Sunday, 9 March 2014

Kevin Price: Gina Rinehart and Australia's debt - or is it?

Kevin Price: Gina Rinehart and Australia's debt - or is it?

An excellent response to the nonsense continually spouted, in the name of self interest, by the richest and the most powerful. In this case, Australia's richest person, and one of the world's richest people, who believes she is entitled to tax revenue but taxpayers are greedy, selfish and lazy and deserve nothing. Gina, eat cake. 

Friday, 22 March 2013

She Was A Six Year Old Victim

'Was it in any way your fault?'

'You weren’t provocative?' 

'My god they were having a good time with you.'

These are words spoken by John Laws on his radio programme when a woman phoned in to say she had been sexually abused by male relatives when she was six years old. To call him a dinosaur, he is 77, is to insult dinosaurs. To call him ignorant when there is so much information available about this type of assault of a child is ludicrous. Therefore, he must be one or all of the following: malicious; stupid; salacious; so self-centered he can think of nothing but 'his' ratings and/or his pleasure. The first question I asked when I heard/read about all of this, because I do not listen to him and would not even if he was on in the State of Victoria, was: Is he a child molester?' I cannot imagine an adult, any adult, asking these questions, especially of the victim, otherwise. Let it be known, I have no knowledge of whether he is or isn't. 
Later, the woman was asked if she was upset by Laws' questions and she apparently said no. I'd like to say that this is not unusual. Victims can be so defensive about being victimised that they will deny they were when they clearly are. This is partly habit developed from the initial abuse but also a form of protection and a way not to acknowledge vulnerability. I cannot know if any of these are the case for this woman because I do not know her. I do, however, know what it is to be a victim of sexual abuse by a male family member and it was not only but also at 6 years of age. I know I have often claimed not to be a victim of something someone has said or done to me as an adult but it was more about protecting me and attempting to project an image of toughness and capability which I did not feel. In the land of a victim's psychology, this protects somewhat from those who might target you just because you are a victim. 
There was and is no sensible reason for John Laws to ask these questions of the victim, and apparently she was quite upset by the victimisation she experienced as a child. He was apparently insensitive to her distress or just did not care. I'm inclined to think the latter. It would fit my perceptions of him. He is an arrogant, self-centred man who thinks the sun shines from his own arse and believes he has golden tonsils not just in resonance but in utterance. He uses a gold microphone, real gold, for fuck sake. I find that pathetic but that's a different issue to what I'm addressing here.
He is yet another ugly face of what is/was and fast becoming the stale 'white bread' of middle-class male  privilege. Many, many of these men when called out or exposed as the anachronism they have become loudly scream the words 'bullies' and 'terrorists' especially at the Fifth Estate and social media in general. They are not used to being challenged let alone ridiculed as they so deserve. 
'Are you unattractive?'
I don't know the context of why Laws asked this question but I deplore it and him for uttering it. What relevance does her outward appearance have to anything, then or now? None. If it demonstrates unattractiveness it is of Laws himself, and of his character. 
Laws deserves lambasting, and he deserves some form of sanction whether from his radio producers, his sponsors, by those involved in the mental health and recovery of victims of childhood sexual assault, all victims and by the general public at large. He deserves it from all those sources, in fact. In this day and age, it is unforgivable for someone in John Laws privileged position to spout such vile words at all, let alone directly at a victim. 
His comment, 'My god they were having a good time with you,' is the most despicable of all. No doubt, they were having a good time, sick and perverted as it was, but it can be said, unequivocally, the victim was not and has had to deal with the consequences of their 'good time' her entire life. That he has been  defensive about this is more evidence of the low character of the man.
I am both disgusted and furious that this happened and the very least John Laws could do would be to sincerely apologise to the woman, and any other victim who heard or learned of his comments and were injured by them. Not a Clayton's apology, 'If she is upset blah blah blah' but a genuine, heartfelt apology. After all, no-one is too old to learn something new. It's time for Laws to learn this. 

The Apology that Disappeared

Something important happened on Thursday, 21st March, 2013. No, I'm not talking about the leadership challenge that wasn't really a challenge because there were no opposers to any position. I'm talking about the Apology for Forced Adoptions. Read the Transcript to see what warm and necessary words make up the Apology which the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, gave. It was an overdue, necessary and beautiful Apology. Taking children from mothers for no more reason than they were young and single was a dreadful thing to do not only to the mothers but to the children who had every right and need to know their real mothers.

