Category Archives: My soap box

Propoganda – then and now

I don’t want to do too much exposition here. Instead, I’d like you to read these two quotes, and then I’ll tell you where they come from [the highlights are mine]:

“Propaganda must always address itself to the broad masses of the people. (…) All propaganda must be presented in a popular form and must fix its intellectual level so as not to be above the heads of the least intellectual of those to whom it is directed. (…) The art of propaganda consists precisely in being able to awaken the imagination of the public through an appeal to their feelings, in finding the appropriate psychological form that will arrest the attention and appeal to the hearts of the national masses. The broad masses of the people are not made up of diplomats or professors of public jurisprudence nor simply of persons who are able to form reasoned judgment in given cases, but a vacillating crowd of human children who are constantly wavering between one idea and another. (…) The great majority of a nation is so feminine in its character and outlook that its thought and conduct are ruled by sentiment rather than by sober reasoning. This sentiment, however, is not complex, but simple and consistent. It is not highly differentiated, but has only the negative and positive notions of love and hatred, right and wrong, truth and falsehood.”[5]

Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively and, in so far as it is favourable to the other side, present it according to the theoretical rules of justice; yet it must present only that aspect of the truth which is favourable to its own side. (…) The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble. On the other hand, they quickly forget. Such being the case, all effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward. (…) Every change that is made in the subject of a propagandist message must always emphasize the same conclusion. The leading slogan must of course be illustrated in many ways and from several angles, but in the end one must always return to the assertion of the same formula.”

And now for the big reveal: both quotes come from Mein Kampf, by Adolf Hitler:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_in_Nazi_Germany#Films

In her post today, Jill Dennison writes about the most recent White House press briefing in which certain media organizations were allowed in, and others were not. I strongly recommend reading her article for yourselves:

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/12093442/posts/1353096890

1-trump-as-hitler

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-marshall-crotty/comparing-trump-to-hitler_b_9334668.html

I know the resemblance to Hitler is a meme at the moment, but the reality underlying that meme is truly frightening. Everyone laughed at Trump prior to the election, and we’re still laughing at the little black moustache now, but it’s not really funny. Trump may be a buffoon and little better than a ‘child’ himself, but the men pulling his strings are not. Let’s hope they don’t have the last laugh.

Meeks


Letter of resignation from Climate Change Authority

I promised myself some good news posts this weekend, and in a strange sort of way, this is one. It’s a resignation in response to the ‘clean’ coal bullshit of the Libs.:

climate-change-resignation

My thanks to Metan for tweeting about this, even if it made me angry all over again. And hats off to Professor Clive Hamilton for putting his principles first, but what a sad indictment of the man-who-once-supported-the-ETS. It seems our PM has decided that his reputation and legacy are of less value than his continued presence as our leader.

If the above sounds as if I’m taking Malcolm Turncoat’s defection personally, you’re right, I am. Despite being a Labor supporter, I did harbour a secret admiration for the man. He was what I thought all good politicians ought to be – a man of honour and integrity who became a politician to serve us, the people.

No fool like an old fool. In betraying his own principles, Malcolm Turncoat also betrayed me and every other voter who believed in him. The man who should have resigned was not Professor Hamilton, it was the PM.

Not happy, Malcolm,

Meeks


#Australia – new climate change predictions

Sitting here with the aircon turned on, and a hot north wind blowing outside, it’s hard not to be afraid, especially after seeing this graph:

climate-change-temperature-graph

The graph charts temperatures over the last 100 years – from 1910 to 2010. Not surprisingly, blue represents years of below average cold and red represents years of above average heat. And no, it wasn’t your imagination – summers really have been getting hotter.

My growing up years [1950s to 1970s] were mild. We did get the odd hot day in Melbourne. We even experienced the odd heatwave, but they were unusual events. I know, because we did not even own a fan back then! Now, I can’t imagine living without an air-conditioner.

