Anaesthetic – A short poem.

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Escaping from a world gone mad.

Feet

Your general anaesthetic?

Leave your consciousness outside.

A warm and happy feeling,

In a bubble you will ride.

Protected from society,

Forget the world is ill.

Relax and dream so quietly,

I‚Äôll just write out the bill…..

 

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Why should our genitals define us?

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So Miranda Devine wrote this in the Telegraph today¬†and set off my inner ‘what, really?’ alarm. ¬†You see I personally can’t see why we¬†should rely on our genitals to define us.

Miranda Divine

Yes we have been calling people ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ or ‘men’ and ‘women’ for a long, long time. ¬†Yes that’s the way it was when “I was a lad and those houses were all fields” and yes I agree that sometimes there is a little too much Political Correctness and a little too little ‘common sense’ going around. ¬†However, ¬†behind the initial fluff factor lies a serious issue and one that no amount of denial will erase. ¬†For a long time now people have been being born and living their ¬†non-binary gendered lives. ¬†We don’t need to change the way ‘we’ do things to appease them or to conform to a Marxist agenda (I’ve been hearing a lot about that lately, I did look it up to see what all the talk was about and to be honest it is quite interesting but let’s face it, I had never heard of it being a marxist, commy conspiracy to just not want my fanny to talk for me. I personally just prefer people to notice my stunning intellect or my beautiful manners but maybe I’m odd) but we should, at some point in time acknowledge that people don’t always identify with¬†one or the other category.

But that’s not even the whole point.

People like me who are just stock standard females are fine with being referred to in a non-gendered way, in fact I would find that quite refreshing. ¬†Again, call me a weirdo but I’m not into seeking out ‘women’s only business groups and that’s not because I don’t think they have a value because I know many women that love that kind of interaction ¬†but for me personally¬†I don’t find being a woman my most important feature in business and if I want to network I’d want to be networking with the best minds possible and not the best genitals. ¬†That sounds harsher than I want it to but I hope you get my drift?

And then there are the bathrooms. I LOVED the gender neutral bathrooms in Sweden when we visited a couple of years ago. OK it wasn’t the number one highlight and couldn’t even top cinnamon buns for the best thing of the day but I did find it refreshing to publicly acknowledge that one toilet for all will not make the world go blind or catch herpes.

Back to the article.

You can see the emotive language just oozing out of this article from the headline ‘subverts parents rights and values’. ¬†Now this is being linked to the safe schools program, a program that has been controversial in Australia and has been hard-fought by the Conservative right and that’s their choice of course. ¬†However, to state that a school dropping the use of the word ‘girl’ when addressing pupils is going to somehow ‘subvert parents rights’ is a bit rich. ¬†I guess you could argue that it was a slippery slope down the path of ‘anything goes’ but I would suggest otherwise. ¬†We have (mostly) accepted that girls and boys can grow up and become anything they want to in life be it a fighter jet pilot, a priest or a ballet dancer – We are not quite there yet with non-binary gendered kids but as this article is currently stuck on the first step that might be a bit much to ask – so why do we have to keep re-enforcing gender every time we speak?

The short answer is we don’t.

It doesn’t make a girl who is happy being a girl feel any less of a girl to be addressed by either their name ‘good job Agatha’ vs ‘good girl’ and neither should it. ¬†In fact the only thing re-enforcing gender does is re-enforce gender. Why do we feel the need to do that? What are we trying to protect or defend here?

To accuse a school of subterfuge for just getting with the times and slackening the reliance on gender re-enforcement is more than a bit rich, it’s borderline farcical and only makes sense if you do subscribe to the marxist conspiracy theory. ¬†Given that most people with high school aged children will be my age group I doubt many of them will have a clue what you are going on about and of those that do many would possibly shake their heads in disbelief. ¬†It seems to me that the only people who are consumed by this marxist uprising fear are the far right and I think the best way to handle that is for them to stop the name calling, mud-slinging and false accusations and actually listen to what many high school students are saying, feeling and living as being gay, trans, bi or otherwise gendered is actually not such a big deal any more and neither should it be but then again I would say that because according to the Telegraph I’m just another lefty looser.

Words are powerful, let’s choose them carefully.

 

Meat – To eat or not to eat, that is the question

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So I’m not a vegetarian and neither am I a vegan.

I feel that admitting being a¬†meat eater is becoming more and more loaded but that might just be in the circles I move in (or maybe it’s just in my head). ¬†Like many modern-life issues the issue of what to consume has become somewhat politically loaded and is no longer a case of ‘meat and two veg because that’s just what we eat’ it’s more a weighing up of environmental, health, budget and social justice issues.

Will I have eggs for breakfast?  

