A bird needs both wings to fly

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I only realised that my political views were a bit more left than right when I took part in the ABC’s Vote Compass  in 2013.  I still couldn’t vote at that time as I wasn’t a citizen and as such found the result interesting, amusing even but certainly not life-defining.  Even though I came out as more left that right it was only just.  I polled strongly liberal on all things money and slightly more green on matters of the environment.  Trying to be all things to all people or just pretty remarkably normal? I’d go with the latter.

By the next election in 2016 I could vote and this time my vote compass showed that I’d swung far more to the left – maybe even radically so!  As a scientist I found myself feeling much more skeptical of this result than I had of the 2013 findings – surely this level of swing is minor radicalism?  I didn’t feel radical. I hadn’t even read the list of left-wing propaganda that lefties are so often accused of parroting.   The left-wing agenda was something that I was not in on.

But I left it at that and voted the way that made sense to me.

It’s only a few months since that last election and the world of politics has gotten very nasty and that’s made me think.

I haven’t fundamentally changed much since I was a teenager back in the UK, a teenager living in a conservative household, reading the Daily Mail and the Sunday Telegraph, studying chemistry and dreaming of owning my own home and becoming a company Director…..

The world is what has changed and it has changed in a sick way that is obsessed with pigeon holing the whole of humanity into left-wing or right-wing boxes as if there is no possibility of seeing the good (and bad) in both thus totally ignoring the place where I suspect most of us really sit.

And I’m worried about that.

When things become so black and white the atmosphere changes.  It becomes harder to have a conversation with people from the ‘other side’ to you as it seems so pointless when ‘they’ are less on another page than reading from another book entirely!  We have a situation where common sense has been branded as a conservative construct and where anything to do with gender issues, equality, the environment and benefits is radical left-wing.  But where have those thoughts come from?

I don’t know but I do have my suspicions.

You only have to observe the comments under a slightly controversial Facebook post to see how quickly people stop talking and start trading insults.  I used to watch football (both soccer and Rugby – soccer crowds in England in the 1990’s were more violent and aggressive than the Rugby crowds so I’ll use that analogy).   Soccer crowds were separated by entrances on opposing sides of the stadium – left and right.  Once inside the chanting would start – depending on who was playing this could either be light-hearted banter or downright nasty goading.  Whichever it was there was an undeniable air of ‘why the F would anyone even think of supporting them’ directed at the opposition.  It was just unconscionable.

And that’s what politics is beginning to feel like.

We’ve chosen or been allotted sides.

These sides then define, not only how we vote but everything about us. We become bleeding heart lefty snowflakes or racist right-wing bigots full stop.

So who benefits from this?

Well a few months ago I might have sounded like a complete fruit loop for saying this but these days the proof is in the pudding – the political landscape has shifted and we can all see it with our own eyes.

The media love a good fight, it sells papers, makes great click bait and generally gets people addicted in a ‘what’s going to happen next’ kind of way.  So while the media don’t necessarily have the power to start this once that fire has been lit they will at best hide the hose pipe and at worst fan the flames.

But they are not the only ones.

Politicians also know and take advantage of the fact that when we are passionate and angry we are less likely to think rationally, examine the evidence with a fine tooth comb and ask questions to help us understand.  What we tend to do instead is either accept or reject outright what is put in front of us, blinded by our own passions.  I think this is where we are now and sadly we are falling into its trap.

I would have said a month ago that politicians have more control over the media now than ever (professional lobbyists etc) but after reading some Australian history from the early 1900s that simply isn’t true.  Australia’s second Prime Minister, Deakin was adept at prepping the soil for his future political policies by writing either overtly or under a pseudonym in the national papers.  Just like when you are weaning babies, you have to introduce a new food (or new idea) a few times for the baby to get used to it – the same can be said for policy and if you can get into people’s hearts and minds without them realising you are 3/4’s of the way to a win!

