Like many people I think it is really important that COVID-19 is taken seriously. Not being an expert in the subject I won’t make pronouncements about what specific measures governments should be taking, but I hope they are prioritising the advice of doctors and epidemiologists over that of spin doctors and economists. Unfortunately in light of its slow and contradictory response, it is hard to be confident of this.
Having said all of that, can I also ask people to keep their experiences of the pandemic in perspective? It is frightening and its myriad consequences will be far-reaching and hard to predict, but not every consequence of the virus is equally horrifying. The two things I worry most about are obviously the direct (and potentially fatal) impact on the health of millions of people, as well as the financial impact on people in insecure employment areas.
I’m not going to join in the chorus of contempt for those hoarding for the COVID-19 apocalypse. While it certainly causes problems and doesn’t show a lot of rationality, should we really hate people for their stupidity?
Yes Australians are easily scared and when they are scared they can act stupidly. That was demonstrated very clearly at the last federal election so this shouldn’t come as a surprise. I don’t know what else to tell you. It makes me angry too, but I have to remember no one sets out to be deliberately selfish or stupid. Moreover, in our embrace of neoliberalism and trickledown economics, this country often lionises greed. It seems odd for a PM who uses ‘socialism’ as a derogatory term to suddenly ask people to show a socialist attitude towards their groceries.
So before we rant and publicly shame these people for their ‘unAustralian behaviour,’ and lack of empathy for others, perhaps we owe them some empathy ourselves. I’m sure most people know what fear and stress feel like to some degree, but not everyone experiences these emotions in the same way.
My thoughts around Betina Arndt are surprisingly mixed.
Don’t get me wrong- I hold those who defend child molesters in complete contempt. I just wasn’t sure what the best way to respond to the Australia Day Council’s decision to seemingly elevate one of them instead.
Much like it’s poorly chosen date, the ‘honours’ awarded on Australia Day have become a divisive phenomenon in themselves. I asked a few years ago, who would actually want to be named Australian of the Year in light of the deluge of negativity recent recipients have received? So I’m a little reticent about being the one criticising a recipient this time around. Yet I am.
I also have some reservations about giving greater notoriety and exposure to someone who obviously courts it. I didn’t really know who Betina Arndt was until last week. I vaguely recognised the name from some sensationalist headlines of common conservative talking points in the Murdoch trash and had concluded I didn’t actually want to read anything she had written. The likely result of this furore is that Ms Arndt will be more loathed by many but will also have gained a greater loyalty from the most blinkered and morally flexible corners of the MRA movement, who will forgive anything of someone who attacks feminists.
I have no respect for Scott Morrison and his lack of action or leadership in the face of a national emergency is indefensible. However he is not single-handedly responsible for bringing on these catastrophic bushfires.
I need to stress that because it didn’t take long for the political sparks to start to fly once these fires took hold. It is said that truth is the first casualty of war and it was a similar story here. There have been some ridiculous claims made that would be laughable if the matter weren’t so serious. I was initially reluctant to write about the fires whilst people’s lives were still at risk but eventually decided actually we need to talk about them whilst the reality of their devastation is obvious to everyone. And with the maelstrom of spin, exaggeration and outright lies being thrown around right now- with due respect and genuine sorrow for all those whose lives were lost- I thought it important to put a few things in context.
To begin with, if you’re going to tell me climate change isn’t proven and that we have always had bushfires, stop there. If you believe that you know more than the global scientific community, then your peer group is made up of anti-vaccers and flat-Earthers. You should stick to chatting with them because I’m not writing this for you.
Is now the right time to talk about this?
Even beyond the crazed ramblings of Barnaby Joyce, there has been a lot said about the catastrophic bushfires that continue to ravage this country.
Borrowing from the NRA’s playbook of deflecting responsibility from the tragedies of gun violence, climate deniers are already arguing that apportioning responsibility is largely irrelevant right now because we need to focus on what needs to be done now (which would be a better argument if SmoKo actually looked like showing any leadership or initiative instead of asking us to ignore the devastation and enjoy the cricket).
And even though most of the same people making these arguments take approximately two minutes between hearing about a terrorist attack and tweeting something that attempts to link the tragedy to their xenophobic worldview, I still do take this question seriously.
Like many people I reflected on an amazing year as 2019 came to close. And at a personal level it truly had been a wonderful year full of incredible highlights, even if it also involved a fair bit of hard work.
But given the bushfire emergency gripping our country, it felt gauche, almost tone-deaf to be sharing my usual post of celebration and gratitude. At the same time that I reflected on everything fantastic that had happened for me and my little family this year, people were scared for their lives as fires raced closer. This made me pause and wonder if it was really necessary to share.
The first question I had to ask is whether 2019 was truly a year to be celebrating?
