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Letitia McQuade is a writer, business person, and an award winning screenwriter and film maker. As a post grad, she studied creative writing at Melbourne University, and has a BA in Film and TV from VCA. Letitia has owned and run numerous small businesses in retail, manufacturing and real estate.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW, but they are not telling you.

The government is not telling the truth about community transmission. The FACT is they don’t know what is happening, because they are NOT, and HAVE NOT tested people in the community that are clearly showing symptoms.

I KNOW this, because we have symptoms, and have not been able to get tested. There is a shortage of test kits and they are only testing people returning from OS showing symptoms, OR those showing symptoms that have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive. THEIR CRITERION EXPRESSLY EXCLUDES TESTING FOR CASUAL LOCAL TRANSMISSION.

WE HAVE BEEN IN LOCK DOWN FOR OVER A WEEK…. we are not seriously sick, and may or may not have the virus, and we are all getting better, BUT while I have been in lock down I have read extensively on the situation as it has evolved in Italy, Spain, France and the USA, and I can tell you what we are seeing now is illustrative of infection rates about 10 days ago. NOT WHAT IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW!

I just saw this… AND I WAS HORRIFIED!

Most Australian coronavirus cases coming from USA: Scott Morrison

Morrison saying “Eighty per cent of coronavirus cases in Australia are people who have come in from overseas or have caught the disease directly from them.”

I cannot say this loudly enough. THEY ARE NOT TESTING FOR COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION, and the government is not being honest when they say there is very low levels of community transmission, or most cases are coming from overseas. They may be right, BUT THEY HAVE NOT BEEN TESTING, so they have NO IDEA where we are at. 

A couple in Sydney where refused tests and went off to work. They where out and about for several days before someone they had had contact with got a positive test, then they were “allowed” to be tested and turned out to be positive… This is happening all over the country.

When they said Singapore had kept its schools open and that was OK, what they are not telling you is that Singapore initiated local lock downs, and aggressive community testing and tracing.  We have not done either.

WE ARE NOT TAKING THE LEVEL OF PRECAUTION NEEDED, especially with the low level of testing we are doing. We are on an exponential trajectory, and there is no way of predicting who will get it mildly and who will get it seriously. Many people, and probably some people you KNOW an LOVE will probably die.

Please, if you can lock down then just do it. I know no one wants this, but the government is not doing what is needed to contain this. They are trying to protect the economy, and in so doing may cause a lot more trouble.

I know no one wants to hear this, BUT THEY ARE NOT TESTING PEOPLE WITH SYMPTOMS, and not all people with symptoms are locking themselves down.

If this unfolds here like it has everywhere else it is about to explode and blow up in our faces.

Please stay safe and shut down if you possibly can, or a lot more people are going to die than need to. Our health system is going to come under extreme stress. The best way to help our essential service, food chain and medical workers is for non essential workers to stay at home.

Sorry to be banging on about this. BUT THEY ARE NOT TESTING PEOPLE… and yes I know locking down will cost money, and yes it will cost jobs, and there will be chaos BUT we cannot chose the economy over the lives of our parents, grandparents, healthcare workers, the ill and vulnerable. We can sort out the money thing later, but for now please let’s prioritise saving lives.

I am on my 10th day of voluntary Lock down. Feeling fine now, but had a cough and sniffles and decided to lock my self in, and if I want to err on the side of caution I will be locked down for two more weeks… WHY SO LONG?  BECAUSE I CANNOT GET TESTED!

***Just spoke to my next door neighbour. She told me that many local people have been in close contact with a CONFIRMED case, but still cannot get tested… Make of that what you will.

For the record I hope more than anything that I am wrong, and worrying unnecessarily. I will wear any amount of egg on my face it means maybe saving the life of someone’s loved one.

Stay Safe, People.

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Oh what a shame, who shall we blame!

Are the LNP preparing to throw chief Medical Officer under a bus?

Saw Angus Taylor this morning on the ABC, and noticed how many times he STRESSED that the government is providing advice (regarding leaving the schools open) from the Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy.

Not once did Taylor state the advice was the government’s position. Instead he stressed over and over and over again “We are taking the advice of the Chief Medical Officer”.

What we need to remember is that Chief Medical Officer, Mr Brendan Murphy, is the man that was advocating hand shaking just four days ago on the ABC program INSIDERS.

So we need to ask ourselves, is Brendan Murphy’s advice the advice we want to trust for our and our family’s safety? What would lead a thinking person to conclude that his advice today is any better than the advice he offered last Sunday?  Especially when all advice is getting walked back on daily basis.

When government ministers are distancing themselves from their own stated advice it certainly raises some questions. Is Angus Taylor lining up their chosen scapegoat for when the “schools open/business as usual” message backfires horribly?

Given the UK has just closed schools, it can’t be too far behind for us. The much trusted Norman Swan, who expressed some relief that the decision was not his, stressed that his view was that a school shut down would be the most prudent course.

Time is of the essence. Everyday we avoid lockdown is another day of exponential spread and rising mortality. Things are moving so fast, infection rates are skyrocketing, and people are rightfully skeptical of the government’s advice.

If the LNP are reluctant to claim ownership of, and stand behind their own advice, how can they seriously expect us to trust it?

We all need to make our own decisions with what is currently permitted under law. It is difficult for all of us to decide on the best course, and we all must do what we feel is best. My reading of the situation is those that are able to do so should stay home and stay safe.

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Climate Vse Corona Virus

Existential threat and the generational divide.

While the world as we know it collapses around us the politicians and pundits are in a tailspin. Words like “emergency, unprecedented, panic, collapse, economic meltdown and existential threat” are being tossed around like confetti. Raging firestorms, hail-stones the size of cricket balls, unseasonal floods, locust plagues, and now the Covid 19 pandemic. This is our world in 2020.

This pandemic is frightening, but in truth, it is far more frightening for some of us than for others. The young are largely unaffected, with relatively few deaths and a reasonably non-threatening prognosis. However, for those in their late 50’s or beyond the threat is immediate and palpable. They could die, and they could die reasonably soon.

Without casting criticism on global governments’ measures to stem the spread of Covid 19, one cannot deny the stark contrast between our response to the pandemic, and our response to the very real existential threat that is climate change. So now, all of a sudden we believe the scientists?

If the great toilet paper panic of 2020 has taught us anything, it is that many of us are shamelessly self-interested to the point of utter irrationality. So consider this, is it a coincidence that an existential threat that is beating down the door of the “power rich” demographic gets such unprecedented action; Whereas the looming disaster of climate change, that will impact heavily on the currently “power poor” younger generations is largely ignored?

The French have a saying, “Apres moi le deluge.” Which translates as “After me the flood.”

This pithy little epithet pretty well sums up the attitude of those who hold power.

Corona Virus has made a mockery of the economic excuses. When the bell tolls for the powerful no level of economic sacrifice is too great, but when it comes to economic realignment to stem climate change, our children and grandchildren can quite literally burn in hell.

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BREXIT: The Billionaires Coup

If you listen to Boris Johnson, he and his Tory hard Brexiters are enacting the will of UK voters (even though not all British citizens got to vote). But are they really?  It is worth asking yourself, who do the Torys usually go out to bat for?