Well if I do I have to accept that the boy chicks are ground up alive after hatching just to keep my egg choice cheap, cheap.

Lamb, beef, chicken or Kangaroo?

Well lamb is tasty but lambs are heavy hoofed and they are helping to destroy our fragile soils here in Australia. Beef? ¬†Well that contributes to the global methane cloud and they require so much land for feed (grain) I mean that can’t be good for the environment. Chicken, nice but I no longer trust the ‘free roaming/ free range’ stickers when I see them. Kangaroo? ¬†Should it be farmed? Should we eat one half of our national emblem?

Milk with your tea madam?

Cow’s milk? ¬†Yes please but do you know if the farmers got paid fairly? ¬†And how old are the calves when they are separated from their mothers? Do they cry for long? Do you think they get over it? ¬†Do the cows mind being milked?

And then there’s the inevitable death question.

How do you feel that something died so that you could eat that?

Ummmmmm well OK.

Yes but it is so cruel, have you seen the secret footage?

Well yes, I do feel bad about factory farming and I do try to buy my meat from farmers markets or butchers that can tell me where the animals came from and a bit about their processing but I have to admit it is a hard part of the food chain to handle as a meat eater?

And then the other big one.

But would you be prepared to kill your own?

And to that I’d have to say ‘yes’ but that doesn’t mean I’d like it or do it gratuitously.

Game over, friendship lost in some cases.

Peculiar judgements from others including the secret fear that I am actually some blood thirsty animal torturer who feels it is their god given right to take life.

Complicated?  

Totally.

And do you know what makes it all the more complicated? It’s ¬†the myriad of pro-veggie websites that publish misleading information to further complicate what is already quite a complex issue – believe me, there are lots of legitimate reasons to give up meat without resorting to fabrications. ¬†I just happen not to want to at this point in time and that is partly because of my families and my complicated allergy issues which includes but isn’t limited to fish, nuts, garlic, onion, alcohol, banana, mango, melon, gluten, soy and sesame.

Anyway, this is the type of erroneous information available to those who are debating if to ditch the meat or those who are looking for pro-veggie arguments:

VEGGIE REASONS

This table has formed the basis for hundreds of articles and has been widely shared. ¬†When I first saw it I, like I’m sure many people would, thought WOW, that is quite compelling isn’t it? ¬†But then I thought ‘but humans have been eating meat for thousands of years and if it is that bad for us surely we wouldn’t be thriving like we are?’

And I say that even though I know full well about the other scientific studies that have shown that meat eaters get more cancer etc…. ¬†I have researched that too and my conclusion was to keep eating meat but to feel OK about not being able to drink alcohol and to steer clear of refined sugar and poor quality processed meats. Easy as I do that already.

Anyway with regards to this table I did want to look into some of these comparisons just to get a general feel of the thing.   As someone who enjoys eating a diet that includes meat I have a bias towards this table being wrong but as a science minded individual I have a desire to find out the truth.  After all, I have adapted my meat-eating behaviour based on research before and am happy to do it again.

So I found a lot of interesting stuff and plenty of reasonable explanations as to why some of these things are so and some thing that are misleading. For example, the fourth point about the jaw muscles is misleading because humans use four muscle groups in their jaws – Massetter, two types of Pterygolds and Temporalis. ¬†That our human teeth have got smaller over time due to evolutionary changes in our diet. ¬†That the use of tools, cooking (we’ve been doing our own human masterchef classes for over 200,000 years) and pottery (making it possibly to eat very mushy food) has all played its part in shaping our dental history. ¬†This part was expecially interesting to me as our eldest child is currently undergoing dental work and has had issues with her jaw muscles in the past!¬†In addition I found that our development of¬†verbal language has also helped shape our mouths and teeth!

Another interesting thing I found was to do with the metabolism of vitamin A. The table is right and humans can’t detoxify vitamin A but vitamin A is usually found within the offal of an animal rather than the meat so it is most likely our ability to detoxify vitamin A is a mute point being as though we practically never chow down on a diet of¬†liver these days ¬†and even eating cooked liver is not something most people do daily or even weekly. ¬† So we still can’t go past evolution in this regard. Omnivorous animals such as some pigs, badgers, bears, squirrels, mice and rats can probably detoxify Vitamin A because they are often scavenging or exert a large amount of energy to catch prey and so require all the calories they can get from the kill. ¬†We have shops.

So if I can dismiss a good proportion of the information on that table as bias half-truth’s or misleading by omission does that justify my decision to eat meat and does it make me feel any better about my choice?

No and No.

