain arguments and also in our two party system where the dominant parties are primarily concerned to get or hold onto power by winning votes in the marginal seats. These seats often include the most disenfranchised, those who are fearful that there is not enough to go around and therefore they are fearful of sharing with these ‘strangers’.

    Those who come from more privileged areas perhaps and I include myself here, we can go on and on, but our voices are unlikely to be heard. Sad.


    • hudsongodfrey May 21, 2013 at 12:51 am #

      I find this genuinely illuminating and worthy of further consideration but I still don’t think that this is a thread that we ought to allow to be hijacked by yet another political discussion about asylum seekers. Much as I really like what Elizabeth has posted here and appreciate the effort that went into posting it. .


  17. Elisabeth May 21, 2013 at 8:25 am #

    Jennifer writes: ‘When individuals and groups fail to use their imagination about the circumstances of those who are in some way different from themselves, bad things start to happen, such as excising the entire country from the Migration Act and incarcerating others for indefinite periods in far from acceptable circumstances. If we (and by we I mean everybody) don’t imagine others as human beings with whom we have much in common, and perhaps add, there but for the grace of the gods we might be, then we can’t feel as badly as we should about how we treat them.’

    This is the starting point for my comment, hudsongodfrey. I hope it is not a hijack, more an extension on the theme of empathy and imagination. But I take your point.


    • paul walter May 21, 2013 at 9:04 am #

      Yes Elisabeth, but you see the difference is you have related what you say to the thread, rather than harvesting it for other reasons.


    • hudsongodfrey May 21, 2013 at 10:51 am #

      Yes Elizabeth it can be defended on a plea bargain of that kind I suppose, but you should realise that the reason I engaged you on that point wasn’t to reject the point you wanted to make but the topicality of it. I’ve argued the exact same point in far greater detail and depth than you’ve kindly expressed here and would love to spend all day just agreeing with people who are like minded here……But we can’t.

      We can’t because it does no good if we fail to convince people who disagree with one another to listen to reason and step back from damaging ideology. But we also can’t because I think the politics are inevitable and think the topic can’t be separated from them. Every time this is mentioned the same tedious and often abusive exchanges have occurred.

      I don’t think you realise how thoroughly sick I am of being told things like “Who gives a Fuck what you think”, and I’m sorry to have to drag you into that.

      I will say though that I dearly love Julian Burnside’s clarity on the issue and desperately wish everyone could share it. I don’t know that they can, and the reasons for that are part of the longer discussion that belong elsewhere.


      • paul walter May 21, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

        Unfortunately, this was to be the substance of my reply also. Elisabeth presents a case; others (not just MS) reply with insults, as i discovered last week at another thread on other issue.


      • helvityni May 21, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

        “Who gives a Fuck what you think”, I’m equally tired hearing that, but at least MS is always MS, also knowing more about her background allows me to understand and to forgive her, to me she is a real person and I’m learning to take the good with swearing 🙂

        What I find worse is the constant costume changes , the endless reincarnations by some. People don’t need to write by their own names, but why is it so hard to stick to just to one pseudonym; it is more honest and honourable that way….
        Also it is also rather arrogant of the multi-names to assume that the rest of us are so stupid that we are fooled by their name changes.


        • paul walter May 21, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

          You mean sock-puppeting?
          Gutless, isn’t it?


        • doug quixote May 21, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

          They seek to give the impression that there are others out there who share their views, that their unique and individual opinion is that of a silent majority, or should be.

          The saddest is the one which will post to agree with itself, or to praise its own posts. Pathetic.


          • helvityni May 21, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

            Exactly, DQ, I seen it happen very often, and I blush on their behalf….where is their integrity…


        • hudsongodfrey May 21, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

          I think you’re often a bit quick to judge there but I can see the reason for your scepticism about some newcomers. On the one hand I prefer to judge everyone by the merits of their comments, but there are times when we all tire of being duped by sock puppets.


          • helvityni May 21, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

            ….I suppose it is rather foolish to expect honesty and authenticity on an Internet Blog, where you can be Arthur one day and Martha the next ,an observer of border disputes in Israel/Palestine one day, and a night shift worker in Aged Care facility the following according to the next post….

            Best to leave the personal out if it is there only to give support to your own views and beliefs, but it’s only fiction…


            • hudsongodfrey May 21, 2013 at 6:43 pm #

              Sure but there’s more to the authenticity of what you want to say than just being accountable for what others in the real world can hold you to. I hope there’s room to develop a consistent argument from a position of merit and to talk about difficult issue without having to carry that heart you may wear on your online sleeve around with you for the rest of the day.


  18. paul walter May 21, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

    It’s not people like Hudgod and DQ who offend me, they use sockies (unless they had imaginative parents) , but address thread issues.
    The people I despise are ones who employ a meat puppet for personal abuse purposes.


    • helvityni May 21, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

      Paul, they start softly, softly, but it always ends up in personal abuse.


    • doug quixote May 21, 2013 at 8:17 pm #

      I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I am using a pen name for good and noble reasons – self-preservation being a major one.

      I object to my pen name being called a sock puppet!


      • helvityni May 21, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

        Nothing wrong using pen names on Internet, but one will be enough.


      • paul walter May 21, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

        Well, I did propose it could be down to parents with a sense of humour,as a face saver..
        But no, I would never have taken it as a sock puppet..John Smith maybe.


        • helvityni May 22, 2013 at 8:49 am #

          Ian Rankin told Jennifer Byrne last night that some well known writer had written good reviews of his own books and published them on Internet using a pseudonym…talk about sock puppets…

          Also giving other writers books only one or two stars….


  19. mindmadeup May 22, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

    Reblogged this on you said it….


  20. Marilyn May 22, 2013 at 7:26 pm #

    WEll this will piss DQ off, ASIo have reneged on this small child facing jail for life without charge.


    • doug quixote May 22, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

      How can you say that, Marilyn? I am delighted that the boy’s mother, and therefore the boy, has been released into the community.

      I take exception to your attitude that you and you alone occupy the high ground.


      • paul walter May 22, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

        Yes, It has bugged me also.
        I posted an earlier report at FB and think it’s a surveillance stunt aimed at us as much as about a few dozen refugees.
        Another example of people unable to access or appeal reports about them, more Dr Haneef type stuff basically and part of an obsessive global trend.


    • paul walter May 22, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

      Another potential supporter alienated…


    • hudsongodfrey May 22, 2013 at 11:44 pm #

      Marilyn that news today thrilled me and it should anyone with the vaguest semblance of moral sensitivities. Why would you seem to want to alienate anyone by suggesting otherwise?


  21. Anonymous June 5, 2013 at 1:59 am #

    Thanks for this amazing post. I’ve read various sites and blogs on white privilege and this is definitely a great addition. I have skimmed through some of the comments on MIA’s post and some people argue the reverse racism exists and that white people are constantly made fun of in other parts of the world (such as India, China for example i.e non-white parts of the world). The question I ask these believers of “reverse racism” is that, how has any of that ridicule affected you in any way? The fact is that they may not even know about it until now. It is constantly used as an excuse, suddenly placing them as the victim, as if now the scales are balanced…and I’m fairly tired of it.



  1. “Hate is just a failure of imagination.” On racism. | No Place For Sheep - June 3, 2013

    […] few days ago I wrote aboutprivilege and imagination, in which I argued that the current passion for “checking your privilege” could be more […]


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