Could it be their billionaire donors and the new EU tax avoidance laws that the Tories have foremost in their minds?

Yes, some people voted for an extra £350 million pounds for the health service.

But no one voted for chlorinated chicken, massive job losses, shortages of food and vital medicines (which will unquestionably lead to deaths) and decreased relevance on the world stage.

No one voted for a recession, complete with increased prices, a significant drop in the value of the pound, reduced study and career options for the young, and long painful cues whenever they hop across the channel.

I get it. No one likes to admit they have been conned, but this is now getting very, very real, and there are going to be real world consequences. So for those still waving the Brexit flag, here’s a few points to consider.

  • A shortage of vital medicines. Exactly, how many Brexit deaths are acceptable to you? How many deaths would you personally be prepared to sign off on? How many people’s mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters are you prepared to put in their graves for the sake of Brexit? Bear in mind those deaths will not come from the ruling classes. They will continue to have their medicines. The death toll will come from the towns and counties that the Torys have ignored since time immemorial. The likes of Aaron banks, Rupert Murdoch and Boris Johnson will not be going without medicines, I can assure you.
  • How big a dip in household income are you prepared to endure for the sake of Brexit? It is now clear we’re not talking hundreds, but thousands of pounds annually. So name your price. How much would you be prepared to slice off your income, and the incomes of all your family, friends and neighbours?
  • How many ordinary working people are you prepared to see lose their jobs and pushed onto the benefit queues? 10,000? 100,000 maybe 1,000,000? Name your figure. But while you work it out, just know that each one of those jobs is the lifeblood of someone’s family.
  • How many British pensioners living in the EU are you prepared to leave stranded, potentially without health care or pensions and unable to afford to return? Elderly people who worked all their lives, reduced to penury and homelessness, through no fault of their own. (And they didn’t even get a vote).
  • Exactly how many workplace health and safety standards are you happy to abandon in your workplace?
  • How many environmental and food standards are you prepared to scrap? Another chlorinated chicken sandwich on GMO bread, anyone?
  • How many more terrorists/criminals are you prepared to let slip through the net with the loss of EU wide co-operative security, intelligence and policing arrangements?
  • Exactly how much more are you prepared to pay for basics like, food and energy. Put a pound figure on it?

And when you are done answering those questions, please take a moment to make a list of things that will actually improve in your life when Brexit is enacted.

If you find that list alarmingly short, you might want to ask yourself, just who owns all those newspapers, spewing out all the anti-EU sentiment?  Yes, that’s right… It’s the billionaires.

Do you really think these fat cat billionaires have your interests at heart? Or would they rather continue diverting their profits to off shore tax havens? Profits that if taxed properly could provide ordinary people with better schools, hospitals, and pensions?

Forget the Irish backstop. The tax evasion laws are the real sticking point. And the only way for the Billionaires to avoid them is to get a HARD NO DEAL BREXIT.

Seems the only big winners from the no-deal scenario are the billionaires. It’s little wonder they don’t want a THIRD referendum. (The first one was in 1975). They have what they want in their sights, and they don’t want the will of the people, or parliament getting in their way. They have their man on the job, and he is determined to see it through.

Brexit was never about taking back control or the sovereignty of Parliament. (The fact Johnson has said he will shut down parliament and ignore legislation to avoid a NO DEAL BREXIT should pretty well snuff out any doubt about that).

This is a Billionaire’s coup. This is the French revolution in reverse. This is all about the tax arrangements of the ultra-wealthy, and thanks to their media savvy cohorts enough British voters bought it hook line and sinker to get them over the line, once!

But would they be so lucky today? Is it still “the will of the people”?

Britain NEEDS another vote on Brexit. This time with all the facts on the table.

***THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN POSTED UNDER CREATIVE COMMONS, AND MAY BE REPRODUCED, SHARED OR QUOTED FROM IN ITS UNEDITED FORM, WITHOUT COST.

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Dutton: The Lone Voice of Cruelty…

I am going to make this short. Australia wants the Biloela Family to stay!

While Peter Dutton clearly believes that white au pairs for his rich mates deserve special consideration, white South African farmers “deserve special attention” and fast-tracked visas, young brown children born here, to good parents fleeing conflict and looking for a better life? Well, not so much.

At Dutton’s express orders, they should be locked up for months without proper medical care, early childhood education and amenities; left to self-harm while their teeth blacken and fall out, only to be disappeared/deported in the middle of the night.

In the case of the Biloela family, DUTTON’s behaviour is nothing short of disgraceful. EVERYONE wants these people to stay. BUT Dutton, with his power grubbing overreach, is the lone voice of cruelty. He has cordoned off the power to rest solely in his hands, and he is behaving shamefully.

His claim, that he is simply upholding the law, is nothing but a cloak of moral cowardice. Not only does it fail to acknowledge his own part in creating the cruellest aspects of those laws, it fails to give due deference to human decency.

If a law fails to account for the natural human instinct, to refrain from treating innocent children with a cruel and contemptuous disregard, then that law is immoral and needs to be changed. No ifs, buts or maybes.

Whether or not the parents are genuine refugees (as determined by the courts), these are good people, hard-working people, and their children were born here. They have never even set foot in another nation. Deportation of these AUSTRALIAN children may be legally permissible but it is, nonetheless wrong.

Dutton’s racism is so blatant, his preferential application of power so beset with bigotry and prejudice, he is simply not fit for public office.

This is not the Country I want us to be. I, like so many others these days, am sadly ashamed of the cruel and heartless nation we have become. From our policies on refugees, climate and welfare, to the inequity of corporate tax evasion and misconduct, we have lost our moral compass.

Under the auspices of our current government we have become an immoral, corrupt, cruel and selfish nation that is indifferent to human decency.

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An LNP Refugee Backflip, is it even possible?

In light of the so-called “Nauru files” questions are naturally being asked. However the questions being asked by decent minded people of conscious are decidedly different from the ones being asked by the government and our immigration minister Peter Dutton.

While those of us who would prefer our nation didn’t behave like a sub-branch of the Third Reich are asking questions like, “why are we spending billions of tax payer dollars torturing and imprisoning people who have committed no crime?”

And “How can we ignore blatant human rights abuses on our watch?” the government is asking questions like “Who told, who leaked the reports?”

Under the government’s carefully managed messaging the innocent victims of our concentration camps have, until now, been successfully branded as criminals in the broader public’s eye. But the cat is well and truly out of the bag. Everybody knows that we have not only been locking up innocent people, we have been systematically subjecting them to all manner of abuse, rape and torture on our watch.

So where to now for the government? At this point you would have thought someone in the LNP party room might have suggested they put down the shovel and step away from the hole, but no. They are sticking to their guns. In his Orwellian attempts to manage the message Dutton has chimed in with a range of assertions so patently absurd they would be laughable if they weren’t so agonisingly tragic.