Of course these days we have social media to counter and temper the influence of the professional media – we can all ‘create’ news be it by blogging, tweeting, Facebook status updating or sharing or snap chatting.  However, we are shouting into a crowded market that has already been primed for left or right so it is more likely that you get lost in your own echo chamber than find your way into the hearts and minds of the opposition – to do that requires the development of a platform and in this political climate you won’t stand on a neutral one for long before someone shoves you either to the left or to the right!

So what can we do?

I don’t think there are any quick fixes that we can employ to help prevent us from falling into a left or right identity pot (unless we want to) but there are some slow ones and I guess it all starts with becoming aware of how the world is being divided.

I truly believe that we still have more in common than what divides us and as such will continue to try to seek out both sides of the story even when it doesn’t suit me and my personal tastes and views to do so.  This divide and conquer mentality is not going to end well as it is simply not natural.  As I said in my title, a bird needs both wings to fly but not only that, a bird also needs its core,  its centre and I’m happy to stay centred for now.

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Australia Day – Why I want to change the date and no, I don’t sip lattees.

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From the Australia Day website:

“Australia Day, 26 January, is the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet of 11 convict ships from Great Britain, and the raising of the Union Jack at Sydney Cove by its commander Captain Arthur Phillip, in 1788”

More here.

But in 1788 there was no Australia,  indeed the very concept of a new country, united by Federation only became popular in the mid to late 1880’s thanks to the Australian Natives’ Association which, to my surprise was not a club for Aboriginal people but a vehicle through which to glorify the middle class whites (mostly male) (OK, that’s my bias there but I reached that conclusion by reading what is written in this link. 

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It is interesting to note that Women were permitted to set up their own branch of the ANA and the Adelaide group had their first meeting in October 1889.  While this is at least a little encouraging what is less encouraging is a note at the bottom of the recorded minutes mentioning the ‘Chinese Question’.  Further investigation shows the ‘China Question’ to be the taxes that Chinese ‘Australians’ have to pay to cross from state to state – taxes that white Australians do not have to pay.  Fair go?

Anyway……

The idea of an ‘Australia Day’ pre-dates federation and was first muted by a ANA member in a letter during the 1885 ANA congress.  The author was a Mr E.W Swift:

‘The idea for Australia Day, to be celebrated on January 26, was first suggested in a letter from E.W. Swift of Ballarat to the 1885 ANA conference. At the association’s suggestion, the Victorian government organised with its counterparts in the other colonies for the first national celebration of the day in 1888, the centenary of European settlement in Australia.’

One of the people to read that letter would have been Mr Alfred Deakin, the chap that went on to become Australia’s second Prime Minister.  Deakin was a key member of the ANA around this time and while he did champion many social welfare moves, especially for his ‘Australian Natives’ he was also  a key voice in the ‘White Australia’ and ‘federation’ mindsets. The White Australia mindset helped shape policy and attitudes throughout the country over the coming decades – some would say that undercurrents of this work still hold Australia back today,  although the governments official position and policy writing changed following World War 2 in 1949.  In terms of the Federation it is clear that Deakin had a significant part to play in pushing forward with this idea and in working out the detail of how a federated Australia would relate to the motherland.

In all this talk of federation, immigration policy and social welfare, Aboriginal Australians don’t really warrant a mention being even less desirable than non-white immigrants.

But these people were in Victoria, in New South Wales, my state, we had Sir Henry Parkes.

While the political talk gathered pace I’m sure there would have been a great appetite for a day to celebrate all that was being achieved in this exciting ‘new’ colony!  While I don’t really know what went on in Sir Henry Parkes mind I can comment on what I have read and that is that the significance of marking this ‘day of celebration’ on 26th January was not lost on him – again, this is from the official government website:

‘There had been much debate in Sydney about what kind of celebrations should mark the centenary. Sir Henry Parkes, Premier of New South Wales, planned something for everyone, or almost everyone. When questioned about what was being planned for the Aborigines, Parkes retorted, ‘And remind them that we have robbed them?’ At the centre of his plans was the unveiling of a statue of Queen Victoria, the British sovereign since 1837, the opening of Centennial Park, a park for the people, and a great banquet for leading citizens. And, of course, the Sydney Regatta.’

