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Tag Archives: Letitia McQuade

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

A tree is for life, not just for Christmas!

There is something quite magical about trees. From the food we eat to the air we breath trees sustain us. They provide us with medicines, enrich our soils, cleanse our water tables, build and furnish our homes, provide shade and coalesce the clouds that bring us fresh rain water. Trees soothe us emotionally, for no matter how down we may feel, we always feel a little better when we can get ourselves to a park or forest and commune with a tree.

What could be a better symbol of hope and renewal than a tree?

You may be surprised to learn that the humble Christmas tree actually pre-dates “Christmas” by many thousands of years. The winter solstice celebration currently known as Christmas has in fact gone by many names, and has had many religious rituals attached to it throughout the ages.

The Pagans used to use evergreen branches to decorate their homes during the winter solstice, as a reminder that the renewal of spring would soon be with them. The ancient Romans even used fir trees to decorate their temples at the festival of Saturnalia, so there is nothing new, or exclusively christian about lopping down a tree and dragging it inside for the mid winter festival.

While the global figures are difficult to calculate the USA chops down and sells around 40 million live christmas trees every year, but this is not an entirely bad thing. It means there is somewhere in the vicinity of 400 million trees in the USA, (sorry don’t have Australian figures), now growing that wouldn’t be there but for the Christmas market, (and 400 million trees is a lot of carbon abatement).

With roughly 40% of live Christmas trees subsequently being recycled, and the fact that fir trees don’t need as high a quality soil as other crops, (so they can utilise otherwise degraded land), using a real tree is, on the face of it, a far better option than using a fake one.

“The annual carbon emissions associated with using a real tree every year were just one-third of those created by an artificial tree over a typical six-year lifespan. Most fake trees also contain polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, which produces carcinogens during manufacturing and disposal”. NY times

Even so, the arbitrary chopping down trees is not something we should be taking lightly. The fact is we are in big environmental trouble, and deforestation is a large part of our problem.

replanting-forest-china.jpg.400x300_q90_crop-smart

Forests currently cover about 30 % of the world’s land mass but according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization an estimated 18 million acres (7.3 million hectares) of forest – roughly the size of Panama – are lost each year and about half of the world’s tropical forests have already been cleared; with forest loss contributing between 12 and 17 % of annual global greenhouse gas emissions.

But the reckless felling of the world’s forests doesn’t just pose a threat to our global climate, it also endangers global food security. Soil erosion, soil salinity, drought, and desertification are just some of the devastating consequences of industrial forestry and farming practices.

burkina_faso_black_hand_955x415_0 While there are a plethora of ideas and arguments on how to manage the climate crisis, many suggestions, like geo-engineering, could expose the planet to utterly terrifying unforeseen consequences. There is however one rather unassuming solution being proposed that is, (as far as anyone has been able to ascertain), totally free from any negative consequences…

PLANT MORE TREES!

worth of a tree

It’s hardly a radical proposition, as pretty much everyone agrees that if we are to avoid a catastrophic environmental collapse we need to preserve the trees and forests we already have, and we desperately need to plant more!

There is plenty of good science behind this too. Trees release chemicals that form clouds, and clouds not only bring rain, but they also reflect sunlight and act like a heat shield. Trees can literally cool the planet if we plant enough of them. But the good news doesn’t stop there, planting trees can repair degraded landscapes and provide food, employment and business opportunities where there is currently nothing but despair.

This inspiring video, narrated by Stephen Fry is an insight into what we can achieve if we all pull together.

At this point I would like to introduce you to “WE FOREST”, a non profit TREE PLANTING NGO that in spite of being very well known in Europe, (and having been founded by noted Melbourne expat Bill Liao), has thus far remained fairly low profile here in Australia.

With the modest aim of planting two trillion trees, rehabilitating degraded land and cooling the planet, (all while providing food, business opportunities and employment for locals), WE FOREST has planted more than 6 million trees so far, and is currently doubling it’s total plant every year.

SUCH IS THE POWER OF A GOOD IDEA BACKED UP BY ACTION!

Giving trees for Christmas is something that I am doing this year, and it’s something I am inviting you to do with me. In just a few clicks, you can offset your entire carbon footprint for the year, or buy trees as a gift for your loved ones. (You will get a nice certificate via email stating how many trees you have bought on their behalf, and you can add a personal message too). The trees you donate, (and their associated permaculture forests) are monitored to ensure they remain in place, so you can rest assured that your gift will be one that will keep on giving for generations to come.