From his accusing refugee advocates of encouraging suicide attempts, (an allegation that has subsequently been proven to be false), to claiming that allegations of sexual assaults in the camps are simply a misguided attempt to penetrate our boarders, Dutton is a man so deep in denial that he seems unable to contemplate the notion that any of the 2000 plus incidents listed in the Nauru files might actually be the awful truth. He has become little more than the unfortunate mouthpiece of a government so driven by distorted ideology and political opportunism that it has fully embraced the Seinfeildian logic of “it’s not a lie if you believe it”.

-nauru-children-904-super-169

But if we are to figure out how to move forward we must first look back and understand where we have been and how we got here.

Howard started it all with the children overboard scandal. A false claim made to demonise innocent people and gain political advantage. Down in the polls and facing electoral defeat, 9/11 landed on Howard’s doorstep like a political godsend. Suddenly he had a new Muslim bogey man to with which to terrify the public. Throw a compliant media and boatload of middle eastern refugees into the mix and he sailed back into office on the back of his successful scare campaign. So successful was his little man hate campaign that from that day forward everything changed. Where we once recognised refugees as hard working, often highly educated and entrepreneurial additions to our society, we were now encouraged to view them as self serving illegal interlopers bent on milking our benefits system and destroying our way of life. The torture and vilification of refugees was etched in stone into the LNP party platform, and the Murdoch rags gleefully cheered them on from the sideline.

Some of you will be too young to remember, but before Howard cynically exploited the Tampa crisis and invented the lie that was children overboard, refugees attempting to come here where greeted with a broad smile and hand up.

So here we are several years later, one of the richest countries on the planet, with the biggest houses and the largest per capita carbon footprint in the world, thumbing our nose at international law. With absolutely no sense of irony we seem able to torture and persecute innocent people for the outrageous act of fleeing torture and persecution. And for what? Why are we doing it? It costs us far more to persecute these people than it would to resettle them.

If you analyse it, the reason is clear. It is not about the money. It’s not about these people being a threat to the community. (As if 400 refugees are going to bring down the nation? It’s utter garbage, we have taken in thousands of refugees in over the decades and they have been overwhelmingly good for the nation).

What it is really about is political opportunism and advantage. Just like the Nazi’s did in the 30’s, the LNP get a lot of political capital out of fear of the other. Fear has proven such an effective wedge against labor and the greens, or any other party that can be packaged up by Murdoch and sold to the public as “soft of boarder protection” that the LNP are totally unwilling to give it up.

But it is not just a matter of the political advantage the LNP garner from prosecuting the case for fear, they have made the lie so big, and told it to us so often they simply can’t back away from it, even as it is crumbling around them. Even though the truth has well and truly escaped their control they are clearly willing to push back hard.  I’m sure they think that if they mount a good enough fight, with Murdoch on their side, they still might be able to save their precious rhetoric from being shown up for the lie that it is. After all if they back down now, not only will they lose one of their most valuable political cards, they are going to lose one hell of a lot of face.

In the wake of the Nauru files one thing has become abundantly clear. As human beings the LNP clearly lack the moral backbone and courage required to say, “we got it wrong”. Given the choice between owning their error and rethinking their policy or continuing on with the human rights abuses, clearly they prefer to keep torturing people.

So what now for us as a nation? More of the same I suspect.

We really need to talk about ‘Jobs and Growth’!

Capitalism (as we know it) is in Crisis, and it is going to fail!

We live in an increasingly brutal economy. Almost everything is granted or denied on the basis of your ability to pay. If you have the cash you get the service, if not you get nothing. The economy just doesn’t care if you are homeless, hungry, sick, war wounded, traumatised or retrenched. It only cares whether or not you can pay.

The system pits us against each other in an endless quest for money, and it encourages us to view our fellow humans as either a means to increase our personal wealth, or as a potential drain on it. This is the stark reality of living in an economy rather than a society.

But given that this is the system we live in, and we all need money to survive, how exactly does one make ends meet?

The easiest way is to be born into a family that has enough resources to feed, house and pay for a good education for you. However if you fail to secure such a birth then I’m afraid your chances of wallowing in poverty are astonishingly high, no matter what country you were born into.

You could enter the “labor market” and sell your time to the highest bidder. While this works reasonably well for some highly educated folk, unfortunately education has become extremely expensive of late, and often only results in a massive personal debt with no prospect of a job at the end of it.

student loan

You could of course forgo education and seek out unskilled work, but the drive to ever-decreasing levels of service and ever-increasing mechanisation has created a large reserve of unemployed, which keeps the price of human labor cripplingly low. (This fact is vividly on display in places like Bangladesh or downtown USA, where a person can easily work a gruelling 60 hour week and still fail to make enough money to eat well and rent somewhere semi decent to live).

There are of course the much-touted inspirational tales of those who start out with nothing and work their way to the top. But what are the odds of such a meteoric rise in status, especially if you had the misfortune of being low born in a 3rd world country? Suffice to say we are talking odds that would make a lottery ticket look promising. Even if you were blessed with the brains of Einstein and worked like a proverbial dog, without the right start in life you’re pretty well screwed.

For most people the system as it stands is precarious enough, but when you factor in the disruptive force of mass mechanisation that is hurtling towards us at break neck speed, it’s pretty clear that without major structural reform things could get much worse very rapidly.

robot car maker

There is credible research out there suggesting that up to 40% of Australian Jobs could disappear by 2025. That is LESS THAN 10 YEARS PEOPLE!

For the first time in our history we look set to run head long into the ultimate capitalist paradox. You know, the one where the .01% has everything and no one else can afford to buy anything, which rapidly brings the whole thing to a grinding halt. It’s the classic end to every game of Monopoly ever played. One person is filthy rich and smilingly self-satisfied, and everyone else is broke, resentful and threatening to up end the board.

robot waiter

Like it or not robotics and automation are on the rise right across the globe, & HUMAN EMPLOYMENT IS STRUCTURAL DECLINE. Just last week Adidas announced it was going to open new fully automated ‘robot’ factories to make shoes. The driverless cars and trucks are coming people, and no matter how much the LNP might wish it, the attendant tsunami of unemployment is not going to be halted simply by tinkering with the company tax rate.

We are talking about four out of ten Australians potentially losing their jobs within a decade.

unemployment-office-300x208

And even if our job is safe, we need to understand that every new face on the unemployment line, every 457 visa granted to an underpaid Chinese worker puts Australian wages and conditions under increasing pressure. And as wages contract people’s disposable incomes shrink, and as people’s incomes shrink demand falls away, and as demand falls away profits start to fall, and before we know it we are in a full blown recession, or worse.

One thing is for sure; this slashing of labor costs due to mass mechanisation is NOT going to result in GROWTH for anyone but the 1%, (and even that growth could be very short lived if no one can afford to buy what they are selling).

We also have to take into account the massively increased cost of welfare, policing, and health care as record unemployment, increased crime, depression, addiction and ‘unforeseen’ climate events starts to ripple throughout the land.

This crisis is real, it’s on the horizon, and left to run its course it could get pretty damn ugly.

We are fast entering uncharted waters. Never before in human history have we had the capacity to produce so much, while having so many people that are just not needed to do the work. And the frightening truth is, no one really knows exactly how this is all going to play out.