And so it went on and on and on and on until we get to today, two days after 2017’s Australia day.

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I am 100% for a change of date BECAUSE of this history – because the date was conceived by a middle class elite FOR a middle class elite that excludes the very thing that has made Australia great and that’s diversity, mateship and our easy-going nature. In fact I’d say it has done more than exclude these things, it has tried to squash those traits out of us.

This year it  does appear that the momentum for change has grown and that the opposing voices are getting louder and stronger and I applaud that although I don’t support the burning of flags or other acts of violence.

But our opposition to this date has been met, unsurprisingly, with counter claims that we are just ‘lattee sipping, middle class whingers with bleeding hearts and nothing better to do’.

I am allergic to coffee and I can be just as heartless as the next man thank you.

So why do people like me take to reading history and advocating for change albeit from our position of white privilege?

Because our privilege has taught us compassion, highlighted to us that words and deeds do matter and that there is no such thing as a meaningless date (unless we’re talking about Tinder…)

So what do we want now?

What do I want now?

All I want is the date to change and to change because we have collectively acknowledged the inherent racism and dehumanizing undertones that surrounded the origin of this day.  A day for the whole of Australia to celebrate unless you are a person of colour or Aboriginal?  Really?

But some aboriginal people are fine with the day and want us to just get on with more important things.

I acknowledge that this is true and that there is much truth and value in drawing a line in the sand and walking over it.  Healing. But I remain unmoved in my opposition to this date.

To use the healing analogy just think about what happens when a wound heals over an infection. Or what happens when a wound is re-opened time and time again, even just a little bit?

Let there be no doubt about it, for many this is a fresh, living wound.

Some more recent history:

1938 – Day Of Mourning. 

Many people cite 1938 as the first time that Australia really celebrated Australia Day in the way we do today.  It marked the 150th anniversary of Cooks landing and with it a chance to marvel at how far this great nation had come.

But again, greatness and progress are subjective and some subjects were not ‘loving it’ not least because in 1938 Australia’s Aboriginal Community were still very much treated as the nations underclass.

The 26th of January, 1938 is not a day of rejoicing for Australia’s Aborigines; it is a day of mourning. This festival of 150 years of so-called ‘progress’ in Australia commemorates also 150 years of misery and degradation imposed upon the original native inhabitants by the white invaders of this country.  Read more here. 

Below is a list of just some of the thing Aboriginal Australians had to live with in the good old 1930’s. 

In 1934 the Aboriginals Act, Aboriginal people could give up their heritage and identity and gain access to the same rights as whites.  Nice!

Aboriginal children could still be removed without a court order.

In Western Australia Aboriginal people could be taken into custody without trial and were banned from entering some towns and cities (including Perth) without a permit.

A non-negotiable assimilation policy was introduced and was forcibly enacted.

More here. 

And more recently.

Aboriginal people had to wait until 1967 to be counted in the national census.  That’s only 7 years before I was born for goodness sake – nearly within my lifetime! NOT LONG AGO!

So again, what am I trying to achieve here?

I want us to be able to draw a line and move over it together.  I want that line to be low, ground-low, a line that everyone can cross, that everyone wants to hold hands and step (or wheel) over.  I want us to be able to do this with the solemnity that the occasion deserves and with the energy of hearts filled with excitement and love for what lies on the other side.  I then want us to hug each other before we put another prawn on the barbie, sing our favourite songs and have a go on that giant slip and slide!

And then, when the party is over I want us to go to work putting right all of the constitutional wrongs that have stemmed from this.  That will take time and will,  a change of date will give us the will!

If we don’t do this I fear that the Australian identity, what makes Australia Australia and not the USA, China,  the UK,  Vietnam, Germany or wherever will vanish.  As a Brit whose been here for nearly 14 years I feel anything but a proud Australian on 26th January and I do what I can to avoid all ‘celebration’ – yes I do often just carry on working – It doesn’t have to be like this.