It’s not that I feel BAD for eating meat, ¬†it’s more that I feel the weight of that responsibility heavily, that I don’t take eating meat for granted and that I am working towards full mitigation of as many of the negatives as I can – choosing meat that is less environmentally impactful, less cruel, less glutonous (not eating so much) and healthier. ¬†That said there is one impact that I cannot mitigate for and that’s the death of the animal.

Death ¬†of anything is not a subject that many people want to talk about and I totally understand that but I am not entirely sure that is helpful to our emotional development as humans. ¬†Death is as much a part of the cycle as birth, indeed history has shown us that the two can often come together. ¬†The way I see meat-eating is somewhat primal and earthy. ¬†I see humans as part of a cycle of nature that gives and takes, that is born and that dies. ¬†I feel that as humans we all too readily work that system to our advantage, take the benefits without counting or taking responsibility for the costs. ¬†I to do this with my meat as I’m yet to kill and eat my own (and I’m not in a desperate rush to start either although I am curious about this side of the food chain and the detail and art involved it). ¬† I remember watching a documentary about an organic farmer who was setting rat traps in his veggie patches then ploughing the dead rats back into the soil. I wondered what the vegetarians would think of that, of the blood and bone enriched broccoli? ¬†And it was a serious, sober wondering, the kind you do with compassion and trepidation. The circle of life.

But we don’t need to eat meat these days, we can find all of our nutrition in plants and keep ourselves very healthy, in fact we can thrive thanks to our ingenuity, ability to source from the global food bowl and our problem solving abilities. ¬†So that really does leave the meat-eater with just one question and that’s ‘do you eat it or not?’ ¬†Because if you say yes you know the animal is going to have to die for you and we have to start taking responsibility for that.

 

 

 

 

 

Listening to Alain De Botton on love made me realise just how un-romantic I am.

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While driving out west yesterday I listened to one of my favourite segments on Radio National and that’s Conversations with Richard Fidler. Today he was talking to Alain De Botton. ¬†Alain is touring to promote his latest book ‘The course of Love’ which analyses what I guess you could call ‘mid term’ relationships i.e that stage in a marriage that comes once the hearts-and-flowers emotional high of the honeymoon period has died down.

I’ve been married for seventeen years in August and after listening to Alain I have realised just how oddly satisfying my relationship with my husband is (and I’m hoping – fingers crossed it is mutual). ¬†I also realised just how un-romantic I am which I am equally Ok with.

Me and Aub

Without re-iterating everything Alain said (you can follow the link and hear for yourself, it is a lovely chat) ¬†I would sum up that Alain has found that love is a skill we all need to learn, something that we could indeed master over time. ¬†He talks about how we should embark on every new relationship by giving our prospective partner a booklet outlining all the ways we are difficult to live with. ¬†I think that would be an interesting idea but in my experience one rarely knows what is really annoying or difficult about ones self until something terribly bad happens (not necessarily terribly bad in an external sense but in the sense that we suddenly can’t sleep at night or can’t stop drinking or just seem to keep getting into trouble and suddenly have that AHA moment that it actually MIGHT be us that is the problem). That said, I quite like what Alain is trying to say here, not least because it fits with my own personal bias. ¬†I have always been an independent soul and one that doesn’t shy away from getting ones own shit in order.

I’ve often wondered why phrases like this grate on my last nerve when everyone else finds them mushy and lovely:

‘You complete me………’From the film Jerry MacGuire

I want to take that very literally and say:

What? Like my right arm completes me?

Maybe.

See I like my right arm, if I was being honest I’d have to say that I prefer it to my left arm as I’m right hand dominant but that said I would never dream of giving my right arm preferential treatment over the left…….

I am practical enough and have enough life-experience to realise that I could live without my right arm, in fact I am pretty sure I would live WELL without my right arm IF I HAD TO which I don’t plan on doing but IF I HAD TO I COULD right?

So no, you don’t complete me. I am complete and guess what? You are complete too.

See?  Totally un-romantic. 

Moving along through the conversation Alain brings up the Greek philosophy of love and my ears prick up. ¬†This is it, this is what I think, this is how I’ve approached my marriage!

Love is a process of education

To paraphrase Alain:

‘Ancient Greeks thought that love was a process of education. Only love what is good, virtuous and accomplished. Purpose is for a couple to educate each other to become the best versions of themselves. There is always something to learn.’

This to me is exciting as I’m sure this attitude is what has made¬†my marriage no less vibrant¬†today than it was 17 years ago from my perspective at least! ¬†With each year we both grow as people, we experience different things, try new skills, read new books, see new art, ¬†ride or walk different trails, travel to different places and experience a different part of the parenting journey. We do this in our own individual ways sometimes together and sometimes apart and that works for us. The part I find most satisfying is that for me our love for each other is nurtured and grows from the mutual exchanges that happen after each event (whether major or minor). Love for me is very much embodied in those exchanges, ¬†in the¬†sharing of insights, lessons, feelings, experiences, treasures, worries and fears. ¬†We both talk a lot and I’m glad to say that we are also pretty good listeners too, at least when it comes to each other.