How do we address a situation where a large percentage of the population is not able to earn enough to feed and house themselves? We can’t continue to blame and demonise them. After all it isn’t their fault the robots took their jobs.

jobless protestSo what the hell do we do? Do we kill the unemployed; do we turn them into thieves and criminals? Do will build gated communities so we don’t have to watch them quietly starve? Do we all start carrying guns to shoot them if they try to take our stuff? Seriously, what do we do?

There is only one humane answer. We have to reconfigure the model of distribution. We need to start a conversation about introducing some kind of UBI (Universal Basic Income). A UBI is, in short, a no questions asked basic livable stipend given to all citizens regardless of any other income.

basic income

I know this is a big leap, and it goes against the grain for many, but what other choice is there; war, famine, mass homelessness?

We have to accept the fact that 40 hours well paid employment is not going to be  a viable or achievable expectation for many people in the very near future. We also need to understand that for big and small business to survive people need to be able to afford to buy their goods and services.

The first question most people ask is “but how can we afford it?” While the answer is not yet clear, here is what we do know; if we are to afford it then we will probably need to be taxing companies MORE in the near future, not less. (or at the very least get them to actually pay tax at the headline rate rather than allow them to continue using convoluted off shore structures and tax havens to avoid it).

Sure, in the short term tax cuts might fuel investment, but is Coles investing in automated checkouts, or McDonalds installing a touch screen automated ordering system, or banks adding more automation to their systems, or taxi companies going driverless really going to employ more people? Or is it simply going to strengthen their company bottom line and thus reduce what they cycle back into the community?

Change is coming and we need to start discussing what the hell we are going to do to avoid complete social collapse in the face of massive, unprecedented underemployment.

bi reasons

And I am sorry to say it Mr Turnbull, but your long debunked, trickle down ‘jobs and growth’ tax cut for companies is a lame duck policy that simply fails to grasp or address the structural changes that are upon us.

You will be hearing a lot more about UBI’s over the next few months and years, (they are already being discussed and trialled in parts of Europe). And if we are to avoid a social/humanitarian disaster we need to start reframing the conversation.

The wave is coming, and we either learn to surf it or we are going to drown.

 

Trump! The death of political correctness and the rise of the bigots.

Being “PC” was once considered the calling card of civilised social commentary and educated debate. But over the last few years (in fact ever since Pauline Hanson let the racist genie out of the bottle with her maiden speech to parliament in 1996), the act of being “Politically Correct” (or PC) has been systematically assaulted by battlers, shock jocks and right wing pundits as a repressive constraint on free speech.

The mainstream media have effectively rebranded the once lauded virtue as an act of excessive pandering to vocal minorities, and managed to disingenuously package it up as an assault on the mainstream.

635830578465441613-635966083_3956ff3e28c626eaf130c0ea63f82d3c

But what does actually it mean to be “politically correct”? According to dictionary.com the active component of the term means, avoiding vocabulary that is considered offensive, discriminatory, or judgmental” (particularly on matters pertaining to race, gender or sexual orientation).

X3nsbCI realise this may sound somewhat old fashioned but to my understanding this would mean that being “politically correct” is simply the act of exercising GOOD MANNERS by not publicly espousing derogatory racist or sexist sentiments, or abusing those that are of an alternate race, gender, orientation or circumstance to ones own.

I admit good manners are somewhat of an old fashioned concept, but for the uninitiated the idea is basically this, you don’t say or do things that are HIGHLY LIKELY to lead to offence, vilification or active discrimination against others.

As a caveat to that, exceptions can be granted for those engaging in activities and speech (that might offend some) if their actions are designed to dismantle blatantly unfair and discriminatory practices, such as slavery, or securing women’s right to vote or drive cars. However exceptions cannot and should not be granted when the aim of the speaker is to vilify, arbitrarily exclude and incite hatred and violence.

Contrary to what some in the government may think, dismantling 18c (our laws against hate speech) and legally enshrining the right to abuse and vilify would not serve our political freedom; it would simply be inviting more ignorance, bigotry and hostility to run rampant in our society. (And it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that that may lead to some pretty ugly consequences).

Censorship has always been a thorny issue. A persuasive case can be mounted that the ability (under law) to say whatever we please ought to be one of our fundamental rights and freedoms, but in reality extremes very rarely produce good outcomes. While we clearly do not want the overtly repressive censorship that is exercised by some nations, we don’t want to allow an unchecked stream of hateful, violent,antisocial rhetoric to gain popular traction either.

politcally incorrectAs a society we must walk the tightrope between and the extremes of the overly repressive and the overly permissive, and it is a difficult balance to strike.

This is where “political correctness” once used to serve us so well. Being PC was the unspoken pact we had with each other that we would refrain from behaving like utterly hateful bigots, (at least in public); and anyone who crossed the line would be met with anything from the shaming disapproval of a sharply raised eyebrow to unemployment or outright social shunning.

It was a good, self-regulating system. We all agreed not to be hateful in public, and those that harboured hateful, antagonistic feelings towards others knew that they needed to keep those thoughts and feelings to themselves, lest they become a social pariah.

Abandoning that pact comes at no small cost. While the likes of Hanson and Abbott have cleared Australia’s way to socially permissible bigotry, one only needs to look to the USA and the phenomena that is Trump to gain an understanding of what it may ultimately cost us if we progress any further down that road.trump politcally correct

Watching Trump abandon all sense verbal restraint is an agonising spectre. The ease with which he spews his loathsome bile all over the mainstream news cycle, (who happily devour it like rabid dogs), is horrific.

The unapologetic swagger with which he peels off racist and misogynistic epithets is simply staggering. He does nothing for social cohesion; instead he sets the stage for the hateful to come out loud and proud; and emboldened by the vicious unrestrained political rhetoric the haters are rising to his call. Whether it is advocating the brutal torture of refugees, discriminating against the LGBT community, punishing the disabled and unemployed, assaulting Muslim women on the train, or spraying racist epithclosed-mind2-233x300ets on my local Indian restaurant (or worse), they are out there and they are getting increasingly brazen. (So much so that even some right wingers realise it has gone too far, and are now clamouring for the restraint that “political correctness” once afforded them).

But how do we contain the hate? How can we reinstate the PC pact?  Can we actually make back the ground that has been lost? Having thrown off the “PC” shackles of societal shame, the bigots and haters are on the march, and they will not be silenced easily.

The New Ugly Australia … Is the right dead wrong?

Australia has changed. I cannot say when exactly it happened but sometime in the last 15 years, while we were all stood around the BBQ indulging in the government sanctioned, media driven hysteria about dole bludgers, single mothers, welfare cheats, refugees and terrorists, an air of brutal, self-aggrandising elitism has gently wafted over us.

Masked by our nation’s perennial feel good olfactory cocktail of jasmine, Aerogard and BBQ smoke we barely noticed it at first, but over that last few years it has become far more pervasive. Many of the well to do among us have inhaled the right’s harsh new rhetoric as if it where the only oxygen in a gas chamber. Even so-called “Aussie battlers” can be heard publicly mouthing the right’s battle cry.

bbqSo what happened to us? How did we, the land of plenty, the nation with the 2nd highest standard of living in the world, the nation of the fair go for all, the nation of the good sport, come to this? How did we come to feel so besieged, so hard done by, so threatened?

