I Don’t Even Know

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This is a photograph of George Christensen MP, an elected member of Australia’s federal government. He will be featuring in an article published this week in one of the weekend newspapers, and this photograph accompanies the story, apparently.

I don’t even know…

Let’s deconstruct the picture a tiny bit, shall we?

Blue singlet = obsolete but quintessential symbol of the Australian working class man, however, Mr Christensen is a member of one of the most elite groups in the country.

Tattoo = symbol of his (oft-professed) strongly-held Orthodox Christian faith, except the Bible commands, “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.” Leviticus 19:28 KJV.

Whip = symbol of his role as the National party whip in parliament, but a whip coiled over the shoulder of white male who subscribes to far-right ideology has so many connotations to do with power and privilege, nationalism and imperialism, that it makes my head hurt just thinking about it.

Why is this in any way an appropriate photograph to accompany a story about a politician with aspirations to become a cabinet minister? He has expressed anti-Muslim views over a long period of time and is an advocate for immigration discrimination. Does this sound in any way familiar? (Hint: Donald J. Trump.) Clearly, this photograph is pitched to appeal to working class white men, the Australians who are feeling increasingly displaced and dispossessed in ‘their own country’. New technologies are doing them out of jobs, identity politics questions their assumed superiority, and laws are holding them to account for their misogyny, racism and sexism. A tiny diminution in their status has left many straight white men feeling angry and vindictive, and politicians such as George Christensen know exactly which buttons to push in order to unleash their rage.

And isn’t this just the way the mainstream media rolls these days? In Australia, the ‘colourful’ politicians, the ones who spout racist ideology, who divide opinion, who relentlessly self-promote, who have a recognisable ‘brand’, get all the headlines and all the coverage. Those politicians quietly doing the job they were elected to perform are totally ignored. Politics has become a ‘celebrity’ sideshow, a quasi Reality TV Show, where electors get to vote the ‘contestants’ onto the ‘island’ and vote them off again three years later. Except, while the contestants are busily jostling for media coverage and spouting their headline-grabbing ‘memorable quotes’ and tweeting their stupidity and ignorance for everyone to see, there is no leadership, no one at the helm of the government capable of guiding us through the shoals of piranhas and steering a safe path through the hatred and vitriol and ‘post-truth’ bullshit that seems to be the main cultural currency these days.

Right now, political discourse in Australia is bizarre and surreal and completely disappointing. And, if one day we wake up and find that George Christensen is our new Prime Minister, we will only have ourselves to blame, because we are complicit in this whole mess. We watch the TV shows and read the clickbait news stories and clack away on our keyboards, but what do we actually do to try to turn the tide that’s making us drift, slowly at first, and then faster and faster and inexorably into a political maelstrom that we can’t even begin to imagine.

In our complacency, we think that our established way of life will endure, of course it will. We choose not to see what is before our eyes, staring us in the face, with his coiled whip over his shoulder and a smug expression on his face.

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Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

From ‘The Second Coming’, Yeats, 1919.

Broadband, Malaise, Whatever

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What’s the broadband situation like where you are?

I’ve been moaning incessantly for years about the lack of broadband options where I live. Although our house is now considered to be situated in a suburb of Perth, the capital city of Western Australia, we still only have access to three ruinously expensive wireless broadband services. Two of those are so flaky that it’s a bit of a gamble as to whether they will co-0perate at all on any given day, and the third service is so congested that trying to use it at nights or on weekends is often a total of waste of time. We live too far from the exchange to get ADSL – ADSL2 isn’t available – and there is no cable service in my street. So, it’s either satellite – and who can afford that – or wireless.

Currently, I’m on a plan with a monthly allowance of 8GB, for which I pay $65. Also, I have a prepaid modem that I use as a top-up when I desperately need more data, which is most of the time, really. I’m about to take out a new contract, and I’ll get a whopping 10GB of data a month and pay $55. Prices have dropped a little in the two years since I signed up for the previous contract, but the monthly allowance is still pathetic.