Unfortunately, heat is not the only thing that’s changed. Nor will it be the only thing that gets worse. I highly recommend reading the complete report from the Climate Council:

https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/uploads/1b331044fb03fd0997c4a4946705606b.pdf

You can also read an abbreviated, ‘highlights of’ article about the report here:

http://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/climate-change/longer-hotter-summers-predicted-in-extreme-weather-report-by-climate-council/news-story/958f45a1141453664fcb5933921b4c14?utm_source=Daily+Carbon+Briefing&utm_campaign=4b550aee94-cb_daily&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_876aab4fd7-4b550aee94-303473869

Now think about these facts – every year for the last three years has been the hottest on record. That means since we’ve been measuring and recording temperature.

According to the Climate Change deniers and skeptics, what we’re experiencing is just another ‘cycle’ in the earth’s climate history. We’ve had ice ages, now we’re having a period of heat. The one thing they’re not ‘having’ is that this period of heat might be caused by humans rather than natural fluctuations.

So let’s take that perspective to its natural conclusion: the world may be getting hotter and climate may be getting more extreme, but it’s not our fault so there’s nothing we can do about it except ‘suck it up’ [and hope we all survive].

To me, that is the most terrifying, defeatist outlook possible. Yes, it does allow for ‘business as usual’, but only because disaster is inevitable so we may as well make money while we can.

By contrast, almost all of the actual climate change scientists say that this distopian outlook is not inevitable. It will take a lot of work, and things will get worse before they get better, but there’s a good chance that we’ll survive…if we clean up the mess we’ve made.

As one of the canaries in the coal mine, I much prefer the optimistic outlook, don’t you?

But why do I imply that Australians are canaries in the coal mine? Isn’t that fate reserved for the island nations of the Pacific?

Um, no, actually. Australia has quite a delicate climate. Yes, I know, how can deserts and bushfires be delicate? What I mean is that we already experience extremes thanks to our geography which means that climate change will have less work to do to make extreme turn into unbearable.

But it is the Australia inhabited by this generation’s grandchildren, 2090, where the heat will really be on, if greenhouse gas emissions worldwide fail to meet current reduction targets.

By that year the report predicts Darwin will have a staggering 265 days each year above 35C.

That quote was taken from the news.com.au article, but the data comes from the Climate Council report [linked above].

Melbourne won’t fare so badly in terms of temperature, but we’ll have other worries – such as increased droughts and a great many more bushfires. If we continue with business as usual, life will be close to unbearable for our children and their children. This is not some dystopian, science fiction plot line I’ve come up with to give you all a good scare. This is real, my friends, and becoming harder to fix with every day we procrastinate.

Back in 2009, eight years ago now, Malcolm Turnbull lost the leadership of the Liberal Party because he supported the Rudd, Labor government, in its attempts to get a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme up and running. Many Australians honoured Turnbull for that, seeing him as a politician of integrity. Many Australians supported his return to the leadship of the Liberal party for the same reason. I know I did. 😦

But where is Turnbull now? Shackled to the idiology of the ultra Right, that’s where. These Conservatives do not believe in human induced climate change. As a result, they fight tooth and nail to keep Australia from shifting to a low or neutral carbon economy [read renewables instead of coal]. If Turnbull wants to stay in power, he has to appease these deniers and skeptics.

Well guess what? Turnbull has been appeasing these deniers and skeptics. The latest ‘clean’ coal proposals are the greatest betrayal possible because Turnbull must know that the holy grail of clean coal will never be achieved. Even with the most stringest technologies currently available [which would make electricity from coal more expensive not less], coal fired power plants would still produce more emissions than gas fired power plants. Yes, gas. Not solar, not wind, not wave or geothermal, but gas.

I no longer believe that Malcolm Turnbull is a man of integrity. He has what he wanted all along – the Prime Ministership – and he’ll betray everything he believes in to keep it. Thanks, Malcolm. I hope your stay at Kirribilli House is short.

Meeks

 


Stubbing your toe will hurt – that is a fact

First came the Women’s March. Now comes the March for Science. Given the ongoing protests sweeping the US, one might assume that scientists are organizing to voice their general disagreement with Donald Trump’s policies—or perhaps that they simply want to protect their grants and jobs from federal funding cuts. But what’s at stake is much…

via The March for Science isn’t partisan or anti-Trump—it’s pro-facts — Quartz

This article is about facts and the threat facing science in tRump’s America. Not ‘alternate facts’ but the kind that always hurt, no matter how much you may try to explain them away. One such fact is that the US became great because of its science. The only way to make it great again is to give science, and facts, the respect they deserve.