Throughout history humans have toiled under countless social orders. Whether it be tribalism, feudal fiefdoms, the divine right of kings, communism, capitalism, religious caliphates, socialism, collectivism, fascism or rampant corporatocracies, power and politics have always been about the allocation of resources.

While there are limitless arguments over the virtues and shortcomings of various political systems, the long-standing schism between the left and right is basically about whether power and resources aught to serve the interests of the few (as favoured by the right) or the many (as advocated by the left).

Historically speaking the vast majority of social orders have leaned heavily to the right, which has resulted in a dynastic concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a few so called “elites”. Admittedly there have been a few bold attempts at dismantling entrenched power and organising distribution in a more equitable way. However for the most part these revolutions where born of a desperate scarcity rather than a utopian vision that was crafted through careful planning; and as such most attempts to revamp the social order have been relatively short lived and achieved little more than the supplanting of one set of avaricious oligarchs by another.

But in this media savvy age, where the west pays significant lip service to the concept of democracy, the hoarding of resources and the institutional abuse of power in the name of unchecked greed must be presented in a more nuanced fashion. The stark reality must be massaged into a more palatable form.

While it is clear we do not start out on a level playing field, with issues such as educational opportunity, poverty, ill health, violence and addiction clearly plaguing some sections of society more than others. Study after study shows that children that are subject to such stressors have markedly reduced educational outcomes and subsequently lower incomes.

equality and solidarity equal rights and opportunities no discrimination

equality and solidarity equal rights and opportunities no discrimination

When pressed most Aussies agree that denying people equal opportunity is intrinsically wrong. However by glossing over the inherent inequities in the system and branding the poor and marginalised as stupid, lazy or undeserving, the right has curbed our natural concern for those less fortunate, and positioned itself as the champion of the increasingly paranoid and rapidly shrinking middle and aspirational classes.

The right’s rhetoric is an endless conversation about reducing government support in favour of self-reliance, rewarding success and not fostering dependence. It is pro capitalism, pro business, pro individual; it is the self-declared advocate of the so-called self-made man. As Hockey famously said “if you want to buy a house in Sydney, then get a job that pays good money”

On the face of it, it sounds quite reasonable that we should focus on fostering individual reward for individual effort. But as with many things that can seem intuitively correct at first glance, the issue is considerably more complex.

For a start, at what point can someone accurately be described as “self made”, rather than the beneficiary of some privilege inherent to their wealth, education, class, race, gender or sexual orientation? (This is not to say that those who actually benefit from such systemic biases don’t work extremely hard, but it does raise questions as to whether their endeavours would be quite so fruitful where they subjected to the same hurdles that say an aboriginal woman might have to contend with).

Then we need to consider the question of who is actually responsible for making a success? Whether we acknowledge it or not entrepreneurs and corporations require the efforts of an extraordinary array of people to bring their vision to life.

For example, Apple wouldn’t be able to sell many iPhones were it not for the miners and chemical engineers that deliver the raw materials, or the workers that assemble, ship and market them. So is it really accurate to describe Jobs and Wozniack as “self made”, or would it be more accurate to describe them as great innovators and organisers, who successfully utilised the talents and resources of others to rise to prominence?

in-their-last-conversation-steve-jobs-talked-about-having-steve-wozniak-come-back-to-appleConsider this, is the so-called “self made man” responsible for the fact that his workforce can read and do basic math? Of course not, yet he is benefiting from the public education for his own private profit. Did he pay for the roads and airports over which his goods travel? No. Yet he benefits and profits from the public infrastructure.

The fact is the self made man is a myth. Success is always a collaboration, and a large share of the resources brought to bear in any enterprise are funded by the public purse; a fact that is rarely, if ever, acknowledged by the right.

Sure, there are plenty of industrialists who have proven themselves masterful in utilising the abilities and efforts of others, but they are simply one cog in much larger machine, and common sense aught to tell us that if we only service that one cog the machine is heading for a catastrophic failure.

In spite of the threat of global warming, rampant environmental degradation, spiralling rates of homelessness and mortgage stress, skyrocketing health and education costs and our ever-diminishing access to fresh healthy food and water the right continue to tell us that their lop sided hegemony is a good thing; and in spite of the fact that they primarily serve the interests of huge multi-national corporations and wealthy elites, we remain surprisingly willing to believe them.

The right has branded their beloved “captains of industry” as successful. They are the “winners”, and one of the right’s great tricks is to sell us on the notion that if we work hard enough, and are smart enough, we will get our turn. But there is little to no real evidence to support this idea. There is no escaping the fact that society needs many levels of operatives to function; we can’t all be CEO’s. Someone still has to clean the toilets!

And what about those of us that cannot adequately function or contribute? Are we so full of reverence for the tax evading elites that we believe they should be able to utilise the benefits of public education and infrastructure without contributing, while the poor, disabled, mentally ill, and single parents etc., are denied a dignified existence?

The fundamental difference between the left and the right is the prescribed value that is attached to human existence and input.

I put it to you that in overvaluing and prioritising the interests of those at the top and undervaluing everyone else the right has got it very very wrong.

The right is at war with us; they are fighting to reduce our wages in support of corporate profits. They are looking to tax us more and the tax 1% less, and we are willingly falling in as foot soldiers in the war against our broader interests.

It seems to me that as we sit around our BBQ’s inhaling the heady scent of our own entitlement, demonising the weak and disenfranchised, chugging back a few beers and cheering on our nation’s reinvigorated racist zeal and self righteous cruelty to refugees, the coalition is slowly cutting our legs out from under us, while disingenuously urging us all to step up and climb the ladder.

Ever tried to climb a ladder with no legs? It just doesn’t work.

Wheelchair-how-to-climb-stairs

Abbott going Batty just doesn’t cut it – the media and the minister for women are failing miserably

I admire Rosie Batty. She has suffered immeasurable grief and tragedy with grace, courage and fortitude. She has moved forward, from the depths of despair with a resolute determination to highlight the issue of domestic violence and to try and change things for the better. Her obvious character and strength make her admirable choice for Australian of the year.

That said, the sight of the media scrum snapping happily while Abbott cozies up to her at every possible photo opportunity is scraping new depths, even for our minister for women.

The casual misogyny with which Abbott selected his cabinet, named himself minister for women and then went on to support to the proposed funding cuts for women’s refuges; the glee with which he poses in front of fighter jets and spends billions sending our troops off to war (apparently for our safety and security), and yet continues to ignore the plethora of women killed as a result of domestic violence is absolutely breathtaking.

There has been no dialogue about this at all coming from our minister for women, no billions to fund a war on domestic violence, no proposed judicial reform and no education campaigns, just a lame promise to put a national “restraining order” on the books. A move that will do nothing to change the attitudes of the general public or the behavior of offenders. Quite frankly Abbott’s lack of rigor on the issue is an insult to all Australians, men and women alike.

