By Kyran O’Dwyer
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a document that should be studied and taught at every school, until its sentiment is second nature to every child.
“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,”
I’m tipping that if you are reading this, your school days have finished. So read that last paragraph. Again and again. Then tell your kids. Then tell your kids to tell the chaplains – those posted in schools as sentinels for christian decency. The preamble goes on to caution not only against the abuse of human rights, but the selective application of human rights. Its summary, prior to the thirty articles, is a stipulation worth noting.
“Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.”
If what we have on display in Canberra, or on most of the world stage for that matter, is an indication of leadership and how it manifests, we have got to find another way. But, in the absence of a ‘leadership’ or ‘hierarchical’ structure, how can we ensure that human rights remain universal and inalienable?
It seems odd to note that Democracy as a concept was discussed in 800BC. It predates organised religions, noble (and therefore elite) bloodlines, military rule and political structures. Even the most passive of observers would know that universal suffrage is a relatively recent invention, permitted under limited circumstances. We are repeatedly told that we are too stupid to be allowed any say, other than the occasional election, in deciding our own futures. That, even if we were to have an increased say, we have no appetite for change. We will grumble and complain about what is, rather than dream and act on what is not.
This is demonstrably false. Have a look again at the protests referred to above. People across the globe have repeatedly asked for change, demanded change, often putting their lives at risk in those pursuits. Those in authority have refused to accommodate the demands, occasionally resorting to cosmetic or superficial alterations when the ‘rabble’ get too ‘rowdy’. Platitudes are offered to placate the masses. The days of taking to the streets have been replaced with far more wily protests, often achieving much more in much less time.
The likes of ‘GetUp!’ and ‘Sleeping Giants’ are not just responsive to ‘social justice’ issues, but can mobilise thousands of people efficiently and effectively. The recent campaign against ‘Sky News’ demonstrated both the effectiveness of the campaign and the inability of an outdated and self-opinionated media to counter it, further demonstrating their own irrelevance. That the support for these groups is ignored when assessing ‘political engagement’ in Australia is just another attempt to misdirect or obfuscate. As far as MSM is concerned, if you can’t name at least three politicians and six NewsCorpse/IPA spruikers, you are ‘politically ignorant’. Any reasonable mind would consider that if you would waste your time on such paltry amusements, you are ‘politically lobotomized’.
There is a book, “All That I Am”, by Anna Funder. It is a well-crafted book with much ‘history’ woven into the fictional plot. The ‘blurb’ is as follows;
“‘When Hitler came to power I was in the bath …’
“Ruth Becker, defiant and cantankerous, is living out her days in Sydney. She has made an uneasy peace with the ghosts of her past – and a part of history that has been all but forgotten.
Another lifetime away, it’s 1939 and the world is going to war. Ernst Toller, self-doubting revolutionary and poet, sits in a New York hotel room settling up the account of his life.
When Toller’s story arrives in Ruth’s doorstep their shared past slips under her defences, and she’s right back among them – those friends who predicted the brutality of the Nazis and gave everything they had to stop them. Those who were tested – and in some cases found wanting – in the face of hatred, of art, of love, and of history.”
Putting aside the brutality of the Nazi regime (“Lest. We. Forget. (Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine…)”), there are many other parallels to modern Australia. The book warns of the danger of propaganda, particularly when it is represented as news. It warns of the dangers of promoting hate over love, promoting delusional fear and division over inclusion and acceptance. It warns of the danger of complacency when what your government is doing is wrong.
Just. Plain. Wrong.
(Apologies, Ms Yassmin Abdel-Magied, for stealing your syntax. In my defence, it is brilliant syntax.)
On the morning of 15th November, 2017, I was reading about ‘Ruth’, a refugee in Sydney after the Second World War, describing how she saw Australia and Australians.
“After the war, I came to this sunstruck place. It is a glorious country, which aspires to no kind of glory. Its people aim for something both more basic and more difficult: Decency. I couldn’t see it at first, but now it is all around me, quiet and fundamental.”
It resonated with me for several reasons, not the least of which was its serendipitous intervention. Although fictional in its origin, it is profound in its simplicity. That decency, being both basic and yet difficult, was fundamental. It was an inherent and intrinsic component of ‘being Australian’, not to be celebrated, but to be practiced, quietly and fundamentally.
I was almost immediately reminded of times past when people were in trouble and how assistance was forthcoming – without reservation, without qualification, without condition.
