Archive | November, 2014

Getting rid of dysfunctional Prime Ministers

30 Nov

 

Tony Abbott Announces Leadership Team

 

Former Liberal Premier of Victoria, Jeff Kennett this morning dumped big time on the federal LNP, claiming that dislike for Prime Minister Tony Abbott is a major factor in the Victorian election result that yesterday brought a resounding victory to the ALP, ousting the Liberal government in its first term.

Kennett claims the Abbott government is a “shambles,” and Ministers in the Napthine Government said there was “no question’’ that the unpopularity of Tony Abbott in Victoria was a factor in their defeat.

The government is in a bind about Tony. If they get rid of him in his first term they risk being seen as unstable and disloyal, allegations they levelled unrelentingly while in opposition at the ALP for its ongoing leadership woes with Kevin Rudd.

An aside on that matter. Now we have a good deal more information about that debacle, wouldn’t it have been so much better if Gillard had informed the electorate about the difficulties the government was having with Rudd, rather than leaving us to wake up one morning and discover we no longer had the extremely popular Prime Minister who’d led the Labor party to victory? Pole-axing an electorate in such a fashion and then going on to be excessively secretive as to the reasons for such drastic action would seem to be a most unwise strategy, and indeed, that’s what it proved to be.

The situation with Abbott is very different: while Rudd was still popular but behind the scenes, dysfunctional, Abbott is openly dysfunctional and unpopular to boot, so the electorate won’t go into nearly as much shock and awe if he’s chucked out of the top job in his first term.

Personally, I’d like to see Abbott stay on as leader as he’s the ALP’s best asset.

The federal government is like a dysfunctional family with a rogue father at its head. Everyone closes ranks and publicly supports the patriarch even though he’s bringing ruination down on their collective heads, because that’s what families do. They stick together in the face of adversity, and in so doing, enable the maintenance of the dysfunction. This eventually damages every family member, and the price for such misguided unity is death, of one kind or another.

There’s little more difficult than dealing with a dysfunctional leader, be it in politics or the family, and we saw how the ALP crumbled under the pressure of their Rudd woes.

The precedent for getting rid of first term Prime Ministers has been set, and there are few among us who would find it shocking the second time around. However, the LNP are likely far too spooked by the Rudd saga to risk ousting their dysfunctional leader in his first term. This could well be their downfall.

 

Vaya con dios, Big Dog

26 Nov

Big Dog Four

 

Our beautiful Big Dog died today. Mrs Chook held him in her arms and I stroked his head and told him he was a ripper dog, and Terry the Vet sent him on his way. I thought Terry would be used to these events, but he cried and I had to hold his hand.

We brought Big Dog home and buried him under the mango tree where he had his favourite sandy hole. Yesterday he watched as we dug his grave and I didn’t think that was very good for him, but there was a thunderstorm at the time and he always had to be practically in our laps whenever there was thunder so there was no dissuading him. Then we thought he might fall in it when we weren’t watching which would have been too darkly farcical for us to cope with, so we filled it up with garden chairs.

He was the first dog I’ve ever had who was really mine and he always let me hug him, which Mrs Chook said he did only under sufferance and because he loved me. Until he got too big he slept on my bed, and when he was very young, he travelled the house draped around my neck.

He is probably the only dog to have been allowed into the Woomera Detention Centre, when we visited refugees incarcerated there. You’ve got a bloody dog, the guards said, he can stay in the office it’s too hot outside, but the little children were outside, behind the razor wire, barefoot on hot sand because there was no grass for them to play on.

 

Big Dog One

 

Mrs Chook taught him to find koalas for her, and not to chase any living creature. Once a parrot flew into his mouth and he just stood there while I took it out and let it go. He never bit anything or anyone, never tried to hump your leg, and never rolled in dead things. Once he jumped out of the window of a moving car trying to get at his arch-enemy, a boxer dog who was walking with his owner down the street. When they came face to face, they just growled at each other. Children crawled all over him and he never got fed up with them. When we took him to obedience classes he was a star, except when Mrs Chook was his handler and then he wouldn’t do anything. This pissed her off mightily especially when the trainer told her she was useless at it and to give him back to me. It’s usually me who is useless at such things, but Big Dog made me a star as well.

