Tag Archives: Politics

Music (& politics)

13 Aug
Equus-Header-1038x500

Equus

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Courage and politics.

27 Dec

Quint Buccholz Five

 

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”
― Anaïs Nin

If there’s one thing I’d like to have the power to give to the people I love, especially the little ones, it’s courage.

The courage to challenge cultural conditioning and social convention. The courage to allow oneself to see that “normality” is a construct and to ask, by whom is this concept constructed, for whose benefit, and how?

The courage to refuse the lazy tribal sense of belonging in order to embrace a more challenging sense of common humanity that does not require exclusionary practices in order to define a sense of who we are. I am not that therefore I am this, is a negative way in which to carve out an identity, yet the spoken or unspoken comparison that loads difference with moral value, or lack of it, serves as a benchmark for establishing who we are, singly and collectively.

I can’t see much of a future for humans without the kind of courage that is curious about difference, rather than fearful and hostile towards it. The former is expansion, the latter an arid shrinking, of the kind we’ve seen increasingly in Australia since our politics, both Labor and Liberal, have become more and more conservative.

Our courage, at least as it is expressed in our politics, has diminished alarmingly. Whether it’s asylum seekers in indefinite and tortuous detention because we will not resettle them; whether it’s our inability to recognise and adequately act upon our responsibilities towards the earth that is our only home; whether it’s increasing surveillance of ordinary citizens along with the deprivation of freedoms and human rights, the insidious creep of tyranny, wearing the mask of concern and wish to protect, is shrinking our lives, and we seem to lack the collective courage necessary first to acknowledge what’s happening to us, and second, to do something concrete about it.

I’m not the first to observe that without courage it’s hardly possible to be truthful, generous, realistic and imaginative, and without courage, it’s impossible to live a life of necessary self-examination, curiosity and fulfilment.

Lack of courage is what will destroy our species. It’s only a matter of time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Politics, policy makers, and religion.

6 Sep
Religion vs politics. Ruth Clotworthy

Religion vs politics. Ruth Clotworthy

 

Last time Sheep ventured into this territory I was threatened with defamation action, however, undeterred, we’re going there again.

If you argue that a politician’s religious beliefs don’t affect his or her attitudes to policy, firstly consider this exchange between Catholic Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Qanda’s Tony Jones on refugees and immigration, back in the days when Abbott was LOTO and not too lily-livered to front up to an unpredictable live audience.

Note: It’s a measure of a leader’s failure that he becomes less available to unpredictable audiences, not more. In case you need another example of his failure but you probably don’t 

TONY ABBOTT: …Jesus didn’t say yes to everyone. I mean Jesus knew that there was a place for everything and it is not necessarily everyone’s place to come to Australia.

TONY JONES: It’s quite an interesting analogy because, as you know, and a whip was used on that occasion to drive people out of the temple. You know, if that’s the analogy you’re choosing, should we take it at face value?

TONY ABBOTT: No. No. I’m just saying that, look, Jesus was the best man who ever lived but that doesn’t mean that he said yes to everyone, that he was permissive to everything, and this idea that Jesus would say to every person who wanted to come to Australia, “Fine”, the door is open, I just don’t think is necessarily right. But let’s not verbal Jesus. I mean, he’s not here to defend himself.

Now read this piece titled “Scott Morrison and the conveniently comforting doctrine of predestination,” written when Morrison was Immigration Minister.

Briefly, the doctrine of predestination followed by Morrison’s Pentecostal faith claims that god has determined whether or not you will be saved before even you are born. Your material status in the world identifies you as chosen or rejected by God. Wealth, standing and comfort identify you as chosen. Poverty, lack of standing and misery confirm you as rejected. Therefore, the chosen do not have to feel anything other than pity and contempt for the rejected: according to the doctrine of predestination, it’s futile to attempt to improve their lot because god has already decided their fate. Indeed, attempting to improve the lives of those god has already rejected is an affront to god.

It’s impossible to argue that the religious beliefs of these two men have not affected their political judgements, not only in the matter of asylum seekers and refugees. However, asylum seeker policies illustrate with stark clarity how religious beliefs can be used as justification for barbarous practices, by Christians as well as by other religions.

At least twelve of Abbott’s cabinet of nineteen are Christians, and eight of them are Catholics. The LNP candidate for the West Australian seat of Canning, Andrew Hastie, recently blasted a journalist from Perth Now, who put to him questions about his own religious beliefs, the beliefs of his father, a Presbyterian theologian with interests in creationism, and a blog posted under the byline of Hastie’s wife Ruth, in which Christian opposition to same-sex marriage is outlined. Hastie responded emotionally and publicly to the journalist’s private email inquiry on these topics, angrily warning media they could go after him but they’d better not go after his family, and finally claiming that personal religious beliefs have no relevance to politics and he won’t answer any more questions on the topic.