I do not blame the adopting parents. In almost all of the majority of cases, they were ideal parents. It surprises me how many I know, both in my family and among friends and past work colleagues. They love their children and have done everything they can to raise them well. They think of them as their own. They are. Some, especially in times gone by, did not tell their children they were adopted. Most of those children found out anyway and they resented the secrecy. Most know and have adjusted to the fact, choosing whether to seek out the mothers who were forced to 'give' them up and often developing a relationship which endures.

Forced adoption was a moral and sexist panic. Rarely was/is mention made of the fathers. Some did not know about their children; too many did not want to know; and some parented to more than one girl and didn't care one way or the other. Blame always fell on the girl and so, too, did the punishment. She was shunned, hidden, labelled and then had her baby, often literally, ripped from her arms; too many never got their baby into their arms even once. I cannot begin to imagine the pain and the lifelong suffering of all these women.

Some girls, couples were forced to marry. This happened to one of my sisters. Her belly was swollen with her child as she stood before the priest with her soon-to-be husband. They married at a Catholic church, the faith they both followed. Note I said 'at' not 'in'. Because she was pregnant, my sister, not they the couple, was pregnant, she was not permitted to marry inside the church in front of the altar. They were married standing at the door of the sacristy with all their families and friends standing outside behind them. People passing in the street 'knew' by seeing it. Shaming of all complete.

This happened to many, many couples, including a sister-in-law who I meet many years later.

Mostly, girls were sent away, supposedly to stay with relatives, often interstate, to institutions, before the pregnancy showed, usually run by one church or the other, and this is where the birth occurred and then the ripping away of the child before the mother even saw what sex it was. Of course, people knew when a girl disappeared that she must be pregnant. I'm sure there was the occasional girl who went to help an ailing relative or one with a clutch of young who, upon return, was labelled and targeted as a 'fallen woman' with 'ruined' prospects.

Girls known to have been pregnant were considered both fallen and ruined. None of these or like labels were ever applied to the fathers, boy or man. After all, males just do what comes naturally - apparently. Doesn't say much for males in general if natural is to father a child willynilly and then just move on, does it. Why do males put up with this type of belief? To say it is because they can get away with things might apply to individuals but as a collective, a maturing, one would hope, collective, it is difficult to fathom why men accept these childish and irresponsible images.

However, let it be said there were boys/men who stepped up to the plate, accepted their responsibility, embraced the 'accident' and not only did but wanted to be involved, to keep the child, to marry the mother, and who were not 'allowed' by one side or the other. These fathers were also denied and suffered.

There was a real injury done to these mothers and fathers and the National Apology was a step to demonstrate recognition and care for what they experienced. It is a shocking fail by all of us if we do not now step up and demand that more is done to show the Apology and to discuss the Apology and to show we too, in a societal maturity, both recognise and welcome the Apology that has since been completely lost in the shadow of the other thing that happened on 21st March, 2013 and which is most likely going to be discussed and examined to death for many days yet.

If no-one else does it, the ABC should do it with a complete re-broadcast of the live Apology and all and any follow-up discussions and examinations which would have occurred had the leadershit thingy not come to a head on the same day.  

From White Ants to Soldier Ants

If Labor is to defeat an Abbott-led Coalition in the next election, it is up to Labor. It is up to them to forget the Murdoch press and the many forces lined up to knock them down. There is little to nothing that can be done about them, especially at this late stage. There are two things Labor need to do, and two things only.

The first is to speak directly to the Australian people, in whatever way they can. In this they must mostly forget about the Coalition, forget about Tony Abbott, forget about the negativity. It is obvious in its obviousness. Trying to confront it head-on hasn't worked, it won't work now. Leave it until it is the election campaign proper - if it is necessary. Even then, the story, the narrative Labor needs is the many, many positives it has achieved, is achieving and continues to plan to achieve if re-elected. The focus needs to be on Australia's position in the world, speak of it with pride, it should be spoken of with pride. The rest of the OECD world admires us, is even in awe of us. Yes, we have luck on our side. The tyranny of distance is less so, and will continue to be less so as we move further into the Asian Century. The hardship of our land is also our advantage and we have proven capable, willing and able to utilise it. If we continue to do so in a manner which enhances the environment as well as the coffers, the better we will do in the long run.