The last five months have been full of loss and grief for me, and I think of the Dylan line, When you think that you lost everything you find out you can always lose a little more. 

Bye bye Big Dog. You were the best dog ever and I loved you.

 

When the PM normalises lying

26 Nov

 government lying to you

 “It is an absolute principle of democracy that governments should not and must not say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards. Nothing could be more calculated to bring our democracy into disrepute and alienate the citizenry of Australia from their government than if governments were to establish by precedent that they could say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards.”  Tony Abbott, August 22, 2011 

Every time Abbott lies to the citizens of this country we become increasingly disaffected, and not only from our Prime Minister, but from the institution he represents. Abbott has normalised the discourse of lies. He has taken the dishonesty of politicians to a whole new level. We barely expect anything else from him, and from his fellow politicians. Under the leadership of our mendacious Prime Minister, we have increasingly abandoned hope of fairness, straightforwardness, belief and trust. Our Prime Minister doesn’t think we are worthy of the truth.

One of the many unpleasant effects of being lied to is that the liar insults and patronises me by creating a false reality that I have to inhabit, until I discover I’m the victim of deception.The liar denies me the right to know the truth, a serious offence against me, because truth is something no one has the right to deny me.

Whether it’s on a personal or a political level, lying to me signifies the liar doesn’t consider me as entitled to the truth as is he or she. This infantilises me, is disrespectful to me, and denies me the knowledge I need to make informed decisions about my life. There’s little more insulting than being lied to, kept in the dark with lies of omission, and intentionally misled because the liar doesn’t consider you capable of handling the truth, or is acting entirely in their own self-interest because you knowing the truth will in some way threaten them.

The Prime Minister of our country, Tony Abbott, has never made any secret of his ambivalent relationship with truth. There is his notorious assertion that nothing he says is “gospel” truth unless it’s written down.

There’s his prescriptive declaration that “It is better to seek forgiveness than ask permission.” While this isn’t necessarily an endorsement of lying, it is a ruthless and callous prescription for relationship with one’s fellow humans. It recommends that one do that which one desires and if it backfires apologise, but it isn’t necessary under the terms of Abbott’s prescriptive to negotiate with or communicate intention to others, prior to taking an action. This has a similar effect to lying, in that it assumes an inferiority of some kind on the part of another that doesn’t require Abbott to enter into an equal, respectful relationship in which another’s opinions and wishes count for the same as his own.

We have a liar for a leader. When the lies start at the top, there’s little hope truth will ever see the light of day. Abbott is leading us into an abyss of normalised deception that will damage every one of us, because when dedicated liars are in power, the country will inevitably lose its way. If you don’t think this country is losing its way, you’re dreaming.

Life as a woman 3: Norrie

26 Nov

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Norrie began life as a male, had surgery to remove his penis and hormone treatment, then tried living life as a woman.

But she found she wasn’t accepted as female by men or women. She became increasingly uncertain of her gender identity. She stopped the hormone treatments. When hooligans jeered at her for being a trannie, she responded “Well spotted!”

Norrie began investigating alternatives and concluded that she didn’t want an assigned gender, she wanted to escape the male-female binary and have a non-specific gender designation. She then launched legal action to have this option included on basic documents such as passports and birth certificates, as well as the usual male and female categories.

After years of struggle and disappointment, in May last year the High Court decided that a non-specific gender designation on passports and other basic documents is legal, and Norrie’s battle was won.

The ramifications of this decision are enormous, not only for people in Norrie’s situation as adults, but for babies born with a non specific gender. The conventional response to these children is for parents and doctors to decide as quickly as possible if they are to be designated male or female, then to surgical and chemically embed them in the chosen gender. Now such children can be legally registered with a non specific  gender designation, giving parents time to consider the best option for their child.

Norrie has smashed the constricting male-female binary, and brought legal acknowledgement of difference for gender diverse and intersex people. Norrie rejected life as a man and life as a woman, and chose life without orthodox binary gender performance.