If I lived elsewhere, I could get 1000GB for $99 a month, including all phone calls and a subscription to a couple of streaming media networks. The fact that I can’t gain access to that service makes me feel very sad. Besides not being able to watch any video content, updating the operating systems of a few computers or downloading some software updates can end up being quite expensive, because prepaid data is $10/GB. Yes, it would could me $10,000 for the same amount of data that people in other places can get for $99.

Often, I think about the inequity of living in an outer, outer suburb of a capital city. Public transport is practically non-existent, and we don’t have a public swimming pool, tennis court, decent sports field, skate park, library, community centre, etc. There are quite a few people in public housing in the area, because the government bought up the majority of houses in a newly built development and dumped people there, without thinking about how the lack of transport and infrastructure would make it hard for them to do everyday things. There are a lot of bored kids with no money and nothing to do, so they wander around and tag stuff, or steal stuff, or get into fights. The local high school only caters for students to Year 10 level, and then they have to travel 30km to the nearest public high school. A lot of kids drop out, because it’s hard to change schools at that age. The school itself is ancient and falling apart, and despite many promises from many levels of government, nothing is done to upgrade it.

Where I live used to be a little ex-fishing village and we used to have to drive 30kms to the nearest shop or petrol station, but now we have a McDonalds and a Woolworths supermarket, a couple of dentists and doctors, and a vet. There are two large bottle shops and a tiny chemist shop. There is a real estate agent and a travel agent, and a Red Dot, which sells all manner of plastic crap. There is a bakery and a newly opened Subway. There’s a coffee shop and a butcher, and a fake nail/massage place, and a bank. That’s about it as far as commerce goes. We used to have kilometres of pristine beaches, but the sand hills have been bulldozed, and the trees all smashed and wood chipped. The birds have all gone, as have the kangaroos and echindnas. I miss seeing the eagles and the emus, and the little joey’s faces peeking out of their mum’s pouches. I miss my favourite trees. The access road to the beach near our house was closed for months and months, and then the council revealed the new ‘waterfront’. They built a tall limestone wall that completely blocks the view from the car park where people used to sit and watch the waves. Now all you can see from the car park is the wall. There’s a walkway down to the beach and a plethora of signs banning everything but breathing. It’s a shambles, like everything else they’ve done here. There are a lot of cars on new roads that seem to be springing up overnight out of nowhere, and new roundabouts and speed restrictions. This was a beautiful place before the influx of people, but it looks like any other outer, outer Perth suburb now. Interestingly, the new housing estates had fibre optic cable laid as they were being developed, so people who live there do have access to fast broadband, which is probably another reason to resent them. Every now and then I look at the NBN map to see if work has commenced in our street, but it always says, ‘The rollout of the nbn™ network has not started in this area’.

Quite a few of the ‘old-timers’ are moving on. There are four houses for sale near us, and others talk of selling up. I don’t know what we’ll end up doing. The other day I came home to find that one of the few remaining stands of Marri trees had been ripped out of the ground and piled in a heap, and the next day they were reduced to wood chips. They’re going to build apartments where the trees had lived for maybe a couple of hundred years.

The lack of broadband access is only a very minor cause of my sadness about where I live. Sometimes, I feel angry about the lack of equity with other places in Perth, and other cities in Australia. There wasn’t anything that could have been done to save our area, because long ago the land was sold cheaply to a Japanese corporation, and as Perth sprawled and sprawled, development eventually came our way. I can’t think of one good thing to come out of it, except maybe I don’t have to drive so far to do the grocery shopping. I’d really like to move, but then I think about the dogs and the rabbit buried in the back yard, and I’m not so sure that moving anywhere else would really change things, because no matter where I go, I will be there, and yeah, if there’s one thing I have learnt in life, it’s that you can’t leave yourself behind, no matter how much you want to. Wherever you go, there you are.