According to Alain, thinking of love in this way is unusual for us modern folks who prefer the Disney Princess version of happy ever-after or the Jerry MacGuire ‘you complete me’ analogy.

Well all I can say about that is this. I have never consciously chosen to be un-romantic I’ve just always been this way and even as a little girl could not understand at all why any girl-friend of mine would want to sit waiting for a Prince Charming to come along when they could go out there and create their own adventures. ¬†I don’t know why it is more unusual to have my attitude than this other but after hearing what Alain has said I’m pretty grateful for my own lack of sentimentality and will look forwards to many more adventures with or without my love of 17 years Aubry AKA Mr Bling.

Because although I love him, I know I can live very well without him. I just don’t want to because he is helping me become the best me I can be and I’m helping him achieve the same.

Amanda x

 

 

 

Radicalisation seems to be happening faster now. Why?

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I heard on the radio yesterday that the French truck driver that mowed through a crowd of people in Nice had become radicalized very quickly and that’s why he wasn’t on any terrorist list. ¬†I could accept that as fact given my own limited experience with political activism/ social justice. I’m not surprised radicalization is happening faster. The proposed solution to this ‘fast radicalization’ ¬†was that authorities were planning to¬†‘crack down’, ‘get tougher’, ‘lock down’ and ‘increase policing’. That worried me and here’s why.

I believe we have to take a good look at radicalization and realise it could happen to the best of us and given the state of the world currently it is not about to go away.

Muslim doesn’t equal radical.

Nor does being a muslim prep you for a life of anti-social, destabilising violence.  We might FEEL that could be the case for a number of legitimate reasons including but not limited to:

  • The ‘religion of peace’ mantra that people trot out after every muslim led terrorist action.
  • The fact that many terrorist attacks of the last thirty years have had a muslim bias and that these attacks are becoming more widespread and frequent.
  • The fact that despite a growing muslim population many of us here in Australia have no obviously muslim friends, didn’t go to school with any ‘out there’ muslims and may not even work with ‘them’.
  • The fact that even in English-speaking countries the Holy Qur’an is read in Arabic over English to preserve its integrity.
  • The material barrier that exists when a veiled muslim woman is in our company.
  • Our lack of understanding with the daily life of a muslim – isn’t praying more than once a day a bit extreme? What is Halal food anyway? What do you guys do at Christmas? ¬†Is it true you don’t drink alcohol? ¬†Do some of you really have more than one wife? Sometimes not knowing this sort of thing makes us feel ignorant and when we feel like that we are vulnerable and vulnerability is fears breeding ground.
  • The things we read in the paper – the subtle (or less so) anti-muslim bias that sinks in over years of media consumption and allows us to normalise a less-than-equal attitude.

But I didn’t bring this subject up to talk about muslims. I just wanted to get that onto the table straight up and acknowledge our subconscious narrative for what it is.

What I want to do is delve into the question of fast radicalization and especially how that can happen to any of us.

radicalization:

radicalisation

Let’s just think about that for a moment. Let’s think about what ‘extreme’ might mean with regards to political or social aspirations in relation to the status quo.

Using myself as an example here I would say that I’m pretty disappointed with the status quo in Australian politics at the moment. ¬†My views and more importantly my values are increasingly at odds with the political establishment on a number of key issues:

Me: I want care of and for the environment to be elevated in importance and action to be taken to curb our emissions and invest in alternative energy sources to coal.

Government: The government contains many ministers who are still ‘debating’ whether there is a climate crisis and while they do that are still investing in coal infrastructure, coal seam gas and new mines. In addition to that they are pushing for a relaxation in environmental protection laws which may well result in more land clearing and emissions.

Me: I do not agree with the way Australia is handling off shore detention feeling it is inhumane, illegal and shameful. I also feel there is a lot of dangerous political rhetoric around the issue which I believe it contributing to make the world a more dangerous place.

Government: ¬†Carry on doing it citing ‘stopping the boats’ as a big achievement.

Me: I do not think Badgery’s Creek airport is a good idea based on what I’ve seen proposed in the EIS. The document smelt of lobby-group sales talk and missed (or mis-represented/ under-estimated) vital safety and environmental factors that concern me greatly.

Government: ¬†Are PUSHING AHEAD while at the same time ensuring the media report their ‘jobs and benefits’ mantra while limiting or minimising any negative concerns. Media manipulation is rife here.