People will stare

Life as a woman 2.

25 Nov

YLBlog_LGBTI_2May2013

Rant.

Lookit. The whole point is that transgender women are treated with hostility and violence because they have chosen to reject their male gender and live as women. What does this tell us? That women are in general regarded as inferior to men in a society that assigns us gender roles at birth or increasingly, before. If you don’t believe that, please explain why the hell we are paid less for doing the same work, just for starters.

Transgender women turn their backs on orthodox masculinity in favour of life as a woman, the ultimate insult, the ultimate rejection of the male orthodoxy. They are punished for this. They are punished for having been privileged to be born as male and then devaluing and undermining that privilege for all males, by choosing to reject it.

It is incomprehensible to certain types of masculinity that any man could ever want to abandon his gender and choose to join the ranks of WOMEN. It’s a form of treason. It’s lowering yourself.

The rejection of the phallus, particularly its literal destruction, is perceived as an obscenity.

We are all in servitude to the performance of gender roles assigned to us by our culture and enforced so strictly as to cripple and maim our lives in a multitude of ways. It is the strangulating grip of these enforced roles we ought to be questioning, in particular the rampant inequality, despite what Julie Bishop says, based entirely on gender, that haunts women every day of our lives.

Oh, and while we’re at it, why do high achieving women such as Bishop and many others, feel it is necessary to publicly disavow any interest in or connection with feminism? Could it be that even high achieving women are still scared of men?

 

 

Life as a woman

24 Nov

Time-Magazine-Transgender-Tipping-Point-Laverne-Cox

I have a close relative whose long-term partner decided in his fifties that he wanted to live as a woman. The manner in which he went about orchestrating this change caused immense shock and distress, mostly because he upped and went to Thailand and had the surgery without telling anyone, then rang his partner from that country to tell her what he’d done.

Of course she knew his desires, and was struggling to adapt herself to having chosen to live with a man who now wanted to change his sex to female. She didn’t, she said, want to be with a woman, she’d been there, done that and for her, choosing to spend her life with a man was an enormous change. And now look.

I, unhelpfully I see in retrospect, recalled her time as a radical feminist separatist who told me as I continued to give birth to boy babies that all men should be castrated. So when I heard what had happened I said, well. Be careful what you ask for.

When her partner came back from Thailand she ran away and came to stay with me and my husband for a while. None of us had ever before encountered such a situation, but we all knew about deceit, and dissembling, and secrets, and lies, so we could help her with that part.

For mine, I have no difficulties with what people decide to do with their bodies and if someone feels deeply wrong in the skin they’re in of course they have the right to do whatever they need to do about that. I’m talking here about gender reassignment, not women having the human right to breast implants and labiaplasty to make them look like air brushed porn stars as an exercise of feminist autonomy over their bodies. Separate issues. I do wonder, though, how someone who has been born male and lived male for over fifty years in our society, can suddenly know what life is like as a woman.

In this instance, and I’m not going to extrapolate our experience to anyone else, Felicity looks like a man who has had gender reassignment, and so is often treated even worse in this heterosexually dominant culture than are many “natural”-born women.

Now I have an ear worm of Carole King singing you make me feel like a natural woman, whatever the hell that meant, it was an anthem to some bloke though, and I suppose a validation of hetero sex because I haven’t heard any woman singing that to a female lover though it would be a delightful subversion if someone did, but I still wouldn’t know what the “natural” bit meant.

Felicity and I have had some ripper brawls over this life as a woman thing. I’ve told her straight up, you aren’t living life as a woman, you’re living life as a man who’s had gender reassignment surgery. The difficulties you’re  encountering since your surgery aren’t to do with the kind of gender prejudice I’ve had to deal with my entire life, they’re to do with people being unable to cope with gender reassignment. She’s called me a fucking cunt more times than I could ever count. It took me a long time to realise I was angry with her for trying to claim my experience of living on this earth as a woman for herself, when she hasn’t done the hard yards. She is doing hard yards, but they are of a different kind and I want her to own her difficulties, which are significant, and not pinch mine. Whenever we see one another we visibly bristle, and it’s on. And yet I think so much of her for what she’s done, the subversion, the courage, the determination to live as she wants to live.