It is vital to dismiss the negativity and silliness of the Opposition and the mania of the mainstream press, especially News Ltd. The likelihood is it will get worse the nearer the election draws, not less. To engage it is to fuel it and to steal the energy of the many, many positives of this Labor Government and, therefore, of this great country. If the order of the day is to refuse to engage on the negativity and silliness, it will have far less fuel.

As Paul Wiggins reminded me recently, Gandhi said 'First they ignore you, then they mock you, then they fight you, then you win.'

The second is to remain cohesive. The spill happened. It was predictable to most that it's outcome would be what it was, despite the frenzy surrounding it and the hopefulness of some. It is time for the speculation and the fear within the Caucus to now stop completely. Great harm has happened because of the whiteanting, the rumours, the leaks. More harm has been done by these things than the negativity or the media because it has created and allowed the environment in which both those things could take a strong hold and grow, like a virus without an obvious cure.

No-one in the Caucus has to 'like' Gillard, but to not get behind her for the sake of the Government, the Party and the people you supposedly represent, is appalling and marks you as being unworthy of public office. Pull yourselves together, pull your heads in if necessary and turn your focus to the positive, capable narrative of this Government and the achievements already made and the many capabilities of the future.

And accept there is no-one, no matter whatever else they might think or feel, or say who can deny Julia Gillard is one hell of a negotiator and has and continues to grow as a Leader and a Prime Minister. Honour that, and honour your electorates and your country by pulling it together and selling the positives despite this environment of negativity. Give it, the negativity, no more fuel. Steal it of your oxygen, focus, attention. Like a brat throwing a tantrum, it only works if attended to. Tony Abbott and his cohort are very much a brat throwing a tantrum and trouble arises because everyone attends it; not unlike some of the reality shows currently on air. Hardly a way to govern or demonstrate worthiness of government.

If you hand the Government to Tony Abbott and his cohort, you are effectively turning your personal issues loose on the Australian people. Australia does not deserve that.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

To Judge a Man who would be Prime Minister

Liz Hayes interviewed Tony Abbott for 60 Minutes. The piece is almost 16 minutes duration. The style, expectedly, is magazine style with opening shots of Abbott surfing. We also get to see him barbecuing steaks, dressing a salad, engaging with family: his wife, daughters, sister and partner. All women. He is a man surrounded by women. Even the sister, Christine Forster, included in the piece has a partner who is a woman. They all had parts to play and they played them well - other than one moment but more of that later.
The questions were far from incisive nor expository. They were particular, about Abbott's attitude to women, but they did not once come close to putting him on the spot or reveal anything important either about the man's views or his policy position. They did what they were designed to do: meet an agenda but one strictly limited, specific and on a tight rein.

As with most things Tony Abbott, I'm far more interested in the body language than I am in the words. his words, by his own reckoning never mind the evidence, are unreliable. He obfuscates, panders, pronounces, wheedles, stammers, denies, denies denying, laughs, derides, and by his own admission lies. And he has degrees of lies - lying to the ABC apparently is not the same as lying to the Parliament - however, what no-one bothered to question further was he was admitting lying to Parliament. To the incessant liar, the one real sin in lying is not what, nor to whom, nor why, it is in being caught and called to account.

The words in this piece were virtually inconsequential. I was interested to hear from his lesbian sister, Forster, and her partner. Abbott said he was now/had been 'convinced' on homosexuality, whatever that exactly means, but  his general and specific attitude within the political/public sphere belays no fear that his tolerance extends to nor the broad ramifications for so many people on the national scale. Family love, loyalty and tolerance is one thing, it is not a demonstration of policy attitude or of embracing difference in the very community which you aspire to lead, a community as broad as it is young, fair as it is free and one which is position-ally secular from a governance/legal perspective.

It was his Forster who said her brother’s views to gay marriage might shift in the future. Tony Abbott did not say or hint in that direction as I heard said in today’s media. Even if he did, without a follow up in the public sphere, it is nothing more than calming rhetoric within his family sphere.

 Both Forster and her partner seemed uncomfortable to me, but Forster appeared more intent and willing to the expected requirements. As a mayoral hopeful in the last Sydney mayoral election, she is also more practised. Love can, and apparently does, transcend this difference; I'm not going to speculate on possible motivations. Forster did grow up in the same environment as her brother, and no doubt has a deeper understanding and acceptance of his views. No doubt some of you will have read essays on Abbott and the family ethos where he was concerned. Plus, she is his 'baby' sister. One wonders how it would be for him if one of his daughters announced she, too, was gay.