Anyway, I started out to write about how I brought home the the annual ‘Christmas bonus’ computer I bought for myself, but it has been sitting in its box and acting as a door stop for the past week because I didn’t have any data left on my plan to set it up and do the necessary updates and app downloads. Usually, I feel quite excited about getting a new computer, but this time I’m feeling totally over it before the box is even opened. I think it’s because of Brexit/Trump election/refugees/war/Oz politics/tree killing/land wrecking/it’s nearly bloody Christmas again/feeling very tired/I have no ability to concentrate any more/the world has gone crazy…

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No to ‘Normalisation’

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It’s all a bit confusing, this attempt by certain pundits and commentators to normalise discriminatory invective and political chicanery. We might live in a world where ‘post-truth’ facts are considered to be a thing, or where political rhetoric can smash all boundaries of common decency, or where  an ignorant buffoon can be elected by 25% of a country’s population to the highest office in the land. We might live in such a world, but I don’t have to believe that any of this is in any way NORMAL.

I’m a bit tired of hearing all the blah blah about why people voted for Mr Trump. Australian politics has now become ‘Trumpified’, and politicians, the media, and keyboard warriors on social media are going at it, trying to score points and gain attention. You would think that Australia is the fifty-first state of the USA, the way they’re carrying on. Never mind about the very real problems we have here; let’s all sling mud and shout at one another about racial discrimination, immigration, and women ‘double dipping’ with their parental leave entitlements.*  This race to the bottom has gotten out of hand and people need to quit being so self-interested and think about the social consequences of what they’re doing.

Anyway, I started out to say that despite all the attempts to ‘normalise’ Mr Trump’s behaviour, I’m not buying it. As Maya Angelou wrote, ‘When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.’ Mr Trump has shown us who he is, so let’s not excuse his behaviour or pretend that it was all an act and that he’s really different ‘underneath it all.’ Likewise, when our own political representatives show us who they are, we should believe them and call them out on their behaviour. We should not be apologists for people who behave badly: some of them are narcissistic psychopaths whose modus operandi is lying and manipulation, and we need to stand up to such people. We know right from wrong, and we know bullshit when we see and hear it.

 

*I reckon that if men menstruated and were capable of conceiving and giving birth to babies, there would be paid sick days galore, free abortion clinics everywhere, and VERY generous parental leave provisions. No offence intended, but men don’t have the first clue what it’s like to be female, and I’m sick to death of men making decisions about things that are only relevant to women. You’ve had a fair crack at it, but it’s time to give it up and leave us to make decisions about our own bodies and our own issues. Sometimes, I think that some men expect women to just go away to a quiet corner, pop out the baby and then get back to work immediately, because being pregnant and giving birth to children is no big deal, obviously. 🙁

Vale Leonard Cohen

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There was this one time, during one of my frequent sojourns down the Black Abyss, when the only thing that kept me tethered was sitting with Leonard Cohen’s words from his song, Anthem:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

I know that a lot of other people have had a similar experience. He touched many broken hearts with the light of his wise words.

I was sad to hear of his death today. He was an original. May he be at peace.

 

Lost For Words

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I don’t have any proper words right now. I still feel numb and stunned about the US election results. I just don’t understand some people. Why would you hand total power to a fascist? Why would you vote for a demagogue? Why would you want a leader who is a racist, xenophobic, misogynist sexual predator? Why would you support someone who wants to deny people their human rights? Why would you elect someone who doesn’t care about the environment and climate change? Why would you give the nuclear codes to someone who wants to undermine NATO? Why would you want a Commander-in-Chief who thinks South Korea and Japan should have nuclear weapons?

Why are some people so hateful, spiteful, and so wilfully ignorant that they would throw away their vote in exchange for empty rhetoric?

Trump will not fix anything. He does not have a magic wand. Trump will look after Donald and his friends, and the rich will get richer and the disadvantaged will get shafted, AGAIN.

Sometimes, I feel beyond disappointed with (some) people.