Glyphosate and autism…or is it?

I would very much like to believe that the glyphosate in Monsanto’s Roundup is toxic, but I’ve just found a comment that brings the current ‘proof’ into question. The comment, from Henry, is copy-pasted below.

I have to admit that the word “autism” troubled me a great deal when reading this piece. The whole debacle with vaccines and autism has been quite well-publicised as an example of bad science. The reason why autism spectrum disorder always seems to pop up should be clear.
Autism spectrum disorder affects children. And there are a lot of concerned and frightened parents in the world, who look things up on the internet.
It turns out Stephanie Seneff is quite infamous for a paper she co-wrote in 2013. Here are two links to articles debunking her paper at the time by people more familiar with the topic than I am.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tamar-haspel/condemning-monsanto-with-_b_3162694.html
http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2014/12/31/oh-no-gmos-are-going-to-make-everyone-autistic/
Some of the main points in the articles are that:
– Correlation between glyphosate use and autism over time does not prove causality; indeed there is a similar correlation between organic food sales and autism.
– Showing that a compound affects an enzyme in gut bacteria is far removed from showing any link with any disease, let alone proving that the compound causes autism specifically.
– “Exogenous semiotic entropy”, a phrase used in the paper, is made-up.
– The paper contains no original research.
Now this is not to defend Monsanto as an organisation (the interplay of intellectual property and genetics is something I’m really not comfortable with). But please let’s not get into fearmongering. I really admire this blog because the information you throw light on is not just interesting, but also accurate.
Thanks for your consideration~
Henry

I have followed both links and read them. Honestly, I no longer know what to think. Please read Henry’s comment and let’s talk about this. I have someone with Ulcerative Colitis in the family so this is rather important to me.

As a lay person, I can’t speak for any of the facts, on either side, but the disruption of the shikimate pathway in gut bacteria does worry me. We do not know everything there is to know about either the human body or the bacteria that live in our gut and seem to have a symbiotic relationship with us. At the very least, I’d like to see some serious research into what effect, if any, the glyphosate has on our gut bacteria. All? Or just a few? Which ones? And does it matter to them? If it does matter, then I’d like to know if it affects us and in what ways.

I think these are valid questions, but as far as I know, the research hasn’t been done, and that is the problem with the correlation vs causation argument: until we can disprove any harmful connection between glyphosate and shikimate pathways and gut bacteria and humans, we cannot prove that there is no causation either. Examples off the top of my head include: smoking and lung cancer, asbestos and mesothelioma, h.pylori and stomach ulcers, thalidomide and birth defects, human papillomavirus and cervical cancer. I was tempted to mention agent orange but I have no idea where the research is on that one.

I’m not saying the glyphosate/shikimate pathways/gut bacteria situation is the same, but the question has been raised, and I’d hate to throw the baby out with the bath water. Whether the answer will have anything to do with autism [or ulcerative colitis] is irrelevant. This is something we need to know, and I, for one, do not trust Monsanto to provide a non-biased answer.

Please tell me what you think.

Meeks


#WordPress dumbed down for mobile phones

meekathara furiousI tried to show a friend some tips and tricks for her new WordPress.com blog site yesterday.

Imagine my confusion when I realised that her version of WordPress.com does NOT have the WP-Admin button! This is what it looks like on my blog:

wordpress-dashboard-sneaky-approach2

Clicking the WP Admin button takes me to the original WP Dashboard, which looks like this:

 

wordpress-dashboard-sneaky-approach3

I cut a bit of the screenshot out in the middle so you could see it more clearly. Click the image to see it in full size.

This old Dashboard is quite powerful and great for serious bloggers who, like me, have literally hundreds if not thousands of blog posts to manage. I admit that it might be a bit daunting for the casual blogger. I also admit that the new WordPress interface may be easier to learn/use for the casual blogger, but so far, every time I’ve tried to use it, I’ve just been frustrated by how awkward and clunky the whole thing is. And slow, let’s not forget slow. As a fairly seriously blogger, I find the new-ish interface a poor tool. But horses for courses, right?