So like most memes, “Okay Boomer,” got quickly overused.
I get that many of the older generation occupy leadership positions now and are doing little or actively obstructing sensible reforms around important issues such as climate change and I get that many younger people are particularly frustrated by this. But I don’t entirely accept the premise that age or generation explains such behaviour.
People (and I use that term generously) like Scott Morrison, Angus Taylor and Peter Dutton don’t lie about climate change, the economy and refugees because they are Baby Boomers. They do it because they are corrupt and have no sense of responsibility for the future of their country. Let’s not use their generation as an excuse for being truly awful people. Some of the most compassionate, intelligent and progressive people I know are Baby Boomers. And many of the pettiest trolls I know are millennials.
I’m not being facetious when I tell you I failed a test of my character recently. As I’m of Anglosaxon descent I don’t expect Borderforce to try to deport me so I’m happy to share the story here.
It happened playing sport. After a few years of supposed retirement I’ve returned to playing soccer this year. I’m actually loving being back into it. Much as I enjoy the challenge of pushing myself physically and mentally through running and triathlon, team sport provides a different outlet.
I don’t usually give myself a hard time about losing games or making mistakes, but I was reflecting on a recent game and I realised that although on many levels I had played a good game, at another level I was pretty disappointed in myself.
I’ll elaborate. It was game that we won comfortably. I felt I had done my job pretty well and even scored a goal, which is rare for me. But where I failed was something that I thought of as a whole lot more important than the result of a social game of sport.
If you worry about climate change but you disagree with Extinction Rebellion or Student Climate Strike protesters I can to some extent understand your dilemma.
If you feel the disruption it causes creates fodder for the Murdoch Press and other corrupt mouthpieces of the resource industry (such as the Liberal Party) to shift the argument away from the issues and pretend they’re not paid science-denying traitors, I can see the logic in that argument. Certainly in recent weeks, even as series of climate science reports have confirmed the urgency of our impending crisis increases and a global movement calling for change has shown , our corporate media has run endless articles and discussion on why students should stay in school, how much disruption (don’t forget the faked photo of rubbish supposedly left after one such rally) these actions cause and whether any protester who isn’t vegan is a hypocrite (spoiler alert: they’re not this is a pithy and disingenuous way of ignoring the message that is only used by idiots or people appealing to idiots).
But personally I’m not persuaded that this is good enough argument against direct protest action. After all, corporate media is always going to do this, regardless of how much material they have.
I know I'm not meant to say that. Obviously if I want to engage with and understand people with different opinions, then writing this goes against my purpose. But I would feel disingenuous if I didn't admit it. And it wouldn't hurt some people to hear it either.
The wide variety of reaction to Ellen Degeneres' friendship with George Bush showed we are hardly all on the same page in relation to how much tolerance we should have for the behaviour of our friends, I thought it was important to be open about how I look at those who disagree with me.
I’m not sure if it just me that has changed or the nature of politics under our failing democratic systems. I wrote a few years back that you can hold whatever opinion you like, but if your actions don’t negatively affect other people, I don’t really mind.
I don’t think like that anymore though.
So I haven’t written much recently.
This has certainly not been due to having less to say. There are currently more ideas for articles that I want to write floating around in my brain than I can keep track of.
And whilst life has been particularly busy over the last few months and it would be convenient to attribute my lack of productivity to external factors and describe it as out of my control; this would not be entirely accurate. If I wanted to make time to write more I easily could have, without significantly impacting any other important aspect of my life.
But I’ve actually made a deliberate decision to spend more time being non-productive.
So two weeks ago we had a bit of a cold snap. It didn’t come as a surprise either. Actually it was so widely and breathlessly predicted by the media you might have thought we were about to witness an apocalyptic climate event from a Hollywood movie.
There was a lot of rain forecast but I really wanted to get a run in with my friend, Naomi. I hadn’t managed much running since my last race so I was really keen to shake out for a longish run, plus Naomi is always brilliant company to run with (she is also far too photogenic for my liking, so I always look very average next to her, but that is forgivable).
Still as the weekend got closer the forecasts continued to get worse and worse.
I must have flirted with the idea of a raincheck more seriously than conservative politicians flirt with Neo-Nazis, but I just kept coming back to the fact that I’ve run in the rain before and once I get started it is often barely noticeable.
Down, down, ethics are down.
However you spin it, you can’t expect to be taken seriously when you claim to be phasing out single use plastic bags because you care about the environment and then bring back crappy plastic collectibles as a gimmicky marketing ploy. Admittedly little in recent memory suggests the company really wants to be taken seriously (who do they pay for their advertising campaigns?) as long as they get your money. But even by their standards, the hypocrisy is striking.