When you think of the disasters and calamities that have befallen this country and its peoples, regardless of the cause of the disaster or the origin of the people, the Australian people have shown their basic, inherent decency in their response. Even when disasters occur overseas, time and again, that decency has presented itself.
When you think of past referendums, or other occasions when Australians were asked to participate in making decisions, the ones that have succeeded asked the Australian people to show their decency. The Australian people were not found lacking.
Quiet. Fundamental. Glorious. Whilst aspiring to no glory.
On 15th November, 2017, the results of the marriage equality survey were announced. Whether it was that serendipitous intervention or a crystallisation of thought, something happened. There was a winner. There was a positive.
That vile, hateful survey should never have occurred. It was a cheap, tawdry, political exercise conducted by a morally bankrupt government, fanned by a media, puffing and wheezing, all but breathless, in their desire to make a non-issue into an issue. It is fitting that Turnbull claims it as a measure of his legacy, such is the duplicity.
The reason for saying that is that countless surveys had been done since Howard first changed ‘The Act’, all of which had majority support by Australians for marriage equality. The ‘will’ of the people had been ignored by the ‘won’t’ of the government, as is their wont.
The gay/lesbian community in Australia is estimated to be between 6-10% of the population. The lack of definitive numbers is due to several factors, not the least of which is the historical stigma associated with identifying as homosexual. Hopefully, our brothers and sisters will become more comfortable knowing that the majority of Australian’s believe those stigmas can be left in the past, where they well and truly belong.
The subsequent shenanigans of the government, just on this one non-issue, leading up to the final parliamentary vote, rendered what should have been a quiet, fundamental victory for decency, quite tokenistic. It was dragged back into the realm of cheap, tawdry politics.
After the parliamentary vote, we had the unedifying spectacle of a shameless government wanting to wallow in politics, calling for an enquiry into religious freedoms. Why would you have a second (and concurrent) enquiry into ‘The status of the human right to freedom of religion or belief’ for any other reason than yet one more cheap, tawdry political exercise? It should be noted that this non-issue will likely be fired up, now that a political party has inflicted another anti-equality, god-botherer on us. It is of significance that the DFAT enquiry on religious freedom, instigated at the request of the UN, received 400 submissions in over twelve months, yet has languished since Ruddock’s enquiry was announced. Many of the submissions referred to religious freedom being only one human right and the most genuine way to address this was to create a Bill of Rights for all freedoms for all Australians.
Philip Ruddock’s Religious Freedom Review received 15,500 submissions in a matter of months. The terms of reference specifically excluded any requests for an Australian Bill of Rights. Uncannily, thousands of submissions appeared to be pro-forma documents with similar contents, so much so that they were broken up into three categories. The ACL made no secret that it deliberately canvassed individuals to make individual submissions in addition to their churches submissions.
Just to put that into perspective, “The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry” as at 17th August, 2018, had received 8,407 submissions. This is all the more startling given the truncated tenure of Ruddock’s enquiry and the secrecy of many of the hearings. The incongruity is further highlighted by the brevity of the Banking Commissions enquiries into matters that would normally be expected to take months, not days, given the complexity of the issues and the numbers of people impacted.
The headlines all but write themselves, don’t they? “Twice as many Australians concerned about god than godless banks”, “In god we trust. All others pay cash”, “If god ran the banks our ‘interest’ is greater”, “God for PM”.
That last one is closer, now that we have a happy clapping, tongue twisting, god-botherer as PM. He won’t be able to talk about policy, as it will either be ‘commercial-in-confidence’, ‘national security’ or an ‘on-water’ or ‘on-land’ matter. His track record on public speaking and his background in ‘marketing’ ensures that only his disciples will understand him. It is only a matter of time before he rewrites history, replacing the inclusive intersectionality of Mt Sinai with the geographical isolation and insignificance of ‘Hillsong’, which is described as a “confluence of sophisticated marketing techniques and popular music”. We will no longer be troubled with the restrictions of the Ten Commandments as the hills will come alive with the sound of music. After all, a song is much easier to rewrite and manipulate, compared to those stone tablet thingy’s. Having consigned the notion of ‘written in stone’ to the confines of history, our politicians will never again trouble themselves with the notion of truth or trust. Truth will, once again, be subject to the manipulations of a ‘free’ press, trust in the system called ‘democracy’ will be lauded as our insurance. All the while being subservient to the ‘masters’, the corporate gods of the new world.