Wrong. Apparently, I still have WP Admin because I’ve been a blogger on WordPress since 2011. New bloggers are not so lucky, they don’t get a choice at all, and I fear that in time, us old guard bloggers will end up with no choice as well.

But why dumb WordPress down so badly?

In search of answers I went to Papa Google and found this:

wordpress-dashboard-sneaky-approach

Again, click on the image to see it at full size.

The screenshot was taken from a WordPress forum dating back to late [November?] 2015. The thread is about WP users complaining about losing the link to the old Dashboard [via WP Admin]. A couple of European Moderators have chimed in as well, complaining about not being notified of such a serious change by WordPress, and hence not being able to help their forum members.

The thing I found most interesting on this forum was the comment by an actual WordPress staff member – supernovia – who says, and I quote:

If it helps, all of the mobile apps have been like the newer admin area for a while now,
and as we transition WordPress.com to make everything more consistent, having two different interfaces was confusing new users.

And right there – ‘the mobile apps’ – is the nub of the problem. WordPress doesn’t want to maintain two separate interfaces – one for mobile apps and one for pc’s – so the interface for the pc is being dumbed down as much as possible to save development costs.

Lots of large developers have done the same thing – remember Windows 8, the OS that was meant to bridge the gap between mobile phones, tablets and pc’s? All seem to have missed the most basic point about demographics – app users don’t work on their mobile phones. People who work still use pc’s because pc’s are still a million times more powerful and convenient to use than something which can only be used by your bloody thumbs.

The corporate world doesn’t like the dumbed down, mobile version of programmes because they are not cost efficient for the user. Many of us on WordPress run what amounts to a small business via our blogs. Something designed to work efficiently as a mobile phone app will NOT allow us to work more efficiently at home, in front of a nice LARGE screen with a full-sized keyboard.

Don’t believe that the new interface is weaker and less efficient? Here’s proof. Just before starting this post, I ran an experiment using both the old Dashboard search function and the new interface search function.

The result? Dashboard 1, new interface 0. The new interface search function failed. Completely.

What did I search for?

I was searching for a draft post on making scones. This is the original post title:

Lois’ Soda Water #Scones

I typed ‘scone’ into the old Dashboard search function and it found:

scone-found

This is a ‘closest match’ which found the post I was looking for.

Then, I tried to find the new interface search function. This is what it looks like:

wordpress-dashboard-sneaky-approach4

Before you can type in any search words, you have to click the magnifying icon…excuse me? The standard for most programmes is to type the search words into the search box and /then/ click the magnifying glass to carry out the search. I guess the WordPress devs wanted to be…different.

Then, having finally found out how to actually do a search, this is what happened:

scone-not-found

The one nice thing about the new search function is that it searches as you type so it begins displaying possible search results before you even finish typing. Or in my case, not.

Clearly the new interface search function is set for exact matches only – remember the title of my blog post is Lois’ Soda Water #Scones. The hashtag threw the search engine off completely.

Now, in the real world, I have 996 blog posts, including close to 100 drafts. I often link back to previous posts when I write new posts. After 4 years, I very rarely remember the exact title of any of my posts. That means a ‘closest match’ is VITAL. For me, the new search function is next to useless.

So, will WordPress see reason and give serious bloggers back the tools they need to work efficiently? Or are we going to have to live with this dumbed down, mobile phone app?

Sadly, I think we’ll have to live with a poor interface until someone, somewhere, realises that you can’t do real work with just your thumbs.

Unhappy, WordPress.

Meeks


#Solar power changing the face of poverty in India

Large, corporate power suppliers often cite baseload [the amount of energy needed to satisfy the minimum energy demands of a given society] as the reason for dismissing solar power. Solar panels/arrays don’t work at night so solar must be useless for baseload.

On the surface, the need for baseload power does appear to leave solar out in the cold, but…all baseloads are not the same. In India, there are tens of millions of people for whom baseload equates to just one light bulb. These are the people living in distant rural areas, or city slums, or simply on the pavement. They are poor in a way we in the West cannot even imagine because, despite their poverty, they have to spend a significant portion of their tiny monthly incomes on kerosene for their lamps, or batteries for their torches. All because they are too poor to tap into the electricity grid.