When you add up all the benefits of strategic tree planting the upside is absolutely astounding, and at approximately $1 a tree, the cost is surprisingly small. What better gift to give your children than to match the cost of this year’s Christmas tree with the gift purchase of REAL LIVING GROWING TREES that will help secure a better future for the planet and our entire human family?

tree huggers

Best of the season to you all.

 

An Open Letter to the corporations and people of the 1%

Dear Winners,

Congratulations on all your achievements. You have all played the game of capitalism like absolute champions, and you are, without doubt, superlative operatives of the capitalist system. Kudos to you.

Obviously it has taken a huge amount of vision, hard work, guts and determination to get you to where you are now, and I think every one agrees you should be duly compensated for all your (and your employees) efforts; and I am personally relieved to know that you have all been sufficiently remunerated so as to never want for anything ever again. Once again, kudos to you.

While I am absolutely dazzled by your stellar successes, there are a few things about the way you conduct your lives and businesses that I find quite baffling, and I was hoping you might be able to clear up my confusion.

Firstly, I want to share a little something with you that we in the 99% have known for quite some time . . .

YOU’VE WON ALREADY!

With the richest 85 people in the world now owning the same amount of wealth as the 3.5 billion who make up the poorer half of the world’s population, there can be no question, in the game of acquisition you are the undisputed winners. NO CONTEST!

So here’s what puzzles me . . . Do you not realise the game is over and that you have won? Because quite honestly the way you are carrying on, it’s like a boxer relentlessly pummelling an opponent that is passed out on the ropes, it’s just not sportsmanlike, and really, it’s not making you look good.

starving

In spite of all your wealth and unmitigated successes you continue to slash real wages, cut costs, off shore, out source, trim benefits, buy off politicians, lobby for favourable legislation, dodge taxes, and exploit loopholes with a staggering rapacity. In your relentless drive for profit you mercilessly exploit sub living wages, control the public discourse through your media domination, and poison and pollute our world with utter impunity.

poverty 2

So my question is this . . . why are you continuing to play hard ball when you have so clearly already won? Surely at a certain point the figures displayed on your profit statements must start to seem fairly abstract? What on earth are you hoping to achieve? Do you really need a better quarterly result? What for? You already have everything that money could possibly buy you. And quite frankly if being stupefyingly wealthy hasn’t made you happy yet, it’s bordering on disillusion to think that a few more zeros on your balance sheet are going to do the trick.

And if you are truly happy with all you have achieved, then don’t you think it might be just the teensiest bit psychopathic to keep on punching when the fight is so clearly over?

While I personally find your unabated appetite for capital acquisition somewhat unfathomable, it obviously makes perfect sense to you, (either that or you have never actually sat down to analyse the broader costs and benefits of your chosen course). Given the utter pain, despair and deprivation suffered by the world’s poor, (such as the average Bangladeshi garment worker who works 12 hours a day, 7 days a week in dangerous, overcrowded conditions for a paltry $38 a month), I am sure you must have some very good reasons for your steadfast persistence in squeezing those at the bottom even harder. Although I struggle to understand what those reasons may be I have, in my speculations, come up with a few possibilities.

1. You are competing amongst and against yourselves.

I suspect there is a fair bit of this going on among you 1% ers’. It’s not enough that you have well and truly surpassed the 99%, (it would appear that that victory has long since lost it’s taste); now it’s just a competition between you 1% er’s to see who’s got the biggest bank account/company/summer house/yacht.

forbes billionairs

I find it difficult to attach any other motive to the recent attempt by Rupert Murdoch (one of your most famous poster boys) to acquire Time Warner. At 85 years of age, the builder and controller of the largest News Empire on the planet is still playing for more? Doesn’t he realise that to most people this just looks like the chest beating, ego pumping manoeuvre of a recently cuckolded old man trying desperately to prove that he’s still top dog? Kind of tragic really, and a little undignified.

The sad fact is this is not a game that can be won, no matter how much you’ve got you will always want more, it’s a bottomless bucket of desire.

So let me say it once again ; if you in the 1% can not be content with what you have already achieved, then trust me, one more victory is not going to help.

2. You are simply acting out of blind habit and you have never bothered to stop and question what you are actually doing?

I am willing to bet that this is bottom line for quite a number of you. You learnt the rules, and you’ve played the game so hard and so long that it’s the only game you now know. You live for the sport of it, the hunt, the chase, the endless craving for that next conquest; the ruthless reduction of wages, the corporate take over, the quarterly profit statement, the pumping up of your share price, the tucking of another politician snuggly into your pocket, this is your heroin.

handcuffed-to-money

You are, for want of a better word, addicted to the game. If this indeed is the case then let me remind you of something I am sure you already know; addiction is not a road to happiness! It is an itch you can never scratch in an endless cycle of craving and pain, and it effects every one around you (and not in good way).