So that’s just a bit of the background into why I can’t learn to just ‘get over myself’ and enjoy this date.

Amanda

PS: And as if I need any further reason to doubt the joined-up-thinking behind this occasion we are now told to eat lamb on this day.  Lamb is not native to this country, sheep are heavy footed and not entirely suited to the soil of this land, often compacting it and leaving it less fertile than it otherwise could be.  Sure I love a lamb chop but how much more dis-connected from this country, this land could we be?  I sometimes wonder…….

 

PPS: So what other date should it be?  Well there is a fun campaign to have it on May 8th as said quickly that sounds like Mate which is quintessentially Aussie and something that really appeals to me I do understand that Jan is a much better time for all things BBQ and fun!  So I think that any date after 1st and before 31st would be good.  Preferably before 26th as that makes it easier to get a clean run at the new school year which currently has to either wait until after the date to return from the summer break or has to straddle it thus leaving two part-weeks and a longer period of time to get the kids settled.

 

Dick Smith and Pauline Hanson Sitting in a Tree…….

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Background info for those of you who have better things to do in life than…..

Dick Smith is a rich Aussie entrepreneur and one-time Australian of the year who made his fortune in the retail industry – selling electronics, food and his mother (well, that ‘fact’ might need validating).  Generally speaking people have tended to think of Dick as a ‘top bloke’ and hold him and his Aussie-first, Aussie-manufactured goods close to their hearts.

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Pauline Hanson is the leader of a political party called ‘One Nation’, has also been the leader of the ‘United Australia Party’ and has been in and out of politics since 1994/ 1995 as part of the Liberal party (Conservatives).  Before politics she worked in her parents fish and chip shop and during her political career she has served time in prison convicted of electoral fraud.  Outside of that Pauline is most famous for her passionate speeches on Indigenous affairs – she has not been a fan of Aboriginal only welfare or assistance packages;  her calls for a Royal Commission into Islam; her suspicious attitude towards the idea of anthropogenic global warming;   her feelings on multiculturalism (it doesn’t work apparently) and other such derisive topics. Needless to say she has a colourful past and present.

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TODAY’S NEWS:

So Dick Smith has thrown his support behind some of Pauline Hanson’s ideas and now people are up in arms. No room for discussion, no ‘why, what and how?’ just a big fat dis-endorsement from the general population that involves labelling anyone who says anything that slightly endorses his decision is either racist, stupid or morally bankrupt.

Did you hear him talking to Wendy Harmer today? Much of what he said today made sense to me (except for the bit about endorsing Pauline but I’ll come to that).

He was basically saying that we’ve become drunk on capitalism, globalisation and population growth and NOBODY except for Pauline is talking about this. He says he agrees with global warming, with putting Australia first and with jobs and housing for people here.

I agree.

However, my solution would be to create or join a more moderate group / party and not to throw support behind such a polarising figure but that is probably all too sensible and that is why we end up with these people in power and people like me being called lefty wankers or words to that affect, a phrase and characterisation that resonates very little with me.

Globalisation and Trading Globally are different.
Capitalism can be moderated by values (it isn’t just capitalism or communism).
Planned population management doesn’t have to mean no immigration and neither does it have to mean we can’t help in a crisis.

Rant over. I’m with Dick, sort of. But not Pauline. I’m not a fan of her way.

PS: If you have the time and inclination I’d suggest listening to Dick Smith on this audio. He talks about educating and supporting women as a means of population control and mentions several really valid policy platforms that I think should be debated more widely.  It is a shame that he looks like he could be reduced to just a sensational headline when really he could be offering much more. Maybe someone has an agenda to belittle him….

 

Resist in your own way but resist all the same.

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The moment you become politically active is the moment that you start seeing things with different eyes.  It has happened to me. The habits, views and actions of friends and fellow countrymen have often left me puzzled, angry even and I have, at times felt isolated in my brave new world. Political activists are rarely societies majority, at least in the beginning.

So how can I remain politically engaged and active without losing my mind, friends and joy?