And this is where Piconergy comes in. Founded by a group of young, well-educated, clever young men, Piconergy has created a super small-scale solar power plant called the Helios [from the Greek word for ‘sun’]. This is the product description from their website:

Product Features

–  Strong and sturdy Power Box which can be easily carried around and/or wall mounted, housing our battery management system & a 6V 4.5 Ah Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) technology based sealed maintenance free battery.

–  5 Watts-peak Solar PV Module with 4m cable & connector.

–  Three LED Light Bulbs producing up to 200 lumens each with 3m cable & switch to cover maximum area for illumination.

–  USB port for charging mobile phones.

–  Optional SMPS Adapter to charge battery from grid supply.

And this is the product:

helios-product-piconergy

Piconergy are making the Helios available to families in the slums of Mumbai:

  • so the children can study at night,
  • so cottage industries can make more products to sell,
  • so families do not have to live in the dark

I cannot tell you how much the dedication and commitment of the young men at Piconergy warms my heart. They are not just talking about social inequality, they are doing something practical to help. But my admiration for them goes beyond questions of social conscience – I want a Helios for myself!

Why? Why would a middle class woman in Australia with solar panels on her roof already want such a small-scale solar device? I’ll tell you why. I want my own Helios because the solar panels on my roof are tied in to the grid. When the grid goes down, my solar panels are turned off as well. In a word, they become USELESS.

I cannot tell you how many times we have sweltered during a 40 degree day because the grid was down. No aircon, no fan and no landline telephone. If our mobile phones aren’t charged then we are literally isolated from the outside world. And then there are the nights when we need torches and candles just to get to the bathroom. Again, because the grid is unreliable.

After the fire that destroyed homes south of the river a couple of years ago [in Warrandyte], SP Ausnet is finally putting in heavy duty powerlines and some underground cabling, but for now we continue to lose power, and I continue to keep torches and candles dotted throughout the house.

For us, the potential for sudden, energy poverty is very real, and I intend to do something about it. More on that later.

For now, though, if you care about those less fortunate than yourselves, may I suggest you give Piconergy a boost in social media. After all, ‘Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.’

cheers

Meeks

Piconergy:

http://www.piconergy.com/

https://piconergy.wordpress.com/about/

care@piconergy.com


Mobile computing – not quite there yet :(

Hello world! You are receiving this missive from the Greensborough Plaza Shopping Centre in lovely downtown Greensborough, an outer-ish suburb of Melbourne, Australia.

For the first time ever, I’m composing this post on my new laptop via a free wi-fi connection that would make dialup cringe in shame.

It’s taken me half an hour to connect and get this far. 😦

To be fair, this is the second week of the school holidays and the centre is quite full, but I can’t see anyone else madly trying to use the wi-fi connection. So either a lot of hidden people are hogging the wi-fi, or the wi-fi connection is terrible.

Forgive me if I sound bitter, but I bought this laptop in the hope of being able to work on the great Australian sci-fi novel while out and about. Unfortunately, I’m using sync.com to connect to Innerscape [so I don’t have multiple versions of the story floating around], and sync.com requires a functional internet connection to work. And this isn’t it.

The one good thing about sitting in a great big shopping centre, bitching about the wi-fi connection is that the latte is excellent. It’s so good, in fact, that I haven’t completely given up all hope of one day being able to work while sipping lattes. All I have to do is wait for the NBN to come Greensborough.

For those not familiar with Australian abbreviations, NBN stands for National Broadband Network and was the Rudd Labor government’s brainchild to drag Australia into line with the rest of the developed world [we have terrible broadband and it’s horribly expensive].

Originally, the NBN was supposed to be bleeding edge technology that would bring fibre optic cables right into the home. Had this gone ahead, it would have meant blisteringly fast broadband. For once, we would have been ahead of the game and our broadband would have become the envy of the modern world.

Then politics raised its ugly head and we got NBN mark 2. We would still get fibre optics, but no longer right into the home. Instead, old school copper would connect the fibre optic cable to the house.

Apparently, NBN mark 2 would save a lot of government money that could then be spent on Naura and Manus Island, turning refugee maltreatment into an artform. The downside, however, would be a reduction in that blistering speed I mentioned. A bit like taking the water from a high pressure hose and funneling it through an ordinary garden hose.

You get the picture.