3. You are completely ignorant about the suffering you are causing others?

This is a bit of a stretch, but I am prepared to concede that SOME OF YOU may have spent so little time out in the big, wide, underprivileged world, have spent your lives so steeped in privilege as to have no idea of the havoc you are wreaking, the pain you are causing, and the abject poverty you are creating.

mansion homeless 1

That said it’s worth remembering that ignorance is no excuse, neither in the eyes of the law, or in the eyes of those whose necks you are so gleefully standing on.

4. You still feel genuinely insecure?

I realise that most people wouldn’t suspect it, but there is some research that suggests the richer you are the more insecure you feel, if this is true then you 1% er’s must be living in an absolute paranoid lather; worried that people don’t really care about you and are just drawn to your money, or maybe just fearful that you might loose your money. Clearly your answer to this is to get more money (so you will still have some left if and when you loose a wad) and surround yourselves with other hyper rich people, (who have enough money not to be eyeing off yours).

fear of poverty

At the risk of repeating myself; if you in the 1% can not feel secure with what you have already have, then trust me, a bit more money is not going to help.

5. You simply don’t care about others?

I admit I find this highly unlikely. I am sure you love your family and friends, and would go to great lengths to protect them. What maybe the case however is that you do not experience yourselves as part of the broader human family; and thus those that are not known to you personally are too abstract to you to evoke your natural caring human instincts.

homeless america please help

This disconnect is broadly supported by a media narrative that casts the “have nots” as either lacking in the smarts to get ahead, or as shiftless lazy leaners trying to gouge a free ride, which makes it much easier to see them as deserving of their wretched fate, (after all, they are not hard working, self made actualisers like you and your cohorts).

While I understand you may find this narrative very comforting, and a perfectly adequate justification for your modus operandi, that doesn’t make it true. Even here in the west there are plenty of people working 2-3 jobs, 80 hours or more just to subsist, so you could not call them lazy. And does a person possessed of an average or lower intelligence really deserve to be denied a decent life just because they were born sub-brilliant?

6. You have never read the history of the French Revolution?

Perhaps you are not aware that history is awash with stories where the peasants decide that quietly starving is not a viable option and have taken up arms against their wealthy oppressors. And as a general rule when they get their hands on them, they kill them!

Now I’m not agitating for that, I don’t want to see you, or anyone else killed; but it’s worth noting that when legislation is passed making it illegal to feed the homeless, when you cut off the water to supply to poorest 1/3 of a city, when you squeeze wages and benefits to the point where employees need to work 3 jobs, never get to see their children and can barely make rent. When you smash unions, or fail to pay your taxes so their is no money for social support…. you need to understand you are creating an environment you may not be able to control. Keep playing hard ball and eventually THE PITCH FORKS WILL COME!

french revolution

7. You are genuinely unaware of your power to effect change?

With the stroke of a pen the Walton family could raise tens of millions out of abject poverty, and it wouldn’t make a whip of difference to them personally; they wouldn’t have to go without anything. NIKE could raise the wages of it’s manufacturing staff to a living standard, and all it would cost them would be one or two less basketball players in an ad.

How is it that you guys are not doing this? Don’t you get it? YOU HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE A BETTER WORLD for millions and millions of people.

Bill Gates gets it, Oprah gets it, Bob Geldof gets it, Nick Hanauer gets it, Bill Liao gets it, and whether or not you like their choices, they are all out there pitching for a better world.

I realise the system has it’s own momentum, and you are just going with the flow, but the system is causing insane amounts of grief and suffering for billions of people.

We have more than enough food to feed the planet, but people are starving; we have cities full of empty houses and streets full of homeless people; we have amazing medicines and people dying for lack of access; there are cities with water supplies denying clean water to citizens. Does this seem right to you?

What kind of life should a person working full time be able to afford? Should they be able to afford a house, food and water, healthcare and an education for their children? I really want to know your thoughts on this, because it looks to me like you think a living wage is way too high?

But seriously, would it kill you to pay living wages?

So I am asking you, the 1% er’s, what exactly is your end game? Pushing billions of people into crushing poverty so you can die with a bigger bank balance? Is that really what you want for your legacy? Does that make you happy? Because if not, then maybe it’s time you guys stirred things up a bit; raised some wages, paid some taxes perhaps, who knows, maybe working towards a better world for ALL of our human family will be the trick! It might seem like a crazy idea, but it’s worth a try.