I was not expecting the book ‘Les Parisiens’ by Anne Sebba to provide me with a light bulb moment on this but thankfully it did!

 

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I’m fascinated by the detail of things, all things and what could be more nuanced and detailed than the lives of the women of Paris during World War Two!  Left to hold the dreams and hopes of the city while their men went to war, left to maintain standards, keep up appearances, laugh, love, create and ultimately resist in a city that many thought was rock-solid in its defences until the Germans arrived. By May 1940, less than a year after the war started and Paris found its self Occupied.

Sebba’s book follows a number of characters, all of which were employing their various coping mechanisms to deal with what must have been a living hell at times- history repeated only much, much worse.  Nobody could have failed to notice whole as whole neighbourhoods were round-up, people were beaten up and a new class of have’s (those with the Germans) and have-nots’ (the general public) were created.

Sebba is careful to remind us not to judge, to read each snippet of a life story with an open mind and with fullness of heart.  I find it easy to empathise with most, whether it be with the young girls who fall in love with their occupiers or with those that keep on dancing and entertaining even though their audience is now almost entirely German. The show must go on!  My empathetic powers become more stretched when it comes to those who helped facilitate the persecution of others, especially the Jews either overtly or through the alliances they forged and information they leaked.  That said I still find myself unable to even imagine, not what I’d do in that situation but what I’d be capable of doing – the capacity of anyone under such stress is surely compromised and hindsight is such a wonderful thing.  I’m not sure that there were many people in Paris during the early 1940’s that knew that good would prevail and even those that did would have surely been feeling ‘but at what cost?’

It was the women of the resistance that really captured my imagination. Women who risked it all to help their country, sometimes in the quietest of ways such as we find with Rose Valland, a museum curator who spent the war cataloguing the fate of artworks stolen by the Nazis. About Noor Khan, a Russian born Indian Princess with a passion for writing children’s fiction, who became a secret agent but was captured and murdered in a concentration camp during the death throes of the war. Jennie Rousseau, an early resister who was able to collect information about German weapon development before being sent to Ravensbrook concentration camp where she continued to resist, staging a protest in the munitions factory where the women were put to work. There are so many stories and so many ways that these women forged a life and found some light in this six years of darkness.

Although I’ve mentioned three of the brave women who captured my imagination it wasn’t their actions that have led me to answer my own question.  Instead it was the space in-between these women that taught me that.  For every woman ‘James Bond’ there would have been hundreds who just kept on queuing up for their rations,  working as best they could, trying to keep their children safe (or missing their children), caring for relatives and the sick,  meeting friends for the 1940’s equivalent of a coffee break, sweeping their floors and keeping the image of fashionable Paris alive.  At first my instinct was to say ‘but why are so many women carrying on as if nothing has happened?’ before I realised the impossibility of all that.  Everything changed for everybody, it’s just that every body has their own way of coping.

Where did I get the idea from that when pressure is applied everyone becomes super-heros?

Why did I hold the belief that those women who didn’t fight were not resisting?

These are my prejudices and mine alone.

Sure there would have been people who took advantage of the situation, played it to suit them and consciously turned a blind eye to the things they felt they couldn’t deal or help with but who am I to judge that?  I wasn’t in their shoes and hope never to be. There is so much detail I’ll never know.

So with that in mind I answer my own question.

How can I remain politically engaged and active without losing my mind, friends and joy?

By just concentrating on what I am doing, can do, want to do, will do and not judging others. Nobody said it was easy…..

Anne Sebba’s book showed me that if the women of Paris can resist in style, their own style then so can I and my style is open-hearted, enthusiastically wild and doggedly independent. What’s more I’ve come to appreciate that my style is no better or worse than anybody else’s.

Each to their own.

Resist in your own way but resist all the same,

Resist being pulled into another’s game

Resist becoming someone that you didn’t choose

Resist changing values in case your side lose

Resist being someone who can’t sleep at night

Resist the temptation to choose wrong over right

Resist turning into another man’s fool

Resist following blindly just ’cause it’s a rule.