I have no interest in anyone’s religious practices unless she or he is  in a position to affect and legislate public policy, and then I have a great deal of interest in the beliefs they hold.

When a religious individual in a position of influence claims their beliefs will not affect their political decisions, this indicates at the very least a disturbing capacity for duplicity: the Christian religion is a proselytising religion, its followers are exhorted to demonstrate their faith and to live out that faith in every aspect of their lives, unashamedly bearing witness. They must therefore either betray their Christian principles, or betray the secular voter, as they cannot feasibly hold faith with both.

There’s a vast chasm between the philosophies of the man Jesus, and the teachings of religions such as those followed by many of our politicians. Religions are constructed by men to further their self-interests. It ought to be a fundamental requirement of aspiring politicians and policy makers that they disclose any religious beliefs they hold. It isn’t a private matter, when you’re charged with determining the nature and course of a society.

 

 

Thanks to @davispg for links and inspiration

 

 

Everything is politics. Discuss.

20 Oct

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

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

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

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

Why I can’t call Abbott a cunt

7 Sep

Abbott Winker

 

One of the most telling revelations Tony Abbott has ever made about himself occurred in his chat with Annabel Crabb on ABCTV’s Kitchen Cabinet last week.

Describing the circumstances that led to his abandonment of theological studies and his goal to enter the Catholic priesthood, Abbott explained that while struggling with a 500 word essay on the desert fathers, he had a conversation with a mate who was about to leave for London to enable the satisfactory conclusion of a billion dollar business deal. Upon hearing his friend describe his venal life, Abbott experienced a Damascene moment. Christopher Pyne will tell you how to correctly pronounce that word.

What the hell, Abbott wondered, am I doing sitting in a seminary writing about the desert fathers, when I could be carving out a future for myself in the world of power, money, and fame?

Well, that’s not a verbatim report of what he says he thought, but it would be, if he’d been truthful. He couched his moment of enlightenment in terms of doing good, however, in the context of the billion dollar business deal, one is given cause to ponder that ambition.

In short, Abbott found God sadly wanting in comparison with what the world could offer, and without much ado, quit his service.

Some may say it was at this point that Abbott embarked on what was to become a lifelong commitment to selling his arse. In my book, arse-selling has been his highest and most consistent achievement, and before too much longer he’s going to need a colostomy bag to contain his excrement when his arse, abused beyond endurance, finally falls out.

So why can’t I call Abbott a cunt, as do so many others?

I’ve long been ambivalent about the co-option of this female body part to perform as the worst expletive Western culture can manage. I acknowledge the admirably explosive possibilities of the cunt word. Its unique ability to convey a profound, rage-filled and terminal contempt is undeniable.

And yet, and yet and yet…

The cunt houses the only human body part whose sole purpose is to provide its owner with pleasure. How this can possibly bear any relation to Tony Abbott I’m damned if I know.

The cunt, pink, plump, shiny with the juices of desire, is a thing of exquisite beauty, hidden from view, shown only to the chosen one, repository of what is most astonishing in human sexuality. When I think of the cunt, the last association I make with it is, yes, you’ve guessed right, Tony Abbott.

The cunt, with its miraculous ability to open beyond imagining when fulfilling the task of delivering new life into the world, does not in the least remind me of Tony Abbott, whose desiccated countenance and impoverished speech patterns symbolise a shrivelling of human spirit I cannot associate with any life-giving qualities at all.

Or am I being too harsh?

In truth, I love my cunt and everything she can do. I have never been entirely comfortable using her name as a means of conveying contempt, though I fully understand why that is done, and I’m not getting up a petition to have it stopped.

This leaves me with the problem of how best to describe Tony Abbott. I like to think of him as a rat-fucking piece of human excrement who sucks dead dogs’ balls.  I know that is far clumsier than cunt, and takes more breath.

But please, do consider my argument for the beauty of the cunt, and think twice before likening our next Prime Minister to her.

I’m Kevin and I’m here to…..Plus, this week in feminism

16 Feb

Is Kevin Rudd planning a come-back? Are there enough supporters now to return him to the job he so ignominiously lost?  Will Julia Gillard get her comeuppance? Will Kevin get the ALP across the line again like he did in 2007? Is Michelle Grattan making it all up?

Personally,  I’d back anyone with a chance of keeping the government the government  when Tea Party Tony is our only alternative, so who’s it going to be, Julia or Kevin? As we now know, we don’t have to keep the leader who wins the election, we can get another right after, so all we need is the one who can decisively win, and out of the two of them, history tells us that’s Kev. Who is still the most popular Labor politician in the country.

Let us hope that the ALP will use their heads and throw their weight behind whoever is most likely to win, because the alternative is simply too abhorrent to contemplate.

Of course much of this could be avoided if punters would do as I do and vote for the local member who does the best job, in my case the ALP member, instead of imagining we’re in some kind of presidential system in which only the leader matters.