Now you might read those three things and agree that the government has it right and I’m just a lefty whinger, believe me you wouldn’t be alone in that but that’s exactly where the seeds of radicalization start:

  • The gap between the governments¬†plan and your own grows.
  • The media restricts or minimises concerns of people like you, maybe labelling them in derogatory terms or framing them in negative ways. Digging up dirt, marginalizing etc.
  • The government change laws that feel like they might be targeting people like you, with your view-point (an example for me would be protesting laws, environmental laws). ¬†This further contributes to make one feel victimized, mocked or belittled, especially when these law changes are partnered by government minister spin.
  • The government seek to restrict access to information of the type you are interested in or cover up news that would give your side power (thinking about what happened with the Great Barrier Reef report).

When the outside world starts to feel a little hostile one tends to retreat inwards and these days that is both easy and satisfying.

The Internet.

There have been times this year when I’ve felt completely alienated from our government, like they must HATE people like me. ¬†I’ve even felt at times like they might want to start spying on me, to personally shut me down and shut me up. ¬†While I accept this is probably my ego talking it would be foolish of me to ignore or dismiss those thoughts as they have really happened. ¬†Especially after I’ve challenged the governments rhetoric in an article or by protesting. ¬† What I’ve tended to do when I’ve felt pushed out is sought the company of like-minded individuals.

Where best to find a whole bunch of people like you than online, in your pyjamas while eating biscuits and drinking tea….

It is easy for me to lock myself into a virtual universe full of 2698 other like-minded people when it comes to the Badgery’s Creek issue. These are my fellow RAWSA members. ¬†I can sit there and talk with people, share ideas and gain inspiration. ¬†I can do that for hours and come away feeling as if everyone who doesn’t agree with us must be stupid. ¬†Is THAT radicalization?

As a group we certainly reject the government’s idea of ‘status quo’ and when we take to the streets to protest we are aiming to recruit more people, spread the word and in some ways yes, to undermine the government.

And if we are not radicalized now maybe we will become more radical if this airport plan keeps being ¬†pushed through with the sales pitch of ‘you’ll get used to it, we know what’s best for you’ while our realty keep on ¬†getting minimised and ignored.

I also believe it is of critical importance that we all be able to separate radicalism of thought and action because they are not the same.

No matter how radical I become in my thoughts I can never see me or any of my RAWSA friends becoming wantonly violent or even breaking the law really.  But for me I believe that is because I FEEL I have some power in the system no matter what the system does.  I can write, I can get a job, I can be myself in public without fear of people singling me out as different, I can express my religious views without fear, I can speak in my own language and with my own peculiarly English accent without worry. I am living with white privilege.  It is easy for me to express my radicalized thoughts safely and legally in this country.

That isn’t true for everyone and again I think we need to publicly acknowledge that.

In light of that I believe there are three things that are making the radicalization process faster. I believe these three things can be seen as positives or negatives depending on your ability to separate radical thought from radical action.

  1. Government out of touch. In many countries including peaceful western ones, government actions are increasingly benefiting fewer and fewer people. ¬†The ‘they are not listening to me, they don’t value me or my point of view, they don’t want me’ experience. ¬†Many people are feeling disenfranchised and that in turn erodes our sense of power and that makes us vulnerable and vulnerability can turn to anger which is basically fear plus adrenaline.
  2. The internet makes it easier for people with any view to come together. We all do it, we all belong to groups whether it be the rare dog breeders appreciation society, crochet flowers r us or a down with capitalism group.  This ability to immerse ourselves into a virtual world where everyone agrees with us is manna from heaven for those who find the outside world dis-empowering but it can cause mental anguish and even potential illness when over-indulged.
  3. Alienation.  That feeling that your views, your reality is being marginalised, mis-represented, overlooked or shoved under the carpet.  I think of the Gandhi quote: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.  It is increasingly hard to feel like you can ever win when you and the values you hold dear are so marginalised and ridiculed.

The outcome?

Mental illness or at least high level of stress and dis-ease including burn-out are common in activist (radical) group members.

So those of ‘us’ that don’t go out and commit hideous crimes (which thankfully is the majority) may well, in the worse scenario just harm ourselves.

Shouldn’t we be addressing that?

Violence Рthe reactionary reflex of the severely dis-empowered or traumatized.

Shouldn’t we be addressing that too?

I challenge you to think of a situation where you have felt severely un-heard, dis-empowered, alienated.

It happens to us all.

We really should talk about this more and stop thinking of radicalization as a dirty word.

At what point does the definition of radical stop? ¬†When do we start burning books and putting academics in prison? ¬†In some places it’s already happening. It doesn’t have to come to that.

 

 

Sydney. War on the Western Front.

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They are not listening, ‘they’ being the government.