This past week, like most of the weeks in the past five years, has been a demonstration of cheap, tawdry politics, aided and abetted by a partisan media unable to come to terms with its increasing irrelevance. The obvious, though, is becoming increasingly obvious. The Australian voter does have an opinion on lots of things. The environment, education, health, equity, equality, Treaty with our First People. Lots of things. Just not the meaningless politics, the less meaningful politicians and the irrelevant rantings of self-opinionated fools calling themselves ‘journalists’.
My quest to find one, a mere one, of the hundred people I know that trusts a politician is yet to be realised. From what I can gather, there is an appetite for change. With all of the wonders of modern science, we now have a capacity for change, unimagined by most of us as recently as decades ago. Waiting for those few, who are the beneficiaries of the status quo, to act will be an exercise in futility.
We know we don’t trust our politicians and hardly needed the last week to crystallise the thought. The vast majority of us have shown, time and again, that common decency is not a random or abstract concept. The pertinent question is whether we would trust each other more than those we have the misfortune to elect every few years.
In the middle of this temporary, yet tempestuous, maelstrom, are the winds of change. Whether the next confected uproar is Scummo’s likely religious crusade, or Josh’s NEG (Mk 10), or the shenanigans of various miscreants, remains to be seen. We are being offered the fly blown rancid carcass of neo-conservatism and told “It’s not deceased, it’s merely resting”. The media are already eulogising the ‘Turnbull legacy’, honouring the age old tradition of re-writing history for the sake of the newly departed, pretending the legacy is more important than those left to endure its effects. We wanted all the hope and aspiration of the “Dead Poets Society”, “make your lives extraordinary”, and all we are offered are the lies and obfuscation of the “Dead Parrot Sketch”.
“This is an ex-parrot.”
“The Doomsday Clock is a symbol which represents the likelihood of a man-made global catastrophe. Maintained since 1947 by the members of the ‘Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board, the clock represents an analogy for the threat of global nuclear war. Since 2007, it has also reflected climate change and new developments in the life sciences and technology that could inflict irrevocable harm to humanity.”
The harbinger of our demise since 1947 only updated the cause of the threats in 2007.
In more recent, parochial history, it was in 2009 that ‘Kevin 07’ realised the significance of 2007. “Kevin Rudd once called climate change “the greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time”.
So, has the clock changed since 2007? Now that at least some of the threats are known knowns, our ‘leaders’ will have acted proactively, won’t they?
“The clock represents the hypothetical global catastrophe as “midnight” and The Bulletin’s opinion on how close the world is to a global catastrophe as a number of “minutes” to midnight. Its original setting in 1947 was seven minutes to midnight. It has been set backward and forward 23 times since then, the smallest-ever number of minutes to midnight being two (in 1953 and 2018) and the largest seventeen (in 1991). As of January 2018 [update], the clock is set at two minutes to midnight, due to “the looming threats of nuclear war and climate change”, and due to the United States reducing its common-ground leadership role.”
The global threats in 1947 and 2007 were the same same, but different. They were both, undeniably, man-made global threats. Same same. They became, undeniably, different because there is, literally, ‘A Fool on the Hill’.
“Day after day
Alone on a hill
The man with the foolish grin
Is keeping perfectly still
But nobody wants to know him
They can see that he’s just a fool
And he never gives an answer
But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning round”
And he has the fecking launch codes.
The semantics of ‘Desperate, but not hopeless’ or ‘Hopeless, but not desperate’ cannot be left to the rubble of government or the rabble of media. Any more than it can be left to the vestiges of the churches or the might of the corporates.
The urgency of so many issues will evaporate into our 24/7 news cycle, which will likely return to its ‘rinse and repeat’ setting. The calls for change through an early election may satiate some. The more adventurous will amplify the ‘polite request’ for an ICAC or similar body. Will there ever be a demand for Direct Democracy?
No matter how many times our leaders tell us we are different, that clock tells us we are the same.
From 800BC till now, we haven’t really unleashed that “Democracy” horse. Isn’t it time to put the horse in front of the cart? If a culture had the benefit of 60,000 years of evolution and refinement, what would they seek, with the benefit of so much hindsight and experience?
“This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.
How could it be otherwise? That peoples possessed a land for sixty millennia and this sacred link disappears from world history in merely the last two hundred years?”
“We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.
We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.”
No. Seriously. Why the feck not?