12-domestic-violence-300x193

But it’s not just the minister for women that is letting the side down; the media are also missing in action. For the most part we hear absolutely nothing of the people living in our communities that lose their lives to the scourge of domestic violence. Right now there are thousands of men, women and children suffering silently in their homes, with little hope of escape or assistance.

While there are quite clearly perpetrators of both genders, the overwhelming majority of victims are women; and it is a sad indictment of our society that on average one woman is killed by her intimate partner every single week and we rarely, if ever, hear anything about it, save for the odd statistic. We get no names, no faces, no interviews with grieving relatives, no court reporting on the sentence; nothing that makes it real or tangible for us.

So why is it that neither Abbott, nor the main stream media, has any tangible appetite for the issue of domestic violence? Unless of course it is the children that are killed; that’s another thing altogether.

Who could forget the media frenzy that ensued when Robert Farquharson murdered his three sons by strapping them into his car and driving them into a dam, or when four year old Darcy Freeman was thrown off the Westgate bridge, and most recently when Rosie Batty’s eleven year old son was brutally beaten to death. These “stories” hit the news cycle like pop songs on high rotation, where every intricate detail, every arrest, every court date, every psychologist’s report and judge’s statement is ghoulishly devoured and endlessly regurgitated by the mainstream media. 

But when it’s the wife or the girlfriend that’s the victim all there is is a deafeningly hollow silence. No media scrums outside the court house, no politicians banging their fists and declaring something will be done. There is nothing…. zip, zilch, nada.

domestic violence

Why is it that? Could it be that we, as a society, just don’t care about women? Surely that can’t be the case? What about Jill Meagher? The media were out in force for her. Thousands of protesters marched through the streets carrying placards. And what about Ms Vukotic who was tragically slain in a Doncaster park? Her murder was deemed worthy of a media scrum.

But why is the untimely demise of these women deserving of so much media outrage, while the murders of so many other women are completely overlooked and ignored? The only discernible difference I can see is that Ms Meagher and Ms Vukotic were a.) murdered by a totally random stranger, not a sexual partner. b.) they were not sex workers, and c.) Ms Meagher worked in the media. While these facts may have made these cases more media noteworthy, they do not make them any more heartbreakingly tragic.

I admit I am no psychologist, but to me it looks like we have two classes of victims. The first being children, (who are clearly innocent by virtue of their age) and women who are unknown to their attackers; and the second being sex workers or women who are beaten and or killed by their intimate partners.

If you fall into the first category the violence visited on you is an outrage, worthy of the harshest punishment and endless sensationalized regurgitation in the 24 hour news cycle. If you fall into the second category your fate is greeted by the media, the government and the judiciary (who are the only ones who have the power to actually do something tangible about Australia’s domestic violence problem) with a collective yawn. It’s a curious divide.

I remember how shocked I was when several years back a friend of my mother’s was nearly beaten to death by the man she was dating. In an alcohol fueled rage he repeatedly rammed her head into the wooden arm rest of a Jacobean couch until he had smashed her skull in several places. She sustained permanent brain damage; and he, in spite of being charged with attempted murder and found guilty, was given an 18 months sentence, wholly suspended. He didn’t serve a single day in jail over the attack.

There was some kind of glib summing up by the judge about volatile relationships, too much alcohol and things getting “a bit out of hand”, and how as they were no longer together she was highly unlikely to suffer a repeat attack. Sending him to jail would apparently cause him to lose his job and his stymie his ability to pay child support so there was “nothing to be gained by a custodial sentence”.

We were all totally gob smacked; this man had almost beaten her to death and left her with permanent brain damage and he barely got a slap on the wrist!

enough

Admittedly this was several years ago, but from what I understand this kind of thing is still quite common. Intimate partner violence is systematically trivialized by the police, the courts, and the government; and it is largely ignored by both the minister for women and the media.

Curious. If women are beaten or murdered by strangers it is an outrage, but if the the attack is perpetrated by their sexual partners it seems we really don’t give a damn.

The burning question is why? Any thoughts anyone?

BADEN CLAY ARREST BRISBANE

Abbott’s Jack Boot Diplomacy Threatens 11th Hour Clemency Efforts.

If Australia has learnt anything from Abbott’s history, it is that Abbott has learned nothing from Abbot’s history.

DFAT have been working tirelessly behind the scenes with every ounce of their diplomatic persuasion to move Indonesia from it’s seemingly intractable position. They have carefully nuanced their presentation of Australia’s heartfelt desire for mercy. They have acknowledged the political difficulties Indonesia’s president would face if he were to acquiesce to our wishes, and let it be known that we, as Australians, understand the incredible act of political courage it would be for Joko Widodo to grant clemency at this late stage.

The fact that Indonesia delayed the transfer of Chan and Sukamaran was evidence of some slight progress. Glimmers of light were starting to appear in the darkness; and then Abbott steps in, like the street brawler he is, shirt fronting the Indonesians with a mouthful of toxic threatening rhetoric.

The lack of emotional intelligence displayed by Abbott is utterly staggering. One can not help but wonder if he actually wants to see the executions go ahead? Because if he wants to save Chan and Sukamaran he has got know that bullying Indonesia is not helping.

Does Abbott understand anything about human nature at all? If the Indonesians were considering clemency before Abbott started going off like a loose canon, it could only have been cast as an act of supreme generosity of spirit and political bravery; the benevolent act of a fair minded and courageous leader. After Abbott’s little stunt it could just as easily be cast as Indonesia buckling under the fist of the local colonial bullyboy. Honestly does Abbott understand nothing?

Abbott’s meddling in this situation is tragic, embarrassing and may well have cost Chan and Sukamaran their lives. Australia simply can not afford to have Abbott rolling around like a loose canon on the world stage.

Our one hope is that the Indonesians will take Abbott’s lack of domestic popularity into account when accessing his rather inappropriate contribution to the situation. Hopefully the Indonesians are aware that Abbott doesn’t speak for us as a nation. Hopefully they know and understand that we Australians find Abbott’s commentary as offensive and inappropriate as they do. Hopefully Indonesia will understand the profound respect, gratitude, warmth and friendship Australians would hold eternally in our hearts should Indonesia see fit to spare our fellow countrymen.

Hopefully?

#Murdoch’s Machiavellian Manoeuvres . . .

After a string of ghoulishly inappropriate tweets it seems the irrepressible Rupert it is at it again. With very own his media empire poised and ready to dedicate swathes of precious air time to his every hashtag, it’s no surprise that the man cant keep his hands off his twitter account.

But given his latest round of tweets one has to wonder what on earth is Murdoch up to?

tweet murdoch

First he blasts Abbott for knighting that shining beacon of misogyny and casual racism that is Prince Phillip, and now he is saying Abbott needs to sack Peta Credlin?

I’m no great fan of Peta Credlin but blaming her for Abbott’s woes is like blaming a creme cake for Boko Haram. Admittedly she could have kept him on a tighter leash, but the reality is that Abbott is her boss, not the other way around, and if he is determined to go off like a loose cannon there isn’t really a lot Ms. Credlin can do about it.