Speaking of which, I don’t dare post a pic because I have no idea how long it will take for text to be uploaded, much less graphics. But fear not, picture me sitting here, sipping a latte and snarling at all the kiddies running by. I’m not breathing fire yet, but a few smoke alarms have gone off in reaction to the smoke coming from my ears.

Have a wonderful day and may your internet connection be nothing like mine.

Meeks

p.s. the upload went surprisingly quickly. I guess only downloads are awful.


Refugess and the politics of shame

Back in 1956, the Western world watched and did nothing as Hungary rose up against its Communist overlords in a bloody revolution that took place on the streets of Budapest.

I was almost four at the time. I didn’t know:

  • my Dad was one of the people who fought to kick the Soviets out, or that
  • our hard won freedom would only last a couple of weeks, or that
  • the West would sit on its hands as we begged for help to keep the Soviets from coming back.

As an adult I know about the Cold War and the possibility that intervention might have started World War III, but as that child, all I knew was that suddenly we were going on a great adventure, Mum, Dad and me. On the way out of the city, we passed lots and lots and LOTS of mounds in the park. They were covered with flowers and looked very pretty.

I don’t know where the flowers came from. It was starting to be winter already, but I remember them, one of a handful of visual images I retain from that time. I also remember being on a train. The train stopped in the middle of nowhere and Dad made us jump down on the tracks and run away.

Most of the time I travelled on Dad’s shoulders. He’d been a gymnast and was very strong. When the guide took us through the minefield at the border, Dad told me that no matter what happened, I was to stay absolutely quiet. No chatter. No laughing. No crying. Nothing.

I remember desperately needing to pee, and I remember snow but I don’t remember the moment when Dad fell, with me on his shoulders. I do remember that I didn’t cry out though, and I’m still really proud of that almost 60 years later.

We made it across the border into Austria but we had nothing left. Everything of value we gave to the guide to pay for our passage. Luckily the Austrians took us in. We lived in barracks with a lot of other people and I remember making a snowman outside.

As Dad spoke fluent French and German as well as Hungarian, he made some money as an interpreter for the people in the camp, but that money paid for extra food, nice stuff that wasn’t provided by our hosts, things like eggs and tiny bars of chocolate for me.

I remember one of the few times my father smacked me was when we went to a shop to buy some chocolate. In the window were some small toys and I think I was enamoured of a tiny metal frypan or pot. When my parents refused to buy it for me, I chucked a tantie [tantrum]. That’s a memory of shame.

Most of those very early memories are good ones though. I remember flying on a real plane and loving all the fresh fruit the cabin staff gave me. Oranges! Oranges were still a big deal in Europe in those days. And I remember thinking how silly my mother was because she threw up the whole time we were on the plane.

It took us about a week to fly from Austria to Australia and the Australian government paid for everything because…we were Hungarian refugees and the Western world was ashamed of not helping us.

Less that twenty years later, Australia’s involvement in another war – Vietnam – led to us accepting the first lot of boat people to arrive on our shores. These were South Vietnamese people who had been left behind when the West withdrew its forces…and its protection.

I remember that there was some grumbling amongst more conservative Australians about all the ‘boongs’ [derogatory label] arriving on our shores, but those Vietnamese boat people settled in and made us a better place. And they sure as hell added to our cuisine!

Now we are faced with another wave of boat people, and like my people and the Vietnamese people, they too owe their plight, at least in part, to our involvement in the Middle East. Prime Minister Howard decided to join the Alliance of the Brave, or whatever that bullshit name was, and Australian troops were sent into Afghanistan and Iraq.

I don’t want to get sidetracked into an argument about the rights and wrongs of our interventions overseas, but one thing is crystal clear – those interventions did not bring peace to either Afghanistan or Iraq. In fact, they could have triggered a domino effect in the Middle East as the whole region destabilized.

And that destabilization had victims. The lucky ones are those that died in a split second of sound and fury. The ones left behind to pick up the pieces did what humans have done since the dawn of time…they ran. Like me and my family, they grabbed their children and ran into abject misery because what they left behind was so much worse.

The big difference between me and mine and the Middle Eastern refugees is that the West has lost its capacity for shame.