Resist in your own way but resist all the same

Resist and be merry

Resist becoming tame.

 

Why can’t the chicken cross the road?

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I happened to hear a little thing on the radio today that disturbed me.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know this fact before, more that today the gravity of the situation really hit home.

I’m not a vegetarian.

The guy in the radio interview had been granted permission and free-reign to explore two egg producing barn environments – one free range and one caged.

The caged egg layers – let’s call them CHICKENS because that’s what they are – were healthy looking with no missing feathers. The chickens inhabiting and laying in the barn were less so with the occasional peck mark, bold patch and sad eyes (I assume). Apparently pecking each other to death is a thing. I say apparently as if that’s news to me too but it isn’t. I’ve seen free-range happy-as-you-like chickens gang up on each other. If they don’t like you, you won’t live.  Chicken justice. Still, it isn’t nice to watch.

But it wasn’t the reality of the barn environment that got to me today.

No.

Today it was the fact that the chickens in the cages, the happy (well, they looked happy – can chickens act?) fully feathered, non peck marked chickens in the cages could not walk.

The chickens can’t cross the road because their legs don’t work.

Their legs don’t work because they don’t walk anywhere.

Their leg muscles have not had a chance to develop.

The reporter and the chicken farmer agreed on the need to produce cheap eggs and that caged chickens were the best way to achieve that thus brushing off, making light of the fact that the chickens can’t walk.

I have one question and one question only following this and it is as follows:

How fucked up are we to live in a world where we accept and require chickens to be put in cages that don’t allow them to move or develop properly because people can’t actually afford eggs produced without cruelty?

Ok I lied I have two questions.

What is wrong with our economy to make that level of cruel in-humanity non-remarkable and necessary?

I know there are lots of things to be worried about with the world right now but seriously, let’s start with the little things and stop doing this.

Because chickens should at least be allowed the dignity to be able to cross the road.

And in a world where obesity is the fastest growing disease surely everybody should be able to afford to eat.

What a cruel world.

 

Lifters and Leaners – A Poem

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We are being run like a company
A crap one at that
Where the staff lose incentive
and bosses get fat
The lifters turn up and clock on and clock out
While the leaners drink coffee
produce spreadsheets and shout:

‘It’s all for your own good
not that you’d understand
unpopular decisions,
Necessary for this land.
I’ll come down and squash you
If you get in our way
You know we’ve got power
and we’ll use it OUR way’

So the lifters, the wage-slaves
self-employed and small biz
Know their place and what happens
when one gets in a tiz
It seems futile to fight them
But fight them we must
Because we don’t do our 8 hours
To fuel greed and mistrust

So I’ll stand up and shout this
I can’t stand this Mike Baird
and his governments culture
paternalistic, self-entitled, un-cared

and before you scream ‘leftie’
Our left’s also unhinged
There’s rot in all corners
Corrupt motives, power binged
So what is the answer?
Don’t know and can’t tell
but if Trump wins the White House
We’re going to hell.

After thinking a minute
I’ve got an idea
We should withdraw our money
THAT feeds the crap here
So go check on your mortgage,
finance, super and banks
Choose those that don’t bullshit
It’s hard but worth the chance.

Question lies
And write letters
Stand up for a fair go
Because they might have our bollocks
but they ‘ain’t got our mojo

The last straw for me was the news I just heard
That our superfund managers get $1m bonuses?
Absurd
Especially when the bonus is fed by a lie
Of environmental protection
While we dig on the side.

I know this ain’t all Baird’s fault
But he’s part of the rot
And if we don’t start questioning
The rot just won’t stop.
The planet’s not an externality
Nature’s value should count
As should fairness and honesty
yes, those ‘family values’ we shout about.

So as we work through this Friday
there’s just one thing to ponder
and that’s what are we valuing
if we support this for much longer?
While I don’t like the Baird man
It’s not a party specific type of rot
It’s an entitled culture
That just has to stop.

Let’s make it stop.