While Murdoch’s call for Credlin’s scalp is understandable on one level, after all there is a well set precedent in Australian politics that powerful women are expected to clean up the messes made by the boys, and then thrown under a bus for their efforts, (Just think Joan Kirner, Julia Gillard, and more recently Sussan Ley, who – after Dutton’s abject failure- has been handed the delightful task of destroying Medicare… I guarantee you, give it 18 months and Ms Ley will be road kill), it is still a somewhat curious manoeuvre.

murdoch tweets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We all know that Abbott is Murdoch’s boy, bought and paid for, and no one would be surprised if Murdoch was suffering a touch of buyer’s remorse where Abbott is concerned. I for one would not be shocked if Murdoch, much like anyone else that buys a lemon, is desperately searching for an exit strategy that won’t leave too much egg on his face. But why would he slap Abbott down one day, and blame Credlin the next? Are we simply witnessing the random #’s of man who is getting on a bit and losing the plot, or does Murdoch have some kind of cunning plan?

Riding on the back of his media empire Murdoch currently enjoys great sway with the Australian voting public, but even he knows that in this social media age you can not take anything for granted. With the disgrace that was the phone hacking scandal in the UK, and the utter derision with which most of the USA views fox news (when Fox news can’t even raise enough votes in a racially polarised America to keep Obama out of office, you have know it’s a spent force), Australia is possibly the last place on earth where Rupert wields the kind of political influence he so clearly craves, and he certainly doesn’t want to blow it.

AbbochMurdoch has now quite rightly assessed the public sentiment, and realised that sticking up for his man Tony is only going to erode his social and political capital. So what to do? Abbott is now so toxic, standing by him is clearly not an option, but who can Rupert turn to to be his new man in Canberra?

Trouble is, in setting a such a hideous policy agenda Abbott has managed to turn each and every portfolio into a poison chalice that is guaranteed to cruel the chances of any potential successor.

It is unlikely Scott Morrison will ever recover from his stint in immigration, George Brandis has been eternally lumbered with the racist tag (courtesy of the ill advised attempt at 18c amendments), Joe Hockey is forever blighted with his budget opus, Julie Bishop is a woman so forget that, and let’s face it Christopher Pyne was never going to be a saleable option.

What about Andrew Robb or Peter Dutton? Really? I don’t think so! And then of course there is the ever popular Malcom Turnbull, the only one who could probably save them, but Turnbull is way too much of centrist for Murdoch’s purposes, and he isn’t supported in the party room anyway.

So what is poor Rupert to do about toxic Tony, he can’t side with him, and he can’t find a suitable successor?

This is where the attack on Credlin starts to make sense. From Rupert’s point of view, (as the undisputed emperor of his very own personal 24 hour news cycle), it’s not hard to see how Credlin could make a credible scape goat for all Abbott’s stuff ups. She is powerful, she is a woman, she is unelected (which means no messy bi-election swings to have to explain away), and as she is largely attributed with Abbott’s successes surely it wouldn’t be too hard to spin her into the cause of his failures as well.

CredlineWill Murdoch be able to successfully to transfer Abbott’s stench onto Credlin, (because if his tabloids are anything to go by, he is certainly having a red hot go at it)?

To me it looks like Murdoch is throwing Credlin to the wolves in one desperate last ditch attempt remediate Abbott’s image.  The question is will the electorate buy it?

I’m thinking probably not.

Hate Speech Is Not Free Speech!

After proposing then abandoning a raft of manifestly unpopular changes to section 18C of Australia’s racial vilification laws last year, certain members of the LNP have recently relaunched their attack on 18C, under the rather disingenuous pretext of championing free speech.

In the wake of the Charlie Hedbo attacks Cory Bernardi has been out there again, calling for the LNP’s precious 18C amendments to be put back on the table.

Like pit bulls with lock jaw, a gang of radical right wing MP’s including Cory Bernardi, George Brandis, Dean Smith, liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm, and Family First’s Bob Day have been lobbying hard to ensure we Aussies have the right to engage in hate speech.

cory-bernardi-the-conservative-revolution

Just for clarity, lets take a closer look at what it is they want to change. Specifically they want to have the words “offend, insult and humiliate” removed from the act.

RACIAL DISCRIMINATION ACT 1975 – SECT 18C

Offensive behaviour because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin

(1)  It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:

(a)  the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and

(b)  the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group.

 

So in effect what they are proposing is that it would just fine to PUBLICLY “offend, insult and humiliate” someone based on their race, colour or national or ethnic origin, so long as you don’t “intimidate” them.

I think it’s fairly safe to say that most people would find public insult and humiliation somewhat intimidating; so we can assume that the interpretation to be given to the word “intimidate” under the proposed amendments would be “to directly physically threaten”, rather than “to emotionally threaten”.

If these changes were ushered in then theoretically it would be OK if I were to call Tony Abbott filthy, unwashed, lazy, whinging, snaggle toothed, imperialist, stuck up, limey British scum? And that would be totally OK, because I am all I am doing is using racial stereotypes to abuse him, but I am not actually threatening to do him any harm. Of course the truth is that most British people work hard, wash regularly, visit dentists, aren’t seeking to expand their empire, and complain in relatively appropriate measure..:-), but hey why let the truth get in the way of good story.

wp-egg

Unfortunately what these right wing warriors are failing to understand is that the Racial Discrimination Act is not really about protecting the feelings of “white people”. It was drafted in the knowledge that there are ethnic groups in this country that really suffer as a result of constant racial abuse and the negative stereo types that such abuse fosters.

no racist

To our shame there are many Australians, (most notedly our indigenous brothers and sisters, followed closely by those of African or “middle eastern appearance”) that regularly suffer systemic discrimination in housing and employment on the basis of their race. They are the same Australians that regularly suffer physical abuse in public spaces, and higher rates of detention and incarceration on account of their race. So please let’s not minimise this, these are real consequences, for real people!

Free speech is a noble ideal, but in order for something to be truly free it must come without a cost. Just because hate mongers like Andrew Bolt, Alan Jones and the oh so white fleet of right wing MP’s don’t personally pay the price for their racist tirades doesn’t mean someone isn’t picking up the tab. And too frequently those picking up the tab are the among the poorest and most marginalised members of our Australian family.

andrew-bolt-2

If you happen to belong to one of those oft targeted minorities the Racial Discrimination Act may not offer a lot of protection, but it is the thin end of a very important wedge. It is a line in the sand that says NO, we as Australians do NOT want a society where racial vilification and negative racial stereotypes are permitted to fester and stew in the public sphere. We want an Australia that says racists need to be ashamed, knowing that they are on the wrong side of what is morally decent, and on the wrong side of the law. We want an Australia where vile hate speech does land Andrew Bolt in court and up on charges. Mostly we want an Australia that is for the fair go for everyone regardless of race, colour or creed.

AFL call out

So Mr Bernadi, I say this to you on behalf of all decent, fair minded Australians….. GET BACK IN YOUR BOX!!!, we don’t want the hate you are peddling!!!

 

Religion… What is it good for?