I should add here that I agree with Judith Butler, gender is a performance of the roles assigned to us at birth, according to our genitals. A performance that is profoundly ingrained.

No matter how much Julie Bishop might want to protest otherwise, life as a woman in this culture still brings with it enormous inherent challenges, for no reason other than our habitation of a female body. It does the same for indigenous people, for no reason other than skin colour.  It does the same for gays and lesbians and polyamorists. This is still the universe of the white heterosexual alpha male, and the males who aspire to that status, and the rest of us are still knocking on its doors begging to be allowed in and equally paid, and not murdered because we have vaginas, and the rest. And, if possible, to be let in on some of our own terms without having to entirely capitulate to the orthodoxy, as I would strongly argue Julie Bishop has. In my life as a woman I don’t want to play the alpha bloke’s games. Which is why I’m a blogger in my nightgown and not Janet Albrechtsen. Ha!

Flanagan. Rachmaninoff. The Dog.

22 Nov

Richard Flanagan may well be the only writer in the history of the prestigious prize to win the Man Booker, and be nominated for the worst sex scene in fiction in the same book by the London Literary Review, in the same week. The scene is in The Narrow Road to the Deep North, and involves “circumnavigating” lovers being interrupted in their coitus by a dog with a dead fairy penguin in its mouth. I have to agree, it isn’t one of the book’s best bits.

Flanagan is interested in desire, the myriad ways in which it might manifest, the unforeseen consequences when it is lost, repressed or denied, and when it is fulfilled. I first felt the impact of the author’s reflections on this topic when I read his 2008 novel Wanting in which he dissects the complex desires of Lady Jane Franklin and her explorer husband Sir John, as well as those of Charles Dickens for his mistress, Ellen Ternan. I thought the link between Dickens and the Franklins a tenuous one on which to hang the novel, but Flanagan has such insight into the human condition I can forgive him almost anything.

In The Narrow Road, protagonist Dorrigo Evans enters into what is to become a long, unsatisfactory but absolutely binding marriage that creates in him “the most complete and unassailable loneliness, so loud a solitude that he sought to crack its ringing silence again and again with yet another woman.” The presence of the absent woman he deeply loved and lost has shaped his life and his marriage: “As a meteorite strike long ago explains the large lake now, so Amy’s absence shaped everything, even when – and sometimes particularly when – he wasn’t thinking of her.”  Yes.

It takes determination to stay with the descriptions of life in the Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma railway, and yet it would be cowardly to turn away from knowledge of what humans perpetrate on one another, what can be survived, and how desperate the desire for survival can become in conditions where one would imagine death to be a better option. Oh, he is a fine, fine writer is Flanagan.

Narrow Road to the Deep North

 

It’s been about ten years since I last listened to Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor. I came across the CD this morning, put it in the player and lay down on the floor to listen. It’s a big, dramatic concerto with surging melodies, rhapsodic in nature, and has at times been dismissed by critics because of its “gushing” romanticism and alleged lack of subtlety. It’s been used in a remarkable variety of films, including David Lean’s Brief Encounter, Billy Wilder’s The Seven Year Itch, Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter, and Japanese anime. I don’t know how it became so familiar to me, but when I listened again after so long, I knew it as well as if I’d been listening to it every day. It is, I think, quite beautiful. There was a tosser in the seventies who used one of the themes for his popular song, All By Myself, for which he should have been hung.

 

Rachmaninoff

 

And finally, today has been a very sad day. Our vet Terry, Mrs Chook and I decided it’s time to say goodbye to our old Big Dog. He’s fourteen, almost blind, full of arthritis, deaf as a post and Terry says his lungs are fucked. I did tell him to stop smoking but would he listen? We have him till Wednesday, and after that he’ll be under the mango tree in the back yard. He’s a ripper dog, Terry always says. I don’t quite know how we’ll get used to being without him.

The smiling dog.

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