Forster’s partner was even more uncomfortable, but that's not a reflection one way or the other on what she truly thinks or feels about Tony Abbott because it could have been no more than being placed in the spotlight. And, of course, being with the 'in-laws' and an natural desire of wanting to fit in and be accepted, i.e. acceptable.  One thing is indisputable, however, both she and Forster were far more comfortable in the spotlight at Mardis Gras than they were at the family table.

 Body language accounts for the majority of communication, approx 85-90%. That doesn't leave much room for the words, but even then there is a larger component than the words, the tone in which they are said. Basically, tone incorporates the 'major' categories of emotion, e.g. love, anger, happiness, disgust, surprise, fear etc and account for approximately 5-7%. That leaves a minuscule 3% to the words.

Mostly, we listen intently to the words spoken, and are frequently consciously aware of tone, especially if it is strong, without even realising how much we rely on body language, i.e. the visual cues. I'm no different. However, when it comes to Tony Abbott facing 'scrutiny' I focus consciously on body language. Now, I'm not an expert in that I've studied the field in depth. But, like the rest of us, I am an expert in practice just because I've had many years of interacting with others plus the added bonus of trusting my 'instincts' when it comes to reading people - that's how I survived a very difficult childhood. That said, like others, I sometimes fail to listen to my instincts, but not when it matters.

The Sixty Minutes segment was not scrutiny. It was not political expose, but then, it wasn't designed to be. It was to question his sexism and homophobia. Or lack of. Or change from? Has he been unfairly labelled as his supporters claim? Is he a victim of a hate campaign? Is he a man who has learned, grown, changed? Is he merely misunderstood? None of these questions were answered in fact, leaving viewers to still wonder or, more likely, to feel more convinced of whatever their position was before the piece.

Fifteen minutes plus is not 4Corners or the like. It's not a David Marr essay. It is not a Susan Mitchell polemic It is not a one-on-one analysis. And it contained no tough questions. And, when presented in magazine style format, with few questions, much chatter and giggling around him, and domestic or surfing scenes, is little more than a puff piece.

So, there remains little to be learned from that piece other than what we knew. Tony Abbott is a man surrounded in his home life by women and they are all ready, and it seems willing, to support him. So, if that is a basis for his suitability to lead 22+ million people, Australia is riddled with suitable prime ministers. It means little if anything on the political stage in Australia. Unlike so many countries, USA for example, we are not all that interested, beyond perhaps the peripheral, in a politician's home life. Nor should we be. If there is crime happening, abuse for instance, that is a different matter entirely. The everyday nitty gritty, ups and downs, loves and loyalty of a politician's family is irrelevant.

Tony Abbott has a family, a home life,  no doubt with the same inherent problems we all have, and the pluses and joys we (hope) we all have. Open, shut. Irrelevant.

The family and Abbott in a staged domestic scene were on display. I'd like to add 'and open to scrutiny' but as there were very few real questions, and nothing of deep analysis or investigation of either man or family, there is little to be taken away from watching it. I am no less convinced than I was that he is a man who will do or say anything, hurt and use anyone, to achieve his goals. What I saw was a family put on display, acting their assigned parts, and now and then giving away pertinent insights through body language.

Abbott, as usual, was shaking his head no when he said yes but that's no more than default position. He leaned in close to Liz Hayes when he wanted her to believe him and not question further, and he looked intense when he commented on things he didn't 'necessarily' want asked. At one stage, just briefly, he looked furious and vengeful at a question he then laughed at, in that defensive manner he has, but it was not at Liz Hayes, it was at someone else outside the primary context of the show and who did, or no doubt will, pay for whatever indiscretion they are guilty of. 

As an aside, it is interesting to compare that lean in 'intimate' position he sometimes uses compared to the ramrod straight look down the nose position he also uses. Meeting other leaders, dignitaries, etc is a time worth watching Tony Abbott to gauge body language. He moves in close then, too, but it's nothing to do with intimacy, nor sharing, nor confidence.