The fact that they lost ground right across Western Sydney, even losing strategic seats that they thought were safe is not worthy of mention now that ‘they’ have a mandate to rule.

Mandate to rule…….

I wonder what that means.

mandate

I take the point that as the LNP have won a majority of seats they do fit the description of having a mandate to do something and that something is head up our government and not (as seems to be the interpretation) a mandate to tell us all what we will like whether we actually like it or not.

Given the following:

Nationally first preferences for the two major parties were pretty low:

First Preferences by party

28.59% for Liberal

35.71% for Labor

 

The only thing I feel the government has a mandate for is to listen very carefully to the people and to consider and be grateful for the wide range of views that got them their precarious mandate.

And when it comes to listening Western Sydney is where that listening should start:

Western Sydney is LABOR. Here are the swing numbers:

Paramatta + 6.19% swing

Lindsay  + 3.98%

Chiffley + 8.42%

Greenway  + 3.71%

McMannon  + 7.5%

Macquarie  + 7.04%

Fowler   + 4.84%

Blaxland  + 8.51%

So when the minister for major projects Paul Fletcher rocks up on radio to talk up his big-ticket item ‘Badgery’s Creek Airport’ with Wendy Harmer I suggest he take a good look at these figures followed by a deep and reflective look at his policies and proposals before he declares with confidence that the airport and the ‘jobs and growth’ mantra that accompanied it had little impact on voting behaviour.

Us Westies are not stupid.

And neither are we in the habit of liking it when a Northern Beaches liberal tells us what we need and want.

Amanda

PS: I am not implying that the airport was the number one issue for the liberal party losing votes. It may not have even been in the top ten across the region but it was one of a number of key issues that contributed to the slide and each one of these issues deserves to be dealt with rather than ignored or minimised.

 

 

The separation of church (or religion) & state

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I’m glad that Pauline Hanson was on Q&A last night. ¬†I’ve never heard her make any sense (to me) but being as though she is now a Senator and that her Pauline Hanson One Nation party picked up enough votes to secure at least another two senate positions she is in a position of great power. ¬†Great? ¬† Bad choice of words…..

I’m also extremely glad that a good proportion of the audience members asking questions were muslim, all of which spoke respectfully, articulating exactly what it must feel like to be living in these ‘most exciting times’. ¬†Again, bad choice of words….

So I guess the question remains,  does Pauline have anything legitimate to add to the conversation?

Crusades

I feel that she does represent something legitimate but that she articulates it in such a way as to cause more problems than she solves. ¬†I found it hard to listen to Q and A last night because it was like looking through a crystal ball and seeing an angry, scared and divided future where no matter how many good, kind Australian born or migrant muslims one encounters on a given day there will always be that ‘but you can never be too sure of their motives luve, they want to build mosques, halal our shopping trolley funding terrorism as they go and make us all wear the burqa’. ¬†The reality of that point of view lies heavily on my mind.

So if she has something legitimate to say what exactly is it?

I believe it is to do with church and state and I believed that even before Q and A last night but now I’m a bit more convinced after what she started to say.

I believe that the religion | state conversation  a good one to have and is something that we here in Australia at least have taken for granted for ever. However,  after seeing this conversation raised (badly) and dropped (without much further comment) is telling.  We mock this small detail at our peril.

The question that brought this up is listed on the website here under ‘Islam royal commission’¬†

After hearing the question Pauline goes on to make the claim that Islam doesn’t believe in democracy. ¬†Tony Jones pulls her up on that citing Indonesia as an example to which she says that she feels the Indonesian¬†government controls the people and their beliefs.

She then goes on to say:

‘we are a christian country and I don’t believe that Islam is compatible with our culture and our way of life and that’s why we have problems in Australia and on the streets. A lot of people are opposing the mosques that are built here’

To which the questioner interjects with:

‘I think that muslims in Australia have constantly been telling people like you and who support you that is not what Islam is about and I think you have very selective hearing and what you are creating is not one nation but a divided nation. ¬†You have a very one track mind and it is very dangerous’.

There is so much in this, ¬†more than I’m qualified to intellectually break down but from my¬†position as interested layman, wanting to know more but trying to squeeze in the time to get the reading done I’d say that this issue is THE BIG ISSUE.

First – are we a Christian Country?

NO. We are a secular country although secularism has many definitions as outlined here.¬†¬† We have a separation between church and state as do many other countries as I’ll show below:

I know enough to say that England, where I’m from has a lusty Henry VII to thank for our early Church/ State separation back in the 1500’s. ¬†We’ve had over 600 years to get used to secularism and for the most part we’ve not done too badly at it……Brexit campaign anyone?

But what about everywhere else?