This is 2019! Microplastics are already estimated to be contaminating the human food chain in multiples forms and by some estimates, the Pacific Trash Vortex could be larger than this country! As the acknowledged global problems of plastic pollution and species extinction intensify, this type of tone-deaf cash grab shows exactly how little his giant company cares for the environment.
There is obviously much to be thankful for in life, but I have to admit there are a few things that we should be quite concerned about too. The ongoing rate of species extinction has accelerated alarmingly recently, while climate change continues largely unabated as parts of the Northern Hemisphere burn with record temperatures. The United States (a somewhat ironic name given its own dysfunctional internal politics) appears to be trying to conjure an excuse for a war with Iran and our useless Prime Minister has signalled his support (no doubt emboldened by the fact that the proven lies about WMD in Iraq have done little to damage John Howard). Meanwhile record wage stagnation after six years of Coalition government has Australia steaming towards a painful recession.
If you hadn’t been too worried about much of that recently, I don’t actually don’t blame you… because you probably barely heard about it. Unfortunately it seems there is simply no time for news outlets to report and analyse these types of issues when they have to cover every utterance of one self-entitled rugby player (well former rugby player now) and every rumour about the British Royal Family.
The last time I tried yoga, Australian PM’s served full terms and its voters cared about climate change. So when Amy invited me to come along to the first Lululemon winter yoga session I could hardly refuse, but I was a little nervous.
A little unsure of what to expect- would I be melting like the polar icecaps or as loose as Prince Phillip’s driving- I rocked up to the newly reopened Mana Movement Studio on Murray Street with about three different sets of clothes- one for every eventuality (except I didn’t think to bring a mat- but thankfully was able to pick one up at the studio).
I like lazy takeaway as much as the next person. Well, actually I prefer a simple meal at home, but I do sometimes enjoy lazy takeaways, especially late in the week.
Where I certainly don't use lazy takeaways is for interpreting election results.
After the six year shit-show of heartless incompetence and cronyism, it is understandable that many people would be disappointed to see Rupert Murdoch and Gina Reinhart retain power through their puppets in the Liberal Party for another three years. Add in the widely reported media narrative that Labor would win and the result was doubly painful.
And it truly was a bad result for our country and an indictment on our voters.
But when you’re upset is not usually when we do our best analyses, nor when we are gloating insufferably (quick note to all the Liberal supporters I know, the fact that the Coalition were re-elected does nothing to make me respect you more) and while I sympathise with the anger and concerns many have for the future, I couldn’t really go along with some of the popular narratives used to describe the admittedly disastrous result for our country.
There is a slightly painful irony to Australians joking about Trump voters.
Australians generally don't show a great amount of interest for in depth analysis of national politics (thanks in part to the appalling and partisan coverage of commercial media networks), let alone international politics. But even so, most Australians seem at least peripherally aware of the colossal and ongoing train-wreck that is the Trump Presidency.
I noted a few months back that the number of Australian commentators willing to stick their necks out in support of Donald Trump had quietly diminished over the previous twelve months of demonstrable incompetence and dishonesty. Now Australians of many political persuasions (except perhaps One Notion voters who would probably vote for him if they could) sneer at President Trump and the voters who still support him, even as he dismantles their country for the benefit of the ultra-rich.
This reaction might seem perfectly reasonable to most people, but it actually really pisses me off.
Okay it's a bad pun but that is kind of fitting. In my view, everything to do with Fraser Anning being hit with an egg was bad.
I’ve already written one post about Anning tonight and I so even the fact that I am writing about that lowlife again frustrates me, but so does everything about this episode.
How there are still people that want to hear the senator speak at an event is another slightly depressing aspect of this whole saga, but regardless of my disdain for the senator, I didn’t like anything about this story.
As someone who lives on this planet and a father who hopes my child lives on it long after me, I couldn’t not find the tens of thousands of Australian students who walked out of school as part of international protests over inaction on climate change powerfully uplifting. With everyone from the Reserve Bank to our intelligence agencies to the scientific community delivering blunt warnings of the threat posed by climate change, the Abbot/Turnbull/Morrison government’s refusal to stand up to their donors/owners in the coal industry is as self-servingly treasonous as David Cameron’s actions around the Brexit referendum.
I have a particular contempt for those who seek to demonise vulnerable minorities for their own gain. It must take a singular level of conceit and lack of empathy.
With characters like Hanson, Palmer, Dutton and Katter already inhabiting the Australian political … this particular niche is getting pretty crowded, but the rising (or perhaps sinking) frontrunner in this moral race to the bottom could be Fraser Anning.
I’ve been reluctant to write much about his deliberately provocative exploits in the past because I didn’t want to give him any kind of publicity, but after his illogical and appalling response to the Christchurch attack, we are past that. Anyone still supporting him is not going to be swayed by anything I say- even if I stick to mono-syllabic words.
So how do we judge his supporters?