The penultimate moments of the show talk about hair product, and one daughter saying (blurting out) he uses moisturiser. The look of shock on Forster's face is what you might expect from a sister who didn't know her brother used face cream, but the look she then gave her niece for spilling that particular bean demonstrated the exact agenda of what the piece was about: the so-called gentle, reformed and 'real' Tony Abbott.

A man, surrounded by women, who appoints no more than two women to his own shadow front bench yet is frequently seen surrounded in the public sphere by them, and oft with sycophantic expressions, proves little of good or worth about any man. At the very least, it speaks to insecurity and persuasion - a 'look at me, I'm a good man' and 'women like and support me' plea. Or, at worst, it speaks of a man who has 'persuaded' a following of woman in the style of a guru or cult leader.

As we near the election countdown proper, men and women who are Liberal/National voters will rally round and I both expect and understand that. They will do this despite Tony Abbott and what they think or know or suspect of him. Some, of course, will not vote for him, finding it untenable. This does not mean they will automatically vote Labor, although some might. However, I do not see many being swayed nor convinced by last night's expose to vote for the Liberals/Nationals.

If there had been an equal, or almost equal spattering of men, family men, close friends of the other family members, the piece might have seemed more natural. The two surfers on the beach, friends supposedly of Tony Abbott's, was hardly convincing of anything, except the possibility that they agree with him because they think the same way and, therefore, cannot see anything wrong with him.

Obviously, I have my bias and I am very much against Tony Abbott. One of the comments he made last night was that he must be judged by 'what the considered view today is' (of him). In other words, he advised us to judge him by what his supporters say not by what he himself either says or does. That, in my opinion, far from qualifies him from being a man of substance, let alone a man suitable to become Prime Minister.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Land of Giants and Aladdin's Cave

Hmm. I struggle with the answer to what is my favourite book. I always do when anyone asks me what is my favourite …? And I’ve attempted to write this article several times. In the end, I’ve decided I have to par it down, and down, and down. As I can’t include all the books I would like to, I’ll choose some books randomly and give some reasons what they mean to me.
Books which informed my social conscience are Black Like Me (John Howard Griffen), Cry My Beloved Country (Alan Paton), Cry Freedom (Donald Woods) and includes Charles Dickens’ novels, especially A Tale of Two Cities and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. There are many more but these are significant to me.
Books which gave me an interest in psychology include The Caine Mutiny (Herman Wouk), I cannot read it now due to his homophobia, Don Quixote (Miguel De Cervantes), Lord of the Flies (William Golding) and the play script Equus (Peter Shaffer).
Genre books I love include psychological thrillers such as written by Val McDermid, especially her Wire in the Blood books; fantasy includes books by Sara Douglass, especially her Axis trilogy, Terry Brooks especially his Shannara series and Knight of the Word trilogy and, so far, everything I’ve read by Robin Hobb.
Science fiction includes I, Robot, a collection of short stories by Isaac Asimov and the books and short stories by Ray Bradbury and Anne McCaffrey, and the Lensmen series by EE Doc Smith – the latter were written in the 1920s and 30s so the social mores are quaint to say the least.
Autobiography includes Ruth Park’s Fence Around the Cuckoo and Fishing in the Styx; Alan Marshall’s I Can Jump Puddles, This is the Grass, In My Own Heart; and Albert Facey’s A Fortunate Life.
Some other books which have given me much and fired my imagination are A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by Shakespeare, Rebecca by Daphe Du Maurier, The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo, The 39 Steps by John Buchan and Margaret Attwood’s The Blind Assassin. By no means the definitive list, just the first taxis off the rank of instant memory grab – which is probably the best way to go.
Philosophy and ethics include the ethicist Peter Singer and Raimond Gaita – these two are often aligned and just as often opposed, yet always calmly which is refreshing. I read many books on social issues and ethics and some on politics. I enjoy reading most of the philosophers from Kant to (Iris) Murdoch to Hughes to Plato and Socrates.
A few of my favourite Australian books include The Shiralee by Darcy Niland; A Poor Man’s Orange and The Harp in the South by Ruth Park; Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey; My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin and the Woody Creek books by Joy Dettman. One book I adore for its language and the visual tapestry it creates is The Alphabet of Light and Dark by Danielle Wood. I especially love my copy because my youngest son spent ages tracking it down to give it to me for Christmas some years back.
I’ve been reading some of the other articles on the subject Favourite Book (at Most of the writers can’t choose either and list books I’d like to list as well. Perhaps, instead, I’ll tell you about the first book I ever read Little Gray Donkey by Enid Blyton. It set me off on what has been a reading frenzy ever since.
I grew frustrated at never having enough willing people to read to me. I knew every word of this book by heart and it was the only thing I wanted the ‘giants’ I lived with to read to me. I bored them silly with it, but in fairness it wasn’t a very long book. However, most of the giants were in their teens and didn’t have much time for a four year old. They tried to skip words, paragraphs even pages. Of course, they couldn’t get away with it and I’d insist they go back and read it properly. Hmm, I hadn’t realised what a little martinet I was, but I suppose most four year olds are – aren’t they?
One dark night, Mum was working over steaming pots getting dinner ready for the table, and the giants had claimed homework as an excuse not to read to me. I pestered Mum but, feeling harried, she got ‘steamed’ and said, ‘Read it yourself.’
‘But I can’t read,’ I said.
‘You know every word in that book. Point to them and you’ll be reading it yourself.’
Well, that was an idea. I sat nearby, my back up against a kitchen cupboard and started pointing to the words. It was working. I was reading. Well, I was pointing to the appropriate word and saying it, with just a bit of intermittent help from Mum. I didn’t have a good relationship with my mother, but this was a gift she gave me I’ll always be grateful for.
I’ve been reading non-stop ever since but I had limited access to books in childhood so spent quite a bit of time with my nose in a dictionary, an encyclopaedic dictionary and an encyclopaedia, and my father’s art and poetry books, unless he was in a grumpy mood. When no-one was looking, which was reasonably often since I was surrounded by giants and they lived up there somewhere, I spirited away whatever anyone else was reading and pored through it. This meant I didn’t always get to finish but I did get to read something and I’m sure not finishing actually helped my own imagination for writing.
Aladdin’s Cave came to my little home town when I was 14 in the form of a bus, a bus filled with books. And I was old enough to choose any book I wanted. No single shelf like at school. No gender demarcation like at school. No forbidden access to older grade books like at school. No sneaking a book to a corner when the giants weren’t looking. Complete access. Four books at a time! And I could read them from first word to last.
Whatever the weather, every Tuesday night I set out for the walk from my bush nestled home, up to the main road and along the dust track beside it into the village. Then, climb the steps of the bus, grin at the driver and pass into the treasure trove of beckoning titles. I spent several hours reading, viewing and selecting the magic I would take home. Next, check them out, and carry them home wishing it was daylight so I could read while I walked.
My heart beat echoed against the warm covers of the books I carried tight to my chest, knowing I was now part of the land of giants and, from that lofty height, I could fly – anywhere.