For Australia, this descent into cruelty began with Australian Prime Minister John Howard and the label ‘queue jumper’. By calling the Middle Eastern boat people queue jumpers, Howard gave the latent racism of Australians a moral high horse to sit on.

I have to admit that when I first saw the footage of teeming refugee camps, I too bristled at the thought of queue jumpers taking the very limited spaces that Australia had to offer. I did not think, ‘Why aren’t we taking more of them?” I thought that fairness required a first-come-first served policy, with the most desperate getting to Australia first.

That was the power of the label ‘queue jumper’. What I didn’t realise at the time was that risking your life and the life of your child, spouse, elderly parent on a leaky boat is the ultimate sign of desperation. I also did not realise that these so called ‘queue jumpers’ were doing exactly what my parents had done – selling everything they had to pay for hope.

The misinformation about the Tampa and the ‘Children Overboard’ affair did not help.

Was that a deliberate decision on the part of John Howard’s government? Or simply an unfortunate mistake?

All I know is that even after the truth came out, the taint did not go away. In many peoples’ eyes, the boat people were no longer just queue jumpers, they were heartless, soulless, cunning bastards capable of sacrificing their own children to get what they wanted. How could any right thinking Australian let such people into our country?

In time though, the footage of cold-hearted queue jumpers drowning off Christmas Island threw a spanner in the works and the government was forced to change the narrative.

Courtesy of The Age

Picture courtesy of The Age. Click the photo to be taken to the original article.

Suddenly, our policy of exclusion was not about the queue jumpers any more, it was about the ‘people smugglers’. They had to be stopped, and if that meant being cruel to the surviving boat people well, so be it. As all parents knew, sometimes you had to be cruel to be kind. After all, we were trying to save their lives and wipe out a terrible, immoral scourge, weren’t we?

And so Australian politicians from both sides decided to enforce off-shore processing. If the boat people realised they would never get to Australia they would stop trying to come, wouldn’t they?

The answer to that naive question is no. The truly desperate don’t function on political logic. They are driven by fear on the one hand, and a naive, rose-tinted hope on the other. The truth is, the boats have not stopped coming, they have merely been diverted or sent back to come again another day.

When former Prime Minister Tony Abbott boasted about ‘stopping the boats’, he was telling only half the story. The other half, the desperate, grimy half was, and is, being hidden from us behind a policy of silence.

By pursuing their off-shore detention policy, the government has ensured that it can keep all of us in the dark. What we don’t know won’t prick our delicate consciences. It won’t make us demand a better way. And it won’t make us realise that the queue jumpers are just like us. That, more than anything else, is the prime objective of the media ban. By keeping the detainees invisible, the government makes them ‘other’ and humans have been scared of the ‘other’ since we lived in caves and had to fight each other for limited resources.

How unsurprising then, that…people… like Pauline Hanson feel free to spew their message of hate and fear? Who is going to call them on it when the truth is hidden?

I don’t know what the answer is, but after reading this article on Medium today, I know that current policy has to change. Not to save the refugees but to save ourselves. We like to think we live in the Lucky Country, and we like to think our culture is based on the ‘fair go’, but how will we see ourselves once history finally opens our eyes?

The truth can hurt but lies kill.

Meeks

 


It took a prime minister to get Facebook to see the difference between child pornography and history — Quartz

Facebook just can’t seem to engineer news. Two weeks ago the best-selling Norwegian author Tom Egeland wrote a Facebook post about the “photographs that changed the history of warfare,” according to The Guardian. One of the photos Egeland included in his piece was “The Terror of War,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo showing a naked 9-year-old…

via It took a prime minister to get Facebook to see the difference between child pornography and history — Quartz

I dislike Facebook, always have, but until fairly recently that was simply a personal position – similar to not liking the colour pink. Now, though, I worry about its amoeba-like spread into all aspects of internet life.

It’s as if Facebook wants to become the ‘internet of media’, the one-stop-shop for all its users needs. But the glory and the power of the internet era is its diversity, and the ability for all voices to be heard. Concentrating all that power in one place means that news, and be extension, history will once again be capable of being vetted.

This incident was almost too ridiculous to worry about, but in the future, I expect Facebook to become a lot better at being Big Brother. And that worries me.

Meeks


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