On the latest available research approximately 84% of the world’s population identify themselves as believing in, (or at least being affiliated with) one religion or another. Yet as the world reels in shock at the latest brutal fundamentalist attacks I find myself drawn to question whether or not the religions of the world, as self described moral arbiters, are now (or have ever been) truly fit for purpose?

From the crusades to the inquisition, from the burning of witches to the ritual sacrifice of children, from the institutional pedophilia of the catholic church to the slaughter of young girls for the “crime” of learning to read, there can be little argument that human history is replete with a litany of barbarous acts carried out in the name of religion.

jesus to jail

But what is it about religious faith that drives some people to embark on murderous repressive rampages against their fellow human beings? Is it their faith that actually drives them, or are they simply consumed by homicidal fantasies and religion conveniently allows them to cloak their dark desires in a veil of piety?

jonestown

Jonestown massacre – suicide

If religions are, as they claim, providing the moral structure and framework under which human societies can and should live, then how exactly are we supposed to interpret, understand and deal with the actions of those who repress, brutalise and kill predicated on the belief that it will please their God, (and/or secure them some lavish reward in the afterlife)?

Seriously, what traits and characteristics can we reasonably attribute to an entity (divine or otherwise) that would engage in, or be delighted by such atrocities? Because to my mind merciful, benevolent, loving, and kind are not topping the list.

Boko-Haram-Violence

Boko-Haram-Violence

Admittedly these are not new questions, the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus was posing such questions as far back as 300BC:

“Is God willing to prevent evil but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able, and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither willing nor able? Then why call him a god?” Epicurus

But with 84% of the human family still adhering to the idea of a sentient, all knowing, personality based deity these questions remain just as relevant today as they were two to three thousand years ago.

As there has never been any definitive earthy proof as to the existence or form of God, it could be argued that each of us is free, within the bounds of our chosen faith, to define God in accordance with our own preferences. Even within the confines of a particular faith’s scriptures there is a smorgasbord of choices from which we can construct our own personal versions of God.

As a Christian you are free to choose the angry, vengeful, jealous God of Deuteronomy or the loving God of John 4:16 or Galatians 5:22-23.

As a Muslim you could go with the God of Quran 2:191, “And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Al-Fitnah [disbelief] is worse than killing… or you could align your heart with the more moderate God of Quran 25:63: The worshipers of the All-Merciful are they who tread gently upon the earth, and when the ignorant address them, they reply, “Peace!”

coptic-church-blood

I have never met two people who have the exact same idea of who or what God is, and thus it appears to me that regardless of brand affiliations, God is pretty much what ever we want God to be. Kind of like the Subway sandwich of spirituality, we can put whatever we want into our God, and leave out or ignore any bits that aren’t to our taste.

But surely, if we are to assign responsibility for determining our ethical structures and moral conduct to a God, (or a set of scriptures, or a particular religion), then we need to be very wary of being seduced by our own subjective desires and interpretations.

twin tower pencils

If we accept the premise that any God we hold is actually a mirror reflection of our own preferences and tendencies, then how can we possibly use such a God or religion to accurately determine what is right or wrong without being swayed by our own predilections?

The fact is we can’t. With or without God, when it comes to determining what we hold to be right or wrong we are fundamentally on our own! What Gods and religions do seem to do for us however, (if we chose to interpret things that way), is grant us a free license to perform actions that are clearly harmful to others, blame our victims, and envelop ourselves in a shroud of moral righteousness and respectability while we are about it. It’s like the ultimate get out of jail free card.

That said, the search for absolute truth has always been difficult, and there are very few things that can be readily accepted by all peoples as unquestionably true, but I have managed to find a few. For example:

1.Human beings can not live in an atmosphere of liquid methane.

2.Human beings are not fish.

3. If you stop breathing you will eventually die.

4. If you do not eat you will eventually die.

5. You will eventually die.

Admittedly these “truths” are not really all that helpful when one is seeking to define indisputable parameters for righteous moral conduct, but then again on all evidence neither is God or religion!

No matter what we believe we all must take responsibility for our actions. If we go forth into the world with the will to harm others, then we need to understand that we are ultimately acting out the violence, hatred and defilements of our own hearts and minds. God and religion have nothing to do with it!

religion war

Travelling backwards… Abbott’s year of “achievement”

It’s been a punishingly busy year for the coalition. With so many pressing items on their to do list, like:

Dismantling medicare, cutting foreign aid, reducing real wages, slashing funding to the ABC and SBS, destroying the NBN, raising the retirement age, gutting the CSIRO, cutting child care staff subsidies, axing secular social workers in public schools in favor of chaplains, trashing the renewable energy sector, spending billions breaching international law with our treatment of refugees, stripping away our right to privacy, granting immunity from prosecution to ASIO officers, unwinding the same sex marriage laws in the ACT, ushering in ISDR clauses in the South Korean, Chinese and Japanese free trade agreements, blowing holes in the budget with the repeal of the carbon and mining taxes, investing in a shiny new war and handing an unsolicited multi-billion dollar gift to the reserve bank… it’s just been go go go for the Abbott government.

Given the cracking pace of their legislative achievements it’s quite amazing they have had the time to (among other things):

Axe the Climate Commission, cull the sharks, fast track the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef, open up the Galilee Basin, scrap the Australian Animals Welfare Advisory Committee, scrap the Commonwealth Firearms Advisory Council, scrap the International Legal Services Advisory Council, scrap the High Speed Rail Advisory Group, scrap the Maritime Workforce Development Forum, scrap the Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing, scrap the Insurance Reform Advisory Group, scrap the National Housing Supply Council, and as a special last minute present for Christmas, scrap the funding to homeless and housing groups!

Admittedly the government will need a bit more time to “sell” the obvious merits of some of their policies to the ignorant cross-benchers and whiny leaners in the broader electorate, but never fear, with a few more tax payer funded “public education” campaigns we will all no doubt be clamoring for Hobbitt (yes, that is a Hockey Abbott couple contraction) to dish out their lavish Paid Parental Leave to high earning mums to be, ensure our universities are properly reserved for those with a fiscal pedigree, and to finally pull the trigger on those pesky unemployed youth who are currently cowering in their cross-hairs.

But it hasn’t all gone Abbott’s way! And while we may lament that some of the government’s noblest ambitions, (such as their push to de-list Tasmania’s world heritage forests or secure our right to engage in hate speech), have been thwarted by forces beyond their control, at least the coalition government have had the guts to stand up to those lefty green nutters and try!

None the less I think we can feel relieved that the government hasn’t made any significant move to stem corporate tax evasion, (in fact they have pro-actively stood in the way of international co-operation on that issue).  Nor has Abbot been swayed by all that hysterical feminist white noise, managing to keep the number of women in cabinet down below 10% in his Christmas reshuffle. (Golly gee, if I had known it would be this fabulous under the Coalition I would have voted for them!)

comedy tragedy

As the first full year of the Abbott government draws to a close, comedy and tragedy stroll hand in hand through our political landscape into 2015, a future as yet unknown. If all goes according to the play book Abbott and his team have two more years to weave their special magic over the nation, but who knows? Maybe we can look forward to some PLEASANT surprises in the New Year!

Happy Holidays 🙂

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