This was first published on 14/10/11 on my writing blog Hannah Quinn's Write Stuff at

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Her Name was Reeva Steenkamp

by Hannah Quinn
 February 15, 2013

Reeva Steenkamp is dead. She was shot in the head and arm, by her boyfriend on Valentine’s Day, 2013.The news of her alleged murder has been all over the newspapers and television broadcasts around the world.
Yet, the news has little to do with Reeva herself.
I know very little about Reeva Steenkamp. Before her alleged murder, I had never heard of her. Since her alleged murder I have learned that, apparently, she tweeted about sharing the love on Valentine’s Day with her boyfriend. I learned that she was a model. A blonde. Beautiful. I have seen several pictures of her, some in a bikini, like the one on the front of The Sun in England. Going by their headline and focus, you could mistake the background of a beautiful woman in a bikini as being unrelated.
That would be bad enough. Dreadful, in fact. However, that woman is Reeva Steenkamp.  The Sun didn’t even include her name.
The story, it seems, is only about the alleged murderer, his achievements and our shock over what ‘has happened.’
The news coverage, and perhaps the zeitgeist, is about how we so very much admired this young man just a few short months ago. Yes, we did. I did. However, that is not my focus. I am not surprised nor shocked that an achieving man, overcoming physical obstacles to achieve what many without such cannot even hope to achieve, would/could then go on and commit a heinous act. It is an old story. Courage, determination, ability, achievement do not automatically denote good character and/or ethical fortitude.
He did, allegedly, commit a heinous act. He apparently murdered another human being. Not a stranger. Not defending anyone. A woman who loved him.
So, this is the story of a woman allegedly murdered by the man she loved. Her name was Reeva Steenkamp.  Why are we only seeing and hearing and reading repetitions of his story?
Where is Reeva Steenkamp in this most intimate of stories? The story of her life; her death? It seems, she is no more than a seed for the ‘real’ story. A body to tantalise. It is as though, because she was a model, beautiful, in a relationship with a man people admire/d, she is irrelevant. A quick search on Google and you find photos of Reeva where she is being ‘just’ a woman, but the photos chosen by the media are of her posing, modelling, and/or in a bikini.
Modelling was her job. It was not who she was. I cannot say if she was a good person, a strong person, a clever person, or even a nice person. I can say she was a person. She had family, friends, activities, likes, dislikes, experience. Life.
She is dead, at the hand of a loved one.
The least she is entitled to is to be treated as a person and included in the coverage of her violent death.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Australia Day