This is where my lack of depth of reading shows. I’ve read more than just Wikipedia which is why I’m happy enough to share these as examples in order to start a conversation rather than make a solid and un-movable point.

Australia (Copied from Wikipedia which is something that Pauline Hanson will (allegedly) know lots about)

The Constitution of Australia prevents the Commonwealth from establishing any religion or requiring a religious test for any office:

Ch 5 § 116 The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

Brazil: 

The current Constitution of Brazil, in force since 1988, ensures the right to religious freedom, bans the establishment of state churches and any relationship of “dependence or alliance” of officials with religious leaders, except for “collaboration in the public interest, defined by law”.

China:

[…] No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion. […] No one may make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the educational system of the state. Religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination.

France (la√Įcit√©)

French secularity (French: la√Įcit√©, pronounced [laisite]) is the absence of religious involvement in government affairs, especially the prohibition of religious influence in the determination of state policies; it is also the absence of government involvement in religious affairs, especially the prohibition of government influence in the determination of religion. [1][2] French secularism has a long history but the current regime is based on the 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and the State.[3

And so to the example raised by Tony Jones,  Indonesia.

Here is a very interesting discussion on the issue which quickly unveils the constant pressure placed on the Indonesian government since independence (1945) for religious law to be re-instated into the constitution.   While Indonesia still has a separation between religion and state it falls short of being a fully secular society as irreligion (atheism?) and many minor religious beliefs are not supported though not outright punished.  Having travelled around Indonesia a couple of times myself I have to say that I feel Indonesia to be a tense example of a successful muslim majority secular country which begs the question, what would be a better one?

Malaysia:

I was going to suggest that Malaysia be a better example of a truly secular muslim majority country and indeed it is on some counts but according to Wikipedia again (sorry, there is so much reading to do to really get to the bottom of this)  this is debatable:

“Freedom of religion is enshrined in the Malaysian Constitution. First, Article 11 provides that every person has the right to profess and to practice his or her religion and (subject to applicable laws restricting the propagation of other religions to Muslims) to propagate it. Second, the Constitution also provides that Islam is the religion of the country but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony (Article 3).

The status of freedom of religion in Malaysia is a controversial issue. Questions including whether Malaysia is an Islamic state or secular state remains unresolved. In recent times, there has been a number of contentious issues and incidents which has tested the relationship between the different religious groups in Malaysia.”

Reading between the lines in a couple of web articles and having been to Malaysia a few times I would say it correct that there has been and continues to be a lively debate in Malaysia as to the role and reach of Islam over daily life in Malaysia.

Norway:

OK so this interested me not least because one thinks of Nordic countries as excellent examples of all things modern and progressive but in this regard Norway is less so.  Like Malaysia and Indonesia, Norway is not seen as a fully secular country.

To form a government, the Norwegian PM must have more than half the members of Cabinet be members of the Church of Norway. Currently, this means at least ten out of the 19 ministries. The issue of separation of church and state in Norway has been increasingly controversial, as many people believe it is time to change this, to reflect the growing diversity in the population.

So what do we take from that?  

Is the take-home message that Islam can never be the majority religion in a truly secular state in the same way that christianity can?

Or is it that Islam can exist and even be the dominant religion  in the right secular environment.

Or is it that

Religion should be as far away from secular society as possible.

I guess that’s all part of the conversation we need to have keeping in mind that secularism is something that the ‘west’ has practiced for many more hundreds of years than the east. Maybe time is the missing link here. Maybe we could reflect on that.

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Second: So what is Pauline saying when she says “I don’t believe that Islam is compatible with our culture and way of life.”

I feel this is exactly where Pauline’s way of expressing her ideas gets in the way of the idea and that the gap between these two things is relevant and important.

It is absolutely imperative that we, the Australian people understand what secularism means for our country, how that brings us strength, unity and harmony.  How it is good for muslims and non-muslims alike.   I am not sure we are completely getting that yet.

If Australia values its secularism it should view the ever-encroaching march of the far rights christianity as almost as challenging as it finds the perceived threat from Australia’s growing muslim population. ¬†If Australia doesn’t understand secularity we run the risk of going backwards from here in a big way.

 

Our collective lack of literacy on this issue is serving none.

Pauline was visibly distressed at the idea of sharing a meal with one of the muslim audience members on Q and A last night. ¬†The funny thing was, the distress wasn’t so much about eating with a muslim, it was more the fact that knowing of her distrust of Halal food he offered her a Haram meal. ¬† She had no idea what Haram meant.

And that is the symptomatic of the problem.