Should women keep their own names when they marry, rather than taking their husbands’? This was one of the more profound questions posed by feminists for consideration last week.

For a start, what woman has her “own” name to keep? Most of us have our father’s names. If we have our mother’s names they are usually our grandfather’s names. The only way a woman has her own name is if she changes it herself. I’ve had my father’s name, my stepfather’s name, my first husband’s name and then I chucked them all and changed my name by deed poll to my grandfather’s name. When I married again I kept that name instead of changing it to my husband’s, mostly because I was sick of the paperwork.

Now I’m considering taking a last name that has nothing to do with anybody, like Peony, or Seagrass, or Waterlily or Dugong. Also I’m not Miss, Ms, or Mrs anymore, I’m Dr. So I have thrown off all the naming shackles of patriarchy, or will when I tackle the paperwork.

Unfortunately it’s too late to give my children my name instead of their father’s. This is a pity, because then all my grandchildren would have my name instead of their grandfather’s. There would be generations of Dugongs, Waterlilys, Peonys or Seagrasses instead of boring old whatevers. These generations would be shackled by the matriarchal instead of the patriarchal, and it’s about time.

I could continue in this querulous vein, explaining how in my opinion sacking Kevin in the manner they chose was the dumbest decision ever, and bound to seriously taint Ms Gillard’s Prime Ministership and the entire party for a long, long time, however, I have to go to the dentist. So have a good Saturday, and may all your troubles be very very small.

Yours, as ever, Dr Dugong.

Politicians and forbidden sex

16 May

If you happened to be looking for a good curse to put on someone for a reason that makes sense to you, you couldn’t go much further than wishing an unfaithful partner on them. There’s nothing quite like the upheaval  of discovering a partner’s infidelity to rock your world in just about every way, and none of it feels good. It is an excruciating form of suffering and rather common, though when in its throes one feels entirely alone, and as if this has never happened to anyone else quite as badly as it’s happening to you.

I’m thinking long these lines after reading the latest story about “our secure marriage that withstands the pressures of political life,” this time from Bill and Chloe Shorten last weekend. The allegedly ugly and unspecified rumours are not for me to repeat, given my already tenuous legal situation. Let’s just say infidelity is one of the major temptations in many partnerships. Rumours of unfaithfulness often send public figures into a virtual frenzy of indignant denial, as well as what some might think of as unseemly revelations of their enduring closeness and commitment no matter what difficulties they encounter.

In the intimate and rarefied atmosphere of political life, sexual temptation must inevitably rear its enticing head. It can and does manifest in any workplace, often due to little more than proximity, however, throw in the tensions and hyper-excitement  of life lived in the political bubble and you have ideal conditions in which lust can thrive.

Sex is lovely. Sex is relief. Sex is gratification. Sex can make you feel better when nothing else can. Sex is celebration: think of the victory root on somebody’s office desk. It is also consolation, when everything is going wrong and people hate you. Really, there’s not much sex doesn’t ease, albeit temporarily.

Is it any of our business if politicians are sexually unfaithful to their partners? There’s a good argument on this here, and some comments are interesting as well. I think whether its our business or not is largely out of our control: some of us will make it our business, the media will make it our business, a jilted lover will  make it our business, a scorned partner will make it our business, a love child will make it our business, and so on. In short, if you are a politician and you have an affair there is the most enormous likelihood that we will find out about it and judge you, generally in the negative.

We are hard on our politicians, and perhaps rightly so. Many of them seduce us with their “family values” and their claims of moral integrity. We are not pleased when they are revealed to have feet of clay. In the popular imagination the unfaithful partner is harshly judged: there are those among us for whom infidelity is practically a hanging offence. An unfaithful politician is doubly judged, perhaps. If she/he is willing to go to such lengths to deceive those closest, why should we trust them in public office? It’s a reasonable question, but of course people are infinitely capable of compartmentalising, and how they conduct themselves in their private lives need have nothing to do with how they behave publicly. John Howard, for example, was a devoted family man and cared about the Aussie battlers. He had no compunction at all, however, about locking up refugees and their children indefinitely for the fabricated crime of seeking asylum.

A politician should be aware that if she or he undertakes an illicit affair, the fall out might be catastrophically public. Not only will they have a devastated partner and maybe family, a possible jilted lover and all the rest of the accoutrements of infidelity, they’ll have the public to contend with as well. There is nothing that can be done to protect them from these outcomes. They are on their own. Whether it’s our business or not, we’ll all have an opinion.

Of course many partnerships survive infidelity, some even claim to have be strengthened by the trauma. But political careers? Well, Bill Clinton’s survived. I’d advise pollies to think very carefully before they embark on an affair, but that would be a waste of time. The very hallmark of the affair is that one does not generally enter into it through using one’s head. Its another part of the anatomy entirely that’s involved.

 

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