I don't mind the concept of an Australia Day. However, I don't like where it has gone in the 21st Century. It's become narrow minded, bigoted, racist, divisive, feel-good propaganda, and is rife with intolerance. I suppose, if I'm honest, I have a decent dose of intolerance myself on 26th January.

For one, I deplore the flag. The southern cross and the Federation Star are good, and the blue is good. The first thing I don't like about the flag is the Union Jack. It should not be there. We aren't a colonial corner of the British Empire. Once we were. Now, there isn't really a British Empire, let alone an Australian colony. It's not our history. It's part of our history, but Australia is far more than a penal settlement nowadays. It's also an insult to the people who lived here for 40,000 years before Britain settled. There is still so much to be worked out and accomplished in respect of the first inhabitants.

In this day and age, we aren't mostly British stock either. Our diversity is broad, many, and if we hope to bring all to the same table, that table being Australia, we need to start reflecting who we are not who we briefly were or wish we had been.

The second thing I deplore about the flag is the darker tone than it ever had prior to the first decade of this century. Now it is ubiquitously draped and flown and ferried and painted; it adorns all types of clothing, vehicles, paraphernalia, even food; and most of it commercially driven. If I walk into a shop leading up to Australia Day, I will be assailed with the flag in every guise imaginable, from an eraser to a bottle of sauce and everything in between. It's nauseating. And if I ask for an Indigenous flag, I get blank looks, shrugs, Ah, no, sorry, even a pitying look.

The really dark tone, however, is the attitude that too often accompanies the wearing and flying and ferrying and draping and adorning. Such patriotism is exclusionary; very much a 'you're either with us or you're against us' statement. Admittedly, this isn't always the intention nor the outcome, however, it is there, inherent and too often deliberate. 

Then, there's the date. Why the 26th January? After all, no matter what side of the story you come down on, it is the day Britain landed and took up colonial residence. Terra Nullius. Well, we all know it wasn't an empty land. There were people living here. They'd been living here for 40,000 years. No, they didn't build cities, or machines other than basic tools, and they didn't build ships big enough to sail around the world. But they did have their own culture, history, lifestyle, lives. They did occupy the land. And they knew how to live on it and from it. Something 'we' are still learning how to do today. They were and are the First Nations, and 'we' still know so little and have so much still to learn.

It took until 1967 before the Referendum which gave the first peoples 'people' status as opposed to 'animal' status. That says far more about 'us' than it does 'them' and none of it good.

The day of the Referendum was 27th May. That's the day we should celebrate Australia Day because it is a day we did something really good, something right, a truly decent act. We took our first step of recognising that the first peoples of Australia are just that, The First Peoples. We have taken some terrible steps since; we go on taking terrible steps, big and small, but 27th May 1967 is a day we should really recognise as a beginning, one we can take strength and courage from, one we can take unity from, and most of all, one we can take pride from because we actually stood up and said, 'Enough. These are not animals. These are people. Just like us.'

Yes, we are all people. All people of this land. There might be some of the original peoples who would like 'us' gone. We all know that isn't going to happen. There are those of 'us' who still want the original peoples gone. That is never going to happen. We are all here. We are all staying. A real Australia, and a real honouring day for Australia, must and can only truly be a day where we go forward together: the same people although different. That's where our true strength, our true heart and our true hope comes from.

There is much ugliness on 26th January, especially in the last decade or so, since the time of the 'black arm band view of history' days. There has been much racism and ugliness recently, especially since 2001. It is time to grow up, Australia, and then we will have something really worth celebrating. Together.