We do need to discuss secularism in Australia.  We need to discuss the role of religion in what it means to be Australian. To discuss what level religion (any religion) should be supported by government Рis it right to fund religious chaplains in primary schools?  Is it better to fund Christian chaplains than ethics classes?  We need to discuss our culture and way of life.  What does Christmas mean to Australia?  Is it right that we get paid more for working on a Sunday than a Saturday when almost nobody goes to church any more?  When did Australian culture start?  Do we include Aboriginal Australia in Australian culture and if not why not?  Is a love of cricket an essential part of being an Australian?

Secularism is only one part of a huge conversation centering around our national identity that needs to be had. ¬†As a new citizen (just coming up to one year) while I still (vaguely) remember what the citizenship test and ceremony stood for and symbolised I can’t say that it taught me too much about what BEING and FEELING Australian actually means.

But back to secularism. 

Without a well-defined framework of what Australian secularism means to all its citizens we become fearful of what the future might hold because we can’t put any changing demographic or influence into context. ¬†Whether we like it or not we are ALL living in challenging (not exciting) times. ¬†The number of displaced people in the world in 2016 is humongous and muslims are a significant part of that. ¬†We need to be able to have a conversation about compassion¬†and have that compassion measured by what it means to be a secular Australia and not measured by fear.

I found an interesting discussion around the separation of religion and state as it applies to Muslims here.Notwithstanding the ambiguity of the question the commentary in this article is interesting and does indeed highlight just how important of an issue this is in the world today. Which leads me to my third and final point to address and that is:

Is Islam to be feared?

Again I’m going to show myself up for the ignorant individual I am on this but weren’t the bloody crusades between 1095-1291 battles¬†between Islam and Christianity?

Is it that people have a funny feeling in their ancestral bones about how an Islamic/ Christian integration might transpire?   Possibly but possibly not.   Should history shape our future? Maybe but maybe not.

Given that these battles happened albeit a long time ago (before the internet and cheap flights) ¬†I think it is only fair that once again this fear (power struggle) be discussed openly and honestly. ¬† Is Islam nothing more than a political ideology? ¬†I don’t personally feel that to be the case but can we not at least debate that sensibly, respectfully and in the context of a secular Australia?

But the crusades were not the only thing to have happened. ¬†Lots has happened within my living memory, within the last few weeks even. ¬†When I was a kid growing up in England if you had asked me to describe terrorism I would have most likely talked about the troubles in Ireland – Protestant vs Catholic. ¬†I grew up with a nagging worry about being bombed by the IRA. ¬†However, by the time I was 14 if I was asked that question I would have talked about the Pan Am Flight 103 disaster and maybe attributed that to tension in the middle east without really having much of an idea what that meant or if that were true. ¬† But in the recent past for a growing minority terrorism has become¬†synonymous with Islam and while one can easily make sense of the logic behind that it isn’t helpful.

So when the respondent (Who is called Cindy) ¬†to the original question I posted answers with¬†‘I think that muslims in Australia have constantly been telling people like you and who support you that that is not what Islam is about’ ¬†meaning that Islam is not a religion to be feared or a religion that is somehow incompatible with the Australian way of life¬†those words are drowned out by a collective blind panic that has set in and been perpetuated by the state of the world right now. ¬†I’ve seen numerous conversations online discussing terror attacks and mocking the line ‘Islam is a religion of peace’. ¬†Indeed, that phrase has become so much part of the current narrative that a google search on the term brings up 22.5 million results including a fair proportion stating why Islam is NOT a peaceful religion – Interesting as the word Islam comes from the Arabic root word ‘Salema’ which means peace, purity, submission and obedience. So what does that tell us? ¬†It tells us that we are in one almighty mess, that’s what.

So what next?

 

Having seen Hanson on Q and A last night I hold little hope of her adding much more than bile to this argument but I remain convinced that we cannot dismiss her or what she stands for because of that.  As the incredibly articulate and composed Muslim questioners last night demonstrated, those of us who can do better, should do and be better. Yes that places an unfair burden on the innocent but what is the alternative?  Are we really in a position to sit back and either ignore or belittle this?

We, that’s all of us, have a duty to participate in our democratic system on a daily basis and not just once every so many years. ¬†We all have the opportunity to stand up and¬†un-pick what is being said and string it together in a way that inspires intelligent and thoughtful debate. ¬†Perhaps we should all¬†acknowledge that while we may not share these sentiments there is much fear around immigration (muslim immigration especially but not exclusively), much fear around Islamic State and Terrorism and much uncertainty around what it means to be Australian today and how Islam fits into that vision.

No amount of wishing it would just go away will make it do so (it being ignorance and bigotry) and so the only choice I feel I have left is how I respond to it and let me make this perfectly clear right now.  I will respond by reading, talking, listening and participating more deeply in what is essentially a fascinating and potentially transformative time in history.